Blogs

Selecting a Donor Management System – Eight Questions to Consider

Idealware's research team is hard at work on an update to our popular report comparing and reviewing donor management systems, which is scheduled for release in the next couple of weeks. To whet your appetite, we wanted to share a guest post from Larry Perlstein, a technology specialist who has worked for a number of consulting firms and has an enviable amount of eperience working with nonprofits, about choosing donor management systems. After you've read it, bookmark it and refer back to it after you've had a chance to digest our report.

Recently, I held a roundtable for nonprofit organizations embarking on selecting a donor management system. I asked the participants the following eight questions, which proved useful in helping them refine their objectives and focus their activities:

  1. How do YOU define Donor Management System? Does it include ticketing, customer relationship management, email marketing, membership management, and more? Many vendors are moving from an entry point of single functionality to a broad set of integrated applications. It’s important to understand what functionality you are in need of and what are your priorities to avoid buying some more complicated (and more expensive) than necessary. Of course, it’s also important to be cognitive of where you are headed so that you can grow into the system.
     
  2. When do you know you need a Donor Management System? Have you outgrown your Excel spreadsheet? Are you beginning a major fundraising campaign? Knowing when you need to implement a Donor Management System is important … first, it’s not wise to acquire once before you are ready as your organization may not have the capacity or the ability to organize and enter the required information. Starting too early can lead to fits and starts, which is fatiguing. Starting too late, however, can require an excessive amount of manual activity as data is updated to the requirements of the new system.
     
  3. Should you install the system on-premise, use a Software-as-a-Service-based system, or install it in the cloud? Now may be a good time to re-evaluate your current IT installation and look for alternatives to on-premise installs. You might be able to get rid of that old server and select a vendor who offers the application as a service accessible from any web browser. Or you could find a traditional vendor who can install the application using a cloud provider. The reduced costs, improved flexibility, ease of maintenance, and greater security make either option worthy of examination.
     
  4. Should you install an all-in-one integrated system or mix and match different pieces? Have you been building your own best-of-breed application suite over the years only to find that they pieces don’t all fit together? An integrated suite offers many advantages, including consistent look and feel, single point of control workflow, data consistency, and ease of upgrades. It can, however, not provide all of the best-of-breed functionality you’re looking for … but is that what you really need? An integrated suite satisfying 80 percent of your requirements is likely sufficient to satisfy your needs while significantly reducing complexity.
     
  5. Are you taking the proper precautions with respect to customer data security and backup? Are you walking around with your donor list in Excel on your unsecured laptop? First things first … data needs to be securely backed up and there are no excuses for not doing so with the plethora of hard drives available and the prevalence of secure online backup systems. Secondly, unsecured data puts your organization at risk. Data security concerns and liability are increasingly problematic and require strong system controls that are often beyond the scope of small businesses, so look to the cloud for the best solutions.
     
  6. Have you evaluated the viability of your vendor, and do you have a migration plan if they fail? Sure you made certain your vendor was viable when you bought the package six years ago, but have you checked lately? Checking in with your vendor every year to ensure their financial stability is sound is a best practice, and should augment controls built into your contract that give you rights to the software code, if applicable, and data export capabilities. Some warning signs of vendor viability issues are excessive turnover of the developers, infrequent software updates, new and increasing fees for services, and rumors of acquisition.
  7. Do you use services such as CommunityCorps to find technical professional volunteer help? Have a project that you just don’t have the resources to complete? There are volunteer professionals waiting to help you and available through organizations such as CommunityCorps. Simply post the details of the project on their website and volunteers can indicate their interest in helping you.
     
  8. Do you use resources such as TechSoup and Idealware to help you acquire software, hardware and services specifically for nonprofits? It may go without saying that you are using these resources (and others) if you are reading this blog. However, it’s worth reiterating the value of selecting solutions specifically geared both functionally and financially toward nonprofits. Nonprofit organizations both small and large have a vast array of solutions to choose from at varying price points, from the very simple to the most complex, and from the single function to the tightly integrated. See the list below for a representative list of Donor Management Systems.
     

 Got questions? Add them to the comment section below...

 

For Work or Play? Using Tablets for Productivity

In the years since Apple unveiled in first iPad, there’s been a surge in tablets of a sizes and costs. Microsoft’s Surface and Surface Pro are vying to take the enterprise and business market away from the iPad, while Google and Amazon continue to trade blows in the fight for the home market, with competing seven-inch tablets priced at margin, both tied to vast media libraries. While the Clash of the Tablets rages on, how are consumers actually using the devices? There has to be a more practical use for a tablet than Angry Birds and Netflix.

