Tag Archives: nonprofit

  • 7 November 2014
Client Spotlight: THE CHAIN COLLABORATIVE

Client Spotlight: THE CHAIN COLLABORATIVE

 

The Chain Collaborative

I-love-coffee.jpg

Coffee is a staple in the daily routine of millions of people. It’s delicious, flavorful, and energizing. But how does it get into our cup? The process coffee goes through in order to reach our bellies is one worth taking interest in. A lot of help is needed to make sure our coffee gets to us in the most humane, sustainable way possible. But where do we go to lend a helping hand? Introducing: The Chain Collaborative.

 

WHO IS THE CHAIN COLLABORATIVE?

nativos-peru-frontpage_0.jpg

Peru

The Chain Collaborative was founded in 2014 by Nora Burkey, whose passionate interest in sustainable development led to a passion for the coffee industry. The interest was sparked when Burkey began work as a coffee shop barista. A greater opportunity arose when she met one of the original three founders of Coffee Kids, an organization geared towards supporting the communities of coffee farmers in Latin America. Burkey ended up joining a project in Nicaragua, with the intent of using the experience to aid the development of her master’s thesis, aside from gaining hands-on experience in a chain of the coffee industry. However, the trip gave her more than just that; it helped to inspire the creation of The Chain Collaborative. Burkey saw that there are people who want to get involved in working with sustainable coffee development. However, many either don’t know where to start or don’t have the right expertise to carry out their intentions. That’s where The Chain Collaborative comes in.

“We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are so many important players in the supply chain of coffee, but often we only focus development efforts on relatively few parts of the supply chain” says Burkey, about the naming of The Chain Collaborative. “So we wanted to be a resource to people at every level of the supply chain and not favor one part of another, since all levels are really important.” They are the experts who establish and develop connections between different parties in the coffee community. This can range from connecting consumers to nonprofits that specialize in coffee sustainability, to connecting coffee farmers with businesses or importers that are looking to collaborate. Gaining momentum in February 2014 and kicking off in July, The Chain Collaborative has had no trouble finding organizations to team up with. Along with co-founders Mike Morgenstern and Tina Kim, Burkey has focused on linking various companies and businesses with coffee farmers from various regions.

 WHY CARE ABOUT COFFEE?

coffee cherry.jpg

Coffee cherry

Why are so many people interested? When speaking with WebServes, Burkey brought up a fact that many of us know but don’t think about: coffee is everywhere. “Coffee is the second most traded commodity, after oil,” she stated. “It’s greatly consumed, and a lot of people have a passion for it.” That passion expands beyond the morning cup of fuel into the desire to contribute to its cultivation in a positive way. With an international consumer demand for coffee, there are repercussions in the form of labor, environmental, and economic security issues. Thankfully, since coffee is so popular, there are also a lot of platforms that address these issues. Consumers want to help, and The Chain Collaborative is a resource to help businesses and nonprofits reach out and engage with them.

VENTURES

planting hope.jpg

Coffee Camps Kids

The Chain Collaborative works with other nonprofits and cooperatives in order to help create, facilitate, and develop projects that accommodate the ever evolving needs in the coffee community. Here are a few of their current programs.

 The Coffee Residency

coffee retail bags

Collaboration with Irving Farm

Coffee shops sign on to three-month long “residencies” with TCC that get cafes and consumers involved in active awareness of sustainable coffee cultivation. Coffee shops “in residence” promote certain products where buyers can donate a dollar of the sale to a project of their choice, or the shop itself can fundraise in a different manner of their choosing. This networks together the shops who participate and brings about more awareness of resources available to those who want to get involved. All funds raised are used for the projects promoted.

