5 Reasons Your Nonprofit Needs A Strategic Online Communications Plan

By Julia Campbell

In my work with nonprofits, I often hear the same refrain about nonprofit marketing and communications: People are feeling very overwhelmed and stressed out by their never-shrinking to do lists.

With so many digital marketing and online fundraising tools out there, how can a small nonprofit choose what to focus on, and how can they manage their time and resources effectively?

There are constantly emails to send out, a website to update, a Facebook page and Twitter feed to manage, Instagram and Snapchat to explore, plus phone calls and meetings… how can a small nonprofit get it all done?

The answer? You don’t have to do it all!

Creating a Strategic Online Nonprofit Communications Plan will help you re-focus, re-prioritize, and get yourself back on track with your online communications.

Here are 5 reasons that you need a Strategic Online Nonprofit Communications Plan:

1. You will be able to allocate resources more efficiently.

By spelling out a plan for your online communications, you will be able to take a look at your budget, your staff time, and other needed resources and see what needs to be allocated and what needs to be raised. If you find that you have zero budget and zero staff time to allocate to online communications, this is also an important discovery. You may find that you need to focus on raising enough money or hiring staff/interns to do this work, even if just for a few hours per week.

2. You will understand the steps required to be successful.

Cutting through the noise and the clutter and getting your message heard is difficult, and it requires creativity and a lot of elbow grease. I will not sugar coat it for you. But with a plan in place, you will know what to do first, what to do second, and so on – and you will know what success looks like, rather than throwing things up to see what sticks.

3. You will be able to reach your audience.

Spending time working on your Strategic Online Communications Plan will focus your message and enable you to target the right audience. Your target audience should not be everyone in the world. Your target audience should be the people that you need to accomplish your online communications goals.

4. You will stay organized and on task.

Creating an Editorial Calendar so that nothing slips through the cracks is essential to managing your online communications. The Calendar will keep your ideas in one place and serve as the central location for your content.

5. You will be able to measure success.

All great plans have a way to measure whether or not they worked. Did you reach your destination? What does success look like, and how will we know if we achieved it? With a Measurement Spreadsheet, you will be able to identify which metrics matter, and how to collect and analyze them.

What other reasons do you have to creating a Strategic Online Communications Plan? Share them with us in the comments section of the website or via social media.

Looking for more detailed advice about all things digital marketing, online communications, social media and nonprofits, visit us here!

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About The Author

Julia C. Campbell, Founder of J Campbell Social Marketing, consults and trains nonprofits on the best ways to use digital tools to raise money and awareness for their organizations. Her blog is consistently featured in the list of Top 150 Nonprofit Blogs in the world, and she is currently publishing a book on storytelling and social media with Charity Channel Press. She has helped dozens of nonprofits small and large with their online fundraising and marketing campaigns, raising over $1 million for social causes.  

How To Banish Empty Seat Syndrome

By A.J. Steinberg

Have you ever suffered the pain and embarrassment of empty-seat syndrome. You know…that horrible experience of staring at a half-full venue when your event hasn’t sold nearly as many tickets as expected.

There’s no reason for your event to languish from lackluster ticket sales. As a nonprofit event planner with over twenty-years of experience, I have found some simple ways to avoid this event malady.Here are the top five ways to get your guest list filled without making yourself crazy:

1. Choose A Realistic Ticket Price: Carefully consider what your supporters and target demographic can afford. Analyze what you are offering them – overcharging is a real turnoff for event goers.

General rule of thumb is that ticket prices should cover the hard costs – venue, food, beverage and rentals –  of producing your event.

2. Make Your Event Irresistible: No one is all that excited about attending the same old event year after year. To sell tickets you must freshen up your event and make it enticing to those who may be bored of the same-old program.

Consider adding a theme to your event and build expectations with a clever invitation. Come up with a tag line and logo that engages your supporters’ attention. This doesn’t cost extra money and does a lot to sell tickets.

Using creativity when creating an event goes a long way to generating interest and ticket sales, and won’t add an extra dime to your event budget!

3. Honor an Influencer: Whether they are wealthy donors or strong champions of your organization’s mission, saluting a person or corporation does much to sell tickets.

When honoring a corporation, you set the stage for that company to purchase tables and ad space in your tribute program. Corporations have earmarked funds for their upper level management to attend charitable events, and honoring their business ensures they will want the tables filled when they come onstage to accept their award. Similarly, honoring an influential individual brings their social circle into play when creating your invitation list.

 People are proud of their achievements and want to have friends, family and colleagues on hand to witness the tribute.

4. Use a Volunteer Event Committee to Plan Your Event: Using dedicated individuals with strong social circles to help with your event planning not only lightens your staff’s work load, but also extends the reach of your mailing list.

When people put time and effort into a project they have “skin in the game” and are far more likely to open their address books and share contacts for your invitation list. These volunteers also encourage their friends and family to attend their event just as they have supported events of those same folks in the past.

