Recent Avectra Blog Posts

Build Your Nonprofit Board and Thrive

Amy Quinn : April 15, 2014 9:00 am : Leadership, Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights, Strategy

Amy Building BlocksOne of the biggest responsibilities of any board member, and especially the Chair, is to manage the building of your nonprofit board, stocking and replenishing the supply of talented, skilled and passionate individuals who help advance a nonprofit’s mission. And, this includes a mix of age groups across different generations.

Board member recruitment is harder to accomplish than it might seem. It’s strategic, social and continuous. Not only do we need to bring our extroverted selves “into play”, but we need to identify the skills needed to strengthen and accomplish the necessary work for a nonprofit’s long-term viability.

There also needs to be a defined process for adding new members. Otherwise “bad apples” will spoil the fruit and the board might end up composed of cliques and friends rather than what’s needed. In other words, Recruitment often means a willingness to go outside of our comfort zone.

Conversely, what can be more exciting than interacting on a regular basis with a dynamic group of people with different perspectives and backgrounds, all focused on advancing a cause? As a leader, this is one of the greatest opportunities for making an impact.

Here are some suggestions for how to build your board.  Build it and thrive! 

  • Take a step back for “station identification”

A nonprofit’s mission is so much more than a few sentences on a page. It directs priorities and actions around a central vision. Before beginning the recruitment process make sure that all board members have extreme clarity on the nonprofit’s mission and what they represent. Identify values around working well together and accomplishing strategic objectives. This “pre-thinking” review will augment the chances of finding the right cultural match with new recruits and further define the specific scope of the board’s work.

  • Start with the Obvious

Usually nonprofit staff are aware of the twenty percent of volunteers who do eighty percent of the work. Loyal volunteers, donors, vendors and event attendees represent a talent pool of potential candidates.

  • Find “Replacements”! 

Although this takes constant effort to institute in practice, each board member needs to find his/her replacement, someone with the specific skills needed to fill their shoes. The Chair should conduct one-on-one conversations with board members to help them identify and commit to engaging those who might be a good fit for the nonprofit. Consider the “not so obvious” individuals who have supported the organization in some way but have just never been asked to help. Board members might also consider their own circle of influence.

  • Self- Assess

One way to initiate the recruitment process is through an annual self-assessment.  First, examine how the board has performed in relationship to its vision. Remember to set some measurements for meeting your board goals. On an individual level, assessment translates to looking at a board member’s success against the assigned job description. This type of exercise will typically motivate board members to re-frame and evaluate what worked well and what needs to be in place in the future. In most cases, structure and board requirements evolve from the board’s mission versus adhering strictly to a traditional framework.  Alice Korngold, board consultant, explains further in her article, “Nonprofit Board Self-Assessment: Creating the Path Forward”.

  • Define Expectations

No matter how stringent or demanding, explain board requirements, including any financial expectations, candidly and clearly to potential new members. After an initial phone call or meeting, send a document that outlines the basic expectations as well as board roles. It’s helpful to have a role in mind and or specific reasons for recruiting a person at the outset.

  • Start with a bang

Board members want to feel valued and maximize their contributions. When inviting an individual to join the board, immediately engage him/her with an explicit task or project.

Building and creating a healthy nonprofit board is crucial and directly affects a nonprofit’s success. Fortunately, board cultivation provides the chance to work with other like-minded creative individuals willing to push social mission forward. 

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Citizen Science Association: Free Membership and Community Involvement

Lyn Slater : April 14, 2014 4:16 pm : Association

Did you watch the premiere of Fox’s new revamp of the science-based show “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” recently? The show, along with the extremely popular Facebook page with the NSFW name, “I F***ing Love Science”, has brought science into the mainstream. This cultural shift is just in time for the launch of a new association that is itself somewhat less than mainstream in a number of interesting ways.

The Citizen Science Association (CSA) was launched this month as a collaborative project of National Geographic and the Woodrow Wilson Center. Its mission is to promote appreciation and widespread study of science, as well as encouraging collaboration between the scientific community and non-scientists. A worthy goal at a time when the study of science seems to make news every now and then as the debate surrounding science vs theology teachings in public schools continues to crop up.

So, who will join this new citizen-based association? Anyone interested, as it turns out, because thanks to financial support from sponsors, Citizen Science Association is beginning by offering free membership to its initial membership base. Will this be the beginning of a new member recruitment trend?

