Tag: marketing

How your charity can get more followers on Instagram.

If you have read my blog before you might have gathered that I like Instagram. My personal IG site/page is personal, but clearly a big part of my life involves leading and volunteering for charitable organizations. So as a result my personal IG page looks like a Hodge podge of charity posts mixed in with my family pics and pictures about my personal images. Not the I would recommend you manage your charities IG account or other social media in this way, probably quite the opposite, however my IG account has a few followers and I clearly am going to use my personal social media to gather support and awareness for the organizations that I am passionate about, that I work for, that I volunteer or that I donate to (or frankly in some cases all of the above).

However I do feel that Instagram is a powerful tool for a charity or a nonprofit organization. It is the old a “picture is worth a thousand words” adage. A charity that has a compelling story to tell -that can be visual should be utilizing this media. Now on social media you often hear people say that it is less important how many followers you have than  how engaged they are. There is some truth to this, however think about this if your charity was offered a 60 second commericial for free during the Super Bowl or you could have that same 60 second commercial on your local community access station -which would you chose? I am guessing you would choose the Super Bowl- why? because so many more people will see your commericial. Having more followers on IG means more people are going to see your story, see the important work you do in your community, and find out about your need for volunteers and donors. Okay so lots of followers is not everything, but lets face it having a few more than you have now isn’t going to hurt you and the likelihood is that the more you have the more donors and volunteers you are going to attract to do the important work you are doing in your community.

So with this in mind using hash tags on your IG posts is a great way to increase your following and the video below tells you exactly how to do this:


4 things your business or charity should do with Instagram

I have to say Instagram or IG has got to be one of my favorite social media platforms. I think it is an ideal platform or communications vehicle for a charity to use. Particularly charities like ours were imagines can easily tell the story of what we do or who we help. I have some favorites among the charities but I think you will find some charities out there who typically would have avoided asking their users or consumers to be part of their awareness campaigns becoming very effective in using vehicles like Instagram. I think to tell the story using this tool you do have to literally build your own audience, but once you have built it, your followers are there for you to engage any time you want to. The video below suggests a few tips on how your charity can build this audience.

How much should we post on our social media about our need for donations?

It is often challenging for a charity that is just beginning to use social media channels. What do you post about? As developing content for these channels feels new or foreign to us we resort to talking about what we know- one that we need money and two one of the ways we raise money, our fundraising events. As organizations that rely on donations to be able to deliver our mission we do have a need to draw awareness to the fact that we need donations- or that we need people to attend our events so we raise money. However if this is all we talk about on our social media posts. our followers will quickly become disengaged. The video below talks about the 80/20 rule or the 90/10 rule so that we can keep our supporters and followers interested and engaged:.

Live From New York its Blackfalds Alberta

We love and need our donors, but nothing resonates with our supporters like kids helping kids. Here is follow up on 5 year old Haylen’s efforts to raise money for sick children. It is a great story but truth be told it is also a great story about the power of social media. It is a good lesson for small charities not to underestimate how they might use digital platforms or social media to get their message out.

Can your nonprofits brand have a greater impact for your charity? Part 2

          To understand how an organizations brand can have a greater impact for a charity it is likely useful to understand the/a definition for “brand”. Kylander and Stone (2012) define brand as:” A brand is more than a visual identity: the name, logo, and graphic design used by an organization. A brand is a psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of the branded product, person, organization, or movement. Brand management is the work of managing these psychological associations. In the for-profit world, marketing professionals talk of creating “a total brand experience.”  In the nonprofit world, executives talk more about their “global identity” and the “what and why” of their organizations. But the point in both cases is to take branding far beyond the logo.” Defined in this way it is not difficult to take the leap to what groups or individuals beyond donors alone who may have a “psychological construct” of what your organization is and what it does. It is also understandable that an organization may want to manage these psychological associations for volunteers or other NPO/NGOs who may collaborate with your organization.

             These authors quote Diane Fusilli, (a global brand consultant and former communications director at the Rockefeller Foundation) who suggests “A strong brand helps bring greater credibility and trust to a project quicker, and acts as a catalyst for people to want to come to the table.” In this description beyond providing financial supports or revenue your brand can be useful in getting people on-board or to become engaged. Kylander & Stone (2012) don’t stop at external constituents but illustrate brand as a factor in rallying internal stakeholders or constituents as well. They describe brand as having the power to make organizations more effective. For example:” When an organization’s employees and volunteers all embrace a common brand identity, it creates organizational cohesion, concentrates focus, and reinforces shared values.” The authors go on to elaborate:” Strong cohesion and high levels of trust contribute to greater organizational capacity and social impact. A cohesive organization is able to make more efficient and focused use of existing resources, and high external trust attracts additional talent, financing, and authority. This increase in organizational capacity enhances an organization’s social impact.”

          With the potential benefits to nonprofit organizations it is easy to imagine how important the role of your MarComm team (whether they are paid staff or volunteers) is in developing an brand that is understandable and embraced by not only your external stakeholders but also your internal stakeholders. In this case it seems very reasonable that the organization have a much broader definition of internal stakeholders. Board members, staff and volunteers are clearly internal stakeholders but when it comes to brand stakeholders  you should include social media followers. These followers can also become strong assets in sharing your brand, but will do so only if they embrace it as much as stakeholders who your organization may have traditionally viewed as closer to you. As mentioned in part 1 of this article not only should your followers embrace your brand but also your team must be willing and able to create content and collateral that makes it easier for these followers share your brand with their contacts and followers. This is a place that may feel very challenging for traditional marketers. Losing control of who is sharing your message and your brand –or if they are creating their own twist on your messaging. Kylander & Stone (2012) introduce the concept of Brand Democracy and how it can be utilized to share your brand –however inevitably your team will have less ability to control this sharing of your brand. They describe;” Brand democracy means that the organization trusts its members, staff, participants, and volunteers to communicate their own understanding of the organization’s core identity. Brand democracy largely eliminates the need to tightly control how the brand is presented and portrayed. The appetite for brand democracy among nonprofit leaders is largely a response to the growth of social media, which has made policing the brand nearly impossible.”

