Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Over a year ago, icy water inundated the Internet in what may have been the online equivalent of the largest chain letter ever—the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In endless Facebook videos, people hoisted buckets filled with ice water, announced their philanthropic intentions, and upended the buckets over their heads. Breathless, they would nominate a few friends, demanding that they do the same upon penalty of a charitable donation to ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was immensely successful—a break-the-Internet phenomenon that spread all the way up to President Obama. But with this barnstorming success came an undercurrent of critical skepticism. Were people actually following through with donations? Was the campaign saying it was better to be cold and wet than a charitable giver? Was the stunt overshadowing the actual disease? Was the whole thing actually raising meaningful awareness? Twelve months down the road, here’s where things stand according to Charity Navigator.

How much money did the campaign bring in?

The national chapter of the ALS Association (ALSA) reports that, the challenge brought in a staggering $115 million. Participants also donated an additional $13 million to the association’s regional branches. As you might expect, these kind of numbers were unheard of for the ALSA—the charity’s Form 990 filings show they brought in $23.5 million in 2013. GETTY_82114_IceBUcket

How much has been spent so far, and on what?

The ALSA reports it has spent around $47 million of the $115 million raised thus far, with two-thirds allocated toward research in five different areas: gene discovery, disease model development, identification of biomarkers, clinical trials, and drug development. Some 20% of the money has been spent on patient and community services; the remaining 11% has gone to education, fundraising, and processing fees.

Is it bad that only $47 million of the $115 has been spent so far?

Charity Navigator gives a firm no. Since ALS is a disease with no known cure, the fight against ALS is largely focused on research. Eradication is more of a priority than palliative care, seeing as the disease is 100% fatal. In interviews with Charity Navigator, multiple chapters of the ALSA described spending plans of up to three years, because research often gets paid out over multiple years. And since one study frequently begets another, smart spending is even more important.
What concrete accomplishments can ALSA point to?

Direct patient and community services have produced most measurable results, since patient care is immediate and concrete. For example, the Palm Beach Post reported that the ALS Association Florida Chapter was able to hire a bilingual regional care manager.

Some progress has been made thanks partly to Ice Bucket Challenge research funding. Working with Ice Bucket money, researchers from Johns Hopkins University identified a protein that fails in the cells of most ALS patients, and showed that if they repair the protein, the damaged cell can heal.

It can take years or even decades for researchers to find scientifically proven treatments, let alone cures for deadly diseases, so donors may have to be patient to see what other results the ALSA-funded research yields.

Lots of money was raised, but what about awareness?

During the campaign, various people raised concerns that participants were more more caught up in the viral sensation than the cause, giving less money than a typical donor and often without even knowing much about the disease. There are two kind of donors, those who are deeply engaged in the cause, giving over many years, and those who respond to the social media wave.

Even if most donors don’t know what the letters “ALS” stand for or anything about the illness, it’s hard to look a $115 million gift horse in the mouth.

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Zuck’s in the Holiday Spirit.

We are two days away from Christmas. Why oh why am I not feeling the holiday spirit?! Apparently, I need to take cue from Mike Zuckerberg who is very much in the giving mood.

Last week, Zuckerberg announced plans to give 18 million Facebook shares to charity by the end of the month.

The gift is worth just under $1 billion.

Ho, ho, ho!

Ho, ho, ho!

The money will go toward Zuckerberg’s foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and The Breakthrough Prize In Life Science, a Noble Prize-like award.

Zuckerberg is giving his shares away as part of a secondary stock offering from Facebook.

Reuters says Zuckerberg will sell 41.4 million shares, reducing his voting power in the company from 58.8% to 56.1%.

Zuck didn’t stop there. He then turned his giving-ease to the actual Facebook platform….

Facebook has added a “Donate Now” button to make it easier for users to donate to non-profits. The button appears next to posts by 19 different nonprofit organizations that partner with Facebook. Users who choose to donate via this method will be prompted to enter the amount of money they want to donate and enter payment information directly through Facebook.

The Donate Now button will be a permanent fixture on certain nonprofit pages of organizations like UNICEF and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Nonprofits that want to be included in this program can apply for inclusion.

‘Tis the season….

#GivingTuesday is Back.

You’ve probably already saved your coins for Black Friday and, if you’re ambitious, you’ll be out and about spending them before you’ve even digested your turkey dinner. Whatever you do, save a few for #givingtuesday.

