Tag Archives: nonprofits

  • 14 February 2014
Should advertising be viewed differently in the nonprofit sector?

Should advertising be viewed differently in the nonprofit sector?

Last week one of our blog readers requested to find out more information regarding advertising in the nonprofit sector. His exact question was, "How can a nonprofit effectively market without advertising?". I began to generate this list:

  1. Public Service Announcements
  2. Direct Mail and Email
  3. Word of Mouth
  4. Promotional Items
  5. Online Advertising
  6. Social Media

Although great avenues for spreading cause awareness, these tools could be limiting. An illustration of these possible limitations can be found on the website TED in Dan Pallotta’s video titled, 'the way we think about charity is dead wrong'. Dan Pallotta is best known for creating the multi-day charitable event industry with the long distance Breast Cancer 3-day walks, AIDS Rides bicycle journeys, and Out of the Darkness suicide prevention night walks. The video 'the way we think about charity is dead wrong' went viral as Dan described how nonprofits are rewarded for how little they spend and he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and accomplishments, even if that comes with increased expenses. In the video Dan was quoted as saying,

"Charitable giving has remained stuck in the US at 2% of GDP ever since we started measuring it in the 1970s, that is an important fact because that tells us that in 40 years the nonprofit sector has not been able to wrestle any market share from the forprofit sector and if you think about it how could one sector take market share from another sector if it's not really allowed to market"

The problem, he explained, is that we have a different set of rules for charities that puts them at a competitive disadvantage in 5 areas:

  1. Compensation - Because of the stark, mutually exclusive choice offered to prospective leaders between doing very well for yourself and your family and doing good for the world, the nonprofit sector is not able to attract or keep the best talent.
  2. Advertising and marketing - Because nonprofits are punished for advertising or marketing like for-profits, the nonprofit sector has not been able to increase its market share relative to the for-profit sector with respect to GDP.
  3. Taking risk on new revenue ideas - Because of the public relations nightmare that would result from an innovative but unsuccessful fundraising endeavor, nonprofits cannot implement daring new ideas needed to exponentially grow the necessary revenues to tackle the big social problems.
  4. Time - Because the public and funders have little patience for nonprofits that fail to immediately, effectively and efficiently create a measurable social impact (unlike for-profit start-ups that are allowed by their investors to take years to return a profit), nonprofits are forced to adopt conservative strategies that do not allow them to patiently invest in building scale.
  5. Profit to attract risk capital - Because nonprofits cannot promise profits to investors in order to attract capital to fund new and innovative ideas, nonprofits are starved for growth and risk and idea capital.

501(c)(3) organizations are certainly allowed to advertise and market, but the "punishment" Dan is referring to is the public's view on donations being spent on advertising. This view leads to an underinvestment in advertising. Below is a chart taken from the Nonprofit Quarterly of the nine largest nonprofits ranked by Forbes and the percentage of advertising recorded as overhead.


As you can see more than half of the organizations treat less than 15% of their advertising as overhead. YMCA and Goodwill has not recorded any advertising as overhead because they classify it as program expenses. Presumably, treating advertising as overhead is not correct. According to accouting rules, if an organization's mission is to raise awareness about an issue, associated costs are classified as program expenses, not overhead. Nonprofits can market without advertising effectively, but would increasing advertising be beneficial? That depends on a multitude of factors and is really up to the organization and stakeholders to decide. We would love to know your thoughts on advertising in the nonprofit sector. Would you feel comfortable knowing .90 cents of your dollar donated went to the funding of an advertising campaign?

  Thanks for reading! -Rebecca

  • 5 June 2013
Value Proposition: A Sure Source of Competitive Advantage

Value Proposition: A Sure Source of Competitive Advantage

A recent post on the Kissmetrics blog started off with one line that has ingrained itself in my mind, ‘Almost regardless of what you do, you have bigger competitors.’ There will be competition on the basis of price, quality, quantity… and the list goes on. So if there is always someone better than you, this means that you cannot be a market leader right? Wrong! As ironic as it sounds, even in the face of the stiffest competition, you/your organization can be the leader if you have a strong value proposition.

What is value proposition anyway?

