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11 New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofit Social Media Managers

January 3, 2012

There’s no shortage of year-end-and-beginning blog posts about social media, but I thought I’d throw mine into the mix as well. I took some much-needed time off in December and was able to spend some down time reflecting on the future of social media and mobile technology for the nonprofit sector. The truth is I think it has only just begun and that we’re on the cusp of a radical transformation in how we use the Internet in our personal and work lives as well as how we use it to foster social good. But first steps first… 11 New Year’s resolutions for nonprofit social media managers:

1) Create a “Thank You” video(s) for your 2012 fundraising campaigns.

Many of your supporters are becoming overwhelmed with tweets, status updates, emails, texts, and print and broadcast media and because of that it’s getting more difficult for your “Thank You” message to stand out from all the noise. Most nonprofit Thank You’s are still long, text-intensive messages which more often than not these days feel cumbersome and overwhelming to supporters. In contrast, a short Thank You video can often feel like a mental vacation to your supporters when all they need to do is listen and watch, and if done well, they’ll become more inspired and committed to your nonprofit. Your supporters also want to see what your staff and working space look like – the human beings behind the avatar, if you will. The video(s) does not need to be highly-produced or expensive, but it should be positive, on the short side, and integrated into all your nonprofit’s communications:

VIDEO: Thank You from Operation Smile

2. Learn basic HTML.

One of the simplest ways to significantly increase your nonprofit’s return on investment (ROI) from using social media is to learn basic HTML. To add social networking icons, a Donate Now button, or an e-newsletter subscribe link to your blog, default landing page on Facebook, or to Flickr Sets and Collections <b>you need to know <a href=””>basic HTML</a>.</b> You can either teach yourself through tutorials on YouTube, take a class, or attend my Advanced Facebook Webinar.

VIDEO: HTML All Writers Need to Know

3. Diversify your news sources.

The best social media managers have a voracious appetite for news and current affairs. However, as I learned from spending two weeks in Asia this past December, the news sources you watch and consume can dramatically effect your consciousness and ultimately your social media voice. In 2011 I had gotten in the very bad habit of listening to (mostly) CNN in the background while working… all day long. By early December I was anxious, angry, and hopeless. Those are definitely not the qualities of a good social media manager. However, while in Asia I got to watch CNN Asia and the BBC and read the local press. America didn’t seem like such a mess in the foreign media. In fact, quite the opposite. It made me realize I was being completely manipulated by American media. The coverage of our politics and economy (especially on cable news) is just downright destructive.

Since I have returned from Asia I have cut my consumption of broadcast news by 95%. Now I primarily only watch the PBS News Hour and listen to NPR and the BBC on the Internet more often, but not all day. I make sure that music on Pandora is on the agenda for at least half the day. Silence is also good. I’m also reading the Guardian more often and occasionally check Asian, African, European, Canadian and Australian newspapers for a more well-rounded perception of the world and the United States. It’s made me a much more hopeful, optimistic, happy, and ironically better-informed individual which ultimately results in more patience and kindness in my social media work.

Being able to laugh at the news is also important to fight the negativity being thrown at us 24/7. Enter The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

VIDEO: 2011: A Look Back
The Daily Show remembers the important stories of 2011 so you don’t have to. 

4. View your nonprofit’s website on a tablet and smartphone browser ASAP!

If you have not yet viewed your nonprofit’s website on a tablet or smartphone browser, it’s going to be a real eye-opener. Experts predict that the Mobile Web will surpass desktop by 2014, but based on how many tablets and smartphones were sold this past holiday season worldwide, my guess is those estimates will be reevaluated to conclude that mobile will surpass desktop sometime late next year. Sadly, the vast majority of nonprofits are dreadfully behind on understanding the importance of creating mobile content and incorrectly conclude that it is expensive to launch mobile campaigns. The most popular desktop content management systems are quickly catching up to now offer easy, inexpensive mobile content options, but the time to learn about the importance of this trend for mobile communications and fundraising is now, or to be more exact March 6, 2012.

