Online Ambassadors and the “Death of Organic Reach” on Facebook

Facebook_LogoFacebook’s ever changing algorithm now means that, unless you have a paid ad strategy driving content, the vast majority of your followers will never see the posts you share from your organization’s Facebook page(s).

The “Death of Organic Reach,” as some call it, is detailed in this post from SocialToaster’s Brian Razzaque. In the post, Razzaque highlights just how low your Facebook reach can go, while also offering some tips on how to combat the decline in eyeballs on your posts.

So is Facebook worth the effort if you’re not laying down enormous ad buys every month? Yes, but it depends on your strategy.

First, there are the basics of good content marketing – be valuable to your audience, not overly promotional, and connect with current events and other issues the Internet is talking about at the point in time when you’re publishing. That approach still helps, but truth be told, good content isn’t enough for Facebook anymore. Just take a look at your page’s posts over the past two years. On average, Bentz Whaley Flessner’s page sees roughly 10 percent the organic reach of content shared just one year ago.

But there is one other option if you still want to avoid Facebook Ads — and it will help drive reach and engagement on all your digital and social media channels, not just on Facebook alone. When people like, comment on, and/or share your posts, Facebook rewards those posts with a higher ranking value on your followers’ Newsfeeds. In other words, more of your fans will see the content you post when you post it if some of your fans are sharing that content. Which means, online ambassadors are the option B for anyone who wants to avoid Ad spends.

If you want to beat Facebook’s tightening Newsfeed algorithms without big ad spends, find ambassadors and work with them to share your content. That requires more than simply asking your online ambassadors to like and share content. For the best results, find out what your ambassadors want from you and what they like to share. Always be analyzing this data to inform your content marketing strategy. If you ask ambassadors to share content that matters to them, they will share enthusiastically and your organization will enjoy much greater reach on Facebook. (Plus, you’ll have more effective content for email and other social networks like Twitter and Instagram)

As effective as ambassadors can be at driving content, laying ads on top of the content ambassadors share does significantly increase reach and engagement. BWF_social client Santa Clara University began social media marketing with ambassadors in late 2012. They quickly discovered ambassador-led Facebook posts typically brought in about three times the engagement as those posts in which ambassadors were not leveraged. However, when Facebook Ads + ambassadors were deployed to share content, the reach was often as much as 40 times higher than average and engagement was 10 times higher than average. Staggering numbers that might be even more severe in 2015 as they were in 2014 when those numbers were recorded.

So yes, Facebook is still valuable. There are simply too many active users on the network to ignore Facebook if you’re truly interested in a multi-channel communication strategy (and you should be). To make your investment in Facebook and Facebook Ads worthwhile, be sure you have a healthy group of online ambassadors ready to help your content reach the masses like it did in 2012.

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at BWF_social where he helps nonprofit clients produce online and social media communication and fundraising strategies.

4 Things You Need to Know About Online Giving Platforms

We’ve seen it happen — a great deal of communication planning, online ambassador work, and major donor involvement takes place, but the organization’s online giving day is a struggle due to not having an solid platform in place to host the giving day and manage gift transactions.

We can’t say it enough — without solid tech, you’re sunk. It doesn’t matter how well you do all the other things (of course, the other things matter, too). Simply put, if donors can’t access or navigate the online giving process, they won’t give.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of competent online giving options and platforms to fit just about any budget. But before you latch on to a vendor, there are a few things to consider. So here is what you should be contemplating as you select a vendor or platform to host an online giving event:

Real time updating of donor and dollar activity

Challenges drive online giving days. The ability to structure a challenge around a certain number of gifts, donors, or dollars given creates excitement and gamifies a campaign. The “we just need 27 more gifts this hour and we’ll receive an additional $25,000!” messaging line is a tried and true trick that is familiar to any of us who listen to public radio. And it works wonders for online giving days, as well. Of course, if your online giving site doesn’t provide for real-time updating – in other words, doesn’t accurately reflect the number of donors and dollars given up to the minute – the donor activity tracking that is required for this type of challenge isn’t possible. If your giving day microsite or homepage doesn’t accurately reflect the acitivity around challenges in a dynamic, real-time way, how are your donors supposed to follow the “game?” And if they can’t follow it, they won’t be enticed to give.

In addition to a dynamic challenge environment, real time updating also allows for real-time stewardship. The record breaking Columbia University giving day team monitored real time giving activity for two things – big gifts and big donors making big gifts. This allowed Columbia to connect the donors with gift officers who could provide real-time thank yous to these most important donors.