Planting Hope

art class 1

Kids in art class during Coffee Camps

TCC’s main operations are focused in Nicaragua at the moment, where Burkey arrived at the end of October. A large part of The Chain Collaborative’s objectives is to collaborate with other organizations and nonprofits to help boost these other programs and develop them further. Following the harvest season from November to January, The Chain Collaborative will be working with Planting Hope , a nonprofit that focuses on promoting interaction between Nicaraguan and U.S. communities. They are running a project called Coffee Camps, where education, health screenings, and meals are provided for the children who accompany their parents, who work in the coffee farms. The Chain Collaborative’s plans are to revamp the food system for the children, write a Coffee Camps manual in English and Spanish for other communities to follow, and better connect Planting Hope with  both cooperatives and businesses in the coffee industry.  So instead of just giving out meals, the idea is to cultivate organic gardens and teach agricultural methods that can be sustained all year round. This will provide a constant food source for the migrant workers and their children. One of the businesses The Chain Collaborative is assisting Planting Hope in strengthening a relationship with, is Green Mountain, a coffee company that is taking initiative to collaborate with Planting Hope.

 Nyamigoye Coffee Farmers Group

Uganda5

Farmer in Uganda

Further down the line, TCC will be working in concert with coffee farmers in Uganda, who are looking to organize together in order to sustain a practice of better coffee production, and to better connect with potential buyers. By doing so, they will be able to more effectively organize care of their collective crops, and care of the workers themselves, coordinating to gain health care, insurance, and loans. By working with The Chain Collaborative, a goal will be met to eliminate the middleman in their selling process and thus gain more control over the sales process of their harvest. The Chain Collaborative will also take charge in creating programs that will give them access to benefits they need, and will aid the process of connecting these farmers directly to a US importer.

 

THE CHAIN COLLABORATIVE AND WEBSERVES

handshake

The number one information resource is the Internet. An organization’s web presence and its visibility  in various social media platforms is crucial. For The Chain Collaborative, being a young organization means that the need to cultivate a credible, professional face is key. It’s important to maintain constant social outreach, whether it is through Twitter updates or Facebook events. That, connected with a navigable, informative website, creates a legitimate presence. The Chain Collaborative has such a specific and detailed mission, and so their website is being geared to easily lead the curious and the interested to accurate and informed perceptions. This speeds up the process of collaboration and increases opportunities for working together with other parties who wish to get involved. WebServes is currently working with The Chain Collaborative to help polish that effective public element. We are glad to know that TCC is finding our services welcoming and encouraging, and that our organizational expertise in the nonprofit sector through the efforts of our WS Tech Agents, especially James Bradley, Anna Karingal, and Maya Leggat, has helped to guide The Chain Collaborative’s objectives. We will focus together on fleshing out thechaincollaborative.org with the information and the impact it needs to interact and connect well with visitors. We are also improving the aesthetic appeal of the site in order to highlight and emphasize all pertinent information. After its launch, we aim to have created the professional face TCC is looking for and for which they can easily take over ongoing updates and management.

   

- Maya

   

Interested in other clients we've worked with? Subscribe to our newsletter! Or check out the links below.

All Star Code Alexander Robertson School Staten Island Children's Museum December 2011 Newsletter

  • 21 February 2014
Highlights of the OMB Grant Reform

Highlights of the OMB Grant Reform

Fed_pic In case you missed it, in late December 2013, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued new guidelines for federal grants that will offer a streamlined and game changing approach that has been over two years in the making.  Now the once eight Federal regulations (including OMB Circulars A-110, A-122, and A-133) are combined into a single, comprehensive policy guide and affords the Federal government the ability to better administer the $600 billion awarded annually for grants, cooperative agreements, and various types of financial assistance. This change affects everyone that receives government grants or contracts that use federal funds. The guidelines are long and complex, but the National Council of Nonprofits reported on the highlights:

  • Indirect Costs: The OMB Guidance explicitly requires pass-through entities (typically states and local governments receiving federal funding) to either honor a nonprofit’s negotiated indirect cost rate if one already exists or negotiate a rate in accordance with federal guidelines. Nonprofits will be empowered to elect an automatic indirect cost rate of 10 percent of modified total direct costs (MTDC) – which can be used indefinitely if they so choose – or negotiate a higher rate.
  • Direct Costs: In some cases, administrative expenses associated with a particular project (such as secretarial support) can be reported as direct, rather than indirect, costs, which are treated more generously in contracting policies.
  • Audit Rules: The new guidelines will raise the Single Audit (A-133) threshold from $500,000 to $750,000, eliminating duplicate and unnecessary audit criteria, and clarifying various costs allocation rules.

