Help with writing your Social Media guidelines – from over 70 different organisations

Social Media Guidelines

The incredibly fast adoption of Social Media over the last couple of years has left many, if not most, organisations in something of a spin – as, in very short order, something that was at first dismissed as the preserve of the young and the geeks has become an unavoidable key component of mainstream communications.

With this recognition has come the need to better understand and manage the use of social media by organisations – including charities and other non-profits – leading to the desire to develop social media guidelines to help ensure that everyone across an organisation works together to get the most from this new technology. However, this is not as easy a task as it might sound. Where do you start when trying to write guidelines for something that is, at its heart, often about engagement through spontaneous, unstructured conversations?

Well, one very handy place to start is Chris Boudreaux’s Social Media Governance website, where he has very helpfully collated links to social media guidelines from over 70 different organisations – including the American Red Cross and Easter Seals, as well as a diverse range of other corporate and public sector organisations.

While the very organisation-specific nature of Social Media usage means that it’s unlikely you’ll find an exact fit for your own guidelines – reading how others have approached the same challenge should certainly help you set off in the right direction.




Should we have a new non-profit-only Internet domain?


I attended an interesting meeting last week, along with folks from a few other charities and non-profit-related organisations, to hear about the plans in place to introduce new Internet Top Level Domains (TLDs) to add to those you’ll already know – like .com, .org, etc – and in particular to discuss what benefit might come from introducing a new non-profit-only community TLD.

If you haven’t heard about this significant forthcoming change to the way Internet addressing works, don’t worry – you’re not alone. While it has been discussed for many years now, it is only relatively recently that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which co-ordinates the Internet’s naming and numbering system, announced a timeline for the use of new TLDs – with applications starting in 2010.

At present website addresses use a relatively small number of generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) – like .com, .net, and .org – or country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) – like or .fr. However, as from 2010 gTLDs could actually be any word or acronym you like. So, major brands could register brand-specific gTLDs like .nike or .coke. City gTLDs, like .London or .NYC, could be registered for tourist information, and specific industries could also register their own gTLDs – like .bank or .beer. All you’ll need to register your own such domain is a chunky $185,000 registration fee and then the funds to cover the annual running costs (suffice to say that at that price I won’t be launching .bry anytime soon).

What is potentially interesting from the non-profit point of view is that newly registered gTLDs don’t have to be ‘open’ like .com or – where anyone can register a site. It is quite possible to register a new gTLD with a specific set of criteria that must be met before anyone can register a site using it. Hence the main discussion last week, organised by Victoria Harris of Article 25 and supported by VeriSign, which focused on what benefits might be available from a non-profit-only ‘closed’ gTLD – perhaps .ngo – restricted to registered charities and other non-profit organisations and managed by a non-profit consortium. In effect how .org was originally envisaged before anyone was allowed to register a .org address whether or not they are a non-profit.

The idea behind such a closed non-profit-only gTLD is that, over time, consumers will come to recognise and trust this as being evidence that an organisation using it is a legitimate non-profit and not someone running an Internet scam. I must admit that I’d never thought much about fake charity online fraud before, but apparently this became an especially serious issue after the Asian Tsunami in 2004 when a wide range of online scammers posing as emergency relief charities took advantage of the outpouring of online support for the sufferers. More work is needed to get an accurate estimate of the scale of ongoing online charitable fraud, but VeriSign have estimated that it could be around £68m annually just in the UK and as more and more individual giving moves online this will only become a bigger issue for the international non-profit community.

There is much more discussion yet to be had, not least into just how any such closed community gTLD might be funded and managed, but as it progresses I’ll be sure to post updates to keep you informed. In the meantime, if you’ve got any thoughts on the pros or cons of such a proposal then do share them by adding a comment below.

US online giving up 52% in 2007

Last week, Ted Hart released his latest estimate of US online giving figures, showing overall online income to US nonprofits in 2007 as $10.44 billion – up 52% from 2006.

Accurately measuring online giving on a national level is clearly maddeningly difficult. However, this is the seventh annual estimate calculated by Hart, apparently based on “the review of hundreds of first hand reports of giving he receives from charities and review of third-party research projects completed during the time period” . So, assuming the methodology is consistent, this should at least provide a good basis for observing the overall growth trend.

