Crafting Great Blog Posts

We don’t often discuss here on our blog about how we actually manage our blog, so we thought we’d – of course! – write a blog post about it to help other organizations that would like to start or enhancing their blogging practices.

At Volunteer Victoria we have five staff members that regularly write posts for this blog. On top of the posts that Lisa, Lori, Leanna, Lornna and I create (I’m lucky they let me help since my name doesn’t begin with ‘L’!), we also bring in volunteers from our programs as much as we can to help out and present a different voice and perspective. For example, I often ask at our professional development workshops if a participant wants to write a blog post on the workshop’s topic, and someone invariably takes me up on this offer. Leanna’s youth volunteers contribute posts from time to time based on their volunteering experiences and Lori’s communications volunteers do as well, doing things like going out and interviewing agencies about their great work and then writing about it. Overall, it takes a small village to keep up a good blog presence, and many hands do indeed make light work.

However, sometimes many hands makes work a bit complicated. We recently realized that with so many people contributing to the blog now that it made sense to create a document that could guide both staff and volunteers in how to craft great blog posts. We knew we couldn’t rely on people to “just get it”, especially people who have never blogged before and perhaps might not understand how this medium is different from say, academic essay writing or crafting PR documents.

I ended up creating a fun, visual representation of the best, most simple advice we could muster between ourselves about what great “Blogging at Volunteer Victoria” should look like. It’s included here at the top of this post – click on it and you’ll get a larger-sized version.

We’ll consider this the first draft of an image that is sure to change as fast as technology and blogging practices do!

We’d love to hear what you think about our guidelines based on your own experiences. Have we missed anything crucial? What have you found works for your organizations in managing blogs with multiple authors?


Telling Your Organization’s Story with Social Media

I was so pleased to recently coordinate a “Get Creative with Social Media” workshop for Volunteer Victoria, facilitated by Mandy Leith. It pleased me even more that I was able to attend the workshop with  my mother, Elaine Cougler. Her adoption of and enthusiasm for social media tools to further her writing career is proof positive that social media is being used and enjoyed by people of all ages. Here is her guest post about attending the workshop:

Last week, Mandy Leith, “media-savvy storyteller, documentary filmmaker, social media strategist, media educator, founder of www.opencinema.ca & community-building curious cat” led a social media workshop sponsored by Volunteer Victoria.  As she describes herself on Twitter (above), Mandy has broad experience and an eclectic mix of specialties.

About thirty people, representing various nonprofit and other organizations, attended the workshop.  Mandy showed us Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as well as mentioning other social media.  Her task was somewhat difficult because of the wide range of prior knowledge we attendees brought, but she soldiered on and participants seemed pleased with what they learned over the course of the day-long workshop.

Here are some of the exciting things I took away:

  1. Google Reader or the Pulse app (for iPad) can make social media much easier and faster to use.
  2. People on Twitter and Facebook are interested in your story and Mandy pointed out the five key elements every good story should have: passion, protagonist, antagonist, awareness and transformation.
  3. Facebook’s Page used to be called a Fan page, so they are the same thing.  Facebook, itself, changes constantly.
  4. Hashtags (#) in Twitter allow you to tag and search for specific groups or concepts.  Our workshop’s hashtag was #vvsm.
  5. Engagement strategies on social media sites are very important.  Among the things mentioned were giving 90% of the time and selling only 10% of the time.
  6. Users get 75% more functionality using Hootsuite than just using the separate apps (eg. Twitter, Facebook) themselves.  (I realized I really did need to conquer Hootsuite to save precious time.)

Mandy also mentioned a number of useful websites, both for agencies and people in general:

  1. www.cluetrain.com  (The Cluetrain Manifesto 1999 about the modern market place.)
  2. http://www.mediarising.ca/ (Mandy’s site)
  3. www.mashable.com (a site about all kinds of social media)
  4. www.getstoried.com  (teaching how to tell your story, a large focus of Mandy’s presentation)
  5. www.ehow.com  (has lots of life-oriented how-to information)

Keyword importance was one of Mandy’s important net strategies.  She encouraged us to make our blog post titles keyword-rich for Google SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  As a blog writer of two blogs, I especially appreciated that tip.