According to coverage in Associations Now:

“‘Whether organizers are scientists, educators, data managers, technology specialists, evaluators, or enthusiastic volunteers, the CSA welcomes those who want to benefit from a network based on the diverse practices of citizen science,’ the association said in a statement.

CSA is still in its formative stages, but it has identified six organizational goals:

  • Establish a global community of practice for citizen science

  • Advance the field of citizen science through innovation and collaboration

  • Promote the value and impact of citizen science

  • Provide access to tools and resources that further best practice

  • Support communication and professional development services

  • Foster diversity and inclusion within the field

CSA is already accepting submissions for its journal, which will be published with open access at a yet-to-be-determined date. The free inaugural memberships will allow members who join before March 15 to vote on draft vision and mission statements.”

The free membership launch is not necessarily unique—certainly there are numerous associations that offer free memberships. However, those groups usually also feature a paid membership option that offers far more benefits. It seems for now that CSA will be free of charge for all, without offering a paid option with more “perks”. Additionally, the CSA is promoting an environment of inclusiveness and group collaboration, perhaps in keeping with the spirit of the mission of the organization for scientists and lay people alike to work together to reach a greater understanding.

Indeed, one of the primary benefits of early membership in the Citizen Science Association is the ability to help shape the group’s vision. Members will be given the opportunity to vote on the association’s initial mission statement, giving the organization a sense of community. Other associations may do well to keep an eye on the success of this idea, and take steps to work on the inclusiveness and community within their own membership.

Will more associations begin offering free memberships, or offering temporary free offers to potential members as a method of meeting recruitment goals? How will CSA’s commitment to community involvement influence other groups to be more open to suggestions from their members? Let us know what you think in the comments!


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Nonprofits and PR: How Much Do Celebrities Help?

Lyn Slater : April 10, 2014 5:58 pm : Fundraising, Non-Profit, Strategy

Finding and deploying the right spokespeople is a major part of promoting your nonprofit; the right spokesperson can help with awareness, fundraising, media relations, and donor recruitment. For many organizations, this usually includes using personal stories from people most affected by the issue, or perhaps prominent community activists or speakers. It can also often be helpful to recruit a major celebrity to speak out on your behalf.

As the magazines like to say, “Celebrities are just like us!” They battle illnesses, whether themselves or alongside family members, and they’ve often known struggle in their lives, like poverty or substance abuse, long before they were gracing the covers of those magazines.  When it comes to spreading awareness and putting pressure on lawmakers to do more for your organization’s issue, a celebrity can provide a major boost.

Most people remember Michael J. Fox’s emotional Congressional testimony in support of more funding for Parkinson’s Disease research. Many argue that Magic Johnson’s historic admission that he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was an enormous milestone for gathering mainstream support for AIDS research and fundraising for its many victims, who had often been shunned by society. Katie Couric’s decision to undergo an on-camera colonoscopy on the “Today” show after losing her husband to the disease is another prominent example.

But can a celebrity ever hurt your cause?

After all, just like those magazines say, they’re just like us—they battle personal demons, they make mistakes, they go through messy divorces. The difference is that when you’re famous, you do all of that under the microscope and for all to see and dissect. Unfortunately, there is such a thing as bad press—consider all the organizations that had to make a decision regarding a continued relationship with Tiger Woods when the news of his many affairs and his drug-fueled car accident hit the newsstands.

It certainly pays to be careful when considering who you choose to represent your issue, particularly if that person will be making public appearances, or giving testimony before Congress. Some celebrities are downright erudite, but others may have great talent on a playing field or concert stage that doesn’t extend to public speaking or media interviews. You might argue that actors seem to be the best suited for public speaking engagements.

rogenLately, the memorable Congressional testimony regarding Alzheimer’s given by the likeable and funny actor Seth Rogen made the rounds on social media. Rogen spoke eloquently about his mother-in-law’s struggle against the illness, and made even more waves by pointing out the number of Senators who did not stay to hear his remarks about the need for more research funding. This could be considered a big win for the Alzheimer’s Association in terms of exposure, although some question Rogen’s decision to call out the Senate Appropriations Committee members who left, which arguably made a bigger news impact than the information he shared about the disease. 

