If your development director isn’t delivering on fundraising as you’d hoped, you’re not alone. According to a new national study by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, many nonprofits are not raising the money they need to succeed. For those on top, one of the key factors was “a culture of philanthropy” by an almost two to one margin.

What does a culture of philanthropy mean? According to the study:

  • People across the organization act as ambassadors and engage in relationship building.
  • Everyone promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving.
  • Fund development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program of the organization.
  • Organizational systems are established to support donors.
  • The executive director is committed and personally involved in fundraising.

At the heart of many of these success indicators is storytelling. And in today’s world that means harnessing digital media and social networks. Here are some ways to incorporate those tools in your fund raising work.

  1. Mission ambassadors and relationship building -Make sure board members, alumni, and other key supporters and donors use their social networks to promote your story. That means traditional social networks (i.e. speaking to friends about your organization), but also digital networks. Provide these boosters with regular support—like emailing the right hashtag to use when tweeting about an upcoming event, or sending them links to a new video on your web or Youtube page that showcases your mission in action.
  2. Everyone promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving-Provide “elevator pitch” training volunteers, including board members, but also to staff who are not directly involved in fund raising.  Help these natural supporters explain the case for giving by explaining their own passion for the organization and their connection to your mission.
  3. Fund development is mission-aligned-Be sure budget presentations show your outputs (results) in terms of mission accomplishments, not just programs. Video and photos can be a great way to demonstrate this impact (and keeps people from falling asleep in budget meetings)
  4. Organizational systems support donors.- Cultivation systems and databases are critical. But one of the most overlooked “systems” is creating an internal online-accessible library of images, fund raising scripts, and videos that volunteers can use to make the case for support. Once you’ve create this space, be sure to encourage staff to update it regularly, so that new content is always available for the latest stories about your mission success.
  5. Executive Director commitment to fund raising. – Part of fund raising is not just meeting with prospective donors and making the ask, but raising the profile of the organization and its mission. ED’s can often raise their personal profile and reach a wider community efficiently by taking advantage of social media tools: regular blog writing, microblogging on Twitter, or even photos uploaded from events to Instagram.

There’s no magic potion for development success, but digital tools give us more of a boost than we realize.

Amy DeLouise frequently works with nonprofit boards, leaders, and marketing staff to improve their branding impact–in other words, how they tell their mission story.

Here are two stats about Milliennials that strike me as worth mentioning. #1: the under-30 crowd increasingly does not associate itself with any formal religion. (Pew Research 10/12 ).  #2 This same under-30 crowd has the lowest gun ownership, compared with all other age cohorts. (General Social Survey). Gallup-None-NPRGraphic2

ImageNow, a social scientist might say these trends are unrelated.  Ahh, but that’s where the storyteller/ branding aficionado in me begs to differ!   Rather than clinging to their guns and religion, it seems Millennials don’t particularly like associating themselves with the brands and organized institutions of the past.   They like to be independent thinkers. In fact, Millennials identify themselves politically as Independents, rather than D’s or R’s (another study).  

And while they don’t need any formal institution like a political party telling them what to believe or say, Millennials definitely keep up with their peers through social media. No, not Facebook you old boomer people.  I mean  Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter.

But here’s another interesting stat: 71% of Millennials have raised money for/on behalf of a nonprofit. And for those who haven’t, the main reason is that NOBODY ASKED. Shouting, sorry. Image

What that says to me is Nobody Asked in a Medium They Pay Attention to, anyway. Also, they like learning about nonprofit opportunities from their peers. And they like to know that what they do or give will Actually Make a Difference (see my other posts on showing nonprofit impact w/video stories!)Image

So….if you want to reach Millennials, remember that they…

  1. probably won’t shoot you
  2. nor will they pray for you (at least, not in a formal place of worship)
  3. do like to think for themselves
  4. don’t necessarily like being Official Members of Organized Groups
  5. and if you want their time and money, please have one of their peers ask them nicely for it
  6. Oh, and show them your results please!

