I founded Outdoor Afro in 2009 after some soul-searching to reveal what I really cared about. There have been a few constants in my life: love of nature, a devotion to family, a desire to connect people with meaningful resources, and technology. When I was eleven, I had a Commodore 64, and was an early adopter of internet and web platforms that I used in the early 90s to locate and participate in local outdoor interest groups. Later I studied Art History at UC Berkeley, which helped me to understand the power and accessibility of visual representation to tell stories. So I feel that Outdoor Afro came to me, as a gift, and a rolled-up expression of who I am. But I quickly found that its message resonated with many other African Americans from around the country who, like me, wanted to be visible and recognized for their passion for nature and outdoor recreation.
GW: How has the digital world of the last few years helped you in creating community?
Outdoor Afro was born in social media, and through my participation in Tweetups, WordCamps, and other social media events and networks back in 2009, I was able to apply the emerging best practices, platforms, and audience measurement tools to intentionally build a national community around a cause.
Without social media, there is no way I would have been able to meaningfully connect and share with so many people in such a focused way. From the beginning, I sought ways to use Outdoor Afro as a forum to amplify the experiences and work of others who shared a passion for nature. As a result, followers of the site feel a deep sense of ownership and investment in its content and messaging.
GW: Both Outdoor Afro and our Connector Award recipient, Washington Trails Association, are very good at creating online community that goes offline into the natural world. What are some tips for creating community both online and offline?
Since my work is about the outdoors, it is critical to convert the digital conversation into action. In addition to the site, I also make it a point to be visible at events and outdoor activities because I get a chance to meet and connect with people I might not otherwise online. It also excites me that Outdoor Afro is used as a vehicle for people to connect locally, and it thrills me to see community members create interest groups, come together in person then share back their experiences on the website and on Facebook with their photos and blogs!
The best tip I can offer is to always remember the ‘social’ part of social media. It simply cannot be a one-way broadcast. It is critical to know your audience, interact with them frequently, and provide information and opportunities they might find most relevant to their own lives. Like any relationship, inspiring people to interact with you takes time and commitment -- there are no short cuts!
Spend an evening with Rue on November 9th at our Connector Award Event at Benaroya Hall. VIP reception and general program tickets on sale now!
Ever wondered exactly what it takes to be an engaging organization? Or wish someone would come into your organization, give you the once-over, and tell you in layman's terms where you're excelling and where you need work?
If this has ever been a dream of yours, we've got some good news for you. Several years ago, we developed the Groundwire Engagement Benchmarking Survey tool to help the organizations we work with determine where they should be investing their (limited) resources. We've used it enough to believe that it actually provides useful, actionable diagnostic information, and decided to make a DIY version that anyone could use. You, maybe.
There are ten questions in our survey. Over the next ten months, we'll present one section of our survey and related resources to help you improve your engagement foundation. You can take the survey now (or anytime in the future), and get a printable report that you can share with your team, board, partners, etc. The survey is 100% anonymous, but you will get an invitation to join an online community of practice around engagement. Which will be awesome -- but if you're not interested, feel free to skip the invitation. You can still download your survey results as a PDF or printed copy.
We'll be publishing and posting resources every month related to a specific question, so once you take the survey (or even if you don't), you can look forward to additional support and advice over the next year. Served up in digestible chunks.
Take Groundwire's DIY Engagement Benchmarking Survey.
To start off, we're tackling the most basic, most important question for social change organizations -- What is your theory of change? All of the ways that you work to engage your supporters are a big waste of time if what you're asking them to do doesn't actually have a strong chance of resulting in the outcome that you all want. Interested in learning more? Here are the theory of change basics:
What is it?
A theory of change is a roadmap, or logic model, which outlines a chain of events starting with your campaign activities or program work that leads, plausibly, to your desired goal.
It has to be believable.
It has to be achievable.
It has to be testable.
Why do you need one?
A theory of change helps you to most efficiently use your resources -- money, staff, political capital, etc. -- to reach your goal.
It allows you to evaluate your assumptions and related strategies and tactics, so you can shift away from what’s not working and focus on or expand what is working.
It ensures that staff and campaign/program partners are on the same page about what you’re trying to accomplish and how.