Stefanie Reeves argues on her Association Advocacy blog, “In hindsight, I wished the organization he was working with would’ve filled him in on what a typical day on Capitol Hill is like. Wednesdays are usually the busiest day on the Hill. At any given moment, there are floor debates, hearings, meetings with constituents, and other activities occurring simultaneously. While it would be great for members of Congress to be present at every hearing, that’s just not possible. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. If anything, this presents a great opportunity for Seth and the advocacy organization to continue their congressional outreach.”

Who are some of your favorite nonprofit celebrity spokespeople? Who has stumbled? Would celebrity endorsements make you more likely to pay attention to a certain issue? Tell us in the comments!

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Nonprofit Measurement: Metrics for Online Fundraising

Lyn Slater : April 10, 2014 5:28 pm : Fundraising, Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights

With the ease of instantaneous feedback, and the convenience of communicating with mass audiences with a single click of the mouse, the Internet has become an important tool for fundraisers at nonprofit organizations. Online fundraising can be applied at every level, from smaller peer-to-peer efforts, to larger scale campaigns, and even major gift solicitations. With such a crucial tool, it becomes necessary to make sure you’re measuring results effectively and applying what you learn to future endeavors. Measuring results of a fundraising effort involves much more than adding up dollars and cents, however. Let’s take a look at some of the metrics you should be using to determine the success of your online fundraising.

fundraising measurementCertainly, your biggest overall measurement will be your financial results. With a particularly successful campaign, you’ll want to begin with your website analytics. How are online donors finding your page? Performing a basic analytical report on your traffic sources, and determining which portals bear the most online donation fruit is a great place to begin.

According to a post on Wired Impact, using Google Analytics to determine how donors are finding your website can provide you with valuable information to guide your future online fundraising activities. Tracking information on click-throughs that resulted in donations on your website can help inform your messaging and audience targeting that can yield improved fundraising results.

“Analyzing your traffic by source can lead to some very interesting insights.  Traffic sources you’ll likely want to check out include:

  • Organic search (someone using a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing to find you)
  • Paid search (if you’re running ads through something like a Google Grant)
  • Links from other websites leading into your website (called referral traffic)
  • Social media (also referral traffic)
  • Your email newsletter
  • Direct traffic (people that type your URL into their browser or click a bookmark they’ve saved)

Which traffic sources are producing the most donations on your website?  What can you do to drive up the number of donations from sources that aren’t performing as well?  How can you put more resources into the sources that are driving the most donations?”

Among this list, one of the easiest places to focus effort is on search phrases. Doing some simple SEO can improve your results on the spontaneous donations coming through from people who find your site via search engines like Google and Bing.  Assess the keywords users are entering to find your site, and the pages they land on from those searches. From there, you can try to focus your communications messaging, from outreach to web content, on the topics from those pages to attract a larger audience.

If you’re noticing solid traffic referrals from your email newsletter or other communications whose primary purpose isn’t fundraising, be sure to examine that messaging as well—what themes were you focusing on that resulted in click-throughs, and donations? Perhaps focus on those same themes in future fundraising communications. Additionally, use click-through information to segment your newsletter audience, flagging those who donated from links included in newsletters for future fundraising targeting.

Are there any metrics you’re tracking for your online fundraising? How are you using the information to improve fundraising performance in future campaigns? Let us know in the comments!


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Use Data to Provide a Personalized Online Experience

Deirdre Reid : April 9, 2014 5:10 pm : Association, Association Best Practices, Strategy

“When it is used well, data is a guaranteed disruptor.”

     ~Marius Moscovici, founder and CEO of Metric Insights, a business intelligence software company

Being a disruptor can pay off. Brands like Amazon, Netflix, Spotify and LinkedIn use data to provide a personalized experience to their users. In return, their users visit more often, stay on their sites longer and provide these companies the loyalty needed to make even more revenue.

Moscovici says every company is now a data company because of “the Spotify Effect.” The new standard of business success is based on how well a company uses “personalization, coupled with built-in social capabilities” to find and retain users.

data handshakeThis approach to the user experience “compels users to interact with the company’s software. A network effect takes place, and the company finds itself with tens of millions of (subscribing) users.” He puts “subscribing” in parentheses, but it’s key. It connotes a loyal, deeper relationship, not quite membership, but getting close.

Build and nurture your online community.