And, finally, she mentioned using Google or other analytics to gauge which strategies are bringing the most visitors to a website.  If no one visits our site then all of our social media strategies are for nothing.

What was the best part of Mandy Leith’s workshop for you?  Would you like Volunteer Victoria to run a social media workshop that is more advanced?  Please leave a comment and let us know.

Elaine Cougler
www.elainecougler.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/ElaineCouglerAuthor
www.twitter.com/@ElaineCougler


Social Media Policies to Share

This article first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter on March 11, 2011. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria.

When Volunteer Victoria developed its Social Media Policies a year ago we shared these widely with our member agencies as we realized that few organizations had guidelines in place.

Since that time there has been a virtual explosion in non-profit uptake of social media tools for everything from information sharing to marketing and fundraising. With this rapidly increased use of social networking, we’re frequently being asked again about our policies.

So, this seems like a good time to redistribute these documents. The first is our Social Media Communications Guidelines that lays out what can and what can’t be posted on our Blog, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc.

The second is our Social Media Personnel Policies. We approached policy development from a positive and proactive stance, believing that our staff and volunteers are our best ambassadors and promoters.

As such, we recognized there were new opportunities to share our story. Through their external relationships, our staff and volunteer team have the potential to add value to the work of our organization and enhance our image.

In addition to our own policies and guidelines,  we’ve also provided links to a few sites that we thought had useful information on this topic:

– Numerous examples of social media policies from Social Media Governance

– Social Media Policy Elements from Mashable

– A listing of social media policies from 100 organizations by Social Media Today

– Best Practices for Social Media Policy from Society for New Communications Research


2010 Social Media Year-in-Review

I would like to thank this week’s guest blogger, Janis La Couvée, for once again sharing her insights with us.  If you are at all familiar with the social media scene in Victoria, you will definitely have heard of Janis. 

Janis is a financial services professional with a long history of community involvement, particularly in the areas of capacity building, public relations and the arts.  Long before social media was in vogue, Janis was connecting people and building community. Social media has just made it easier to do!

She has graciously offered to share her Social Media Year-in-Review blog posts, which highlight the many ways social media has helped us to build community, connections and initiatives across Victoria this past year. 

Have a read and share your comments. As always, we love to hear what you have been doing as well!

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Excerpt from: Social Media Year in Review  – December 2010 Victoria BC   By @lacouvee
Traditionally December would be a month of planning holiday celebrations! Not for the Victoria social media community. Janine Theobald  came to Social Media Camp and Club, and was inspired to create the #twamper drive   and tweetup  held December 17th at Cabin 12 . Two families were assisted through these efforts.

Earlier in the month Alan Smith organized a Victoria event for Help Portrait, providing free portraits for Victoria families and individuals who might be otherwise unable to have a professional portrait. More than 30 photographers and volunteers provided 148 sessions. Help Portrait 2011 is December 3rd. Become part of the Help Portrait Victoria community here:

On the same day, Herb Lainchbury  rallied over 30 geeks for International Open Data Hachathon Day locally. There are now plans to hold montly hackathons with the first scheduled for January 22nd. Contact Herb for more details. Anyone (not just geeks) interested in open data can attend.

Victoria’s inaugural Figgy Pudding Carolling Competition was also December 4th. It all started with a tweet, and soon @JanineAnnT @VIHippieChick @jagamer and @lacouvee were forming a group “The Tweets”.    It was so much fun, there are now plans for a much larger “Twitter choir” next year.

TEDxVictoria hosted simulcasts at the University of Victoria for the first TED Women  Congratulations to organizer Sherry Moir for the very first TED event in Victoria.

TEDxJuandeFuca has plans for another TEDx event in April 2011.

The year ended in a flurry of tweetups #victoriatweetup (breakfast, WestShore, High Noon Hump Day, #U30 ladies, ladies, gents) and one final Social Media Club “Holiday Open Mic”.  See Mike Vardy’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas: Social Media Remix”.
Photo: Eventualism.com

Words can never convey my huge debt of gratitude to everyone involved in making this a simply amazing year. 2010 will be remembered as the year social media came into its own in Victoria. Each and every one of you played a HUGE part.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten people and events that need to be remembered – it’s not intentional. Please let me know.