The larger tablets—the iPad and Surface—are definitely claiming to be work devices, as supplements to or replacements for laptops. At last year’s NTC, it seemed that in every breakout session, at least two or three people were taking notes on an iPad, and the market is flooded with cases featuring built-in keyboards. Microsoft even ships its tablet with a keyboard in the cover. But how much work can you get done on a device loaded up with games, apps, widgets, and other distractions?

First, there are work-friendly apps that can help with productivity, note-taking, or just working while traveling. Tools like Simplenote (for Apple) and Flicknote (for Android) let you take plain text notes, while others, like Evernote (both) let you combine notes, photos—basically everything—and move seamlessly between desktop, tablet, and smartphone. Even VoIP apps, like Skype, can be useful by letting you make calls from your tablet.

You’ll notice that these apps don’t have to work independent of your regular computer. As many have suggested before me, a tablet can work like a second screen for your computer, one that you use for plain text notes, quick reference, etc., while working on your desktop. Lifehacker even suggests services like Site to Phone and MyPhoneDesktop to send links and text between your desktop, smartphone, and tablet.

Aside from those apps, a tablet can still be used for checking email, if you use Gmail, or accessing shared documents through Google Drive. Tablets could also fill the same purpose as a second monitor for your computer—extra real estate for reference, email, etc.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with keeping a little distraction nearby. Especially when traveling, it can help to shut your brain off and relax (just not at work).

Idealware Introductions: In Which We Meet the Other Chris...

We've had a history of great interns at Idealware--in fact, two of them went on to work for us full time and remain valued members of our staff. A new intern recently joined our research team, and we asked him to introduce himself in this blog post.

I have been here at Idealware nearly three weeks, and it’s about time that I introduce myself. My name is Chris Lane, and I am Idealware’s newest Research and Development Intern. Earlier today I was told that there had been some confusion between myself and Idealware’s other Chris, Editorial and Communications Director Chris Bernard—we are, in fact, distinct individuals, and I hope this post will set the record straight.
 
Coming to work at a nonprofit based around technology was not where I initially expected to go after graduating Bates College this spring, but so far I’ve found it to be a great experience. My academic background doesn’t have much to do with technology; I was actually an Environmental Studies major. But I’ve always been drawn to computers and technology in some fashion.
 
Growing up in the 90s, one of my earliest memories is of playing games on my father’s computer. When I discovered the World Wide Web in middle school, it became pretty clear that I wouldn’t be leaving any time soon. Whether it was spending way too much time on Facebook the summer after having my wisdom teeth removed or becoming heavily involved with a game modding community over the second half of high school, I was there to stay. And while I never got into programming like some of my other friends, I was still one of the informal “nerd gang” at school; that is, when one of the other kids had a computer problem, they’d turn to me (although, to be perfectly honest, most of those issues could be resolved using the awesome and mysterious power of the restart button).
 
So while I didn’t end up majoring in anything to do with the internet or technology in college, I suppose that it’s only right that I come back to it now. What I did know when I started moving into environmental studies was that I wanted to work at a nonprofit. I wanted to make the world a better place. Cliché, perhaps, but true.
Working at Idealware now seems a perfect blend of the two. I get to spend my time at work doing research on the web, and I not only get to work at a nonprofit, but also with nonprofits and for the benefit of nonprofits! I get to read and write blog posts, all the while helping these nonprofits to accomplish their goals of making the world a better place!
 
Plus, I get to work with a great group of people who are all well aware how to use the restart button.
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: One way to tell us apart? Unlike Chris Lane, the web wasn’t invented yet when I was in middle school. Or high school. Or college…

Questions from The Advanced Social Media Decision Maker's Toolkit: Integrating Social Media Channels (and Other Communications)

How do you segment audiences on social media? We work on several topics, so it may be one in five or six topic-related messages is of interest to any one person in our Facebook audience, for example.

Different posts will likely appeal to different types of people no matter what. As long as you are conscious of your audience, and not overwhelmingly sharing posts that only appeal to one audience, your fans will still find value in your page (after all, they chose to follow you in the first place). Unfortunately, social media doesn’t work like email (you can’t target particular groups), but by thinking critically about what you post, when your particular audiences are online, and what your users really want to see, you can still find the right mix.

