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The Collaboration Game: Solving the Puzzle of Nonprofit Partnership

Posted By Charlotte Gill, Yesterday

Above the desks of many nonprofit executives you will find these words: “If you want to travel quickly, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.” And yet, nonprofits often act in isolation against complex problems, spinning reinvented wheels.

Nonprofit collaboration is harder than it sounds. Economics, game theory, and behavioral science suggest some lessons on how organizations might collaborate more often and more effectively.

BANG FOR THE BUCK: THE ECONOMICS OF COLLABORATION

Collaboration can help nonprofits achieve greater social impact at lower cost. To understand how, we can cautiously apply three core concepts of microeconomics: division of labor, economies of scale, and network effects.

1. Division of Labor

Over a century after its introduction in 1913, the assembly line—where each worker specializes in a particular task—remains the quintessential example of division of labor. The resulting efficiencies helped drive the Industrial Revolution, with all its positive and negative consequences.

The nonprofit sector would do well to learn from the factory floor. Functional division of labor among nonprofits, where separate organizations serve the same individual in multiple ways, can improve aggregate impact. One organization may be better at providing housing, another at job training. But for this to work, the organizations must have open channels of communication. Otherwise, the client will suffer—think cross-scheduled sessions, contradictory messages, and misaligned timelines. A related set of benefits can arise from the geographic division of labor by mapping to the distribution of need across space.

A factory works because common procedures, thorough communication, and a shared goal underlie workers’ coordinated efforts. Nonprofits similarly in sync can reap the benefits of organizational diversity and independence while still protecting the interests of beneficiaries.

2. Economies of Scale

An organization that can rent a large office space pays less per square foot than a small one subletting cubicles. A national network can train employees efficiently with standardized trainings. Economies of scale matter for organizations operating on thin financial margins in tough economic times.

But more importantly, economies of scale matter because they can increase social impact. Teach for America’s national scale, for example, allows cross-site learning and improved training for new teachers, all in the service of better educating students in under-resourced public schools. Large advocacy groups like the Sierra Club or the National Rifle Association can mobilize people quickly and cost-effectively due to their immense size.

In some cases, small is indeed beautiful and scale can bring very real challenges. But often collaboration enables economies of scale that help the nonprofit community advance both margin and mission.

3. Network Effects

Network effects happen when a product or service gains additional value with each new user. Take Wikipedia: One contributor can provide a handful of entries, but as an open platform the site gets 10 edits every second. Nonprofits can similarly benefit from connecting individuals or organizations. For example, VolunteerMatch is an online platform that leverages network effects to connect citizens to causes they care about.

Organizations can intentionally build network effects through standardization. An often-cited example is Strive Partnership—a collaboration of nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, and corporations working to improve education outcomes in the Cincinnati area—which serves as an example for the broader “collective impact” movement. The various organizations track the same indicators and engage in regular, structured communications to inform a dynamic, community-wide strategy.

The Internet can generalize and magnify the power of network effects, especially with the use of data standards. In the nonprofit sector, the Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities (a registry of unique identifiers for nonprofits around the world) and the Philanthropy Classification System (a new taxonomy for nonprofits and grants) offer immense potential for field-level alignment—and thus field-level learning.

Properly harvested, network effects help enable nonprofit communities to achieve scale of reach while still celebrating the diversity of the network.

PRISONERS OF OUR OWN ORGANIZATIONS: GAME THEORY AND NONPROFIT COLLABORATION

These microeconomic effects can help nonprofits achieve more bang for their buck once they’ve entered into a collaboration, but most organizations face serious structural barriers well before they even get to that point. Nonprofits are not alone in having to manage situations where working with others is difficult. During the Cold War, the US military spent millions hiring mathematicians to parse the dark logic of the nuclear standoff. Thinkers like John Von Neumann built the new discipline of game theory to illuminate the terrible decisions facing political leaders. Nonprofits can similarly benefit from game theory to explain—and potentially avoid—seemingly shortsighted and selfish behavior.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Consider first the most famous problem in game theory, the “prisoner’s dilemma”: Two people are held in separate cells and asked to declare the other guilty. If neither defects, each faces a light sentence—30 days. If both defect, they each get a heavy sentence—5 years. If one defects and the other does not, the defector is rewarded with freedom and the other gets the heaviest sentence—10 years. As a pair, the obvious choice is for both to keep mum. But as individuals, the incentive is to defect; no matter what the first prisoner believes the second will do, he sees he will get a better deal through declaring the other guilty.