3 Glass Bottles-1b sWhen a national opinion poll shows you’re less popular than root canals and head lice, you know your brand is in trouble.  Public Policy Polling’s just released poll on Congress found just that.

If your own brand is in trouble, what are some emergency measures you can take?

  1. Own it, don’t avoid it. “Yes we made a mistake, yes we’re going to fix it” has been proven time and again to work better than avoidance. Remember the famous Jeffrey Jarvis Dell Sucks fiasco.
  2. Use social media. If a customer calls you out on a mistake through social channels (i.e. comments on your website, Facebook page or Twitter), apologize directly through the same social channel and explain how you will solve the problem. That way, other customers see you take action. Take a page from the best online retailers here (Zappos, for example).
  3. Let authentic positive voices drown out negative ones. If you are being hammered by an outlier unhappy or even vengeful voice, engage your supporters to drown them out, rather than trying to take them on yourself. This can include encouraging (through other channels like email) your supporters to post positive comments, or even upload positive videos about their experiences with your product or organization.

Of course all of these suggestions only apply when the individual/company/organization takes responsibility for the quality of its work. Much as I love my hardworking friends who are staffers on the Hill, this may or may not apply to Congress as a whole.

labyrinth copyright B.DeLouise120 Million viewers worldwide. It’s an enviable demographic, let alone for a PBS show. Downton Abbey has proven to be the most-watched Masterpiece series in history, with fans from China to Norway to Brazil.  What makes it work? According to creator Julian Fellowes, who won the screenplay Oscar for Gosford Park, it’s the universality of its themes. While factually British, “most of the stories are about emotional situations that everyone can understand” he told the New York Times in a recent story.  

When I’m asked what videos work best for social web (and also for live events)—I say the same thing: bring the audience into emotional situations they can relate to, even aspire to. Whether you are promoting a charity or a membership association, a corporate enterprise or a commercial product, your video needs to connect to your viewers/donors/buyers on a personal level. Videos that get the most shares, embeds, likes and forwards are usually those with a first-person storyline, authentic voices, in relatable situations. They don’t include “an introduction from the CEO,” nor are they heavily branded with logos and taglines.

So here are a few Do’s and Don’ts for your 2013 video projects, based on the wildly successful Downton formula:

  1. DO use the number of characters people can follow for the length of viewing. Downton has about 15 characters, but it is a weekly, 90-minute drama; so if your video is only 90-seconds long, don’t include 5 interview subjects! Try no more than 3 people per 120 seconds, for a max of 6 in a 10-minute show (which is too long anyway).
  2. DON’T use your CEO, Board Chair or other head honchos on camera unless they are funny, or willing to be seen in an unconventional or even unflattering light (a la CBS’s “Undercover Boss” or the IBM spoof of The Office “Mainframe: The Art of the Sale”).
  3. DO find compelling “plot lines” that show your organization’s effectiveness in real situations or highlight the reason your product or charity exists.
  4. DO be willing to let your viewers contribute their own ideas and provide opportunities for them to follow your “characters” in other online and offline venues.
  5. DO put as much production value (i.e. budget) into your video as you can possibly afford—people notice, especially in HD.
  6. DON’T be afraid to be traditional—just do it well!
  1.   Connect Your Videos to Your Brand. That doesn’t mean you have to mention your organization or company every 10 seconds in your next web video. In fact, studies show that indirectly branded video content goes viral at a faster rate. But the stories you create should still be meaningful and connected to your overall brand story. If the video lives somewhere other than your website, such as Vimeo or YouTube, be sure you have some kind of tag and call to action at the end, so people know how to reach you/donate to you/take action on your issue.
  2. Know Your Target Audience. Think about sub-demographics and what kinds of content appeal to them.   Also consider the viewing environment for the video. One size doesn’t fit all, so plan ahead to create multiple versions of your content that are most appropriate for each target and viewing situation. If your story has multiple parts/levels, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings, links, and keywords in order to attract the right audience.
  3. Invest Now for More Rewards Later. Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that if something is going to appear on the web, it can be produced on a shoestring because it’s a one-use item.  To the contrary, every penny you spend should be powerful, credible, and the source material can be useful downstream. But only if you’ve bothered to a) create it at a decent quality, and b) organize it so that more than one editor/producer can find what they need.  Having transcriptions made of interviews and keeping the PDF’s with the footage is very helpful. So is tagging all “b-roll” with keywords of time, location, and content.
  4. Shorter is Usually Better. In live event or conference environment, audiences can enjoy videos of 5-8 minutes in length. When viewing your video on the web, in a tiny box–most likely while it is competing with other content on the screen–a viewer will only tolerate 1-2 minutes of content. Mobile web viewers actually can be willing to watch content for longer, presumably because they are “stuck” using a mobile device rather than a larger screen. Either way, make every second count, using visuals, music, audio, graphics–everything at your disposal–to make a message with impact.
  5. Measure Impact. Speaking of impact, measure it! So many organizations produce video content without a handle on whether or not it is effective. Plan a way to find out. It could be counting how many venues you can locate posts with a link to your video. It could be a short email survey to a random sampling of people who received your web link via email. At live events, you can ask people to use a hashtag to tweet something about your content. Or you can drill down into data already provided by You Tube, Google, or other online services.  Number of hits is less relevant than what viewers DID after viewing your video.

