Project Management: Keepin’ Sh*t Together

Guest post by Danny Heggen, YNPN Des Moines founding co-chair and Project Management extraordinaire

What do you do? It’s a pretty common question when meeting new people. When I worked with youth, I always told people I was a youth worker. My wife was always quick to note that I ran youth programs, not summer camps and I wasn’t a counselor. Definitions. Who needs ‘em?

When I took on the title project manager, I realized I still struggled with definition – what do I actually do? So I spent some time thinking about the most concise way to phrase it, thinking about the most delicate way to explain what it means to be a project manager. What I came up with: I keep shit together.


Let me explain.

It’s not my role to manage people. It’s my role to manage the work people get to do. Which essentially means I need to know how to manage people in order to drive their work. My day to day is a mixture of tasks that involve people: discussing strategy, tracking data, and generating reports. Piecing everything together, so that our outcome is what we expected it to be. I’m not the one doing the work; I’m the one making sure the work the needs to happen happens.

In short, my work is to make sure everyone understands how their work fits in the big picture. Along the way, I keep track of everything – notes and data. This way, when we reach the end, we can tell a story.

A few tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Communicate. Until everyone tells you to stop talking about what is happening, communicate.
2. Roll it out & Roll it up. Know how to take an idea or task and then create a plan to make it happen. This is what I call rolling it out. Then, when the work is complete, generate a report that captures what happened, when, and how. Also, make notes about what could have gone differently to make it easier on the team next time. Roll this report up to the necessary people. They’ll be thankful.
3. Know who is involved. This seems really simple, but the most important thing when starting a new project is understanding who needs to be involved. It could be two people. It could be 13 people. Once the team is in place, the work can begin. Why? Because these people bring the skills, tools, and resources needed to get the work done. If your job is to make sure all the screws are tightened, you want to make sure the people with screwdrivers are sitting at the table.

Want to learn more about starting up a new project with a team of people? Check out this blog, Team Development Lessons Learned.

There are many reasons to bring a project manager to the table; however, there are many skills that each of us can develop to ensure each project we take on is successful. Keep in mind: We all need to keep shit together.

Writing for Nonprofits: Simplifying Your Nonprofit’s Pitch

By Ash Bruxvoort, Philanthropy Coordinator at The Nature Conservancy in Iowa 

I was never very good at science growing up, but I loved nature and always had a strong interest in the environment. I love my job at The Nature Conservancy in Iowa because I get to work with awesome scientists every day and do what I do best—write about it.

My main problem: Our mission and work is incredibly complex, and people with science degrees are usually not the best at explaining it.

I don’t think this problem only exists in the conservation sector. I think all nonprofits struggle with simplifying our elevator speech. After all, we do SO much, and we want to make sure people understand just how much we do and why it’s important. We have to keep in mind that while we might be incredibly passionate about clearing trees on a prairie to make suitable habitat for prairie chickens… most people aren’t. 


I mean, your eyes just kind of glazed over reading that sentence didn’t they?*

Often, the language nonprofits use is overloaded with jargon. When I first started working at the Conservancy the “hot phrase” was ecosystem services. I understood what the phrase meant, but I had an inkling most people did not. But everyone understands the phrase nature’s benefits, which is what ecosystem services means.

After a one year process, our marketing and development department (read: my boss and me) managed to take all of the jargony, complex science language we used and condense it into a simple, easy to read document that speaks to issues all Iowans can relate to. It wasn’t an easy process, and there were a lot of days I wanted to pull my hair out, but I learned a lot about how to simplify a nonprofit’s pitch.

Be Short. Be Succinct. Be Engaging.

Use simple, straightforward language and get to the point. As a writer, I tend to use a lot of unnecessary words because I think it makes me sound smarter. Quit doing that! I often write things in as few words as possible, to the point where it sounds incredibly ugly, and then add in words as needed. We all know we don’t have a lot of time to catch someone’s attention before they’re back to texting or checking Instagram. If people don’t understand why you’re work is important for their lives you will lose them.

Have Your Best Friend, or Your Mom, or Your Grandma Read Your Pitch

Sometimes I write something I think is brilliant and easy to understand, only to take it to my mom and find out she doesn’t get it. My mom doesn’t know anything about conservation, and that’s exactly why she’s a great person to edit my text. She forces me to simplify the language for the broadest appeal.