Potential nonprofit collaborators often find themselves in prisoner’s dilemma-type situations. Nonprofits are usually oriented toward the status quo in terms of funding streams, staffing models, programmatic strategies, and organizational culture. Collaboration requires changes to each, and while they may dream of the benefits of collaboration, nonprofits also know it means risking their relative stability and safety.

For example, imagine two human services organizations: One offers sexual education programs in local high schools and another provides services to teenage mothers. Each receives $100,000 a year from the same local community foundation. Both nonprofits know the foundation sees opportunity for greater impact through greater collaboration; in fact, it might provide $300,000 in total funding for a well-designed collaborative effort. But both nonprofits are nervous about losing their existing funding. If the collaboration does not work out, would the community foundation cut their core funding? Might one organization betray the other and tell the community foundation it could provide both types of services on its own for just $150,000?

To distrust, add uncertainty and short-term costs: Even if the executive directors of two organizations want to collaborate, staff members may resist, saying the partnership will force them to restructure the program, re-do internal systems, abandon their unique culture, or—horror of horrors!—admit the weakness of their organization.

From Two to Many

These dynamics are further complicated when more than two organizations are involved. The mathematician John Nash, famously portrayed in the film A Beautiful Mind, formalized a way to think about multi-party prisoner’s dilemmas—a concept later called the “Nash equilibrium.” When a group of players interacts over time, they are prone to settle into specific behaviors. These behaviors reach equilibrium when no individual wants to unilaterally change given the others’ behaviors.

Environmental advocacy groups offer a good example. They use different approaches to achieve similar goals, or what game theory calls “mixed strategies.” The large environmental groups—including radical ones like Greenpeace and more mainstream ones like Environmental Defense Fund—share very similar goals, but have settled into a pattern of isolated operation, fractured strategies, and even betrayal. These organizations would almost certainly accomplish more together with aligned strategies that either aggregated power or capitalized on difference (think good cop-bad cop strategies). Unfortunately, no single organization has an incentive to unilaterally change; it might threaten funding or compromise identity.

But there are solutions. Research in game theory has shown that a long-term view (the “repeated game”) can completely change players’ decision-making. Intentional communication can remove the knowledge barriers that cause sub-optimal outcomes, as in the regular “Green Group” meetings of large environmental organizations. Every partnership is evidence that it is possible to transcend the dilemmas that get in the way of collaboration.

SIX STEPS FOR CLIMBING COLLABORATION MOUNTAIN

Collaboration can challenge nonprofit leaders’ sense of identity. We would be wise to respect how emotionally and intellectually difficult it can be for practitioners of social change to acknowledge that they cannot succeed alone. So let us look to behavioral science—and to our own experiences—for insights on how we might find a path to climb Collaboration Mountain.

Define the community. It is essential that collaborators find a sense of shared identity. The first step is to identify what the groups have in common: “We are defenders of tropical rainforests” or “we serve the Miami homeless.” Overwhelming evidence suggests that a sense of community plays a central role in human decisions, whether negative (racism) or positive (neighborliness).

Name the weakness. Introductions at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings begin with, “My name is X, and I am an alcoholic.” This statement puts the speaker in a humble frame of mind, making them more receptive to help. Similarly, nonprofits can open themselves to collaboration by acknowledging their limitations as independent actors. Naming the problem need not create a pessimistic atmosphere; indeed, the next phrase at an AA meeting is often something along the lines of, “ … and I’ve been sober for five years.” Nonprofits can immediately build on naming the weakness by highlighting the opportunity.

