It’s F-R-E-E But Don’t Tell Bella!

25 11 2010

Thanksgiving is here and so comes sharing time with family and friends and our pets.  This particular blog post finds us in Lancaster, South Carolina at the home of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law – two of my favorite people in the world. Dean and Diane have a cat named Bella who is less than thrilled that her home has been invaded by all of us. She glares at us from her favorite seat in the dining room and I’m sure she’s thinking “when are these people going to leave?!”

Like all pet owners Dean and Diane spoil little Bella, and rightly so. As you can see, she’s a little beauty. And smart! Whoever says cats aren’t smart has never met Bella. She knows when the treat can shakes it’s time to come out from hiding. She also knows when “daddy’s home” and when it’s time to go “out.” My favorite, though, is her food preferences. Of course, she knows “tuna” and comes running. Diane bought has a special turkey dinner for her and said to me “It’s F-R-E-E, but don’t tell Bella!” I, of course, giggled at the thought of Diane spelling the word instead of saying it and Bella knowing what she meant by the word “free.”

Bella doesn’t really know the word “free” but it just goes to show the lengths we go through to give our pets the very best, especially at the holidays. Our pets are members of the family, it’s only right they get special treatment on the holidays just like everyone else.

Be thankful today and every day! Be thankful for your families, friends, the time you have with them and of course, your pets. Remember that the holidays aren’t only a stressful time for you, but for your four-legged family members, as well. Spend extra time with them and be sure to give them plenty of downtime to decompress – and yourself, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!





You@Facebook.com – Facebook Email Is Coming…

24 11 2010

Once again, Facebook is poised to set the social media world on fire. What could they possibly do that they haven’t done already, you ask? Email. Well, sort of.

Facebook recently announced the creation of their “Social Inbox” – a modern messaging system that just may replace email as we know it. What’s the difference between this messaging system and regular email? The new Facebook messaging plan will not only incorporate Facebook messages, but also chats, texts and IMs – all delivered to you at facebook.com.

Simply put, Facebook will set up three areas for you to receive email messages: one for your direct friends or connections, one for your indirect connections like friends of friends or businesses you may have contact with outside of Facebook and one for spam. Of course, you will be have full control of your settings so you will be able to decide which of your contacts goes into which area.

Some closely involved with the release of Facebook email believe this may allow Facebook to break through corporate firewalls that once blocked the application. More companies, particularly those that are sales oriented, may see this new feature as a way for their sales force to communicate with clients via messaging and even from their smartphones on the go.

Facebook email is completely optional. You don’t have to use it, in fact, at this time you can get Facebook email by invitation only. Should you decide that you want to take advantage of the new email program, your email address will be your name @Facebook.com. So, if my email address will be melanie.vannuys@facebook.com. Don’t email me there – it’s obviously not live yet.

The Facebook powers that be swear that this new email program won’t be the end all of the likes of gmail or yahoo mail. What are your thoughts?





Using Social Media to Enhance Your Upcoming Event

22 11 2010

In today’s technology-driven world, it may seem to be a no-brainer to use social media to enhance your next event; but it takes more than creating an event on Facebook and inviting guests. To truly use social media to make your event shine, you’ve got to have a way for your attendees to interact with each other – before, during and after the event, enhance their overall participation throughout the event and to have fun. There are many ways to use social media to spark an interest and add spice to your event – let’s take a look at a few of the most popular here.

Facebook

This is the most obvious, most popular and perhaps the easiest and most understandable tool for many to use. If you’ve been using our advice from previous posts on Facebook, then you have already created a Facebook profile and a fan page and/or group for your nonprofit. Now it’s time to create an “Event” page to begin inviting attendees. The Event page is a centralized location to schedule your event, invite attendees, track those who have confirmed attendance, those who have yet to respond to your invitation and those who have declined the invitation. The page also allows your attendees to communicate with each other to discuss event logistics like speakers and their topics or if overnight travel is necessary, perhaps to share expenses with hotels and cabs to and from the airport. Those who are attending your event can also share your Event page with others to help increase awareness and possibly attendance.

Success Tip for Facebook: When creating your Event page on Facebook, be sure to include ALL necessary information: date and time of event, venue location, address and phone number, who to contact for further information on your event and any other information that attendees will need: conference speakers, topics, etc.