You Might Get Some Backlash From Your Coworkers… Listen, But Stay Firm

When our philanthropy and marketing department started going through the process of simplifying our language we upset a lot of people. We held an editorial meeting where we asked everyone on our staff to answer several questions about how they talk about our work. Not surprisingly, there are things some staff members say that I would never put down on paper. We recognized that some staff members were stressed because they thought they would have to read this elevator speech verbatim—which isn’t what we were going for at all! When we explained that we were writing a document that would appeal to the every Iowan—and that the every Iowan didn’t understand the complexities of our work but still wanted the benefits—our staff got on board. And when they saw how simple and clear the final document was, everyone thanked us.

*If the answer to that question was no, then we should probably hang out.

Volunteer Week, Every Week

By Sarah Welch, YNPN Des Moines Professional Development chair and Communications Director at Prevent Child Abuse Iowa 


With 5,000 volunteers helping out at Central Iowa Shelter & Services each year, volunteer coordinator AJ Olson knows just how important recognizing these key players in a non-profit can be.  At our April discussion group kicking off National Volunteer Week , AJ offered our YNPN members a few ideas of how to thanks throughout the year:

• During Volunteer Week, every regular volunteer receives a handwritten thank you note directly from AJ that offers a personal reflection on that person’s service. AJ has treats available during each shift and works his schedule so that he can personally thank as many volunteers as possible.

• Throughout the year, Vista members and other volunteers are recognized with fun certificates when they do something out of the ordinary like sort through 160 boxes of t-shirts or stay calm during a tense situation. The most memorable award went to Gov. Terry Branstad for making a kit at a 9/11 volunteer event. AJ said the awards may seem silly but volunteers hold onto them and talk about them long after receiving them.


• AJ keeps a photo of every volunteer on file and makes sure he and the people working with that volunteer get to know that person. Sometimes he’ll sit down with a volunteer and have a conversation not related to the task at hand, and at the end, thank the volunteer for their support.

These kinds of personal touches have led to a steady base of volunteer support without having to do much recruiting, AJ said. Not only do volunteers who feel valued tend to stay with the organization longer, but they also draw other volunteers to your organization.


 How do you recognize volunteers? Share your ideas in the comments!

Discussion Recap: Managing Volunteers

By Sarah Welch, YNPN Des Moines Professional Development chair and Communications Director at Prevent Child Abuse Iowa 

Whether it’s that person who stepped in to save the day or that time you had 10 people ready to help and nothing for them to do, we all have our good and bad stories when it comes to managing volunteers. That’s why I was excited to see so many non-profit professionals join our March 13 discussion to share lessons learned from these experiences.


From all the advice I received from those who attended, I’ve narrowed down my notes to five key takeaways:

Guide a productive meeting. To facilitate a meeting with volunteers, maximize what you accomplish by setting times for each discussion item and placing the most important items at the top of the agenda, with the more “chatty” items toward the end. After the meeting, send a follow up e-mail with a list of tasks everyone agreed to do.

Keep your volunteers engaged. When you actively recruit volunteers, make sure you have an event coming up that they can get involved in right away. During a slow time in your organization’s schedule, hold a brainstorming session with your core volunteers to identify outreach or fundraising opportunities they can take charge of.

Have multiple back-up plans. Create a long list of tasks a volunteer can do so there’s always something you can offer on a moment’s notice. Book 1-2 volunteers per shift to handle no shows.

Seek feedback. Take dedicated volunteers out to coffee to get to know them and to ask for advice on how you can improve the way you work with them. Conduct an exit interview after an event or when a volunteer is wrapping up his or her time with your organization.

Recognize your volunteers. Send a thank you card that explains the difference they’ve made to your mission. Include a group photo from the volunteer activity. Or, highlight volunteers in your newsletter or nominate them for volunteer awards.

Event Planning: Recruiting Event Volunteers

As Events Manager for a non-profit organization based in Des Moines serving the state of Iowa, Stacie Garmon produces events  for anywhere from 10 to 15,000+ people. She’s responsible for a 3-day children’s festival, auction gala, two golf tournaments and two children’s events, annually. Stacie’s past blog posts on event planning have included: her timeline checklist for fundraising event managementsecrets for securing sponsorships and tips for engaging committee members. 