Identify the Sherpa. Multi-lateral collaboration greatly benefits from a guide—a person or organization—to manage the process, provide encouragement, and help solidify a shared vision. Without this, the short-term incentives of the individual participants will tend to prevail, and the collaboration will dissolve. Pure top-down management will not work; if nonprofit participants feel a foundation is forcing them to engage, the partnership will not be authentic. Ideally, the guide comes from the community but is not identified with a single set of interests. Like a Sherpa leading climbers up a mountain, they are both participant and leader, bearing costs and reaping shared rewards.

Make explicit the implicit division of labor. Over time, nonprofits tend to differentiate themselves: One organization takes the west side of a town, another the east; or one handles middle-school students, another high-school students. Once potential collaborators acknowledge those differences, they can capitalize on them. It is often necessary to say explicitly what implicit division of labor may have developed over time. Without that openness, participants may hesitate to speak clearly or act decisively, afraid to offend or stereotype.

Demonstrate proof points. One powerful human tendency is to do what we see others doing. Nonprofits are far more likely to collaborate if they see relatable examples of other successful collaborations. It can be a step-wise process of sharing simple examples, building confidence, bringing in new data, and making larger steps possible.
Design collective systems. Formalized systems for knowledge sharing, governance, and external communications not only create value, but also reinforce collective identity and incentivize organizations to remain in the group. This makes it more likely that the collaboration lasts long enough to achieve the desired change.

This six-step approach is neither linear nor immutable. Some collaborations may skip a step or move through them in a different order, but a trip down this path can name, build, and strengthen new communities of organizations bound together by common purpose.
The challenges the nonprofit sector faces are big and they are complex. Economics reminds us that we need collective action to achieve scale. Game theory reminds us how hard it can be to overcome our narrow interests. But society, again and again, has proven its ability to resolve these dilemmas and shown that we can break these unhealthy equilibria. Surely nonprofits can do the same. The stakes could not be higher.

Original post can be found here.

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Strong Focus on Organizational Culture Drives Staffing Choices At the Best Nonprofits

Posted By Adriene Tynes, Yesterday

A classic source of frustration in many workplaces goes something like this: An employee expresses an idea during a meeting. The boss hears that comment but lodges it in the back of the brain and weeks later it comes out as the boss’s idea, forgetting that the colleague started it.

“It’s classic that managers do this accidentally, deliver it as if it’s their own idea. Obviously, that’s frustrating for that employee,” said Charles Best, founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, a 17-year-old nonprofit in New York City. “Whenever there’s a workplace where employees feel like they will be acknowledged and get the justified glory for being the one to come up with an idea, they’ll come up with kick-ass ideas,” he said.

“Giving credit where credit is due is one reason why people would want to be here,” Best said.

Recognition, trust and support — both monetary and otherwise — are among the critical tenants that make up a great nonprofit to work for, according to The NPT’s 2017 Best Nonprofit To Work For. The NonProfit Times partnered with Harrisburg, Pa.-based Best Companies Group for the seventh annual report, which ranked DonorsChoose.org as the No. 1 organization among medium-sized employers and No. 1 overall among the 50 nonprofits recognized. DonorsChoose.org last made the list in 2015, ranking No. 3 overall after a No. 8 ranking in 2014.

The Best Nonprofits To Work For report is data compiled from a thorough organizational assessment. Each participating nonprofit completes a questionnaire along with a confidential survey completed by employees. Business partners are also polled. The information then is combined to analyze and rank the workplaces. The organizations were further categorized as small, medium and large. Explanations of the categories accompany those stories.

The NPT’s 2017 Best Nonprofits To Work For identified the top 10 key drivers for employees across the 50 organizations:

  • I feel I am valued in this organization;
  • I have confidence in the leadership of this organization;
  • I like the type of work that I do;
  • Most days, I feel I have made progress at work;
  • At this organization, employees have fun at work;
  • I can trust what this organization tells me;
  • Overall, I’m satisfied with this organization’s benefits package;
  • There is room for me to advance at this organization;
  • I like the people I work with at this organization; and,
  • I feel part of a team working toward a shared goal.

The Employee Benchmark Report represents the average percentage of positive responses to almost 80 statements or questions spread across eight focus areas. The percentage of respondents represents those who answered “Agree somewhat” and “Agree strongly.”