What are the risks of working without a theory of change?
Without a theory of change you can actually do harm to your cause. It’s like traveling somewhere without a map. Even though you know where you want to end up, if you don’t know the path and end up pointed in the wrong direction, going faster only puts you further from your goal.
When you spend your limited social and political capital asking supporters to fund or work on the wrong tactics, you not only waste their money and time, you waste their passion and you lose credibility. You may never get another shot at the resources you’ve misspent.
Our Theory of Change, Groundwire
What is your Engagement Superpower?, Groundwire
Six Principles of Transformative Digital Campaigns, Communicopia
2011 Nonprofit Communications Trends (and what it means for your good cause), Nonprofit Marketing Guide
Four Reasons Why Multichannel Matters, M + R Research Labs
Smart Chart 3.0, An Interactive Tool to Help Nonprofits Make Smart Communication Choices, Spitfire Strategies
Ready to move on to Section Two? Click here for GW Engagement Benchmarking Survey, Section Two: Your Website.
Pretty much all Email Service Providers (ESPs) handle reputation management for you. There are pros and cons to this. The pros are that you don’t have to setup feedback loops, manage blacklisting or other arcane technical things. The cons are that most providers group several clients together to share a pool of sending IP addresses. If you happen to be in the pool with spammers, your sending reputation might suffer for it. You’re also at the mercy of the provider to remove the IP address from blacklists, should that occur. Finally, if you send a lot of email and need to be assured that your emails go out at 9am and not 2pm you might get disappointed. The rate at which emails can go out depends on the overall traffic in your IP pool, so if it’s year-end giving time everyone is sending lots of email!
All that said most providers are very good at policing spammers and are very good at maintaining reputation for all their IP addresses. All you need to do is make sure you're following these basic guidelines:
Now if you happen to be a very high volume sender (50,000 emails per month or more), need to be assured of timely delivery and wish to manage your own sending reputation you’ll need to get what’s called a private IP address. Not all ESPs offer this but there are some that do. When you have a private IP address you’ll need someone on staff or contract to help manage it.
In some cases, try as you might, you’ll run into deliverability problems. There are services out there which can help enhance your deliverability for a fee. The industry leader right now is an organization called ReturnPath. If you meet certain standards around how you run your email program you can qualify for their Certification program which is like an elite club of email marketers. The benefit is that you get a really high sending reputation and should see significant improvement around deliverability. Another organization which offers similar services is called PivotalVeracity.
Your event planner may balk at giving up her table captain spreadsheet and your volunteer coordinator may not want to mix his volunteers (kept in his Outlook contact list) in with your donors (usually because of mistaken ideas about asking volunteers to give donations. But that’s a different subject). Your major gifts officer may want to build a wall between his donors and the rest of the database.
Don’t let them do it.
It’s painful, but not as painful as explaining to Mrs. Major Donor Former Board Member why your major gifts officer called to update her on a campaign for which she was a key volunteer, or why she got three invitations to one event and two of them were addressed to her and one was addressed to her and that guy she divorced 18 months ago.
Cynthia Hartwig and Emily Warn from Two Pens led 65 participants from Seattle-area nonprofits through a mini-version of a class they offer on social media content.
So often, we read and hear: “Write good content!” and then it’s back to strategies and tactics on conquering the next great social network.
During this knowledge share, we actually took a step back to think about what we are writing and how that is reinforcing our brand. Don’t have a brand? We talked about that too.
To start off, we introduced ourselves or our organizations in 120 characters. Who are you? What is your persona or brand?
Click here to watch introduction and for writing exercise #1.
Twitter is up to 1 billion tweets per week, there are over 1.3 million blogs, at least 500 million Facebook users, and there are more than 70 million LinkedIn users. And, here comes Google +.
What’s most important for nonprofits, says Warn, is to create an online community. This allows you to stay engaged with your community, listen to them, and for the walls of your organization to become permeable. It also lets you share resources and knowledge openly and quickly.
We have to start with the concept of branding to be successful in social media, says Hartwig. This is where people often fall down in the nonprofit arena. Organizations are struggling with the concepts of who they are and how they should portray the organization with a strong human personality that people can really connect with.