I have managed events that require only a few volunteers to one that requires over 650 throughout a weekend-long event. I start recruiting approximately six weeks in advance for the event requiring over 600 volunteers and for smaller events I start recruiting a few weeks beforehand.

Get the word out! Use as many resources as possible: VolunteerMatch and like resources, Facebook, e-mail blasts, website, newsletters, twitter, school organization contacts (middle school, high school and college), fraternities and sororities, religious organizations, corporations, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts,4-H groups, etc. The options are endless and no one should be left out — especially if you have an event that will require several hundred volunteers. In all of your outreach efforts, ask recipients to help spread the word and forward the opportunity to their friends, family and co-workers. When recruiting, provide clear examples of duties and expectations. If there are age requirements, make that very clear. Typically, if volunteers are participating in a children’s event, volunteers must be over the age of 12 or 14. This helps ensure they will be volunteers and not event guests.

Making it simple for volunteers to register is important. Create a volunteer registration form that can be completed and emailed, faxed or mailed or use an online registration system. If a volunteer’s first experience is frustration during registration, this could leave a poor taste in their mouth. I prefer to use event planning software that has a registration option. From my experience these are easy to use as an administrator and registrant. These also allow for personalization in creating volunteer shifts throughout an event. In addition, the software creates a variety of reports that are exportable to excel, creating quick check-in lists for the event itself.

If you do not have a volunteer database, start creating one immediately. Collect name, address, phone and e-mail addresses from volunteers. Ask them if they would like to be contacted for future volunteer opportunities. This will help your recruitment efforts throughout the year for your various projects and events.


Know – and communicate – the duties you expect the volunteers to perform. I provide details from dates and times, attire, parking, arrival time, departure time and even venue maps as needed. The more information you can provide in advance, the smoother the event will go. In additional, I create very detailed instructions for each volunteer task. I write the instructions in an overly detailed fashion as I want to make sure that the individual could perform the task with little verbal instruction if needed. I typically have 2-3 people (co-worker and someone not involved in the event) read the instructions and make suggestions prior to printing the final set of instructions. The key is to let volunteers know how important it is to read those instructions a couple of times and ask questions as needed. If a volunteer has expressed being uncomfortable with a task (example: handling money), reassign to a new one. If they are not comfortable – chances are the outcome will not be as favorable.

Remember to thank volunteers. Make sure they realize their assistance is vital to the event’s success. Ultimately, their hard work impacts your organization’s success because it benefits from the funds raised during the event. I want to create an organized and fun environment for volunteers to work in, if they have a great experience they are likely to return to volunteer for you again and hopefully tell their friends and family about what a wonderful organization they are assisting.

Event Planning: Engaging Committee Members

As Events Manager for a non-profit organization based in Des Moines serving the state of Iowa, Stacie Garmon produces events  for anywhere from 10 to 15,000+ people. She’s responsible for a 3-day children’s festival, auction gala, two golf tournaments and two children’s events, annually. Stacie previously shared her timeline checklist for fundraising event management and her approach to securing sponsorships with us. 


Engaging committee members can definitely be a challenge. My advice:

Start your communication with your potential and confirmed committee members early. I typically start 10-12 months in advance. This will allow most individuals ample time to make room in their schedules for the planning process and the event itself.

It is best to have committee members from a variety of backgrounds. Yes, the “well-known” committee members have a broad reach in the community and lots of connections, but they can also be committed to several projects at one time. Do not be afraid to enlist young professionals and others who may not be as connected. These individuals are driven to succeed, want to get their name out in the community and often are not committed to several projects at one time — meaning they can dedicate more energy to your event!

Define clear expectations and goals during the recruitment process. If attending meetings is vital to the success of the process, make sure to state this in the expectations. At times, I have listed that 50-60% of the monthly meetings must be attended to receive recognition on event materials.

Make it clear if they will be expected to solicit for monetary or in-kind donations.Will they be required to sell event tickets? If so, will there be a minimum for each individual to sell Many people are not comfortable asking others for money or “stuff,” however they may still be a very valuable committee member.

