Social Media: Be Social, Not Stagnant

By | Engagement, Industry, Online, Programs | No Comments

I’ve been watching nonprofit activity on social media for a while now, and have observed something worth noting.

Many are suffering from a case of mistaken identity. They are using social media to promote the organization via social media. An organization is not social. Its people are. That’s where the mistaken identity comes in.

Those organizations who have a strong following are highlighting members, the people who make them strong. They are posting personalities, their passion, their contributions, their rewards. That strong following results in great word-of-mouth marketing, brand perception, loyalty, and search engine optimization.

Think about it: social media is about being social. Being social is not new. It happens in our homes, our streets, our stores—and now, online. Social media means the person-to-person connection is happening through new media, like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

This just in: Your community will engage with people over programs. Giving your members and volunteers a green light (or incentive) to engage in social media on your behalf is a strategy worth exploring. It’s much easier to “like” a person you can identify with than a faceless organization.

You serve a community of vibrant personalities, many of whom are committed to you and your cause. They have friends. Encourage them to move from “wallflower” to posting on your Facebook wall. Hold photo and video contests that you have the right to publish. Comment on their achievements.

I’m working with Membership and Marketing guru, Lori Swann, and YMCA Membership Director, Greg Lee, on a session at the upcoming NAYDO conference called “Make Your Members/Volunteers Rock Stars: Using Social Media to Deliver the Mission.”

Looking forward to great continued conversation on how to give our customers a social media identity that can’t be mistaken: a strategy that centers on individual impact over program promotion.

April Benetollo is senior vice president of market strategy for Daxko.

Deliver Your Mission Online

By | Customer Experience, Industry, Mission Delivery, Online | No Comments

Virtual Facilities are nothing new; in fact, they have been used for years by groups of people in different locations wishing to collaborate on ideas and projects. Typically these are secure online collaborative workspaces designed to enhance the exchange of information among a project team working from different locations. The term Collaboratory was coined as far back as 1989 by William Wulf while he worked for the US National Science Foundation. Wulf’s vision was a “center without walls”; a place in which the nation’s researchers could interact with colleagues, share data, and access information in digital libraries all from geographically dispersed locations.

Since then, rapid advances in computing and communications technologies, such as the internet, social media and mobile (Smart Phone) technology have made near real-time delivery of information quite common. Average people have become adept at sharing such things as music, photographs, schedules, ideas, opinions and messages all in real time over the internet; to many, this has become their preferred medium of communication with third parties. Recognizing this, many progressive organizations have recently deployed Live Chat technology on their websites, allowing the public to interact directly with sales or customer service staff without having to pick up the phone or visit a facility.

This is just one example of ways that a member-based non-profit organization like the YMCA could extend their brand and their mission beyond the physical boundaries of their bricks and mortar facility. Imagine being able to communicate with a virtual Health Coach where you could get exercise and nutritional advice right from the comfort of your own computer. Some people prefer to exercise outdoors, perhaps jogging or cycling; imagine if these weekend warriors had online tools where they could plan their workouts, set goals and objectives and track their progress—all while being held accountable to their fitness program by their personal trainer who resides inside their iPad. Other compelling virtual solutions include an online Health Assessment, Symptom Checker, Health Calculators, Recipes, Online Learning and Positive Coaching Courses. There is certainly no better way to reach out to today’s youth than through this medium. The opportunities are endless but the journey might seem more daunting than the destination.

In a recent survey I asked several of our YMCA customers if they viewed their websites as a critical tool for mission delivery and the answer was a unanimous “Yes!” The next question I asked them was whether they thought their members found their websites to be a useful source of information and the answer was a resounding “No!”—curious disconnect. It seems that although many progressive member-based nonprofit organizations understand the importance of this medium, few have the time or resources to invest in delivering the online tools that drive member engagement and positively impact the community.

The good news is that most of this technology already exists and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Live Chat again is a good example—there are literally hundreds of different options to choose from—and most of them are easy to deploy and work rather well. Online health and wellness tools are common too, as are learning solutions. The challenge is identifying the best-of-breed providers and integrating their solutions into a useful online offering. For this, finding the right development partner who is focused on mission delivery solutions could be the best answer. While not entirely painless, the dream of a complete and interactive “center without walls” for a member-based nonprofit is not that far off.

James Smith is innovative strategist for Daxko.

Flash Mob Meets Group Exercise

By | Fitness, Industry, Programs | No Comments

There are all kinds of ways to think outside the walls of your facility, but this one has intrigued me for a while now. A few summers back I was in downtown Seattle when a group of about 50 people came running down the street singing “Dancing in the Rain.” I had to know what was happening so I flagged down a straggler and asked. I found out they were part of a fitness/social group that meets in different places and just does active things. Things like running hills, climbing stairs, and dancing in the rain—think flash mob meets group fitness. After they do their workouts, they disperse to a bar or coffee shop to hang out. Very cool!

Last week in New York City I saw a similar thing happening right outside Central Park in the middle of a workday. A group of people just descended on the plaza and started working it. While there were lots of young adults, there were all ages, fitness levels and body types represented.

Apparently, the schedule is set but the location and activities are communicated last minute by Twitter, text, or email. You can pay by the month or just show up and pay by the event. I love this! What a great way to get people moving and to facilitate those all-important relationships we want our members to build with each other.

Lori Swann is director of marketing and membership for Daxko T2 Consulting.