What’s your organization’s personality? Is your organization a little snarky yet smart, or do you want your organizational personality to be kind and generous? Whatever you are, Branding 101 says you say it over and over and over again. Transmit that personality in social media using words, images, and video.
Take a look at three really strong branded properties in the nonprofit world for inspiration: Washington Trails Association Signpost Blog, Grist, and Bus Chick.
Listen to Emily and Cynthia talk about creating a personality.
To help us think about our own organization and what personality we want to convey, Hartwig walked us through a couple of writing assignments to get ideas flowing.
Writing Exercise #2: Make a Mind
Map of words that describes your brand. Have you ever taken a moment and
thought about what you want to convey about your organization on a regular
Click here for The Real Thing writing exercise to walk you through it.
Writing Exercise #3: Write from the heart.
Using compete sentences, take two minutes and answer this question with full sentences: The Real Thing about my organization’s social media personality is:
Click here for this writing exercise.Need some inspiration? Listen to what other nonprofit staff members had to say.
Now that we have a better idea of what we are about, who are some personalities that could represent your organization in a new and different way?
Writing Exercise #4: Write a list of 10–15 people within your organization – personalities – who could be the personality in a blog post / facebook post/ tweet.
Click here for writing exercise #4.
At this point, we have thought about our brand, our personality, and even possible people (fictitious or real) who could write a blog post for us. Now, Warn walks us through the features of a good blog post.
Click here for a list of tips and writing exercise # 5 to get your started on a blog post.
And two more writing exercises to help us plan out our blog post:
How to Write A Good Blog Post: writing exercise #6: (quick planning write) What is the personality I want to project in this blog post?
How to Write A Good Blog Post: writing exercise #7: (quick planning write) Every good blog post has an intersection between what we want to say as an organization and what readers want to hear. Write about that intersection.
Want to hear what other nonprofit staff members are writing about? Click here for some awesome and hilarious blog post ideas from the audience.
Armed with our planning notes and some inspiration, we spent the next half hour writing a draft blog post for our organization, then work-shopping what we had written in small groups.
Starting with the simple question of "who you are," followed by brainstorming and mind mapping and free writing, followed by work-shopping and sharing, many participants were starting to see a blog post take form.
Click here to hear from three participants who shared their blog posts with the group. Some really great stuff here.
This fall, Two Pens is focusing on nonprofits. Writing classes include Super Star Blogging, Grant Writing, SEO Content Strategies and much more.
Go to the Two Pens website for a complete listing of classes.
SPREAD THE WORD! ONE FREE NONPROFIT SEAT IN EVERY TWO PENS CLASS!
Every Two Pens class has one free place reserved for people who work for causes we believe in. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and make the case for why your organization needs a place at our writing table.
Special thanks to Emily and Cynthia for a wonderful knowledge share.]]>
Groundwire Board Member Emily Warn leads writing workshops with her Two Pens co-founder Cynthia Hartwig and they have graciously offered to present a social media content workshop free of charge to the Groundwire community.
Building a useful social network requires more than just putting up a Facebook page, opening a Twitter account, or even designing a great strategy. Every strategy succeeds or fails based on whether other people share your content across blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.
Emily and Cynthia will spend time teaching you how to tailor content for social media so you can reach an ever-widening audience. They'll provide writing exercises that build your credibility and grow a fan base.
We’re going to break up into small groups, so space is limited to 75 attendees.
Date: Wednesday, August 3
Place: Groundwire's Seattle Office
Food and Drink: You bet.
Cost: Free, but space is limited so register early.
Please note this is a live event at our Seattle office. Check back on our blog for video of the event.]]>
And as far as keeping your boss out of your world, LinkedIn is seeing a renaissance right now as people are looking for a completely separate social space for work altogether. Maybe Facebook and LinkedIn will be enough to keep the worlds separate without resorting to Google Circles?
Okay, but enough about me and my personality problems. Why is this important to your nonprofit? Because you want to keep your eye on Google +, but remember a social media network is only successful if individuals are loving it up. People don't like change, they have social media fatigue, they don't want to build a whole new community and they don't really hate Facebook as much as they like to say they do. As Jumo can tell you, it’s almost impossible to get people to move over to a new social space when they are already deeply invested. Google has had trouble with this in the past (Wave, Buzz) but Google does have a cool factor people love (if you are still using Hotmail for your email you are immediately being judged, just know that).