Assign them to a task that fits their strengths: Decorations, volunteer recruitment, etc… Do not assign a committee member to a task they are not comfortable carrying out. You are setting your committee up for failure and it will only lead to last minute work on your part and could affect the outcome of donations. If you can assign committee members to tasks they enjoy, they are more likely to stay on schedule and be successful.

Stay connected throughout the planning period, even during those periods of time with less planning action. I typically hold monthly meetings leading up to the event. However, 6-8 weeks prior to an event, the meetings will be held every 2 weeks. Create an agenda for each meeting to help ensure the committee stays on task. Make sure when the meeting is complete that each individual has a clear understanding of her or his next steps. Send a meeting follow-up or minutes within 24 hours of the meeting as a reminder of what was discussed, including everyone’s required tasks. In those notes, highlight the deadlines that were set at the meeting and of course, do not forget to provide the date, time and location of the next meeting. I typically like to send our meeting reminders a week and 24 hours prior.

Hold committee members accountable for the responsibilities they selected. Do not down play the importance of their tasks. Unfortunately, those tasks that the committee fails to complete are ultimately your job. Do not wait too long to step in to ensure the task is completed on time and correctly.

I believe a great committee with an even better leader will make an event successful! Finding the right members is just as important as selecting the right date, venue and auction items.


Finding Balance: Motherhood and the YNP

Guest post by Kristin Schaaf, new mother to Hannah and membership manager at Blank Park Zoo. She blogs about motherhood at dearbabywithlove

When I signed up a few weeks ago to write about work-life balance, I was enjoying life as a stay-at-home momma, just a couple weeks away from returning to work from my maternity leave. I had my little girl Hannah just over four months ago, and she is the center of my world.


Before life as a new mom, I thought I had this thing called work-life balance pretty well figured out. I enjoy my job as membership manager at Blank Park Zoo, meeting new people at networking and professional development events, and spending time with my friends and family.

Transitioning back to work the past couple weeks has been a harder process than I anticipated (I may have had a minor meltdown on day four), but it has also awakened in me a new sense of self as a parent. I have come to realize that my time is a gift, and how I spend it isn’t just about me anymore.

Even if you don’t have children, you know that your time is valuable, and how you spend it can easily overwhelm you. No matter where you are in your life or career, finding balance between work, school, activities, family and friends is important.

I’d like to tell you that there are three simple things you can do to achieve this magical thing called perfect balance, but I’d be lying. What I can tell you is that there are three things that I find helpful in feeling less stressed, more balanced and happy with where I spend my time. These three truths are what I need to remind myself of as I experience life as a working mom.

1. Know your limits. Different things stress out different people – we each have our own threshold of what we can handle. It helps to know what you can handle before you hit your breaking point. Are you okay with being busy every night of the week? Do you thrive on multi-tasking and having a full schedule? Do you need a lot of time by yourself to re-energize? How much time do you want to spend at work, home or with family and friends? Granted, some of these things are out of your control, but by having an idea at what point you have reached your limit, you will be able to recognize when your plate is too full.

2. It’s okay to say no. As a person who enjoys trying new things, and as a people pleaser, it’s pretty easy for me to say yes when someone asks me for something. I like expanding my skills, and it’s a good learning opportunity to try something new. However, it’s pretty easy to let my plate get too full when I say yes to too many things. Enter stress and feeling overwhelmed.

When you’ve reached this point, it’s time to learn how to say no. Get in the habit of saying no to the things you know that you don’t have time for or aren’t passionate about. Don’t sit on the board of an organization you don’t believe in, or don’t sign up for a volunteer committee if you just don’t have the time to commit. Be honest and let the person know that you’d love to say yes, but you just don’t have the time. Say no without guilt, and know that in doing so you are saying yes to something else.

3. Say yes to what is most important. In a word, prioritize. Decide what – and who – is most important to you and invest your time there. Life Coach Tabby Hinderaker had a great guest post on the blog recently about time management, which included an exercise that helps you see where your time goes and learning how to prioritize it.

Outside of the work day, where do you most enjoy spending your time? What goals are you hoping to achieve? Seek the answers to these questions, and in doing so you’ll have a better idea of where to invest your time and what is okay to say no to.