Happy New Year! Here’s to a fabulous 2011!

Read More Social Media Year in Review posts here (http://janislacouvee.com). 

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Janis also reminds us that we have much to look forward to in 2011 – here is just a sampling:

IdeaWave February 26th & 27th; Twestival Victoria March 24th; TEDxJuandeFuca in April;  Social Media Camp (#SMCV11) June 3rd and 4th, (*Note that Volunteer Victoria (@volvicbc on Twitter) is the chosen charity this year with proceeds going to support our valuable programs and services. Buy your ticket by January 31st for 50% off (only $199 for two days!); as well as regular Social Media Club Victoria meetings (3rd Monday of the month at the Victoria Event Centre) and many #victoriatweetup events.

Read Janis’s previous post Using Social Media to Promote Events regarding last year’s Twestival.  Victoria Twestival (2011) takes place on Thursday, March 24th. Details at http://victoria.twestival.com or @yyjtwestival on Twitter and Facebook.


Using Social Media to Promote Events

Sincere thanks to our guest blogger Janis La Couvée for sharing her thoughts on using social media to promote events. Janis is passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive social change. You can follow her on Twitter at @lacouvee.

 Twestival Victoria

In April 2009, like many other individuals in the community, I was a social media neophyte; but when an acquaintance at a business breakfast mentioned that people using Twitter in Victoria were actually meeting face to face, I had an “aha” moment.

For over 20 years I have been actively involved in the community, organizing events, committees and people to accomplish anything from a beach clean-up, back to school welcome dinner, neighbourhood fun day or silent auction. We’ve used phone trees, newsletters, email, websites, media releases and web calendar postings to generate interest in these activities.

With the advent of social media, it made sense to connect in this new way.

It was a very steep learning curve, but also a time of incredible digital community building – everything was new, and save a few very early adopters, most of us were learning together as we went.

In the past 18 months (and the past year since the first Twestival Victoria) the Twitter community has grown exponentially. In some ways, it has made it easier for new people just starting out, since norms have been established (such as using the #yyj hashtag to indicate Victoria-based events for instance).  However, with the increased numbers of individuals using Twitter, comes increased communication and competition for attention. It is harder to stand out now. 

Twitter seems simple. 140 characters to convey a message. But, like any communication strategy, the message needs to be well thought out, well executed, and persistent in its nature. There is little room for missteps and mistakes are visible to all.

Given that social media, and particularly Twitter, is social, you must consider if your organization or group has the time needed to interact with people to build credibility within the community.  The first Twestival was organized in 6 weeks because we already knew of one another before forming an organizing committee.

If you do not yet have a Twitter account, start there first.  Listen, pay attention to the nature of conversations. Contribute when appropriate. Thank people for talking to you, for forwarding your messages, for following you. Be grateful! Ask questions, seek clarification. Be humble. You may be a key player in the voluntary sector in Victoria; this is a new digital world. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; find key influencers in the Twitter community and engage them. People are incredibly generous; if they believe in your cause, they will help to promote you – sometimes even without asking.

Make sure that your tweets (Twitter messages) link back and repeat the information on  your website, blog, Facebook page or external calendar links. There is incredible SEO (search engine optimization) to be gained from using Twitter.

Connect with the media outlets currently using Twitter. It is absolutely amazing how easy it can be to have personal conversations (on Twitter) that you would never be able to have by using the more traditional methods of email, phone calls and press releases. Of course you must not ignore these more traditional avenues either.

The first Twestival in September 2009 took 6 weeks to organize, and raised $5,000 for Power to Be Adventure Therapy Society in Victoria. We were the #2 Canadian city. The second Twestival in March 2010 demanded much less organizational time and raised over $8,000 for Concern Worldwide. We were the #16 city worldwide in total raised, and the #8 city in dollars raised per capita! Our third Twestival will take place in the first quarter of 2011.