In order to really benefit from these new guidelines nonprofits will have to accurately identify and track all overhead costs while negotiating for higher reimbursement rates with government organizations. This seems pretty straight forward and easy enough, however it's not always so black and white

.

Indirect costs, administrative costs, and overhead costs are accounting terms that are often used interchangeably causing a lot of confusion. A great example of this inconsistent use of terminology can be found in the report, "Indirect Costs Are Essential for Success" by the National Council of Nonprofits

.

The report described how federal agencies issuing grants to nonprofits to categorize overhead costs as either direct costs or facilities costs while further separating indirect costs into two sub categories: either administrative costs or facilities costs. To get a little more confusing the federal government, through the IRS Form 990 tells nonprofits to categorize and annually report their costs as management general costs, program costs, and fundraising costs. Lets define these terms below:

  1. Administrative costs: management and general expenses such as the salaries of executives and accounting personnel and library expenses
  2. Facilities costs: items such as depreciation and capital improvement, interest on debt associated with certain buildings, and operations and maintenance expenses
  3. Management & General costs: activities that are required by organizations to operate, but may support multiple programs and the organization as a whole, such as accounting, human resources, staff development, rent, and utilities
  4. Program costs: activities associated with a specific program or project, such as direct program staff, program supplies, program management, and administration
  5. Fundraising costs: various activities, such as special events campaigns, direct solicitations, mailings, fundraising consultants, development staff, grant application prep

Correctly defining and categorizing all overhead costs will not only assist with negotiating for higher reimbursement rates with government organizations, but it will also paint a clear monetary picture in budgeting terms. The new regulations means that nonprofits should be able to focus more on delivering services in their communities and should feel free of raising additional funds to essentially subsidize governments. Also, charities with no government grants or contracts could see less competition for scarce philanthropic dollars. This is a major gain in the charitable nonprofit community

.

For more information about the OMB grant reform check out these links below:

Let us know your thoughts on the OMB grant reform and thanks for reading!

-Rebecca  

  • 29 January 2014
How Your Nonprofit Can Protect Donors From Online Fraud

How Your Nonprofit Can Protect Donors From Online Fraud

No one is a stranger to credit card fraud and online fraud but every time it happens, it almost always takes people by the utmost surprise. Take the recent Target and Neiman Marcus Point of Sale Credit Card hacks; almost 110 million Target customers’ personal data has been compromised and a security firm now says more retailers’ systems could have been hacked using the same malware. Every time a hack happens, regardless of its magnitude, we revisit the lessons in privacy which is why I thought it would be a good idea to have a post on how to protect your online donors and their donations from fraud. There is one caveat though; this list is not exhaustive so it would be wrong to assume that these 4 or so tips could prevent hacking altogether. On the plus side, these are fairly easy suggestions that your nonprofit should definitely have in place.

1. Invest in a secure online donations tool

Among the criteria you would use to evaluate a potential online donation tool, security should be on the top of your list and rest assured, most of the top tools enforce this. Some examples of popular tools are WePay*, PayPal, Amazon Simple Pay and Google Wallet.

Choosing the right donation tool is entirely up to one's personal choice. At WebServes, we use WePay. Our donors have the option to pay by credit card, bank account or by signing into a WePay account if they have one.

WePay Secure Fraud Prevention  

* If you are planning to use WePay, it will be worthwhile to note that WePay is shutting down  invoices, buttons, donations, events, and stores to focus on its API feature set. More details are available on WePay Support.

