How to Use Social Listening for Your Nonprofit Brand

By now, you’re steeped in social media, which is an essential ingredient of your digital marketing for your nonprofit. But as with everything in life, you have to get a little deeper into the details.

The paramount rule for nonprofit fundraisers is to create and develop relationships with their donors and supporters. As the adage goes, people give to people.

So, how does social listening factor into helping you develop and expand your brand, which ultimately leads to increased community engagement and funding?

What is Social Listening?

It’s fundamental to understand that social media is social networking. Meaning, that for your nonprofit brand to have the greatest success in engaging with your audience, you must be an active participant, and that means also listening. You can’t possibly provide to your supporters the content they want to see if you’re not listening to their interests and motivations. We know that we live in an era where a lot of the power has shifted from the brands themselves to the consumers.

Imagine for a moment a conversation between you and someone else over the course of dinner. Let’s say you like this person whom you’ve recently met, and you have looked forward to the dinner. Now, let’s say that this person has spent the entire dinner talking about himself. He hasn’t stopped to ask you a question; he’s blathered on and on about whatever has come into his mind. You might have gotten in a word or two, but that’s about it.

So, how does that little story relate to social listening?

Simple, if you’re not actively tracking–and understanding the context and meaning–of the comments and engagements by your supporters, you’re missing out on opportunities to develop content and have conversations that are relevant to them.

Why Should I Develop Content Relevant to Donors?

You may be asking yourself, why should you produce content that your donors want to see? Shouldn’t they be interested in your cause and give because you’re making an impact in your community?

The short answer is no; they shouldn’t just give to you because of your mission.

Think about it for a moment. Think about yourself and every person you know that’s younger than you. What’s the one device that it seems everyone seems to have on their person? If you’ve guessed the ubiquitous cell phone, you would be correct.

Practically everyone has a cell phone. In fact, most people own a mobile phone, even if they don’t have a computer. And, within those cell phones are countless apps, messages, emails, articles, pictures, video, etc. We live in a connected and wired world, and all day long, people are tapping away on their phones.

What Should You Understand About Social Listening?

Social listening goes beyond the mentions. Seeing the alerts in your social media accounts or management platforms only touch the surface of what you’re supposed to be doing. You have to go deeper.

Let’s go back to that restaurant and that dinner to understand what you should be doing with social listening. Again, you’re excited to be meeting this individual for dinner. Now, instead of a blowhard, he’s speaking about topics you both enjoy, and he also pauses and listens to what you have to say. In addition, he also asks questions and gets deeper into issues that you are both discussing. As you’re talking about an interesting topic, you’re both gaining more insight and understanding, and there’s context to relevant areas of the subject-matter.

That’s social listening at work.

When you’re doing social listening well, you’re not only getting feedback or connecting with someone, but you’re creating a deeper and more meaningful relationship. If someone is complaining about your brand (and in today’s world, people will take to social media to air their disappointments), by being actively engaged and understanding the issues, you’re listening.

Alternately, let’s say someone makes a comment on social media about an event your organization held and that they loved attending. Instead of giving a generic “thank you” on social media, getting involved in a dialogue with a thoughtful response–especially if remember them from the event and can mention something that resonates personally–that type of engagement only helps you to leverage and expand your social networking.

When people understand that you are an active and engaged participant and listener, they care more about your brand and the work you do. When you take the time to personalize responses, understand the context and dig deeper for meaningful dialogue, you separate yourself from the competition.

If you take the time to do social listening, in time, you will be able to track useful social media and community engagements, which will lead to increased brand awareness and, ultimately, funding. You can talk about areas in your nonprofit that people may want to understand more, and people will know that when they reach out and comment about you or to you, there’s a living person who cares about what they have to say. It matters. People want to be heard and, more importantly, listened to; so, move away from the generic replies, and see your mentions and comments as an opportunity to build relationships with supporters and your community.

Nonprofit Board of Directors Elevator Speech – 4 Easy Steps to Promote Your Organization

One indicator of a well-run nonprofit organization is whether or not the board members, staff, and volunteers consistently and personally promote the organization throughout the community. In part, this is accomplished by dozens of informal conversations (elevator speeches) that are delivered by people involved with the organization to help build awareness of the organization’s value.

The outline, below, lists and describes each of the four steps and provides some optional statements that can be used to construct an elevator speech. Of course, you can customize these statements or add others with which you are more comfortable. During orientation, each board member, staff and volunteer should be encouraged to develop his/her own elevator speech and to incorporate it into everyday conversations with family, friends, and business colleagues.