Finally, real-time updating allows you to know when there’s a lull in giving activity, so you can insert a new Facebook post, email, or challenge to reignite the giving activity.

User-friendly, image-driven design

You’ve probably read some of the absurd statistics that show how important images are in catching someone’s attention. Some studies suggest the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. If that’s even remotely accurate, you should consider an online giving page that is almost entirely image-driven with the bare minimum in text. And don’t forget, according to a recent Google study, 57 percent of those who watch a video from a nonprofit will eventually make a gift to that nonprofit. Images and videos should always take priority over text on your giving pages and microsites.

The University of Sydney's "Pave the Way" campaign was successful in part due to its image and video-drive landing page.

The University of Sydney’s “Pave the Way” campaign was successful in part due to it’s image and video-drive landing page.

An easy path to your donor database

This is probably the toughest obstacle for many organizations. Truth be told, you’re almost always going to have to burden your gift processing team with a little extra work after a successful online giving event. Most of the leading platforms don’t come with their own databases or with turnkey data uploading processes for leading databases (Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge, for example). So, you need to be sure whichever platform you choose is able to cooperate with your database in the best way possible and has staff who are willing to work with your gift processing team to make their lives a little easier.

Verify your gateway

Gateways and vendors don’t always get along. Before signing any contracts, verify – in writing – that the vendor can work with your organization’s chosen payment gateway. Don’t just take the sales rep’s word that their platform plays well with your gateway. Verify it. In writing. (As you can probably tell, we’ve had some fairly negative experience with this…)

Again, there’s a lot that goes into a successful giving day. Before you land on a theme for the day, hash out a communication plan, or start talking with major gift donors about the effort, get your technological house in order to ensure your giving day is built on a solid foundation.

Have other questions about your upcoming giving day? BWF_social has planned more than a dozen six- and seven-figure online giving events. To learn more about our services, contact BWF_social’s Justin Ware.

HOW TO Produce More (Cheap) Video for Your Nonprofit

This could finally be the year.

Thanks to a seemingly endless stream of posts touting the life or death cruciality of video content, 2015 might finally be the year we video producers have been waiting for – the point in time when organizations and companies make investing in video content their top communications priority. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

There’s this recent Ad Age piece that says users are posting 75 percent more videos to Facebook than they were one year ago.

More importantly for those of us who make our livings working in communications is this Guardian piece that, among other things, highlights an Axonn Research study that tells us seven in 10 people view brands in a more positive light after watching a video produced by those brands.

And finally this post by Recode that lays out the magnitude of the whole thing – Facebook users watch about 3 BILLION videos on Facebook everyday.

Among other amazing video stats, a recent Google study tells us 57 percent of those who view a nonprofit's video will go on to make a gift to that nonprofit.

Among other amazing video stats, a recent Google study tells us 57 percent of those who view a nonprofit’s video will go on to make a gift to that nonprofit.

Simply put, an investment in producing your own video might be the most important decision you make this year. And the good news is, with amazingly high quality video cameras built into everyday items like the phones in our pockets, that investment doesn’t have to break the bank.

The following are a few tips to help your organization create more quality, engaging video content without pushing your organization’s budget into the red…

Hire a social media manager with video experience

Social media managers should do more than sit in front of a social network dashboard all day. They should be involved in strategic planning, help train staff and volunteers on using social media to advocate for your cause, and they should be content producers. And because video is quickly emerging as the top form of content, they should be video content producers.

Work with internal and external (volunteer) content producers

In higher ed, this is a no brainer. There are students on your campus who know how to do video and will do it at a small cost or no cost at all if they can add it to their nascent resumes. Find them and work with them.

For other organizations, the volunteers might be difficult to find, but they are out there. Do you know any board members who love talking about their beautifully produced videos of a weekend at the family lake cabin? How about a video blogger who often links to your organization’s website? …or a local video production company employee who also happens to be a repeat donor? There are video producers out there in your supporter base. Find them and work with them.

Select willing staff and provide them with video training

Again, thanks to inventions like the iPhone, most of us are carrying high quality cameras with us everywhere we go. So put those cameras to use! There’s a good chance a small handful of your staff would welcome the opportunity to receive (free) video production training. Thankfully (SHAMELESS PLUG AHEAD) organizations like BWF_social provide our clients with video training workshops and services. Regardless of the approach you take, find your willing staff and provide them with the training they need to become video evangelists for your cause.