I wonder if CompTIA, an association profiled in a recent Associations Now article, is feeling the Spotify Effect. They’re redesigning their website after moving in March to an open-access membership model. “The new model will allow anyone, in or out of the IT industry, to register for access to the organization’s content, including educational resources, industry research and news, and a selection of business tools, at no-cost.” 

Steven Ostrowski, director of corporate communications at CompTIA, told Associations Now, “We’re hoping that once they get a taste of the free stuff and see that it’s good-quality material that can help them run their business better that they’ll find value in becoming dues-paying members of the organization.”

An open-access membership model, like CompTIA’s, helps an association increase their community of users – future purchasers, attendees and/or members – while collecting data about those users. That data can then be used to provide a personalized online experience for registered users (or subscribers) who get partial access and members who get full access.

People increasingly expect a personalized online experience. In a national survey last year, 74 percent of consumers expressed frustration with websites that don’t recognize them and adapt to their interests. Does your website recognize members and provide a personalized experience for them? What about other repeat visitors?

For members who don’t volunteer or go to events, your website is the association. Imagine if your website combined personalized content with a social community — it could become a regular fixture in your members’ lives.

Get down and dirty with your data.

How do you take your website from static membership brochure to dynamic membership experience? It helps to have an expert by your side, someone who can guide you through the strategy (digital/content) and technology (AMS, CMS) involved, but you can lay the groundwork on your own.

Think about your goals. What types of activities do you want to help different segments of your membership and audience do? What do you need to learn about them in order to help them do that? What type of data might help you provide that experience?

Do an informal data audit:

  • Identify the data you have, how you collect it, where it lives and whether you’re using it.
  • Identify obstacles to effectively using the data you have. Are there missing links between systems or shortcomings in any systems?
  • Review your existing data collection processes.  
  • Take a hard look at data-sharing within your organization. Is data stuck in silos? Does anyone share with others what they learn from data?

Many organizations don’t use the member data they do have, for example, data from website, social media and email analytics. Or, they collect data from members once – when they join. I know my online habits, interests and needs have changed from a few years ago, and your members are no different.

Give members (and website users) the ability to update their online profile. Every now and then, when they come onto your site, ask them, like LinkedIn does, to answer a few questions that will help fill in some empty data fields. Or, if that’s not possible, ask them to update their profile when they renew their membership or subscription.

Data and trust are intertwined. People want a knowing website, but if they feel you’ve gone too far, like pushing too many promotions and not enough content, their trust will erode. Focus on increasing the value of their visits, not upselling them. If they enjoy the appetizer, they’ll come back for a meal.

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer with some pretty grand ideas about the future membership experience.

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Light the Spark – How Board Members Can Carry The Flame

Amy Quinn : April 8, 2014 9:00 am : Fundraising, Leadership, Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights

Spark - AmyA key role of nonprofit leaders and board Chairs is to help volunteers uncover and amplify their stories.  As discussed in my previous blog, “Can Your Board Talk About Your Cause?” every board member has a story to share and once a comfort level exists with talking about personal connections to a cause, fundraising becomes easier and manifests successful results.

 How might we enable storytelling?

 Here are five “Once Upon a Time” tactics for equipping board members with memorable and genuine pitches. Try these suggestions at your next board meeting.

  1. Find your “rallying cry. ”Why are we involved with XYZ nonprofit? Why does the XYZ cause matter to us? There are only correct answers to this question. Each person has reasons for being involved that are personal.  At your next meeting allow five to ten minutes of writing time for individuals to answer these questions for themselves.

  2. Build in story-time. At some point in every meeting, provide a chance for board members to talk about why they care about the cause. This is especially important for new board members who need practice talking about your nonprofit. Break into small groups, pair up, or go around the table and let the sharing begin.

  3. Tell all. Executive Directors and Board Chairs are the most important storytellers.  They are constantly seeing and feeling the impact of the organization’s work.  Therefore, add an “Impact” section to the agenda. Ask a leader to talk about recent outcomes that demonstrate how the nonprofit is advancing its mission. This story should be easy to repeat so that board members can share it with their own networks.

  4. Add in some creative elements. Not every story is easy to tell or provides a natural and empathetic connection. And, admittedly, some people feel like they don’t have a story to tell. When this is the situation, Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story suggests we identify first what your audience of potential donors, do care about and then connect your ideas in through this back door. Or sometimes, qualitative data can be used to create emotional content. See his story elements checklist for more inspiration.

