Is there something special about social fundraising?

How do donors find organizations that they would like to support? Do they endlessly search through the wants ads? Of course not. Like most people, donors often find out about important causes by talking with their friends and acquaintances.

In fact, a recent article on Associations Now provided a statistic, citing a study by the Center for Social Impact Communication which found that 39 percent of people say they become involved with causes that affect someone they know.

For associations that are seeking out effective fundraising tools, this is a crucial point to keep in mind. It means that while there are certainly many effective ways to market an organization and attract donors, the usefulness of social media cannot be overstated.

The example the article provides is that of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Foundation, which is partially funding the National Concrete Canoe Competition this summer. The contest will task engineering students with creating concrete canoes that can still float—and racing them.

Natalie Zundel, the ASCE senior manager of major gifts, is part of the reason why this effort will attract so much attention. When she first joined the foundation in 2011 it had almost no presence on social media. Since then, she built it from the ground up to ensure that the foundation could stay in touch with its donors and raise the funds for projects like this one.

It wasn't easy—Zundel had to spend time mapping out a plan to build awareness and then win over senior management. To many association leaders, such a project would come across as quite a challenge. Luckily, those who want to emulate Zundel can seek out association leadership training programs that deal with specific areas like fundraising.

InBloom’s failure contains lessons for nonprofits

For nonprofits to succeed, they need to learn from those that have failed.

Consider the example of inBloom. As far as nonprofit startups go, this one had it all. It was backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was based on a exciting proposal to reform education with the help of big data. And yet, last week inBloom announced that it would shut down, according to an article on Associations Now.

The problems, as it turned out, were many.

First, the group failed to build public support for its offerings before actually building them. This turned out to be a mistake, especially when parents realized that some of their children's personal information might have been handed over to third-party private companies. Many turned against the proposals for that reason alone.

How bad was it? According to the Associations Now story, parents in Louisiana became outraged when they found out that their children's Social Security numbers were being used to identify them in a data base. It was not long before states that had initially been enthusiastic about the program started dropping out.

Meanwhile, inBloom did little to improve its messaging and ensure parents that their children's personal information would be secure. And since the public was already growing skeptical, it would have taken a massive effort to regain their trust.

Obviously, not all nonprofits will run into the same problems that plagued inBloom. But every organization can benefit from a messaging campaign that builds awareness quickly. Those who are unfamiliar with these efforts should seek out training programs as they launch their organizations.

Building a brand is crucial for Associations

What is your nonprofit’s brand? How do you convey that to others? If you do not have answers to those two questions, it’s time to think about the issue more closely.

Contrary to popular belief, a brand isn’t just something that corporations use to sell products. Many nonprofits have easily recognizable brands that people associate with a broader mission. Just look at Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity or the American Red Cross. In fact, the latter uses a logo that is just as, if not more, recognizable than many major brands.

Ultimately, though, a brand is about more than just a logo. It is about a specific mental association with a movement, a connection that people make almost immediately. A strong brand builds legitimacy, which helps attract donors and spread the word about the work that your nonprofit is doing.

Brand management is just as important for smaller nonprofits. Though not every organization has enough members to set up a steering committee that will manage the brand, any group can gather its members together to pitch ideas and develop a cohesive vision. Democratic input is crucial to this effort, since eventually everyone will have to get behind the final proposal.

From there, the tools to promote a brand are simple, yet effective. A well-designed website can leave people with a specific view of an organization, as can a driven social media campaign. And obviously, people respond to memorable brands that they encounter at conferences.

Building a brand can seem like an intimidating task to those who are not familiar with it. However, there are many training programs available that can teach these important skills.

What is your nonprofit's brand? How do you convey that to others? If you do not have answers to those two questions, it's time to think about the issue more closely.

What is your nonprofit’s brand? How do you convey that to others? If you do not have answers to those two questions, it’s time to think about the issue more closely.

Capital campaigns help nonprofits make big purchases

Fundraising is a constant challenge for nonprofits and associations, which often rely on periodic drives for the majority of their revenue. But sometimes, these organizations need to embark on specific fundraising projects for large scale purchases or investments. That's when it is time to launch a capital campaign.

A capital campaign, in short, is an effort to raise money for a particular need. Building purchases are a common goal, since growing nonprofits often need to move into larger facilities when they outgrow the ones they currently occupy. However, this is far from the only thing that a nonprofit organization might have to purchase.

