Tag Archives: social media

Research and Writing | Ideal Tasks While Working from Home

Read a Little Every Day!

This image was used in my PowerPoint for Qgiv on prospect research. See the YouTube recording below.

I have worked from my home office since 2014. Austin has been for many years a fast growing metropolis. Its heavy road traffic made commuting to and from my nonprofit project’s office back then a lengthy and stressful burden. And because that project focused on K-12 sustainability education, the concept of working from home was appreciated and readily adopted.

It was then that I began working collaboratively in the “cloud,” researching prospective partners and writing grant proposals, uploading them to the cloud for review by our Executive Director. Fine tuning continued until the time was right to hit, “submit.” Social media writing, posting and management was easily and better done from a quiet, distraction-free work space. One weekly meeting in person in our office was part of the regimen, but that is all.

Hence, with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020 and “stay-at-home” restrictions, nothing has changed for me. I have continued to work smoothly and efficiently from home where it is relatively “germ-free,” quiet, and my “desk” is located not far from the coffee pot and refrigerator. For me, this is the perfect work environment. Don’t tell: I get more work done, I work longer hours than required, and I am healthier and happier overall. 

The chagrin expressed by corporate and nonprofit leaders accustomed to working in traditional environments where office employees are housed in the same physical space falls on deaf ears here. I believe it is time to adapt and move to a remote working model for almost everyone, except of course those needing staff to greet and serve visitors in person, to conduct occasional group meetings, and to actually manufacture/produce specific items. But to get comfortable allowing more employees to work from home, society will have to let go of the basic human trait, “seeing is believing.” Our times require greater trust and faith to succeed in a remote working world.

Carolyn's Prospect Research Talks

See the links in this post to watch and learn more.

One of the ideal activities I conduct while working from home is research online and grant writing. In April and May 2020, I spoke online to two organizations about research specifically, and you might enjoy watching the recordings. The first was for Qgiv (below).

The second talk had more of a Texas slant and was designed for NTEN & NetSquared Nonprofit Tech Club Austin. It can be found by following this link. The recording and the slide deck are both downloadable from that page.

You may also have read my blog post from last March, “Habits of Mind in Challenging Times … And Remote Locations,” where I discuss my work in South Texas during the 2000s with the ranching community. In hindsight, much of what we accomplished seems quite glamorous. Certainly, the donors with whom I worked are still among the leading philanthropists of Texas. But the truth is, the majority of my work was done in a quiet office with few visitors, thinking, researching, organizing, writing and the like.

Rolls Royce

Rolls Royce is known as one of the finest automobile brands in the world. The high standards for which it is known remind me of those also expected of major gift fundraising professionals.

Major gift fundraising is often wrongly perceived by outsiders. Regardless of the quiet, methodical and hard work involved in successful major gift fundraising, people sometimes think of it as a field where one “hobnobs” with wealthy donors, attends luncheons and galas, and other superficial activities. This false impression can also give rise to jealousy. If they only knew how much “unglamorous” time is actually spent working tirelessly alone on a computer. I would say 95% of my job is actually done in this fashion.

If you are working from home now during COVID-19, this is an excellent time to fine-tune your research and writing skills. As I mentioned during my spring presentations, if you take the time to do this thoughtfully and well, it might turn your organization’s entire fundraising focus upside down, and in a very good and productive way.

I would also suggest that you take the time to learn new skills, including setting up and better managing your social media platforms. Our favorite platforms continue to evolve: learn how they may have changed (be sure to check, “the back end”). If you are already active on social media, now is also an excellent time to clean up (and clean out) old information. Request that your Facebook profile be formally verified by Facebook. Claim and update your GuideStar profile to the gold or platinum seal level. Ask volunteers, clients and board members for testimonials you can share online. Set up an online gift processing platform that provides a variety of options for making charitable donations. Make it easy to give!

Looking sharp online continues to be essential to inspiring trust and to engaging the interest of donors and potential donors in the good work of your nonprofit. And as always, make sure the messages you convey in those carefully-crafted grant proposals are mirrored on your website and on social media. In other words, this stay-at-home time is the perfect time to do some nonprofit “housecleaning.” Dare I say it: the nonprofit sector might actually become smarter and stronger if it deals successfully with the stay-at-home restrictions resulting from COVID-19.

