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8 posts from April 2009

April 29, 2009

It Takes a Village to Survey the Nonprofit Community

No really.  It takes a lot of people.  The Nonprofit Social Network Survey was no small feat. Thank you to Carla Borsoi, Ruby Sinreich and Beth Kanter for thoughtful early feedback. I'm grateful that you took the time to give me your really constructive criticism.

Many people and organizations helped us get the word out.  Here are just a few of the awesome orgs that helped: ASAE Membership Listserv, Social Fish, Volunteer Match, Tech Soup Global, Google for Nonprofits, Progressive Exchange, and Allyson Kapin at Frogloop.

Thank you to our research partners: Holly Ross and the awesome team at NTEN; Aaron Biddar and Adam Steinberg at ThePort; and to my colleagues Jeff Patrick, Luke Maffei, Patrick Hynes, and Cori Kesler at Common Knowledge.

Thanks especially to the 980 survey respondents. A 50 question survey is a commitment, and we appreciate you taking the time to contribute to this research effort.

I think the Nonprofit Social Network Survey is pretty darn nifty, and I learned so much from all of you in the process.  Thank you.

April 27, 2009

09NTC: Monday Dinners & Tuesday Taco Safari

We're organizing three sessions, two birds of a feather dinners Monday night, and a Taco Safari on Tuesday evening.

Follow us on Twitter @commonknow ( as we tweet our way through NTC! We've included Twitter hashtags for each activity so that you can follow along, even if you can't make it.

Social Network Dinner at Mexico DF
Twitter Hashtag: #ntc09.SNdinner
Monday, 4/27 7:00 pm

Discuss the future of online communities over margaritas! Join Joel Bush and Rachel Weidinger of Common Knowledge for tasty, tasty margaritas and dinner conversation at Mexico DF between the Monday Reception and the After Party. The first round of drinks and apps is on us! Mexico DF is one of Rachel's favorite SF restaurants, and we've reserved their big community table. Tasty, tasty fresh food.

Please RSVP to [email protected] to be added to the list.

Integrated Fundraising Roundtable Dinner at Restaurant LuLu
Twitter Hashtag: #ntc09.IFdinner
Monday, 4/27 7:00 pm

Direct Mail, Email, Landing Pages and Wine! Join Jeff Patrick of Common Knowledge for an integrated fundraising roundtable discussion over dinner at the fab French Restaurant LuLu. We'll discuss integrated fundraising over a spring Provençal menu with great food from the kitchen's wood-fired oven, rotisserie and grill. Jeff will start things off with apps and a few bottles of wine on us. Then we'll have a no-host dinner and then make sure you get to the After Party at Mezzanine.

Please RSVP to [email protected] to be added to the list.

Tuesday Taco Safari
Twitter Hashtag: #tacosafari
Tuesday, 4/28 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Starts at: San Francisco Hilton

Join the foodies of Common Knowledge for a guided field trip of the tastiest taquerias of San Francisco's Mission District.

We'll BART to the Mission, and show off a few of our favorite spots in a taqueria hopping tour. Want a burrito as big as your head? No problem. First round of tacos is on us, and we'll reward those who survive with a cone of the legendary ice cream of the Bi-Rite Creamery. We'll be live twittering the adventure, and the locations, from @commonknow. This is a culinary adventure you won't want to miss.

Please RSVP to [email protected] to be added to the list.

Nonprofit Social Network Survey Results

Today we published the results of the Nonprofit Social Network survey with our research partners NTEN and ThePort. In this research, we discovered that social networking has become an integral part of nonprofits' online strategies. In this online survey conducted in March, 2009, 980 respondents representing nonprofits of all sizes and from multiple vertical segments indicate that nearly three-quarters (74.2%) have a presence on Facebook, and 30.9% have one or more social networking communities on their own web site.

Here's a sneak peek at the survey report:

From the survey, we learned that commercial social networks, especially Facebook, are popular, but average community sizes remain small, and presence is relatively short. Responding nonprofits are allocating small but real resources, staff and budget to their social networks. Survey respondents prefer traditional marketing channels to promote their social networks but are experimenting with new social media channels. For now, there is very little real revenue generated on these communities via fundraising and advertising. A minority of nonprofit survey respondents, about one third, have built and manage their own house social networks, using software from a wide variety of social network software vendors, with no clear leader among these vendors. The members of house social networks are as yet, with just a few exceptions, still relatively small as well.

We're interested in continuing the benchmarking conversation. Tag related Nonprofit Social Network Survey blog posts and tweets with #NSNS

For the full--and sometimes surprising--results, download the report now at

We'll be presenting the results at NTC on Tuesday. Here are the details:

Nonprofits Are Embracing Social Networks: Industry Survey Reveals 74.2% of Nonprofits Have a Presence on Facebook
Twitter Hashtag: #NSNS
Tuesday, 4/28 3:30 pm
Room: Yosemite C

New White Paper: Social Networks for Nonprofits

In addition to the Nonprofit Social Network Survey, we're also publishing a white paper today: Social Networks for Nonprofits: Why You Should Grow Your Own.

