Optimizing Your Nonprofit Website

Take a monkeywrench to your website.(Updated 11/15/11, 10:30 p.m.)

Join the #fundchat community on Wednesday, November 16 from 12 pm – 1 pm EDT for a conversation about “Optimizing Your Nonprofit Website.”

With so much focus on social media, a regular website seems kind of “old school.” But many nonprofits still struggle with having an effective website. Other nonprofits have a solid website, but have taken their eye off the ball to focus on their mission or other communication platforms like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+.

This week’s #fundchat will focus on “WWW,” the three W’s of What, When, and Why and how to apply these questions to your web presence. Here’s your to do list in preparation for this week’s #fundchat:

  • What are your questions? Participants offer most of the questions that are considered during #fundchat, so submit yours now in the comment section below!
  • Spread the word. Let your colleagues and friends on Facebook and Twitter know about #fundchat. Invite them to peer over your shoulder and see what it’s all about. Last week we had nearly 50 people participate in #fundchat.
  • Help with homework prep. Share links and resources about smart nonprofit web design and strategy using the #fundchat hashtag.

Here’s the line-up of questions for the convo:

  • Q1: What role does your org website play in “making your case” and your overall strategy to reach donors?
  • Q2: What aspect of your website makes you wince and why? (C’mon, we’re among friends!)
  • Q3: Have printed or other forms of communications with your constituents and donors been supplanted by your website? Good or bad?
  • Q4: What is your strategy for integrating calls to action on your website?
  • Q5: What advice do you have for dealing with “the dreaded online giving form?”
  • Q6: If your org has a commercial aspect, how do you balance between your philanthropic mission & commercial needs? (i.e. museums, etc.)

If you are new to Twitter chats, it’s easy. You can follow the #fundchat hashtag at the appointed time using your favorite Twitter client. You can also use the #fundchat page on Twebevent, which provides a web-based interface and consolidates the conversation in one view (it also automatically includes the hashtag at the end of your posts). Check out the #fundchat guidelines page fore more tips.

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Measuring the Impact of #fundchat with Hashtracking.com

As I’ve mentioned previously, the most challenging aspect of moderating a Twitter chat is finding a way to capture and share transcripts.

For awhile, I tried using Storify. I used it to create “curated transcripts,” having to go back and pick individual tweets from the conversation and save them into a new “stream.” You can go back and read the transcripts, which covered issues like major giving, policy, direct mail, career networking and more. Storif is a great service, but not for transcripts.

Hastracking LogoI searched high and low, and finally was referred to Hashtracking.com. After a couple of emails asking (okay, begging) for a beta invite and a couple of shout outs on Twitter, I was offered a trial subscription.

Hashtracking not only provides you with a transcript from a specific time  period, but loads of stats that demonstrate the reach and impact of your Twitter chat. Because the report is generated in real-time, you can monitor activity during the chat itself – which is helpful for a moderator to see how things are going compared to previous chats.Stats include: number of tweets, contributors, impressions and reach. In addition, you get a list of those who participated (by Twitter handle) and detailed stats about their reach and impressions, sort of a “leaderboard” of the chat. The analysis also provides you with a timeline to show activity over the time period and the level of engagement as defined by tweets by a core group of “top 10” contributors compared to the rest.

And then, of course, there’s the transcript. The best part about the transcript is that it captures the chat in real-time. So when the hour of #fundchat is over, the transcript is available and ready to go. The one “drawback” is that my first two reports with Hashtracking.com cover a 24 hour period. This is nice in that it captures the pre-chat and post-chat conversation and promotion, but you have to dig a bit if you are just looking for the one hour of the actual Twitter chat. This is a minor point, but it would be great to search within the report by hour and have the stats reflect that particular activity. Another helpful feature would be to compare reports. As a Twitter chat moderator, it would be great to have a dashboard that compared stats from a timeline of chats to see what topics resonated with the most people and more.