2. Set up a minimum donation amount

It might seem a little overbearing to dictate how much the donors should donate but it is a way to reduce fraud. For instance, if you set a minimum donation amount of $10, it would be easier for you to know that if you receive any amount less than that, then it is a sign of some fraud in the making.

3. Make the CVV and Address required fields

The CVV (Card Verification Value or Card Security Code, CSC) is a card security feature to protect against credit card fraud. According to Greg Hammermaster (President of Sage Payment Solutions), this code will ensure that the credit card used matches the given address.

CVV for fraud prevention

4. Inform your donors on how to transact safely online to prevent fraud

While it is apparent that we should monitor our online activity, it doesn't hurt to remind     your donors that they should check their statements and notify their financial institutions of any red flags.

John Breyault, vice president of the National Consumers League and head of its fraud-fighting efforts has the following suggestions that can come in handy for donors making online donations:

  • Make sure that the website's address begins with 'https' or has a seal indicating that the site is secure.

  • Avoid making online purchases (or in this case, donations) over free Wi-Fi networks. Since these networks aren't usually password protected, your card information can be easily intercepted by cyberthieves.

  • Keep your own computer software current and malware free to prevent hackers from accessing your online information.

Do you have other ways in which you keep your donors and their online donations protected from cyber criminals? Share them with us!

~Ramya

  • 15 August 2013
Bridging the Internal Communication Gap in your Organization

Bridging the Internal Communication Gap in your Organization

‘35% of executives from companies with 20 to 49 employees said their employees were not aware of their firm’s overall objectives compared with just 9% of executives at organizations with more than 1000 workers’. -Robert Half Management Resources

The above statistics are the result of a recent study and at first sight, they seem counter intuitive. I mean, isn't it easier to communicate the organization’s objectives to 20 people as compared to 1000 people? However, after some thought, I could see how it is possible.

I believe that the reason why employees in larger organizations are more aware of the objectives comes down to a two-fold aspect of communication:

1. How well the message is documented.

2. How frequently the message is distributed.

Let’s see how this concept works using an example.

Imagine an organization occupying a substantial office space. There are plaques with the mission and objectives displayed prominently on the walls. In this case, whenever employees walk by the plaques, they are reminded of the organization’s purpose and their contribution to this purpose. The plaque serves as an effective document while its placement on the walls serves as a good and frequent distributor of the message.

On the other hand, smaller organizations have limited resources and they strive to get as much work done as possible within their resource limits. Therefore, there is a chance that communication of goals and objectives takes a backseat. For one, the objectives might not be clearly documented and even if they are, they are not communicated as frequently as required.

However, here are a few steps that smaller organizations can take to increase the awareness of their objectives:

1. Document your objectives

This is pretty straightforward. It doesn't have to be something fancy like a plaque or a billboard but there should at least be something written that can be kept on record and distributed to the staff to serve as a guide as well as a reminder of why the organization exists. In addition, having a documented list of objectives also ensures consistency whenever you have new people joining your team. It brings everyone together and puts them on the same page.

2. Use technology for effective communication

George Bernard Shaw's view on communication

In this internet age, there should be no room for such an illusion because there are so many tools for multiple-way communication and collaboration; and the best part is, some are free while others are quite affordable.

Take email for instance, it’s free.

Google Docs for easy communicationGoogle Docs is a great collaboration tool that is free too; you just need to have an account with Google which is free to setup.

At WebServes, we use Google Docs extensively while working on projects and even use it for training. For instance, in the Marketing Team we have documents outlining how we should conduct our marketing activities. These documents serve as reference manuals for current marketers whenever we need to refresh our memory as well as training manuals for new marketers. The best part about these documents is how easy it is to update them. There is no need to send emails back and forth within the team any time a change is made to the document. The change is reflected in the document and anyone who has access to it can see it by signing in with their Google account.

