Four Tips to Freshen Your Content Creation

Four Tips to Freshen Your Content Creation

Investing the time in creating content can be difficult when work gets busy. Small and mid-sized nonprofit organizations face can additionally be challenged because multiple people are often share the responsibility of writing content.

If your content creation is in a rut, these four steps will help you get back on track.

Assume deadlines will be missed

If you are managing a team of employees that are helping to create content, there is only one safe assumption. There will be missed deadlines. Plan for it – have extra content scheduled or evergreen content available. Even with the best planning, deadlines, staff departures, and unplanned outages will impact your communication schedule.

Write every day

Writing every day will help you focus on what you need or should be writing. While you may not think you have time to write every day, even just 10 minutes helps. Building that habit will ensure you stay fresh. Even writing half of a blog post or a new fundraising appeal will help you build good writing habits.


I’ll be the first to admit – this is one of the biggest challenges that I have. When I commit the time to reading – either books or interesting things on the internet – I’m more fresh and creative. It’s hard to not focus on your to do list and carve out the time for yourself. That time helps rejuvenate you creatively. Many content creators have shared the impact and importance that reading has on their of writing.

By Inspired by Curated Content

How many times have you read an article related to your work and thought, “That’s really interesting!” or “That’s really idiotic!”? Either way, save that article. Come back to and write a reflection piece. Can you praise the author and the piece? Did you think of something relevant to your own work that relates to the piece? Was it absolute garbage and could use a polite but strongly worded response? Allow yourself the space to be inspired by your peers.

If you’re looking for additional inspiration this week, enjoy these articles!

  1. Thinking about crowdsourcing? Tricia Mirchandani of CauseVox has five questions to consider first. My favorite – “Do you have a crowd?”
  2. Taylor Shanklin of NPEngage discusses the importance of mobile and shares four tips to o help your organization become more mobile-friendly.
  3. Worried about your Google Analytics? Shaun McKenna of Conversioner explains how to avoid data pollution.
  4. There has been an incredible amount of coverage and discussion of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Chronicle of Philanthropy compiled a list of seven nonprofit stories.
Why Nonprofits Should Listen to Reddit

Why Nonprofits Should Listen to Reddit

Reddit can be a complicated place. One minute you’re watching a gif of a cat, the next moment you’ve strolled into an unpleasant subreddit or offensive comment thread. Even searching for an image to use for this blog post caused me to view a few images that I did not want to see. This week, Lauren Girardin of Nonprofit MarCommunity provided a handy outline (with many amusing gifs) on how your nonprofit can utilize Reddit.

Girardin shares a number of valuable and helpful hints on engaging in Reddit. One of the most important is:

Listen and you’ll learn more about your audience and what they think about your organization, your cause, and the world. Monitor Reddit for mentions of your nonprofit, check for links to your website, and listen to Reddit conversations about your cause by following related subreddits and keywords.

People who post on Reddit will be honest about your nonprofit. I often search the names of a few of our clients on Reddit to see what is being discussed. The anonymity of the platform creates a space and community in which people are straightforward in their criticism and genuine in their praise. When searching and reading, you’ll understand why Girardin’s first rule is imperative – you must have a thick skin. The anonymity that allows for openness also creates a space in which a vocal fraction of users can say things that are inappropriate or hurtful.

The opportunity to listen and view a community that is discussing your nonprofit or field can be invaluable to thinking about how you shape your communication. It is important to avoid responding emotionally in Reddit (or any other online space) but taking a step back and evaluating what is causing concern or strife. Are people critical of a certain aspect of your work? Do you think other people share these concerns? How can you address the issue in future communication?

Use Reddit as an opportunity to listen, learn, and engage with a community and it will help your manage your own audience more effectively.