Set for December 3rd, Giving Tuesday is a daylong national effort to help charities raise money online during the holiday shopping season. Last year, the first Giving Tuesday drew donations to about 2,600 nonprofits.  GiveTuesday_700x

This year, in order to help even more non-profits get prepared for the big day, I thought it would be best to share a cheat sheet recently posted by Network for Good. Here goes:

1. Sign up. Registered 501(c)3 organizations can visit GivingTuesday.org to become an official partner organization and find ways to get involved.

2. Set a clear goal. Figure out what you want to accomplish on #GivingTuesday and set a goal that you can measure.

3. Get your emails and social media updates ready.  Craft a few emails to rally your supporters to give along with their peers on December 3. Use social media to keep the excitement going and encourage fans to spread the word. You can join the conversation by using hashtag #GivingTuesday.

4. Make it easy for your supporters to give. Create clear calls to action so donors don’t have to wonder what you want them to do. Then, remove all of the roadblocks to giving by streamlining your donation process and enabling your donors to give via mobile.

5. Make it easy for your supporters to share. Offer easy and ubiquitous social sharing options on your donation pages and content, along with pre-programmed updates that your community can share with their networks to inspire even more participation.

Ready to make #GivingTuesday your own? Here are some resources to help you make the most of this day of giving and connect with your supporters:

• Learn how to get the most out of #GivingTuesday from GreatNonprofits

• Check out the amazing Giving Day Playbook from the Knight Foundation.

•  HubSpot has posted 12 tips for amplifying your #GivingTuesday campaign.

• The folks at GivingTuesday.ca offer some great ideas for 6 super-simple social media campaigns.

• Find (and share) even more resources in John Haydon’s Ultimate #GivingTuesday Checklist.

Happy giving!

Network For Good’s 2013 Digital Giving Index

Thanksgiving is about GIVING (and Turkey). Just in time for the occasion, Network for Good created the Digital Giving Index to provide insights on charitable giving for nonprofits seeking to strengthen relationships with donors and companies seeking to engage with consumers and employees.

The Digital Giving Index examines giving behavior across Network for Good’s online donation platform. This Index builds on data and observations from The Online Giving Study, created in 2010, and is updated regularly to provide snapshots of the state of online giving. Take a look and gobble, gobble.

The Network For Good Digital Giving Index
Digital Giving Index infographic courtesy of Network for Good

Your NPO and Instagram

It’s a shame. People barely read these days. It’s all about good pictures. I guess that’s not so bad as photographs leave lots of room for individual interpretation.

It’s for this very reason that Instagram is on the rise.  With 100 million monthly active users and over 40 million photos uploaded per day, the photo-sharing site claims to gain a new follower every second.

So how can NPOs use Instagram to turn their photos into donation-drivers? Here are some ideas to start:

1.     Get personal.

The most successful Instagram accounts offer a glimpse into user’s private lives and behind-the-scenes experiences not revealed on other social networking sites. They key is authenticity and transparency – if your organization is not comfortable with this yet, then Instagram may not be for you (right now).

2.     Connect Instagram with your organization’s Twitter account and Facebook Page.

Since photos get above-and-beyond the most interaction and engagement of all content posted to Facebook and Twitter, it makes sense to post your best Instagram images on both of these accounts. If you are using Instagram from a personal account, you can link your organization’s Facebook Page easily.

3.     Follow other accounts first to see what works for other nonprofits.

As with all social media sites, first conduct research on best practices, sketching out a plan and then jump in. See what local businesses, nonprofits, community organizations and leaders in your area are posting to Instagram. Follow your supporters, donors and volunteers to see what moves them and what they like to post.

4.     Take some time to learn how to take a great Instagram photo.

Unusual angles, different lighting and a unique perspective are all characteristics of viral Instagram shots. Shots of nature, beautiful scenery, close ups on faces all translate into likes and comments. instagram

5.     Showcase direct impact.

There is a reason that your organization exists. You are changing lives, saving the environment, finding homes for animals, preserving historical buildings, saving children. Whatever your mission, make sure that some of your Instagram photos show this impact – whether it be a smiling face, a cleaned up beach or an empty food pantry after the holidays.

 

6.     Have a healthy balance of fun pictures and business images.

It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom on Instagram – yes, touching, emotional photos work well, but change it up and show a happy moment!

7.     Crowdsource images from your supporters.

Your supporters, constituents and community members are online. What about that younger demographic you desperately want to reach? Guess what. They are ALL using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest. They are taking photos. They are sharing their experiences, thoughts, dreams and hopes online.  Why not use them as a source of content for your social media accounts?

8.     Highlight volunteer work.

Showcase the local bank stocking the food bank, the mom’s club hosting a fundraising event and the people monitoring the hotline, stuffing envelopes and doing office work.

