Welcome to the 21st Century. Interactive media is the new normal. Your brand can change in the blink of an eye, and your constituents are the ones who can do it. And if you’re not online? You don’t exist. With the introduction of the Web 2.0 philosophy and social media usage at an all time high, there has become, not only a need, but a demand for both individuals and industries to create and uphold an online presence. Of these industries, the non-profit industry has been able to reap some of the most significant benefits.

A non-profit organization, by definition, is an organization that does not exist for the purpose of making a profit. Non-profits, otherwise known as NGOs, exist for the sole purpose of serving a cause. For this to happen, they must rely on funding from outside sources to achieve their goals. Some of these include government funding/grants, private sources, and the largest contributor, stakeholders. But how do non-profit’s reach their stakeholders? Go where your audience is, and studies are showing that 2.2 billion of them are right at the end of your fingertips.

We live in an age where the mail just isn’t cutting it anymore and don’t even think about calling a home phone number. Social media is Web 2.0’s greatest attribute and non-profit organizations are learning fast and keeping up. Through the use of targeted and carefully chosen content, non-profits can rally stakeholders, build trust, foster meaningful relationships and keep a steady flow of information. According to Beth Kanter, by using social media, NGOs are allowing themselves to become transparent and accessible organizations, allowing outsiders to get in and insiders to get out. Through media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and other online forums, non-profit organizations are developing a voice and reaching a whole new pool of demographics while they’re at it. It’s the 21st century and social media is on the rise, but NGOs aren’t trailing too far behind.

A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Donations

Instagram- I’m sure you’ve heard of it. And if you haven’t, then you may be missing something that 300 million others are not. Web 2.0 has given a new meaning to the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”and non-profits are using them to start to speak.

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According to the 2015 Non-Profit Communications Trends Report, Instagram earned the #5 seat in a ranking of their most important media sites, increasing drastically over the last year

If you haven’t already been able to tell, newsletters and emailing constituents for donations are becoming old news. Although they do reach a consistent pool of stakeholders, they are becoming less and less effective without other means of media publicity to complement them. As I spoke about in one of my previous posts, Face(book)ing Shareholders, to be successful in this quickly changing communication dynamic, you need to be able to become a presence where your constituents are looking, and in this case, 300 Million of your future stakeholders are staring right at Instagram.

The question non-profits are asking should no longer be “should I be on Instagram?”. Instagram is here, and your constituents are looking for you. By making a post on Instagram, a non-profit organization can add a face to the cause they are looking to spread.

I’m sure the ASPCA‘s 110 thousand followers on Instagram can speak to the success of the account. For non-profits like the ASPCA, putting a face to the cause can change the game, and when it’s a dogs face- how could you not donate? By giving Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 6.52.47 AM their constituents a stream of pictures of the cause they wish to serve, in this case the wellbeing of canines, it gives them a way to see where their money is going and experience in the joy of a successful NGO, firsthand. By Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 6.53.00 AMseeing a picture of a dog the ASPCA has saved, the constituent can see where their money is going and have a reason to keep providing to the cause. In contrast with an email newsletter, Instagram posts show the attention-getter first. A face. First, a face to put to a cause and then, the reason why you’re helping that face with a donation. And don’t even get me started on the effectiveness of photo contest campaigns on Instagram.. more to come soon!

The “Viral” Sensation: Don’t Worry, You’ve Already Caught It

You haven’t seen anyone dumping a bucket of ice water on their head recently, have you? Maybe somewhere on your Facebook newsfeed? For the ALS Association? Well, $115 million dollars worth of donators did, and thus, the most effective non-profit chain-letter was born. And it went viral.

After reading my previous post on the newest commodity in social media, we can determine that attention is a valuable asset that non-profits are using to their fundraising benefit. By appealing to the human need for attention, NGOs can spread the word about their cause and reach an entirely new demographic of stakeholders than ever before. All it takes is “going viral”.

So, what exactly is “going viral”? Loosely defined, going viral is when an idea or object is viewed by a very high amount of people in a very short amount of time– essentially, it spreads fast. By getting your constituents to share (watch/comment/like/retweet/all of the above) that piece of information with their social media circle, its message is passed from person to person. But why share?

For information to go viral, you need to appeal to more than your regular circle of constituents. You need to appeal to their desires and needs to compel something in them to take notice of something that would usually be passed over. The way to do this, in this fast-moving social-media-driven society, is to give people the opportunity to be part of something, to feel accepted, to be given attention.

ice-bucket-instructionsBy participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the ALS Foundation not only attracted the attention of their constant and loyal stakeholders, but they were able to appeal to a new, younger demographic by creating multiple outlets for “attention”. First, creating a video. By challenging individuals to videotape themselves to post on their own social media accounts, it gave them an opportunity to seek acceptance and enter into a community of people doing the same thing. After posting, the video can then be “liked” or “commented on” for support and appreciation. The second part of this challenge, which was the single most driving reason behind the ALS Ice bucket challenge’s success on a viral level: the ability to challenge friends and family.