Victoria has a rich tradition of connections and networks. I encourage you to embrace technology and bridge both your current offline and potential online networks. There are people just waiting to connect with you.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have further questions about digital community building. Connect with me on Twitter at @lacouvee.

Janis La Couvée, together with a team of 10 very committed individuals, is the lead organizer of Twestival Victoria. The next Twestival takes place Q1 2011. Details at http://victoria.twestival.com or @yyjtwestival on Twitter and Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/pages/YYJ-Twestival


Nonprofit Marketing: As easy as 1, 2, 3

 A little birdie helped us out recently to learn more about nonprofit marketing.

The graphic birdie image pictured above sits in the “1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree”, developed by Mills Communications Group’s founder Erica Mills, who was in Victoria in mid-July to teach a workshop for Volunteer Victoria.  Erica delivered “Nonprofit Marketing: Make the Most of What You’ve Got!” to a collection of our member agencies – and the workshop was a fantastic success.

 

It can be common for nonprofit staff members to feel a bit frustrated and confused about marketing.  But having a workshop such as this was a great step in the direction of feeling more marketing savvy, especially when the workshop was led by a marketer who understands exactly where nonprofits are coming from.  You see, the “1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree” is a tool specifically developed for nonprofits.  It’s a physical poster-sized resource that helps your organization to define what marketing success would look like.  The tree encourages you to identify who you need to reach in order for your marketing efforts to be successful, and then it helps you plan how to reach those groups most effectively.

 

The tree itself is a great metaphor for marketing a nonprofit.  As Mills says,

What do a tree and marketing have in common?  Anyone can plant a tree and anyone can do marketing.  The trick in both cases is knowing how to make it grow and thrive.

In the case of nonprofits, marketing has to have a connection to fundraising.  Mills suggests first focusing your marketing efforts on your “believers.”  Get specific about who your supporters and donors are and try to keep them engaged.  Give them the opportunity to invest in your organization.  Don’t try to convert people (“atheists”) to believe in your mission that really can’t be converted.  In her words, “retention is so much less expensive than acquisition.”

 

Mills also encourages organizations to find their “benefit proposition.”  What is the one thing that you do that categorizes your organization?  What does your agency do, in a nutshell?  For example, at Volunteer Victoria we might say, “We connect volunteers to the organizations that need them.”  Volunteer Victoria does a bunch of other things, of course, but this sentence describes the essence of what we do. The more specific you can be about what your organization is all about and who it serves, the more effective your marketing efforts will eventually be to attract your supporters.  Mills suggests that you should actually create three to seven specific profiles that describe your typical donors or supporters and give them real names.  Then, create materials to reach those specific profiles.  It may sound strange, but it works!

 

The message that came across loud and clear at this workshop is that nonprofit marketing is all about planning.  It’s too easy to jump into using a marketing mechanism, especially “free” social media tools such as Twitter or Facebook (remember, they’re not free if they take staff time to run them), without having put the thought into why those tools would be essential to help you reach your target audience.  Thinking about the “what” and the “who” of your marketing plan before you get to the “how” is absolutely essential for a good end result.  If you incorporate all three of these elements, nonprofit marketing is as easy as 1, 2, 3!


A Few Good Books

This post first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

With the Internet at our fingertips, we tend to look on-line for our information and resources these days. However, Volunteer Victoria has a very comprehensive library of non-profit resources. These include publications on board development, non-profit management, fundraising, volunteer management, organizational development and more. 
 
The Management of Nonprofits 

 At the top of our reading list this month is The Management of Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations in Canada, second edition. Written by an expert team led by Vic Murray, our resident expert in Non Profit Management, this text provides a very comprehensive look at non-profits in Canada today.
 
The second edition, written after the recent economic downtown, addresses these trends and the new realities that non-profit leaders face these days.
The text begins with a look at how the management of non-profits differs from management within either government or business. The text astutely notes that non profit leaders must often be “Janus-faced” as the interests of their funders and clients are frequently unrelated, and sometimes competing.
 
Michael H. Hall of Imagine Canada is the major contributor for Chapter 2. This section explores the scope, functions, contributions and resources of the sector, as well as the strengths and challenges faced by non-profits. The challenges of external funding are highlighted, along with the impact of diminishing revenues from government.
 