  5. Listen. Procuring funds is often not about your story but a potential donor’s story.  During events, encourage staff and board members to listen closely to what guests are saying. Ask attendees about why they are attending an event and or how they heard about XYZ nonprofit. Pay attention to new ideas and connections that might help formulate new stories about your cause.

Although it’s perhaps somewhat of a rarity to find a volunteer who enjoys asking for money, uncovering that individual’s own passion for a cause will increase confidence and comfort when it becomes their turn to ask for money. Of course, before a board member asks others for money, they need to have already made a donation themselves. Although we can’t dismiss the importance of understanding goals, programs and outcomes for consistent messaging, sharing one’s genuine passion will ultimately be the spark for igniting donations.

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Associations Making the Grade as Workplaces

Lyn Slater : April 7, 2014 9:00 am : Association, Association Best Practices, People & HR

Last year, we did a series of posts on making your association or nonprofit a better place to work for your employees. We included tips on work-life balance, better internal communications, workplace culture and more. While associations’ primary focus should remain on keeping members satisfied with their experience, it’s important to remember that attracting and retaining the highest quality workforce is one of the key ways of accomplishing this goal. This especially holds true for some of the larger organizations out there, where the danger of falling into the bureaucratic traps of large-scale employers, causing members and employees alike to get caught in the crossfire, is higher.

Happy WorkersRecently, The Washingtonian published its annual “50 Best Places to Work” guide for employers in the greater Washington, D.C. area, and we were proud to see a number of prominent associations made the list. So what’s their secret? What are some other ideas for making your association the best workplace it can be?

Associations Now had a post recently with content from several sources discussing the association as a workplace, including a nod to the associations listed in The Washingtonian rankings. What qualities did those workplaces have that warranted a spot on the list? Great benefits and flexibility made the difference:

According to The Washingtonian, these are the places you want to be. The magazine’s list of ‘50 Great Places to Work,’ selected based on employee interviews and an arduous application process, covers the DC area’s many industries, from information technology to government agencies to T-shirt printers. But three associations got a prominent spot on the list: The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials got a nod for its important mission and generous pension plan; the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses for its flexible 35-hour schedule; and the Society for Human Resource Management (fittingly) for its great benefits. And one association industry partner, Higher Logic, made the list for an exciting work environment, good collaboration, and lack of micromanagement.”

In one post last year about the association as an employer, we described “culture” as a vital element to a happy workplace. We described culture as one of the “intangible” elements—meaning it’s not as cut and dry as other benefits employers are providing to attract the best employees. Telecommuting, vacation time, health care benefits; all of these are excellent factors in determining whether potential employees will flock to your organization. We argued that culture could be equally important, if somewhat harder to measure. We mention this now because it seems that it is precisely the more concrete factors that resulted in inclusion in The Washingtonian list for the associations making the grade. We wonder how strongly culture was considered as a factor for those responding to the Washingtonian poll.   

That being said, the factors that are mentioned are no less important, particularly the flexible schedule. We predict that flexible working hours could become a stronger trend in the coming years, and hopefully won’t flame out as an unsuccessful experiment in the same way that open-concept office plans have (with recent surveys showing such office layouts as rather unpopular among workers). Particularly in cases where the option to telecommute is not available, providing employees with the option of planning their own schedules could be a major benefit that many, including working parents managing childcare schedules on top of their full time jobs, will consider quite attractive.

What is the workplace culture like in your association? Are there any workplace trends you see as gaining ground in 2014? As always, we want to hear from you; sound off in the comments with your thoughts!

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Association News Roundup – Week of March 31, 2014

Lyn Slater : April 4, 2014 9:31 pm : Association, Technology

Associations are making headlines every day, weighing in on the latest current events or using their weight to influence the goings on in Washington. Every now and then we like to News round-upput together a news roundup showing how associations are making a difference—or at least making their voices heard. How are associations making news this week? Read on to find out!

Airline Industry Associations Call for Better Flight Tracking: In the wake of the tragedy of the missing 777 airliner from Malaysian Airlines, many industry groups are weighing in with ideas on how to avert future disasters. The International Air Transport Association recently gathered for its annual conference, and among the topics discussed was the need to improve flight tracking capabilities: “While the search continues, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), whose 240 members include passenger and cargo airlines making up 84 percent of global air traffic, is looking to the future and what can be done to prevent another tragedy from occurring. The group met this week, coincidentally, in Kuala Lumpur—the city where Flight 370 originated and now the central hub of the search effort—for its Ops Conference 2014, which brings together airlines, regulatory agencies, and the aviation industry to focus on safety and flight operations. In his opening keynote, IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said the industry needs to improve flight-tracking capabilities and make more effective use of passenger data. ‘In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief both that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are so difficult to recover,’ he said. ‘Air France 447 brought similar issues to light a few years ago, and some progress was made. But that must be accelerated. We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish.’”