Best wishes for your fundraising success!

Notes

For women working in the field of nonprofit development with family care giving responsibilities, I want to acknowledge working from home might be tougher for you. I fully support care giving incentives and entrepreneurial approaches as outlined by Melinda Gates in her article for The Washington Post, “How Rethinking Caregiving Could Play a Crucial Role in Restarting the Economy” (May 7, 2020). We can do this!

Having trouble trusting remote workers? Turns out, remote workers sometimes have trouble trusting their Executive Directors. You might enjoy reading Adam Hickman, Ph.D. and Tonya Fredstrom for Gallup, “How to Build Trust With Remote Employees” (February 7, 2018). “Gallup asked a random sample of more than 10,000 individuals, ‘What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life?’ With that leader in mind, Gallup had the respondents list three words that best describe what the leader they named contributes to their life. The responses sorted into four categories: trust, compassion, stability and hope.”

 

Media and Nonprofits | A Worthwhile Partnership

For years, I immersed myself in nonprofit fundraising, paying relatively little attention to attracting the media to my projects. There never seemed to be enough time to do anything other than organize my campaigns, identify and solicit donors.

But as time moves forward, I have come to appreciate how media can help nonprofit organizations attract public attention to their good work, and lend credibility to their causes. Media coverage is something nonprofits can brag about. But one must consider how best to go about obtaining it.

When I moved to San Antonio in 2010, I became a regular attendee of Social Media Breakfast. There I met people from all walks of life attempting innovative approaches to advertising and to gaining media attention using social media. Everyone involved believed heartily that media attention was integral to the success of their ventures. And I learned a great deal (thank you, Jennifer Navarrete).

Karen Addis, APR wrote for GuideStar, “Breaking Through the Noise: How to Get Media Attention for Your Nonprofit” (July 8, 2013). She states the quandary well:

When it comes to pitching your organization to the media you are at a distinct advantage because everyone, including the media, loves a good story. That’s where nonprofits shine; they are never at a loss for powerful stories. The challenge, however, comes in getting a reporter’s attention for a story that often is not breaking news. In today’s competitive media market with fewer reporters to target that is becoming increasingly difficult.

I met Nancy Schwarz of Getting Attention! via NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network. In her article, “Three Steps to Better Media Coverage” Nancy notes one can outsource media work, but the best is done “in house.”

Although media responsibilities are frequently outsourced to an agency or consultant(s), that’s not a must. …If possible, it’s best for a staff person to develop relationships with key media contacts. You and your colleagues are the subject experts and must be prepared to work directly with the press to ensure powerful, accurate coverage.

Nancy also provides helpful information you will want to read about crafting press releases.

Kathryn Hall discusses a contemporary approach to gaining media attention for npENGAGE in, “Five Way to Ensure Your Event Makes Headline News” (August 23, 2013).

The traditional press release has been eclipsed in the modern news cycle. Instead, we want to make it as easy as possible for journalists to see the news potential of your piece, and give a head start on writing the story you hope they will write. Include the following key items to make it easier for a reporter or blogger to develop your story into a feature, and increase the likelihood of it getting picked up.

Those items include direct quotes from “in the know” sources, original quotes that make your story read like news, and photos. “Great photos can help ensure your story gets picked up.”

Here in Austin, I have enjoyed attending a few gatherings of PR Over Coffee, a Meetup that focuses on how to gain the attention of media in an increasingly crowded and competitive market. Guest speakers include veterans of the media who disclose how they work (and they are not all alike, mind you), what they prefer in terms of communication, and other helpful tips for gaining attention.

A sometimes troublesome issue for nonprofits is the increasingly visual nature of communications combined with the failure of the email servers of the media outlets (barraged with email), to accept large image files as email attachments. One of the best ideas I have heard comes from Jan Buchholz of the Austin Business Journal: upload your images to a cloud storage platform, and provide a link to the image files in your email inquiry. Yes, reporters respond to visual imagery. Many of them are also confounded about how to develop meaningful stories without strong visual imagery.