As Peter Sandeen puts it, value proposition is
a believable collection of the most persuasive reasons people should notice you and take the action you’re asking for.”
I decided that I would dissect the above definition and expound on what each part of the sentence really entails and how your organization can work to build a value proposition which could give you, as Sandeen puts it, an ‘unfair advantage’ over your competitors. Believable It is good to be self confident and hold yourself in high esteem, but for you to appeal to customers, it isn’t enough to say ‘we are the best digital marketers for your organization’s needs.’ How can you prove that you are the best? Who has said you are good enough to be called the best? The best way to prove your worth is through testimonials. Think about it. When you plan to go to a restaurant, do you go to its website and read all about it or do you go to Yelp and read customer reviews about the restaurant? Just as reviews are important to you as a customer, make sure that your prospective customers have the opportunity to read reviews about your business. Let your past customers help you in marketing your organization. Collection For you to have a strong value proposition, you should have a collection of reasons why customers should buy your product or service. The testimonials would be one good reason. Another great reason, especially for cause related organizations, is the cause itself. Most people would want to be associated with a cause in any small way possible to spread the word about the cause and to get more people involved. For example, I remember when Morton Salt had a campaign in which a certain percentage of the proceeds from the sale of each tin of salt would go towards funding the breast cancer research efforts. In this way, people who wanted to contribute to the research in any way possible, ended up buying Morton Salt even though it was slightly costlier than other brands. Most Persuasive  Every customer perceives value differently. For a price sensitive person, a suitably priced service holds the most value while for a trendy customer, the latest fashions would be the most valuable. Therefore, the key to creating a good value proposition is to focus on your target market; how does your target market perceive the value of a product? Once this has been determined, it is your task to persuade your customers as to why your product offers the most value to them. At WebServes, for example, our target market is nonprofits and small businesses that need internet technologies to fulfill their missions. Many times, such organizations have a limited budget so to them, value would be determined by cost to a certain extent. Therefore, our value proposition to them is providing effective internet technologies at an affordable price. Action As we have stressed in our previous posts, the purpose of your marketing efforts should be to propel your customers to take action. One way of doing this is through repetition. Repeat your value proposition in all your marketing channels; website, social networks, advertising campaigns, events; so that the information does not get lost as soon as your customer leaves the room after a meeting! Peter Sandeen has developed a 5-step system for finding the core of your value proposition; the ideas that make you the best choice for people. You can download a PDF version of the 5-step system here. What do you think of the whole idea of value proposition, and how do you use it? Share your ideas with us! ~Ramya  

  • 26 February 2013
New America’s Charities’ Study on Employee Giving

New America’s Charities’ Study on Employee Giving

In an article published in The NonProfit Times on February 25th, America’s Charities says that “according to a new survey of nearly 100 private sector employers that have combined to raise more than $230 million through their annual employee giving campaigns” are looking for new strategies to engage employees and others to give to nonprofits. In the survey, “80 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their company is committed to a giving program,” but it seems necessary for them to find new ways to boost the employee giving programs. In the past, employers and for-profit organizations have put in place programs to boost giving in their companies by offering charitable contribution matching frameworks, in which the organization pledges to give the same amount as its employees to a certain limit. Employees also promote volunteer opportunities, or allow employees to promote volunteer opportunities from outside the workplace. Some employers even go so far as to allow workers to take time off of work to volunteer. In 2006, this same report stated that the average participation rate” in employee giving programs “was 41 percent” and in 2012 that number “dropped to 33 percent.” All of these programs don’t seem to be enough anymore.

Nonprofit Giving

Nonprofit Giving

The Blackbaud Index shows, in its most recent data, that as of December 2012 overall giving was only at 2.6%, but online giving was at 15.2%. This disparity represents a greater shift toward online models of giving, like Kickstarter. The America’s Charities’ survey revealed that “[t]echnology is also playing a big role in workplace giving engagement. More than half of employers plan to implement more social media tools in the next two years so their employees can post content promoting their favorite charity. Of these, 30 percent now allow workers to post videos and/or testimonials in support of the organizations they support. “ A current giving program is only as good as its ability to leverage social media, and web donations. Does your organization have the right strategy? ~Josef