By suggesting that the participant challenge the people in their immediate social circle, it not only creates a level of attention and acceptance for those who are challenged, but it gives each message a face. By being challenged to either donate or soak yourself in ice water by a friend, ALS did not have to send out a newsletter asking their constituents to donate or spread their message. Each donation request had a face, and it was someone you know and love. By doing this, a level of obligation was added to the cause, and the spread of ALS information was practically unavoidable.

And then you stop and think for second… I poured a bucket of ice water on my head?

And The Newest and Most Valuable Commodity Is..

Attention! No, this is not me requesting your notice in my direction. This is me telling you that attention, is, in fact, the newest and most valuable commodity in the non-profit industry and all over the world.

With 74% of all media users holding accounts on one or more social media networks, the world is quickly becoming a very small place to live. The average person using Facebook has at least 388 friends. This means that, with the click of a button, you can venture into the personal life of over 300 people. Their personal photos, who-uses-snsaccomplishments, and maybe even that time they lost five pounds and wanted to alert their friends and family, are all on Facebook for your viewing pleasure. Now here’s the catch- you can also “like” them. The “like” changes the game. By adding an opportunity to “like” someone’s personal information that they willingly released for you to see, attention has inevitably become the newest and most valuable commodity.

Everyone- young, old, male or female craves attention. It’s human nature to seek acceptance and social networks have become the newest platform to do so. A “like” has now become the Web 2.0 version of the thumbs-up, and people want it. So, where does the non-profit industry benefit from this thriving new form of currency? Two words. Going. Viral. 

See my next post, coming soon, for more on the phenomenon of non-profit organizations “going viral”!

Google Gracious!

Google has done it again! On their endless quest to better society through online media and social platforms, they have stumbled into the non-profit sector and are ready to donate. On September 28th, 2015, Google launched the final round of their campaign called the “Google Impact Challenge” in the San Francisco Bay Area- just miles away from their California headquarters.

Google is letting the public decide which four non-profit organizations deserve their obscenely large grant awards through an online voting system. The viewer is given a short description of each organization along with a picture and is asked to vote for the four they feel are the most deserving of the grant. The online voting has not only caught the attention of multiple news outlets, but sparked knowledge of these firms in the public eye. To uphold this publicity and rally votes, each firm has decided to take to social media (as they most definitely should).

The Reset Foundation, one of the ten non-profits chosen as a finalist in the challenge, used social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and their own website to alert their stakeholders as well as inform new onlookers of their status with Google. The second I arrived on their website, I was greeted with the message below:

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As well as a “flagged” Facebook post, pinning the status to the top of their wall:

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And on Twitter, as a “pinned” tweet:

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By using social media to promote, The Reset Foundation could present information about themselves while providing a direct link to the voting forum. Without social media promotion and information disclosure, The Reset Foundation would not have the tools needed to obtain Google’s grant that they so deserve.

Want more info about the Google Impact Challenge? See the video below!

Face(book)ing Stakeholders

Social media provides non-profit organizations with an overabundance of resources in which to communicate their message to stakeholders. Within an instant, a message can be released to the public via a low-cost and highly efficient channel.

In the past, non-profits and other organizations have turned to their websites to communicate information to their stakeholders and overall group of constituents. Websites have proven to be beneficial in providing basic knowledge about the company in question, but when it comes to frequent updates and connecting on a more personal basis, websites are lacking.

Facebook offers numerous ways to connect with the stakeholder that a website never could. The first being through “status” updates. This status update will then appear on the “profile” or “timeline” of the company, allowing it to be viewed in seconds by the general public. From that point, viewers can comment on the update with hopes to receive feedback from both the company and others who might agree. Facebook also allows for features such as  where a company’s constituents can rate and comment what they think about an organization, “likes” where a business can be “liked” to show consumer support, and “shares” when a consumer wishes to share a status or post with others on Facebook.

But how do you measure the level of “success” achieved by non-profits using Facebook? According to the 2014 Individual Donor Benchmark Report, the average revenue generated by one Facebook online review is a whopping $20, as opposed to the email address’ $17. By providing your stakeholders with a regular and accessible stream of content to keep up with- they are more inclined to donate.

Facebook is the epitome of the Web 2.0 movement in that it allows information to not only be given but spoken about in a conversational manner. By allowing stakeholders to obtain the most up-to-date information in a place where they can provide feedback and even donate instantly, non-profit organizations are raising awareness for their cause and getting the funding they deserve.

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How do you feel about non-profit involvement on Facebook? Comment below!