Tips for Harnessing Web 2.0 Potential
The communications landscape is changing every day and, as it does, more and more nonprofits are realizing that they need to create a presence for their brands where potential supporters are. Today, many of those places are Web 2.0 hideouts like social-networking sites and blogs.
In the Campbell & Co.-sponsored webinar, "Philanthropy 2.0," in March, presenters Leslie Gryce Sturino, director of marketing for Campbell & Co., and Brian Kish, assistant vice president for advancement at Salve Regina University and an annual-giving consultant with Campbell & Co., discussed the Web 2.0 and social-networking tools available to nonprofits and how fundraisers can use them to engage potential supporters.
The webinar began with a brief overview of the Web 2.0 tools that exist — such as blogs, podcasts, Twitter, RSS, wikis, social bookmarking, YouTube and widgets — and their uses.
Some of the differences between mass communications tools and social-media tools are:
- Control. With mass communications, the brand is in control, whereas with social media the audience is in control.
- Message. With mass communications, the conversation is one-way, with organizations delivering messages to their audiences. Social media fosters two-way conversations.
- Focus. With mass communications, the focus is on the brand, whereas with social media the focus is on the audience.
- Purpose. Mass communications are designed to educate, while social media's goal is to influence and involve.
- Content. Organizations create the content for mass communications, while for social-media tools a user creates and co-creates content with the organization.
Social networks and Web 2.0 tools allow organizations to reach out to small affinities, promote reasons to give, learn more and get feedback from supporters, create viral communications, invite supporters to events, use more senses (with audio, video, etc.), and cut costs.
Potential pitfalls of these tools, however, are the loss of control and the public criticism you open yourself to by using them. And it can be a lot to maintain and keep current.
The presenters suggested outfitting your Web site with Web 2.0 features to take advantage of the opportunities these tools offer and the ability to fundraise via your site. Online giving is the easiest way to give smaller gifts and/or convey vital information for larger ones. The best online giving applications are timely and actionable, and connect donors to their interests.
An example of an organization doing a great job connecting donors to their interests is UNICEF USA's Inspired Gifts site, which is designed much like an e-commerce site where visitors can buy lifesaving gifts. Donors can view photos of those in need and the items they'll be purchasing to help them and add them to a shopping cart.
"People want to buy, they don't want to be sold to," said Kish, who added that the key is to have information that visitors can read, interact with and then react to, not just read and react.
For smaller organizations that don't have the functionality to accept donations on their Web sites, e-philanthropy hubs like ChipIn, JustGive and Firstgiving simplify the process of collecting money online and feature a menu of causes that visitors can support.
All in all, the presenters said the best 2.0 Web sites:
- Serve as community hubs, giving members, alumni, donors and other supporters reasons to visit often.
- Work toward communications objectives in conjunction with other media, e.g., mail, e-mail, ads, social-network sites.
- Are tailored to audiences.
- Are not too busy or cluttered, but still manage to communicate important information about your mission and values that are important to donors.
Kish noted some organizations that are doing 2.0 well, including:
- PETA, which offers subsites like PetaPrime, a more sedate site for mature supporters; Peta2, an edgier site for the younger set; and the lighthearted PetaKids;
- Indiana State University's March On: Campaign for Indiana State, which uses interactive video to engage supporters;
- The United Way's Live United campaign, which features a call to action on multiple levels (volunteer, donate, advocate), has strong branding and uses multiple 2.0 tools; and
- the Roundabout Theatre Company's Campaign for Studio 54, where donors are able to click on a seat they'd like to endow in the new theater, see the view for that seat and purchase it.
For organizations interested in incorporating 2.0 tools, Sturino and Kish recommended:
- Setting fundraising, stewardship, membership and/or community-building objectives.
- Defining audiences.
- Keeping brand and messaging consistent across traditional and new media.
- Communicating clear policies (public blog policy, employee social-networking and blogging policies, etc.)
- Measuring progress. Web 2.0 metrics to measure include unique visitors to the site, page visits, new e-mail list opt-ins, e-mail clickthroughs and blog participation.
- Staying flexible and adjusting strategies based on metrics.
In closing, the presenters stressed that the new tools should not replace the old. Rather, organizations should integrate use of all the tools at their disposal, using traditional media to drive new media, and vice versa.