WWF Mobile WWF Desktop

5. Subscribe to receive text alerts from the early adopters in the nonprofit sector.

I have always been an advocate of following, liking, and subscribing to the large organizations who are known for being early adopters. They usually have the staff, passion, resources, and training necessary to make a new tool succeed if it has any possibility of succeeding. You can learn by watching what they do and ultimately mimic them in your own communications and fundraising campaigns to tap into that success. For 2012, watch how the early adopters use text messaging to drive traffic to their mobile content and inspire donors to give through mobile channels. Here are 10 nonprofits currently using text alerts with links to their subscription pages. In the next few weeks I’ll be updating the list to include new nonprofits and their Keyword and Short Code pitches. To be alerted of when the list updated, please subscribe to the Nonprofit Tech 2.0 e-Newsletter. Oh, and if you are in the United States and would like to receive text alerts from Nonprofit Tech 2.0, please text NONPROFITORGS to 27138:

6. Send handwritten notes to donors and supporters.

I know this seems completely contradictory to current communication trends, but that’s exactly the time you want to do something different to get noticed. Buy some nice stationary (preferably on recycled paper) and send handwritten thank you notes to donors, volunteers, and even your most committed online activists. Don’t include a fundraising ask, simply a good old-fashioned thank you. It will make a strong impression. Guaranteed. That said, I often joke to friends that when I retire from online activism/communications I am going to open a print book and stationary store that serves martinis, plays Pandora, and offers free handwriting classes. 🙂

VIDEO: How to Write in Cursive

7. Pay attention to Internet TV trend and consider launching your own TV station.

Apple TV, Google TV,  Sony TV… no doubt about it. TV is about to change dramatically. Those nonprofits that tweet regularly definitely have an advantage when it comes to Internet TV in terms of live tweeting, but soon the Internet will be easily accessible on TVs in living rooms throughout the world which presents a very unique opportunity to nonprofits… you can launch your own TV station to cover events or to launch awareness campaigns. That said, way back in September 2010 I wrote a blog post on how to launch a TV station for your nonprofit using UStream (alternatively LiveStream has gained considerable market share). Since then very few nonprofits have launched their own stations, so the post may have been a bit before its time. However, 2012 is a different story all together:

TV: Stand Up To Cancer

8. Wrap your head around the Cloud.

Bloggers and #NPTech folks sometimes use language that is a little too technical for nonprofit staff who have no formal training in computer technology. That’s why so many nonprofit staff still do not understand what someone means when they refer to the Cloud. I didn’t even really grasp it and it’s potential until mid-2011. Essentially the Cloud is a server/service where you can store your hard drive/database/documents/apps/software making it accessible any where at any time thus giving it mobility. The Cloud has huge and very exciting implications for the future of the Internet and nonprofit communications and fundraising. is a pioneer in helping nonprofits understand the Cloud and they have a free on-demand webinar to help you wrap your head around the basics of cloud computing:

WEBINAR: Cloud Computing: Why Should You Care

9. Closely monitor the possibility of mobile wallets being used for fundraising.

In terms of mobile fundraising, my bet is on mobile wallets hosted on the Cloud. So far I do not know of a mobile wallet service or Donate Now vendor that is partnering with nonprofits, but it’s just a matter of time. Watch this technology closely! That said, consider three ways mobile wallets could transform fundraising.

10. Make new friends (Google+) and keep the old (Myspace).

One of the most important lessons I have learned over the last seven years of building social networking communities is that social networking communities are migrant communities. They move with you from one site to the next and maybe in the case of Myspace, back again. Google+ is growing rapidly and traffic is increasing. Create a Google+ Page for your nonprofit and start informing your communities on Facebook and Twitter that your nonprofit is now also on Google+. The early adopters will join you there and as an early adopter yourself, you are best positioned to reap the rewards of being a part of the Next Big Thing. And even if Google+ doesn’t turn out to be the Next Big Thing, referral traffic in the early adoption phase is high enough to make experimenting worth your time. That said, one thing we don’t know yet about social networking communities is if they will also migrate back to a social networking site after it has died. That’s something we will learn by watching Justin Timberlake re-launch Myspace in 2012. We might just discover that sometimes social networking communities simply go dormant and can brought back to life. I got my start on Myspace, so personally I would love to see the community revitalized.