By comparison, according to the Giving USA Foundation’s latest figures just released this Monday, overall US charitable giving in 2007 is estimated at $306.39 billion – up just 3.9% on 2006.

Looking beyond the US, Hart believes the US figures represent slightly more than 50% of world-wide online giving, which he estimates to have now passed $20 billion.


Which charity will be first to make use of YouTube Annotations interactivity?

Earlier this week YouTube released a new feature called ‘Annotations’ that allows you not only to annotate your uploaded video with captions, but also to create links within the video to other video clips or to your YouTube channel.

Easy captioning is a handy function, but it is the interactivity offered by the embedded links that makes this new feature particularly interesting. There are several simple demonstrations of what’s possible already on the site, including one involving the good old ‘pick a card trick’ shown above (which jumped from 300k to well over 2m views in a day – showing the level of interest in the feature) and a ‘find the shell’ game (keep going to the ‘hard’ video and just see where it leads you;-).

Interestingly, the annotations seem only work on YouTube and not when the videos are embedded elsewhere – which is unfortunate (and presumably why embedding on the ‘pick a card’ video has been ‘disabled by request’).

Ever since YouTube took-off I’ve had countless discussions about how best to use videos on the site to engage with consumers beyond simple viewings, comments and ratings- other than just including a URL for them to type into their browser. While still restricted to links within YouTube, this new feature does offer a new level of interaction which has the potential to be used in interesting ways by non-profits. For example as the basis for a personally guided, interactive video presentation of your work or support opportunities.

Thinking ahead, if links out of YouTube are added then the potential becomes even greater. Allen Stern at CentreNetworks suggests that external links could offer a new way for YouTube to monetize – through a small fee being paid to link products in videos to the product owner’s site or ecommerce sites.

Many non-profits are already making use of YouTube – so who will be the first to get into YouTube interactivity?

Causes App celebrates first birthday – but surely there is more potential for Facebook fundraising?

Last Saturday was an important anniversary in Social Networking terms, marking one year since Facebook launched Facebook Platform, the toolkit that enables the development of 3rd party Applications (Apps) that integrate directly with Facebook user data. The sudden explosion in Apps resulting from this was a significant driver of the site’s massive growth in popularity throughout 2007, and according to Facebook stats site Adonomics it has led to the release of almost 27,000 Apps to-date.

The same day was also the first anniversary of the biggest non-profit Facebook App, ‘Causes’ from Project Agape (now also available on MySpace).

A runaway success from launch in terms of installations, Project Agape marked the anniversary with the release of statistics on its first year’s activity. Apparently they now have a total of 12 million registered users (95,886 daily active users when I just checked) supporting over 80,000 US and Canadian non-profit organisations. Other countries are still being considered for inclusion, but in a post on the Causes discussion board earlier this month it was explained that “Supporting donations to UK-based charities is still a project we’re interested in, but we are strapped for resources and cannot provide a date”.

80,000 non-profits being represented on two of the world’s biggest Social Networking sites is undoubtedly great news, with the App clearly tapping into a widespread desire amongst site users to share their support for charitable causes.

However, when you look at the figures released in terms of hard cash it seems like Causes still has some way to go before it becomes a significant income generator for the organisations involved. Over the last 12 months, $2.5 million has been raised through Causes for 19,445 organisations – equating to an average of just $126 per organisation. No donations at all have been made to 75% of the 80,000 organisations being ‘supported’.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think Causes is a great initiative and I do understand when other commentators have observed that this is $2.5 million that these organisations would not have had otherwise. However, I wholeheartedly believe that supporter engagement on Social Networking sites has the potential to deliver massively more in fundraising terms than what currently appears to be the equivalent of an online small change collection tin.

Perhaps it’s simply that the Causes ‘Digital Badge’ approach to supporter engagement just doesn’t lend itself to generating higher levels of financial engagement? Is it just too easy to install the App and choose a few organisations to support by putting their badge on your profile and that’s it – job done?

