Showing posts with label not for profits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label not for profits. Show all posts

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who Do Aussies Really Trust?

2014 Edelman Trust Barometer - Global Results from Edelman Insights

Trust is critical in content marketing or any other form of communications. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows who people around the globe trust. 

The Australian results are interesting.  Overall there has been an increase in the trust levels of Australians over the past 12 months. Specifically trust in:
  • Not for profits is marginally up.
  • Trust in media is up six points.
  • Business has taken a 10 point leap in trust levels.
  • There is a higher level of trust in government.
Interestingly Australians trust business slightly more than they do governments. 
Globally people want CEOs to communicate in a clear and transparent fashion, tell the truth regardless of the situation and regularly engage with employees.  For a clear majority these behaviours count more than CEOs being active in the media.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Create Great Events: Podcast

Last week I ran an events workshop for sporting codes and clubs in the Australian Capital Territory.  

Those attending were planning events ranging from  Australia's national fencing championships to the upcoming hot air balloon launch for a major youth organisation.

The conversation was lively: partly because we all agreed events play an important role in the life of most not for profits. In any given year the calendar of most community groups will feature at least one event. 

That's because events provide opportunities to meet face to face with your audience and impress people with your passion. 

This podcast describes planning essentials, especially how to create innovative events that make your organisation stand out and capture attention.

Next week I'll post tips and techniques on promoting your event.  You can automatically get it by adding your address in the email subscription box to the right.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Secrets Of Not For Profit Media Success

In the third of our nine part podcast series PR for Not For Profits, North American broadcaster Wayne Kelly and I explore the secrets of how not for profits can successfully work with local newspapers, radio stations and TV  networks.

We investigate how to to make media outlets want to cover your story, how to become newsworthy and the three documents that get media attention:

Each week we post a fresh episode in our podcast series.  Automatically get the next one by adding your address in the email subscription box to the right.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Not For Profit PR Podcast: PR Must Be In Your DNA

This second episode in our Not For Profit PR series explores why planning must be in the DNA of every not for profit.

It talks about planning and the importance of communications objectives, understanding your audiences and crafting convincing messages.

North American broadcaster Wayne Kelly and I finish by outlining three effective marketing strategies that cost less than $500 a year.

(Automatically get the next episode by filling in the email subscription box to the right.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Great Advice for Not For Profit Social Media Newbies

Last Friday I shared a speaking spot with Stephen Fox of Melbourne-based digital company Reactive at the annual YMCA marketing forum.

A social media guru if ever there was one, Stephen offered great advice for not for profits embarking on social media.  He suggested they need to get the fundamentals right upfront including: 
  • Setting a social media governance framework with clear boundaries. 
  • Resourcing social media efforts and train those who manage social media platforms. 
  • Monitoring and listen in to social media platforms before you start to advocate. 
  • Using a personal voice because corporate speak does not cut it in social media. 
  • Engaging, supporting and responding to others with valuable information.
Of particular interest Stephen shared tips  to raise funds or advocate an issue on social media:
  • Give people a simple call to action – something they can easily do online to contribute or participate.
  • Provide fresh content as the campaign unfolds.
  • Tell people your targets and graphically show how and where you are achieving them. 
  • Show who else is involved.
  • People appreciate acknowledgement so find a way to recognise those who donate dollars, time, and effort or otherwise support your cause.      
Based on Stephen’s knowledge and enthusiasm, I think his company would be a natural fit for any Melbourne not for profit wanting a social media campaign with integrity.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Needle Has Barely Moved For Social Media

This Friday we finished the last of our pro bono, not for profit workshops for 2011. Again it has been a privilege working with local charities and community groups sharing ideas on improving their marketing efforts. 

Despite the fact well known and successful organisations attended, it became apparent that few have ventured in the social media space when it came to marketing.  In the seven years we have run these workshops it seems the needle has barely moved when it comes to local not for profits using social media. We know the financial costs of the new technologies are small, so perhaps the organisational barriers are just too big to scale. 