Another tool we use at WebServes is BasecampBasecamp for collaboration and communication

I was introduced to this Project Management software on my very first day at WebServes and immediately realized what a great tool it is.

The best and most important aspect of Basecamp is how easily we can communicate with our team. The interface integrates with our respective emails such that if a message is posted on a project’s board, all the people involved in the project will receive the message in their email inboxes and they can reply from their email without having to log into Basecamp. This makes sure that we are all kept in the loop about the projects we are working on. It serves as a great tracking tool and helps us to keep our efforts trained towards the successful completion of our projects. Though Basecamp isn’t free, it has a range of pricing options (starting at $20 per month) so that you can choose what works best for your organization.

3. Tell stories to engage and excite your staff

It is easier to remember stories as compared to single statements; which is why we still remember the stories we heard when we were younger. Storytelling can also be an effective way to communicate your objectives and values to your staff. This is especially easier for nonprofits since we have a cause that we work towards and there is no better story than how we worked towards a cause. Such stories will also help to motivate your staff to continue working hard and being passionate towards the cause.

How do you bridge the internal communication gap in your organization? Share your comments with us and let's expand the above list!

~Ramya

  • 18 July 2013
Facebook Privacy for your Nonprofit’s Constituents

Facebook Privacy for your Nonprofit’s Constituents

What is Facebook's Graph Search and how does it affect privacy?

Facebook rolled out its Graph Search feature this month and expanded the scope for social connectivity by providing a user with the flexibility of searching on Facebook using a variety of phrases such as the ones in the screenshot below. Graph Search   In a previous post, we outlined a few steps that you could take to Optimize your Facebook Page for Graph Search. However, this exciting development has brought with it a whole host of privacy issues. Most of the privacy issues apply to individual Facebook users who might want to limit the audience with whom they share their Facebook activity. For organizations such as nonprofits, Facebook is one of the primary ways of creating awareness for their cause. The main idea behind having a Facebook page is to create visibility so it would not make much sense for nonprofits to restrict their Facebook activity. Thus, it stands to reason that the privacy issue may not be much of a headache for nonprofits. Privacy But wait, what about your nonprofit's constituents and staff? They are individuals who may have Facebook profiles and who may be concerned about their privacy. Granted, your nonprofit cannot control how an individual constituent or staff member ensures their Facebook privacy but it is possible for your nonprofit to have a privacy policy which could include the following two points to ensure that you are not breaching an individual’s right to privacy. 1. Make sure that you take a user’s permission before posting or tagging any photo of them that will be visible publicly. Facebook does offer the option for individual users to be notified of a tag and whether they want to accept or reject it. However, not all users enable this feature so it would be wise to take users’ consent before posting any information about them. 2. Outline your nonprofit’s policy of ‘friending’ your constituents, that is, do you want to allow your staff to ‘friend’ your constituents on their personal Facebook profiles? Would that create a conflict of interest? An article by Idealware talks about how a certain nonprofit had a social media policy of not allowing its staff to friend any of its constituents on Facebook to avoid a breach of privacy. Do you have additional ways of ensuring your constituents’ privacy? Share them with us! ~Ramya  

  • 20 June 2013
Is Your Website Donor-Friendly?

Is Your Website Donor-Friendly?

In one of our previous posts, we talked about how you can improve your website’s User Experience (UX) and for nonprofits, one of our most important user groups is the Donor community. Our donors make it possible for us to succeed in achieving the causes we stand for, but did you know that there are certain ‘donation-killers’ on our websites that could potentially drive donors away? Take a look at these statistics that are the results of a Donation Usability Research conducted by the Nielsen Group in 2009:

  • 47% of the 'donation killers' were usability problems relating to page and site design such as cluttered pages, confusing workflow, and unintuitive information architecture. To quote Jakob Nielsen, 'If the customer can't find the product, the customer can't buy it'.
  • 53% were content related issues such as including unclear or missing information and unclear terms.
These donation killers fall under the big umbrella issue of poor communication. As Nielesn says, nonprofits must clearly communicate their value proposition if they want to attract online donations and, sadly, this is where nonprofits are falling short. So, how can we make sure that our websites do not have the above donation killers? Nielsen's study offers more valuable information as well as a few insights on how nonprofits could improve their websites and make them a great fundraising tool.