Twitter

Twitter is another effective tool for upcoming events, though it will be used in a different manner than other social media tools.

A few weeks before your event, you’ll want to create what’s called a “hashtag” for your event. A hashtag is a key word specific to your organization or event preceded by the “number sign” or a “hash mark” – for example, our basic Twitter hashtag is #animalrescuesuperhighway. Event coordinators should adopt a hashtag well before the event so that there is uniformity when seeing it splashed across Twitter. Make sure you post the hashtag everywhere so that your attendees who Tweet can begin using it before and during the event. If you want to see how the hashtag is performing, you can use a free service like Tweetdeck to monitor any mentions of the hashtag.

Success Tip for Twitter: If you have the capability, scroll tweets using your event’s hashtag in the hallway or centralized place for your attendees to see what others are tweeting. You can also use Twitter (and your hashtag, of course) to schedule “Tweetups” – meetings with event attendees at a dinner or for drinks to help put faces with names.

YouTube

Yes, even YouTube can help create a buzz for your event. This particular tool will take a little more effort on your part, but worth it in order to spark an interest and increase attendance.

If you are holding a conference that will feature speakers about a particular topic, you can create short videos about the speakers and upload them onto your own YouTube page. Once you’ve done this, be sure to embed your video into your Facebook page, tweet about it (don’t forget to use your hashtag!) and email to your mailing list of attendees. By giving them a teaser of what’s to come, you’ll surely create a buzz.

Success Tip for YouTube: Is the event your planning a yearly thing? Did you have a similar event last year? Use pictures and videos of the last event and post them on to your YouTube channel to create excitement for your current event.

Blogs

Before, during and after your event – blog, blog, blog! By blogging about the information that will be conveyed at your event, you will help encourage those who are on the fence about attending to register and those who are already confirmed will share their excitement with others. Blogging during the event will help to create a buzz for those who couldn’t attend (and encourage them to attend the next event) but also those who are there and will also provide a recap of the day’s events.

Success Tip for Blogging: Be sure to include all of the other social media outlets you are using to promote your event here. Include links to your Facebook Event page link, the Twitter hashtag and the link to your YouTube page. All work hand-in-hand with your blog and other social media tools to help promote your event and make it a huge success.

Are you using social media to promote your event? Tell us about it! Please leave your comments below and help us help others find out what works and what doesn’t.





Crowdsourcing: What Is It And How Can Your Organization Benefit?

15 11 2010

Crowdsourcing is hardly a new avenue for involving others in your organization – it’s actually been around since the early days of the Internet – we’re just learning more about how to use it. But what is it?

Simply put, crowdsourcing is involving volunteers to help your organization meet the goals you’ve set. This method of expanding an organization’s reach is a practice used by both for-profit and nonprofit businesses alike. While some of the individuals used for crowdsourcing may be paid a small amount, most are volunteers who believe in your organization’s mission. More and more organizations are finding they can increase their outreach by relying on the ideas and talents of their volunteer pool and not just limiting themselves to the ideas and desires of their Board of Directors and other “powers that be.”

Crowdsourcing can be used by having your volunteers reach out to the community for new ideas and thoughts that can help move your organization forward. What can your organization do to better the community? How can your community benefit from what your organization is currently doing? These are just a few examples of types of questions you can pose.

Harnessing the power of crowdsourcing can allow your organization to effectively and efficiently solve problems and create new ideas. As with any other opportunity presented to work with volunteers, crowsourcing presents its own set of challenges, but because of the low cost involved, there is a large return on your time investment. Those your organization is trying to reach believe that their ideas can help shape your mission that which in turn makes it more valuable to you, your staff and your community. Don’t you agree that it’s time for you to use this powerful resource for YOUR group?





Tips For a Successful Year-End Fundraising Campaign

29 10 2010

If you’re like most nonprofits, chances are you’ve begun working on, or are in full swing of, your organization’s year-end fundraising campaign. Read on and we’ll help you turn your December from white to green.

First, figure out what it is your trying to accomplish with your fundraising goals.  Every campaign is only as strong as the goals you set for it. How will you reach these goals?  Make sure your communications are targeted in order to be truly effective. Think about your goals in order to determine which of your donors you need to participate in order to reach those goals. Choosing the right donor group can mean the difference between the success or failure of your campaign.