For me, what matters most right now is spending time with my family. This may mean I spend less time at YP events, volunteering or doing other things I enjoy, but it also means I get to experience the amazing journey of being a parent. Each day is a joy as I experience it through my daughter’s eyes. I plan to ease my way back into doing more in the community, but for now as a new mom, I am enjoying this chapter in my life.

What are you most passionate about? How do you find balance?

Event Planning: Sponsorships 101

As Events Manager for a non-profit organization based in Des Moines serving the state of Iowa, Stacie Garmon produces events  for anywhere from 10 to 15,000+ people. She’s responsible for a 3-day children’s festival, auction gala, two golf tournaments and two children’s events, annually. Stacie previously shared her timeline checklist for fundraising event management with us. 

Event sponsors are meant to underwrite the event expenses. When recruiting sponsors, you are selling your organization’s mission and how important sponsorship dollars are to the event’s success.

Before I begin recruitment, I design detailed sponsorship opportunities or levels. Design the different sponsorship levels with the event expenses in mind. You want to create a range of levels that will cover the event expenses. I also create equations to determine what my goal is for each level to equal the total of my anticipated event expenses. (Yes, you get to use math!)

Sponsors want to know what is in it for them. How many times their logo/name will be distributed and to how many individuals/households/etc… If you are printing and distributing 10,000 fliers to local businesses, this is valuable information for a sponsor. Will they receive complimentary event tickets? If so, how many? Include advertising values in the proposal. If the event will have an advertisement published in the local newspaper, what is the value of that exposure for the sponsors that will have their name or logo in the ad? Make sure this is all outlined prior to your “ask”. The trick is creating a streamlined proposal with all the details that is not 10 pages in length. I have found that a chart system typically works best.

 Typically, the highest level sponsorship is considered the “presenting” sponsor and only one is available. This sponsor receives the most recognition as their name follows the event’s names (ex. The Birthday Bash presented by Cakes4U).

I begin by creating a list of prospects. Research their mission and organization’s goals. I personalize my request for consideration, matching my organization’s mission or services to theirs. For example: If the prospect’s mission is to serve Iowans in all 99 counties, I would provide a success story from my organization’s health program that provides health services to rural Iowans unable to access major city health services. If you find that a potential sponsor’s goals do not coincide with your organization’s mission you may need to consider if it is worth taking the time to submit the request for this particular project. If it is family event, focus on prospects that embrace family and would benefit from additional exposure to families.

In addition to researching prospect’s goals, I also look into other events they have sponsored and what their guidelines are for request submittals. Does the prospect want a written proposal in a letter format? Do they have an online form for completion? What are their deadlines? You want to learn just as much about the prospect as you want to teach them about your organization and event.

After you submit your request make sure to follow up with the prospect a week or two later. Start to gauge their interest and answer any questions they may have. Many times, prospects learning about your organization or the specific event will have questions and require more documentation. Oftentimes, your presenting, higher-dollar sponsor will require the most effort to secure. Maintain a database of prospect responses. Are they an immediate and firm “no”? Are they passing for this year but express interest for next year? (If so, make sure you ask when the best time of year is to submit the proposal.) Are they interested and simply need to determine what level they will select, or are they showing a strong interest in the presenting sponsorship? If the interest is there for the high dollar sponsors, you want to make sure to establish a follow-up schedule with those prospects, making sure they are aware of you marketing deadlines. Ask to schedule a meeting to cover all of the details in person. I attend these meetings armed not only with facts and figures (just in case) but also with drafted marketing materials with the prospects name or logo to bring it to life. (Print the materials with a “draft” watermark).

SponsorThankYou2.pngOnce sponsors are secured for the event, maintain communication with sponsorsto obtain their logos, support statements (why they are sponsoring the event), distribute any event tickets they receive, etc.

Post-event, continue to build relationships! Stay in touch with sponsors. I send sponsors a handwritten thank you card following the event letting them know how the event did, how the organization will benefit (i.e. the funds raised with all us to continue to serve 1,000 Iowans each year) and that this success would not have been possible without their generous support. Be grateful and thankful to everyone who provided event support.

Tabby’s Time Management Tips to Prevent Burnout

Guest post by Tabby Hinderaker, Life Coach, dailyARC Coaching


At the YNPN Des Moines February discussion group, we talked about challenges we face finding time for ourselves, dealing with uncertainty and change and managing heavy workloads and multiple priorities.  As I reviewed the evaluations after the session, I identified several topics that attendees wanted to hear more about.  Two of the requested topics were time management, and strategies for implementing what we learned to make lasting change. This post will provide one success tip in each of these two areas.

