Interview: Policy Reform Through Social Media

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alex_shashlo Policy Reform Through Social Media

How the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform Influences Policy Reform Through Social Media

Since 2011, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR) has organized, energized, and empowered people to stand up and advocate for reform in cannabis policy. They work with the public and legislators, developing responsible solutions through legislative collaboration, public education, and ballot initiative campaigns.

Alex Shashlo, from Joe Trippi & Associates, currently advises CCPR on their social media strategy and campaigns. We recently had the chance to sit down with Alex to talk about giving activists a voice, how he engages supporters from all walks of life, and influencing policy reform through social media. Here’s what he had to say.

ActionSprout (AS): How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

Alex Shashlo: I’ve been with Trippi since the end of the 2012 cycle. I’m fortunate to be able to build and mobilize some amazing movements—particularly online. Joe’s been a pioneer in the online activism space since the early days of the Internet, starting with Howard Dean’s groundbreaking online campaign.

(AS):The interest in legalization seems to be growing… Why do you think that is?

Alex: It’s such a varied and diverse movement, so there are a lot of answers to that question. For a lot of voters, Colorado and Washington opened the door, showing that legalization is not only possible, but incredibly beneficial.

(AS): What do you wish other people knew about CCPR?

Alex: The growth of the movement has been amazing. CCPR has been holding roundtables across California and the grassroots participation has been incredible. We’re always getting questions about when the next one will take place, and that speaks to how strong the base of the movement really is, and how many Californians are ready for reform.

ccpr logo Policy Reform Through Social Media

(AS): What do you think will change about CCPR over the next five years?

Alex: Well, in the next 18 months, we’re building a movement in California that we expect will carry us toward legalization in 2016. It’s time to end the backwards prohibition on cannabis consumption for adults. Beyond 2016, we expect that movement to continue growing across the country.

(AS): How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

Alex: Facebook has always been a great place for sharing—and now, more and more people get their news from the platform, especially their political news. I wouldn’t call it a shift; users are still excited about taking a stand for the causes they believe in, but the growth of Facebook as an information platform beyond just a social network is exciting.

(AS): What do you find most challenging about your job and the cause you support?

One of the most interesting parts about campaigns like this is always: how do we deliver our message most effectively to our target audience? That means figuring out three buckets: the message, the audience, and the delivery method. It’s a fun puzzle to put together. And with CCPR, we’re fortunate to have such a strong base of support that wants to hear from us regularly.

(AS): Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy the most, how often do you post?)

Alex: CCPR’s Facebook Page is unique in that it’s got supporters from all across the political and ideological spectrum that all support the organization’s vision. We get the best engagement on posts that allow these diverse supporters to share their voices—sometimes it’s news from a state that has recently made a breakthrough in legalization, sometimes it’s a personal story, and sometimes it’s a call to action that really galvanized the base. The thing that ties it together is that our supporters are all ready for change, and many are excited to share their voices as part of our movement.

Policy Reform Through Social Media facebook

(AS): How do you use social actions, from ActionSprout, compared to traditional form-based actions on your website?

Alex: The big difference with ActionSprout is that we’ve got our audience right in front of us with Facebook, and our supporters don’t need to leave the platform to help us grow.

(AS): We love your poll actions. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Alex: One of the biggest developments in the past few years in the movement has been the clear signal from both California and the rest of the country that a majority of us are ready for change. Poll numbers—like the growing percentages of Californians and Americans nationwide supporting legalization—are a great way to show progress. And people are excited to be part of the growing movement.

(AS): How did you measure the success of these actions?

Alex: We love seeing social shares—beyond what we put out—because it means people buy into our message enough to put their names to it and share it with the people they care about in their networks.

(AS): What did you learn from them?

Alex: I think we’re still learning. But it’s clear that content with compelling, simple asks has performed the best.

(AS): Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your learning?

Alex: It’s important to see your supporters as an organic, diverse movement rather than a monolithic base of support. They’re here because they believe in the cause, but they each have their own reasons for that belief. It’s our job to engage them by connecting with them on their terms.

Key Takeaways:

  • When thinking about how to effectively deliver your message to the right audience, remember the three buckets: message, audience and delivery method. What message will move your supporters to action? What type of language do they respond to? Who is your ideal audience? What’s the best way to reach them—email, Facebook? These questions will help guide you and shape your delivery for maximum effect.
  • More and more people are receiving their news from Facebook and social media at large. If your nonprofit can tap into this, it will pay serious dividends. The key is to position yourself as the trusted source of information for your supporters on everything related to your cause.
  • Folks engage with your content for personal reasons: to further their voice, to share content that reflects their identity, or to make themselves look good to their network. The more you can tap into this, the better, as your cause gets to go along for the ride.

Need more social mojo?

Reach more supporters, cultivate donors, and increase Facebook engagement with ActionSprout today.

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United for Kids: What we Learned Launching a New Facebook Page

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marcus_swift Launching a New Facebook Page

Adventures in Launching a New Facebook Page

Launching a new Facebook Page and building your community is no small task. The old phrase, “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t usually apply to Facebook. Building a Page from the ground up is months of diligent work, planning, and trial and error.

United for Kids is currently in the process of just that.

Recently we had the chance to talk to Marcus Swift, who is responsible for the growth of their Page. He shared with us his breakthroughs, lessons learned and some of the surprises along the way.

If you’re in the process of growing your Page, this interview is a must-read.

Here’s what he had to say.

ActionSprout (AS): How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

Marcus Swift (MS): I have handled social media communications for United for Kids (UFK) and Children First for Oregon (CFFO) since shortly after I started here in January 2015. It’s been a continual learning experience because although I have a lot of writing and communications experience over the last decade, I have not done traditional communications work since 2005. Back then, I did copywriting and corporate communications work for a financial services company. At that time, there was a lot less emphasis on social media.

(AS): Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with United for Kids?

(MS): I work for Children First for Oregon, which is the host and convener of United for Kids. UFK is a pro-child movement that seeks to ensure that children are a top public policy priority in Oregon. We have nearly 5,000 voters, advocacy organizations, businesses, elected officials, and civic and religious organizations who have joined us in declaring that we have to start putting kids at the top of our list when it comes to the policy choices we make. I wanted to be a part of UFK because I see the immense need for a pro-kid force in the state, and I know children’s issues are supported by so many Oregonians. But there seems to be a disconnect. So I wanted to be a part of such an exciting challenge to help bridge that gap and help build something from the bottom up.

(AS): Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy, how often do you post?)

launching a new facebook page- united for kids facebook page

(MS): Our audience is mostly Oregonians who care about kids. That includes parents, lawmakers, advocacy groups and voters who want more of an emphasis placed on our youngest members of society. We just launched this movement in March, so we are still small, but growing. We are trying to do so organically and as inexpensively as possible, and ActionSprout has been a good tool to do so. One of the goals of UFK is to highlight our partner organization’s good work—so we also post a lot of content, giving them a shout-out for their efforts.

(AS):What does an average day look like?

(MS): I manage both the Children First social media and the United for Kids social media, so most days I log in and check on both first thing in the morning. Right now, I’m more focused on the United for Kids Page because we are running an online campaign to increase sign-ups and likes. I will see how my Action is doing, maybe get some inspiration elsewhere to post. As the day goes on, I often get breaking news updates about certain legislation, so I try to post those on Facebook and Twitter as quickly as possible. Throughout the day, I will post and check on content while also doing other things like drafting content for our UFK blog.

event post- launching a new facebook page

(AS): How has your Facebook strategy changed over time with the growth of your Page?

(MS): At first, we really just needed to get something up and going. We are a small staff and we are often juggling a lot of things at once. So just getting the Page up and completed was a small victory. But we realized pretty quickly that we needed a long-term strategy, so I worked with our amazing consultant who gave me some excellent tips, and we started building our likes, growing the Page, and doing a better job of posting timely and interesting content. One of the first things our consultant recommended was ActionSprout, which has been really helpful so far.

(AS): What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?