1. What does a donor want to see?

According to the study, donors want to know what the organization does (mission, goals and objectives) and how it will use their donations. In short, Take a look at your website. How easy is it to find this information? How many pages do the users have to navigate through to reach this vital information? Here is a screenshot of WebServes' Home page with the Mission and Objectives: Mission

2. Where is the donation information?

Surprisingly, on 17% of the sites in the Nielsen Research, the users couldn’t find where to make a donation. In a previous post, we touched on the topic of the necessity of having a prominent ‘Donate’ button and a good Donate page with enough information and a call to action. At WebServes, our 'Donate' button is part of our header that appears on every page. donate button on the header for donor convenience  

3. How can a donor contribute?

“Giving money on charity websites is 7% harder than spending money on e-commerce sites.” In a follow up study conducted by Nielsen in 2011, the researchers found that “completing the actual donation process took the users 7% more time on average than it took users to complete an e-commerce checkout process.” This is partly because e-commerce websites have a quicker and more streamlined checkout process and partly because it is harder to give money away than it is to spend it. So, make it easier for the donor to give! Have shorter forms to fill out. Have flexible, secure payment options. For example, we have a short, 3-step online donation process powered and secured by WePay. Donation payment process - Donor view  

4. Who can a donor communicate with in case of questions?

This can be addressed very easily by having an up-to-date 'Contact Us' page and having the Contact information displayed on the Donation page as well. You could also have it as a page footer like we do: contact information accessible to donor   The study notes that fixing a minor usability problem could potentially increase donations by 10% which is a significant amount for donor-dependent organizations. As Jakob Nielsen puts it, 'to improve fundraising, speak plainly and answer donors' main questions, and money will flow your way.' Do you have other ways in which websites can be improved to be more donor friendly? Share them with us! ~Ramya  

  • 13 March 2013
Optimizing your Facebook Page for Graph Search

Optimizing your Facebook Page for Graph Search

In our previous posts, we have stressed on the importance of SEO and how essential it is to your nonprofit’s marketing efforts. In this post, we’re back to talking about optimizing for the latest search tool in town; Facebook’s Graph Search.

Released to a select group in March 2013, Graph Search is an enhanced version of Facebook’s existing search tool.  With the new Graph Search, one can search for users based on keywords (such as location, likes or interests). For example, say someone searches for ‘My friends who like nonprofit technology service providers in New York City”, then a list of all such service providers in NYC will be displayed and since these keywords match what we have on our WebServes Facebook page, our organization will be a part of the search results too and this way, we can broaden our reach. The key to this search is that it is only as good as the amount of content that has been publicly shared by the users. For instance, if one does not share their content publicly then it would be hard to search for such people. Keeping that in mind, here is a list of to-dos that will help you make sure that your Facebook page is optimized for Graph Search. 1. Have complete information about your nonprofit For starters, your Basic Information section should be complete and up-to-date. Make sure all the fields on this page are filled out with the correct keywords so that traffic is directed to your page. The Place Sub-Category section is sometimes overlooked; so pay special attention to this field and fill it out with keywords that define your nonprofit. Place Sub-categories for Facebook Graph Search 2. Have a distinct username The default URL for your Facebook page is SEO unfriendly and a bit of an eyesore to look at too. For example if your page URL reads something like this: www.facebook.com/pages/webserves/123456789, then you must create a username which will be good for your overall SEO. The process is very simple. Just go to http://facebook.com/username and follow the instructions to have a nice URL like this one: Distinct URL for Facebook Graph Search 3. Tag your photos A picture says a thousand words and wouldn't it be a pity if a great picture is left out of search results just because it wasn't tagged or didn't have a description? As a nonprofit, you would be having a wealth of information in terms of photographs so don’t let that go to waste. Tag your photos with your Page name, add a location and a description with keywords. In addition, encourage people to tag themselves in pictures of an event, for example. Remember, the more the information, the better the SEO. 4. Research your content As is the case with social media, we are trying to constantly post content but not all of it resonates with our followers. Some posts are more ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ while some might be viewed by just a handful of people. Like button for Graph SearchFor Graph Search, the ‘Like’ concept is very important because the more the likes, the higher the chances are that the content will show up in the search. So what you need to do is sit down and analyze your past posts to see what your audience likes. What is it that makes your audience sit up, read and share your content? Once you find this out, channel your efforts in posting more of this content. For example, if your audience ‘likes’ your original content (such as blog posts), increase the frequency of such posts and get people talking about them. 5. Continue creating great content Last but not the least, keep up the efforts of creating relevant content for your Facebook page to give Graph Search more to work with! This list is by no means an exhaustive set of the ways in which you can optimize your Facebook page. Do you have any other tips to add on to the list? Share them with us and let’s keep the conversation going! ~Ramya  

