Wisdom Wednesdays: Are You Ready for Your (Social Media) Marathon? – Part 1

by Gretchen Jameson

This summer, after years of running and enjoying half-marathons, 5Ks and numerous “family fun runs,” I made the commitment to train for a marathon.  I’m at the point of implementing my training and nutrition plan and upping my current 20-25 miles per week to get ready for the race this October.

I’ve potentially lost half of my readers with that intro, but stick with me.

Deciding to tackle a marathon requires development of skills beyond running.  The biggest challenge for me?  Getting in the right mindset.  It’s not going to be easy (particularly to train through the summer in Missouri) and it’s going to take time.  Slogging out eight and 10 mile Saturday runs will seem endless, until I make it to those 22 and 24 mile preps for the final mileage.  Marathon training should reacquaint me with a lost gift: patience.

One of the effects of our hyper-accessible, always connected culture is what it’s doing to our appreciation for delayed gratification.  We expect (and at times demand) answers, responses, service, feedback, products and interaction immediately.  Whether we’re dealing with a coworker in the office, a teenage child via text or the customer service representative at the other end of the phone or Tweet, our expectation is for responsiveness — right now.

It’s an emerging fact of life: personal and professional communications interactions generally behave more like a sprint than a marathon.

And so, we must adapt.  Within our organizations, we need to cultivate our real time marketing and PR aptitude.  Our social-ness — our volunteer and donor and member care — must be constantly present, always on and authentically “right now.”  Thankfully, social media provides nonprofits with access to tools that enable real time to really happen.

Ironically, the time it takes to see the results of that real time, social media activity are not so speedy.  While our nonprofits are learning how to be quick and nimble, we need to distance train at the same time.

Building up social capital is time consuming.  There is a cost associated with it (no matter what you’ve heard), and getting it right isn’t quick or easy.  Still, planning and executing a strategic social media plan is worth the effort and certainly outweighs the cost of doing nothing.

When it comes to planning your nonprofit social strategy, better to approach it with a marathon mentality and not as a sprint.

We can’t apply an “if you build it; they will come” mentality to social media.  It’s ludicrous when communicators announce that they intend to develop a “viral video.”  We’ll be left frustrated if we craft the finest Facebook Timeline page with $50,000 custom apps and expect to see the masses flock to LIKE us.  Social media success doesn’t work that way.

So while you must be immediate and swift as you respond to your people, you must be considered and thorough and – dare I say it – patient as you seek to engage them.

Tune in next week as Gretchen provides additional insight into the marathon that is social media, with three vital points for your Social Media Marathon Plan.

Gretchen Jameson is the Founder and Principal of purePR, a communications strategy firm focused on helping nonprofit clients amplify their mission messages.  Connect with her on Twitter or join purePR on Facebook.


Wisdom Wednesdays: Intentional Board Changes can Build a Future for Nonprofits

by Ian Adnams

A few years ago I tried skeet shooting.  I didn’t do well (which is good because I never found a good recipe for grilled skeet!).  I discovered the trick was anticipating the position of the clay disc in the air and pulling the trigger at the right time to make sure the shot hit the moving target.  Timing and practice are the key elements to success.  Although you can usually figure out where the disc will be, your actions need intentional decisions to make it happen.  Hoping for success won’t cut it.

Nonprofit volunteer boards often hope the future of their organization is secure without taking intentional steps to make it so.  When positions on the board become available it often falls to the existing board members to seek replacements, usually from their own networks.  In other words, they will usually find people just like them.

That’s where intentionality becomes important.  If a board keeps replacing itself with the same kind of board member, it will naturally age and eventually cease to exist.  However, if it is diligent in finding younger people to become involved in the organization, it will naturally be introduced to a new network, helping it grow and thrive.

A recent webinar, “Learn How to Attract the Next Generation of Donors,” presented by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, noted that although some organizations may ask younger people for input, they will not necessarily provide opportunities for them to assume leadership positions.  This trend reduces the board’s ability to understand the current social environment.