Here's an excerpt:

As you consider how social networking will play a role in your organization, consider what motivates your constituents to join your community. We’ve developed a list of eight reasons people participate in social networks.

1. Social Needs: Participation in the social network fills a basic human need to create relationships and connect with others. Example: A traveling nurse maintains connections with friends back home via Facebook.

2. Emotional Support: The social network provides the space for emotional reinforcement from peers in the network. Example: A mother of an autistic child shares daily parenting challenges with other parents via online discussion groups.

Download the white paper here.

09NTC: Social Network & Integrated Fundraising Sessions

We're thrilled to welcome NTC to San Francisco April 26-28. We' kicked it all off Sunday as Rachel welcomes NTEN to San Francisco at the Member Reception. We're organizing three sessions (detailed here) two birds of a feather dinners Monday night, and a Taco Safari on Tuesday evening.

Follow us on Twitter @commonknow ( as we tweet our way through NTC! We've included Twitter hashtags for each activity so that you can follow along, even if you can't make it.

Come say hi at our sessions:
Best of the Best: Integrated Fundraising Case Studies, Evolution of Online Communities : Social Networking for Good , and Nonprofits Are Embracing Social Networks: Industry Survey Reveals 74.2% of Nonprofits Have a Presence on Facebook

Best of the Best: Integrated Fundraising Case Studies
Twitter Hashtag: #ntc09.IFCS
Monday, 4/27 1:30 pm
Room: Union Square 18

Nonprofit case studies illustrating the integration of online tech with offline effort, and ROI for fundraising programs. Jeff will share specific examples from the Seva Foundation, Sierra Club, Partnership for a Drug Free America, and the Wounded Warrior Project.

We'll share case studies and describe how-tos for three types integrated fundraising campaigns: online list-building, cultivation and solicitation.

Evolution of Online Communities : Social Networking for Good
Twitter Hashtag: #ntc09.EOC
Tuesday, 4/28 1:30 pm
Room: Imperial Ballroom B

Online communities have evolved rapidly, and technical barriers to participation are dropping. Check out this interview with Jeff as a preview. As participation in Facebook and other commercial social networks increases, how are those sites supporting communities? What technologies - low and high - are really being used by people who seek communities to join? How are nonprofits bridging online and offline communities? What is community management, and how do you do it online? What is the future of online communities?


  • A better understanding of online community
  • Tactics for developing and growing communities
  • Best tools for developing such communities

Nonprofits Are Embracing Social Networks: Industry Survey Reveals 74.2% of Nonprofits Have a Presence on Facebook
Twitter Hashtag: #NSNS
Tuesday, 4/28 3:30 pm
Room: Yosemite C

Social networking has become an integral part of nonprofits' online strategy, according to a survey recently conducted by NTEN, Common Knowledge, and ThePort. In this online survey conducted in 2009, 980 respondents representing nonprofits of all sizes and from multiple vertical segments indicate that nearly three-quarters (74.2%) have a presence on Facebook, and 30.9% have one or more social networking communities on their own web site.

In this session, we'll present the highlights from the survey, including analysis and interpretation of essential questions such as:

  • Besides Facebook, which commercial social network sites are nonprofits using most?
  • How many members do nonprofits have on their social network communities?
  • How are nonprofits marketing their social network sites?
  • Are nonprofits successfully getting revenue from social networks?
  • How are nonprofit peers resourcing social networks efforts?

Join us for an animated discussion of these points and others that will help create the industry's first benchmark of social networking for nonprofits.

April 24, 2009

Do you know where your checkbook is?


Make it easier for your supporters to donate in the way that works for them by integrating your fundraising efforts.

Small changes to your homepage can help improve returns from your direct mail campaigns.

Integrated marketing, or integrated fundraising for the nonprofit sector, is a really hot topic. However with limited time and resources it is still incredibly challenging to take a great theory and implement it in your day to day fundraising campaigns. Here is one quick idea you can use to integrate your direct mail and online fundraising channels no matter how pressed for time you are.

Donors want to give to you via the channel that is most convenient for them and its your job to make that possible. Consumer habitats are changing, Jeff and I were recently talking about multichannel giving, and I had to confess that on any given day I don’t really know where my check book is. My organizational skills aside, that means that even if I am inspired by a particular direct mail piece I’m more likely to look up an organizations website and give online then to write a check.  

My advice is to place a small ad on your homepage that uses similar art work and language to your direct mail pieces. That way when someone, like me, comes to your homepage looking to donate in response to a direct mail piece they will know exactly where to click to donate. We are now in the process of testing this with a number of clients and the early results are very positive. A couple of organization that are already putting this technique to good use are and

Often the first thing I get asked when I make this suggestion to a new client is “Won’t this just cannibalize my direct mail response?” No it won’t! Over the years a mounting body of research has shown that communicating to your donors via multiple channels increases their annual and life time value to the organization. More significantly converting a single channel donor (online, phone, or offline) to a multiple channel donor also increases the value of that donor to your organization. Far from “cannibalizing your direct mail results” by making it easy for your supporters to donate to you in the way that is easiest for them you’ll increase the total dollars you raise across all channels.