I am a social media advocate but that doesn't mean everyone is an enthusiast.  That's why I feel not for profits should consider the following issues before deciding if the world of Web2.0  should be part of their marketing futures:
  • Are your clients, staff, volunteers and others you wish to engage using these new platforms?  If not and now, should you? 
  • There are no gatekeepers in social media and people freely share information and opinions  without restraint.  In cyberspace they can comment on anything, including how your organization performs.  If you want to succeed in this freewheeling universe you must engage in, not try to control, the conversation with your on-line audience.  If your communications style is traditional and based on command and control it may be just too unsettling to embrace social media.  Can you handle the participation and democracy of the new communications as well as its technologies?
  • Social media is a space of informal conversation.  There is no room for insider talk, corporate speak or jargon.  Sure, never dumb down your information but the nature of social media means it must be uncomplicated to be effective. Are you ready to be simple?
  •  Measurement is easy with social media.  People leave behind digital footprints as they upload content or visit digital spaces.  Their conversations and level of engagement can be tracked and recorded.  Are you prepared to measure the quality of your social media relationships?  While people may follow you or become a fan or a connection, can you translate their on-line support into the real world where their involvement may be critical? 
  • New social media tools hit the market at a bewildering rate. Most not for profits would be better off choosing social networking platforms that have already gained community traction before experimenting with new applications.  What platforms should you invest in and what do you let pass by?
  • In new media, like traditional media, it takes time, effort and persistence to succeed. Do you have the time, effort and energy to try, operationalise and integrate new ways of communicating  into your marketing?   
Finally , is your organisation risk averse? If you feel uncomfortable or nervous about things beyond your control, then social media may not be a good marketing option at this point in your organizational journey.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

People Will Support You But Persuade Them First

Persuasive communications have always been important.  Today they are the new communications black because we live in an era of challenging and challenged messages for which we can lay the blame squarely at the feet of politics.  
Over the past two decades citizens around the world have developed a heightened level of wariness about what they see, hear and read about the events around them. Politicians with their insufficent explanations or plain mistruths have taken the lead in devaluing the public discourse.  
Which makes it that so much harder for the good guys: the not  For profits who need to pass essential information to their communities. Alas these days there are no free passes for any organisation when it comes to communications. Every ear, every eyeball and every heart string has to be earned.
 Every ear, every eyeball and every heart string has to be earned

Not for profits are therefore forced to adopt the strategies and tactics of the big end of town when it comes to building and delivering persuasive messages. And this includes wrapping persuasion packaging around a core set of key messages such as:  
  • Testimony from happy clients who benefit from a not for profit's services.
  • Stories of front-line staff making a difference.
  • Endorsements by relevant celebrities, local leaders, academics and other public figures.
  • Comparisons with the successes or failures of like minded groups.  
  • Contrasting an organisation's services with a situation where they were or are not available.  
  • Presenting data and detail showing how a not for profit makes a difference.
  • Independent research showing why an issue is important and how it is trending. 
  • Using all communications channels to cater for all the different ways people consume information. 
  •  And of course using simple, plain language to inform a community bloated on a massive communications overload.  
Fail to use some form of persuasion packaging and your marketing will always struggle.   

Friday, January 21, 2011

Simple Messages Are Good Messages But Even Better Marketing

Communicating your aims clearly is the crux of effective marketing and PR.  If you can’t deliver a message to an audience you can’t market. You might apply scientific models to communications but I believe it will always remain an art.  This is because communications involves people and individually and as a group we are complex, curious creatures who generally but not always act in our own best interests. 
So there is an art to effective communications.  It lies in providing people with relevant information. Information that is easy to understand and that blends logic and emotion. What you say and send must appeal to the heart as well as the brain.  

It is important that your information also offers a clear call to action.  This is a simple statement of what you want people to do whenever they decide to act on your information.  For example, your call to action might consist of asking people to call a hot line, visit a website, consult their family doctor or give to a charity.  