I encourage you to check out the transcripts (links bel0w). These are great resources for those who weren’t able to participate in the chat and for those who did to go back and refresh your memory about specific nuggets of wisdom or shared links. Check them out and please feel free to share them with your colleagues.

  • August 10, Volunteer Recruitment & Management | Transcript
  • August 17, Navigating Nonprofit-Corporate Partnerships | Transcript

Are Twitter chat transcripts helpful for you? What do you think of Hashtracking.com’s service? What other tools have you found for measuring impact and recording transcripts? Share your feedback and ideas in the comments below.


5 Tips For Starting A Successful Twitter Chat

By Brendan Kinney, Moderator of #fundchat

HashtagsIf you are not familiar with Twitter chats, it’s when a group of people who share an interest or a passion “get together” on Twitter to connect with one another, share ideas and advice, and on occasion, have a few laughs. They do this by following a particular hashtag so that everyone who is interested can “listen in” and participate in the conversation.

Just over two months ago, I launched #fundchat. I wanted to create a hashtag that would become widely used by nonprofit development, fundraising and marketing professionals. I saw it as an outlet for my interests and a way to connect and learn from others who shared a similar passion.

As the humble moderator of this fledgling group, I have learned a lot (sometimes the hard way!). So I wanted to share my insights about Twitter chats:

Set the Stage
First, I created the basic building blocks, including the Twitter account (@fundchat) and established a blog (http://fundchat.org). Then, I got to work: promoting the Twitter chat and marketing the heck out of the initial conversation, networking with others, joining in on other chats, and more.

For #fundchat, I chose Wednesdays at 9 pm EST as the weekly time for #fundchat primarily because it didn’t look like many other chats were happening at the same time. I scanned a great list of Twitter chats provided by Robert Swanwick. I noted that there were a few other chats around a similar topic, but not exactly what I was after.

“I saw #fundchat as an outlet for my interests and a way to connect and learn from others who shared a similar passion.”

While anyone can participate by following the hashtag in their favorite Twitter client, I’ve used Twebevent with great success. It’s has the functionality of Tweetchat, but includes a header and other details so that it serves as a “homepage” for the chat. Many participants find it easy to use and a great way to follow the conversation.

I set a launch date and waited at the appointed time. I was a ball of nervous energy, worried that the chat would be with myself! To my delight, about 15 people actively participated in the first #fundchat and many more “listened in.” Since then, the word on #fundchat has spread, and week-in and week-out, the community has “hashed” it out over a wide range of topics.

Honor Other’s Time
Some chats are free-flowing, but I chose to develop a weekly topic and 5 to 10 related questions. That way, folks can decide if the topic is interesting enough to participate and if they like, they can spend time thinking about the questions ahead of time.

When someone decides to participate in your chat, they are giving up their time. As moderator, it’s your job to ensure that their time is not wasted: create clear rules, spread the word, connect with key influencers, set the topic and questions, and keep the conversation moving.

I’ve also used polls and surveys (I’ve used Twtpoll.com with success) to get input from the community about topics, the best day and time for the chat, and more. Although unscientific, it’s a way to get buy-in from participants and the results in themselves can be the topic of a blog post!

Watch the Clock
As moderator, time management is one of your key tasks. Yes, it’s important to set the topic and get the questions together each week, but keeping the conversation moving is critical.

As I’ve seen in other chats, I typically provide about 10 minutes per question. For the first #fundchat, I only had five questions prepared. However, during the course of the conversation, my fifth question ended up being covered, leaving me one question short! Luckily, I was able to come up with a new question on the fly, but the experience taught me to always have more questions than you need.

“As moderator, time management is one of your key tasks.”

Trying to keep the chat to one hour is challenging. If there are more than five or six questions, I will shrink the time between questions to eight or even six minutes. The risk with too many questions is that you don’t give participants enough time to provide thoughtful answers. Also the banter between questions helps establish community and cement connections.