(MS): Posting fresh, interesting content that will grab people’s attention is so crucial to maintaining a good readership on your Page. It took me a while to fully understand that and then work hard to make it happen. I’m still not perfect, but it’s a start!

news post- launching a new Facebook page

(AS): What has been your biggest surprise so far?

(MS): I’ve been really surprised at just how big of an audience you can reach through Facebook. I was never convinced that social media was really that important until I started doing the work. Now I realize how big of a positive impact it has on our overall communications goals.

(AS): What organizational goals do you hope your Facebook efforts will support?

(MS): We are working to sign up as many supporters of United for Kids as possible so that we can build a pro-kids movement in Oregon. Our Facebook efforts are crucial to helping us achieve those sign-ups. Facebook is also helpful because it allows us to start building our reputation as a trusted source for news and information about children’s issues in Oregon.

(AS): How are you currently trying to meet these?

(MS): We are running an aggressive online sign-up campaign using social media. ActionSprout has been a key part of that strategy. Our UFK blog is also part of our strategy of highlighting the great work by our participating advocacy organizations, individuals and lawmakers. The blog also helps us shine a spotlight on great pro-kid policies that more Oregonians should know about.

post-- launching a new facebook page

(AS): What are your goals for the future? How do you plan on meeting these?

(MS): We plan to continue building United for Kids over the next several years. Our goal is to grow this movement into an effective force for pro-kid policies. We want to make Oregon the best place to be a kid. We plan to meet that goal by continuing our online work on social media and our blog, as well as our email list, but also through traditional face-to-face, on-the-ground organizing.

(AS): Do you have any advice for other nonprofits just starting out?

(MS): If you don’t know social media, ask someone who does and learn as much as you can. Then develop a plan; it doesn’t have to be extensive or elaborate—even a one-page plan is helpful—but develop something. It will help you stay on task and on track to meet your goals. My other advice is to set a calendar reminder to post on Facebook every day, several times. That will keep you honest and make sure that you are adding new, fresh content to your Page, which will help increase your reach and your likes.

(AS): Anything you’d like to add?

(MS): First, if you live in Oregon and care about kids, join us! Visit and sign up. Second, ActionSprout has been a great tool for us at an affordable price, and the customer service and guidance has been really easy and helpful.

Key points for launching a new Facebook Page:

  1. Post fresh, timely content. People increasingly look to Facebook as a source of news and updates on the people and subjects they care about. If you can post this kind of content, you’ll have a easier time building and maintaining readership on your new Page.
  2. Create a posting plan. Posting consistently and having a rough game plan is critical to building and launching a new Facebook Page. You could set a reminder on your calendar; schedule your posts at the beginning of the week; or sketch it out on a whiteboard. It doesn’t matter which one you pick. Do what you have to do to stick to your plan!
  3. Find support. This is especially true for folks new to social media. Find someone who knows social media and ask questions. Don’t know anyone? Find a blogger you like and follow them. Sign up for a webinar. Attend a training session. There is no shortage of help and guidance when it comes to Facebook!

Just launched a new Facebook Page? Tell us about it in the comments and let us know what worked for you.

Need more social mojo?

Reach more supporters, cultivate donors, and increase Facebook engagement with ActionSprout today.

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Guide to Effective Facebook Ads for Nonprofits

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Facebook ads for Nonprofits

Learn to Run Facebook ads for Nonprofits

Like it or not (pun intended!), thanks to Facebook ads we’re entering a new and somewhat intimidating era of online advertising. Facebook only released mobile ads and social graph in 2012, but boy has the world of digital ads changed!

Sure, you may be an expert at driving content and engagement for your nonprofit, but truly leveraging ads is a completely different animal. The vast majority of nonprofits in your position are just beginning to take advantage of the true power of ads.

More recently, Facebook has performed some serious tech-magic in the advertising department, including:

  • Integration of the Lookalike Audience features.
  • Advanced targeting and retargeting methods.
  • Ability to create unpublished or dark posts that appear selectively…

That said, let’s begin this guide with a few steps that’ll ensure your nonprofit gets the best return on your investment; then we’ll get into audiences, website retargeting, targeting options and ad imagery.

Understand Your Investment

As of right now, there are three ways for you to invest time and/or money in Facebook ads:

  1. CPC/PPC: This method is the easiest to control. It’s exactly like the Pay-Per-Click advertising that’s been around a long time via Google. If someone clicks on your ad, then boom—you’re going to pay the price you bid. Getting people to click is the difficult part.
  2. CPM/PPM: Instead of clicks, you pay a certain amount for 1,000 impressions or views. Do keep in mind that CPM ads never sleep and can run around the clock, so your costs could get out of control if you’re not careful. Be sure to hit the pause button…
  3. CPA: This is where you pay for specific actions: Page likes, app installs, clicking links, etc.

CPC is typically used to generate donations while CPM is more about getting your nonprofit brand out there. Think of CPM as paying for digital billboard space along the Facebook superhighway. Don’t expect as many clicks with CPM, but your visibility will rise with the more views you purchase.

So, for example, if you’re selling a product or service to generate funds for your cause, then CPC is a better option. If you’re simply trying to bring direct awareness of something to certain targeted people, then paying $1.32 per 1,000 views isn’t such a bad idea.

Guide to effective Facebook Ads for nonprofits- control bidding

The Budgeting & Bidding War

This is the tricky part with CPC and in all honesty, takes time and experience to get the hang of.

It’s a double-edged knife. You want to set a small budget and bid low to save money,  but Facebook encourages you to bid higher in order to win the ad auctions and see greater results.

In the end, you’ll need to find a balance. Bid a bit higher and try to stay close to Facebook’s suggested bid range, but don’t break the bank or spend more than you’re comfortable with. It will take time to find the right balance for you.

One thing to make sure you’re doing immediately is manually controlling bidding. To do so, click on Advanced Options under Budget. This will help you better control costs.

Guide to effective Facebook Ads for nonprofits- control bidding advanced bidding

Remember, the cost is based on demand. So the more advertisers there are trying to reach the same people as you, the higher the costs. These will change over time, so you can’t just set a budget and max bid, then forget about it.

The Three Best Options for Your Ads

We’re going to make this really simple so that your ads stay focused. While there are other options and plenty more that are likely to come about over the next year, stick with these at first to get the best results for your nonprofit:

  1. Boost your posts
  2. Send people to your website
  3. Raise attendance at your event

Guide to effective Facebook Ads for nonprofits- ad options

What we just covered doesn’t come close to all there is to learn about bidding. This is a great place to start though. Once you’re ready to take the next step, you’ll want to dive into the following guides. Keep them bookmarked for now:

Tackling Your Audience

If you don’t want to throw away money or ad reach, then you’ve got to get really good at targeting the right people. Facebook allows you to create three types of audiences and you need to experiment!

  1. Custom Audience: This allows you to create ads that focus on your supporter base by integrating with your current CRM. Simply import any existing contact and target them!
  2. Lookalike Audience: This lets you ask Facebook to create an audience that’s similar to any custom audience that you’ve set up. You choose either a 1% (very close to your supporter base) or 5% specificity (gives higher reach with less specific targeting).
  3. Website Custom Audience: This is a really new addition and available to any nonprofit with between 100 and 10,000 fans. To learn more, check out the website custom audience FAQs page and prepare to be dazzled. You can use your nonprofit website or any landing page.

Do you see how powerful custom audiences are? These are existing supporters that are already in your funnel and connected to your Facebook presence.

So if you’re setting up either CPC or CPM, you can really cut down on showing your ads to people who aren’t interested or relevant.

From there, you expand out and create lookalike audiences of people with similar jobs, similar Facebook behavior, geographic location, etc. Once you dig in and see how many different targeting options you have at your disposal, you can begin creating other customer / lookalike audiences based on the insights you gain.

Website Retargeting

If you have a website outside Facebook, then you’re really going to love this part…

Facebook allows you to target people that visit it after you install a pixel every page (which means that if all you have is a landing page, it’s very quick). If you don’t yet have any CRM set up, then this is a great way to gain insight on who your ideal custom audience is.