Most likely your business or not for profit has layers of detail ranging from the simple to the complex to pass along.  You are probably keen to get as much out to the greatest number of people in the shortest time possible.  While this is an admirable goal, it is often a futile practice.  You lack the time, energy and effort to simultaneously reach everyone and you most certainly lack the budget.  You also run the risk of overloading the citizen, client or consumer with facts, figures, choices and alternatives and swamping their ability to process your message. 

A good starting point in deciding what people need to receive is to distil the complexity of your information into key messages. Key messages are the essential information people need to know about your issue or organisation.  If they come away from any meeting with you, what are the critical things they should be aware of and act on?

Our daily routines are lived out in constant communications clutter.  Thousands of messages bombard us daily. Some are skilfully crafted while the majority make up the ambient noise we have all learned to live with. So if you want your key messages to cut the clutter they need to be suitable, persuasive and delivered in enough time that people can absorb them and then act. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Communications Audit Tool for Not For Profits

Before beginning a new communication journey, it is worth reflecting on the current state of your organisation’s PR and marketing. A communications audit provides the opportunity to review your efforts and assess their effectiveness. 

A communications audit is a valuable exercise whether you are a large or small not for profit. It provides a handy reference point to assess what is working and what is not. Based on this you can then decide what to continue with and what to abandon.

In my workshops I ask groups to complete a simple audit template which takes around 20 minutes. An extract is below. 

Communication activity



Very effective


Not Effective

For example

Gather those who are responsible for directing and those who are responsible for carrying out your PR and marketing to complete the audit. Often in small not for profits these are the same people. It is handy to have the CEO or Chairperson involved because they know what is coming up, set future priorities and importantly control the communications budget. 
 Limit the audit to what you have done in the past 12 months and begin filling in the template. 
 In the column labelled Communication activity individually list what you currently do. For example you might use: 
  • Print collateral such as brochures, fliers, newsletters. Even list your annual report if this is how you make key people aware of what you do.
  • Media relations such as media releases, interviews, media conferences, letters to the editor.
  • Digital platforms such as your own or others’ websites, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Foursquare.
  • Events such as those you stage and those where you join with others.
  • Word of mouth marketing such as liaising with influential people and asking clients for testimonials.
  • Advertising such as radio, TV, newspapers or on-line advertising.
  • Direct marketing such as direct mail, email campaigns, telesales
  • Other activities.
 This list is not exhaustive but I hope you get the idea. 
 In the column labelled Frequency write down how often you do these tasks. For example it could be something you do regularly such as keeping in contact with funding agencies. Or it might be something that happens throughout the year such as approaching the media.  Or it might be something occurring once a year such as publishing the annual report.
 In the column labelled Budget you need to identify the dollar cost of each activity and the number of hours spent on it each month. Small organisations often have little to spend on marketing and PR, but compensate by devoting considerable time to communicating. It is important to identify both types of costs.
In the column labelled Very effective place a tick for a particular activity that you regard as successful and would want to repeat. Or you might rate an activity as effective (which is still a high score) so place a tick against that item in the column labelled Effective.  Or you might judge something as just not working, so tick the Not effective column.
Each communication task can only have one effectiveness rating and assigning a rating is based on either on evaluation data you have collected or an educated best guess of what works and what does not. (More on evaluation data in a later blog post .)
 A completed template shows at a glance the relative effectiveness of each item on your communications menu. You can now decide what to keep, improve or ditch.  Ideally you would want to continue an activity that was low cost in dollar terms and staff time but very effective.  Something that was effective but expensive might warrant more effort to make it work even harder.  Something graded not effective needs a massive overhaul or should be dropped.
You should conduct a simple communications audit least every 12 months and make sure you keep a record.  This then becomes an important document from which you can judge your progress. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not For Profits And PR Planning

A charity would never think of providing food to the homeless without the proper arrangements in place? A not for profit would never schedule respite care without preparations? A green group would never save a river without researching the best ways to undertake the task. Not for profits continuously plan their next steps.

