by Karl Quirino
IMPORTANT POINTS TO CONSIDER
As I’ve mentioned in Part 3 of this series, today’s web-based technologies can enable nonprofit organisations to get much closer to audiences than TV, radio or print – particularly to those who may be able to contribute directly to your organisation’s needs, well-being and sustainability.
The audiences you seek and attract will likely tell you exactly what they’re thinking because the principles of effective communications are built into the DNA of Web 2.0 as a real, two-way conversation channel.
But there are also other important points to consider before your organisation decides to act, prepare and get itself engaged in this new sphere.
1. Budget Basics. Know Thyself. Everyone Has Limits. Do your needs assessment first, be mindful of the costs, start moderately, and do things in phases or stages. Being crystal clear about what you want for the longer term determines what you should reasonably spend at the first stage build-up phase. Employing this approach enables you to launch and execute your plans for growing your network in a rationale way that is sustainable over time.
2. Get Your Staffing Mix In Order. Weigh in different staffing solutions in your plan to get you going. Your newly-minted website as communication service doesn’t operate anymore as simply as the old static one you’ve had. It’s not going to be a paste-your-lost-and-found-poster-on-the-community-board affair. This may involve a skilled employee, a volunteer or a communications consultant or a mix thereof. Your new Web 2.0 presence will require people with some skills and experience to nurture it.
3. It Is More Important Than You Can Imagine. Make sure that what your new website contains is effective in terms of its clarity, content and functionality. Can people easily sign up as members of its online forum? Are the action prompts clear and direct? If it has some interactivity built in, who’s on the other end of the stick? Have you linked your website to other public or issue sites related to your cause or campaign and like-minded online forums and social networking websites?
4. Manage Your Data Sets And Cultivate Your Friends and Friends Of Friends. You need to pay attention to your ‘treasure trove’ largely because it will contain valuable information stored on user-generated content pages, membership profile lists, email addresses and any other segmentation deemed appropriate, whether it’s based on giving levels, issue areas, forum recommendations or other matters of importance to your organisation.
Any technology system incorporated as a functionality should be able to address some of your nonprofit organisation’s needs. Therefore, cultivate friends and those who forward your message to the most friends. In the Web 2.0 world the friend of your friend can also become an important ally and a valuable resource.
5. Go For Quality. Resist The Tyranny Of Numbers. You might think that it would be great to have five thousand members registered in your database. But to what end? Seek quality over quantity, and incorporate systems that can scale effectively depending on need.
It’s OK to think small at first if that means some measure of success for you. If you are a local community-based organisation that succeeds by sharing messages to only 500 of your most loyal supporters that could translate to significant action that will get noticed on the Web. Why? Because those 500 supporters have 4 or 5 other friends who trust their judgement and are likely to be invited to also support your organisation’s cause in one way or another. This is what I call – the Power of the Nth.
6. Keep Your Doors Open To Many Options. Your organisation can choose to adapt an approach that channels people towards one act, such as signing on to an action alert listserve, or instead diversify the action options by making it easy for anyone to choose what level of involvement they may want to commit themselves to. The clearer you are with what options are available, the greater response rate you will see across the board. Leaving your door open to many options helps you better understand your stakeholders.
7. Mind How You Say Things. It’s What Builds Credibility And Reputation. It matters how you say what you want to say and if you don’t know how to say it invest the services of a professional writer if you need to. Make sure your website’s style and voice is consistent with your organisation’s brand identity. More importantly, make sure that what is said is clear, personal, and direct. In this medium, your message is the foundation for establishing relationships and credibility.
8. Timing Is Crucial. Get It Right And Your Off On A Good Start. After your organisation has built up a decent enough following, launch an online campaign or two. Be opportunistic but think about when to deliver what messages to whom, and what events or moments present the best opportunities to do so. It’s important to also pay attention to what’s in the news. What your organisation is working on can be tied to current events.
9. Letting The Left Hand Know What The Right Hand Is Doing. One of the biggest blocks to effective online advocacy building is the “divide” that exist in offices where staff possesses widely divergent knowledge. If communications strategy doesn’t tie in with advocacy strategy nothing you launch will make sense to your public. You will appear to be dysfunctional.
Nonprofit organisations must become more integrated particularly in how they communicate, fundraise, and mobilise friends, supporters, constituents and communities. Requests for proposals, grant applications and fundraising appeals are more powerful and successful when they ride the coat tails of successful advocacy campaigns in-step with a well-crafted communications strategy.
10. Mind Your Website’s Performance And Metrics. Pay attention to the metrics generated when users visit your website. Tracking and metrics are powerful tools to ensure that you adapt and refine your practices. Using tools like these can really change the way your organisation operates at every level.
Click here to read Part 5 – Models Of Tech Savvy Nonprofits Using Social Media
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