Social web is maturing, and that’s great news for nonprofits. In the early days, we complained about navel-gazing Facebook posts and Tweets about the dog throwing up. Now I see posts like a series from a videographer friend who tapes useful side by side camera tests and puts them on his Facebook Page.  Or this interesting study by Twitter showing that some of the heaviest volume retweets are coming from evangelist pastors, not famous celebs.  With the evolution of crowdraising sites like Crowdrise, virtual engagement around conferences, and flexible editing tools like FinalCutPro X and Adobe Premiere, nonprofits can compete with corporate communicators.

Where I see the lag now is in learning how to curate and manage all the assets these great organizations are busy acquiring. I have several nonprofit clients who have literally millions of untagged photos, and they are still out shooting more at every event. Can you imagine if you walked into a library and there were just random boxes of books on every surface? And the librarian–if you could find one–told you “yeah, we probably have that book here somewhere. I think the cover was green.” So I’m doing a lot more training on building systems to archive, tag and curate all the digital assets that can then be re-used by nonprofits, bringing down the costs of telling their mission story.

Along with asset management comes a need to have the Right Kind of assets.  So if you are planning to post a flip-cam video to a large conference screen, you’ll probably be disappointed when you see lots of pixilation and unusable audio.  And if you want to post a fun series of shots from your conference on YouTube, along with a soundtrack from Billy Joel, you’ll need to be sure you’ve got sync rights cleared first.  Things were a little more loose in the early days, but now social web consumers are expecting High-Def videos that they can actually see and hear, and license-holders are expecting payment when their copyrighted materials are used online.

Asset workflow, curation, management and rights clearances can all be stumbling blocks to nonprofits communicating around important, mission-driven work. Don’t let them trip you up. Take action steps instead:

  1. Build a library system—it can be as simple as creating a useful folder structure on your server—and educate everyone on the communication team on how to use it.
  2. Assign asset curation and metatagging duties to team members BEFORE an event occurs at which you will be photographing/videotaping/interviewing. Interns can tag, but leadership must be involved in setting up the system.
  3. Create standards, so that outside vendors know what formats you like to acquire in.  For non-professionals, be sure to get the highest quality versions you can—not just the miniature files they post on Facebook.
  4. Engage your donors in building a wonderful archive of images, stories and video content that tells the story of your mission—from the past to the present.

Filed from the National Association of Broadcasters Convention, Las Vegas.