You can use measurement tools (which we’ll be talking about in class five) to determine what content is getting the most interaction. Furthermore, you should ask your audience what they want to see. You may be surprised to find that there is more overlap that you previously thought.

If another page that your organization “likes” likes you back, do their subscribers see your posts?

The nice thing about Facebook Pages is that anyone can see your content. Even someone without a Facebook can see your entire page if they stumble across it on a Google search, for example. If someone likes a page that likes your page, your content will not specifically be promoted to them. However, your name will show up under that pages likes, they can tag you in posts, and vice-versa.

Which is the best tool for crowdsourcing?

We’ll be talking more about crowdsourcing in our next class, Social Media Fundraising. To get started, check out some of the articles on this page: http://www.idealware.org/crowdsourcing-further-reading

Can you share a few campaigns Ideaware thinks work well across channels? I want to see one in action.

Take a look at the Pacer Center’s use of multiple communications when promoting the knowledge of assistive technology through its Simon Technology Center program. The Center creates explanations of the resource on its website (http://www.pacer.org/stc/) and videos to explain the complicated subject matter (http://www.pacer.org/stc/videos/). It also promotes the resource on its website, social media pages (https://www.facebook.com/PACERCenter and https://twitter.com/pacercenter), and in emails, as well shares relevant articles and information from other sources on the website, blog, and in emails. 

Three Tips for Managing Your Interns & Skilled Volunteers

This is the second in a series of posts written for Idealware by the staff of VolunteerMatch. This one comes from Communications and Social Media Intern Stephanie Rosenburg.
 
Skilled volunteers let your organization get high-level work such as  social media and web design done, which would otherwise cost you lots of time and money. These experienced workers operate on passion and a love for your cause. How can you manage these volunteers in a way that will also keep them committed and engaged?
  
Volunteering as a Communications & Social Media Intern with VolunteerMatch, I've learned first-hand just how important good management really is to keep skilled volunteers like myself engaged. In my experience, this type of volunteering requires a higher level and more involved style of directing than other volunteer work I've done.
 
Here are a few tips based on what I've learned as a skilled volunteer working for the Communications team at VolunteerMatch:
 
1. Make Them a Part of the Team
 
The Communications team at VolunteerMatch has a weekly internal meeting that even we interns are involved in. We go around the room and talk about what we've completed from the week before and what we're working on for the next week. Everyone gives feedback, helps problem-solve and gets excited about each other’s projects.
 
It's been great working with such a cohesive group of people. Even though I'm only a volunteer, I've felt like part of the team because I know what's going on in the department as a whole and I've been included in a lot of the decision-making.
 
Follow up often with your volunteers, check in and make sure they've got what they need and are on top of all their tasks. This helps you understand where they are on important projects, but it also keeps them engaged with your organization and makes them feel involved.
 
2. Let Them Do What They Do Best
 
I was surprised how much free range I've been given at VolunteerMatch. They've assigned me a number of blog articles, social media campaigns and other projects, but have really encouraged me to make these things my own. I've had the chance to write articles about things I love, develop Facebook contests, and even use my graphic design skills to create an awesome infographic.
 
Since I've been at VolunteerMatch, I've really had the chance to experiment and develop my skills. This has also been great for them, because not only have I enjoyed the role, but I've also brought a lot of new ideas and projects to the mix.
 
Keep the “skilled” part of a skilled volunteer's work in mind. You've brought them in to complete a special project because they are good at what they do. Every skilled volunteer brings their own unique experience and perspective into your organization, so take advantage of this. Give them the room to work, be open to their suggestions and appreciative. You'll find they can get much more done if they have the space and encouragement to do it.
 
3. Get Them Away From the Computer Occasionally
 
I came to VolunteerMatch expecting to sit in front of my computer for 20 hours a week. However, it’s been a pleasant surprise be taken out to lunch, invited to sit in on meetings, included in birthday parties, and encouraged to attend events outside of work. Even though most of my time is spent in the office, it's the most fun working environment I've been in because there’s variety, too.
 
Skilled volunteers take what they do for their job and apply it to your cause because it's something they really care about. Keep their interest and passion alive by getting them involved with some of the things your organization is doing. Make them feel like a part of your organization by taking them to lunch, or inviting them to meetings and events.
 
What are some of the other ways that you can manage your skilled volunteers in a way that engages them and respects their unique skills and experiences?
 