For the most part, the same statements and questions scored highest and lowest in a category among nonprofits that made this year’s list and those that did not. The difference was in just how big a disparity there was between nonprofits. Organizations that made the list tended to score near 90 percent across all categories while those that did not scored anywhere from 70 percent to as low as the middle 80s.

Among the eight categories of questions, the largest disparity overall between organizations that made the Best Nonprofits list and those that did not was found within “pay and benefits” (18-point differential) and “leadership and planning” (16-point differential):

  • Leadership and planning, 90 percent compared with 74 percent;
  • Corporate culture and communications, 88 percent to 73 percent;
  • Role satisfaction, 90 percent to 81 percent;
  • Work environment, 89 percent to 83 percent;
  • Relationship with supervisor, 92 percent to 85 percent;
  • Training, development and resources, 84 percent to 69 percent;
  • Pay and benefits, 88 percent to 70 percent;
  • Overall employee engagement, 92 percent to 82 percent; and,
  • Survey average, 89 percent to 77 percent.

Within “leadership and planning,” the disparities among seven questions were in the double-digits, with the highest (18 points) on the statement, “There is adequate follow-through of departmental objectives,” and “The leaders of this organization care about their employees’ well being.”

Although statements and questions within the pay and benefits category most consistently had the largest disparities between organizations that did or did not make the list, the largest found in the survey overall was on the statement, “Staffing levels are adequate to provide quality products/services,” within the category of corporate culture and communications. Three-quarters of organizations on the list responded positively to that statement compared with barely half of those that did not.

Recognition is important to employees and not just at DonorsChoose.org but consistently across all 50 of the Best Nonprofits. One of the statements where Best Nonprofits diverged from others was: “This organization gives enough recognition for work that is well done.” About 84 percent responded positively to that statement compared with just 66 percent among organizations that didn’t make the list.

“You hear about places where employees can bring their true selves to work. It’s important, especially for younger people,” Best said. “We want to express a personal passion or intellectual purposes, or about current events. It creates a colleague who feels more connected to the organization, more committed to the organization, because they’re able to express all of who they are,” he said.

Best credits the implementation of a new instant messaging tool with helping to do that. DonorsChoose.org moved from Skype to Slack for intra-office instant messaging during the summer of 2015. He described Slack as a sort of “next-generation bulletin board” in which users can subscribe to particular topics.

“At first we transitioned because we simply thought it would enable group chat a little more seamlessly. Of course, it turned out do a lot more than that,” Best said.

The 550 Slack forums at DonorsChoose.org help nurture camaraderie as well as organize around projects. It allows for direct, one-on-one private conversations, dialogue within teams, and connections with staff across different personal interests.

Some teams use Slack exclusively for project management but the organization lets teams decide how to use it. Affinity groups have formed, ranging from cat lovers to fitness buffs to neighborhoods. “It’s a great way to get out organization-wide messages, instead of email or it might not merit emails,” Best said, adding that Slack has become the way that employee anniversaries are acknowledged.

“It’s created a greater sense of kinship, enabled colleagues to bring their true self to work,” he said, and know more about what they’re colleagues are up to yet without feeling overburdened or over-sharing.

“Slack actually conveys a lot more information to people than email ever did. Yet people are spending less time, or at least much more productive time, with their colleagues,” Best said.

The founder is confident that DonorsChoose.org has enough of a performance-minded culture — “everyone thinking like an owner culture” — that he doesn’t believe there’s an issue of employees spending more time on cat lover Slack channels than work.

Last year’s No. 1 organization, Team Rubicon, returns to the list this year ranked No. 3 overall after growing some 40 percent.

The Los Angeles, Calif.-based charity hired an additional head on the human resources team and initiated programs around growing and supporting remote staff, supervisory development and automated/real-time performance management that will roll out this year.

Team Rubicon saw improvement in communication across offices by implementing best practices that are now habitual behaviors,” according to Director of Human Resources Candice Schmitt. During virtual meetings with a meeting lead, a moderator monitors the chat bar, acting as a voice in the room for those dialed in or asking for a chance to speak. Even something as simple as rearranging all-staff meeting space to identify where speakers should stand and look to engage the remote audience has received good feedback, she said.