  • 16 January 2013
Fiscal Cliff deals Nonprofits a good hand

Fiscal Cliff deals Nonprofits a good hand

What impact does the fiscal cliff deal have on nonprofit fundraising? This is the question that has been on every nonprofit’s mind ever since the ‘fiscal cliff’ was averted by Congress on the last day of 2012. Everyone around the country (and the world) heaved a sigh of relief that we were not plummeting down the cliff albeit the deal meant higher taxes. While it was anticipated that the deal will bring with it an increase in taxes, it wasn’t widely expected that the deal will be good for nonprofit fundraising. This was mainly because it was feared that there would be a cap on the maximum amount of tax deductions on the contributions made towards charitable purposes. And even though there may be people who would not seek any incentive in contributing to charities, let’s face it; a tax deductible donation does seem more attractive to many people rather than one that would give no tax benefits. Therefore, it was assumed that people would contribute only as much as they could claim as a tax deductible donation which would (possibly) mean lesser donations (from the wealthy in particular). However, the fiscal cliff deal could actually be good for nonprofits and potentially increase charitable giving. How is this possible?The main reason for this, according to the Urban Institute Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, is the fact that the deal does not limit tax breaks for charitable donations which means that taxpayers can continue to deduct charitable donations at their full marginal tax rate. What this translates to is that taxpayers can now reduce their tax liability by a higher percentage due to the increased marginal tax rates. For example, if a taxpayer in a 35% tax bracket could reduce his tax liability by 35 cents for every $1 in charitable donation, he can now reduce it by 39.6 cents since the tax rate for his bracket has gone up to 39.6% Thus, the cost of giving has actually gone down! There are more provisions in The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 that could have a positive impact on charitable giving. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center's Urban Institute on Nonprofits and Philanthropy outlines them in summary form in this fact sheet. Therefore, nonprofits should continue their fundraising efforts with gusto and make sure that their contributors know the positive impact of the fiscal deal on charitable donations. ~Ramya

  • 19 November 2012
Making the most of the Spirit of Giving

Making the most of the Spirit of Giving

GivingThe holiday season is right around the corner and so is the spirit of giving, one of the busiest times of the year for nonprofits. It is a well-known fact that people tend to give more during the holiday season but exactly how do donors decide which nonprofit gets their donation? Hope Consulting's research, Money for Good, found that while 9 out of 10 donors say that nonprofit performance is important, only 3 out of 10 do any research before giving and only 3 out of 100 do any research to find a high performing nonprofit.

These statistics didn’t entirely surprise me because many people tend to give to a nonprofit they already know so the question of researching on nonprofits may not arise. This is an advantage for the larger nonprofits since people can easily identify them and relate to their cause. For smaller nonprofits however, it is a different story due to the limited number of resources available for creating widespread awareness.

So how can smaller nonprofits make sure that they make the most of the spirit of giving? Here are a few ways we thought of: 1. Increase visibility A great way of increasing visibility is using social media effectively. Talk about your cause, promote it, connect with other nonprofits by ‘sharing’ and ‘liking’ their pages and create a network that can route people back to your nonprofit. 2. Create a great landing website Free image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.netThe purpose of using social media is to not only create awareness of your nonprofit’s activities but also to direct the followers to your website where they can gain more information and take action e.g. a clear ‘Donate’ button or a page with volunteering opportunities. We at WebServes know the importance of having a great website which is why we offer web development services and welcome nonprofits that are seeking a professionally developed website. 3. List down tasks for drop-in volunteers The spirit of giving doesn’t always need to translate to monetary donations; some people give their time by volunteering at nonprofits. There are some people who just drop-in at nonprofits to help out and this is great since an extra pair of hands is always a big help. A great way of ensuring that the volunteers’ time is put to use is to have a ready list of tasks (such as organizing or cleaning) at hand to accommodate the drop-in volunteers. We recognize the fact that drop-ins are not always welcomed or appropriate given the nature of the organization’s programs or structure, but a cordial exchange and channeling of the prospective volunteers interest is definitely constructive. 4. Be specific about your needs As 10 Percent Solution puts it, don’t make your supporters guess what you want from them. Be specific about the nonprofit’s objectives and how the supporters’ donations of time, money or goods will enable your nonprofit to achieve the said objectives. Outline where donations go and even what specific amounts can achieve - A donation of $20 to our cause can... 5. Acknowledge your supporters No amount of time or money, however big or small, is insignificant so make it a point to acknowledge your supporters. Instead of just having a big ‘Thank You!’ on your website, send out personalized emails or Thank You cards and make your supporters feel special. How does your nonprofit make the most of the holiday season? Share your ideas and activities with us, ‘tis the season for giving after all! ~Ramya  