Below are four recent links that I enjoyed:

  1. Who can keep up with Facebook News Feed updates? Sarah Matista of Social Media Today did and created a handy infographic.
  2. WhichTestWon measured whether a pop-up helped or hurt the re-opt in rate (number of visitors opting back in to accept the offer), after initially opting out of an email. Interesting data that nonprofits could use.
  3. Jay Ruderman of NPQ shares why philanthropist should be active on Twitter.
  4. Already thinking about #GivingTuesday? Check out the interview that Liz Ragland of Network for Good conducted with Zosia Sztykowski, Executive Director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS)
Communicating with a Four Year Old

Communicating with a Four Year Old

How would you describe what you do to a four year old? That was the question posed in a recent Medium post by Dean Vipond. Invited to talk to an elementary school classroom, what he thought was a presentation to older students, with a greater understanding of what design is, quickly had him returning to the simplest forms of what he does and why he does it.

This effort to break down a potentially complicated description and explanation down to its simplest parts is a crucial exercise for any communicator. In the social sector in particular, there can be a tendency to lose sight of the value of simplicity.

Simplicity doesn’t mean dumbing down, as we have discussed previously in our admiration for Made to Stick – simplicity means getting to the basic elements of why and how. For Dean, this mean describing design as “making something easy to use, or easy to understand,” and that “colours, letters and pictures…help people understand things.” It is a surprisingly profound and accessible way to describe the importance of design, and was done so in a way that is definitely not dumbed down.

For your organization, how can you break down what you do more simply? How could you effectively communicate what you do to a four year old?


  1. Are you still emailing your newsletter as a pdf? It’s time to stop doing that. Marlene Oliveira explains why you should stop.
  2. Taylor Maxwell of M+R shares your daily social media exercises.
  3. What should an event manager be focusing on? Meghan Gauen expounds on her experience and why the focus should be donor engagement and retention.
  4. Your long-form read of the week should be an article on growing nonprofit debt written by NPQ’s Woods Bowman.
Fear, Planning, Communication, and Implementation

Fear, Planning, Communication, and Implementation

Shifting from brainstorming and discussion to implementation can be taxing for many nonprofits. It’s often easier to think about the future. Implementation takes commitment, resources, and acknowledgement that you can fail. This week Steve Scheier wrote an article in SSIR about the importance of overcoming fear in decision-making.

Much of Scheier’s thoughtful article is focused on the challenges of top-down decision-making and how that can lead to organization-wide fear

In my own work with nonprofits, I’ve seen many leaders regularly make decisions without involving others. This leaves coworkers with the sense that they aren’t trusted to participate. Meanwhile, these leaders are typically overwhelmed with unsustainably large workloads, but remain stuck because they don’t have the skills they need to involve others in the decision-making process.

As nonprofit leaders work to engage their employees in the decision-making process, it’s also critical to work collaboratively on developing a strategy for implementation. Too often, leadership, overwhelmed with their workloads, make decisions but cannot commit the time to ensure that those implementing those decisions are successful.

Preventing an employee from having a voice in the decision-making process and expecting them to implement is a recipe for failure. It undermines the value and engagement of the employee who will be owning a project.

And for those that have had a voice in decisions, it is important that the lines of communication remain open during implementation. Making a decision isn’t enough for the employee or leadership – implementation requires communication so that expectations and goals are communicated. If this step doesn’t happen, employees can also have fear – of the unknown, for their job, or direction of the project.

If you’re worried about keeping up with the news – don’t fear! These links are some favorites from the week and cover a variety of nonprofit topics:

  1. Brady Josephson explains why we should be investing more time and thought into donor satisfaction
  2. In social media news, Ricardo Bilton of Digiday shares data on Facebook’s growing market share of news consumption.
  3. Access to the internet will continue to be a key issue for government and nonprofits. Josh Dzieza and Frank Bi of the Verge review the recent digital divide report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
  4. What can nonprofits learn from the Planned Parenthood video fiasco? Rick Cohen of NPQ discusses the lessons learned.
Just Stop

Just Stop

How many times have you started an email or conversation with the following:

I just wanted to say…

I just wanted to ask…

This is just my opinion…

Just, as a word, has a few definitions, including an expression of fairness, a description of immediacy, and a capture of exactitude. But those definitions don’t work within the examples provided – what is going on here? How has this word morphed over time, and what are the implications in using it in this fashion?