For more info on multi-channel and integrated fundraising check out this great case study on the ASPCA compiled by Convio and StrategicOne:

A Small Facebook Application Change has Big Implications for Non-Profits


Facebook makes it possible for users to update their status within an application

Facebook status update is central to using Facebook successfully

This update will improve non-profit supporters' ability to raise money and awareness

Facebook recently added a small but important new capability in their applications.  Specifically, application users will be able to update their status directly from properly configured applications.  This is big...very very big, because it will greatly improve the ability for non-profit supporters to evangelize, advocate, and raise money for non-profits they care about.

In order to understand the significance of Facebook's recent change, it's important to take a quick look at the central role of Facebook's "Status" and "Newsfeed" features. The status update-newsfeed combo is at the heart of Facebook's success.  These two features are central to how we keep tabs on all our friends and how our friends keep tabs on us.  How it works is surprisingly simple - write something that's on your mind or that you are doing (or whatever) and do it in 160 characters.  This is your "status".  Once you're done writing, hit "share," your status will display on all your friends' "Newsfeeds" or Facebook homepages (the first thing they see when they log in).  Your friends are then able to comment on your status or take action on it (depending on what is in your status) should they want to.  When your friends update their own statuses, it shows up on your Newsfeed and the cycle continues.  A simple and incredibly effective mechanism for spreading information, especially considering the average person has 120 "friends" on Facebook.


At this point, people typically ask me, "Who cares what I'm doing or what's on my mind?"  Significantly more people than you think.  Let's take a quick look at my status update from earlier in the week.  It read, "Joel thinks April has been an incredibly long month."  I didn't expect many, if any responses, but I ended up with a handful of comments.  Who commented, however, is more enlightening:  A coworker of mine whom I worked with nine years ago and email once every year; a buddy of mine from college; and one of my current clients.  The type and strength of my relationships with each person are vastly different.  My status update the following day piqued the interest of completely different friends:  one from high school in Maryland and a close friend in Los Angeles.  As for my current status update - it's a total dud and didn't receive any comments.  So although you may not be able to predict which update will compel your friends to comment, your friends are definitely paying attention and not always the friends you expect. 

Here's some homework if you have a Facebook account - update your status for six straight days.  You'll be amazed and one thing will become absolutely clear, the status update is a powerful tool for communicating to family and friends...even those you may not have spoken to in years.  Bottom line:  Non-profits want to get into their supporters' status updates.

The recent feature Facebook made available to people and organizations with applications is aimed squarely at status updates and newsfeeds.  Here are three ways that this new change will help non-profits:

1.  Advocacy and distributed fundraising will become easier
For non-profits with member fundraising programs (think Team in Training, MS Walk, AIDS Ride, etc.), participants will be able to more easily update their friends about the status of their fundraising efforts, their goals, etc. and, obviously, get their friends to donate.  Organizational or issue advocates will be able to communicate with their friends in advocates own words why their friends should care and take action.

2.  Member/Supporter's words are better 
Until recently, Facebook only permitted applications to post generic updates to application users' profiles and in their friends' newsfeeds written by the non-profit (or application creator).  The new change makes it possible for supporters to make an appeal to their friends on behalf of a non-profit in their own words, in a way that non-profits can't.

3.  Encourage Action not Application
For many application developers, the goal is to get as many people on Facebook to add the application as possible.  Therefore the previous update system made sense - in order to interact with your friends in the context of the application, users must add the application to their profile.  For example, to compare the results of the quiz "What City Should I Live In?" with my friends, I need to add the "What City Should I Live In?" application (The answer is Seattle, by the way). 

For non-profits, this model doesn't necessarily make as much sense.  If I am raising money for a non-profit, I don't want to give my potential donors a 2-3 step process before they even get to the donation page, because all those clicks will turn potential donors into non-donors.  So, by giving your supporters the ability to update their statuses on their own, they can send their friends directly to their fundraising page or to the desired advocacy action.  Much better.

[JARGON WATCH:  For the uninitiated, the lamely named "Applications" are little programs that users can add to their Facebook account that typically facilitate some sort of social activity.  Some are silly (i.e., Throw a Sheep at a Friend), some are entertaining (i.e., games, quizzes, and contests), and some help you pull together things you are doing elsewhere (i.e., share Netflix queues, book reviews, etc.). You can check out some of the most popular applications here.]

Common Knowledge Launches a Blog

For fear of stating the obvious, Common Knowledge now has its own blog.  In it we will cover the online ecosystem that nonprofits exist with in, and are creating. From fundraising to advocacy to social networking, and all the marketing and communications in between, we'll cover what you need to know as a nonprofiteer to get the most out of the internet and the millions of people who are on it.  As you know, the medium moves and changes quickly and we'll keep you up to date.  Some principles rarely change, and we'll be sure to review the basics and apply them to new situations.

Hope you enjoy and please send us your feedback!