  • 2 October 2012
New York Cares Day: Volunteer for Schools

New York Cares Day: Volunteer for Schools

New York Cares Day- October 13th 2012

If you're reminiscing on those back-to-school days this fall, but have long since left the schoolyard, New York Cares Day is giving you an opportunity to relive those days while helping to revitalize some of New York's under served public schools. New York Cares DayOn October 13th, New York Cares is organizing New York Cares Day: Volunteer for Schools. Some of the activities volunteers can look forward to are:
  • Painting walls
  • Organizing books, files, etc
  • Assembling or discarding furniture
Direct your kids' youthful energy towards philanthropy and make it a family activity! Children as young as 7 can attend and work on arts and crafts activities. Volunteers ages 17 and under are welcome as well, but must be accompanied by an adult. Youth teams of high school students must include one adult team member per every 10 youth member. The following teams still have space: "Brooklyn Team 2", "Bronx Team 1" or "Staten Island Team 1". Another option is joining the New York Cares Bus Site Team. This team of volunteers will meet at the New York Cares offices in Manhattan at 65 Broadway and participants will get bussed to the schools that still need volunteers. The day starts at 9:30 AM and ends at 3 PM when the bus will bring the team back to the pick up area. It will be best to bring a bag lunch (just like old times) in case there are no convenient places nearby to eat. There is a tax-deductible $20 registration fee to participate, but keep in mind that every dollar donated amounts to $6 worth of community service. Participants representing 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization eligible for a discounted fee. Click here to register, and for  FAQs, click here -Valerie @vcorvington  

  • 7 September 2012
Cloud Computing for Nonprofits; Are You on Cloud Nine? (Part 1 of 2)

Cloud Computing for Nonprofits; Are You on Cloud Nine? (Part 1 of 2)

Cloud computing image

Do you use Cloud Computing?

What if someone were to ask you whether you are tech savvy and are using cloud computing? If you said no (because isn’t cloud computing all about storing files on someone else’s computer/server? I already have all my files on my desktop pc), think again. If you’ve ever used Yahoo Mail, Gmail or Hotmail, then you’re already in the world of cloud computing! According to Joseph Scarano (CEO of Araize-providers of software solutions to nonprofits):

 ‘Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software and info are provided to computers and other devices over a network, typically the internet’.