Here’s what Social Media for Nonprofits guru Beth Kanter has to say about the possibilities of Google +: “Many who work in health, education, social services and other sensitive areas have found it cumbersome and sometimes impossible to erect professional firewalls to keep patients, students and clients out. Google gives users more control on who can join.”
Read what other people are saying about Google +:
Security and Control: Early Thoughts on Google+, Amy Sample Ward
What is your plan for Google+ experimentation and exploration? Beth Kanter
Google +: First Impressions, Mashable
Nonprofits Adopt Google + Social Network Early, Huff Po
Google Rebrands Blogger and Picassa to make way for Google +, Read Write Web
Five Fatal Flaws of Google +, Thomas Moradapour]]>
Cook Inletkeeper has been working hard to keep Cook Inlet safe and sustainable since 1995, and while we've known the Inletkeeper team for a long while, only recently have we had the opportunity to really dive in deep with them. But it was worth the wait. In the space of a few short months, we helped Cook Inletkeeper:
The net result: systems transformation. By helping Cook Inletkeeper think about its website, database, credit card processing and membership processes as connected elements in an integrated system, we were able to give them as set of powerful, flexible, fits-like-a-glove tools that meet all of their needs with headroom to grow.
Here's a quick screencast of Cook Inletkeeper's innovative "Weather and Tides" feature.
And writing all the time is hard, hard, hard. Doesn't matter who you are.
Some good ideas from Kivi Leroux Miller to motivate you and get you thinking:
7 Cures for Nonprofit Writer's Block
I esp. love this:
"Here are my top five favorite formats:
A good list to come back to if you are feeling less than creative.
Groundwire is very selective about the organizations and projects we work on and we want our clients to feel the same when they choose us as their partners. Selecting the right consultant for the job can be a daunting task, especially in the technology world, and talking to your peers is a great place to start the process.
ICL has an Engagement Pyramid that they built with Groundwire. Level 1 of their Engagement Pyramid is “followers”--people who have raised their hands and said, “Yes, I’m interested in hearing more about ICL’s work!” ICL has some pretty aggressive goals for building up this base level of its Engagement Pyramid, so it has a large enough pool of people that it can work to move up the pyramid toward deeper engagement.
As Sara Arkle, ICL Communications Associate and Chief Facebook Ads Wrangler puts it, “We felt that there were folks out there in Idaho who share our values but we hadn’t yet spoken with. We wanted to let Idahoans interested in conservation values know that we exist and that we have a forum for them.”
Is this by itself a killer social media strategy? Nope. But it’s low-cost, low-effort, low-hanging fruit that we think it makes a ton of sense to harvest. And, as a bonus, ICL has the opportunity to get some real data about which messages resonate best with the exact people they’re targeting.
ICL decided to take advantage of Facebook’s ad-targeting features to focus in on the people they most wanted to have: adults in Idaho whose Facebook interests intersect with ICL’s issue work. “We targeted Idahoans because we are a statewide organization in Idaho,” says Arkle. “Beyond that, we were looking to reach the people who had self-identified with the issues we’re working on. To build our targeting profile, we tried to imagine our archetypal supporter and played trial-and-error with the available Facebook interest tags.”
ICL also kept their ads focused on the Facebook friends of people who were already connected to ICL, under the assumption that people tend to be friends with people who have similar interests and values. In addition, when you target friends-of-friends, Facebook shows which of their friends are already connected with you, which adds a powerful “trusted endorsement” that Facebook believes can boost conversion rates.
The precise criteria ICL wound up using were:
According to Facebook’s targeting tool, this ad can reach a pool of nearly 15,000 people. That’s a pretty good-sized pool of extremely well-qualified prospects!
ICL decided to test two ad messages:
1) A broad, values-focused message with the copy “Does Idaho make you smile? We work to protect you from toxins and to preserve the land you love. Love Idaho? "Like" us.”