It’s important to let participants know when the next question is coming, so I remind the group, “Next Q in 2 minutes…” When I forgot to do this once, I was roundly scolded, reminding me that once you set a precedent, your job as moderator is to stick to it.

Keep A Record
One of the more frustrating aspects of Twitter chats is creating a transcript. But transcripts are a great way to keep a record of the conversation for future reference and to provide for those who couldn’t participate in the live chat.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find a workable solution. For the first five editions of #fundchat, I had the time to pull together a “curated transcript” using Storify. Unfortunately, it is a time consuming process to “drag” each Tweet into the new timeline and to rearrange the questions and answers in chronological order. I also learned that Storify doesn’t provide a look back beyond a week. I tried using Topsy to get to them, but the results weren’t complete.

Finally, I was referred to Hashtracking.com by TweetReports.com (they were nice enough to provide a referral after they had a few  technical problems). After some back and forth with the folks at Hashtracking, they provided me with a beta testing opportunity. I’m still getting a feel for their service, but so far it’s very impressive. They offer stats, participant report and a full transcript of the chat. The results of our first Hashtracking report are terrific.

Create A Water Cooler
Having a place for your community to gather when not participating in the chat, is incredibly helpful. I took the spaghetti approach by throwing everything out there and finding out what sticks. I created a Facebook page, LinkedIn Group and a blog.

So far, the blog has proven to be the most “sticky.” Closing in on 1,300 visits in just 8 weeks, the blog is a launching pad for each chat session, providing information about how to participate, that week’s topic and questions and more.

“If #fundchat ended its run today, I would chalk it up as a success.”

Recently, I invited members of the #fundchat community to share their insights in more than 140 characters by creating a “guest blogger series.” I’ve published four to date and more in the queue!

If #fundchat ended its run today, I would chalk it up as a success. People have come together to share their experiences, advice and ideas. They have connected professionally. Some have gone out for drinks together.

The most gratifying outcome of #fundchat is that a real community has developed around this humble little hashtag. The people I’ve met are generous, caring, funny and smart. Without them, #fundchat would just be eight letters preceded by a pound symbol. As long as they find the conversation worthwhile, #fundchat will continue to be a worthwhile resource and positive experience.

Brendan Kinney

Brendan Kinney is a fundraising and marketing professional. He has worked in higher education and public media and is the moderator of #fundchat. You can follow him on Twitter at @brendankinney.


Next #fundchat: Email Campaigns and Solicitations – 7/27 9 pm EST

Email CampaignThanks to everyone who participated in the #fundchat poll to help choose the next topic: Email Campaigns & Solicitations.

The nice thing about the poll is that it was a “ranking” poll and we’ve also got our next two topics:

August 3 – Donor acquisition strategies and tactics

August 10 – Volunteer recruitment and management

I’ll be in the “boondocks” on vacation for the first two #fundchats in August, but luckily, there’s wifi!

For this week’s #fundchat I need your help. Please add your burning question in the comments section below. Regarding email campaigns and solicitations:

  • What have you struggled with?
  • What do you want to know?
  • What’s your tip for a successful campaign or a lesson learned you can share?
  • What metrics do you watch?

Please add your ideas for questions below and we’ll get them answered during the next #fundchat, which takes place on Wednesday, July 27 at 9 pm EST.

If you are a newbie to #fundchat, you can scan the rules of engagement here.

– Brendan (@brendankinney)


10 Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media Fundraising

Guest Blog Post by Nathan Hand.

1. Don’t think social media changes the age-old strategy, at least not completely

The name of the game is still relationship building and communicating with the right people, in the right medium, about the right need, at the right time, and asking the right amount – amongst all the other clutter in their lives.  While all the social media platforms give us new mediums of asking (in addition to direct mail, in person, phone, etc.) it also adds to the clutter we fight.  There’s still a donor pyramid and those you connect with still mostly enter at the bottom.  The goal is, and will always be, to connect people to the causes they care about, facilitate their philanthropic dreams and help people be their best.