So by this definition, using Gmail or any other email service counts as cloud computing because we just sign up for the mail accounts and access them through the browser without having to maintain an in-house email exchange server. In part 1 of this 2-series blog, we will be talking about how nonprofits can use cloud computing in their day-to-day activities. Part 2 will outline some useful cloud resources and the pros and cons of cloud technology. In addition to email, here are some other ways that nonprofits can use cloud computing: 1. Storage This is the most well-known use of the cloud technology and one that works really well for small nonprofits that do not have a lot of office space. A good example of a storage service is the one provided by Dropbox which allows users to create special folders on each of their computers and synchronize them into one folder so that they are available to be viewed as one folder regardless of which computer the user is on. Dropbox is free to use up to 18GB but upgrades of up to 500GB are possible starting at $9.99 per month. For businesses, Dropbox has its Teams service which has plans starting at approximately $13.25 per team member per month for a team of 5 members and a storage capacity of 1000GB. Each additional team member will be billed at $10.41 per month and an additional 200 GB will be part of the package. Considering the amount of work that is done remotely, this feature would be beneficial to non-profits who have their team members located in different geographic regions but working on the same project. 2. Backup Did you know that World Backup Day is on March 31st? Just one day before April Fool’s Day? We think there is an implied meaning right there; back up or else risk ending up being fooled after all your data is lost! Jokes aside, backup is really very important to save us a lot of anxiety so much so that we feel backup should be done almost everyday and not just once a year. It is very common to use external hard drives as backup in case of system failure or hard disk crashes. However, the possibility of losing the external drive or physically damaging it still exists. Moreover, the act of having to physically save all files onto an external drive may not be very effective since we might forget to backup our files and only think of them when we lose them! This is where the cloud comes in handy. Having an online backup for your files securely stores your files in an offsite server and thus reduces the risk of losing the files through hard drive loss. In addition, most providers nowadays have automatic backup thus saving the user the hassle of clicking ‘save’ every time the file is modified. There are a number of cloud backup services in the market today with slightly different plans. Some have pricing plans that bill the user per computer while others bill per GB used. For instance, AVG LiveKive offers unlimited storage on an unlimited number of devices for for $79.99/year while BackBlaze offers unlimited storage for $60/year/computer. Comodo Backup and IDrive offer 5GB of online backup storage for free which is not a lot but gives you a chance to test the service before buying it. The decision to go for one backup service and not the other is dependent upon the needs of your organization and personal preferences of the people using the service. However, there are some key points to keep in mind when selecting a backup service provider: Cloud button a) Is unlimited storage really unlimited? Some service providers have been known to offer ‘unlimited’ storage space but in reality, they refer to 500GB of space as ‘unlimited’ and any extra space used in excess of the 500GB will be billed separately. Usually such details are not displayed prominently and therefore, you should always read the fine print (such as the Terms of Use) before signing up. b) Security encryption level: some backup services have military grade encryption while  others have the 448 bit encryption (better than that of a bank). These levels simply outline  how secure the service is and how hard it is for a hacker to ‘crack’ the password key and obtain access to your data. Having either of the two levels ensures that the backup service is equipped with strong passwords to ensure your data does not fall into the wrong hands. c) Accessibility: Will you be accessing your information from a Windows PC? a Mac? a  mobile device? This is an important consideration because not all cloud service providers offer services that are compatible with all devices. 3. Software applications As we all know, software does not come cheap; licenses need to be bought and frequent upgrades may be necessary as and when a new version of the software is released. Some types of software such as Accounting applications can get really expensive and in this case, the cloud comes in pretty handy. According to ZDNet, “the software runs (or is hosted) on the provider’s premises, not the customers’, and payment is by subscription spread over the term of the contract rather than an upfront license fee.” As such, availability, operation, and maintenance of the software are the responsibility of the cloud provider. This tends to make things easier; sort of like subscribing to the newspaper; pay the monthly fee and receive the newspaper every single day. Simple, right? Lynnea Bylund, a board member of The Gandhi Worldwide Institute, a 501(c) charitable organization has the following testimonial advocating the use of Cloud9 Real Time (a cloud provider offering its software services as a subscription) for their accounting purposes:
Cloud9 helped to reduce the total cost of our accounting system by at least 40%, on an annual basis, while reducing stress and increasing access.  At important moments myself, the organization’s chairman and our CFO can all assess a real-time accounting picture, each of us from different locations in the world.”
As is the case with every technology, there are some pros and cons to using the cloud which will be covered in part 2 of this blog series so be sure to come back and read our next blog where we’ll have more insightful information and resources! ~Ramya

  • 29 August 2012
More Social Media; ‘Pinterest’ed?

More Social Media; ‘Pinterest’ed?

PinterestBefore you say ‘not another social network!’, let us revisit the phrase ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. When time is of essence and reading a text-heavy marketing message is out of the question, well-captured images take effective marketing to a whole new level. Pinterest is the latest kid on the block in the world of social networking that has rapidly gained enough popularity to be rated 3rd after Facebook and Twitter and is the fastest standalone site in history to cross the 10 million users mark according to TechCrunch.

What is Pinterest anyway? Just to have a small intro course for Pinterest 101, we’ll define Pinterest at its simplest by calling it a highly visual virtual bulletin board of images that allows users to ‘pin’ their images to their own boards and explore other user’s images.

via perfectpinning

There is a ton of information on the web as to how Pinterest works but in this blog, let’s focus more on why an organization should consider Pinterest as a marketing medium. For-profit organizations have effectively used Pinterest to market themselves but would this apply to nonprofits as well? If we go by Pinterest’s goal of connecting ‘people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests’, then we can conclude that nonprofits can effectively use the medium to connect people based on social passions.