Convergence. Multi-platform distribution. Mobile TV. Integration of social media into the viewing experience. These were the buzzwords on the floor and during workshops I’ve both given and attended at NAB this year. The future of broadcast, and all mediums really–whether web or mobile web– is creating dynamic content and interactivity with the user/viewer at the center. For content-creators, the challenge is creating programming that works whether someone is viewing it on an iPhone or a ginormous flatscreen Hi-Def TV, and that has social content that the user can interact with while viewing. For content distributors, the challenge is rethinking broadcast, and creating standards that work for an entirely customized and mobile user experience. For viewers, the opportunity is taking their content with them, on any device, to any location they wish.

What’s the takeaway for the non-broadcast community?

The Consumer is at the Center. For-profit and nonprofit organizations large and small need to ensure that their communications strategies encompass a multi-screen, interactive world. The time for the billboard approach to PR and marketing messages is long since gone. The personal user experience is the focus–whether that means your donors, your association members, or your customers.  If your content is not focused on what the audience wants to take with them, they’ll leave it–and you–behind.

Powerful Stories Matter More than Ever. In a multi-channel, overly-busy world, compelling stories–real people, real issues–are still what is engaging viewers. Authentic stories are what is sticky in social media and in video, in all its formats and delivery devices. It’s true on television. And it’s true for nonprofits and companies who have good stories to tell. And now you have so many tools to tell them, and to distribute them to your audience. So for every new product roll-out, for every fundraising campaign, ask “what is our story?”

With YouTube now the second most-used search engine, plus the exponential rise of mobile web and convergence technologies, organizations realize that producing video content is as important as updating the website. Here are a few key questions you need to answer to be sure your video has impact.

1.  How does the video fit with your brand? You have a great story—someone touched by your organization, or some important piece of information that needs to be disseminated to the public, a hilarious short video sure to get loads of follows. Great. But how does it fit into your overall brand plan? Will your name or the name of a particular product/service be mentioned? Do you want people to take some kind of action, linked to a new product roll-out or campaign? Are you trying to promote organizational recognition? Gain new supporters? Engage the existing ones?  What will support the video content? (i.e. direct mail and/or email campaigns to drive traffic?)  Will there be other lives for this content (see #4)?

2.  Do you know your target audience? Or, as often happens, do you have too many audiences for this video and need to break it up into multiple streams of content?  Think about sub-demographics and what kinds of content appeal to them.   If your story has multiple parts/levels, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings/links in order to attract the right audience.  If your story has multiple parts or levels of detail, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings/links in order to attract the right audience.

3.  Can you afford what you need? Can you afford not to produce this well? It’s like what your mother once told you about buying a dining room set–buy the best you can because you want it to last. Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that if something is going to appear on the web, it can be produced on a shoestring because it’s a one-use item.  To the contrary, every penny you spend should be powerful, credible, and the source material should be useful in multiple ways. For example, if you have an interview-driven story, outtakes can be used for other projects. So can the background footage (“b-roll”). My personal preference is to shoot high definition, widescreen video because it makes a bigger impact when it is compressed for the web, since it degrades less.  But whatever your format, a polished production, professionally produced, will also allow you to “multi-purpose” the end-product more reliably, pulling parts for your website, your intranet, an email campaign, or a large-screen projection at a major donor event.   Many organizations have effectively teamed their in-house capabilities with outside vendors to achieve both cost efficiencies and good quality.

4.  Is it short enough? I produce a lot of short form projects for live event venues, but these are not short enough for the web, where the average drop-off comes after 90 seconds. When watching an event production, the audience is engaged together, with a common mission and few distractions. When someone watches your video on their laptop, desktop or mobile device, chances are there are other distractions in the room.   So make every second count. That means using visuals, music, audio, graphics–everything at your disposal–to make a message with impact.  And then cut the length in half.

5.  Are you prepared to measure impact? So many organizations throw video on the web and then have no real method for measuring its impact beyond views.  What is the drop-off rate? Where does it happen? Where do people go next after viewing? Do they return? If you can’t answer these questions, you’re losing valuable insights to help you refine your approach the next time.