Tweet. Tweet.2. Do – use social media to drive web traffic

A fundraising study by Guidestar in late 2010 came up again the other day on Twitter.  Advice for Good shared what many of us found to be the most interesting piece of info from it, as it relates to social media and fundraising – that social networking websites like Facebook only account for 10% of online donations. It DOES NOT mean that social doesn’t drive the majority of online giving (or indirectly influence it).  It only means that as far as we can tell, Facebook Causes isn’t the answer and I haven’t seen a Twitter tool that allows you to literally give via Twitter.  And I don’t want one – funnel your social through your site where you can track and control conversions.

3. Don’t –  think a ‘LIKE’ always means it

In the same piece of research from Guidestar, only 6% of people who ‘liked’ an organization actually financially supported it. Plus, in order to publicly trash you or your organization on Facebook – at least in the most thorough way – they must ‘LIKE’ your page to tag you in a post. Even in a negative one. Check out Kyle Lacy’s great example. Until Facebook develops a ‘HATE’ button – there’s no way to separate the haters from the lovers.

4. Do – give easy, specific & real ways for people to help

We’ve had most success asking for specific items (digital camera, LCD projector, volunteers on Saturday at 5pm, etc.).  Sometimes they might be ‘budget-relieving’ – other times we simply would’ve gone without.  People want to help and more and more they want to know exactly what they are giving or funding with a donation.

5. Don’t – just ask for things

Similar to the fact that text-based giving only really works for disasters or specific urgent needs – the same goes for Twitter.  We’ve had more success asking for smaller donation amounts in accordance with a professional sporting event (pledge $.25, .50 or $1 per point for tonight’s NBA/NFL/NHL game – especially if the team is good or at least has a strong fan base, playoffs, etc.) It’s all part of harnessing the timely excitement.

6. Do – ask for intangibles

Faith-based? Ask for prayers.  New to Twitter? Ask people to ‘donate’ their #FollowFriday to your organization.  In a voting campaign? As long as you’ve got a real shot – DM a few of your most loyal supporters and a few with high klout/followers and ask them to donate a tweet or two. But in all of these – as with any fundraising medium – make it as easy as possible for them.

7. Don’t – ask too often

Again, like any other medium, if all supporters hear is asks, they’ll stop listening.  Share stories, results, quotes, stats, kudos, and more. It’s about building relationships.

8. Do – follow, monitor and support your closest champions

Put a ‘I’m on Twitter’ tic box on your physical donation cards and online. Create lists for your supporters, volunteers and advocates. Support their efforts where appropriate. If they do something great for another organization – don’t get jealous – RT it. Remember that most people support and follow 7+ organizations and it takes us all to create and support the great world we live in and the wonderful organizations that make up the nonprofit world.

9.  Don’t – forget you have other work to do

It’s easy to get sucked in to social media and spend all day clicking, posting and tweeting. Spend time setting up your monitoring tools and profiles and then determine when/how you’re going to check in on it. I’ve got it down to about 3 or 4 five-minute check-ins a day. If you want to be really responsive, set your phone to receive notifications when your organization is mentioned. Note: this only works while you’re small and don’t get several mentions a day. Also, you can only have Twitter account associated with one phone number…for now.

10. Do – guess and check!

Otherwise known as “experimenting,” it worked in elementary school math and it works in social media fundraising. And, because it’s still new and we’re all still learning – it might be the most efficient form of learning.  No one’s followers are the same and no one has tried everything.  If you’ve got an idea and you stay (somewhat) within the rules of the game – try it! Just make sure to contribute to the conversation and tell us if it worked!

Agree? Disagree? What worked or didn’t work for you? Please share in the comments!

Nathan HandNathan Hand is an AmeriCorps alumnus, holds an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University, a Masters in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from DePauw University. Nathan is Vice President of Development at School on Wheels, an organization helping homeless children in Indianapolis. He writes at www.nonprofitnate.com sharing thoughts for nonprofiteers and helping visitors navigate the world of giving. For more, follow Nathan on Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to his blog!