Outreach and trusting in good touches

Traffic for my post last weekend about the pineapple upside-down cupcakes went through the roof. And I mean through the roof! I was so excited, I shared the news with my husband Sunday night:

Me: “Traffic for my cupcake parable post is through the roof!”

Al: “That’s because everyone is searching for pineapple upside-down cupcake recipes and landing on your site.”

And he’s right. Even my own friends — people who know that this blog specifically focuses on NPOs — sent me feedback about the cupcakes themselves:English: A tin with large divets in it, for ma...

  • “Photos look yummy!”
  • “Sorry your first batch didn’t turn out.”
  • “You’re so brave to make a new recipe the night before a party.” (or dumb, in my opinion)

But I also heard back from friends and colleagues who said the story made them think and reflect on their own processes, perseverance, and reactions to roadblocks and perceived short-comings. Some of these comments came from development professionals with whom I then had great conversations about annual giving and letter campaign procedures (which is what I had in mind when writing it). Some are not in development… and the post started great conversations with them about their own work, their parenting struggles, and so on.

But that’s the great thing about this cupcake story: the lessons are transferable and fairly universal.

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Writing for print newsletters vs. online

Someone wrote to me privately and asked about the practicality of writing for print newsletters and then e-mailing copies. Personally, I believe writing for e-news should be approached differently, with the assumption that most readers will not read the all of the stories, and may not reach the end of any of them. Front load your most important information in the first paragraph in e-news… your readers may not make it past that first paragraph (especially since open rates are much higher than click rates).

Here is an interesting comparison for you — a pdf of a print newsletter and the online version of the same text. This is English Matters, the University of Washington English Department’s alumni news of which I was the editor for three years.

English Matters 2010 (pdf)

English Matters 2010 (online)

What do you think?

E-newsletters: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

E-newsletters: Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

As budgets are squeezed and people become more aware of our carbon footprint and ecological impact, nonprofits are turning more and more to converting all communications to online and email. Plus, online makes sense since it seems people are abandoning paper versions of most other forms of written communications (such as newspapers … and am I the only person left in Seattle who hasn’t purchased an e-reader?). E-newsletters: we love them!

https://i1.wp.com/www.marketo.com/_includes/wp/resources/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/email-marketing-campaign.jpgBut e-newsletters come with their own set of problems: a drastic reduction in the distribution list due to difficulties moving print subscribers over to e-news, difficulties collecting good email addresses, spam programs blocking delivery, formatting issues when considering all of the different browsers available, and very low open rates. E-newsletters: who needs them?

And then there is this interesting article about the poor ROIs of e-newsletters, promptly followed up with a swift rebuttal (from Ahern Communications, Ink)

Bottom line, though, is that the average metrics for nonprofit e-newsletters in 2011 were 13% open rate, 1.6% click-through rate, and 0.17% unsubscribe rate, according to the eNonprofit Benchmarks Study (as cited on FrogLoop). I have a hard time wrapping my brain around creating a content-rich, carefully researched, lovingly crafted communications gift to the world when only 13% of those who receive it will even open it. That hurts the hidden tortured writer in me.

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Controlling your image on the internet

Staying on top of your multiple communications platforms every day, every hour. This doesn’t require much time, right? There’s not much to do as the go-to communications/outreach person…


Enough to leave one speechless.

Oh wait. On second thought…

I love this graphic, and not just because of the pretty colors or the flashbacks of being a child in the 70s watching The Partridge Family (did you know Danny Bonaduce is now a morning radio shock-jock here in Seattle? On a classic rock station, nonetheless). I will be referring back to the graphic quite often in the future, analyzing small bits as we go.

But I do have some quick thoughts about a very specific issue. Be in control of your internet presence — whether your agency is a full-colored peacock across the entire chart or just a few shades here and there.

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Do You Pinterest?

I’m still trying to make up my mind about Pinterest. I have had an account for a number of months now, and for the longest time I was feeling like it was the go-to site to salivate over crazy hyper-remodel jobs, scan wedding hairstyles and terrible bridesmaid dresses, find recipes to make desserts that taste like cake batter (just make some cake batter and eat it with a spoon, people!), or 101 DIY crafts to make using toilet paper tubes.

There was a long stretch of time when I never checked it, and I almost abandoned the boards altogether.

But lately I noticed that there has been a jump in “repins” of my nonprofit board (which, by the way, I created solely for organizing my own reading). Then I started noticing nonprofit pros discussing Pinterest in their social media or marketing strategies. Kivi Leroux Miller addressed the Pinterest question in her nonprofit marketing blog a few weeks ago, and she too seems to be on the fence regarding the value of using Pinterest for marketing and outreach.

Is there marketing/communications power to be unleashed in this odd little social media platform?

But more importantly, check out how these organizations are using Pinterest:

What are your thoughts? Are you using Pinterest in your marketing and communications? Why or why not?

New Video: Puget Sound Labor Agency

I worked with PSLA earlier this year on establishing new development and administrative programs/procedures. This Belltown agency quickly adapted its programs to meet the extreme increase in demand for services (especially the food bank), while having to make severe cuts to account for the downturn in the economy. As a result, the executive director stopped wearing a tie to the office and took over many of the necessary duties to ensure the food bank stayed open. They do whatever it takes to continue to feed the 40,000+ mouths that come through their door annually, looking for some hunger relief and a bit of kindness.

This is my first video.

Grassroots video making, otherwise known as “there’s no budget, so I’m using the kid’s flip camera”

I am just putting the finishing touches on my very first video for a local Seattle nonprofit. There was no budget to have the video done professionally, but we had to create something to communicate to the community what work the agency does, who it serves, how it serves them, and demonstrate the hard work and dedication of the almost all-volunteer staff. Relying on traditional means of communication just will not work for this agency — neither of the two staff members are equipped to keep up on the fairly complicated website module system they are contracted into, and there is no budget to create a consistent newsletter (paper or e-news). So my work around was to make a video — and I had to make it myself. Easier said than done.

I’m not a film-maker. I didn’t have a lick of experience making films. What I did have, though, was years of experience teaching and thinking about film as another form of narrative, and so bringing the story together in my mind (and on paper) was the fun part. The not-so-fun part was learning how to edit the actual clips into the narrative using all free software. Luckily, I’m a fast learner and came up with quite a few great work-a-rounds.

I also discovered that Moby (yes, that Moby) has made some of his remixed and unreleased material available to nonprofits and film students for non-commercial video projects. Thank you, Moby and mobygratis, for allowing me to use one of your pieces!

The video is almost ready to make public, and I cannot wait to unleash it onto the social media community and the Seattle blogosphere. This agency has been running a food bank in Belltown since 1975, serving tens of thousands every year, and it’s time the Seattle community learned about them. Stay tuned!