Business Travel Association Opposes Cell Phone Use on U.S. Flights – Speaking of air travel issues, as the Department of Transportation considers a recent Federal Communications Commission suggestion to allow cell phone use on flights in the United States, plenty of people are voicing their dissent to the idea—including one of the largest travel associations. The Global Business Travelers Association has a lot to say in their opposition to the unpopular idea. ““In short, there is a time to speak out and a time to keep silent,” GBTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Michael W. McCormick said in a media release. McCormick noted that it would be difficult to get away from a chatty passenger using a cell phone on a plane. ‘Unlike Amtrak’s ‘quiet cars,’ GBTA does not believe it is feasible to create talk-free sections of aircraft,’ the association said. ‘DOT should not add to business travelers’ misery. On commercial aircraft in the United States, silence is golden.’”

Dairy Groups Fight For Raw Milk Ban – As Congress considers legislation that would lift the ban on sales of raw milk (also known as unpasteurized milk) crossing state lines, dairy associations are raising their voices in opposition. While some claim that consuming raw milk is better for overall health, dairy groups and the FDA argue that the dangers of raw milk far outweigh any potential benefit. “‘If this measure passes, those most vulnerable to dangerous pathogens—children—are the ones who will suffer the most. The benefits of consuming raw milk are illusory, but the painful costs of illness and death are very real,’ [National Milk Producers Federation] President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in a statement. The Food and Drug Administration sides with the dairy associations, as do a number of medical and veterinary associations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Veterinary Medical Association. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study in 2012 that showed raw milk exposed the public to a significantly higher level of disease outbreak risk than pasteurized forms over a period from 1993 through 2006.”


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Political Points – Associations, Nonprofits and Current Events

Lyn Slater : April 4, 2014 9:00 am : Association, Non-Profit, Strategy

Let’s talk politics. Even those associations without a political agenda would do well to follow the happenings in our nation’s capital and beyond. Elections, scandals, important legislation, all of the ongoing Washington dealings can the capitolhave major impacts on your association’s members and within your industry. Have you kept tabs on the latest with the health care reform laws? How does the income gap between rich and poor affect your nonprofit’s approach to fundraising?

As such, we’d like to touch on some major current events and their ramifications in the association and nonprofit world from time to time with some political quick links.

Economic Association Weighs in on Gender Pay Gap: Women have made tremendous strides in the workplace in recent decades, but one area remains a top concern for women’s interest groups: the wage gap. Women are still paid less than men on average overall, and many employers and experts blame not old school sexism as much as American family dynamics and the realities of biology: women are still more likely to miss significant amounts of work due to bearing children, which affects their overall income. But what can make a difference? The president of the American Economic Association has an idea:

In her presidential address at the AEA annual meeting, Claudia Goldin said the difference in pay between men and women could be reduced if employers allowed employees more flexibility in choosing the hours when they work.

‘The solution does not (necessarily) have to involve government intervention,” said Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University. “It does not have to improve women’s bargaining skills and desire to compete. … The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might even vanish if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who worked long hours and who worked particular hours.’”

Brrrr – Natural Gas Associations Talk Energy Prices – If the extended winter this year proved anything, it’s that the issue of improving home heating costs has become a top priority for many in Washington. Pressure on the government to improve standards for natural gas furnaces have been particularly strong, as raising the standards for this type of heat could significantly reduce the cost burden on consumers—but two gas industry associations are arguing that the move isn’t as easy as it seems:

As The Kansas City Star reported, two associations that represent natural gas utility companies—the American Gas Association (AGA) and American Public Gas Association (APGA)—say that boosting minimum standards would require installing costly new furnace systems in homes. (The new 90 percent efficient furnaces cost between $600 and $800, including installation, according to the newspaper, but can generate a savings of $50 to $100 a year in fuel costs in addition to the inherent environmental benefits.)