Reasons for using Pinterest

There are a myriad of reasons for Pinterest’s popularity as a marketing medium but the following are the most important for nonprofits:

1. Target Market

Demographically speaking, Pinterest has captured the attention of a certain population group which would be of great value to the nonprofits. According to the Huffington Post, 70% of Pinterest users are women aged between 25 and 34 with a household income of $100,000+ per annum. In addition, statistics from ComScore report that Pinterest buyers spend more, buy more items, and conduct more transactions than other social media buyers. Why is this statistic important to nonprofits in particular? Well, statistics show that women are major donors to the causes of nonprofits so using Pinterest as a targeted marketing tool for this specific population segment makes good marketing sense.

2. SEO points

As outlined in a previous blog post by Peter, having recommendations and referrals is important for organizations to generate traffic to their website.  With Pinterest, this is made possible by linking images in the profile to the organization’s website such that every user who clicks on an image is directed to the official website which is a very good way of increasing visibility. In fact, According to TechCrunch, Pinterest’s referral traffic has topped that of Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined which further reinforces the use of the emerging social networking site.

3. The ‘Human’ Effect

In addition to the descriptions in the ‘About Us’ section, Pinterest goes a step further and allows organizations to give a face to their cause.  According to marketer Jim Ewel, Pinterest is a great way to ‘humanize’ your company and give a chance for clients and constituents to interact with people and not just faceless brands.

A good example of a non-profit that has effectively used Pinterest is Amnesty International. They pin inspiring pictures related to rights and equality, as well as links to T-shirts and jewelry that support the organization (The Huffington Post).

4. Social Integration

Emily Jenkins, a freelance writer with a keen interest in social media, raises a key point on the importance of integrating social media sites for maximum brand efficiency. Pinterest integrates seamlessly with many social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter which allows for the replication of posts when you pin on Pinterest.

As with any other social media platform, it is paramount that nonprofits invest time in developing their Pinterest profiles in order to optimally display what they stand for. The 10 strategies for Nonprofits on Pinterest by Matt Petronzio serve as a guideline on how nonprofits can effectively use Pinterest to their advantage. A summary of these points is as follows:

  1. Know your audience: who is using Pinterest and how can you customize your profile to attract them?
  2. Get Personal: show how much you care for the cause by sharing information with your followers.
  3. Reveal yourself: show images of staff and volunteers working on the cause.
  4. Focus on the achievable: a non-profit is all about making things possible; not just creating hopes and dreams. Show what is possible and inspire supporters that what you have set out to achieve is doable.
  5. Make it a team effort: encourage everyone to ‘pin’ and contribute their ideas and thoughts.
  6. Fundraise: use Pinterest to sell branded items such as t-shirts with the non-profit’s logo. This creates an additional avenue for raising funds.
  7. Pin/Highlight other non-profits: repinning another non-profit’s images helps to increase their following and who knows, the non-profit may return the favor by pinning you!
  8. Add Pinterest to your website: just as you would add Facebook and Twitter.
  9. Pin videos: videos add extra emotions that pictures alone cannot. Pinning a YouTube video outlining your latest project could generate enough interest to raise funds.
  10. Be inviting: do not let pinning be a solitary action. Invite followers, supporters and staff to contribute and make your Pinterest profile a community.

WebServes wishes you happy ‘pinning’!


  • 27 August 2012
Make Technology Work for your Nonprofit

Make Technology Work for your Nonprofit

How technology can positively influence your nonprofit’s effectiveness (if only you can afford it)

Despite the prevalence of technology in modern communications, investment in technology to empower nonprofit organizations remains an area that receives little or no attention. The majority of nonprofits’ audiences are online so it makes sense that they establish and maintain an online presence to interact with their constituents where they are. A common issue for nonprofits is a lack of expertise in the technological field as well as a lack of resources to accomplish their goals. Some nonprofits may even have a steady stream of donations but simply lack the freedom to assign a portion of these proceeds towards developing their online identity and making technology work for them. Research on this topic was carried out by ZeroDivide last year, Amplifying Social Impact in a Connected Age, and by Idealware this year, Unleashing Innovation: Using Everyday Technology to Improve Nonprofit Services.