Now that you’ve determined your goals and who you need to contact to help you reach them, how are you going to engage them? What ideas or information do you have that will compel your donors to act? Tell a story, make it interesting. Need some help? We’ve got a special report to help inspire you.

What methods of communication are you going to use to reach your donor groups?  There are plenty of ways to reach your supporters: your website, your social media sites, newsletters and of course, email. Be sure that your website is easy to use and your server is secure to give your donors an added sense of security when donating.  If you haven’t yet begun to use online methods of communication, there are always the traditional offline methods like direct mail and paid advertisements.

Who will lead the charge of your campaign? A dedicated member of your staff or volunteer pool to act as the chairperson is the obvious choice here,but be sure they have a campaign staff to help delegate responsibility. Make sure who you choose someone who will be accountable for both the successes and the failures of the campaign. 

Your campaign is underway, now it’s time to measure your successes. Your Board likes to see numbers. Show them hits to your website, dollar amount collected, contacts added to your list and any other quantitative measurement you think would “wow” your directors.

Finally, your campaign must have a beginning and an end. You’ve determined what goals you need to reach, what groups of people you will need to help you reach that goal, how you’re going to contact them and who’s going to run your campaign, now you have to decide when your campaign will run. Once you have determined the timeline of your campaign, it sometimes helps to work backwards from when it will end to make sure that all of your activities will run smoothly and help you reach your goals.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss a single post about fundraising and other important information for your nonprofit organization. If you would like to receive our Special Report on Successful Fundraising for a small donation to Animal Rescue Superhighway, please contact us and request your copy.





Volunteers Vs. Burnout – How To Win The Battle

24 10 2010

It is no secret that the lifeblood of any successful nonprofit organization is its core of volunteers. Because of the necessity of these volunteers, it’s important to avoid the dreaded “burnout” that so many experience.

What Is Volunteer Burnout?

The main difference between your full-time  job and your charitable responsibilities is the pay. Just as you become “burned out” from the 9-5 rate race, you can also suffer from volunteer burnout. This is a serious problem for both the volunteer and the organization and one not to be taken lightly.

Animal rescue nonprofits are no different than any other volunteer-based organization; there is always a core group of wonderful people who seem to do the lion’s share of the work. While this is great for the nonprofit, it’s not so great for the morale of the ones doing the work.

What defines volunteer burnout? The same thing that defines work burnout: volunteers become tired, disengaged, frustrated and at  wit’s end. They’ve lost enthusiasm for the cause, they don’t find the work  as fulfilling as it once was and will look for any excuse not to participate.

As the volunteer coordinator of your organization, it’s your job to identify this problem immediately and head it off at the pass. But how, you ask? There are several warning signs that your volunteers are becoming dissatisfied: constant crankiness, overreaction to the smallest issues, not completing assignments or just not showing up at all. Identifying the problem early and, more importantly, addressing it, can mean the difference between maintaining the productivity of your volunteers or losing them all together.

What Causes Volunteer Burnout and How Do I Prevent It?

As an organization that depends on volunteers, it’s important for you to understand what causes volunteer burnout before you can work to prevent it. Good volunteers are difficult to come by and you don’t want to lose those you have to something that could have been avoided in the first place. There are several reasons volunteers burnout:

  1. The organization’s goals are unclear and there seems to be no defined direction.
  2. There is too much work to be done and not enough to do it. People are afraid to say no out of fear that the work won’t otherwise get done.
  3. Few rewards or recognition for a job well-done. 
  4. All  work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Not enough downtime is a direct route to burnout.

Provide job descriptions with time committments for each of your volunteers. This will allow them to choose the jobs that will fit in with their other time committments.

Thank your volunteers regularly by pointing out their contributions. It’s also good practive to set up milestones and send out thank you cards, flowers or having a lunch for your volunteers who reach a certain number of hours served, for example.

Encourage your volunteers to take time off. It may mean taking on a bit more of the work load yourself for a little while, but it beats losing your volunteers permanently.

Be respectful of your volunteers’ commitments to their family, jobs and other priorities.

Have an open-door policy so that your volunteers feel comfortable in talking with you about concerns they have. Open and regular communication is key.