9.  Feature your donors.

With their permission, post photos of your donors. Add a short caption describing who they are and why they support you.

10.  Use hashtags strategically and wisely.

Do not jump on the most popular hashtag and use it repeatedly – that’s spam. Use hashtags that make sense to your followers and your supporters.

Using hashtags is very important for continually adding new followers, as it exposes you to a wider circle of Instagram users who are searching on that hashtag.

Do your research, see what others are using and add them sparingly.

11.  Get comfortable with posting photos first, then develop a strategy for videos.

Instagram videos have become a hugely popular addition to the site, but most are blurry, unclear and indecipherable. When using video for your nonprofit, there needs to be more preparation and planning than just sneaking a snapshot.

13.  Link to your mobile site (or make sure your website is mobile accessible).

Instagram is a mobile app and thus all links should go to mobile accessible pages and websites, as well as mobile donation pages and email sign up forms. This should go without saying.

14.  Have fun!

Post a photo of the Board President at their high school prom for #ThrowbackThursday. Post photos of staff members celebrating a birthday.

Keep it light and go off topic once in a while. Enjoy yourself!

 

2013 mGive Report Calls Up Social Connection.

The 2013 annual mGive Text Donation Study was recently released and yet again demonstrates that text donations remain an overwhelmingly positive experience for donors. Supporters are increasingly finding out about text donation campaigns through social media. In addition, donors want to get more information about you through text messaging.

Here are some of the key takeaways:  mgive

More donors are hearing about text donation campaigns via social media. Social media is second only to TV or radio as the method by which respondents reported hearing about text campaigns. In fact, social media as a source for text campaign information rose six points to nearly 28 percent from 2012 to 2013. Email as a source of information about text campaigns continues to drop, falling from more than 60 percent in 2011 to 11.5 percent in 2013.

Donor appetite for additional information from nonprofits via text is increasing.  After donation information, respondents were more receptive to receiving other information compared to the 2012 survey, with 17.6 saying they would like to receive information about surveys (a six point increase over 2012); 32.8 percent said information about volunteering (a nine point jump over 2012); and, 18.7 percent said program information (a four point increase over 2012).

Mobile is one of the top three preferred methods of giving. Donors reported they like to contribute online, with live events and mobile donations nearly tied as the second pick.

Donors have positive experiences with text campaigns. Eighty-five percent of respondents rated their experience with text giving as excellent or good.

Donors consistently want to give more money through text. Nearly 85 percent of donors would like to give $25 to $50 through text donations, a slight increase from 82 percent in 2012.

With all of that said, please keep in mind:

1. Use mobile communication for info-sharing, not just solicitation. Text donations are popular and increasingly important not just for donations, but for multiple types of information sharing. The increase in desire to receive information about volunteering, surveys and program information presents an opportunity for nonprofits to increase donor engagement through mobile communication.  Survey says: Say it By Text!

2. Text donations will not undermine traditional giving. The survey also found that an overwhelming 85 percent are inclined to continue donating at larger amounts to a nonprofit via traditional methods after donating by text, clearing up a misconception that text donations can undermine other methods of giving. Donors also strongly favored, by 65 percent, the option to donate $25 via text.  Currently, text donors are limited to gifts of $5 and $10.

Download the full report here.

Social Media for Social Good: Beyond the “Like”

Despite what people think, slacktivism, a feel-good measure that requires little personal effort or sacrifice on the part of an individual that has little practical impact in actually helping the involved cause, is still alive and well.

While we want to believe that individuals are beyond clicking for good and that it actually makes a difference, it doesn’t. So how do we move beyond the “like”? Here are some thoughts:

donate_keyboard

Click ‘n Save.

1. Gather advocates – How does one find and activate online advocates? Start with where your donors are. This means you find out where your community and followers are, whether on Facebook or on Twitter or on Pinterest, and start with them.
2. Allow ideas to develop – Experiment to find out which content or what ideas work for your mission and your people.
3. Forge an authentic voice – What is the social media voice of your organization? For example, is your organization voice more academic or advocacy, more local or more global?
4. Create sustained conversations – Many nonprofits find success in hosting Twitter chats—scheduled Twitter conversations held on a regular basis with a hashtag unique to your organization or issue to talk about key issues.
5. Be approachable – Social media is best used for two-way conversations, not simply to push content to followers. Retweet others’ tweets, share links to other nonprofits’ or organizations’ announcements, and highlight your volunteers and donors.
6. Identify your core demographic – Go where your donors and advocates are.
7. Don’t equate social media with dumbed-down conversation. – Many advocacy-based nonprofits find Twitter brings in new followers and builds offline conversations.