2) A message focused on ICL’s work in the state legislature with the copy: “Clean water, clean air, wildlife, wild places. ICL is your voice for conservation at the Idaho Statehouse.”
What was the rationale behind these two different messages? “We wanted to find out whether people would respond more to our work in the state legislature or to a more general statement of shared identity,” says Arkle.
ICL ran the ads for about four weeks, with a maximum spend of $50/day and a maximum bid of $0.88 per clickthrough. This was near the low end of Facebook’s recommended bid range of $0.77 - $1.12 per click.
ICL started the campaign with about 2100 Facebook Likes. In four weeks, ICL added nearly 1500 Facebook Likes, growing their total Facebook audience by nearly 67% to just under 3500 Likes. The campaign has cost them under $1200, so the total cost per new fan is well under a buck.
Increase in online actions spreading through FB and Twitter. “For the first time, we saw one of our online actions go viral on Twitter, “ reports Arkle. “This resulted in almost twice the number of signatures we would have otherwise expected, spread out over a longer time.”
The campaign also delivered about 4.6 million ad impressions. If we assume those impressions were distributed over an audience of about 271,000 (per Facebook), that means each person saw the ad an average of 17 times. While it’s hard to measure the bottom line results from this, we think there’s gotta be some value in building name recognition in your target audience at such a low price.
Two weeks in, ICL found that their values-focused message was getting about twice the click-through rate as their statehouse/policy-focused message, so they dropped the latter and focused all of their resources on the former. They also found that their clickthrough rates were dropping down, and theorized that it was because they had actually reached the saturation point on their ultra-focused target audience of 15,000. So, they backed off the interest targeting and expanded the pool to about 271,000 Idahoans.
We think this kind of low-cost Facebook advertising strategy is a very simple, cost-effective way to build your Facebook audience with highly relevant people. It could easily be adapted by almost any local or statewide environmental group. The vast majority of such groups we’ve looked at have Facebook fan bases that are much smaller than ICL’s so we think there’s considerable room to pick up these "low hanging fruit."
Here’s how we think a typical environmental organization can put the power of Facebook ads to work:
When I purchased my first smart phone a couple of years ago, I wanted to find out how much radiation was going into my head so I went to the Environmental Working Group’s cell phone guide and actually printed the thing off and took it with me to the store. Using the guide, I ended up with one of the lowest emission phones available and left a copy of the guide on the counter for the next customer.
To access the cell phone guide on EWG’s website, you are asked for a name and email address—but if you don’t feel like giving it up you don’t have to. I did, and promptly received a message from EWG President Ken Cook: thanking me for signing up, noting my interest in toxic-free products, welcoming me to EWG’s online community, and providing me with links to their other safe products databases and their Facebook and YouTube channels. Very simple, very straightforward, but all delivered in a friendly, accessible tone.
Over 2010, I received about two emails per month from Ken (okay, probably not really Ken -- there are 1 million people on EWG’s email list -- but I always feel like he is writing me personally). All of them have the same friendly, inclusive tone, with some kind of benefit for me -- even when they are asking for money (click on images to zoom in):
Holiday gift guides, bottled water scorecard, cosmetics database, sunscreen database, pesticides shopping list, a chance to help pick the design for their tote bag – these guys are doing everything right by making that emotional and valuable connection with their audience.
In the last four years, EWG has grown their email list from 6,000 people to over 1 million. As more and more people became concerned over issues of public health and the environment, EWG responded by giving their audience what they we’re asking for.
Just the other day I got an email from EWG announcing the birth of a staff member's son, Jack, along with tons of links to help me with gifts for the babies in my own life. I love these guys!
A project of Climate Solutions, the New Energy Cities program aims to accelerate the transition to a clean, renewable, super-efficient energy system in our cities.
KAHEA is an acronym for Ka (the) Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. KÄhea translates from Hawaiian as "the call", the call for a healthy environment and thriving cultural traditions.
WWRC is a nonprofit citizens group of farmers and fishermen, hunters and hikers, conservationists and businesses dedicated to supporting public funding for parks, habitat and working farms across the state.
North Cascades Institute seeks to inspire close relationships with nature through direct experiences in the natural world.]]>