Yet when it comes to PR and marketing, many organizations work in a haphazard fashion, improvising as they go. The committee cries out. We need a brochure, build a Facebook fan page or get us on the evening news.  That is often enough for someone to be off and running with little thought of a larger marketing picture. 

Effective communication does not have to be elaborate or expensive. But it does have to be planned. A simple plan focuses efforts, ensures money is wisely spent and harnesses staff and volunteer effort into concrete actions which lead to a desired end point. A communication plan is as important as other key business and corporate strategies and flows on from these documents. In turn it contributes to their successful implementation.  You need a plan but it does not have to be complex.  

Unless your organization is small with only a handful of members you need to document your communication goals and activities. A written plan ensures everyone shares a common direction, removes doubt and allows your achievements to be measured. 
Communications plans vary between organizations but most identify:
  • Objectives: the communications fundamentals to achieve.
  • Audiences: the people you need to reach.
  • Messages: what you want to tell people.
  • Tactics: how you will get information to your audiences.
  • A timetable: what happens and when.
  • Budget: how much you have to spend and on what, over the life of the plan.
  • Measurement: how you will measure your efforts so you can improve.
  • Responsibilities: who is doing what and by when. 
Not for profits are dynamic organisations and change constantly.  For example you hire new staff, get new clientele or your funding varies. Therefore your communications plan should be flexible rather than set in stone and has to be vigorously reviewed and updated so it remains current and relevant.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

PR on a Tiny Budget - Why I'm Writing A New Book

I am putting the finishing touches to my new book: PR on a Tiny Budget: How Not For Profits Can Communicate To Win Attention.

I'm motivated to write by one sad fact.  Today’s not for profits must be as good at marketing as they are at providing services.

In a perfect world sponsors, governments, communities and clients would know what  charities and others do and why they are important.  They would automatically give money, volunteer time and shower recognition on their staff. 
Unfortunately people are just too busy to naturally notice the good works going on around them each day.  They may catch an occasional glimpse but usually they are too time poor, cash strapped and attention deprived to notice and value the not for profits that enrich their communities.

On the other hand not for profits have wonderful individuals committed to doing something worthwhile, putting ‘something back’ or caring for others. Yet despite their enormous outpouring of time and effort, most strain to tell the stories of their great work.  Year in year out they grapple to win attention.  Put simply they fail to market themselves.

Why should this be so?  We live in the age of the marketer where selling yourself and what you do is essential for twenty-first century success. Silence may be golden but today it is rarely rewarding. Most not for profits lack the knowledge and skills to market or they devote insufficient effort or money to their communications. They are so busy just keeping afloat and providing essential services that outreach and promotion fall into the nice to have rather than the must have category.

This predicament can set up terrible anxiety and confusion for many managers and workers.  They know they must promote their organisation to attract more volunteers, carers, supporters and even clients. They know they must communicate to win funding and raise awareness of their issues and concerns.  But how and where can they find the talent, energy and effort, let alone the money to do all this?   
They face a dilemma and are caught between the rock of resources and the hard place of need. However there can be no place for weary resignation. Something must change.  In the post global financial crisis the long term survival of many not for profits in the end may come down to how they market as much as their good deeds.
So the reason for this new book.  It offers guidance - based on hard-won experience - on the essentials of effective marketing and the strategies and tactics needed to win the attention you deserve even though your budget is tiny. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Media Policy for Not For Profits

Recently I worked with a not for profit with member clubs spread across  two states to develop a policy to help clubs and the Executive manage proactive and reactive media relations.

The policy featured:
  • The objectives or why the organisation will engage the media in the coming 12 months. 
  • An encouragement for clubs to proactively engage their local media outlets as way of telling communities what they and the larger organisation is doing.
  • Tools to help clubs such as pre-packaged media backgrounders, fact sheets, templates, speaking points and standard paragraphs for media alerts and media releases.
  • Advice on how to access localised media contact lists.
  • Guidance on handling media relations in crisis and advocacy situations.
  • A media release review process - for all levels - so key players in the organisation know what is to be presented to journalists and what might make news.
  • Tips for recycling earned media coverage so that office holders, members and key supporters know what the press is reporting.
  • Social media guidelines so what is presented online is consistent with what is presented to traditional media.   
And because it is often so expensive, a media policy should spell out the why, when and where  advertising will be undertaken and how it will be blended with media relations.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why Raising Awareness Is Poor PR

Recently I came across a very good blog post about raising awareness and why it is a poor goal for a PR or marketing campaign.