  • You can choose to target people that have visited certain pages on your website.
  • Folks who have made purchases on your site or web store.
  • Supporters who’ve converted in some other way.
  • You can also use keywords to make things even more refined.

After your audience builds up to hundreds of people, you’re ready to begin serious testing. Learn more about custom website audiences and all the many different things you can do to get more traction with your supporters and those who are interested in your cause.

Properly Layering Your Targeting Options

Tons of people get overwhelmed when it comes to super-fine targeting. It’s normal to be confused but targeting is more than worth figuring out.

An extreme example of the power of targeting is the story that went semi-viral about a guy that used Facebook ads to target his roommate! Here’s an interesting quote from the AdWeek article that shines a light on how he pulled it off:

“On Facebook, he uses Custom Audiences, the program for marketers to upload their contacts and find them on the social network. When Swichkow started his one-to-one marketing campaigns, he was allowed to just input one target. But Facebook has since made it so that you need at least 20 people on your marketing list. Still, he’s found loopholes, like if you’re targeting a man, include 19 women in your list and then set the campaign to reach only males.”

Pretty cool, right? The point here is that Facebook is allowing people to target with their ads in ways no one has ever dreamed of before… to the point where a guy scared his roommate to death, who began believing that Big Brother really had come too close. (Which may be he did…)

As you get more and more focused, and as your custom audiences grow and evolve, you’ll be able to produce better ads at cheaper rates that get seen by more quality supporters who are ready (and look to) take action.

Notes on Ad Imagery

You should understand that we’re moving into a visually dominated era in online media, and ads are NO different. Before you get hung up on the words and text, realize that the image you use in an ad is far more important… that’s no joke.

The image is the first impression and no, you do not know what images will produce the best click-through rates. Only experimentation can tell you this…

Just because an image performs well as a status update, cover photo or in a blog post, doesn’t mean it’ll draw attention or get clicks in the context of a Facebook ad, whether it appears in the timeline or sidebar.

Ad = context. That’s different from information, entertainment or sharing.

  • Split-Test Images: Collect 10–20 images with a good track record in terms of generating likes, comments and shares, and then test them out!
  • Limit Ad Length: Don’t let ads run any longer than they should, which is determined ultimately through performance.
  • Experimentation: The image might be great, but you’re targeting the wrong people. Or perhaps the image is a great one; it just needs to be tweaked?

Here’s a screenshot of some testing conducted by the AdEspresso team. They covered the importance of testing different ad designs in their article “9 Secrets the Pros Use to Create Great Facebook Ad Designs”:

Guide to effective Facebook Ads for nonprofits- example

By all means, you should definitely read that article and bookmark it; but first, which one do you think performed best? Hmmm, nifty animation with a cool mustache guy or the one with a pretty human face?

“The Ad showing a person performed nearly 2 times better than our beloved mascot… So remember: test everything, even the craziest ideas.”

Don’t Forget the 20% Text Rule!

Facebook’s got a tool you can use to streamline how much tweaking you have to do to make sure your images have the right amount of text. And you should know that it works for cover images and sponsored story images as well.


That was a lot of information to throw at you all at once. Let’s recap the most important parts:

  1. Be sure to control your bidding with manual bidding.
  2. Use “Boost your posts”; “Send people to your website”; and “Raise attendance at your event” ads for the best results.
  3. Spend time on targeting. This will save you money and get you better results.
  4. Test images and text. Learn what works best.
  5. Skip the drama. Make sure your ads meet the 20% rule.

Is there anything about setting up Facebook ads that you would like us to cover in the future? Take a second to let us know in the comment section below.

Need more social mojo?

Reach more supporters, cultivate donors, and increase Facebook engagement with ActionSprout today.

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4 Strategies to Help You Craft Highly Shareable Images

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shareable images

The Secret to Shareable Images

Remember the old phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, that is even more true today than ever before. Images have the power to be shared, loved, turned into memes, and reach virality faster than ever. If your cause is linked to a great image, that means your cause also gets to come along for the ride.

This can seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually pretty easy to craft a share-worthy photo.

Let’s walk through four strategies to have in your toolbox.

1) Use High-Quality, High-Resolution Images

One really impressive image is worth 1000 not-so-impressive ones. There are plenty of circumstances where simple “Kodak Moment” pictures will always be impactful, but in general, the more high-quality images you use, the more engagement you’ll see.

Now when you’re running a nonprofit Facebook Page, you really can’t afford to make every photo a $100 photo, but…

  • You can share other people’s and there’s plenty out there.
  • You can edit your own images.
  • You can find amateur photographers/photography students, paying their dues or building their portfolios, who believe in your cause!

There are also tons of sources to find great stock photography for free.

Lastly, it’s important to use the right size!

2) Capture Emotions & Results

Think about what emotion you’re trying to communicate to your audience through a certain piece of content: anger, joy, concern or perhaps a sense of urgency? Think about the emotion first, then pick images that are aligned.

Sharers respond to emotion. In fact, it is emotion that gets people to ACT. Thinking causes thinking, but emotion moves us to act.

For your donors, stick with images that show results. Show supporters what your nonprofit is out in the world getting done—what their hard-earned money will result in.

3) Use the Ever-Powerful Collage

The two coolest things about collages is that one picture turns into many and, through one picture collage, you can say many profound things.

Don’t worry, not only are they easy to make, but more and more social media sites are finding ways to make it ultra-easy for users. An example would be Twitter announcing back in March that it was going to turn one photo into four. Here’s a quick breakdown from an Ad Age article. Check it out because there are example shots so that you can see what they look like:

“The change lets users and brands take up more space in people’s tweet streams. Now photo collages have the potential to let them do more storytelling with the space they have and go well beyond the former 140-character boundary.”

Here’s an example from the article and it leads us to our next strategy:

Collage Example shareable images

In a nutshell, collages are storytelling and engagement made easy. Here’s a free tool that will get you started.

4) Add Text or Quotes to Your Images

Adding text to images seems more complicated than it really is.

  • Step 1: Go to
  • Step 2: Upload an image that’s the right size.
  • Step 3: Add text
  • Step 4: Download
  • Step 5: Share on your nonprofit Facebook Page and watch the response.

There are also plenty of meme-maker sites that you can use to make your own memes, rather than circulating the ones that we’ve all seen a hundred times over the last few years.

adding text to shareable images

What are your favorite places to find or edit images? Let us know in the comments!

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Interview: Protecting what we love through Digital Activism

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digital activism

The Oregon Environmental Council safeguards what Oregonians love about Oregon Through Digital Activism 

Founded in 1968, the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) is a nonprofit, non-partisan, membership-based organization aimed at protecting the health of Oregon. As such, their work champions clean air and water, a healthy climate, unpolluted landscapes, and sustainable food and farms.

Recently we had the pleasure of sitting down with Simon Tam and Michelle McGrath of OEC to ask them about their digital strategy.

Simon Tam is the current Marketing Director at OEC, and a prominent figure in the worlds of social media and digital activism. His approach to activism through the arts has been highlighted in thousands of media features such as BBC World News, NPR, TIME Magazine, TED talks, NBC, and the New York Times. He also designed one of the first college-accredited social media certificate programs in the United States.

Michelle McGrath is the Membership & Engagement Manager. She is a passionate advocate for conservation, climate action and food justice. Her diverse strengths include community engagement, outreach, direct marketing, fundraising, design, content development and digital strategy. She also sits on the board of directors for the Montavilla Farmers’ Market.

Here’s what they had to say about using Facebook for nonprofits, moving supporters to action, and maintaining reach with a changing algorithm.