Time management
As we get busier and busier, it seems like the amount of time we have available to us rapidly decreases. Yet, we are each afforded the exact same amount of time each day, week and month.

The question is, how are we using that time?

In her book, Take Time for Your Life, Cheryl Richardson wrote, “Time is a gift that most of us take for granted. We get so caught up in the busyness of our daily lives that we rarely stop and take a serious look at how we’re spending this gift.”

How well are you at “managing” time?  Richardson’s belief is that time management is a myth. In reality, she said, we cannot manage time. We can only manage ourselves. Her term for this is “self-management.”  We can take control of our time and how we use it.  It’s not always easy, but it is possible.Do you know where your time goes each week?

How many hours per week do you spend:
•    Sleeping
•    Working
•    With family
•    With friends
•    Volunteering
•    To yourself
•    In your hobbies or other areas of personal enjoyment
•    Handling recurring daily/weekly tasks such as running errands, cleaning, doing laundry, etc.?

Choose one week over the next month and keep track of where your time goes. Add up the number of hours you spend on your normal activities within that week. When you have tallied your results, reflect on how much time you are spending in each area. Make a list with the category that takes up most of your time at the top, in descending order down to the category that takes the least amount of your time.

Then create a second prioritized list, with the area in which you WANT to spend the most time listed at the top, again in descending order to the category in which you would prefer to spend the least amount of time.

Review your two lists.

Which areas are most important to you?  Where are you spending the most time? Is there congruence between the two lists?  If not, what changes can you make to decrease the time in the least important areas and/or increase the amount of time you spend in the most important areas?

I love this quote from Bruce Lee:  “It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”

Do you know what the inessentials are in your life?  Are you ready to let them go?  Choose one small change you can make to decrease the amount of time in a lower priority area.

For example, if you are spending too much time on your work commute and not enough time reading, try listening to books on tape or podcasts while you are driving.  Or if you find that you spend too much time on Facebook and not enough quality time with your family, choose one night a week to disconnect from all technology and reconnect with loved ones.

Strategies for Implementation
As you identify the changes you want to make, start small and commit to something that feels manageable and realistic.  Don’t commit to going technology-free for an entire weekend if you are going to be stressed the whole time about being unplugged for that long.  You’ll be more likely to cave in, grab your smart phone, and then tell yourself you can’t do it so why bother trying again.  Look for those small wins that will build your confidence. Start with an hour or an evening, and as your comfort level increases, build up from there.

It can also be helpful to determine what your starting point is and reflect on where you want to be.  What is the difference between Point A and Point B?  How big is the gap? What do you need to do in order to close the gap and move closer to the desired future state?  What specific actions can you take to move you closer to your goal?

Also consider what resources or support you need to enlist.  If you want to go technology-free for an evening but you are not sure your family will be on board, talk to them in advance. Tell them what you are trying to accomplish and that you want to experiment with something.  Let them know why it’s important to you to turn off the TV and stash the smart phones and tablets for an evening.  Brainstorm together about what you can do instead.

As you make progress toward your goals, celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Acknowledge that you are changing and trying new things.  The more you experiment and stretch outside of your comfort zone, the easier it will become to make additional changes.

Change is hard, but it’s not impossible.  With a little planning and experimentation, you can begin to manage yourself more effectively, create the changes you desire, and design the life you want to live.

Pilot Opportunity for Young Professionals
If you missed the February discussion, check out the opportunity to participate in a pilot group exclusively for young professionals.  In this program, you’ll be empowered to identify and capitalize on your strengths, discover and honor your core values, and use this increased self-knowledge to lead authentically. Details: PILOT Group Participants Wanted

Guest Post: 4 Nonprofit Social Media Tips + Giveaway Details

JordanWilliams.jpgGuest post by Jordan Williams, writer for Brand Driven Digital. Check out details about their upcoming Content Marketing Boot Camp conference and a chance to win free admission.

As an employee of a non-profit organization, we often wonder how to build the social media audience we want, when we don’t have a product to sell. We envy the retailers, manufacturers, and restaurants for the ease of their social promotions. They offer coupons, discounts, giveaways and free samples. But what can you do as a non-profit to boost your following?

