The End (of the Semester) Is Near

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It feels as if the semester has just begun, but here we are in our final full week of classes, which means my Writing 200 class is reaching the finish line. While I could be working on the final project, I thought I would take time to reflect (and procrastinate) on all that I’ve learned from this class, in both my internship and class discussions.

The class itself has been incredibly informative and beneficial to my future career plans. The classes I’ve enjoyed the most throughout my college career are those that are filled with students who are just as passionate and excited about the material, or really anything for that matter, as I am. Writing 200 has been just that, which has given me the opportunity to engage with classmates about what drives them, whether it be improving the education system, journalism, or working to improve their communities. Even though everyone has different interests and talents that they bring to the table, we are all equally excited about the future of non-profit organizations. I always leave class with something new to think about and find myself bringing up the points discussed in class in conversations outside of the discussion, such as with friends or even interviews with potential employers.

Aside from the thought-provoking dialogue that each class promises, the hands-on work that I’ve been doing for the Canterbury House has been equally rewarding. It’s one thing to learn about how to effectively use social media, but applying those skills to successfully reach a large audience is another. Having this opportunity has opened up my eyes to the impact social media has on an organization’s marketing plan.

After working with the Canterbury House and taking Writing 200, I’ve definitely reevaluated what I want to do in the future. I’m still very interested in working for a nonprofit in the communications department, but I’m not sure I want to focus on maintaining social media outlets. I want to work on finding my writing voice and maybe write for an organization’s website. In addition, I’d love to help with the event planning aspect and use the skills I’ve learned from this class to market for the event. None of my career aspirations are set in stone and I’m excited to see what my next step will be for my future. Who knows… maybe my classmates and I will start a nonprofit of our own someday!

And the winner is…..

ImageI’m currently taking a class about how to use new media to market for a non-profit which also included applying the skills we learn to an actual non-profit. After weeks of searching for a non-profit in need of my expert opinion (and by expert I mean amateur), I’ve finally been matched up with a local organization searching for some guidance to revamp their marketing strategy. Canterbury House, a campus ministry for the Episcopalian faith and a venue for performances for local artists, is located off campus of the University of Michigan, an ideal setting for student access. However, many students don’t know about the services and shows (not to mention FREE FOOD!) that the Canterbury House has to offer.

In the past, the Canterbury House has welcomed performances from artists such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, but has lost its appeal in the past few decades. This is where I come in. While the org already has a social media intern, my job is to join forces with her and figure out a way to increase attendance at these events through the works of social media and other marketing techniques. In short, my goal is to find a voice for the organization that draws in students around campus and raises awareness of the work of Canterbury House. I hope to utilize their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to connect with other groups or organizations on campus who might be interested in attending some of the events or who would like to perform at the Canterbury House.

After spending time with the passionate people involved with the organization this past week, I’ve realized that it is an underrated gem on campus that just needs a little promoting. Once other students see this passion and potential, they’ll definitely become regulars. This may be a challenging task, but I’m ready to put the skills I’ve been developing over the semester to good use for a great cause and see what I can do. Nicolette to the rescue!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

ImageAs we delve into the world of social media, a world that can be both monumental in terms of reaching a large audience while also incredibly confusing, there are certain guidelines to follow. This is particularly true when using social media to market for a non-profit organization. It’s important to find the right balance between staying professional and finding a voice that comes off as personable to all viewers. Since this can be a struggle, I’ve compiled the top 5 Do’s and Don’ts utilizing social media sites to market for your non-profit.

Do’s:

  1. Engage with your audience. By giving the option to respond to posts on your social media site, people who visit your sites can contribute to a conversation about important issues and spark others’ interests in the org.
  2. Receive constructive criticism and respond. Not only can viewers start a conversation, but also provide helpful feedback about your org and express their wants in terms of social media. In addition, responding positively to the feedback shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile.
  3. Construct a social media policy. While it’s important for everyone who is posting from your org’s social media sites to have their own voice, it’s also necessary to have guidelines for everyone to follow in order to stay on track with your org’s core values.
  4. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. People respond better to a friendly, personable voice rather than generic social media posts. Express why your passionate about the org and the work that it does through the posts on your sites.
  5. Use social media to reach out to other organizations. Social media is a great way to reach a large number of people, including organizations who have similar interests. By connecting with these groups of people, you’re able to expand your social capital.

Don’ts:

  1. Appeal to one group of people. Many different types of people will have access to the social media sites, so it’s important to have posts that will attract a wide variety of followers.
  2. Promote your org 100% of the time. Mix up the types of posts that are on your org’s site. Instead of asking for donations constantly, provide pictures, updates, and stories that pertain to your org.
  3. Post pictures or stories without gaining consent from the people involved. Keep in mind that while you may think that a picture or story pertaining to your org may be perfect for one of your social media sites, the people involved may have a different opinion. Since social media is a very public domain, privacy is an issue that must be addresses when posting.
  4. Reveal too much personal information. While it’s beneficial to have a unique voice, it’s also important to remain professional and stay focused on the organization’s goals. Even though connecting with people through social media sites may help them to feel more welcomed, it can also be a turn off if you provide too many personal details that do not align with the org.
  5. Be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of other organizations out there with similar interests and values who would be happy to help your org with a cause, as long as you reach out to them. Ultimately, this is what social media is for!

With the right guidelines, social media sites can be a great place to expand your org’s following and connect with large quantities of people at once. With some practice, you’ll be an expert in no time!