Justin Ware is a Emmy-winning and Webby-nominated video producer who helps BWF_social‘s clients produce transformational online and social media (and video) strategies.

The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Impact on ALS Association’s Year-end Giving

Millions of user-generated videos generated a buzz storm of awareness for the ALS Association in 2014 during the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Millions of videos generated a buzz storm of awareness for the ALS Association in 2014 during the Ice Bucket Challenge.

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” led to a $115 million infusion of fundraising support for the ALS Association in late summer 2014. And those robust fundraising numbers are only part of the story.

According to the a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article, end-of-year fundraising for the ALS Association is up three fold over the numbers from the year prior. In December 2013, the ALS Association processed 9,618 gifts for $1.6 million. In December 2014, those numbers jumped to approximately 44,000 gifts for $4.8 million.

Volunteer and event fundraising was also up in a big way. According to the same article, revenue from the charity’s fundraising walks brought in $32 million in 2014, up from $22 million in 2013.

According to the ALS Association, the reason for the big numbers beyond those raised during the Ice Bucket Challenge, is the buzz and awareness generated for the Association by the Challenge. Also from the Chronicle of Philanthropy article, here is what Lance Slaughter, chief chapter relations and development officer at the ALS Association had to say about communications success driven by the Ice Bucket Challenge…

“No ad campaign, no public relations push, no news coverage, no celebrity endorsement – nothing could have raised the specter of the ALS Association more dramatically than the Ice Bucket Challenge. And the result is much wider, energized, and healthy base of donor support.”

And that is why nearly every nonprofit organization needs a strong digital strategy coupled with well-promoted digital events. Sure, online fundraising events raise a lot of gifts from new donors (that should be reason enough to invest in digital strategy).  But more importantly, online is often the most powerful communication tool a nonprofit has at its disposal. Which is why now is time to invest in this channel appropriately – not just for your annual fund, but for the long-term survival of your organization. Here’s how:

Draft and implement a digital strategy

Email, social media posts, content on your website, location based activity during live events – all of this activity should be purposeful. When a strategy is produced and implemented, when everyone knows why you’re doing social media, it leads to significant boosts in several measurable categories. Dollars raised and donor acquisition are just the tip of the iceberg when a strong and coherent digital strategy is guiding the effort.

Develop an online ambassador program

It’s not just about leveraging your biggest online supporters as volunteer fundraisers – online ambassador programs are at their best when helping to communicate your organization’s message throughout the year. Stories of impact, thank you messages, information about new programs and initiatives – just like a fundraising ask, all of this content reaches a larger audience and is more effective when it is being distributed virally by online ambassadors. Remember, the Ice Bucket Challenge happened because of an unofficial online ambassador’s concept for supporting ALS research.

Invest in the best technology you can afford

Your website is your organization’s most visible (digital) facade … Your online giving form’s ease of use (or lack there of) is often the first impression your organization makes on new donors … Your digital content captures the interest of the world and tells your story to new audiences … Good online infrastructure and technology is not cheap, but can pay for itself quickly. Investment in this area is often something a major gift donor would gladly support (because the companies they own are already having success with digital). Donors expect functional, attractive online properties – don’t disappoint them.

Do the above three things. Do them now and do them well. If you’re not sure where to start, find a partner with experience (there are a growing number of us out there) and make 2015 the year you transformed your organization’s digital presence and positioned it for success in the decades ahead.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social, where he helps clients implement digital strategies that lead to successful online fundraising.

 

 

HOW TO Make Content Go Viral with Great Headlines

The key to attracting viewers to your content is, well, mostly just producing good content. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tricks to help drive eyeballs to your blog posts, videos, and photo galleries. And one of those tricks is all about ingenious headline writing.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out this awesome infographic on how Upworthy has become so successful in such a short amount of time. The infographic lays out the thought process behind what constitutes an engaging, eye-catching, traffic-driving headline.

Upworth Infograhic

Did you like that infograhic? There’s a lot more where that came from… Check out this list of the 10 best infographics of 2014. But fair warning, this top 10 list is an enormously awesome time suck (and worth every second!)

The Author of this post – Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients develop online and social media strategies.

Top 5 Stories of 2014

It’s that time of year! …when bloggers seize the opportunity to be lazy and write a post that is nothing more than a list of the first five items on the analytics report.