Stephanie Rosenburg is a Communications & Social Media Intern at VolunteerMatch. She’s brought her passion and experience to the organization through her role as a skilled volunteer, working closely with the Online Communications team. You can reach her at srosenburg@volunteermatch.org and follow her at @smrosenburg.

Four Tips to Attract the Best Tech Volunteers for Your Organization

This is the first in a series of guest posts written for Idealware by the staff of VolunteerMatch. This one comes from Senior Online Communications Manager Shari Ilsen.
 
Volunteers are probably the single most valuable resource for your organization. Unfortunately, many nonprofits overlook one of the most impactful ways volunteers can help out: Technology.
 
Instead of thinking “stuff envelopes,” “paint walls,” or “sort books” when you think volunteers, how about “install programs,” “design website,” and “build Facebook community”? Engaging volunteers that have specific technology skills means you don’t have to do these things yourself – and that’s priceless.
 
These volunteers can seriously cut down on the resources it takes to be a successful and up-to-date organization in today’s world, and decrease the “pulling hair out” time you’d have to dedicate to getting these things done without their expertise. Especially since these volunteer relationships can be both virtual or in-person, long-term or one-time, depending on your needs.
 
But how do you attract great technology volunteers to work with your nonprofit?
  • Get their attention with keywords and flashy titles. Techies are not going to read through each and every volunteer opportunity that they find – they will quickly scan the titles until something pops out. So make sure they find what they’re looking for in your title.
  • Use keywords that relate directly to the task and skills for which you’re looking. This will make it more likely your opportunity will show up in the VolunteerMatch search results of well-matched volunteers.
  • Craft a title that’s witty, but not kitschy. Technology folks appreciate a sense of humor and fun.
  • Make them feel special by focusing on their unique capabilities. A little ego stroke never hurts, right? And in this case, it will help you communicate to your prospective volunteers why you need THEM to help out – because they have unique skills that will make all the difference for your organization.
  • Lay out the expectations and time commitment from the start. Whether you’re searching for help with one discrete project or something more ongoing, be clear about this from the very beginning, so you’re not left in the lurch if the volunteer decides they can’t do it anymore. This way, you’ll only attract volunteers who are truly ready and excited to work with you.
  • Clearly describe the impact they’ll have. Inspire them with words and pictures that show how their work will make a difference. It’s tough sometimes for tech volunteers to connect the dots between what they do, often behind the scenes, to on-the-ground impact. Make them feel warm and fuzzy and they’ll be more likely to make a commitment to you.

There are thousands of technology opportunities posted by nonprofits in the VolunteerMatch network. Visit the website to learn more. Does your organization already engage technology volunteers? How have they been helpful to your nonprofit? Share your stories in the comments...

Connect with VolunteerMatch via Facebook, Twitter, or on the web to learn more about recruiting volunteers.

 

 

Questions from The Advanced Social Media Decision Maker's Toolkit: Using Social Media to Cultivate Deeper Commitment

We had a tremendous turnout of our recent Advanced Social Media Decision Maker’s Toolkit, but  a downside of a big class is that lots of good questions don’t get answered. To get around that, we took some time to answer a few of the remaining questions from our second session, Getting Beyond the Like: Using Social Media to Cultivate Deeper Commitment, and since we thought some of the answers might help other people, we made them available to everyone.

Is it more advantageous to play to your biggest demographic, or focus on gaining a new demographic?

In most cases, it’s important to keep your core fans happy. They’re the ones who will be actively doing something for your organization, like donating, attending events, or even just sharing your posts. That doesn’t mean you should completely abandon the prospect of getting new followers, or reaching out to different demographics, just be sure not to alienate your current fan base by changing completely.

In all other communications, after I focus on a goal, I focus on audience. Should you take the same approach with social media? The audience seems vast and untargeted.

Audience is certainly important with social media. Targeting and defining your audience can help you to decide on which communication channels to use, what kinds of things to post, and how you should be defining success. Understanding your audience should go hand-in-hand with goal setting.

It is helpful for those of us that are still at the "Attract Followers" stage to talk through how to do so. What are your tips?

Take every opportunity to tell people about your page. Put the link on your business cards, put it in your email signature, and put it clearly on your website (widgits are eye catching and work well for this). Ask your friends and fellow organizations to promote your page as well. You could potentially offer incentives and contests to grow your fan base. Consider a culture of calling out your newest "likes" by name, make them feel special. Most of all, post strong, regular content, and encourage people to share it. That way, when your followers friends see that content, they'll be encouraged to follow you naturally.