Click to read The Social Media Reporter. I have discovered reporters sometimes follow me when I "cover" such events as Austin TechBreakfast. I enjoy that.

Click to read The Social Media Reporter for some helpful guidance. I have discovered media sometimes follow me when I “cover” such events on my own social. The takeaway is, yes, you can become your own social media reporter.

Help A Reporter Out is a free online database that pairs media representatives with people who have information to share. I urge nonprofits to sign-up to become “subject matter experts.”

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is the most popular sourcing service in the English-speaking world, connecting journalists with relevant expert sources to meet journalists’ demanding deadlines and enable brands to tell their stories. HARO distributes more than 50,000 journalist queries from highly respected media outlets each year.

I am on the HARO list and I have shared requests for information with my nonprofit colleagues, when I spot a reporter in need of an expertise the nonprofit can provide. I do hope the nonprofit sector as a whole will become more engaged with the media via the impressive HARO platform.

Kerri Karvetski wrote for Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog a humorous but genuinely insightful way to gain attention for your nonprofit cause through “newsjacking,” “Nonprofits @ the Oscars: How to Photobomb, Newsjack and Steal the Spotlight at the Academy Awards” (February 11, 2016).

Think you can’t connect with the Oscars? Let’s look at the issues explored in this year’s nominees: The Big Short -Financial reform; Bridge of Spies – Right to fair trial; Brooklyn – Immigration; Mad Max: Fury Road – Women’s rights (click to read for more ideas)

Yes, I have been known to “newsjack” for a good cause. You might consider polite “newsjacking” for other highly visible events with a strong online presence.

Before closing, here are a few thoughts about what I call “media stewardship.”

When you secure media coverage, do you thank the reporter by contacting them directly, and by following them on social media? Why not create a separate media coverage page on your website where you can thank the media for its attention to your good work, and list links to their individual stories – whether they be video interviews or write-ups – so your nonprofit website is linked to theirs, and they are recognized for their coverage. To create your media page and manage it over time, consider creating your own Google news alert. You will sometimes discover news stories have appeared, but the staff of your nonprofit may be unaware of them. The regular alerts help you keep track, so you never miss another one!

Additional Resources

This post was written in 2016. As I find more recent information that could be helpful, I will continue to share it here. Most recent articles are posted first.

Engage Online Ambassadors

One of Carolyn's earliest posts, the need to engage digital ambassadors continues to grow.
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Nielsen conducted a study to determine the types of advertising and promotion people trust most. Justin Ware summarizes key findings for Bentz Whaley Flessner in, “Nielsen Study Shows the Monumental Importance of Online Ambassadors” (January 2013).

“… if you want someone to know and trust your organization your best bet is having someone they know post something about your org online.”

Jenna Hanington notes for a corporate audience in Pardot, “The Importance of Customer Testimonials” (May 2013). “Word of mouth” is so important today, whether it be for business or nonprofit organizations.

“Think back to the last time you bought a pair of shoes, or researched the next book you wanted to read. Where did your search start? If you’re like any other consumer, it probably began with customer reviews. Why? Because reviews are candid. They’re not published by the company promoting the product; they’re not fluffed up with marketing lingo and meaningless buzzwords; and most importantly, they’re the words of people just like you.”

I always suggest nonprofits sign-up for GreatNonprofits, a nonprofit review platform that is allied with GuideStar. “These stories are submitted by people who know you best – your clients, donors, volunteers, and others – all those who have experienced the impact of nonprofit work up close!” To read testimonials about the effectiveness of GreatNonprofits, follow this link.

Do you have an online ambassador program?

My suggestion to nonprofit organizations is to include the role of “online ambassador” in the job descriptions for board and advisory board members who are active online. Can they set aside time once weekly, every few weeks, or monthly to share a positive experience, and to encourage their colleagues to support your nonprofit organization? This is a simple, but ultimately very helpful request to make – whether that be on Twitter, Facebook, GreatNonprofits, LinkedIn or other platform.

Certainly, you would expect leading volunteers and donors to be community advocates and to say positive things about your nonprofit’s work and accomplishments whenever and wherever appropriate. If your advocates are also active online, ask them to set aside time to share their opinions and experiences online.