As boards explore ways to intentionally refresh their composition, it’s important to consider what kinds of people and skills the board needs for good decision making.  Most of the time those competencies center on financial skills.  But a board needs more than financial smarts.  What about understanding the changing world around them?  Although board members know younger people spend a lot of time online, how many of them bring to the table a thorough understanding of what that means?  It’s easy to lament the lack of engagement by a new generation, but does anyone sitting around the table know how reach out to them?

Over the years I’ve challenged boards to recruit or find potential board members who are half their age.  I call it the “better by half” approach: a 60 year-old finds a 30 year-old.  Don’t just have a “token” younger member.  He or she brings to the board your future, so give that person the same respect and responsibilities given everyone.

In addition to infusing a board with younger blood (thereby introducing the possibility of longer-term survival), younger people come with their personal network.  Studies show that young adults display a high level of peer engagement with causes and organizations.  Have one or more young people on the board and the interest spreads.

Next time your board or council meets look around the group and see where you could be “better by half.”

Good governance doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes planning and intentional decisions.  Change happens when you are doing it on purpose.

Ian Adnams is the Principal Consultant for the Adnams Group, a Vancouver-based communications company dedicated to combining creative thinking with strategic direction to produce the highest levels of engagement with customers, support constituencies, stakeholders and leaders.  Ian serves as Vice-President of Canadian Church Press and also was President from 2003-2005.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Donor Relations is About Management and Moving

by Matthew Leighty

Some people don’t like the term “Moves Management.”  I first learned this during my early days of fundraising when I attended the course, “Principles and Techniques,” at The Fundraising School.   In fact, you won’t find that term referenced in their entire 772 page study guide.  Recently, Leslie Allen talked about the phrase controversy in her blog post, “Who’s Movin’ Who? Renaming Moves Management.”  No matter what you choose to name it (or don’t name it), maintaining proper relationships with your donors is vital in order to fund your organization and further your mission.

So what exactly are we talking about?  It’s the systematic process of developing relationships with your donors that moves them closer to your organization, with the hope of that person making a lifetime gift.  That in mind, let’s look at the five ways we can assure this process happens effectively.  Oh, and please note — these points are “ALDE!”-themed.

1.  A – Access donor records: In today’s age, you need to have a dependable electronic program that allows you to properly track the information about your donors in a sophisticated and ethical way.

This is the first and most important key.  I’ve witnessed transitions to Banner and Raiser’s Edge.  I consider donor records software the most valuable tool I use.  Yes, even more important than my iPhone.  There are many donor management applications — everything from free to super expensive.  The key is to find the right one for you and your organization.  Most importantly, you need to know how to use it.  If you and your fundraising department can’t easily access donor information, you’re throwing away time and money.

2.  L – Lead the management process: You need to identify who is best able to manage the relationship with your top donors.

This is different than who’s going to introduce you to the donors, who’s going to ask for the actual gift and who’s going to thank them for the gift.  This is the person that makes sure each of those steps happen.  Is that you?  Is that someone else in your fundraising department?  You need someone who’s taking the lead on how to properly move the donor from discovery/introduction to cultivation to asking/solicitation to stewardship.  Otherwise, it won’t get done.

3.  D – Diversify your communication: You want to identify the best way to connect with your donors.

It’s amazing the different interests our donors have.  We could have three different people visit a donor and everyone walks away with a different conversation.  In the same way, I’ve learned many and various ways my donors like to connect.  Today, I’ve found more and more donors are beginning to use technology like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.  Sure, phone is still great, and I’ll always conduct personal visits.  But now, I have donors that will be just as likely to text as to leave a message on my voicemail.  You might use the phone to arrange a visit, but in between, you can also email them a link to an article and share a recent video that was produced.  We need to adapt and be comfortable with diverse forms of communication or we’ll lose out.

4.  E – Ease up on the procedures: It needs to feel natural.  If your system is so systematic that donors don’t receive a personal connection from your organization, they’re not just missing out, but so will you.