With about half of its staff in satellite offices or working from home, Team Rubicon put a lot of effort into making perks and fun employee engagements suitable for participation across all locations. The hope was that employees would feel included and “grow a strong sense of workplace culture regardless of where they sat, but it turns out they felt it was cheesy and a waste of time,” Schmitt said. This year, Rubicon will focus on reinforcing benefits of each location and recognizing and celebrating their differences versus trying to create a virtual office culture, she said.

The last time that The Center for Trauma & Resilience made the Best Nonprofits list, it went by a different name: The Denver Center for Crime Victims.

“We wanted something that was more positive and more directly reflected what we did,” said Kathi Fanning, director of training. “We deal with trauma all the time. We’re hoping to move people toward resilience,” she said. The former name left people identifying as a crime victim but not reflective of the progress that they make.

The name change helped to expand the circle of people the center works with, despite some initial hesitation and even unhappiness from peers in their community.

The center has a contract with the sheriff’s department to do trauma sensitive yoga groups with jail inmates. Fanning said that incarcerated people typically also have been victims at some point in their lives and cope with that stress and anxiety. Staff often want the assignment and have no hesitation because inmates are such an appreciative group, she said. “Folks in jail are really appreciative of someone coming in and taking the practice to heart,” she said, using the practice to calm themselves.

There is a sort of counter-intuitiveness to it — that a victim services group is doing service for perpetrators — but “we try to have a bigger lens than that. They had victimization in their life as well and that’s who we should be serving,” Fanning said.

“We look at trauma as a health issue not just a victimization issue. Look at both victims of crime and other service providers, and what impact trauma has on someone’s health,” Fanning said. “Trauma is more than just momentary psychological impact but affects someone’s entire health,” she said.

The center’s name change has helped to shift attitudes around that as well as empowered staff to be able to address trauma in a bigger circle, helping people increase social support, reduce the risk of health problems. “It’s brought to the forefront as a staff, health disparities and those kinds of more community and long-term impact of trauma, she said.

Click here for the 2017 Best Nonprofits To Work For report.

Original post can be found here.

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Cultural Development Fund for Small or Emerging Cultural Organizations

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Yesterday

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Young Girl Turning Suffering Into a Solution for Other Sick Children

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Thursday, April 27, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kayla Abramowitz spent her childhood in and out of hospitals. Since then, she’s started a charity that has donated more than 12,000 DVDs, books and toys to children’s hospitals across America.

 

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Kimberly Luchina - How Will Rising Leaders Impact Your Organization?

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Updated: Thursday, December 29, 2016
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Welcome to Our New Members

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Welcome to our new Nonprofit member organizations who joined last week: 
  • Winner Scholarship Foundation
  • Florida Filmmakers' Showcase
  • Florida Redevelopment Assistance
  • Sister Cities of Delray Beach (Renewal)
Welcome to our new Affiliate Consultant:
  • Changing Tides Consulting

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Torrey Smith - Why are you participating in Rising Leaders?

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Updated: Thursday, December 29, 2016
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Succession Strategy: Mapping the Next Generation of Leadership

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I always find it a little funny when I hear someone say, “The future is now.”

My immediate thought tends to be, “But what does that even mean?” Frankly, it sounds like somebody is trying to be a little too philosophical. I liken it to when someone is sharing “the secret to life,” but really just spewing nonsense.

This common phrase should be shifted to, “The future depends on the now.” Or, as Mahatma Gandhi put it, “The future depends on what you do today.”

This much rings true for your nonprofit organization and the next generation of do-gooders. Succession strategy planning needs to start today. While succession planning sounds intimidating, it simply means putting a plan in place for choosing the new leaders in your organization and giving them the tools they need to succeed.

Take a good, hard look around your organization. These are the people who have your back; these are the people who understand your mission – and they could be the next generation of leaders for your organization.

Set aside time to think about who’s up to the plate and will become that next generation. Murphy’s law states, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Let’s talk about why we need succession planning, how to do it and the best places to look for new talent.