           It is likely that the notion of being able to control your brand is becoming less and less probable. Based on the psychological construct described earlier –likely we don’t really own our own brand anyway as it is largely based on how others perceive us. These authors quote Alexis Ettinger, (head of strategy and marketing at the University of Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship) in saying;”  “Given the rise of social media it would be insane to try to single-handedly control the brand.” Instead of trying to control your brand Kylander & Stone (2012) suggest:” Brand democracy requires a fundamental shift in the traditional approach to brand management. Organizations aspiring to brand democracy do not police their brands, trying to suppress unauthorized graphics or other representations of the organization, but strive instead to implement a participatory form of brand management. They provide resources, such as sample text and online templates that all staff can access and adapt to communicate the mission, strategy, work, and values of the organization.”  Reading this quote for the first time made me think about the Mario Andretti quote:” If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”  If we feel like we have total control of our charities brand it is possible that we are not adapting quickly enough to how the internet, web-based technologies and social media are changing how our supporters will perceive and interact with our organization. The authors do recognize that for Brand Democracy to work, an organization does need a strong internal brand identity and organizational cohesion. Just to be clear the authors do not advocate abandoning all efforts to manage your brand. Kylander and Stone (2012) do caution;” Brand democracy is not brand anarchy. Organizations need to establish parameters for a brand, even if the space within these limits is large.”  Certainly some cautions should be applied and organizations should manage to the best of their ability how their brand is perceived. However some days it does feel like we should heed Andretti’s advice and go a little faster.


If you would like to read part 1 of this post:




 Kylander,K.  & Stone, C. (2012) The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector: Stanford Social Innovation

          Review; V34, Spring 2012, as retrieved from: 


Marketing for Charities on the Cheap


            If you have read a few of my earlier blog posts you know that I do think even small nonprofit organizations need to invest in marketing (or maybe I should say small nonprofits especially need to invest in marketing). One book that has some very practical advice on low cost marketing for charities is the text by Levinson, Adkins and Forbes titled Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits. Especially useful information on low cost marketing techniques is described in their chapter: Guerrilla Social Media. The authors suggest:” Guerrillas know a good deal when they see one. And social media is a very good deal for guerillas because they focus on reaching individuals instead of merely selling their ideas to markets. With a little time, energy and imagination, nonprofit guerillas deepen relationships with their clients and supporters and increase the frequency of exposure of their message to the people they want to reach by using social media (Levinson et. al. 2010, p.195). The authors have an interesting description of why they think social media is so effective for charities. They describe;” …social media is designed to spread information through relationship networks quickly. It works on the same principle of Six Degrees of Separation. The Six Degrees principle states that people are so interconnected with one another by human social relationships that no one person is ever more than six people connections from any other person on earth. Some researchers believe because of the popular use of social media people are now separated by only three degrees (Levinson et. al. 2010, p.197).  These authors suggest that nonprofit organizations need to consider opportunities to take advantage of this ability to spread information quickly. For example they advise: “The messages of your viral outreach need to be easy to grasp without explanation and easy to pass on to others (p.198). Additionally they suggest;” Give people the content they need to pass on your viral marketing. Provide assets for your audience to make their own videos, allow them to put their pictures in an e-card, anything that helps to put them into the storyline and send to their contacts (p.199).

         Other writers have provided similar observations that social media is changing the way people receive information or are willing to receive information and how charities can use these new preferences to gain support. For example  Miller (2009) point out:” In place of once trusted institutions consumers are increasingly looking for alternative sources of information and advice to help guide the myriad of decisions they make in everyday life, including their purchasing and donating decisions. In particular, in search of authenticity and independence, they are turning to the opposite end of the scale from the big traditional sources. To friends, family and countless others that they have never met, but through the use of online recommendation activities that they treat as informed and trusted peers” (p.366)”. 

              When considering how this change can be responded to Miller (2009) suggests;” We need to move from the direct marketer’s focus of building and mailing mass contact lists and develop new online fundraising products that supporters will want to take to their friends and wider networks themselves. As we flip the funnel and our supporters become a key channel through which we communicate, the professional fundraisers role will increasingly become that of community manager rather than campaign manager, as each community fundraises in that way that works best for them.”

             The fortunate reality for small nonprofits is that visibility and awareness can be achieved at a lower cost than some traditional media. However it is likely a reality that small charities will need to become proficient in using these tools not only because they are cost effective but also because their stakeholders do/will prefer it. Levinson et. al (2010) point out;” The question is not if your organization will use social media , it is more a question of when. Your donors are looking for a more personalized relationship with your nonprofit. New generations of volunteers, donors and clients don’t just prefer social media, the demand it.  Today’s younger generation communicates with one another using social media and texting, not email and snail mail.”


Miller, B. (2009) Community fundraising 2.0-the future of fundraising in a networked society?

         International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. V14, n1: 365-371.

Levinson, J.C, Adkins,F. & Forbes,C. (2010) Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits: 250 Tactics to Promote,

           Recruit, Motivate and Raise More Money: Irvine: Entrepreneur Press