Join me for social media and video production workshops at NAB/Las Vegas.

My family and I have come to love Pizza CS (Come Sempre), http://pizzacs.com/  a new Neapolitan-style pizza joint in our neighborhood started by a couple of guys who love great ingredients and honor the art of creating a truly Italian crust.  But what I take away from Pizza CS, besides a great food experience, is that a great brand is always about two things: delivering what you promise, and how your people communicate.  This place has both, and that’s why we keep coming back.

When a “brand promise” is broken, it is often because an employee doesn’t realize that everything they do communicates your brand.  Or doesn’t. When my husband was on a job search last year, I can’t count the number of institutions that created a bad name for themselves because of how the point person on the search conducted him or herself. Everything they said was a poor reflection on the brand. By contrast, several institutions shined through that process, and presented a unified “face” to their brand for prospective employees and customers alike.

So, what’s the best way to pre-empt the potential brand threat that is your own work force?

  1. Listening. The first tool is teaching good listening skills. Any employee who speaks to clients, staff or prospects in either category—from your receptionist to your HR department—should have training in good listening skills. Learning how to repeat back what the concern is (“I hear you saying you did not receive the package your ordered on time”) is the first step to solving the problem and defending your brand. This is more important than ever in a world where any disgruntled person can start a blog about how they have been wronged (the famous Jeff Jarvis “Dell sucks” blog post as case in point).
  2. Crisis Planning. Another key component to workforce training in a 24/7 media world is crisis response.  That doesn’t mean that every employee is part of your crisis response team. However, every employee should know How to Recognize a problem that has reached crisis level, and What to Do Next when that happens. I often see organizations in melt-down when a crisis occurs because the problem was still being dealt with at a low level, with the back and forth spilling onto Facebook and websites, when it should have been pushed way up the management chain immediately for a more unified and brand-focused response.

You need to be engaged with critics (and lovers) of your brand, at all levels of your organization.  Because, in this world of 24 hour news cycles, social networks and the blogosphere, one unhappy person can be a very powerful voice. And so can one very happy customer who dealt with a well-trained employee.

Amy DeLouise offers staff development workshops in branding and social media.

c 2010 Barbara DeLouise

Since the recent death of Steve Jobs, there has been lots of discussion about how he changed modern culture, with all of the i-things he invented. There’s also been talk, in hushed tones, as to whether or not he should have taken some of his gazillions and changed modern life through philanthropy.

The culture of Silicon Valley and the tech crowd had been pretty mute on the topic of philanthropy, until Bill and Melinda Gates stepped it up with their Foundation in 1999. And even after that, a generation of new millionaires has not been as visible on the philanthropy scene as their predecessors like Andrew Mellon and Edsel and Henry Ford. Why? (And who cares?)

This new generation of (potential) givers is more skeptical of institutions. They are more likely to give through self-organized groups like Crowdrise than through existing foundations. If they are large institutions themselves (i.e. Gates), they may defer giving until they can create their own foundation and manage it themselves.  This is not always optimal, as there are plenty of 501(c)3’s already convened and working on the ground. But it’s the new reality of “control” we all seek through electronic and social media.  A Convio survey found that website giving increases with each younger cohort so that for Gen X it is nearly equal to mail, and for Gen Y it is greater than mail. Nonprofits with websites with videos showing demonstrable impact of donor dollars have an even bigger spike with the Gen Y donor group.  And if you’re thinking, well these young folks are pretty under-employed right now and won’t be our big donors, remember they are the Big Donors of the Future. To capture this younger generation of givers, we can’t wring our hands, but instead have to engage them where they are in meaningful, hands-on philanthropy.

How is your nonprofit engaging the younger generation of givers? How much control are they seeking over how their gifts are used? Are you finding this engagement burdensome or exciting (or both)? Please share your experiences with me for more in a future post.