Of course, posts make a top five list for a reason – readers just like you see value in the posts and often share those posts with their communities. So, in case you missed some of these items, here are the top five posts you and your colleagues read the most from 2014 on the Social Side of Giving blog:

  1. 10 of the Best Higher Ed Online Giving Days - An overview of 10 of the most successful giving days in higher education with notes and descriptions for many of the events.
  2. ASU Raises more than $3 Million During 2-day Online Campaign – A more detailed look at one of those leading online giving days.
  3. How to Have a $1 Million+ Giving Day at Your School - Are you sensing a theme here? Yes, giving days are a big deal. Not just because of the new dollars and donors earned through the effort, but also because online giving days are very public celebrations of philanthropy for you institution. In fact, an argument could be made that there is no better communication tool for your development program than a giving day.
  4. Colgate Raises $5.1 Million in 24 Hours with Online (Radio) - The Colgate case might be the best example of what can happen when major gift donors are included in a giving day.
  5. 3 Thoughts on the Ice Bucket Challenge and Slacktivism - Hey, a non higher ed story! Which makes sense, because the Ice Bucket Challenge was probably the biggest New Year Calendarstory in all of fundraising during 2014.

The success of 2014 in online fundraising has generated a TON of excitement here at BWF_social. It’s invigorating working in an industry where most of our clients and potential clients have barely scratched the surface on what is possible using digital to engage, cultivate, and steward donors at all levels. If you’ve not yet invested significantly in online development at your organization, great news – it’s a new year and you can still make up for lost time! So make 2015 the year where you transform your operation into a modern shop that enjoys immediate and significant success. And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need a little help along the way.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients develop online and social media strategies that lead to real fundraising success.

Creating Targeted Direct (Digital) Marketing for Major Gift Donors

According to Google, 57 percent of those who watch a video go on to make a gift to the org featured in that video. Imagine if you had one tool that could guarantee half your major gift prospects would make a gift?

Imagine if you had one tool that could guarantee half your major gift prospects would make a gift?

Direct response is key for donors at all levels. That notion was recently reinforced in this blog post that suggests you keep your biggest givers in the mass marketing program unless they specifically ask to be removed.

But that doesn’t mean your major gift donors and prospects should be receiving the same email and print pieces your annual fund donors receive. Major gift donors deserve the resources necessary for highly targeted direct marketing based on how they support your organization and which components of your work matter most to them.

Fortunately, this targeted approach is easier than ever to accomplish, thanks both to better technology and a better understanding of how to deliver personalized stewardship and solicitation experiences to our donors. As you embark on a more targeted content marketing strategy for your biggest donors, here are a few things to consider:

  • First, know your audience. Create content profiles. A content profile is a donor file that is focused on what content the donor shares and interacts with online. It’s a record of the emails they responded to, the Facebook posts they liked, the blog posts they shared — anything that helps you understand what matters to them. As a development operation, you can either track this manually by recording data as you come across it, or work with any number of software programs, such as EverTrue, that capture and organize information from social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. But all the data doesn’t have to come from technology, either. Like most things, the best content profiles are combination of new tech and traditional development work. A content profile can also be informed by the gift officer’s knowledge based on their relationship with the donor. In the end, a content profile is just a richer set of attributes recorded in your donor database.
  • Next, dedicate resources to creating beautiful content. 57 percent of people who watch a video eventually go on to make a gift to the nonprofit featured in that video (click here for more stats and the study). Let’s read that again: MORE THAN HALF OF THE PEOPLE WHO WATCH YOUR NONPROFIT’S VIDEO WILL MAKE A GIFT TO YOUR NONPROFIT. Based on that statistic from the very reputable Google, it might make sense that you drop all other expenses until you’ve adequately resourced a video content program. Especially for your major gift donors and prospects. Just imagine, what if you had one tool that would likely lead to half of them making a gift? Video appears to be that tool. Whether thanking, asking, or showing impact, great content is important at all levels of the fundraising game. But especially for your major gift program where one donor can change everything for your organization.
  • Train your MGOs to use social media! For a major gift officer, not being active on at least LinkedIn and Twitter is no longer excusable. From Bill Gates, to Elon Musk, to your average millionaire down the street, the more money a person has, the more likely it is they are active on social media. And that trend is only gaining steam. If you’re a major gift officer, ignoring social media is like ignoring the telephone …maybe worse.

It seems that just about every new year in the past half decade has ushered in a new trend in online fundraising. Ambassador programs, online giving days, crowdfunding …in 2015, let’s make it the year nonprofits started using digital communication — and specifically direct marketing through great, targeted content — to engage, cultivate, and steward major gift donors and prospects.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner’s BWF_social practice where he helps clients build online and social media strategies for fundraising.