As described in a recent blog post for Women 2.0, “just” has become synonymous for subordination. A quick way to show respect, but at the same time, weaken your message. And, more often than not, it is women who are using “just” in this fashion – damaging their delivery of opinions or questions.

From a nonprofit communications perspective, the potential harm of “just” is real. From fundraising emails, to relationship management, to volunteer recruitment, to board meetings, how many times have you used “just” when you didn’t need to? How could you have made your message stronger? What could have been a way to position yourself from a place of authority and strength, rather than of deference?

Our thoughts on “just” are just the beginning to our contributions this week – check the links below for more highlights.

  1. Nancy Schwartz of Network for Good shares why there should only be one call-to-action in emails.
  2. Looking for a donor relations data and insight – check out Lynne Wester of the Donor Relations Guru blog that highlights data from a recent donor relations survey whitepaper.
  3. Alex Daniels of the Chronicle of Philanthropy discusses why six major foundations called on their peers to share the racial and gender make-up of their boards and staff.
  4. On the technical side – an interesting read from Jason Tashea at that highlights companies that have open-sourced their technology.
  5. For your long read of the week, we recommend “The Surprising Alchemy of Passion and Science”, the transcript of a speech given by Lissette Rodriguez of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation at the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence’s tenth annual conference.
Three Ways to Retain Top Volunteers and Supporters

Three Ways to Retain Top Volunteers and Supporters

I reconnected with a friend recently. During our communication, I asked about a fundraising volunteer project that I had worked with her on previously. She shared that she was still supporting it and over the years she had raised over $30,000. And then added, But it somehow never seems to be enough (as in, I’m only as good as the latest amount I donated and / or raised)”

This is something that a lot of nonprofits struggle with. How do you convey a sense of urgency to donate/fundraise while respecting the incredible and generous donations/fundraising efforts previously made? This week Caryn Stein of Network for Good shared five ways to recruit passionate volunteers. The list is a great starting point. There are follow-up questions to consider. How do you keep your passionate volunteers engaged? How do you avoid donor fatigue and burnout? How do you highlight an organizational need while respecting previous contributions? Below are three options that may help your organization respect your supporters and ensure that they don’t feel like you’re asking too much or too often.

Segment emails by giving history

Any fundraising appeal should be segmented by giving history. The language and call-to-action needed to retain a gift is different than the message used to move someone up the ladder of engagement to become a first-time donor. Your segmentation doesn’t need to be so finite that you mention the previous donation amount and date – it simply has to acknowledge what their previous support enabled your organization to do and what a contribution during this funding cycle will be used for.

Assign an actual relationship manager

Allocating time for relationship management isn’t easy for many nonprofits. There often isn’t enough time and staff to focus on mid-level supporters. This is a lost opportunity. Too often nonprofits use email blasts to manage their engaged constituents instead of developing a one-to-one relationship. Not every relationship manager needs to have major gift experience and know how to ‘make an ask’. Every employee can have some part in ensuring that quality relationships are formed and sustained. Listening to the supporter and building trust will help continue engagement. Assign relationship managers to supporters and give them the tools needed to preserve those relationships.

Build a long-term plan

As you cultivate a relationship with a supporter, you get an understanding of why they support your cause. As part of this conversation, it’s important to listen to what their interests are. How can they continue to build engagement and find new challenges? Someone who fundraises for your organization isn’t always going to want a new challenge to be just be raising more money. At some point they might like to be more involved with the planning of an event, joining your board of directors, or engaged in a different way. Building a plan and fitting that into your organization’s strategy and communication will help ensure that the individual sticks with you.

These suggestions will help you sustain and grow your relationship with passionate volunteers. And these links will help you keep up to date on news from the week.