ActionSprout (AS): How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

Simon Tam: I often tell people that even though I have a few degrees in business and marketing, everything I learned about the subject comes from being a rockstar. I’ve been managing social media communications for nearly 20 years now, especially if you consider the first type of online communities through America Online channels. I began writing code for sites like Geocities and Angelfire, mainly to develop websites for local nonprofits and artists. When digital marketing shifted into “social media”—at the onset of Friendster, Xanga, and Myspace—I immediately began using those sites to market my music. Social was a great way to learn key concepts like storytelling, online engagement, and brand awareness without a budget.

A few years ago, I began running social media for higher education institutions and started writing on the subject for sites and magazines like Huffington Post, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and the National Council on Marketing and Public Relations. As I began doing freelance work for organizations, I could gather data at a much larger level and used that information to develop one of the first accredited social media and digital marketing certificate programs in the country.

Michelle McGrath: In 2011, I started learning about social media as a tool for non-profit marketing—frankly, because I love social media. I’m an outgoing person with an aptitude for sales, outreach and relationship-building, and when I saw that brands and organizations were able to meet goals in these areas via Facebook, I wanted to achieve that too. During a three-year tenure at a small, local food non-profit organization, I was able to use Facebook as a space for online dialogue and to harness co-marketing opportunities. Our brand reach in the community was significantly amplified as a result. Since then, I’ve been helping small farmers’ markets, farmers, and food justice groups to improve their Facebook strategy on lean budgets.

As my passion for social media has grown, I’ve taken courses in digital marketing, and I am earning my graduate certificate in digital engagement from Oregon State University. I seek learning opportunities in this field whenever and wherever I can.

Today, I’m focused more on engagement and conversion rates than brand awareness per se. I know people care about making the world a better place, and I’m looking at how to get them to engage with a post or an email so we can help empower them to be that change they want to see in the world.

(AS): Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with the Oregon Environmental Council?

logo - digital activism

Simon: I heard about OEC some time ago, when they were a key partner in bringing the Dalai Lama to Portland. Since then, I began developing an interest in the intersection of people-focused environmentalism and social justice work. OEC was one of the first organizations in the state to take environmental justice seriously—and as an activist, this was extremely meaningful to me.

Michelle: In December 2010, I dropped out of a PhD program in Biology. A high-profile professor tried to woo me back. I was tempted, but that same day I had a beer with a former OEC employee. She offered me an unpaid volunteer position. I chose OEC over going back to my PhD, and it was the best snap judgment I’ve ever made. I learned more about how an effective, collaborative organization should run in my three-month volunteer stint with OEC than I could have ever imagined. A year and half later, I found myself running a non-profit. The only reason I was able to make that leap so quickly and successfully was because of what I learned at OEC.

I became a member of OEC after volunteering with them because I saw how large their impact was. I love Oregon, and I know OEC is working to protect my home. I stayed engaged with OEC over the years, and when there was an open position in a role I was passionate about, I joined the staff team!

(AS): What do you wish other people knew about your organization?

Simon: I’m hoping that more people can learn the depth of our organization’s work. Most people have an assumption that environmental organizations only focus on conservation, but the reality is that OEC does much more to protect the state through public policy work. This of course isn’t done in isolation; OEC collaborates and convenes with dozens of organizations, businesses, researchers and community leaders to develop innovative, comprehensive and research-backed solutions.

Michelle: I don’t think many people understand that policy change is one of the most effective tools we have to protect our environment. Personal behavior changes, recycling or biking for example, are extremely important. But policy changes can make sure those behaviors are easier for all of us to adopt. Advocacy organizations aren’t the sexiest, but they are far more important than most people realize. OEC’s theory of change relies on policy change to make our state a better place. There’s a lot of foresight in that, and it looks at the long-term picture over short-term gains. OEC is wise!

(AS): Interest in environmental conservation and protection seems to be growing. Why do you think that is?

Simon: The amount of news regarding climate change, environmentalism, shrinking rainforests and extreme weather seems to be ever-increasing. There has been noise about it for some time, but since issues seem like they are drastically worsening, a new generation that has inherited these problems seem to be speaking up. Also, as more data becomes available, we see how climate change affects more than increasing temperatures: there are substantial effects on actual communities who no longer want to be victims to the irresponsibility of polluters.

Michelle: I think there are two things going on—one is a changing of the guard. The new generations seem to care about the greater good. This hasn’t been embraced at a large scale since the 70s, and it’s nice to feel the pendulum swinging back. The second thing that’s happening is the rise of social media. Images and videos are some of the most powerful tools available for demonstrating the need for environmental protection. They can draw emotion, action and portray urgent need. Social media helps these images spread quickly and widely.

(AS): What do you think will change about the OEC over the next five years?

Simon: OEC responds to needs as they come up—the priorities may shift depending on a number of factors. Seeing how conversations about the quantity and quality of water are developing now lead me to believe that it will become an even bigger issue in the next few years, especially in the face of decreased precipitation.

Michelle: OEC has been a respected leader in engaging community leaders, business leaders and legislators in policy change for years, but now we’re looking to also engage the grassroots more and more in our work. In five years, I think OEC will be reaching a massively larger audience, and will be a much more volunteer and supporter-driven organization.

(AS): How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

Simon: Since Facebook’s IPO, there have been constant and drastic changes to the effectiveness of Pages on the site. The biggest reason is financially-driven: promoted posts are an extremely reliable source of revenue for the site, especially if marketers don’t want to run an entire keyword-based advertising campaign. Additionally, the algorithm continues to change, making it difficult to consistently engage with followers. However, several key trends persist: the lean toward mobile-friendly content and video. As Facebook continues to fight for market share, they’ll focus on technologies that increase user time—and auto-playing video is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that. For Facebook Pages, the way to capitalize on that is uploading directly to Facebook, rather than YouTube or Vimeo.

Michelle: A colleague I know summed it up nicely. Facebook lured non-profits in with hopes and dreams of amplifying their voice, and now Facebook is punching them in the gut repeatedly with the new algorithm. It’s still a tool for social change, but there is a huge cost to accessing that tool now. Small non-profits are having to develop larger marketing budgets as a result. It’s not good.

(AS): What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?

Simon: The under appreciated but vital role of Google+. Though the site is almost useless in terms of reach or engagement, it is extremely vital in terms of search engine optimization and prioritization of YouTube content.

google + digital activism

Michelle: Something I’m still hoping to learn is the integration of Facebook engagement metrics with our Customer Relationship Management software. Being able to recognize and develop relationships with hand-raisers is important for grassroots engagement.

(AS): Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy, how often do you post?)

digital activism facebook

Simon: OEC’s Facebook audience is fairly active. We skew heavily toward females (nearly 80%), and the type of content that receives the most engagement tends to revolve around video or narrative-driven news. We post at least once per day, with an average of 2–3 posts per day.

Michelle: I think our audience is very similar to most environmental nonprofit audiences. They appreciate messages of urgency and outrage, messages of hope and messages that highlight a sense of place. Oregonians have pride. That is reflected in our Facebook engagement.

(AS): What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?

Simon: Facebook supports a number of areas: strength of the brand, online donations, membership engagement, grassroots lobbying strategy and outreach to new communities.

Michelle: Metric-driven grassroots engagement goals are somewhat new for OEC. I’m looking at Facebook to drive action, web traffic and new fans of the organization. Most of these goals are measured with a conversation rate metric of some sort.

(AS): What kinds of social calls to action do you use?

Simon: Commenting, sharing, liking, clicking, watching, signing, retweeting. Social media is just one channel out of an overall integrated marketing and communications strategy, which involves variations of all of these calls to action.

Michelle: We’ve used many calls to action successfully (and many unsuccessfully), from hashtag campaigns to petitions and beyond. For my job, I’m most concerned with getting our audience to sign petitions, make a donation and contact legislators.

(AS): Tell us about a recent successful social campaign or series of posts.

Michelle: OEC has struggled to earn donor support through digital channels in the past. I’m not really sure why that is, but we were able to run a successful campaign for #GivingTuesday in the winter of 2014. We used email, Facebook and Twitter to distribute the campaign. We had powerful images and a fun meme—”Two Is Better Than One”—to highlight the gift match we were offering that day. The emails highlighted stories, and we took advantage of cross-promotional opportunities through our social media.