How do you lure followers from other peoples' pages?

It's reasonable that you would want to find followers who are interested in similar organizations, or showing an interest in your cause some other way. In the most aggressive scenario, ask the organization if they would be willing to promote your page in an email or social media post. Maybe you could do the same for them. Easier, would be to comment on other pages as your own page. If you show yourself as an informed voice on a community page, or on the page of a friendly organization, more followers might be drawn to you. Again, the same advice could be given as the post above. Make certain that your page is well promoted, and share strong content, as that will encourage people to follow you.

How quickly should we respond to comments vs. allowing other followers to respond?

It depends on the particular comment and on your voice as an organization. For questions or comments aumed at the community, sometimes the best thing to do is to let your followers do the work themselves, but unless there is a culture of responding, you may find this difficult to facilitate. If you need to stir the pot a bit to keep things moving, adding a comment can be helpful. For questions and comments aimed directly at you, you should answer and respond promptly. A question like “how to I donate?” or "where can I access your services" should certainly get an immediate response.

My organization is about independent movies. We provide value by bringing unseen cinema. We announce the events, but how do we create a value balance?

Since there is such a wealth of information about independent cinema online, it seems like it would be valuable to your followers to post relevant resources from other places. Something like a review of one of your upcoming films, or an article surrounding the subject matter of one of those films. Even if it’s not directly related to an event, your followers might be interested in articles about filming techniques, movie theaters, or entertainment news.

We are a business organization for ski areas. Is it legit to regularly repost their posts?

Absolutely, as long as you are also providing a mix of your own content in there as well. It’s perfectly valuable to post the best resources from your members, or valuable resources from around the web that are related to your mission.

As a nonprofit, we've been invited to participate in Facebook campaigns. Is there a limit on how many of these we should do? I felt that our followers were tuning out and getting 'fatigued' by the daily/weekly ask to vote, etc. but our executive director really wanted certain campaigns aggressively promoted.

You will want to uphold a steady mix of content that isn’t purely related to one of those campaigns. While you could take the approach of only valuing social media as it affects your bottom line, keeping your followers engaged and mindful of your organization’s value will make a big difference when it does come time to respond to an ask. And voting fatigue is certainly a real thing. Consider setting a threshold for how many voting campaigns you'll do in a month and ask your team to help decide on which to do and which to pass on. Wearing out your community to a point where they will not vote at all would be worse than missing an opportunity here or there. Try to find the right balance.

Is there data regarding when the best time to post is?

Whatever works for you! Check out Facebook Insights, Hootsuite, or a number of other free tools to see what times get you the best response. You may be surprised to find that 9 PM on a Sunday gets you the most views, or 7 AM on a Tuesday. Every group of followers is a bit different. It isn't something worth obsessing over, but lee[omg tans on "high focus" times can definitely be helpful. Don’t forget that you can also use these tools to schedule posts ahead of time if you don't keep the same hours as your followers.

What is better? Full name or initials in stating who is posting on the organization's page?

If you’re running a close-knit group of followers, it can be valuable to share who is posting what, but in general, it may be preferable to just post as your organization. If you want to share individual’s names, the full name would likely be recognizable to a wider audience, but if you’re using twitter for instance, every letter counts, so it would be best to remove the attribution altogether, if possible. Check out this blog post for more: http://www.idealware.org/blog/who-tweets-you

Is it OK to edit a retweet?

Since Twitter is so focused around the 140 characters, it can be tough to get YOUR message in along with someone else’s. Removing a hashtag or shortening a date is perfectly acceptable in a re-tweet, but mis-quoting a person is not. Try to leave the content as is as much as possible, but also remember to make sure that tweet is still providing value to your audience. Thanking people for the mention is good etiquette, but flooding your twitter feed with “Thanks for the RT:” won’t give much to the rest of your followers.

How do you locate user posts that are related to your organization or your mission?

Try searching on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc for relevant hashtags, or looking at where your own name comes up. Even a Google search can reveal a lot. You can also use tools like Google Alerts, Addictomatic, and Social Mention. Check out this article for more http://www.idealware.org/articles/few-good-tools-measuring-and-monitoring-social-media.

How can we determine the kind of fill-in-the-blank questions and discussion questions that get people excited and wanting to engage?