Often people talk loosely about the need to raise awareness of their issue, product or service.  Even when people know you exist that alone will not move the needle to make your organisation more successful.  

After all what do you do with awareness once you have raised it? 

Awareness alone does not translate into more income, volunteers, program take-up or involvement.  I may be aware of Ford Motor Company but I may choose to drive a General Motors car.  I know about Coke but may prefer to drink Pepsi.  I know about Telstra services but give my business to Optus (true).

The true goal is for the people you need to engage (audiences), to change either their attitude so they eventually support what you are trying to achieve.  Or to change a specific behaviour such as adopting a healthier lifestyle, buying something, registering to vote or using your services etc.

Achieving this often means:
  • Continuous communications  and keeping in mind the PR maxim: just when you are sick of saying something, people are probably just starting to listen.
  • Compelling content (centred on personal stories) that motivates people to change what they are currently doing.  
  • An approach that grabs attention and propels your message through the communications clutter engulfing the average person.
  • A repetitious mix of communications tactics so if one approach fails one time, another may succeed later.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fundamentals for Not Profit Communications

We just finished the 2009 season for our free workshops for not for profit organisations.

Now in its sixth year these sessions offer pro bono marketing advice to volunteers groups, charities and not for profits.

To finish up the 2009 program we asked colleagues in our international PR networks to name the top ten things not for profit organisations must get right when they set out to communicate to their communities.

We got more than ten so here's the list.

Craft a message that resonates and connects. Before embarking on a PR campaign, craft your message. Who you are and who do you help? Do your services overlap with other groups? How is your organization unique and what makes it stand out? People want to know before investing what area of the community you serve. Is it pets, homeless people, the elderly, disabled children, etc? They also want to know that the majority of funds go to the intended programs and recipients.

Find out how to connect emotionally with your target audience. Put a face on the population you serve and tell their story. Describe their situation and how your services have helped them. If you must present a bleak picture be sure to provide a solution. People want to hear positive outcomes to things that affect them and their community so how do your services improve the community's quality of life.

Make your message as personal as possible to the audience you are trying to reach. And the information you are giving them has to be kept simple on the front end. People aren't going to read, or listen to a lot at the outset. Once you get their interest then you can deliver more content. So you have to really target your audience carefully. Tossing out lots of content broadly hoping to catch a few is wasteful in this economy.

Demonstrate the need, show you have a solution and then share your successes.

Listen before you communicate. The good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a very good reason.

The basic motivation factor of "putting something back in to the local community" is a good message. It leads to a sense of achievement and well being for volunteers and a sense of philanthropy for donors. Also promise donors publicity because people like to be seen to be doing good things.

Communications must empathise transparency and accountability. Ensure you report on how the funds you raised are being used and that what you claimed you would do, you actually did.

A lot of not for profits want to start with the tactics first and forget to spend a few minutes asking the questions to make their efforts smarter. So before you communicate, ask what is the purpose of my communications? What is the primary message I want to convey? Who is it designed to reach? What do I want people to do after they hear what I have to say? How will I know I have been successful?

Have I got my logos, images, taglines and spokespersons ready to roll before I start talking?

Understand the media likes conflict. Where there is no conflict or opposing views there is no story. So find a local hero and go for a feature story rather than a news story.

What is your value to the community at large? How many people are using your services, how many are unable to get these services? Where would those folks get services if your organization didn't exist? What would happen to them? And what is your impact on the general community?

Take advantage of third party endorsements in the form of testimonials from clients, favorable media placements, or even simply through the reputations of the people who serve on your board or who volunteer. But please choose them wisely. The best part of this strategy - it's virtually free.