  • 20 February 2013
The Kingdom of Content Is Advanced Only By Its Followers

The Kingdom of Content Is Advanced Only By Its Followers

Content is the king of your website, but the comments, interactions and mentions (in essence the buzz) is what gives your content the power. If people aren't talking about the organization or interested in the discussion being held, then your content is as good as money, not backed by gold, or confidence. Danny Flamberg wrote an article for Talent Zoo entitled Content is King. Content is Media. Content is the New Black, in which he described basic strategies to employ when forming, or crafting content. The strategy, he discussed, that is most important to a nonprofit or small business is this:

Direct Interaction. Social content is the substance of an ongoing conversation. Many brands tell and sell too much. They don’t open up enough opportunities for interaction. Be sure you are asking questions, taking polls, soliciting consumer input and responding, referring to popular topics and memes, and are being perceived as involved in the ongoing social swirl. Be straightforward and be directive. If you don’t ask followers to act; they won’t. This will affect what you post, how you present it, and when you post.
Content is the buzzword for many that speak about web marketing, and it is a very important aspect of branding your organization, but the truth is, content alone will not boost visibility or conversation. The content held within an individual website, or blog post is static, but the conversation that surrounds it is the morphing, changing phenomenon that is usually so evasive to marketers and content writers, but that conversation is what makes an organization interesting to the public. “Contrary to custom, a blogger’s job doesn't end once you click ‘publish.’ In this Age of Big Data, where every blog, vlog, and broadcast lives and dies by metrics, your success depends on your page views,” writes Mark Ragan of Ragan’s PR Daily and he’s right. The idea that a blog post is floated out into the Internet and will generate readership on its own merits is not a valid plan for your organization. The intricate details of when to publish, where to publish and how often to publish are the keys to an organization’s presence in a community. The interesting part is that these times, places and frequencies are different depending on the target audience and vary greatly from one company, or organization to another. Mark Ragan adds that he will post a link to his content as many as twelve times on twitter, surrounding it with different target questions, with different target audiences. As a new-comer to the web marketing circus, this may seem excessive or annoying, and it isn't the best strategy for every organization, but it goes to show that content is something that needs promotion, it is something that needs fostering and it is something that needs nurturing. Custom Content Council says:
Consumers appreciate companies’ efforts to provide custom media:  More than three-quarters say they understand that these companies are selling something, but feel it is okay since the information provided is valuable.  7 in 10 consumers say they prefer to learn about a company through a collection of articles rather than in an ad.
Confidence is encouraged through discussion and interaction. Does your company or organization have the right strategy in mind? Share your thoughts on Twitter @WebServes or on Facebook or Comment on this blog. ~Josef