By contrast, those Apps which extend the tried-and-tested sponsored challenge fundraising approach to Social Networking sites seem to better illustrate the real Community Fundraising potential of sites like Facebook. For example, (which enables individuals to set-up fundraising pages in support of their sponsored activities) has seen significant uptake of its Facebook App (see their latest stats here) and identified Facebook as its second biggest referrer after Google – a trend confirmed by Hitwise UK.

Anyone else got any examples of where organisations are managing to raise significant amounts on Social Networking sites?

Insights, tips and tricks for online fundraising – it’s this week’s Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

Welcome to this week’s Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants, a weekly blog carnival drawing together some of the best nonprofit news, advice and resources on offer across the blogosphere.

Each week a different host blogger sets a topic for this carnival and other bloggers submit posts on that theme – with the best seven being highlighted on the host’s blog. This week it’s my turn to host and the topic I chose was ‘Insights, tips and tricks for online fundraising’.

So, without further ado, here are seven online fundraising insight, tip and trick posts for you…

1. Starting off with some tips on how to evaluate and utilise Website architecture and and design to boost online fundraising from Jim Killion and Amanda Wasson of is7.

2. Staying with website design, Katya shares some tips from the latest study by Donordigital on what makes a great donation page.

3. And still on websites, for anyone at the early stages of website planning Jason King has posted the handy presentation he gave at the Connecting Up conference in Brisbane on Planning your non-profit’s website.

4. The Care2 folks over at Frogloop have reported on a recent survey that suggests that ‘51% of donors are not at all interested in Social Networks. However, apparently around a third of donors are somewhat or very interested in keeping-up with nonprofits through Social Media – rising to 40% for high level donors. Handy insight for social network fundraisers.

5. In her Nonprofits blog, Joanne Fritz shares some tips derived from UNICEF’s use of social networking and video-sharing sites.

6. For email fundraisers, here are Ten tips from Network for Good to help prevent your emails being deleted.

7. Finally, over at onLine, Garth Moore examines the potential of the new generation of ad funded click-to-donate applications.

That’s it for this week. You can keep track of the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants as it travels around from site to site by subscribing to the Carnival feed.

Online Fundraising and the Hype Cycle

The other day I got chatting with a colleague about the ‘Hype Cycle’, used by technology consultancy Gartner to illustrate the adoption of technologies through the lifecycle of hype, disappointment and (in some cases) the eventual delivery of practical benefits. As shown in the chart above, the Hype Cycle comprises 5 phases:

1. Technology Trigger: the breakthrough, product launch, or other event that generates significant press and interest.

2. Peak of Inflated Expectations: A frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.

3. Trough of Disillusionment: Technologies fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and technology.

4. Slope of Enlightenment: Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the ‘slope of enlightenment’ and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.

5. Plateau of Productivity: A technology reaches the ‘Plateau of productivity’ as its benefits become widely distributed and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.

In the light of all of the current discussion about the potential for Social Media (aka Web 2.0) to deliver real benefits for fundraisers (aka Community Fundraising 2.0) this got me thinking about just where different aspects of online fundraising are on the Hype Cycle – a useful thing to consider if you’re in the process of planning any mid to long-term online fundraising activity.

On the ascendancy between technology trigger and peak of expectations we have things like Twitter – the micro-blogging social network that is generating a load of discussion at the moment but not, as far as I can tell, as yet being linked to any significant fundraising activity.

Just past the peak and on the brink of tipping into the trough of disillusionment there is fundraising in virtual worlds. I still remain convinced that at some point in the future some form of 3D virtual environments will become commonplace for everyday transactions like retail and fundraising. However, despite the interest in the American Cancer Society Second Life Relay for Life and various other Second Life non-profit initiatives last year, I think we’ve got quite a long way to go in the meantime.

Then, some place between the peak of expectations, the trough of disillusionment, and the slope of enlightenment (depending on who you ask) we have fundraising widgets and social networks. Anyone still needing convincing of the fundraising opportunity offered by the latter need only take a look at the Hitwise data from last year which shows how social networks are taking over from email as the primary drivers of traffic to key sponsored event fundraising site There’s still a lot of testing to be done, but I don’t think it’ll be too long before widgets and social networks arrive on the plateau of productivity and begin to significantly out-perform the ‘old school’ of email as the drivers of online fundraising income.