Show the value you provide - the value of your research, the fact you employ real people at all levels, spend your money in the local economy and that you are open to people asking questions and seeing what we do. Wrap those points up in good story telling and tell a story about people who do things. Storytelling is becoming a lost art but you can't lose if you can get a handle on it.

... and my very special thanks to our contributors - Chips Henriss, Kristie Aylett, Karen Miller, Tim Entwisle, Janet Bosserman, Jeff Botti, Mike Spear, Rosanne Gain and Susanne Dupes.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Not For Profits Face Tough Marketing Challenges

In July 2009 the Centre for Social Impact, the Fundraising Institute of Australia and PricewaterhouseCooper released Managing in an Uncertain Economy. This 24 page report outlines how Australian not for profits are handling the downturned economy.

It concludes that:

  • Incomes of not for profits are declining but government funding is stable.
  • Incomes are reducing at the same time as costs are rising.
  • 30% of not for profits have taken measures to reduce costs and more plan to do so in the next 12 months.
  • Larger organisations are faring better. Probably because they have more reserves, are better known and so far they have been more proactive in introducing cost saving measures.

The report states that marketing and raising brand awareness will be priority items on the to do lists of many charities and volunteer groups as they head into 2010.
  • Many will put more emphasis on winning government funding so government relations tools and tactics will increasingly feature in their marketing mix.
  • About a third of organisations plan to upgrade their websites and 35% are planning to improve communications with stakeholders.
  • Many are considering collaboration or partnerships with others but very few would consider a merger.
  • There will be a greater call for volunteers as one way to meet increased demand for services as staffing levels either remain static or drop.

The PR and marketing implications from this study are stark.

In the coming year not for profits need to develop and implement simple, cost effective marketing efforts that deliver both dollars and volunteers. That's if they
intend to continue to offer the same level of services their communities have come to expect ... and keep the doors open and the lights on.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sponsorship and Fund Raising Presentation

Go here for our latest fund raising presentation for community groups.

If you have ideas on how not for profits can keep their cash flow going in these uncertain times please share them with others by leaving a comment.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Pick Up The Phone And Share PR

Next time you need to communicate with a dispersed audience, don't forget the humble telephone.

A tele-conference call is a great way to pass highly relevant information to an individual or very specific group of people at the same time.

This past week, as part of a national PR campaign, we hosted PR teleconferences for not for profit groups around the country. We dealt with around 20 community groups around Australia that had recently received a Commonwealth Government grant for grass roots community relations programs.

The tele-workshops were set up to share thoughts on how these organisations could raise community awareness about the important work they plan to do.

The workshops covered media relations, social media and word of mouth marketing and explored how local not for profits could use these three strategies. People representing six to eight organisations took part in each 60 minute call. Keeping the numbers small made for an intimate atmosphere where people could raise issues and offer their thoughts on what works for volunteers and what doesn't.

To provide a focus for discussion we circulated a slide package highlighting key PR and marketing points before each tele-conference. People on the call either printed it off or followed it through their computer.

We conducted six sessions and received very positive feedback. We also found that after some minor technical problems (which Optus promptly fixed) the tele-conferences were easy to set up and manage.

In tight times when funds are limited, the telephone and speaker remain handy and cheap tools that people in different parts of the country can use to share thoughts on PR and marketing.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Trust May Be Declining But Still Critical

The executive summary of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer* was released in London last week.

Now in its 10th year the Barometer is a measure of the trust people around the world have in institutions. Not surprisingly in the midst of very difficult times in global markets, trust in business and government is on the decline.

Edelman reports "62% of 25-to-64-year-olds surveyed in 20 countries—say they trust corporations less now than they did a year ago. When it comes to being distrusted, business is not alone. Globally, trust in business, media, and government is half-empty; and trust in
government scores even lower than trust in business".

However not for profit organisations are the most trusted global institutions. Which should encourage those community groups, charities and others that struggle to get attention. State your case clearly and people are likely to respect what you have to say, more so than information from other types of organisations.