Other chapters address key areas such as Board Governance (including a diagnostic checklist), the Role of the Executive Director, the Legal Context of Non-profit Management, Human Resources, Financial Management, Resource Development and IT. Each of these chapters provides an in-depth analysis of a specific theme and can be read independently. Together, the sections provide a very comprehensive view of non-profit management in Canada today.

Causewired 

On a different but very topical theme, Tom Watson’s Causewired  – plugging in, getting involved, changing the world, looks at the impact of social media on philanthropy and social change.
 
With some excellent examples and case studies, such as Hurricane Katrina, Darfur and the 2008 US election, Watson shows how blogs, social networking and on-line giving platforms are playing a growing role in social engagement and activism.
 
This fascinating book shows what is happening today as a result of individuals identifying an issue or cause and rapidly connecting with others to generate action, engagement, funds and change. The success of the micro loan site Kiva and the speed/volume at which funds were raised on-line for the recent earthquake in Haiti, provide a strong testament to the future direction of giving and social change.

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

Join the conversation! Stay connected here (and through our online newsletter E-Link ) for the latest news.

 


Social Media: What is it and why should I be using it? (Part 2 of 2)

As promised, this is the second and final installment of my Social Media Basics for Non Profits.  My previous blog focused on Facebook and Twitter.  Here, I will focus on the more visual aspects of social networking – looking at two popular social networking tools (YouTube and Flickr) and how people are using the internet.

While Facebook and Twitter remain excellent tools for conversation and building relationships, they are at a disadvantage in a world that has become increasingly auditory and visual. As more and more people start using new technologies, such as cell phones and computers, the internet and the way people are using it,  is rapidly changing too.  Youtube and Flickr, for example, both function well with Facebook and can be linked directly from either your computer or your cell phone.

 

YOUTUBE 

What is YouTube? YouTube is a video sharing website on which users can upload and share videos. It uses Flash video technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content. With its easy to use interface, YouTube has made it possible for anyone with an internet connection to post a video. The wide range of topics covered by YouTube has turned video sharing into one of the most important parts of internet culture.

One of the key elements of YouTube is the ability to view its videos on web pages outside of the site. Each YouTube video is accompanied by a piece of HTML code, which can be used to embed the video in other social networking websites, pages and blogs.

Features:

  • It’s a free and easy to use interface.
  • It has the ability to show media related to a cause or mission.
  • People can leave comments to generate debate, which can increase public interest in your cause.
  • You can use your own media in your blogs and website via the embed code.
  • It can be used as a teaching tool. (Video tutorials)

Getting  Started:

  1. You register for a free account (Non-registered users can watch videos but not upload them).
  2. You upload your video to them via their website (Most formats can be used).
  3. They’ll convert the file and give you the code to put on your website.
  4. You put the code on your site and your visitors can now see the video.
Privacy Control

Because Youtube is a social media platform, agencies should be cautious of using it publicly, especially if there are confidentiality issues or any sensitive materials involved. However, privacy settings can be applied to limit the number of people able to see your videos. As a blogging or marketing tool, YouTube is very powerful and can be used to inexpensively promote your organization or cause. Videos from Youtube can be directly embedded into blogs and websites using the provided code. One common concern people have when viewing others videos are the negative comments they see. However, most of these comments are directed at specific media and not so much the non profit sector. To avoid this concern, comments can be moderated or completely turned off.

 flickr_logo

http://www.flickr.com

What is Flickr? Flickr is an image and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community platform. In addition to being a popular website for users to share personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers as a photo repository. As of October 2009, it claims to host more than 4 billion images.

