Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

December 18, 2013

It’s not about you

Gen. Hugh Shelton
Chris Hitch

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final post in a six-part series exploring values-based leadership by Chris Hitch, director of the Gen. H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center. 

Gen. Shelton emphasizes that all values-based leaders have an obligation to give back. It doesn’t matter whether you are a student or a working professional; you have an obligation to work to make your corner of the world a better place. He urges us to “be bigger than ourselves, to give back to our community, and to our state, and even to our nation.” 

He reminds us that there are multiple opportunities to do this in small and large ways. Corporations and nonprofits mutually benefit from these partnerships. Corporations’ reputations are enhanced by giving back to the community. Nonprofits, by their very existence, are known for their mission-driven programs to the community.

A signature programs at the Shelton Leadership Center is the Shelton Challenge, which has selfless service as a key program component. Twice a year (in addition to their other volunteer efforts), our Shelton Scholars go to a particular town for a Weekend of Service, where they partner with local civic organizations to build wheelchair ramps, clean blighted areas or help in other ways. We partner with NC State’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics & Public Service to support them in their student service learning and leadership efforts. I’ve been in awe of high school students who volunteer to help those with disabilities in and out of school.

I’m not highlighting these to boast about different Shelton programs are doing (although I am incredibly humbled and impressed with our tireless staff , board and many students and how they each live out this cornerstone daily). I’m emphasizing that there are lots of ways to give and give back in a community. As Gen. Shelton urges, “that is a part of what each and every one of us from the corporate level right down to the individual should be doing.”

Values based leadership—It’s not about you. 

What situations have you found where giving back to the community gives you an even greater gift?

Chris Hitch, Ph.D., is director of the Gen. H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center and program director of the Poole College of Management Executive Education at North Carolina State University.

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How to get a Justin Bieber on board with your nonprofit

Sara Choe

As you foray into online fundraising for your nonprofit, you might have stumbled upon the term “social media influencer”. You might wonder what that is exactly and where would you even get one of those.

A social media influencer is simply a person whose online presence carries weight. There are many kinds of influencers, but they share the following qualities:

1. Credibility

An influencer has had to earn their audience’s trust in some way, and more trust means longer attention spans.

Being an expert in a field is one way an influencer gains credibility. Physicians like Sanjay Gupta or Dr. Oz are influential – the former as a CNN medical correspondent and the latter as host of the eponymous television show – primarily due to their medical expertise.

2. Reach

Social media influencers have extensive audiences. They have numerous followers across several platforms; sometimes there are overlaps; that is to say, one might follow a blogger both on Facebook and Twitter. For example, author, blogger and speaker Jon Acuff has more than 49,000 fans on Facebook and nearly 186,000 followers on Facebook.

3. Quality engagement

The influencer’s audience is marked by quantity and quality. That is to say, she has many meaningful interactions with most of her many followers. Her followers not only consume her content but share it with their respective audiences.

Searching for Social Media Influencers

Now that you know who social media influencers are, you need to learn how to connect with those who would best advocate for your organization.

Hint: An influencer’s celebrity doesn’t translate into being an effective endorser of your cause. While not impossible, an urban fashionista probably would not be the best spokesperson for a nonprofit focused on promoting sustainable agriculture in the global south. A food critic who writes extensively about organic farming and shopping at farmers’ markets, on the other hand, would be a better fit.

Finding the right social media influencers involves more than just referring to industry and social rankings; you’ll have to do your own research to identify these key people. Fortunately, searching for them is not like trying to find Waldo.

Basically, you’ll be relying heavily on search engines and social media to find and befriend these influencers. Here are our tips on engaging with social media influencers.

1. Search online

Search for content –news articles, blogposts, research papers, trade magazines and books – germane to your field of work. Note the authors and their respective sources.

Chances are you’ve already come across these names if you’re already keeping up your industry’s news. Create a spreadsheet where you can record and keep track of these names.

2. “Stalk” them

Plug these names into Twitter and start following them. Add their handles to your spreadsheet and note other interesting facts about them.

Do likewise on other channels, such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube. Skim through their information and content, and record your findings in your spreadsheet.

Sometimes, social media channels are search engines unto themselves. Run a Twitter search for industry keywords to find people that your Google (or Bing or Yahoo!) search might have overlooked.

3. Measure their social influence

Use Klout or a similar platform to get detailed, statistical analyses of the influencers’ influence. You can use these tools to find more influencers, too.

4. Determine your targets

Now that you’ve gathered information on the persons of interest, narrow the field of candidates. You’re free to lend as much or as little weight to the myriad opinions on the who’s who in the social media sphere.