  • 13 February 2013
Twitter and American Express Enter the E-Commerce Arena

Twitter and American Express Enter the E-Commerce Arena

Twitter and American Express have announced yesterday that they will be joining forces and entering into the e-commerce world. The announcement is a new and interesting next step for social media and its clients. Now you can purchase something with a hashtag as long as you have an American Express card. How does it work? Well, there are two easy steps. When you find an offer that you are interested in you tweet the hashtag for that product. Then American Express will send you an email that contains a confirmation hashtag. When you tweet the confirmation hashtag your Amex will be charged and the item will be shipped to your billing address. The best part for Twitter, American Express, and the company who sold the product is that the hashtags just advertised for them. Now instead of walking down the city street with the bag from the store you just visited, all of Twitter will be able to see your ad. This is great for businesses and small businesses that deal with American Express, but is not yet serving the nonprofit sector.

Screenshot_2013-02-12-10-47-37

Twitter feed about Twitter and Amex venture

  This conjured up many new ideas for how nonprofits can use this new e-commerce venture. In the world of nonprofits, this appears to open new doors.  Many nonprofits have a section on their website where donations can be made over the web. After Hurricane Sandy, the Red Cross and other charities used text-to-donate strategies to make it easier for people to help out monetarily. My suggestion is that nonprofits can use this new strategy with Twitter, and let each tweet of a donation, or of a gift be an advertisement (a free advertisement, at that). With each tweet, retweet, and donation hashtag the nonprofit grows its reach, and the viral nature of donating and helping can be fostered in a social media setting. Although, as of this blog post Twitter is exclusively using American Express and is not pushing into the nonprofit/donation sector yet, it appears to be the next great frontier for these and small businesses in the future. If they build it, will your small business or nonprofit use it? ~Josef

  • 31 January 2013
Foursquare Launches New Mobile App

Foursquare Launches New Mobile App

Foursquare has just announced a new Foursquare for Business companion app that allows business owners to update and check their Foursquare activity on the go. According to Foursquare’s blog, this new app makes it possible to “create a Foursquare update and easily cross-post it to Facebook and Twitter at the same time” with the added functionality of being able to view how many check-ins you are getting and to turn specials on and off from the convenience of a tablet or smartphone.

Foursquare for Business Screenshot

WebServes Foursquare for Business Screenshot

Does your nonprofit use Foursquare? And if so, will this app help you brand yourself more effectively? The answer to these queries may vary, but it can be a useful tool. Foursquare has a “tips” section that is useful to understand as a nonprofit organization. This section is usually used by restaurants to say, “check out the tapas menu, you will thank me later.” This helps the restaurant expose its customers to something they may not have tried yet, and helps give the company a voice and a persona. It shouldn’t surprise you that nonprofits can benefit from developing a persona, as well. In this tips section, a nonprofit can give tips for volunteering, or give statistics to foster a feeling of community and change through the shared knowledge. The knowledge that the place at which you have just “checked-in” knows that you are helping or want to help is of great advantage to both the business and the client. In Foursquare, users that check-in can achieve a badge for their first-time check-in or can be rewarded for a milestone number of check-ins. This also gives a nonprofit the ability to touch a volunteer, or a donor in a more personal acknowledgement that will foster the relationship between organization and patron. The Red Cross gives a badge for checking in for a blood donation and thanks the donor for saving a life. The purpose of many nonprofits is to create a community of like-minded people that are striving for the same goal. It seems fitting that social media would fit into this mold quite nicely, because social media is a community in which the user decides what his/her interactions are and how to interact within that community. The Foursquare for Business companion app might fit nicely into your social media framework. We will keep an eye on the ways that it empowers nonprofits in community building. Let us know your story about how you think Foursquare has helped or how the new app could potentially help your organization’s social media presence. ~Josef