Non-Profit Webpage Evaluation

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In a time where the internet is a key source of information, non-profits are expected to not only have a website, but also have an easily accessible, visually appealing website. There are so many factors to keep in mind, including the type of audience that will be viewing the site and the reasons why they visit the website in the first place.

One example of an effective website is that of The Neutral Zone, a non-profit based in Ann Arbor, Michigan that aims to promote artistic expression among youth, offering various after school programs for Ann Arbor adolescents. The website reflects the target audience of the non-profit, which is teens in the area looking to get involved in the programs that The Neutral Zone offers. The background and images of the site mirror that of a notebook, which suits the main age group that visits the website. In addition, while the website is colorful, the colors work well with each other and are not overwhelming. The only issue that comes to mind with the chosen theme is that it may deter adult donors because the site is catered towards a younger age group. However, since the website is tastefully put together, the theme seems appropriate.

One of the most visited pages of a non-profit website is the About section, which explains the mission of the organization and why it’s important. While the Neutral Zone’s overall website is visually appealing, the About page is lacking in some areas. Firstly, the main heading is in all lower-case letters. This looks unprofessional and out of place on the page. Secondly, the headings of each paragraph on the page are in italics, which should be used sparingly on a website. To fix these issues, the headings should be bold and capitalized appropriately to ensure consistency on the page, which ultimately is more visually appealing. The paragraphs sizes are ideal, however, and help to make the site more readable for viewers.

Another key component to a website is access to social media, which The Neutral Zone does well by having the links to their various social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. Both Facebook and Twitter seem to be updated regularly, which is necessary to provide viewer’s with updates on events or news. The Flickr account hasn’t been updated recently, which leaves me questioning why it is on the webpage since the content may not be relevant to the non-profit anymore. Overall, the links to social media are easily visible and work well on the page.

Lastly, the input of a YouTube video is a nice addition to give viewers a better idea of what the non-profit does and provide them with first hand experiences. A downside to the video is that it is over thirteen minutes long, which is daunting to people visiting the website. An ideal time would be between one and five minutes in order to keep the attention of the viewers. The video on the About page could be more concise, which would increase the number of views.

Even though the Neutral Zone website is off to a good start, it can always be improved, just like any website. It’s important to keep in mind that trends online change frequently and the goal of a website is to meet the needs of viewers and potential donors of the non-profit. Every detail counts!

The Art of a Thank You

While perusing various blogs on non-profit communication, I came across an article on Kivi’s Non-Profit Communications Blog about how to write a superb thank you letter electronically on the behalf of a non-profit. My parents, being of the baby-boomers generation, have always stressed the importance of delivering a hand-written thank you to people, whether it be a relative or an employer. I’m definitely someone who loves handmade tokens of appreciation, but this option isn’t always the most practical these days, especially for a non-profit that has to send out hundreds of thank yous to donors and volunteers in a short amount of time. This leaves email as a safe and efficient option.

One of the key components to a successful thank you email is to make it meaningful for the person receiving the thank you. The worst thing that can happen is that the person feels like they are just another email address in the long list of thank yous when they open up a generic mass email. In this case, they are less likely to contribute again, which is counterproductive for the non-profit.

Through the example thank you email in the article, Kivi shows the importance of creating a welcoming and appreciative tone by stressing how the recipient’s donation or services meant to the non-profit. In addition, it helps to include a photo or other visuals of the people/animals/etc. who benefit from the work of the non-profit. By putting a face to a cause, the recipient may feel more inclined to continue to offer their resources when they more of a connection to the organization.

Donors and volunteers also want to see how much progress was made due to their contribution. Whether they helped an child attend school or helped a whole community, it’s important to show some statistics or numbers so they feel as if the contribution was meaningful. Lastly, make sure to include the recipients’ names in the email, especially if it is an automated message sent to everyone. The little details and effort put forth to personalizing the thank you email goes a long way.

Even though a hand-written thank you letter tends to bring out more warm, fuzzy feelings than an email, there are always way to spruce up an email to make it seem just as heartfelt and appreciative for any recipient. It is simply a matter of taking the time to build a relationship with the recipient through the letter, which can make all the difference!

Introducing…Me!

Hello everyone! My name is Nicolette and I am a junior at the University of Michigan studying Communications and English. Growing up, I liked to spend time volunteering and working with kids, whether it be at the after-school reading program at the library or as a camp counselor for the summer. Even though my plans for my future have changed approximately 1000 times, I’ve always come back to the same idea of empowering children in some way and that has been my goal ever since. This is ultimately what led me to want to work for a non-profit organization.

In terms of experience, I’m currently the VP of MStars for the Make-A-Wish Foundation at U of M and have been involved with the organization for the past 3 years. We raise money to donate towards the children’s wishes and have the opportunity to meet the kids, all who have been the most appreciative group of kids I have ever met. If seeing their smiles isn’t motivation enough to help the cause, I’m not sure what is!

In the past few years, I’ve also been in charge of the social media and marketing for the club, but I have yet to set foot in the wonderful world of blogging. I’ve had some experience with writing as a journalist for the Monroe Street Journal, a newspaper for the business school on campus, and have dabbled in creative writing in my free time (not quite worthy of a Pulitzer, I assure you), but I am still in search of my blogging niche. This is why I am especially excited to combine two of my favorite things into one blog and explore marketing for a non-profit through new media.

On that note, I also love feedback, so comment away. Thanks for following me and enjoy!