But at the end of the day, only you can decide who is right for your cause and your campaign. One factor you might consider could be how much time you can devote to engaging with these influencers, in addition to their degree of relevance.

5. Organize them

Once you’ve finalized your selection of social media influencers, group them by categories of your choice. You can create lists on Twitter and circles on Google+ to help manage your interactions.

You can publicize or keep private the lists/circles you make. If you opt to share your lists publicly, be careful how you display them; avoid giving the impression that you’re familiar with these people if you actually haven’t met them before.

6. Interact with them

Across the various platforms, start following your chosen influencers. Listen to what they’re saying. Respond to their thoughts. Start conversations. Ask questions.

This is a marathon, not a sprint

Remember that influencers are ultimately people to connect with, not instruments to be played. So offer ways to serve them; in that way, both your mission and your influencers benefit.

For more info, read our free online guide on social media influencers.

Sara Choe is an online fundraising expert at CauseVox, a crowdfunding platform for nonprofits and social good projects.

Four tips to improve your nonprofit’s website

Roy Chomko

As more of our day-to-day tasks have moved online, so has the way people make donations. According to, online gifts to nonprofits are growing faster than any other type of donations. In fact, online donations rose 14 percent last year to $2.1 billion, while the overall rise in donations was just 1.5 percent. So what does this mean for nonprofits and performing arts theaters? It means a your website is more important than ever.

Unfortunately, some nonprofits have not made their web site a priority, feeling that they don’t have the resources to dedicate to it. However, nonprofits can no longer ignore their website, as it’s sure to be one of their largest sources of income in the coming years. Once the decision to improve the website is made, nonprofits must then focus on creating a positive user experience that helps boost purchases and donations. 

Here are a few key points to keep in mind when designing a nonprofit site:

1.       Put your data to good use

From donations, membership renewals, event registration and ticket history to their past behavior on your site, today’s website provide tons of data on your supporters. However, despite the many affordable tools on the market, many organizations fail to use this data to personalize a user’s online experience.

Instead of serving up the same content to every visitor, use your data to cater your site’s information to each person’s interests. For instance, if a visitor bought a ticket to last season’s winter ballet, showcase any upcoming ballet performances first on the calendar. If a member repeatedly donates to the same cause time and time again, place information related to that cause right on the homepage so they see it immediately and consider placing another donation.

2.       Show your story; don’t just tell it

To turn any prospect into a full-on supporter, you first have to gain their trust and attention. Since anyone can write a heartfelt blog post, turn to different types of media, like videos, images, graphs and even infographics. By using more than just text, you’re able to show visitors what your organization really stands for and the impact it’s making.

Instead of just telling supporters the total amount of money that’s been raised, demonstrate the overall impact their donations have made through a graph or infographic. Did you have a great fundraiser or charity event recently? Take plenty of photos or videos, and post them on your site and social media outlets. If you’re a performing arts theater, for example, be sure to have an archive of past performances. In general, these actual event images will tell a much better story than typical stock photos.

3.       Offer micro-donations

If your organization allows users to purchase items or tickets on its site, give people the option to make a micro-donation by rounding up their purchase to the nearest dollar. People are already engaged in your cause, indicating they’d be more inclined to help out a little more by contributing a few extra cents. A few extra nickels and dimes might not seem much at first, but after a few months of rising donations, you’ll be sure to see the return on investment.

4.       Streamline the ticketing process

First things first, if you’re going to sell tickets online (for events, conferences or performances), make sure the function is available on all devices. As more users are going mobile, so are their purchasing habits – making it necessary organizations make their sites and donation/ticketing functions mobile friendly.

Second, if your event requires visitors to select what day, time and seat they want for their ticket, make sure you have easy-to-use filter options in place to make this a hassle-free process. For starters, display the calendar in a way that’s easy to digest. You don’t want to confuse buyers by having too many options cluttering the screen. Instead, allow visitors to filter select days and time they’re most interested in. Also, display the seating chart so users can better visualize the setup and choose a seat that matches their own needs and preferences. You can even go a step further and show images of the views of the stage from each seat.

Creating an engaging and user-friendly nonprofit website needs to take priority, as donors and supporters start doing more of their giving online. While it takes time and resources, it’ll soon pay off as memberships and donations skyrocket.

Roy Chomko co-founded Adage Technologies in 2001, combining a passion for technology and the desire to build a company focused on driving business value through web technology. As president, Roy's energy and customer centric approach have helped to grow Adage to a well-respected web and software development firm.

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