Coming up with creative content should be part of the fun of running a social media page. Try a few out and see which works best. Definitely make sure they are fun, but still related to your mission. “What’s your favorite dog breed?” might get a lot of reponses, but is it really making people think about your mission? (Well, maybe if you’re running a page for an animal shelter). Brainstorm with your team, that should generate enough ideas for quite a while.

I inherited two Facebook pages...one as an organization, and another for our organization as if it were a person. should I only use the organization page, and what to do with all of our "friends" on the page that we have where we are just like a person?

An organizational page will look more professional, and more people will be able to see your content. Furthermore, when people search you out, it's more likely they will land on the organizational page. We recommend you delete it, rather than leave it abandoned, because should someone stumble upon it, and have their questions unanswered, it could leave a bad impression about your organization.  Before you close out your personal page, make sure to give plenty of warning, and tell everyone to like your organizational page (and tell their friends to do the same) as that is where you will be posting now. The people who were paying attention before will move and boost activity on the page. Note that during this transition, it is a good idea to really focus on high quality, interactive content to set the tone and show why the people should move. It will mean less work for you, a more effective presence, and hopefully, a single place for all your fans to come together.

If you can't interact more than once or twice daily on Twitter, is it still worth maintaining?

The answer to this questions depends on your goals. If you are looking to build a lively community on Twitter, than one or two posts per day won't be enough. But, if you are looking to share valuable content with your community and show your expertise in the larger mission, posting infrequently, but with high quality, is totally fine. Also remember that you can use a program like HootSuite to schedule multiple posts out at once and save yourself a little time.

Questions from The Advanced Social Media Decision Maker's Toolkit: Branding Through Social Media

We’re thrilled to have such a great group for our Advanced Social Media Decision Maker’s Toolkit. An unfortunate part of having a big class is the fact that lots of good questions don’t get answered. To show our appreciation for those taking the class, we took some time to answer a few remaining questions from our very first session, Branding Through Social Media. We thought some of the answers might help our other curious fans, so we made them available to everyone. Enjoy:

What if an organization has many departments which are under the same umbrella and one of the departments is much more determined to utilize social media than the others?  At the present time the agency is not utilizing social media in a way that benefits our department.

It would be preferable for your entire organization to have a singular social media strategy. However, that’s not always possible. It is best to just get started doing something, and hopefully, more people will come on board, and the other departments will become more flexible.

How would we present ourselves as expert and authoritative but still fun and welcoming without appearing completely disconnected between those ideas?

That depends on what your organization’s definition of expert and authoritative is. Idealware tries to adhere to a similar style on social media. We present content with a clear eye to being “in the know,” but we also show a bit of our personality in commentary. Our followers look to us for the right advice, but we’re real people who like to have fun too, and we’re not afraid to be ourselves. You don’t need to be stodgy. As long as you know your stuff people will latch on to it.

What value are social media users looking for?

Remember that social media users are there to connect with their family, friends, and the other parts of their community that they’re most engaged with. They clearly liked or followed you because they value you already, but only sharing out ads or promotion can alienate your followers in what they would like to be a largely “social” environment. Instead, consider displaying your organization as real people, and remind them of the work you do. Pictures from inside your organization, in the field, of volunteers etc. can be a great way to present yourself as “one of them.” Don’t be afraid to ask what they want, either. Finding out what they value through surveys or conversation can be hugely helpful.

My organization is a small time not for profit low on resources all volunteer we have a yearly three day independent film festival , how do I keep the audience engaged year around.

Take a look at the Maine Organic Farmers And Gardeners Association (MOFGA) on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maine-Organic-Farmers-And-Gardeners-Association-MOFGA/62192014056. They have their annual Common Ground Fair, but use the theme all year long. Think about making a social media/public relations volunteer job for someone who really loves the tool. Have everyone feed interesting content about film or other relevant issues, but make sure that one person is in charge of what gets posted.

Can you recommend another tool to pull together information about what others are saying about you?

You can search for topics in Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Flickr, among others, by using each site’s respective search functions.

Because constantly searching a number of sites can be time consuming, it’s often more convenient to be notified when one of your keywords is being discussed. Google Alerts, for example, will send you daily emails whenever your keywords are mentioned—though it doesn’t find all social media mentions. TweetBeep does the same thing for conversations taking place in Twitter. NutshellMail will send you an email with a summary of activity related to your accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Don’t forget the more traditional ways to listen to people, like Online Surveys, phone calls or old fashioned feet-on-the-ground conversations with people in your community.

Does tone need to be consistent or can it change based on what you're posting about, etc.?