For example, we gave away prizes throughout the day and tagged the organizations providing the prize, who then reshared our posts. The most innovative gift was a custom digital playlist. When we posted about the playlist we tagged all the featured musicians, which increased the visibility of our post. A fundraising thermometer also helped us drive gifts, and we asked some of our influential social media fans to reshare. It was an experiment, but it worked for us.

(AS): What did you learn from this success more broadly? Is there anything you do differently now?

Michelle: I’m pretty concerned about the rumor that Facebook’s algorithm is punishing pictures. Engaging images were the key to this campaign’s success. We only spent $60 on the #GivingTuesday campaign. Although Facebook advertising is still pretty cheap, we’ll have to increase our budget for the next online campaign we do. We’ve done a campaign since then that had a more abstract ask (become a monthly donor), did not use a fundraising thermometer, had no matching gift and was just less intensive overall. It did not work.

(AS): What did you learn about your audience from this success?

Michelle: They appreciate deadlines and goals! It’s an old-school fundraising tool, but it’s universally successful.

(AS): How did you measure this success? What metrics did you focus on?

Michelle: This was a fundraising campaign, so we were looking at the number of first-time donors, the number of gifts and the total dollars in the door.

(AS): Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your success?

Simon: Don’t focus on vanity metrics like follower count; instead, focus on a more comprehensive look at what a picture of success looks like. Marketing doesn’t always have quantifiable measures of success, with some return on investment on a much longer timescale than simply the immediate aftermath of a campaign. There should also be qualitative goals and as such, strategies to support those goals as well. Goals should be SMARTER.

Nonprofits should also have better listening and brand reputation management systems in place. These kinds of tools allow for a real-time marketing strategy. I recommend 5 free tools here.

Learning the language and trends of social media can be challenging. I often tell nonprofits to treat it like learning any kind of language and applying techniques from code-switching.

Also, nonprofits should learn how to talk with personality; more like a person and less like a brand. It’s part of an important strategy.

Michelle: Don’t shy away from emotional, urgent language and images. It’s really human nature to be more engaged with that type of content. If acquisition is your goal, which it is mine, this type of content will help you reach that goal through improved engagement. Build a narrative that can embrace crisis or celebration as a unifying point in your campaign, and then when that crisis inevitably hits, be ready to strike with great posts and content!


Social media makes people care. It’s your job to move them to action.  As Michelle said, social media and digital communications is making information, images and videos readily available to more people every day. This means that more people are becoming aware and passionate about the issues that face our world. Now it’s your job to move them to action!

Supporters appreciate deadlines and goals. This strategy has been around forever for a reason. It works! Setting goals influences more people to sign, donate or take action for your cause. It’s especially effective if a progress bar is included.

Tell stories. People respond to stories in a really powerful way. Information is better remembered when presented through a story; stories provoke emotion in your supporters and they enable folks to relate to each other on a deeper level. The more you can incorporate storytelling into your strategy, the greater your connection with supporters can be.

Don’t be blinded by vanity metrics. It’s easy to get caught up in metrics that don’t move the needle for your cause. This wastes time and energy that could be better spent! The easiest to get swept up in is Page likes. The metrics you do want to focus on are engagement and reach.

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5 Strategies to Rid Your Nonprofit of Donor Remorse

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donor remorse

Breaking the Silence Around Donor’s Remorse

Donor’s remorse. It’s not talked about much among fundraising professionals and nonprofits.

Our goal is to change that.

Similar to buyer’s remorse, donor’s remorse is a very real problem that can ravage supporter relationships without mercy. Not sure how donor’s remorse applies to you?

First, let’s look at a simple online fundraising funnel from John Haydon and then talk about where donor’s remorse fits in.

Donor Remorse Fundraising Funnel

This diagram aims to break down what the average funnel looks like in terms of capturing supporters and transforming them into nonprofit partners or, even better, active ambassadors.

But where does donor’s remorse begin? In the partner phase? Uh oh… there’s no more upside-down triangle left for creating an experience devoid of remorse, regret or frustration.

The Impact on Repeat Donors

You get it: someone that truly believes and supports your initiative over a longer span of time is preferable to someone who gives a single donation and then splits. In fact, monthly gifts are quickly becoming your average nonprofit’s bread and butter. Retention is a core component of growth and survival now.

That said, donor’s remorse is probably the number one thing that causes people who could be repeat donors to run for the hills immediately after giving their support. It might not happen the first time, or the second, but if it does… that’s it.

Erase Guilt-Driven Content and Obligation

Trying to find real data on donor’s remorse is almost impossible. But, we did uncover an article published in 2013 on the DonorDreams blog, entitled “Donor’s remorse is real and easily avoidable”.

In it, the author makes this statement:

“I’m not sure about you, but every time I’ve experienced donor’s remorse, it has been because I made a contribution out of a sense of obligation.”

Boom. That really says it all, doesn’t it? Yet guilt and obligation are still heavily used in the nonprofit domain. Why? If that’s you, stop right now. When people gift or give out of a sense of belief and inspiration, they’re more likely to get on board for the long haul.

We believe that you must love your donors, especially after they’ve decided to take the leap and stand shoulder to shoulder with your nonprofit.

Save Money on Support Renewal Efforts

When donor’s remorse is high, retention is low. But instead of putting efforts toward fixing the real problem, many nonprofits go about trying to renew support through various heavy-handed and spammy means.

This stuff gets expensive in the blink of an eye.

And here’s the deal: once someone has experienced donor’s remorse, it’s impossible to get them to join the ranks. When they want to give more, they’ll probably find a different way. Get it? If you want to really do something productive and useful for your nonprofit, then try taking these 5 steps instead…

Step 1: Clean Up Your Online Gifting Experience

Oftentimes, nonprofits pour the majority of their efforts into everything that happens before a supporter makes an online donation. Right? It’s probably like 80-20, with only 20% of all resources going into what happens afterwards (maybe much less).

Put yourself in the gifter’s position. In fact, make an online donation using your funnel and see for yourself what the experience is like.

  • Do these people have a real concrete understanding of how their money will be used?
  • Once the button’s been pushed and the money leaves their bank account, do they feel like they’ve made an impact?
  • Have you demonstrated that gifting to your nonprofit is one of the best ways to solve the problem or address the issue at hand?
  • Do they feel like they haven’t been asked to give enough or perhaps the other way around?

Go through each step. They make the donation, get sent to some sort of page, bells and whistles go off, etc. Realize that in terms of funnels, post-donation is as important as the funnel that takes them to the donation CTA. Crystallize it, and dump some serious love and production value into it! Let’s talk about how.

Step 2: Curate a Personalized Thank You Page

Thank You pages come a dime a dozen. Here’s the deal… they’re cliché! They’re default. They’re completely 100% expected. It’s like the feeling you get when talking to the lady behind the register at the grocery store.

Did you find everything okay?” She mechanically asks…

Then you automatically say “Yeah” without thinking, and get this dry feeling in the pit of your stomach (as does she). No kidding, Thank You pages are of paramount importance and you don’t want them feeling like that. It should be designed not to upsell, but to basically seal the deal in terms of acquiring a repeat donor.

  • They shouldn’t be just a bunch of dry formal texts. Include inspirational imagery, a conversational friendly voice, add some design value, or consider making a much more valuable video that you can embed.
  • They shouldn’t give away the fact that it’s an automated environment. The communication should come across as highly personalized and feel like the page was created just for them.
  • There should be absolutely zero sales prompts or pitches on this page. None. Don’t even think about it. Little else will get people to feel like they’re just another “customer” than you asking them for more.

Their donation really does matter, right? How much? Show them. Tell them. Through curating a really nice Thank You page, you’re telling this individual that they’re part of something bigger and making a difference.

Step 3: Create an Impactful Thank You Email

Again, the Thank You email initially feels exactly like the emails we receive when we purchase anything online; they’re expected. These days, a fair amount of people don’t even open them up because they’ve been trained to believe it’s nothing but automation.