Part of the issue with fundraising for technological needs is the same as with other procedural elements of nonprofits. Donors want to know their donation is going directly to the cause that the nonprofit was established for in the first place and not toward business matters within the offices of the nonprofit. However, this outlook fails to appreciate the potential that technology enables in a nonprofit organization. Technology-related funding can have an exponential effect on the mission of a nonprofit. A donation that enables the technological prowess of a nonprofit can add considerably more than the same donation directly to the cause. For example, a donation that covers the annual social media costs of a nonprofit could lead to greater donations than the associated cost.

The barriers to technology-related funding are evident on both sides. A lack of understanding by funders can result in technology being overlooked in the first place and a lack of strategy in its implementation can be equally damaging to technology’s potential. There is a need within the nonprofit landscape for greater understanding of the potential to empower through technology as well as the strategy to make this so.

What is encouraging from ZeroDivide’s research is that  nonprofits increasingly want to invest in technology. They see the opportunities of technology as more than an administrative tool. They see its possibilities as a new approach that can foster real and impactful change. The dilemma in the short-term is how to encourage technology funding by donors and how to make the information readily available for nonprofit management so that technology can become an active part of the overall strategy.

Two important findings of ZeroDivide’s report:

A 2010 study by the Mitchell Kapor Foundation and ZeroDivide... found that (a) the strongest determinant of an organization’s technology fluency was whether it had a leader actively encouraging change in the internal culture, and (b) that leaders advocating change related to technology share three characteristics:

• They are comfortable learning about and using new technology.

• They hire tech-savvy staff members that share the same characteristics.

• They understand the technology value proposition and how its strategic use can help advance their organizations’ mission.

Note that neither the leader’s age nor the size of the organization were found to be determinative — it is largely the openness and commitment to culture change that are most important.

Technology cannot be externally forced upon an organization, the push has to come from within. The advantages of being a technologically-enabled organization can be demonstrated to the management of a nonprofit but the impetus has to be their own for change to be embraced.

In our San Francisco gatherings, participants suggested the creation of a visualization of the TSP [Technology Service Provider] landscape — one that is interactive and updateable — showing offerings by region and type of service. Funders felt that this would be an important step in fostering increased investment in this provider ecosystem, and would be a valuable resource for connecting their grantees [nonprofits] with service offerings.

At present, TSPs are in competition with one another and there is no directory to assist nonprofits in finding the most suitable candidate, geographically, to serve their needs. This is something that would undoubtedly make the process of finding suitable technology partners easier for organizations but may not be endorsed by competitive TSPs. As a nonprofit organization that is also a TSP, WebServes welcomes collaboration with other TSPs for the greater good of nonprofits everywhere. A comprehensive directory of TSPs, listing their specific services and location, would make the move to amplifying social impact in a connected age considerably easier for nonprofits new to the internet, as well as acting as a useful resource for established nonprofits to enrich their digital presence.

A directory of TSPs would encourage industry standards and best practices and provide authentication. This would enable nonprofits to choose from a comprehensive range of reputable providers to find their ideal match. Accountability is a vital ingredient in business nowadays and a trusted directory of TSPs would allow nonprofits to collaborate with service providers without fear of reprimand from funders.

If nonprofits understand the benefits of technology they can examine their own organization’s needs and determine which tools can improve their services. Idealware’s report contains insightful research and case studies on this subject. One nonprofit surveyed found text messaging highly effective for communicating with a teenage audience. Another utilized a cloud-based database that enabled multiple organizations within a community to share client information so as to reduce time wasted inputting duplicated information. A third nonprofit used Facebook, posting regular photos, to recruit volunteers from a previously unreached audience.

There can be no doubt that technology can empower your nonprofit. The main obstacles to overcome are awareness and strategy. A comprehensive database of TSPs as well as training and guidance for nonprofits could make a substantial difference in making the adoption of technology by nonprofits seem more feasible. Once nonprofit managers are aware of the advantages of utilizing technology, strategy can be implemented effectively with cost-saving and time-saving measures that increase the reach of a nonprofit; increasing donations and volunteers.