Volunteers are the key to your long-term success. Taking care of their needs and recognizing their contributions will keep them happy and more likely to stick around. Without them, the impact your organization COULD make will be much smaller.

For more information on volunteers and how they can contribute to your organization, please subscribe to our blog and visit the Volunteer Resources section on website.





The Facebook -NonProfit Link – A Surge in Effectiveness

21 10 2010

In a previous post, we encouraged you and your nonprofit to get onboard the Facebook bandwagon. Here, we’re going to delve into that topic a little further and show you just how useful this social media tool can be.

Facebook is one of the top five sites on the Internet when it comes to being regularly used, so doesn’t it make sense that you’d want your nonprofit to get in on that action? Of course it does. But it takes more than creating a profile, a fan page or a group. When used correctly, Facebook can be a magnificent tool. Used incorrectly, and the whole thing can blow up in your face.

What is Facebook Anyway?

If you truly are a social media newbie and don’t have a firm grasp on what Facebook is or what it can do, read on.

Facebook is an Internet, or social networking, site that allows users with common interests to share information and photos with each other. Many nonprofit organizations are already using Facebook successfully. If you’re not, you will be soon. Simply follow the step-by-step guide below and you’ll be up an running on Facebook in just a few minutes. Keep in mind that this is not an all-inclusive, exhaustive list, but rather a brief overview. If you would like a more in-depth course  in Facebook for Nonprofits, I invite you to visit our Animal Rescue University and see our Course List.

Step-By-Step to Getting Started

The first thing you will need is your own Facebook account. You can get one here. Here’s what you’ll see:

You’ll need to add some basic information: your first and last name, email address, birthday and gender and then you’re in!  Once you’re in, you can wander around your new profile. add a picture and complete your biography. All of these steps should be completed if you are planning to use this as your nonprofit’s online presence.

After you’ve created your profile and entered the site, you’ll want to start looking for friends: people you already know and people who have similar interests as you. Here is what the search screen will look like:

Ok, now you’ve got your friends and your newsfeed is filling up. Wait – what’s a newsfeed? The newsfeed is your main Facebook page. This is where your friends will update their statuses, share pictures and links. Your newsfeed will look like this:

So, you’ve got your account, your friends and your newsfeed. What next? The newsfeed is a great place for you to post information about your nonprofit. But what if all of your friends aren’t interested in your cause? No problem. You can simply create a “group” for your organization and invite those who ARE interested.

Creating a group is simple. From your newsfeed page, look to your left to find the “Create A Group.” Here’s what you’ll see:

The small window is where you will enter the name of your group, type the names of those you want to invite and decide if you want your group to be private or public.

Does your organization have an upcoming event? You can promote it on Facebook. From your main newsfeed page, look on the left, just above where you selected “Create a Group” and click on the “Events” link. When you reach the next page, you’ll want to click on the “Create an Event” button on the top right of the page. Here is what you’ll see:

Once at this page, you’ll be able to add all of the details of your event: the date, time, location, who’s invited and even add a photo of a flyer or the venue.

The last thing I should cover is how to maintain some semblance of privacy. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it is also a place for the unscrupulous. Facebook has privacy setting in place that you can control. To locate your Privacy Settings from your newsfeed, go to the upper, far right corner of the page and click on “Account.” From the dropdown window, select “Privacy Settings.”  Here is what you’ll see:

Once you’re here, you can select who can see what. From here, you can allow everyone to see everything or you can choose to “block” individuals from seeing anything you post. These settings are completely customizable and can be changed whenever necessary.

The last thing I want to touch on before I send you off to Facebook land is this. Facebook is a wonderful tool when used properly. However, if used improperly it can cause more problems than you or your organization may be prepared to deal with. Be leery of new people you associate with in the beginning. Chances are they are fine, but until you know for sure what kind of person they are and what they are involved in, be careful. Furthermore, the more people you become involved with who aren’t directly involved with your organization, the more likely you can be pulled into unnecessary “drama.” Avoid THIS at all costs. Not only does become a time waster, it can lower your credibility.

As we mentioned earlier, if you are interested in learning more about Facebook and your nonprofit organization, or social media in general, please subscribe to our blog, or visit our Animal Rescue University.