It is. But, just like curating your Thank You page, you can take your Thank You email to the next level by dumping some production value into it. For the most part, you should follow the same rules as stated above:

  • No full-text emails. Make sure that the text, upon first impression, comes across as an easy read. Again, personalized and intimate, but using an upbeat conversational tone.
  • Embedded images, visual design and videos are welcome, but can cause issues for some people depending on which email provider they use.
  • It’s fine to give them options to visit social media pages, group pages, forums or otherwise connect them with other supporters, but don’t upsell or ask for any more money in a Thank You email.

Step 4: Send a Quality Follow-Up Email

Some nonprofits wait a week, some wait a couple, while others stick to the 30-Day rule. Whatever you choose, make sure to send a follow-up email that does nothing but one thing:

Shows them the impact that their donation is having!

These emails have a huge open rate because everyone wants to see the difference that they’re making in the world outside their own little personal bubbles. We love that! We crave it in fact.

Tell them what’s going on. Show them exactly where their money went and what it produced. That’s all you need to do.

“Hey, we wanted to stop by and thank you again for your donation. As you can see, we got the house built and the Anderson family is steadily getting back on their feet!”

Insert a picture of the family, all smiles, standing on the porch… and just like that, heartstrings are pulled in an inspirational way. You could tell them about the next step, or what’s happening next, without actually asking them for another gift.

Where to now?” You ask.

“Onwards and upwards! We just found out the bank is choosing to foreclose on 5 more families in our area and we’re already gearing up to ensure none of them end up in a tent city. With people like you involved, their chances are shining bright!”

Step 5: Produce Results-Focused Content

What kind of a charitable giving environment are you creating with your content? If an individual supporter were on a raft, sailing the flowing river of media coming from your nonprofit, what kind of ride would it be? Scenic and serene, or like a crazy ride on raging rapids?

The most powerful content for a nonprofit is anything that demonstrates results—anything that shows supporters and everyone involved that their work, emotional investment, time and money is paying off.  At ActionSprout, we spend a fair amount of time teaching our members how to use storytelling techniques to ensure all content is cohesive.

You know how you can roll up a piece of paper into a funnel to focus on one single thing?

It’s like that.

All your media should bring focus to the results-oriented storyline of your nonprofit. This is going to dramatically reduce the amount of donor remorse that you have to deal with and increase your reach and engagement. Enjoy!

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5 Strategies That Will Grow Your Nonprofit Facebook Page

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organically_grow_your nonprofit facebook page

How to Nurture and Grow Your Nonprofit Facebook Page

When we talk about growth, or growing your nonprofit Facebook Page, we’re not talking about increasing the number of likes on your Page. While that will probably be one of your outcomes, it’s not our main goal. What we want to see is an increase in the engagement on your Page:

  • More supporters liking, commenting on and sharing your content.
  • New supporters finding your content and engaging with it.
  • An overall increase in average engagement per post.

These goals will move the needle for your cause and should be your main objective. Here’s how to grow your nonprofit Facebook Page in five steps.

Strat-1: Create a Publishing Ritual

Pages that consistently post content have a better chance of growing an engaged audience than Pages that don’t. We recommend posting at least 2–3 times a day, Monday through Friday. Bonus points if you post more than that per day or if you post on weekends.

Posting this often is easier than it seems.

Step 1: Plan ahead. Stay 1 to 2 weeks in front by creating batches of posts. Sit down at the beginning of the week and create a batch of posts. Feel free to leave room for timely posts that will come later that week.

Step 2: Look back at your previous week. See any posts that performed really well? Post them again this week. The folks who saw them the first time around won’t see them the second time. Facebook makes sure of this.

Step 3: Schedule your posts. This is especially handy for weekends or weeks that you’re gone.

Grow Your Nonprofit Facebook Page posting

Don’t be afraid to reuse your own high-performing content and make sure that you monitor your Facebook insights data so that you don’t keep publishing things that get no traction.

Strat-2: Post a Variety of Content Types

Facebook is crafty; it knows what types of content each user prefers and delivers these more often. So if you only post images, you’re not reaching the folks who like links. Posting something of everything will fix this and let you reach as many potential supporters and their networks as possible.

Roll up those sleeves and perform a content audit. Look at your content and ask yourself how much variety you see. What’s the spread feel like? Too much video? Too many memes? Not enough written posts?

Don’t drive yourself insane with this. Just mix it up, that’s all. Over time, your audience will tell you what works best.

Strat-3: Share Proven High-Performing Content

Okay, try looking at the Internet in this very basic way:

10% are creating the best content that everyone loves to consume. This goes for all types.

20% spend their time consuming, curating and sharing content. These are the content bearers and ambassadors.

70% pretty much do nothing but consume.

Obviously it would be awesome to be in the 10% group; but even if you are, without the sharers in your network, it’s all for naught. There are tons of amazing content online that no one’s seeing, reading or engaging with because when it’s published, no one knows about it.

The 20% group is the engine that drives the Internet. So join the show and become known for sharing the best and most relevant content with your supporter base. This is going to grow your nonprofit’s Facebook Page in and of itself!

How will you find said amazing content? Make use of the Inspiration tool!


Grow Your Nonprofit Facebook Page inspiration

Become a powerful source of information and shareable content for your supporters. Your publishing schedule should be littered with shared content.

Strat-4: Don’t Lose Your Humanity

It’s crazy-easy to slip into a weird version of yourself that doesn’t sound natural. In a way, the online world is dehumanizing things, wouldn’t you say? You get into the rhythm of creating, curating and sharing content; and if you’re not careful, your inspiration and enthusiasm will melt away.

To avoid this, create a “voice” for your nonprofit.

How to Fashion a Nonprofit Persona

Again, no need to jump off the cliff of complexity here. Just ask yourself this question:

If my nonprofit were a person, what would they sound and behave like?

Based on recent data, this person should be jovial by nature, passionate, interested, active and always on the lookout for sharing inspirational content. Plus, they need to be relatable! Here are a few tips:

  • Before you post anything, take special care to analyze the voice and vibe.
  • Make sure your comments, intro-blurbs, prompt-language, etc. sounds natural.
  • Whenever possible, ask someone else to take a peek and verify that the voicing is right.
  • Have fun!

Strat-5: Never Stop Learning & Experimenting

First, never stop learning. Facebook is constantly evolving and changing, and your nonprofit Facebook Page should be evolving with it. Keep your eyes and ears open for news, updates or upcoming changes. The faster you can change your strategy accordingly, the better.

The second half is a bit more fun: Experiment and take chances!

Your publishing ritual should be fluid, proactive and reactive. Have fun, experiment, try new things! Let’s say that again…


What works for one Page may not work for yours. The only way to find out is to experiment with new and different content and react accordingly. Mind you, this doesn’t have to be anything too crazy.

What strategies work for you? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!

Need more social mojo?

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Interview: Dani Tinker a Voice for Wildlife

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National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation is a Powerful Force for Good

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is a nationwide federation of state and territorial affiliate organizations, with nearly six million members and supporters across the country. Formed with the idea of uniting sportsmen and all outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts behind the common goal of conservation, they act as unified voice for wildlife. They are fiercely dedicated to protecting habitats and inspiring the next generation of conservationists.

Recently, we had the honor to sit down with Dani Tinker, NWF’s Community Manager. An amazing inspiration to environmental social media managers everywhere, we got to discuss strategy, community, and how to educate and move supporters to action.

Here’s what she had to say.

ActionSprout (AS): How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

Dani Tinker (DT): My background is a strange combination of outdoor education and digital communications. When I was teaching back in Oregon, I remember a good friend of mine, Danielle Brigida, lured me into the world of social media by saying, “Imagine you get to lead a classroom of thousands, instead of ten.”

(AS): Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with the National Wildlife Federation?