All the effort your committee puts into the event’s planning makes them determined for the event to be a success.

5. Use Social Media Effectively to Build Excitement: Don’t be afraid to delve into the world of social media when it comes to promoting your event. Facebook and Twitter will build excitement as you post updates for your auctions and stage program.

Online calendars and “What’s Happening” websites are excellent way of capturing the attention of those who are looking for something to do on the day of your event.

It is important to remember that most tickets are sold either immediately after receiving an event invitation, or two weeks prior to the actual event. Don’t panic if you have a sales slump between those time periods – continue to be enthusiastic and promote the heck out of your event. If folks don’t know about the event, they can’t buy tickets!

Learn more about fundraising events with my next webinar How to Sell Tickets and Fill Seats at your Fundraising Events – A Step by Step Guide

About the Author

A.J. Steinberg, founder of Queen Bee Fundraising, has been creating outstanding special events since 1999.

In 2015 A.J. created Queen Bee Fundraising which focuses on the art of nonprofit special event management.  Along with producing nonprofit events, A.J. teaches volunteers and professionals the strategies for producing successful fundraising events, along with guidance on how to successfully lead volunteer committees to achieve their goals.

A.J. works with a broad spectrum of nonprofit clients including The Jane Goodall Institute, Cystic Fibrosis, BreatheLA and Union Rescue Mission, A.J. is a leader in the field of committee-based fundraising.

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Tweetraising: The Potential For Charities On Twitter

By: Leena Rao
Sunday, July 5, 2009; 3:30 PM

Twitter has been hailed as an incredibly useful marketing tool for businesses and brands, both big and small, to disseminate information and engage with consumers on a massive scale. But what about non-profits? The ability to use social media to fundraise for charitable purposes has been questionable. A few months ago, the Washington Post reported that Causes, one of Facebook’s popular applications used by non-profits to raise money, was not netting much money for charities, despite its large amount of users (according to the application’s page, it has 26 million monthly users).

Twitter, the current darling of the social media world, is increasingly being used by charities. In addition to building awareness, Twitter has potential to raise charitable contributions. One of the more successful initiatives launched in the Twittosphere was February’s global Twestival, which raised over $250,000 for charity:water, a non-profit organization devoted to bringing clean drinking water to developing nations. The volunteer-run organization held events to bring Twitter communities in nearly 200 cities together. 250K sounds like an awful lot of dough to raise over the microblogging network, but this amount fell way below Twestival’s goal of $1 million.Still, Twitter’s viral, real-time nature allows for a fast (and relatively low-cost) way to raise funds. Tweetsgiving, another Twitter-based charitable initiative raised over $10,000 in just 48 hours in November of 2008 to fund a new classroom for a school in Tanzania. Beth Kantor reports that she was able to raise over $3000 via Twitter in just 90 minutes.Other charities have used guerrilla follower tactics, developing ‘follower-challenges’ to raise money for causes. For example, Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation recently found a donor who was willing to give $25,000 if the Foundation’s CEO, Doug Ulman, could reach 25,000 followers in three days (he started with roughly 10,000 followers at the beginning of the challenge). Ulman was able to surpass 25,000 and reach the goal.

Ashton Kutcher added a philanthropic element to the race with CNN to reach a million followers by promising donations to Malaria No More if he won. And Kutcher even initiated a follow-up fundraising effort for the charity shortly after. Hugh Jackman recently issued a challenge on Twitter to give $100,000 to the any charity that is best described within the 140 character limit.

Even on a smaller scale, there are some capabilities that Twitter provides on its platform that other social media outlets don’t have. For example, hashtags are one part of a fundraising effort on Twitter that can make it easy to search and identify a particular trend. Blame Drew’s Cancer (hashtag: #blamedrewscancer) is a great example of this. Drew Olanoff recently contracted Hodgkins Lymphoma, and launched Blame Drew’s Cancer as a way to get Twitter users who are complaining about something to use the hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer. The tweets are pulled into www.blamedrewscancer.com with the hope the Tweets would be tallied to elicit a large donation from a non-profit organization. The site recently announced that Livestrong will be a partner.

The examples I mention above are just a sampling of ways non-profits and philanthropists are using Twitter to fundraise. Twollars and Tweet4Good also offer interesting ways for non-profits to raise money over Twitter. But it’s pretty clear that there are many compelling ways to use Twitter’s viral nature as a valuable fundraising tool for charities.

Some may argue that the thousands raised through social media sites doesn’t match the millions raised through traditional tactics, including direct mail and events. But most charities are relatively late-adopters to new technologies, and the success we have seen this early is probably a strong indication of the potential that is yet to be unharnessed. This isn’t to suggest that Twitter will replace conventional ways of fundraising, but it provides a low-cost, yet engaging way to diversify a charity’s fundraising efforts. And in this economy, diversification is too important to ignore.

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