The truth is, non-profits are a unique case. We do have a more challenging job to sell ourselves online. But it’s not impossible. Let’s take a look at a few non-profit social media tips.

1. Gain Trust
This may seem like a simple statement, but consider the companies you “Follow” or “Like.” You probably view them as an expert on the product they sell and look to them when making a decision about which model you purchase or what item you order from their menu. Position yourself or your company as a reliable source of information. Post information that is relevant to your audience.

For example, I am a dog lover. But where do I go for information on the best food for my dog, training tips, and more? Probably not a company that I think only wants my business. Typically, I look to the breeders association or a local non-profit rescue league who has positioned themselves as an expert in dog care. This is where non-profits have an advantage. Because we aren’t trying to sell a product, it is easier for us to gain the trust of our audience.

2. Take Advantage of Your Network
This tip doesn’t refer to your social network – utilize your friends, business connections, members and fans. They may be able to help you with promotions and giveaways. What types of promotions you may ask? Let’s stick with the dog theme. I recently saw a great promotion for the local rescue league on Facebook. It was simple, yet effective. The non-profit partnered with a manufacturer to sell yellow dog collars for a month. In this case, the promotion was a win-win-win. The manufacturer gained extra sales from the connection to the non-profit, the non-profit earned a portion of the sales and the customer received something for their dog, while supporting a local cause.

Other options may include asking a local retailer or restaurant that has a connection to your non-profit to donate gift cards or giveaways. They too will gain business from your non-profit’s support.

3. Position Your Message
While these types of promotions are a great way to attract Followers and Likes, keep in mind, the key to such promotions is ensuring you attract your target audience.  Be sure to position your promotions and giveaways so that you find true supporters of your organization. Use fun trivia, statistics, and information you want your audience to know and promote your giveaways. Make sure your messages are tied to your organization, but yet engaging enough that your audience will participate.

A great example of this was done at the non-profit association I work for – the Iowa Grocery Industry Association. The association has a genuine interest in recycling, so instead of pushing the association’s services, etc., we reached out to the public with statistics on recycling in the State of Iowa, questions on the number of plastic bags recycled annually and questions relating to the Build with Bags Program (a program designed to promote recycling in elementary schools across the state). In turn, the person who responded with the accurate answer received a $10 gift card to an Iowa retail location.

4. Be Relevant
Do you hate seeing your inbox fill up with information that doesn’t apply to you? The same is likely true for your Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds. Always make sure the information you supply for your target audience is timely and useful. Outdated information or information that doesn’t apply to your audience will immediately discredit you as a reliable source of information. As a non-profit organization, your team is already spread thin. Make sure you have someone dedicated to maintaining your social media outlets — and take time daily to update your pages. Facebook and Twitter may be the first encounter your audience has with your organization — make sure you leave a good impression.

The other piece of the puzzle, being useful, will also build your credibility with the audience. Here I have to steal a term from Jay Baer and recommend you exercise “Youtility”: Offer insight that others find useful to build a relationship with your audience.

At the end of the day, your overall goal as a non-profit should be the same as any other company’s — to build a relationship with your target audience. Although each organization is different, by considering these options, you can easily begin to market yourself and stand apart from the rest.

About Content Marketing Boot Camp: In Des Moines Feb. 27


Content marketing is on the rise in the B2C, B2B, and non-profit sectors. Consumers today are devouring an increasing number of blog posts, photos, videos, podcasts, ebooks, and more. As such, many marketers are struggling not only to keep up with this demand but to ensure that their brand’s content is engaging enough to stand out in the crowded digital marketplace.

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win free admission ($175 value) to the bootcamp!

Increase your chance to win:
+1 – Tweet the following: I’m entered to win a Content Marketing Boot Camp ticket from @ynpnDesMoines and @BrandDrivenTeam! (Can tweet this once a day)
+1 – Like Brand Driven Digital or YNPN Des Moines on Facebook (1 each)
+1 – Follow Brand Driven Digital or YNPN Des Moines on Twitter (1 each)
+2 – Answer the following question: When it comes to creating content, our biggest struggle is…
options: Time, Money, Talent, Ideas, Other

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