(DT): At a basic level, I’m a huge nature nerd. Each wildlife sighting makes me smile and renews my passion for the outdoors. Now, my curiosities about the natural world influence much of what I share with the NWF community. And then there’s Ranger Rick. Who doesn’t remember Ranger Rick magazine growing up?

This organization is filled with passionate people. We occasionally have lunchtime nature walks around the building (we have several ponds and trails out back). There’s an internal Naturalist email list, consistently sharing wildlife sightings, identification questions, mystery photos and friendly debates. During a meeting yesterday, a number of us were distracted by a hawk, just outside the window, feeding on a frog it plucked from one of our ponds. It’s a place where people can’t help but ooze passion for wildlife, and it drives the work we do every day.

(AS): What do you wish other people knew about your nonprofit?

(DT): That we’re a true federation—a collection of organizations who may have different viewpoints but still work together to forward a common goal—and that creates a big tent of all types of members and supporters (gardeners, sportsmen, biologists, teachers, activists, etc.). Last year, we created a quiz (What’s Your Wildlife Personality?) to engage and celebrate our wonderfully diverse group of supporters. We recently created a campaign to bring “Butterfly Heroes” from across the country together for a single purpose: to create habitats for monarch butterflies and other pollinators, and we have upcoming initiatives that support topics from clean water to camping to environmental education. Our audiences’ unique differences and strengths make us a powerful force for America’s wildlife.

(AS): What do you think will change about NWF over the next five years?

(DT): We are truly unique in being a federation of regional affiliates across the country. I think that in the next few years, we’ll see that federation strengthened as we use new tools and strategies to coordinate our communications with each other and our audiences. If we can all be talking about the same things, at the same time, we’ll have a much greater impact.

(AS): How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

(DT): We’re always adjusting and testing to find the most effective ways to engage with our community. As an extremely visual person, I’m obsessed with finding photos that creatively communicate our message. This became a lot more fun (and time-consuming) when Facebook changed the layout for multiple images appearing in a single post. This guide has been incredibly useful as I test various multiple image posts. Two of my favorite examples of using multiple image posts were the monarch life cycle and a fox diving into the snow. This is just one of the many changes over time I’ve personally enjoyed adapting alongside.

(AS): What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?

(DT): Play. I get a lot of questions about what is the best time to post or the best practices of what to post. And the truth is that while there are a lot of great suggestions, each community is completely unique. One of the best ways to keep an audience engaged, time and time again, is to get creative and try new things. This scared me at first. Feedback is immediate and public on social media—positive and negative. I had to change my mindset. If you know your community and make decisions with them in mind, that is a success. Some things may not resonate, and you have to take that feedback, learn from it and move on to the next idea.

(AS): Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy, how often do you post?)

(DT): Our Facebook community is inspiring. We’re a community filled with gardeners, biologists, teachers, sportsmen and animal lovers. Our connective tissue is wildlife. And let me say, I’ve learned (from experience) how sharp our community is. There were a few times when I first began where I’d post a photo, and a few moments later would be corrected on the species. I loved it! They push me to be my best, and for our organization to be its best.

Our community enjoys content that teaches them something new, challenges them or gives them the opportunity to take action for wildlife. They appreciate it when it’s relevant to current events, as well. For example, a suggestion to recycle your pumpkins for wildlife in the spirit of Autumn and Halloween helps them associate their daily activities with wildlife. The Superb Owl during the Super Bowl took them to a blog post that helped them learn more about owls and gave them the opportunity to help protect them. And the most popular day of the year on Facebook is by far Squirrel Appreciation Day, which reminds people to live together with wildlife.

Another thing that our Facebook community enjoys are community photo albums. This is when we provide a prompt, people post photos, and we add them into an album. It’s a fantastic way to build a sense of community.

(AS): What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?

(DT): We want to spread the message of wildlife conservation in a way that includes as many Americans as possible. When we remind people why they care about wildlife regularly, and then ask them to take specific actions to support it, we are cultivating lifelong conservationists to help us care for the wildlife around them. Our Facebook efforts support specific strategic campaigns that direct people to specific actions, including signing up for events and activities, and donating to our priority campaigns.

(AS): What kind of social calls to action do you use?

(DT): There are a variety of different calls to action we use on social media. We have traditional “take action” posts, asking folks to sign a petition, send a message or tweet their decision-makers. With our educational posts, we want people to pass along and spread the knowledge. Specifically with our Facebook community, we’ll occasionally ask them to share photos and upload them to a community album. We recently had a great response for our Bald Eagle Watch Month community album. And we’ll mix in a few fun or unique calls to action as well, like our engagement quizzes.

(AS): Tell us about a recent successful social campaign or series of posts.

(DT): One of our big goals right now is raising awareness about the rapid decline of the monarch butterfly. Building a social media strategy revolved around content. We thought through all of the types of content we could provide, including:

  • News: An article from our magazine explaining the decline.
  • Engagement: Quiz – Can You Tell Monarchs From Their Look-Alikes?
  • How-to: Find and Choose Native Milkweeds for Monarchs
  • Education: Visual Journey Through the Life Cycle of a Monarch
  • Political Action: Send a message to protect native grasslands for monarchs
  • Individual Action: Take the pledge to plant a garden for monarchs by becoming a Butterfly Hero

We worked alongside the USFWS, contributing to their #savethemonarch conversation on Twitter. Partnerships and building relationships like this allow exposure to a new community. We can share their content, and they can share ours from time to time. We also launched our own campaign supporting the White House’s call for action on pollinators, Butterfly Heroes, to engage kids and families to get involved in helping monarchs in a fun and easy way.

(AS): What did you learn from this success more broadly? / Is there anything you do differently now?

(DT): Quality content and strong visuals are critical to success. We developed content that is relevant and useful. We also found strong visuals to inspire folks to protect the monarch butterfly. As a result, our posts were shared far and wide.

(AS): What did you learn about your audience from this success?

(DT): They want to be informed, learn something new and act. If we can provide resources that empower them to do all three, we’ll be a powerful force for wildlife.

(AS): How did you measure this success? What metrics do you focus on?

(DT): This particular campaign had a goal of raising awareness. We focused on Page views for our content and shares. Shares carry a lot of weight for me, personally. If people find our content valuable enough to pass along to their friends and family, that is a success to me. Ultimately, for folks to be more informed about the issue and how to take part, we need them to see our content. For a campaign like Butterfly Heroes or an Action Alert, we measure the number of pledges or actions taken.

Key Takeaways for Nonprofits:

Build relationships. Treat it like a friendship; would you brag about yourself all day to make new friends? No, you’d exchange interesting facts, information and news about the things you have in common. For NWF, that connective tissue is wildlife. Build relationships so that when you need your community to step up and take action, they’ll be ready and willing.

Actively listen and engage. “When I post a photo of a monarch, and someone comments about the time a monarch landed on their head, I ask questions or comment back on how incredible the experience must have been. When I get a photo of a blurry snake asking what it is, I try to respond and help identify the snake. Answer questions, ask questions and comment back. Capacity for this can be a challenge. Think about the times you felt strongly (positively or negatively) enough to comment on an organization’s post. If they never engaged with your comment, you might just never do it again. Then consider how you’d feel if they answered your question or replied to your comment!”

Invest in content. Quality content engages the community, is shared widely across networks, and increases visibility for the organization. Great content never truly dies as it can be repurposed, reshared or revived through search over time.

Experiment and don’t be afraid to try new things. The truth is that while there are a lot of great suggestions, each community is completely unique. One of the best ways to keep an audience engaged, time and time again, is to get creative and try new things.

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Three Articles on Online Giving We Love

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Earn and Retain more Donors with Online Giving

At this point, online giving is still relatively small at just 10%. However, year after year it’s growing by leaps and bounds—up 23% from 2013—with the most growth being seen in peer-to-peer giving (up 70% as of 2014).

Over half of all online donations originate on nonprofit-giving pages and the biggest donations happen at the end of the year and average $229.

Online Donation Data- online giving


What Does This All Mean?

Two things:

  1. Online giving is steadily growing and will likely become the main source of giving in the near future.
  2. Thanks to social media, nonprofits can very quickly react when situational opportunities strike.