Justin Ware suggests nonprofit organizations engage in:

  1. Ongoing identification of potential ambassadors for both awareness building and fundraising initiatives.
  2. Stewardship of those potential and approved ambassadors through good content and smart online conversation management.
  3. A plan for contacting potential ambassadors and officially bringing them into the program.
  4. A strategy for leveraging the support of your ambassadors.

I couldn’t agree more.

“Simply put, a robust ambassador program could be the most important thing your nonprofit can do from a communications standpoint.”

Geoff Livingston remarks in, ” 5 Ways to Engage Online Ambassadors” (2011),

“If someone is important to you online–as a passionate advocate or as an online influencer–then they are likely important to others. Give them shout outs and highlight their wares. This is authentic because you already think they are important. This is a demonstration of that value.”

You might enjoy reading an article I wrote a few years after posting the one you are now reading, “Social Media Stewardship is Essential for Your Development Program.” Somewhat surprisingly, nonprofits have not fully engaged with the concept, but it is a powerful way to recognize donors (who do not prefer to remain anonymous), and to show the world how valued your nonprofit and its mission are to them.

As I know first-hand from my volunteer work with NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network, not everyone understands that older generations – and those inclined to make major gifts – are also interested and involved in social media, not just young people and the “general public.” See my blog article, “Baby Boomers and Seniors are Embracing Digital Media” and other discussions about older adults in the main menu of Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog.

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

MissionBox provides further insights in, “Why Social Media Matters to Nonprofits” (April 1, 2020).

“To be effective … your social media efforts can’t just be a side venture or a task randomly assigned to an intern. Your social media strategy should be integrated with your overall marketing strategy and aligned with your nonprofit’s goals and target audiences. Specific staff members, interns or volunteers should be dedicated to keeping up with social media. Frequent posts and interactions can promote visibility and community engagement.”

As social media becomes increasingly influential and essential in our world today, don’t let the cart come before the horse. Put social media to work for your organization in a thoughtful, concerted fashion.

You might also enjoy my article, “Mature Fundraisers Make Ideal Social Media Managers.”

Being “real” online matters more each and every day. Read more in Jim Nitura’s article and review, “The Instagram Aesthetic Is Over” (May 3, 2019).

Emergencies: Use Social Media

I was living in San Antonio when I first wrote this post on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog. I had been sitting in my home office reading Twitter on my laptop, when I noticed a few posts sounding the alarm about an emergency occurring in Boston. I was riveted to my computer screen, and I began searching for information online. This was the 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist bombing, where sadly more than 260 people were injured.

I have continued to update this blog post since then. Social media plays an ever-growing, essential role in emergency communications today. But back in 2013, I am not sure many thought of social media as an emergency communication and safety tool. Today, this is fairly common knowledge, although some are still learning about the potential uses of social media during emergency situations.

“So why might government agencies or other organizations not be ready yet to use social media as a platform for emergency management? Well, even though social media may be common among most people, updating social media accounts, let alone during emergencies and disasters, requires a huge amount of time, effort and understanding of social media. And with 74% of social media users expecting response agencies to answer calls for help within an hour, that’s a lot of responding in a very little amount of time. And time is always precious during an emergency.” -Sonia Paul for Mashable.

Social Media 4 Emergency Management posted helpful advice in a 2013 article called, “A Role for Onlookers.” “If you are in a jurisdiction that is dealing with an incident of national significance, you are busy learning the following lessons:

  • The world is watching and wants to help,
  • Rumors will run rampant because people try to live-tweet scanners and news broadcasts in crisis events,
  • Images and videos, no matter how graphic, will surface, and
  • The amount of information available will become a sifting and sorting nightmare, but
  • There is now little dispute that the use of social media can rapidly allow agencies to share information and employ the public as additional eyes and ears during significant events.”

Kim Stephens has developed a WordPress blog, idisaster 2.0. In, “Social Media and the Boston PD #Boston Marathon” (2015), Kim provides additional advice regarding the use of Twitter.