  1. Miranda Paquet of Constant Contact shares tips on how to get more engagement from your email list.
  2. Your millennial giving trend link of the week – Mark Hrywna of the NonProfit Times discusses a recent study that states millennial donations and volunteering are influenced by their peer group.
  3. David Cohen of Adweek reviews data on how Facebook users spend their time.
  4. If you’re looking for some inspiration John Rampton of Inc. highlights eight companies that are having a positive impact on their community and the world.
The Struggle to Collaborate

The Struggle to Collaborate

There are a lot of nonprofits doing the exact same thing. Not literally – clearly each nonprofit has their own methodology, belief system, and implementation. But many social organizations are attempting to serve the same populations and solve the same problems, while not working with those other organizations doing the same.

Wendy Woods, Global Head of the Boston Consulting Group’s Social Impact Practice, spoke to the power of collective cooperation during a 2013 TED Talk. She highlighted two organizations fighting malnutrition in the same region, but turning potential patients away because those patients didn’t fit the criteria of who they serve. These organizations were in the same region, serving the same cause & population, but were ineffectively solving the problem. The solution? Working together.

So many nonprofits are wary of giving up their “secret sauce” – that program, practice, or tool that sets them apart from others in the space. This perceived competitive advantage, that their system of change is the most effective, has the potential to hinder the efficacy of the overall endeavor – whether that is helping the most people or solving a key problem. What the “secret sauce” does is create an environment for that nonprofit to continue to exist, but not to achieve larger goals.

And communicating this advantage ultimately comes down to why your method is better and how much more effective you are because of your practices and people. In fundraising and outreach communication, what nonprofits end up selling are outcomes and activities created by their methodology and work. But these outcomes aren’t enough when you consider the potential to serve more people. By giving up the notion of working independently on this effort, and instead collaborate with others who are tackling the same issue and population, you have the opportunity to more effectively help those in need.

But giving up the “secret sauce” is no easy task. As a nonprofit leader, you have to balance the needs of so many stakeholders, including a board of directors, staff, volunteers, funders, not to mention the people you are directly serving through your mission. Your competitive advantage helps those internal to your organization, but at what cost to those externally?

Inefficiencies abound in the nonprofit space, and a lack of collaboration is just the beginning. But in thinking and considering the big picture of your work, including the opportunities that exist to step outside of your organization’s needs and existence, you can realign your work with your mission. And isn’t that what we’re all here for?

  1. M+R announced the M+R Toolshed with some tools to help you analyze your data.
  2. Megan O’Neil of the Chronicle of Philanthropy highlights data that shows declines in #GivingTuesday income growth
  3. Need tips on a good hashtag for a crowdfunding campaign? Kat Kuehl of CauseVox shares some great tips.
  4. Shana Masterson of NPEngage discusses the challenges and optimism with DIY fundraising. A great quote from the article, “The success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the widespread availability of the internet, and the increasingly social nature of the population have created a perfect storm of both hope and unrealistic expectations.”
Eight Vine Tricks for Nonprofits

Eight Vine Tricks for Nonprofits

When Instagram announced they were adding the capacity to record videos, many assumed that this meant the death of Vine. In fact, #RIPVine was a trending topic. We discussed the change here. As expected, Vine continues to serve the Twitter-focused users.  We’ve provided eight tips for nonprofits that may be considering using this platform. The first four are recording Tricks. The second four are content ideas and suggestions.

Come up with a recording plan

Vine is a platform that you should approach with a plan. If you have an idea of a video, map out exactly what you want to show. Determining what you want to show – even by creating a quick storyboard – before starting will save you time and ensure that you’re making the most out of your six seconds.

Don’t chase the #loop

Many artistic Vine enthusiasts work to build a perfect loop into their videos. If you work at a nonprofit, time is scarce. Don’t absorb a lot of time striving to get the ideal loop. This is a situation in which perfection can be the enemy of good. Get a good/great Vine created.