Some examples would be natural disasters; when highly controversial political movements pop up; or local happenings take place. Within the blink of an eye, nonprofits can set up branded funnels that cater to social fundraising behavior and make huge impacts right when they’re needed most.

Online giving is the future, so what should we do about it?

To help answer that question, here are our favorite three articles on online giving!

Male Donors Respond Best to Pitches That Stress Self-Interest, Study Says

By Alex Daniels

It’s pretty easy to look at the big numbers and large figures, and change your strategy a little, but let’s be a bit more specific when it comes to tapping into the online donor revolution.

What do men and women respond to most when in the context of a branded giving page? The Chronicle of Philanthropy looked at a study from Stanford University. You can read the full unedited manuscript, but be warned—it’s pretty dense.

Researchers found what’s being labeled as the “empathy gap” between the sexes when it comes to charitable giving.

men online giving

  • Women: tend to empathize more and give more when messaging focuses on other people, places and things.
  • Men: tend to give when they’re shown how the situation or circumstance at hand directly impacts them and their lives, e.g. How poverty affects them and their family.

Men don’t necessarily lack the compassion that women have; they just tend to view situations with more self-interest.

If you want your male donors to catch up to women, have a fluid mix of these four types of pitches:

  1. Efficacy
  2. Conformity
  3. Social Injustice
  4. Self-Interest

Yes, a good portion of donations will come from a branded giving page that directs attention to one single thing, for example a sick child stricken by the horrors of 21st century inner-cities. But don’t neglect broader messages that cater to more masculine types who need to be told how this corrupted system is hurting their chances for survival and success as well.

The researchers used this message in particular:

Poverty weighs down our interconnected economy, exacerbating many social problems like crime.

Lower Donor Remorse With This Amazingly Simple Strategy

By John Haydon

Donor remorse is very real problem that is quite similar to the infamous buyer’s remorse.

  • Before Giving: They envision making a difference, feeling that they’ve done something of great consequence, heroic and validated.
  • After Giving: They fail to recognize their impact, minimize it or perhaps imagine better ways their money could have been spent to fix the problem.

global-giving-online giving

We’re going to get much deeper into this subject in another blog, but in a nutshell the best way to minimize donor remorse is to immediately reinforce the impact that their gift will make. Tell donors about the difference their gift just made in someone’s life.

Now let’s talk about something that works in just about every setting, and on all types of nonprofit donation pages: reciprocation.

Nine Clever Ways to Thank Your Donors

What happens once someone makes a donation through your page? Do they get a simple generic email or receipt? How soon will they get to see where their hard-earned dollars went?

These may be the two most important questions that you ask yourself. Why? Thanking donors is no laughing matter; either you thank them or you lose them.

In her blog, The Most Effective Follow Ups for Nonprofit Events and Campaigns, Allison Gauss paints a clear picture:

“Thanking donors isn’t just the polite thing to do, it’s the smart thing. One of the top reasons donors gave when asked why they stopped donating was that they were never thanked for their previous gift. At the very least, every donor should receive a thank you email, which can be easily automated and segmented.”

It’s time to get down to business and take this thanking thing seriously! Here are some of our favorites from the list above:

  • Lavish Them with Progress: They better start seeing and reading about progress, no matter how small. Never underestimate the small wins, because those always feel incredible!
  • Write Personably: Nothing generic… ever. Written correspondence, especially email, should feel like a personal letter rather than an automated or overly formal response. Yes, things need to be automated, but take the time to create a personable atmosphere that’s transparent and realistic.
  • Avoid Upsells: They’ve already given, now it’s your turn before anymore giving is done… so don’t ask. Nothing will sour what they’ve done and lead to donor remorse quicker than an insta-upsell.
  • Better Imagery: Imagery should start showing these people results rather than serving as preacher photos. Capture results, capture the micro-outcomes, capture the journey and capture the inspiration!
  • Consider Video: A video, by its very nature, is scripted and automated. Everyone knows this. Yet it’s a complete 180 from a pure text response. While they can cost more in terms of production, the ROI is easily demonstrated everywhere we look.

Let’s Wrap it Up!

We hope that this has been a fun, informational journey through the data behind how nonprofits are engaging, retaining and taking part in the online giving revolution. You’ve covered a fair amount here; now digest it and put it to work!

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The Wilderness Society Shares New Strategy to Grow Facebook Page

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Grow Facebook Page

The Wilderness Society Inspiration Case Study

The Wilderness Society is using a new strategy to grow its Facebook Page—and save time to boot. In fact, more and more social media managers are finding success with this technique.

The key to growing your Page is to regularly post great content, whether that’s your own unique content or shared content from other sources.

The problem is, it’s hard to predict which posts will perform well with your audience.

That’s why we developed a tool that changes all that. Inspiration finds proven, high-quality content and collects it all in one place for easy browsing.

We asked The Wilderness Society (TWS) to walk us through their strategy and success with Inspiration.

The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Society has built up one of the best-performing pages in the environmental community. Currently, their Facebook Page has 372,493 likes and it posts content 2–3 times a day.

timeline- grown facebook page

Inspiration has helped them continue the momentum. Inspiration focuses on over-performance, showing you only the best content in your network. For example, if you are looking at a Page that normally gets 50 likes per post and their newest post has 300 likes (600% over performance), that’s the content you should use.

On a typical day, they usually check their Inspiration feed 1–3 times, scanning for shareable content that is performing above 200%:

“We’re typically looking for content that Wilderness Society users may be highly interested in, or content that is performing robustly for other groups and that will perform well with our audiences. I like Inspiration’s performance data at the top of each post, as this allow me to cut straight to the best content and spend less time culling through mediocre posts.”

These daily checks have saved TWS a couple of hours each week, which they would have spent browsing Facebook to find great content. They now find and post 1–3 high-quality posts per week from Inspiration and see them resonate with their audience.

“I see a greater variety of content, and not just the content that Facebook thinks I want to see. This allows me to do less searching and fewer visits to specific pages to find good content to share. It also helps surface worthy news from organizations that we’ve been following on Facebook for some time, but whom I’ve never once seen pop up in our Facebook News Feed.”

inspiration- grow facebook page

This has introduced them to high-performing content that they may not have seen otherwise, that then went on to over-perform on their own Page:

“We found this cute bear wrestling video from the Interior Department on Inspiration. It was our highest performing post of the week and inspired a high rate of commentary. Before Inspiration, it’s possible we may have found this post through a regular search of the DOI feed, but it’s also possible we would have missed it or come to it a day after it was posted.  

bear post- grow facebook page

This is the type of post our followers love and we wouldn’t want to miss sharing a spectacular video moment like this one—a moment that highlights the precious reasons we protect wilderness. Inspiration ensured that we didn’t miss this video and helped us find it shortly after DOI posted it—I believe within the hour.”

But Inspiration can be more than finding and posting great content. You can also draw “inspiration” from your feed and create unique new content based on what you find.

It’s also great for social listening:

“On occasion I use it to see how like-minded organizations are responding to breaking news or other events—specifically to see how followers of like-minded groups or news orgs respond to certain news items.”

The Pages you follow in Inspiration are not notified in any way that you follow them. This allows you to follow Pages that you normally wouldn’t publicly.

But most importantly, it’s essential to follow like-minded pages that have a similar mission and audience to your own:

“[We follow] other nonprofit conservation groups, Governmental agencies like the Interior Department, and environmental publishers like Grist and Treehugger. We follow these to see what other similar groups are doing on social.”

That was quite a bit of information to digest. Let’s recap the main points:

  1. The number one way to grow your Page is to consistently post over-performing content.
  2. Repost your own over-performing content and share others’ for maximum growth and engagement.
  3. Check Inspiration every day for greater success and growth.
  4. Follow Pages in Inspiration that you wouldn’t publicly, and practice social listening.
  5. Use Inspiration to learn what’s trending and to gain ideas for your own original content.


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