  • Valuable time does not have to be spent “wordsmithing” updates to social networks; it is more important to get the message out the door as quickly as possible and to make sure your point is clearly understood.
  • In a fast moving situation, it isn’t that difficult to understand how incomplete or incorrect content can get posted. However, if that does happen, it may be necessary to repeat the correction.
  • Situational awareness information can often be found from the social accounts of other city agencies or organizations.

Twitter was certainly the platform to watch during the Boston Marathon. It was while viewing Twitter that I became aware of the bombing incident in the first place. Kudos to the Boston Police.

“The Boston Police … seemed as prepared for the communications breakdown as they were for the actual emergency response. Using social media — mainly Twitter — Boston Police was able to spread its emergency notification messages literally across the globe in a matter of minutes; and, thanks to the help of the media and concerned citizens from all points on the compass, that message was multiplied at an exponential rate.” -Paul Rothman for Security Info Watch (April 24, 2013).

On a personal note, I would suggest one way people can help alleviate disaster situations – if you are yourself safe from harm – is to “share” reputable information from disaster management agencies on your own social platforms. Amplify their impact! Follow the local police and fire departments, FEMA and Homeland Security on social media, for instance. They are on top of emergency situations, and the information they are sharing online can be re-shared to the benefit of your friends, family, neighbors and the entire community.

Emergencies 2

Carolyn’s Activities and Other Resources

I enjoyed working with TechSoup on a Nonprofit Disaster Planning and Recovery Program during the second half of 2019. Designed for Texas nonprofits impacted by Hurricane Harvey (but applicable to any nonprofit today), the project was funded with a grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. To access a number of helpful downloadable resources for personal and organizational planning, follow the link. To sign up for the online disaster prep course, follow this link. To read more about my thoughts on disaster planning on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, follow this link to read, “No Time Like the Present: Disaster Planning Helps Your Community and Community.” Special thanks go to my father, David T. Appleton of Arizona, who has shared with me many helpful insights into disaster planning over the years.

I am one of the primary organizers of NTEN & NetSquared Nonprofit Tech Club Austin. In February 2020, we had a terrific presentation at Capital Factory by Ashley E. Morris, “Social Media During Emergencies.” Follow the link to access the recording and slide deck.

Other Resources

  • 911.gov, “Using 911 Appropriately.” 
  • American Red Cross Emergency Apps are excellent and I urge you to download and use them.
  • Center for Disaster Philanthropy provides helpful information for those wanting to contribute to disaster recovery. In brief, disaster giving has a life cycle. The initial emotional response people have to a disaster leads to many helpful, up-front donations. But recovery requires a longer time frame. CDP will help you make smarter long-term giving decisions.
Fire
Disasters take many forms, from earthquakes to hurricanes, from equipment failure to fires.

Carolyn’s General Advice About Social Media

  • Concerning corporate activity online during emergency events, I want to share an opinion. I was on Twitter @CAROLYNAPPLETON when the Boston Marathon attack occurred back in 2013. I kept noticing Twitter posts about something being wrong, which led me to news reports and then to television. But social media companies need to monitor their platforms carefully for images that would be disturbing to viewers. During the marathon events, I got onto Tumblr for instance, and someone at the marathon was literally posting photos of victims with their limbs blown off prior to the emergency crews arriving to help them. I can definitely see how emergency responders would benefit from knowing exactly what is happening and where, but not the general public! I do not know if this is available, but emergency response agency personnel might consider posting a handle or a link to a secure online channel that is easy to access via anyone’s smartphone and via social media, so these kinds of photos and videos can be uploaded securely for the benefit of the overall emergency response effort.
  • Auto-posting services on social media: I would say to anyone auto-posting on social media via a professional sharing platform, turn it off during an emergency. There is nothing more jarring than seeing cheerful ads popping up about your business or nonprofit when people are suffering during an emergency. Humorous advertisements fall flat, and viewers can get a negative, “I don’t care about your emergency” opinion of your company or your nonprofit. “Look, we’re having a gala!” as someone’s body is horribly injured makes for a truly awful and jarring combination of messages.

Thanks to Adobe’s free image library for the photographs illustrating this article.