Why Succession Planning is Vital

In the 2016 Nonprofit Sector Leadership Report, Marc Pitman found that 77 percent, or 3 out of 4 nonprofits, said they did not have formal succession planning in place. This number is insane when you think about all of the aspects you can’t control with leadership leaving or even an expected leave with no formal process in place. Your organization should be alarmed if you don’t have succession planning strategies in place, but also know you’re not alone.

Picture this: your executive director is offered a new position right in the thick of your biggest fundraiser of the year. Without a succession plan in place, that sends your organization into full-on crisis mode.

Do you think you’d stop the fundraiser to find an executive director? Absolutely not. Do you think funders will ask questions as to why there’s no executive director and what you’re going to do about it? Absolutely.

Maybe you’re convinced your executive director wouldn’t do that to you. Just remember that life happens – spouses get new jobs in different cities, people decide to retire earlier than expected and so on.

Plus, it’s important to remember that succession planning isn’t just about the unexpected happening, although this helps with that. Succession planning is vital because it sets your organization up for years to come. It helps identify potential leaders to ensure a long and healthy life for your organization. Think of it as a wellness program for your nonprofit.

It Takes a Village

Welcome to another episode of “Whose job is it anyway?” Where you’ll need to make everything up, probably come up with a points system for evaluating prospects – and the points will matter. Now that we know why we need succession planning, who needs to step up and make it happen?

Maybe you’re the marketing manager sitting there thinking, “Clearly this article doesn’t apply to me.” Au contraire.

It’s true, the primary party concerned with succession planning is the Board of Directors, our all-powerful governing body. But while board members should be heavily involved in your organization, they simply can’t be involved in every aspect of the day-to-day grind. So if you’re a staff member sitting back thinking you don’t have a part in this process, you’re wrong.

Board members will most likely seek guidance from you. Some boards will even weigh heavily on your opinion. And if you don’t have any succession planning tactics or processes in place, now is the time to approach your board with the concept. Heck, bring this article with you for moral support.

Plus, who do you think is going to be around to train the newbie once they’re hired? Your organization puts itself into a pickle when you rely heavily on one person and nobody else knows how that person does their job.

Where to Start
  • Write Down Job Duties
    A good place to start is to come up with a list of responsibilities and duties from each staff member and board member. Get it all down on paper. Don’t just use the descriptions for the jobs that were posted when you were hired. As you know, positions change and people start to absorb other duties. Try to make these lists as accurate as possible.
  • Talk About It
    I know that nobody loves meetings, but it’s important that once the roles are written down everybody understands who is tackling what. This can be an opportunity to say that you would like to have more responsibilities or put other responsibilities on another team member if it makes more sense. Then you can solidify those job duties.
  • Cross Train on Tasks
    Make sure that at least two people in your organization know how to do every single task. Or, if that isn’t possible, make sure you have detailed instructions on specific tasks so that anybody could pick up the manual and learn.
  • Determine Your Plan
    Talk with your board of directors. Come up with a list of what the ideal executive director would be, the types of skills and traits that person would possess and their past experiences. Outline how you would search for that candidate and how that candidate would be trained.

In an article by Blue Avocado, writers Jan Masaoka and Tim Wilfred perfectly encapsulate the uncertainty of a leadership change by stating:

“More nonprofits are realizing that the executive director transition is a crucial moment in an organization’s life: a moment of great vulnerability as well as great opportunity for transformative change.”

Go out and seize that feeling. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable because vulnerability means you’re making changes. And whatever you do, don’t put this off. After all, the future depends on the now.

Original post can be found here.

Tags:  Cultivate  Development  Leadership  Nonprofit  Oversight 

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Tips for Nonprofits on Measuring Social Media Metrics that Matter

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When it comes to establishing a digital strategy, nonprofits know by now that we need to grow our online audiences. A big part of that is connecting to our communities through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But now that there is endless data we can monitor from all these social channels, is your organization aware of what metrics are important to track?