Because of the narrow nature of capital campaigns, they are often run differently than general fundraising drives. First and foremost, organizations must define exactly what they need and be prepared to make their case to potential donors. In some cases, a feasibility study then becomes necessary, as the organization needs to establish specific details about the project, such as location and cost. Finally, organizations should form a capital campaign committee to oversee the fundraiser and the project itself.

Though they can be more difficult to carry out, capital campaigns do carry some advantages. For example, high profile donors to buildings are often granted the opportunity to name the structure once it is finished. It is also true that the completion of a major project can help a nonprofit boost its own name recognition, which is particularly useful for future fundraisers.

For the members tasked with running these campaigns, it can feel quite different from what they might be used to. However, many training programs are available to help ease the process.

When organizations have big purchases to make, they often rely on capital campaigns.

When organizations have big purchases to make, they often rely on capital campaigns.

Appropriate uses of executive session during meetings

Often, association boards pride themselves on openness and accessibility. Smaller organizations, in particular, want to show confidence in their members by gathering as much input as possible. But there are times when this is not feasible. That’s where the practice of executive session comes into play.

An association board executive session is a portion of a meeting when attendance and discussion is temporarily closed to certain members. As is often the case, all but members of the board of directors are asked to leave so sensitive matters can be discussed, such as the act of dismissing certain staff members.

The Center for Association Leadership recently featured a blog post about how this can prove to be a more difficult practice than one might expect. It all comes down to how they are viewed by different members of the organization. Board members see them as an opportunity to speak frankly about the issue at hand, without worrying about offending others in the organization. However, other members might view them as a sign that the association does not trust their input on certain matters.

There are some ways that boards can mitigate this response, however. They can take care to adequately communicate the nature of the executive session, so that others understand why they must be excluded. During the session itself, they should ensure that proper minutes are kept so that the substance of the meeting can eventually be spread to the association when necessary.

It is not always easy to balance the desires of all association members when going into executive session. However, training programs area available for those who need more guidance.

What are the best conference locations in North America?

Planning a major conference for your nonprofit or association can be an enormous undertaking, so much so that it is easy to lose track of some of the important details. While it is certainly crucial to focus primarily on the content of these conferences—such as who will be attending and what sort of presentations will be put on—it is just as important to choose the right location that will set the overall tone of the event.

North American has no shortage of cities with numerous impressive venues for conferences. So which one will be right for you? Consider the list of the top 50 U.S. meeting destinations compiled by Cvent.

After evaluating more than 1,000 cities and ranking them based on how popular they are among event planners, Cvent concluded that Orlando, Florida is the best city for conferences. It’s certainly hard to find fault with the weather, but the list also pointed out that the city has the second-largest concentration of hotel rooms in the U.S., which are meant to accommodate the roughly 50 million people who visit the city every year.

It’s also important to factor in accessibility when planning a major event. Ask yourself whether the city you’ve chosen is within reach of the people whom you want to attract. This is the reason why Atlanta, Georgia scores so high on Cvent’s list, as it is within a two-hour flight of about 80 percent of the U.S. population.

Given the sheer number of details that event planners must consider, it is understandable that you may need some assistance to make your event the best it can be. Luckily, there are many training programs available that can help you along the way.

Planning a major conference for your nonprofit or association can be an enormous undertaking, so much so that it is easy to lose track of some of the important details.

Planning a major conference for your nonprofit or association can be an enormous undertaking, so much so that it is easy to lose track of some of the important details.

Associations Can Learn from Great Media Campaigns

How does one come up with compelling keywords and hash tags that will attract notice and eventually go viral? The answer, of course, is to learn from previous successful campaigns.

This blog has already featured a post about how social media engagement is crucial for associations and nonprofits. Given how often people from all generations now use popular sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it only makes sense to target potential participants and donors through these channels.

But for those organizations that have never attempted such a campaign before, the prospect can be daunting. How does one come up with compelling keywords and hashtags that will attract notice and eventually go viral? The answer, of course, is to learn from previous successful campaigns.

A recent post on Nonprofit Hub featured stories about the four best nonprofit social media campaigns that were launched in 2013. Among them was a particularly creative effort by UNICEF to spread awareness of polio, which has been eradicated in the Western world but still plagues some third-world countries. The post told readers to “like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio,” later noting that vaccines cost money and cannot be bought with likes. By going against readers’ expectations, it proved to be an effective call to action.

Another example was a campaign launched by the Red Cross, which participated in National Preparedness Month by promoting the hash tag #NPM13 on Twitter. It had already been floating around thanks to efforts by smaller organizations, but input from the Red Cross helped spread the word—as well as many helpful tips for disaster preparation.