But does trust really matter? According to the survey the answer is a resounding "yes":

  • In the past year, 91% of 25-to-64-year-olds around the world indicated they bought a product or service from a company they trusted.
  • 77% refused to buy a product or service from a distrusted company.
  • Being able to trust a company is one of the most important factors in determining a company’s reputation, ranking just below the quality of its products, the treatment of employees and on par with its financial future.
  • Companies seen as responsible are significantly more likely to be supported in their efforts to sell goods and services, pursue changes in local laws, seek preferential treatment or have foreign investors assume a controlling stake in the business.
Trust from stakeholders is one of the most important assets a company can have. It is difficult to define and harder to earn. And paradoxically we most appreciate the value of trust when it is absent. Trust provides the foundation for effective public relations and that's why as communicators we need to be among the leaders in our organisations in continually nurturing and growing it.

The complete report is expected to be released in the next few weeks.

Source of information: Edelman PR

City Provides Internet Tools For Volunteers

In some respects Australia's councils are leading other government agencies in using the Internet to connect citizens.

In an Australian first, the City of Casey in Victoria is establishing an on-line community for groups and individuals who live, work or meet in the municipality.

The Casey Connect project is providing a web-based portal for local groups to help them communicate with members, promote their services and generally link to the wider community.

The City is providing the Internet infrastructure that lets local voluntary organisations create their own web presence, I particularly like the interactive nature of these sites and the list of resources to get people started is impressive - on-line tutorials, user manuals and help guides.

The City of Casey is providing a service few volunteer bodies could afford.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is Your Cause Wired for 2009?

It probably happens to you once or twice a year.

A well known charity knocks at your door during its annual fund raising appeal. You make a donation and in return get a receipt. This brief encounter speeds your money off somewhere to help someone somehow. Or you might donate regularly to an aid agency that sends out an annual letter about a sponsored child in the third world.

This remote control philanthropy – where your donation helps someone but you’re unsure who or how - is set to change according to US author Tom Watson. In his book Cause Wired he argues that Web2.0 technology is arming not for profit organizations with “weapons of mass collaboration” and transforming how people support good causes.

Watson believes that social networking applications like Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin etc are evolving from personal promotion into important fund raising, activist and political tools. And it seems Internet users across generations are welcoming the change. Members of Generation Y find that digitally supporting the issues they believe in is a natural extension of living their lives online in public. And Baby Boomers are attracted because the new ways of giving allow them to be personally involved and see results for themselves.

Pioneer charities are beginning to use the power of Web 2.0 to gather, sort and distribute information to donors in a way once reserved for only their very wealthiest supporters. is probably Cause Wired’s best example of online fund raising. This digital not for profit allows small scale donors to use their credit cards and laptops to help struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries.

For a $25 upwards you can join with others to loan money to specific individuals in specific countries such as a group of women needing sewing machines for their garment start-up or impoverished taxi drivers urgently after car repairs. Kiva works through established non government organizations (NGOs) and the web to provide the loans, monitor repayments and continually report back to donors through reports and images from the field.

Watson cites other cases where digital philanthropy is achieving equally impressive results but he tempers his enthusiasm. While a campaign on a social networking site like Facebook may raise awareness of an important environmental, human rights or other issue, the actual fund raising figures for many charities still remain modest.

Cause Wired also explores how Web2.0 can empower political organizations and community movements to connect with citizens and consumers. Perhaps Barack Obama’s Presidential election campaign is among the most powerful example of new media technologies helping to win a cause.

While Watson’s 236 page book is enthusiastic about the new possibilities it acknowledges its limits. Online causes can get tens of thousands even millions of people talking. But they still need online leaders. Just like the bricks and mortar world committed individuals who can organize, coordinate, administer and generally keep things moving are still at a premium. And transitioning this digital attention to real world results is still the acid test. Once you have raised awareness you still need to motivate people to take out their cheque books and man the barricades.

Cause Wired is a very good, easy to read book. It is a must for marketers in not for profit and community organizations who want their fund raising efforts to remain competitive in the coming year.