Avoid crashing

If you’ve used Vine a lot – you know there can be some technical difficulties. Losing a video can be extremely annoying. I was one half-second shot from completing a day-long vine of helping a friend build a fence from scratch when it crashed. When you’re dedicating a specific time to shoot a video use Airplane mode (with your wifi on) and try to close down other apps in use.

Don’t rush sharing

Take time to figure out the best way and time to share your Vine. The process of sharing your creation with your audience shouldn’t be an afterthought. Ensure that the timing of promotion fits with ongoing campaigns or organizational goals. Utilize hashtags thoughtfully in your post so that others can discover your Vine through the App.

Snapshot of events

Vine is a great tool to show an event over the course of six seconds. Start with an empty event space, show split seconds as the event space is created or built, when guests first arrive, the event in full swing, and then take down. These six second time lapse videos will help promote the event in future years and show all of the energy that is poured into a successful activity.

Thank donors

Some organizations utilize social media to chase donations; Vine is a great tool to recognize donors. Thank them with a quick message from your Executive Director or volunteer leader. You can also create a visual thank you with donor names listed.

Convey Results

If your nonprofit serves a population, determine a way to show the process of how that population is helped. Any transformation that an individual, animal, or environment makes can help provide greater clarity and emotion to the work that your organization is doing.

Open Jobs/Volunteer Opportunities

This is an out-of-the-box option, but Vine can be used to highlight volunteer and job opportunities. Having someone briefly describe the opportunity or showing a volunteer doing the activity and encouraging others to join them is a great way to attract new talent.

These tips will help you get more out of your Vine experience. These links will help you keep on the news from the week!

  1. The Ford Foundation announced that they were shifting 100% of their funding to address global inequality. compiled initial reaction from social media.
  2. In a study of nonprofits in the New England, researchers found that 83% of nonprofit executives plan to leave their jobs within the next five years. Patricia Daddona of the Providence Business News provides the details.
  3. Lindsey Stemann of Business 2 Community details how and where nonprofits are connecting with volunteers on social media.
  4. Last week we discussed the types of people in meetings. This week, Reigan Combs and Kasey Fleisher Hickey of Asana share the five common meetings and the challenges that come with them.
Speaking the Same Language

Speaking the Same Language

A friend of SCC forwarded along an article that captures the creatures you meet in both the average and important meetings for your organization.

The characters, or creatures, in this blog post resonated with us because we can see ourselves in one or more of the archetypes described (to be honest – I’m a mix of a Sally and a Larry, but a self-aware Larry who wishes others would realize I was one).

But on top of the creatures, what this article truly captures is the lack of communication that can derail even the best meetings and intentions. It can be easy to be stuck within ruts and roles, where each person in that meeting isn’t communicating their own needs. But just as importantly, in falling into these traps and roles, your team isn’t effectively communicating the best interests of the organization.

These meetings break down because of a key reason – no one is speaking the same language. Larry is subtlety trying to indicate that they aren’t needed in the current discussion by working throughout. Chatty Patty is likely overcompensating for a lack of preparedness for the conversation by talking to no end. Two of the characters identified as crucial are literally people who translate and synthesize information so that others can understand – so that everyone in the meeting can speak the same language.

The downside of hosting meetings with key stakeholders that are speaking different languages isn’t just inefficiency. Whether these meetings involve staff, volunteers, fundraisers, or a board of directors, you run the risk of alienating your cast of characters by not identifying their individual perspectives. It is not enough just to be able to identify these creatures – it is necessary to also take advantage of the skills and knowledge of people in the room to more effectively help the organization, even if that means they get kicked out of the meeting.

Larry might not be the most useful in the meeting you are hosting, but he/she might be crucial in solving a crisis elsewhere in the organization. Patty may be taking up so much time in your meeting, but likely can build relationships with other stakeholders by his/her ability to hold court for long periods of time. The key is identifying strengths rather than weaknesses, and determining how that role fits within your organizational goals. To understand if your meeting needs these voices, and how best to appreciate and cultivate their perspectives within the decisions you need to make. To put each participant in the best situation to communicate their perspective in a way to improve the organization.