Of course, you should use a tone that’s appropriate for what you’re posting. Different types of posts will have different types of tones inherently, so use your discretion. However, having an overall “organizational” tone on social media can be helpful when multiple people are in charge of posting. Think about what you want to say with your outreach. For example, do you want to be seen as a caring compassionate organization, a fun organization, or a serious, smart organization? That will help you determine general boundaries for tone, with some leeway depending on the particular post.

What is better, to post as an individual within the organization or as the organization?

It depends on your organization and what you want to say. If you work for a very small organization, want to have a personal feel, and connect largely within your local community, posting as an individual might be beneficial for your overall image. For most, posting as an organization provides a more “official” feel to your social media page as opposed to a communal, personal feel. Whatever you choose, just make sure you are consistent. For more information, read my blog post about the issue: http://www.idealware.org/blog/who-tweets-you

If our service users are largely seniors/boomers/older adults what are the best social media channels to use?

Facebook is a great channel for that audience. Check out some of the demographic information on social media channels from the PEW Research Center http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Social-media-users/Social-Networking-Site-Users/Demo-portrait.aspx

How much is too much?  We want to avoid overwhelming our members but provide them enough information that they stay engaged.

If you’re a small organization, once or twice daily is sufficient on Facebook. If you are able to post more strong content than that, great! Just be sure that your followers are still listening. Test the waters and see when you start losing your audience by using Facebook Insights or a similar program. Check when your users are online and try to post within that window. Obviously, if you’re running a large campaign, or a program like a Day of Giving, a large volume of posting should be expected and is acceptable.

How long should a post be on FB?  A few sentences or is longer ok?

In general, try to keep regular content fairly concise. If you’re sharing a resource that requires followers to go to a link to read more, a sentence or two will suffice, but posting an important story about one of your volunteers or staffers can be as long as it needs to be. Play around with the format for your organization and see if certain length posts get fewer views or more views than short posts.

Will you be giving us info on the differences between google + and Facebook?

Because of the increasing popularity of social media, a certain amount of homogenization can be expected. Due to this, the technical features of each site are not wildly different. Facebook currently has a much larger user base than Google+ (or any other social media site for that matter), but if your audience has expressed an interest in Google+, that’s a great place to be. Try a survey of your fans to see what social media networks they are on. However, we don’t recommend getting rid of your Facebook. Like your website, Facebook has gotten so popular that some people may seek you out just to find general information about you.

Our Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide has more: http://www.idealware.org/reports/nonprofit-social-media-decision-guide

What about hootsuite?

Hootsuite is a convenient tool to manage many (or just one) social media account(s). It’s free to try, so check it out and see if it could work for you: https://hootsuite.com

We don’t, however, recommend that you use it to post the same content on multiple channels simultaneously. Some content just works better on Twitter than on Facebook or vice-versa, and creating original content for all your channels will give your followers reason to follow you more than once.

 

What is a Content Management System?

Can you edit your organization's website yourself? Can you change text or add images without needing to use HTML? If not, then you probably need a Content Management System. A Content Management System, or CMS, allows your nontechnical staff members to update website content through a WYSIWYG-style interface, eliminating much of the need to learn or use HTML. 

It's difficult to simply add a CMS to your exisitng HTML website, however. That sort of transition means completely rebuilding the website--but you can often import or reuse your previous theme and design.

Want to learn more about CMS, websites, and other parts of your organization's technology plan? Idealware's Tactical Technology Planning covers all the steps, in on-demand recordings so you can learn at your own pace. For more information, visit tacticaltech.idealware.org.

Program Evaluation on the Brain

We've had program evaluation on the brain lately at Idealware, and for good reason. It's a critical part of nonprofit work--if you can't asses the effectiveness of your programs, you can't adapt them or improve them or prove to funders that you're doing all the good things in the world that you're actually doing. 

Adding to our growing litany of program evaluation-related resources, Idealware's Director of Research and Operations Elizabeth Pope recently wrote about the topic for the TechSoup blog

"Most nonprofits conduct some kind of program evaluation, whether it’s simply keeping track of how many people have been directly helped by an organization’s services or complex multi-year studies of a program’s effects on the larger community. There is a wealth of resources out there for a nonprofit looking to design a logic model or define indicators, and lots of smart people have plenty to say about program evaluation as a discipline."

Click through to read the full post, and then chime in to the comments to let us know your thoughts on the matter.

 

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