WebServes is also an advocate for greater coordination of high-level strategies for funding technology use among nonprofits. WebServes is seeking support for an initiative to create a funding “pool” – a technology assistance fund – to assist its nonprofit clients/partners who need to implement projects based in web and Internet technologies but lack sufficient funds to do so. Research has shown that institutional funders are more likely to fund outcomes over enabling technology; choosing to fund programs before the technological means to execute the programs. A recommendation that WebServes would make to larger private and corporate foundations is to create a nationwide “Tech Fund” that would offer distribution of funds to NPO/NGO initiatives that are dependent on technology for their programmatic impact. Incentives could be added for innovative uses of existing tech, as well as the creation of new tools and methods.

It is time for the Nonprofit space to acknowledge what the For-profit sector has long known (and funded): Technology drives innovation and success.



  • 22 August 2012
Brand Your Nonprofit (Not Your Cattle)

Brand Your Nonprofit (Not Your Cattle)

via SSIReview

Branding is a dirty word in the Nonprofit sector. Nonprofit leaders are often skeptical of the For-profit associations that branding evokes - pursuit of monetary gain, corporate vanity or a tool for competitive differentiation. The rules of For-profit business don’t apply to Nonprofits so why should the branding not be different also? Nathalie Kylander and Christopher Stone of the Stanford Social Innovation Review want to re-brand Nonprofit branding in their report, The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector.

Kylander and Stone suggest a new framework, the Nonprofit Brand IDEA - Integrity, Democracy, Ethics and Affinity. These original branding priorities are representative of Nonprofit organizations in a way that the For-profit branding model fails to understand. Research by Kylander and Stone revealed four sources of pride within the Nonprofit sector; “pride in the mission of an organization, pride in participatory planning, pride in the values that define organizational culture, and pride in supportive partnerships.” The IDEA framework is built on these characteristics. Integrity - Brand integrity is all about the Nonprofit’s mission; getting your internal identity and external image aligned so that both are serving the mission. It’s about ensuring that the branding strategy is synchronised with the organization’s goals going forward. When your brand matches your mission, your mission is reinforced by every instance of branding. When your house is in order, you can fully focus your efforts on your cause.

Democracy - Brand democracy is trusting your members in their portrayal of your organization’s identity. Social media makes it impossible to police every mention of your organization. Instead of attempting to single-handedly control your brand, empower your members by representing your brand with a clear and consistent identity. For large organizations, setting templates and parameters can be a useful guide for encouraging members to get involved. If your branding strategy is well formulated, your members will be able promote it with confidence, resulting in a consistent message.

Ethics - Brand ethics is about ensuring your internal identity and external image are in sync with your values and culture. Ethics is about branding representing your organization in a way that reinforces your inherent values and does not undermine them. It is about maintaining dignity in your branding and not resorting to underhanded tactics in an effort to boost short-term gains ahead of long-term relationships. Kylander and Stone provide an explanatory example:

We heard many stories of lapses in brand ethics, such as using pitiful photographs of an organization’s beneficiaries to motivate donors. Yasmina Zaidman, communication director at Acumen Fund, contrasts these exploitive images with Acumen’s tagline “Seeing a world beyond poverty.” Acumen avoids “images of poverty that … dehumanize the people whom we want to actually help,” she says, instead promoting images of “pride and dignity.”

Affinity - Brand affinity is working alongside other brands and celebrating the collective effort ahead of individual interests. Affinity is about collaboration and the promotion of partner brands alongside your own. Organizations that encourage and participate in brand affinity will be more likely to receive offers for partnerships in the future, benefiting their cause from the increased exposure that collaboration brings to all involved.

The IDEA framework shines light on the differences between For-profit and Nonprofit branding. Branding is incentivised within For-profit organizations to increase profits, whereas Nonprofits’ pride in their cause leads them to branding. While there remains considerable crossover in the tools for branding utilized by both For-profits and Nonprofits, the emphasis should not be on differentiation, but instead on the benefits of a recognisable brand. Branding will ultimately be what you make of it and organizations that take the time to plan a cohesive strategy and apply effective branding will see the rewards in increased exposure and recognition for their organization. The easier you make it for people to understand, remember and connect with your Nonprofit, the more your cause will grow. Branding is one of your greatest assets toward this end.