Step 1: Opener – Starts the conversation/States the need.

1. Have I mentioned that I’m involved with /on the board of xyz organization?

2. Are you familiar with xyz organization?

3. Have you heard about the xyz organization?

4. Did you realize that (definition of local need) right here in our town/county/state?

Step 2: Mission – Explain what the organization does/how it serves the “need.”

1. The mission of xyz organization is……

2. We focus on….

3. Our major work includes…..

4. You may have seen the newspaper article about our project/fundraiser/volunteer drive…..

5. We serve x (# ) clients and provide them with ___________

Step 3: Personal Involvement – Links the speaker to the organization.

1. I’ve been involved with xyz since ______ (year)

2. I enjoy being a part of xyz organization because…

3. I am proud of our work because…

4. I am especially excited about our recent project/accomplishments…

5. I first got involved with xyz organization when…

Step 4: Learn More – How can the listener learn more about the organization?

1. We have a great web site (———.org) where you can learn more about our projects and programs.

2. If you’d be interested in learning more about xyz I’d be happy to tell you more about our achievements/accomplishments.

3. Xyz has a monthly information session and I’d love you to be my guest and attend one of these sessions. 4. Could I drop off a written brochure to you – or send you one in the mail?

5. We are always looking for volunteers/board members to help us with…

6. Would you be interested in learning more about xyz organization?

All board members, staff and volunteers should be encouraged to construct an elevator speech that they can be personally comfortable delivering throughout the community.

Annual Reports – Five Keys to Creating an Annual Report For Your Nonprofit

At the start of my second year as an executive director of a housing nonprofit, I thought I had prepared well for my first annual meeting until the day of the event when I realized that we had not produced an annual report as required in our by-laws. Since this happened thirty years ago, before most nonprofits had computers, you can only imagine the work my secretary and I put into producing the basic report we needed for that evening. We met the by-law requirement but certainly didn’t produce something that showcased our organization.

Fast forward three decades…you have a good computer and printer in your office, a staff member who writes well, and the wisdom to give yourself enough time to create an annual report that will serve as both a marketing and a fundraising tool in the coming year. Unless you have abundant resources in the bank or a marketing firm that will donate their services, it is likely that you will create your report in-house. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your report will end up being “read and spread” rather than in the wastebasket.

1. Determine the message you want the report to convey.

You can do this by focusing on a specific program that has had dramatic results this year. You can also focus on your mission and highlight a few things you have done that clearly resonate with that mission. In addition, you can highlight the people you serve with various programs or the donors that have made this a great year. Just remember that this message must be consistent throughout the report, from the opening letter from the Board President to the closing financial report.

2. Avoid using too many statistics.

In the words of Mal Warwick, “If statistics could tell a story, calculators would guest on talk shows.” Your auditor may be impressed by numbers but readers of your annual report want to know about the people you have helped and the changes your nonprofit have made to make the world a better place.

3. Make sure you use an abundance of stories

If your orchestra does free concerts for inner city children, focus on one child and talk about his or her reaction to the concert. If you provide shelter for rescued animals, talk about the rescue and then the permanent home you found for the animal. If your mission is to help drug addicts recover, focus on one or two who have completed your program and show how they have become productive members of the community. Use any success story that matches your mission and you will grab the reader’s attention.

4. Include pictures that are dramatic and showcase the work you do.

Avoid the traditional group shots (board members, staff, and a neighborhood group) and use pictures that reveal strong feelings. For example, you could show delight on the face of a child hearing a live concert for the first time, the excitement of a new owner leaving the shelter with a rescued animal or the joy of a former drug addict playing basketball with a group of teens. You can also include pictures of board and staff members; just make sure they are doing something active, like participating in a board meeting or working with clients. Candid shots can be great if you can get them. One caveat here: make sure you get signed releases from the people being photographed (or their guardians).

5. Present your financial reports in a readable, interesting manner.

Most people who receive your annual report aren’t interested in your balance sheet or income statement. If you feel you have to include these, add a brief narrative highlighting what the numbers really mean about the management of your nonprofit. What does interest many readers is how much money you have spent on programs compared to the cost of administration or fundraising. The clearest way to report this is in a pie chart.

Once you have used these ideas to complete an annual report that has the potential to impress your readers, make sure you distribute it widely. Don’t just hand it out at your annual meeting. Mail it to all your donors, partners, clients and anyone you want to interest in the work you do. Also, put it up on your website for the entire world to see how you are changing the world.

©2010 Jane B. Ford