Why is each person in the room? Why is the meeting being held? Meetings should never be a one way conversation. Decisions should not be made without consultation of important parties. But understanding the value of inputs, and your own understanding of cultivating these perspectives, is crucial not only to meeting efficacy, but to organization morale and functionality. When hosting an important meeting, everyone in the room needs to not only be on the same proverbial page, but at the very least needs to be speaking the same language. And it is up to you to manage this process.

  1. Mary Mazzoni of Triple Pundit highlights the Adobe’s efforts to support creativity in youth and the education system.
  2. Recruiting a sponsor is just the first step. Chris Baylis of the Sponsorship Collective discusses the importance of planning for sponsorship activation.
  3. Shafaq Hasan of NPQ outlines how nonprofit Khan Academy is working with the College Board to offer a completely free interactive online SAT practice program.
  4. In need of advice on your Board of Directors? Liz Ragland of Network for Good interviewed Rachel Muir, vice president of training at Pursuant about how to motivate your Board and engage them as fundraisers.
Three Questions to Consider When Considering Salesforce

Three Questions to Consider When Considering Salesforce

As data needs evolve, many nonprofit and social enterprise organizations transition to Salesforce as their data management tool. This process can be complicated and time consuming. If you’re planning on making this transition, one of the the most important actions you can take is to ask yourself (and team) thoughtful questions to determine what your needs are and how to bend Salesforce to meet your business practices. These three questions are a great place to start.

One-to-one or Bucket?

There are two account management options when setting up your nonprofit account in Salesforce. The question lies in how you want organize individual constituents that are not associated with an account, company, or organization.

One-to-one allows for each individual to be represented by a contact and an account that are linked together. The advantage to this is it makes an individual grouping less complicated and you can connect opportunities to an individual at the account level. The challenge is that there are two records for the individual – a contact record and an account record. This can be confusing for staff.

The bucket account model is such that each individual has a contact record and are linked to a single account – most often “Individual”. Any account functionality is meaningless and the account links people together that are not associated with each other. The advantage to this method is that it is simpler. The challenge is that you cannot use some account functionality.

There isn’t a right/wrong answer – just an answer of what makes the most sense for your organization based on your data needs. Bucket makes more sense if you have a small number of contact records that are not associated with an account or are worried about keeping your account set-up simple. If that doesn’t fit your organization, one-to-one makes more sense. The move from one structure to another can be complicated, so it’s important to consider what your long-term goals and needs might be.

What are your “sales”?

Salesforce was a created as a sales implementation tool. Obviously many nonprofits have adapted it for their use, but it’s still helpful to think through your business and data practices to determine what corresponds best to the traditional sales model. These will be your organization’s opportunities and help build a sales pipeline to track.

Individual donations and major gifts are easy to correspond to a sales cycle. Does your organization need to track training opportunities, grants, or sponsorship? What are the steps in this sales process? What data do you need to track the progress of these developments? These questions can help you determine your setup needs and reporting structure.

Which communication touchpoints do you want to capture?

Every organization has different goals and key touchpoints for data capture. Some need to only track transaction and event-related milestones. Others want to track any communication touchpoint. Did the supporter email a question or call the office? Is that something that needs to be tracked/logged? Determining how which communication you want to track will be critical in how you setup your contact and account fields.

These are questions are the first of many to consider as you onboard Salesforce. If you’re in need of non-database reading, we recommend the following links from the last week:

  1. Mary Cahalane reminds us that the key to donor communication is the donor.
  2. If you haven’t dug into M+R’s benchmark report yet, Marjory Garrison shares key points for Communications staff.
  3. John Haydon compiles 25 tips from Twitter pros.
  4. Your long-form read of the week is actually a collection of long-form reads. IssueLab has a collection of 63 articles and resources related to how nonprofits are working on immigration issues.