I had the great honor of moderating the panel Tools Galore in Online Communications at the Women Who Tech TeleSummit earlier this week. In just 50 minutes Laura Quinn of Idealware, Natalie Foster of the DNC and Rebecca Moore of Google Earth Outreach talked about a ton of great tools to ramp up nonprofits online campaigns ranging from Wiki's to Google Earth and Twittter.
Your website is you, online. For many people who find you online, your website is the organization. Does it say what you really want it to about your organization? Your website should tell people who you and what you do. It's also a good idea to use a content management system to manage your website's content and updates, like Wordpress, Joomla, and Squarespace. There are quite a few options for doing this, some open source and free others not. Idealware.org has reviews of many of these tools as well.
Email is a critical channel. Use email to reach out to your constituents to let them know what you're up to or to ask them to take action. New tools get talked about a lot, but don't get caught up in new sexy tools and forget about the power of email. With email newsletters and emails as part of your campaigns you can move your supporters up the ladder of engagement to take more actions and help you more and more. The details of your emails are critical. Things to consider and target include:
- sender line: who is your email "from"
- subject line: what are you saying before the email is even opened?
- opening: do you make your email seem personal, use your database to insert members' names
- design: is it clean? does it rely on graphics/images?
- spam filters: are you using spam-like words in any of your content?
- take action: are your calls to action clear and immediately stand out
- footer: is there an option for opting out or unsubscribing?
There are quite a few tools for creating, sending and managing your enewsletters and email campaigns. Two tools include:
- 10,000 emails per month free for 501c3s
- After 10,000 emails, prices are reasonable.
- Reliable and sophisticated, though complex in areas
- Strong in deliverability and integration
- $29.95/month for up to 20,000 emails, and $2/thousand after
- Great template options, including custom designs for $199
- Reliable and sophisticated, though complex in areas
- Sustainable product and solid support from a nonprofit specialist
Don't forget your Constituent Database. Think carefully about your constituents when setting up your database or management tool. Consider the groups you will want to track or by which you will want to arrange members: donors, activists, organizers, stakeholders, partners, volunteers, supporters, and so on. Depending on your goals and your work, you may want to use a constituent management tool that is really good at tracking actions and activists, but not as good at other things. Or, you may need to get one that can work for many kinds of groups. Everything revolves around the audience.
Social Networks & Twitter from Natalie Foster:
Two Principles: 1. Firstly, know what you want to get out of your campaign or communications online. What is your real output? 2. Prioritize your ROI around the biggest impact, whether that's raising funds, engaging people, or something else. Email still gets a good response - if it will best help you reach your desired output, don't feel obligated to short change your capacity there to try to use social networking or something else. The trust that comes with using social networks (engaging people you know, who engage the people they know, and so on) is what creates the power of using social networking tools.
Facebook General Growth data:
- More than 200 million active users
- The fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older
- More than 3.5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide)
- More than 20 million users update their statuses at least once each day
- More than 4 million users become fans of Pages each day
A couple of examples:
- GreenPeace didn't have everything they needed to conduct an email campaign so they set up a Myspace profile. They were active and dedicated to making it work and raised 90,000+ friends. They were able to use the platform for organizing offline events, finding and collaborating with volunteer organizers, and more.
- Natalie has found that many more people are online and available to take action or respond in the evening - sending a message or call to action via Facebook in the evening can garner far more responses
Twitter still has a small user base compared to all those who are generally "online" - compared to those with email, for example. But, if you have a good percentage of your constinuents who are early adopters and tech savvy, it's a great place to be. And it's something to monitor regardless as it is growing more and more.
- An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 new accounts are registered each day.
- Only 5 percent of all Twitter users have more than 250 followers.
- Only 0.8 percent have more than 1,000
A couple of examples:
- Recently, Rep. Butterfield was speaking from the floor about the proposed energy bill on the hill. Representatives from Energy Action Coalition were present at the hearing and were using Twitter to send updates from the White House in real time to those on the outside following along. This was a great way for EAC to create a meaningful channel into the discussions and to maintain transparency.
- The White House opened up their Twitter account during the peak of the Swine Flu hysteria. They accepted questions via Twitter and then had an expert reply via the White House blog. A great example of using Twitter for real information exchange and for conversation.
Helpful resources on Twitter:
- Pew Internet report
- O'Reilly New Radar Report: Twitter and the Micro Messaging Revolution
- Deanna Zandt wrote this great beginner’s guide
- Very cool project from 2008: Twitter Vote Report
Google Earth Outreach from Rebecca Moore:
Google's mapping tools may seem like an obscure tool to use in your work but these aren't traditional maps: the new generation of mapping technology is fully interactive, enables storytelling, and more. (Did you know you can embed an audio file in Google Earth?) You can embed Google Earth into your website to present information to your community that really helps tell the story of your work and your issue.