It can be daunting for nonprofit organizations to embark on their first big social media campaign. Luckily, there are many training programs available that can help guide the way.

Association Social Media

How does one come up with compelling keywords and hashtags that will attract notice and eventually go viral? The answer, of course, is to learn from previous successful campaigns.

Is there a Generation Gap in Association Staff?

Will the generational divide be too much for nonprofit organizations?

Some labor force observers believe we have reached a unique period in the history of work. This isn’t just because information technology has revolutionized how we communicate with one another. We’ve also reached a time when multiple generations of employees will be working for the same organizations.

Writing for Association News, contributor Steven Hacker points out this fact and its implications.

“With four of six different American generations now working side-by-side for the first time in history, and each group characterized by its own beliefs, biases and value systems, one might assume the result to be utter chaos,” Hacker writes.

This is particularly important for nonprofit organizations, many of which are attracting young college graduates who will work alongside older members. The question is: Will the generational divide be too much for these organizations?

Hacker doesn’t think so, noting that throughout history, senior managers have always had to adjust to younger hires. However, he adds that there appears to be a peculiar communication problem at present. For example, a recent survey of 6,000 “millennials”—those born between the 1980s and 2000s—and human resource specialists found that the two groups do not always see eye to eye on many issues. Eighty-two percent of millennials said that members of their generation were loyal, while only 14 percent of HR specialists agreed. Meanwhile, only 35 percent of millennials said that their generation was tech savvy, while 86 percent of HR specialists though this was true.

Hacker’s solution is better communication between the generational groups. After all, both have much to learn from each other, especially when dealing with the complexities of nonprofit managing. The importance of investing in training and communication cannot be overstated.

Association Staff Gap

Will the generational divide be too much for nonprofit organizations?

Is there a generational gap in the labor force?

Some labor force observers believe we have reached a unique period in the history of work. This isn't just because information technology has revolutionized how we communicate with one another. We've also reached a time when multiple generations of employees will be working for the same organizations.

Writing for Association News, contributor Steven Hacker points out this fact and its implications.

"With four of six different American generations now working side-by-side for the first time in history, and each group characterized by its own beliefs, biases and value systems, one might assume the result to be utter chaos," Hacker writes. 

This is particularly important for nonprofit organizations, many of which are attracting young college graduates who will work alongside older members. The question is: Will the generational divide be too much for these organizations?

Hacker doesn't think so, noting that throughout history, senior managers have always had to adjust to younger hires. However, he adds that there appears to be a peculiar communication problem at present. For example, a recent survey of 6,000 "millennials"—those born between the 1980s and 2000s—and human resource specialists found that the two groups do not always see eye to eye on many issues. Eighty-two percent of millennials said that members of their generation were loyal, while only 14 percent of HR specialists agreed. Meanwhile, only 35 percent of millennials said that their generation was tech savvy, while 86 percent of HR specialists though this was true.

Hacker's solution is better communication between the generational groups. After all, both have much to learn from each other, especially when dealing with the complexities of nonprofit managing. The importance of investing in training and communication cannot be overstated.

Marketing Your Association with a Small Budget

As an association, you don’t have anything resembling the hefty advertising budgets of major companies. Still, you have marketing needs like any other organization. You need to reach out to potential members who might be willing to volunteer their time and donors who will keep you operational.

First, like any organization, you need to identify your target market. What niche does your association fill? Who would be interested? This might be a difficult question for a nonprofit to answer immediately after it has gotten off the ground, but it becomes easier after you begin attending events and conferences.

The next step is to set specific goals. Estimate how many people you want to reach, and in what time frame. Your overarching strategy does not need to go into minute detail, because there will be room to refine your tactics once your organization chooses a channel by which to market.

With limited funds, there are only so many options. Luckily, the internet—specifically, social media—offers plenty of opportunities for organizations to spread messages to specific audiences. If you don’t already have a Facebook page, create one and connect it to your nonprofit’s website so any visitor can easily find it.

This is only the beginning. It is crucial for your organization to update its Facebook page regularly with relevant posts that followers will “Like” and share with their own friends. Don’t hold out for that perfect viral post—you can steadily build an audience with regular, compelling content.

Those who are new to the world of association management may not be aware of all of the opportunities for low-cost marketing. Luckily, these organizations can invest in training programs that will get them up to speed.

As a nonprofit, you don't have anything resembling the hefty advertising budgets of major companies. Still, you have marketing needs like any other organization.

As a nonprofit, you don’t have anything resembling the hefty advertising budgets of major companies. Still, you have marketing needs like any other organization.