The type of home can create additional installation challenges. ‘Switching from a noncondensing to condensing gas furnace often requires modifying the furnace ventilation at additional expense,’ the EIA post explained. ‘In some cases, the switch may require retrofitting or abandoning a gas-fired water heater because the existing exhaust flue would be poorly sized for the existing water heater and new furnace.’”

Food Labeling Laws Catching Grocery Industry Association Attention – With laws passing at the state level all the time with new restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMO), the food and grocery industries have been fighting new restrictions. Perhaps in an effort to head off these types of restrictions at the pass, the largest food industry association is now among those calling for new federal regulations: 

“But the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents such food and beverage leaders as ConAgra, PepsiCo and Kraft, isn’t exactly joining the anti-GMO movement. It’s advocating for an industry-friendly, law with a voluntary federal standard — a move that food activists see as a power grab by an industry that has tried to kill GMO labeling initiatives every step of the way.

The most powerful players in the food industry say they are simply trying to find a national solution for GMO labeling, rather than having to navigate a patchwork of dozens of state laws for every packaged food item on the grocery shelf. According to a discussion draft of GMA’s proposed bill obtained by POLITICO, labeling standards would not be mandatory and the industry would submit to more FDA oversight.”

What current events are affecting your association or nonprofit the most? Hit the comments and let us know!

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Changes to Facebook Brand Pages: What You Need To Know

Lyn Slater : April 3, 2014 9:00 am : Social Media, Strategy


If you’re in charge of your organization’s Facebook page, there are some big changes ahead that you should know about. This change is particularly important if you rely on Facebook as a major outlet for sharing information with members, employees, and other stakeholders. Facebook has decided to dial back the amount of “organic reach” on each of your posts.

Organic reach is essentially any time a Facebook user sees posts from your page in their News Feed that isn’t the result of a paid or “promoted” post. Whether your realize it or not, Facebook already hides most of your page’s posts from most of your Facebook followers. Most pages currently only experience organic reach about six to ten percent of their followers with each post. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well, unfortunately it’s going to get a lot lower very soon.

According to coverage of the change, “Over the past several months, Facebook has been reducing the organic reach of Pages. Even if a person Likes a company or organization on the social network, they’re unlikely to naturally see that Page’s content in their News Feed. In a recent study of more than 100 brand Pages, Ogilvy & Mather found that companies’ posts dropped from reaching 12 percent of their followers in October to just six percent by February. The tech blog Valleywag reports that Facebook is planning to dial reach down to 1 to 2 percent of followers eventually.”

So what does that mean? Unfortunately for the marketing budgets of some of the smaller groups out there, it means dollars. Facebook is offering paid promoted posts to brand pages looking to increase their reach to their audience. Many are viewing this move as unfair, especially considering the number of organization that have spent years building a huge audience for their Facebook page, often using paid advertising, only to be denied access to their followers unless they pay all over again. 

To determine how much you may need to adjust your marketing budget, SHIFT Communications has developed an online calculator. Simply enter the URL of your organization’s Facebook page, and it will estimate how much it will cost per post to reach more of your online fans.

What are your next steps if you rely on Facebook to communicate with your stakeholders online? Here are a few ideas.

If you’re already buying “Promoted Posts” to ensure that certain Facebook posts reach more of your fans, not much has to change. If you’re currently paying for regular advertising to amass more “likes”, however, you should consider shifting that budget over to promoting your content instead. Basically, paying for likes will be a marketing strategy that doesn’t have much in the way of ROI. Instead, your likes will come more organically, which may actually make them more valuable.

Speaking of value—start focusing on your content. Taking Facebook posts for granted is no longer in the cards. While each post may only reach one or two percent of your followers, if each post has a lot of value, those who do see it will be more inclined to share it. This will involve a little more effort and creativity, but we could all stand to put a bit more of those qualities into our social media communications.

Finally, start thinking about the content you’re sharing through other channels—Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, your blog and even your email communications. With lower reach on Facebook, it may be time to improve the quality of content on these portals. If you can reach twice as many people on Twitter as Facebook, the loss of organic reach will feel like less of a blow to your overall marketing strategy. Additionally, don’t forget about Google+. A recent survey shows that Google+ has the same number of users as Twitter, and now may be the time to evaluate whether using Google+ will add some extra oomph to your online footprint.

How are you planning to overcome Facebook’s new reach rules for pages? Let us know in the comments!

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