Google's Mapping tools include:
- Google Earth
- Google Maps & MyMaps
- Google Sketchup
- Google Earth API (plugin)
- Google Maps API
- Neighborhoods Against Irresponsible Logging (NAIL): When planners distributed a confusing and hard-to-understand map, many people in Rebecca's local community didn't "get" what kind of logging plan was really in store. She re-mapped the data in Google Earth and shared the new map with community members, local politicians, and presented it at the community meeeting to a much different response. Al Gore signed the petition, other politicians wanted to see it, and more. The new map galvanized the community because they were able to really understand the impact of the plan. With the information and story this new map was able to convey, they were able to stop the logging plans. Read the full case study here.
- Appalachain Voices: With ILoveMountains.org, Appalachain Voices created an always-available tour for politicians, activists, and interested citizens to fly over areas of the Appalachain area of the USA devestated by coal mining. Raising awareness and providing local communities a venue for sharing their story. You can read the full case study here. Impact of the campaign: 13,000+ people from every U.S. state and 30+ countries signed their online petition to stop the dumping of mountaintop mining waste into waterways ; More than 150 congressional co-sponsors from the U.S. House of Representatives; EPA just halted all new permits and ordered a review of the practice.
How Google Earth & Maps can help Non-Profits:
- Show what is at stake – don’t just tell people
- Raise awareness for your cause and projects
- Reach a broader audience: More than 500M Google Earth users today; Drive people to your site; Gain members, volunteers, donors, media coverage
- Plan and visualize your projects and results: Where are we getting (or giving) donations? Organize projects, such as a volunteer beach cleanup activity .
- Educate, inform and move people emotionally - inspire action
- Influence decision-makers; impact public policy
To get started and to review more case studies, visit: http://earth.google.com/outreach
Questions & Answers:
What do you think about the idea of organizations only using social media tools as an online presence instead of a traditional website?
Laura: Your website acts as a home base; where you can tell people who you are, what you do, and so on. If you are able to accomplish that and create a homebase elsewhere, then consider it. This isn't about using social media so websites aren't important; consider what your goal is online and how your website and other social media support that.
Natalie: It's really about numbers as well. There are many people on Facebook; but far more people have the internet and are not on Facebook than those who are.
Rebecca: It can be generational as well, with some groups not necessarily wanting to or visiting your organization's website and others not wanting to or visiting your other spaces online. It really depends on the audience you are trying to engage.
We are all after real world changes, so how do we measure our use of these tools on real world impact?
Laura: What are your goals? Link to things that can be measured. Web metrics, talking to people, emails (who opens your alerts, clicks on links, etc.). Don't measure things for the sake of measurement. There are a myriad things that "could" be measured. Focus what you measure on - things that translate into real world impact.
Natalie: This is the question that I think the whole session is about. Tools are just tactics, just like phone-banking or canvassing. What are the tools that get you there - the number of friends you have on Facebook doesn't mean you've won the campaign. If you start with a theory of change, you can then design tactics around it.
Rebecca: We need to be careful with sexy tools; we can forget what we're really using them for, what the actual goals are. Think about what your trying to accomplish, then what kind of work, maintenance, and so forth will be required. In the Google Earth case studies, the projects all had real world impact but they remained focused on that, and not on just using everything that maps can do.
Can you talk about difference between keeping in touch, vs. call to action. What about the idea that e-newsletters are "dead"? There are mixed opinions all over the place.
Laura: The difference between those are relatively straightforward - keeping in touch is about passing on your good work and keeping people invovled with what you're doing, while a call to action specifically asks them to do something. I don't know people other than Thomas Gensemer of Blue State Digital who would say that e-News is dead. Though he had an interesting point about possibly breaking enews down into shorter bits, and less of a "newsletter" format, but I would argue strongly that updates are critical.
I see on the slides different services, is there one comprehensive program where we can manage everything?
Laura: That's a really hard question to answer - it really depends on your needs. Vendors will say they do everything, but the more they try to do, often, the less powerful they are in any one area and more expensive. Something like Salesforce is very configurable, so it can be a good option to track lots of types of constituents - but it will take considerable time and expertise to setup.
What is difference between a blog, social media tools, and websites?
Laura: Social media is a big umbrella term that includes blogs, social networks, other online methods by which people pass your message online from person to person. A blog tends to be specifically personal posts, in date order. A website could include some of these things, but tends to be more of a "home base" for your organization, including basics like your mission and programs.