11. Donate at least $10 monthly to your favorite nonprofits.

To be a good fundraiser you have to be a good giver. Donate at least $10 a month to a favorite nonprofit… a different nonprofit each time and study the donation process of that nonprofit. Does their Thank You email and/or Donate Now landing page include links to their social networking communities? Can you opt-out of print materials? Are they asking for mobile numbers for text alerts? Do they have a Thank You video? Do their follow-up e-newsletters simply ask for more money, or do they have nice balance of informational and fundraising content? Finally, ask yourself as a donor if you are further inspired to get involved or give more. If yes, then you know what to do in your own fundraising campaigns. If not, then you know not to make the same mistakes.

Related Links:
10 Most Popular Posts on Nonprofit Tech 2.0 in 2011
Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits
Winter Webinar Special for Nonprofits: Buy 3, Get 1 Free… Buy 4, Get 2 Free… Or Buy 5, Get 3 Free!

31 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012 5:10 am

    This is an excellent, well thought out list from a very broad perspective. I can’t imagine that most nonprofits – or businesses for that matter – could not benefit from these suggestions.

  2. January 4, 2012 6:06 am

    Learning basic HTML is most certainly one of my resolutions for this year. From email marketing to using wordpress templates, it’s absolutely necessary to be able to make sense of simple HTML. Also, viewing websites on a mobile device is a must, particularly if you’re the content-curator and -producer. You need to see when and how your audience is accessing your content. All of these tips are great for both NGOs and businesses alike. Thanks for sharing!

  3. January 4, 2012 6:51 am

    Thank you for sharing! Will definitely look into implementing some of these at 🙂

  4. January 4, 2012 12:34 pm

    Basic HTML is high on my list as well. Well done!

  5. January 4, 2012 5:27 pm

    I attended a seminar in Manila – part of Heather’s Asian Tour. All we see in this post featured during that event. It’s all good stuff, and Virlanie Foundation started implementing her recommendations the day after the seminar.
    Heather – You should know that in 2012 and beyond there are street children in Manila who will benefit from your insights!
    Thank You!
    julian 🙂

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      January 5, 2012 6:36 am

      Thanks Julian! Great to meet you and glad to be of service. Keep up the good work!

  6. Nicole Parisi-Smith permalink
    January 4, 2012 10:09 pm

    Hi Heather!

    Thanks so much for this list. If you open the print book & stationary store then let me know – sounds like a great business:)

    I’d add Kenya’s Daily Nation to your list of news outlets. and @dailynation

    Happy 2012!

  7. Danielle Sanders permalink
    January 5, 2012 9:00 am

    This is a great list – I especially love the handwritten thank you notes and donating $10 a month to your fav nonprofits. Those are both great motivators to get more supporters!


  8. January 5, 2012 9:09 am

    Excellent list…especially love the hand-written notes idea.
    Goals this year are going mobile & switching to word press.

  9. January 5, 2012 9:10 am

    Inspiring list. Thank you.

  10. January 5, 2012 9:13 am

    Good stuff! Catching up with mobile applications is a must, but who has the time?

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      January 5, 2012 10:05 am

      Once you get it set up, it’s mostly on auto-pilot. 🙂

  11. January 5, 2012 10:42 am

    I am going to share this with my Development and Communications teams. I would love to see these suggestions implemented this year.

    Thanks for the comprehensive post!

    M. Becerra
    GRID Alternatives

  12. January 5, 2012 12:20 pm

    Great comments! I think short video clips on youtube will become a very popular marketing tool for organizations in 2012 wanting to reach their audience.

  13. Rishi Vashistha permalink
    January 6, 2012 1:02 am

    Lovely article! Sensible stuff.

  14. January 10, 2012 6:17 am

    An excellent and well thought out article. I have been advocating for some time that nonprofits should be leveraging technology, rather than be the last adopters.

  15. January 15, 2012 9:15 am

    Great suggestions, Heather, which are valuable for more than just non-profit organizations. I’ve shared the post with the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community via LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as with some of the non-profit organizations with which I’m affiliated.

    Here’s to a happy and successful high-tech/high-touch 2012!

  16. February 25, 2012 1:17 am

    Become a member of the Millionaire Society and have access to private video mentoring and step-by-step systems that will allow you to build a successful online business from home.

  17. November 15, 2012 4:06 am

    Nice info. Google and youtube also has a great program for non-profits marketing. Feel free to “google” it.

  18. November 22, 2012 5:55 am

    Reblogged this on reymanjosh.

  19. January 11, 2013 11:20 pm

    Learning basic HTML, great idea, although having wordpress makes the basic stuff almost unnecessary.


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