At NTEN’s 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference, Debra Askanase, founder and digital engagement strategist at Community Organizer 2.0, held an informative session on advanced social media practices. The session took social media management to the next level, focusing on what metrics nonprofits should be focusing in on to help make decisions around online engagement.

Three important questions that can help guide your organization in what data should be valuable to track:

  • Does it inform our decisions?
  • Does it check our progress?
  • Does it show if we matter?

Reach, for example, is a common metric on social media, specifically on Facebook, but one that’s less important to track and could be almost considered a vanity metric. Can you trust that 800 individuals saw your post? Did each of those users actually view your content, or were they concentrating on something else, perhaps using Facebook Messenger or scrolling down their newsfeed without digesting half of the posts they passed? Usually, if your reach is increasing, it’s mainly because engagement with that post is growing. Therefore engagement is a more significant metric that can help you better understand why you expanded your reach.

There are a plethora of ways to track social media metrics, from Twitter and Facebook Insights, to third-party platforms like Hootsuite and Buffer that can gather all your social data together, to web analytics that can help you parse from which social channels your online users are coming. One useful approach to keeping all the traffic metrics you want to track in one place is to create a Google Analytics dashboard for social media.

The social management tools your organization chooses should let you do each of the following:

  • Post content to multiple social media channels and networks
  • See your scheduled social media at a glance
  • Create links that you can track
  • Find successful content (based on engagement or clicks)
  • See interactions and respond
  • Search for keywords, hashtags and conversations
  • Find your community
  • Coordinate responses from your team
  • Measure impact

Social Campaigns

When planning to launch a social media campaign, an organization should keep a few things in mind. Are you incorporating storytelling elements in your online campaign? Are you connecting emotionally to your audience? Is the campaign connected to a larger cause? All of these questions are very important in establishing a successful campaign.

A cohesive design is also extremely important, ensuring that the online campaign is simple for users to participate in, to share with their networks, and easy to follow is essential. If your audience isn’t aware of the specific ask, your campaign will not succeed.

Here are some reasons online campaigns can and will often fail. Look over this list carefully to ensure your organization is not starting out on the wrong foot:

  • Unrealistic goals
  • Not enough time to develop campaign
  • Not where your people are
  • Not having the right measurement system in place, or not able to measure success
  • Undeveloped social spaces at the start
  • Did not involve engaged social media fans ahead of the campaign

Why and When to Use Advertising

On platforms like Facebook and Twitter, spending a little advertising money here and there on sponsored posts can go a long way. Just spending ten or twenty dollars on a few Facebook ads can be valuable in gaining data and insights on how to further engage with your online community.

Here are a few tools offered in Facebook Advertising worth playing around with:

  • Lookalike Audiences: Creating a lookalike audience is a great way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your mission and the content you’re offering. Once you select a source audience in Facebook based on a group you have targeted in the past, Facebook will then identify a new group of users that share common interests and behaviors of the source audience provided. You can select the size of your lookalike audience, and it’s suggested you start out small so the target group will reflect your source audience more accurately.
  • Retargeting: No one will engage with your content better than someone who already knows and is connected with your nonprofit. By using Facebook pixels on your website, you can retarget Facebook users that have already interacted with your site to try to hit them up for additional actions, from joining mailing lists to asking for donations. Once you start retargeting through ads, you can even go one step further by including a conversion pixel on certain pages that will allow you to track when a goal is reached based on someone taking action from your ad.

During 17NTC’s Advances Social Media Practices session, Debra shared seven golden rules in social advertising:

  • Know what you want to learn.
  • Identify your audience.
  • Create multiple versions of the same ad.
  • Don’t make the ask too much.
  • Create a custom landing page for ads.
  • Keep the time period brief (test, learn, rerun the ad).
  • Offer value.

So before you decide to jump on the next up-and-coming social network or start a brand new social campaign, make sure you know what your organization should measure and what your SMART goals are. A recent survey in the UK revealed that 35 percent of nonprofits use digital technologies, but don’t have any strategic approach. Are you aware of your strategic approach when it comes to social media?

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Torrey Smith - How Will Rising Leaders Impact Your Organization?

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Updated: Thursday, December 29, 2016
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