Beth Ann Locke is my new hero for speaking out about what too many women have to face at work…or face the consequences. It’s up to men to stop measuring our worth by how sexually available women are to us. That’s difficult–it reverses a centuries-old message–but we have to do it. And we’ll be better off for it.
I hesitate to even mention the word innovation. It is so quickly applied—to a mission statement, a description of a program, an approach to program delivery, to social entrepreneurship—when used often enough, it becomes meaningless.
Innovation is about doing an old thing in a new way. It is about creating a new way to do something new, or a new way to do something better.
The problem is we’re uncomfortable with new. We’re uncomfortable with new processes, new approaches. We’re uncomfortable with measuring the results we achieve, for fear they do not measure up to the board’s (and our supporter’s) expectations.
A high-performing nonprofit needs to be innovative, and dare be disruptive, in the manner in which it chooses to communicate. It must seek ways to disrupt the expectations of supporters, surprise its funders, and illuminate the outcomes of its work to new audiences. Here’s how that might look:
- Be focused on your outcomes. With clarity of focus comes a clear path to the impact you need to be communicating about.
- Put communications first. Create a communication plan achievable within your resources. Stick to it and execute on it.
Think beyond branding
- Recognize your cause is not a brand, and your nonprofit is the voice for the cause. Think about your purpose, character and culture— the beliefs, values and actions that create your organization’s identity.
- Begin with the premise that all communications are donor communications. Nonprofits are challenged to find the resources to project a professional image and communicate with a clear voice. More impact in fundraising, organizational sustainability, and cause awareness will be achieved when there is a commitment to investing in communications.
Put communications first
- Use design to close the (communication) gap between your work and the stories of your work. The role of design is to be disruptive, to interrupt, and gain the attention of the audience.
- Just because everybody else is doing it, doesn’t mean the approach is right for your organization.
Creating a culture of communication and innovation where one does not exist, or is just beginning to form, will take time. Begin with what you can do today—and one day, one person at a time—you’ll be quietly disruptive, and nurture your own culture of innovation.
Brian Sooy is a business owner, design professional, author, and speaker. He is the founder of Aespire, (pronounced “aspire”), a design consultancy that empowers mission-driven organizations to create purpose-driven culture, design with purpose, and communicate with clarity. Brian has over 30 years of experience in design and marketing with private and social sector organizations. He is the author of Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto, a book that explores a framework for understanding how your purpose, character, culture, and unique voice empower you to communicate to the outcomes you are working to achieve.
I’ve told you before: the first thing your organization does online should not be social media. And I’ve told you that the best answer to “Which social media should we use?” is “It depends”: where are the people you’re trying to reach?
But you have already done the work. You’ve made your website attractive and useful, cleaned up your database, and started sending regular email to the people on your list. You’ve found your supporters online. You’ve created a strategy and started small, with one platform. Now what?
You’re sure there’s a secret to social media for a small organization with limited time and money. You twist my arm and ask, “What’s the magic formula?”
Listen closely: Facebook plus one.
Why You Need to Be on Facebook
For now, Facebook is still an essential part of your social media. Yes, I know: it’s frustrating that people can “like” you on Facebook and still not see your posts in their news feed.
But there is nowhere online that you will find more people, and a broader range of people.
- Grandparents are joining Facebook every day to see photos of their grandchildren.
- Adults keep up with their friends on Facebook, even after they’ve moved to a different city or country.
- Teenagers are still joining Facebook.
It may not be cool, but it’s a “have to have.” My best guess is that it will continue to be the common denominator of social media for years.
Why You Need Something Else
Even if a lot of supporters are there, you should make sure not to put all your eggs in the Facebook basket. It’s not free media any more. You need a budget to pay for ads AND an expert to help you advertise effectively. And it’s only going to get more expensive.
Plus, there may come a tipping point. When enough people drift away from Facebook, a lot of people may decide to do so all at once. You should be collecting their email addresses, so you don’t lose them altogether–but many people prefer to hear about you through social media. When they go looking for an alternative to Facebook, you want them to find you there.
Which “Something Else” is for You?
Think of three lines on a graph. One: the social media platforms your audience uses. Two: the one you find most comfortable. Three: the platform that lets you use what you have–whether that’s writing, photography, or video. Ideally, when you use Facebook plus one, that one is where those lines come together.
Twitter is growing fast. It forces you to be brief, but that’s good: you will catch people’s attention better that way. It’s ideal for sharing links to useful information, including your blog posts, and it’s recently become better for sharing pictures.
YouTube is the world’s biggest search engine, after Google. If you have great video and would like to be found, YouTube is the place to go.
Google+ has also been growing. Unlike Facebook, everything you post shows up for everyone who likes you there (or “adds you to their circles,” in Google+ lingo). Two big cautions, however: a lot of people are still not on Google+, and there are rumors that Google plans to make big changes to it soon.
Pinterest is clearly the best way to reach a female audience with photos. Instagram reaches a more mixed audience, and people say it’s easier to use, especially from your mobile phone.
LinkedIn is the only social media platform that reaches more men than women. LinkedIn Groups are a great vehicle for establishing your expertise in the field.
There are many other options, and feel free to choose the one that suits you best. You may also want to create accounts on social media you’re not planning to use for a while, just to reserve the name you want (and not let some other group create confusion by claiming it).
You’re best off concentrating on Facebook and just one other form of social media, if you really want to work your magic.