Features

  • It’s free and easy to use.
  • Visitors can subscribe to an RSS feed with your 20 latest pictures.
  • Images will be re-sized for viewing on the website, but you always have a safe and permanent backup of your original images.
  • It’s a very well used photo service if you want to get your pictures noticed by others.
  • There are countless numbers of third-party tools and software available to work with your pictures.
  • There are options for securing your web photos.
  • You can use creative commons copyright licenses.
Getting Started:
  • Free accounts: Account users are allowed to upload 100 MB of images a month and 2 videos free of charge. If a free user has more than 200 photos on the site, they will only be able to see the most recent 200 in their photo stream. However, the other photos that were uploaded are still stored on the site and links to these images in blog posts remain active.
  • Pro accounts: allow users to upload an unlimited number of images and videos every month, receive unlimited bandwidth and storage and have access to account statistics.

Note: Flickr created a “guest pass” system that allows private photos to be shared with non-Flickr members. For instance, a person could email this pass to an agency who may not have an account to allow them to see the photos otherwise restricted from public view. This setting allows sets to be shared, or all photos under a certain privacy category, to be shared.

Privacy Control:

Flickr provides both private and public image storage. A user uploading an image can set privacy controls that determine who can view the image. A photo can be flagged as either public or private. Private images are visible by default only to the person who uploaded it, but they can also be marked as viewable by contacts of your choosing. Privacy settings also can be decided by adding photographs from a user’s photo stream to a “group pool”. If a group is private, all the members of that group can see the photo. If a group is public, the photo becomes public as well.

o—————————————–0

All of these are powerful tools that can be utilized for little or no cost. They can also help you reach your organization’s goals very inexpensively. They do take a little bit of time to set up, but once they are, they require only a small amount of time to moderate and update. Most of the updating can be done in the morning while you check your email.

Keep in mind that this is just a brief overview of each of these platforms.  Feel free to leave any comments, and if you have any questions, email us at volvic@volunteervictoria.bc.ca.

John Kay, JCP Social Media Project
Youth Volunteer Connections Program


Twitter Seminar

Having done extensive research on Social Media over the past five months or so, I was somewhat reluctant to attend Margaret Hoegg’s beginner level presentation on Twitter. Contributing significantly to this reluctance was the fact that, of all the social media I had researched, Twitter seemed the least desirable to me. Margaret managed to change my mind, however, as she pointed out the very tangible benefits of Twitter.  I have since started using Twitter extensively to promote my personal blog. So, I have converted to Twitter. Let me tell you why.

The benefits of non-profit organizations’ (NPOs) use of Twitter are significant for many reasons. As Margaret pointed out, Twitter offers free promotion for NPOs. In this economy, access to free promotion of any sort is a real benefit, especially to NPOs, many of whom are facing extraordinarily large cut-backs in funding. Twitter also allows NPOs to easily connect with each other, as well as with potential volunteers, supporters and even funders: all for no cost at all.

Volunteer Victoria has experienced the positive effects of this free exposure since adopting a Twitter campaign this fall. Recently, one of our “tweets” received over 785 clicks, an awesome testament to the networking capabilities of this form of social media. Keep in mind that we have just started this campaign (though we already have 352 followers): the numbers will undoubtedly continue to grow as we carry on encouraging dialogue and feedback: the possibilities are endless.

The response to Margaret’s Introduction to Twitter presentation was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone in attendance was keen to learn more about the intricate details of the Twitterverse. Thankfully, Margaret has agreed to do a more advanced level presentation in the future, so be sure to keep your eyes open for it. We sincerely thank  Margaret for sharing her expertise with us!


Welcome Youth Council Volunteers!

 Youth Council

Volunteer Victoria is pleased to welcome our new youth council volunteers to our social media team! The group first met in October to discuss how we could go about implementing social media as a part of our volunteer management and recruitment strategy. I was very impressed by the group’s insight and inventiveness, as well as their enthusiasm! This team had so many ideas to share, including offering input on everything from our current (and future) branding, to how we might more effectively manage our Facebook page. We are very lucky to have this group of talented volunteers helping us out with the social media project.

brainstorm

Comprised of seven members, the youth council will play an important role in the future of Volunteer Victoria’s social media project. As John and I’s contract ends in January, we will be passing the torch to the council. Some of the members will be acting as guest bloggers from time to time, reporting on exciting volunteer opportunities in the community, while other members will maintain the Facebook page and occasionally tweet about upcoming events. We look forward to continuing to build our social media presence with their help.





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