In last week’s Wisdom Wednesday blog post, Gretchen Jameson shares with us what is important: “When we focus on story, we become more purposeful and focused in our communications.  When we focus on story, we operate from a position of why, not what.  We spark relationships by engaging people with the larger context of why we do what we do in the way we do it.”  This is a reminder that we can’t focus strictly on procedure.  If our actions become too mechanical, donors will feel like things being managed and not shareholders being engaged.

5.  ! – Excitement about your mission: If you don’t have passion for your cause, that’s going to come across to your donors.

Let’s please make an agreement right now.  Please, please, please, pretty please, love your organization.  If you can’t share with people why you’re changing the world, if you can’t express it in a way that makes people understand your passion for what you do, you’re doing your organization and thus your mission a disservice.  ALDE is full of people that love what they do.  This is seen through the incredible work that’s happening every day among our respective institutions.  Take what you do very seriously, but don’t forget to have fun along the way — because you are changing the world.

In Fundraising Principles and Practice, by Adrian Sargeant, Jen Shang, and Associates, we learn the number one reason people stopped giving to an organization: “They no longer felt personally connected.”  When we properly manage donor relationships people will respond with their love and support.


Sargent, Shang, and Associates.  Fundraising Principles and Practice.  San Francisco, CA: Jon Wiles & Sons, Inc., 2010.
(Sargeant is one of our keynote speakers for the ALDE 2013 International Educational Conference.)

Matthew Leighty is an Advancement Officer at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.  He is also the Chairperson of the ALDE 2013 International Educational Conference, to be held February 8-11 in Indianapolis.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Stuff, Story & So Much Spaghetti

by Gretchen Jameson

Here’s the reality. Every 60 seconds:

  • 168 million emails are sent
  • 6,600 new Flickr photos are uploaded
  • 98,000 Tweets are sent
  • 695,000 status updates are posted on Facebook
  • 600 new videos are put on You Tube
  • 13,000 hours of music are streaming on Pandora
  • 1,500 blog posts are published

Ensuring that your organization is heard in this noisy landscape must be the singular top priority of your communications, public relations and marketing efforts.

How is it going?  What is the secret sauce that launches an organization’s social media and total communications strategy to the next level?  How do you stop pushing messages and start pulling engagement?

You focus on story.  Passionate, single-minded pursuit of story sharing.

Frequently, when working with organizations on their total communications strategy, of which social media should be just one component, we discover an imbalance in messages.  An imbalance of stuff over story.

It’s been said, as we all nod, that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  Essentially people connect with stories, and you need to tell them.  I’m not just talking about incorporating donor testimonials or tales from the field into your current communications tactics.  The story you need to script first, the story that must be the umbrella over your total communications and message strategy is that of your brand.  What is your narrative?  Who are the leading characters?  What struggles are you overcoming?  Why?  Success in social media, in all media and marketing communications, hinges on your ability to highlight story over stuff.

Jay Baer, on his leading blog Convince and Convert urges us to focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.  I think this advice applies to every communications interaction.  Your goal must be to engage the other, to truly connect with meaningful messages that capture attention, harness interest and spur action.

When we focus on stuff, we end up throwing spaghetti against the wall; waiting for something to stick and then are perplexed about what causes some things to hold fast and others to slop.

When we focus on story, we become more purposeful and focused in our communications.  When we focus on story, we operate from a position of why, not what.  We spark relationships by engaging people with the larger context of why we do what we do in the way we do it.

Seth Godin looks at it this way:

Hard to imagine a consultant or investor asking the CMO, “So, what’s your telephone strategy?”

We don’t have a telephone strategy.  The telephone is a tool, a simple medium, and its only purpose is to connect us to interested human beings.

So, to pull from Seth, what’s your people strategy?  What is your message strategy?  What story are you pulling people to participate in with your organization?  Why?

Be about story, not stuff; and save spaghetti for your favorite Italian joint.

Gretchen Jameson is the Founder and Principal of purePR, a communications strategy firm focused on helping nonprofit clients amplify their mission messages.  Connect with her on Twitter or join purePR on Facebook.