Category Archives: Internet

Wiki Sites are Great Engagement Tools

Collective Impact is a long-play on community change. Large scale community change takes time and over the life of a Collective Impact initiative, there will be many documents and lists produced and people will come and go as well. Keeping track of the important reports and data can be time-consuming. And imagine coming into the work a year or so in. How would you get up to speed?

A “wiki” is Hawaiian for “quick.” They are relatively easy to build and use and can be used for a project or as a website.  There are many options for building a wiki site. The tool I am showcasing is  Google Sites, which is free to use and allows for integration with Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Groups.

Features of a wiki site include:

• Collaboration among users no matter where they are located. For example, you can edit documents collaboratively and users can be notified whenever a document is updated.

• Creating or co—creating a Common Calendar that can be embedded in the wiki site.

• Creating and managing a Clearing House of documents, images and other files by theme or topic area that users can view or download. This allows you to have all pertinent documents stored in one place, which provides a historical view of your initiative as well as provides newcomers to your initiative an efficient way to be oriented.

• Create sign up forms for registrations that are automatically displayed as well on the site.

• Create a survey that automatically populates the results of on the wiki site.

• Link to or embed a Google Group to foster discussion on the site among participants.

• Create static webpages and navigation to other wiki pages.

• Display a plan as well as a link to it for downloading.

• Widgets can be used to automatically display recent news that users should know about.

This tool download goes deeper into the pros and cons of a wiki platform and includes some examples of wiki sites I have built for collaborative groups.

Social Media – What Now?

Most non-profits are active on the web and understand the importance of ensuring there are ample opportunities for cross sharing between websites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms like Pinterest. My sense is that only a minority of non-profits – truly understand and then embrace social media as being vital to communication with stakeholders, increasing brand awareness, promoting a cause, and generating philanthropic interest and action in their organizations.

I understand it is difficult for many non-profits to allocate a staff person or more importantly overall staff time to social media work. Not doing so, however, will make it harder and harder to connect with one’s stakeholders deeply and continually. Not only is it imperative non-profits get sophisticated about social media, it is also an affordable undertaking, given that social media is typically free or very low in cost. Not having and acting on a social media strategy is a missed opportunity to experience significant impact with stakeholders at a very low price point.

Here are some trends that may help you understand the need for your organization to get more involved in the Internet and social media.

Mobilization of the Internet
Sometime this year, it is expected that accessing the Internet through mobile technology will surpass traditional desktop access. More and more people are engaging businesses, non-profits, and one another on their smartphones and tablets. According to comScore, nearly two-thirds of social network users use their mobile devices rather than their desktop. These two trends suggest that non-profits need to create websites that are easily transposed to mobile interfaces. If they aren’t people aren’t likely to ramble through a site that does not display simply and well in terms of navigation and content.

The Rise of Influencer Marketing
Stephanie Frasco (SocialMediaToday) reminds us that the sharing power of social media is critical to our success, especially if we can connect with what she calls “ambassadors and influencers.” Getting others who support your cause to post about you to their followers is a key strategy to be considered if you want to reach a high volume of people. This is called “influencer marketing” and while it may be a tad scary to put your marketing in the hands of others you cannot control, receiving support and affirmation from influencers are far more meaningful because the sharing is voluntary not orchestrated by your organization.

Emails are Still Important
What you need to consider is that the use of mobile devices to access emails has increased 110% since 2010. Today emails are opened on mobile devices 44% of the time, and that rate is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. Your emails should be written and laid out with that in mind. Don’t use a font size less than 11pt. Double that size of headers. And don’t get too fancy. Stick to a single column communication.

Where Should You Be Active?
The graph below tells us that people are using applications that do the following:
1. Storing and sharing pictures
2. Storing and sharing videos
3. Communicating via the Internet with friends and colleagues

Vine, the fastest growing mobile application. According to Wikipedia, “Vine is a mobile app owned by Twitter that enables its users to create and post short looping video clips. Video clips created with Vine have a maximum clip length of seven seconds and can be shared to Vine’s social network, or to other services such as Twitter… and Facebook.”  Note the videos are very short and implies that our messaging should be brief and to the point.

Take a look at the list below. Are you actively involved with these applications?  Are you integrating them amongst each other and with your website?


Of course being on social media is not enough. You have to know why you are there and what you are trying to accomplish.

Dialogue is one the key strategies worth considering. One way communication  (print materials like brochures, advertisement, newsletters, and static websites) are far less effective that two way exchanges between your organization and your stakeholders. You can create dialogue on a blog (allow people to make comments) and via Facebook and Twitter. You do that by not just expecting people to engage you on your Facebook page or through your Twitter page. You also create dialogue by visiting the pages of those who follow you and by retweeting other people’s tweets or commenting on them.

Information-Sharing is another purpose of social media. It’s less effective if that’s all you do, but if you are optimally engaged in social media, you are likely to get more results from sharing information about an event, an online fundraiser, or a show you are putting on.  Social media is also helpful in terms of informing others of facts they  may not be aware of and then linking them to places they can get more information if they wish to.

Calls to Action also can work well. When Bissell Centre had a devastating fire at its Thrift Shoppe, the organization lost all of its contents (primarily clothes and household items). Twitter was deployed very successfully to launch a “Restock the Shoppe” campaign. The retweets exceeded our expectations and people mobilized clothing campaigns at work, at their schools, and places of worship. Others got their friends to participate and many individuals showed up with bags of clothing they gleaned from their closets. Within a month we had more than enough stock to re-open at a temporary location.

Services can also be delivered via social media. I have resolved issues with Telus through its Twitter-based customer representatives and frankly much more quickly and effectively than through their telephone-based services. Perhaps there are ways for your organization to better serve donors, volunteers, and in some cases clients through Twitter.

If you are not yet as active as you should be or if you are reluctant to fully commit to social media as a social engagement strategy, I can understand the reluctance. You have to be prepared to give up control of your messaging for one thing and trust that your brand will be treated respectfully by the masses. Keep in mind, however, that even if you are not on social media, others can and do “talk” about you. Your absence is no guarantee that you are in control of things anymore when it comes to messaging, branding, marketing, and so on.

As I wrote previously on this blog, “Social media is communication to be sure, but also about engagement. It’s dynamic and more unpredictable.  The buzz created about your brand is no longer under your control.  Those doing the buzzing are commenting on your brand, interpreting it, judging it, and promoting it. Not only that, they are talking about you (having social conversations) in ways you might not, altering the message for context or effect (and yes, their bias), and if your social media efforts are successful, they are influencing and involving others in your cause. Actually, they are playing an instrumental role in shifting the your cause mindset toour cause. As Beth Kanter says somewhere on her blog, ‘Your supporters are the message’.”

In a slide show on social media, Beth Kanter referenced the work of Neil Perkin. I have adapted below. This outlines the differences between traditional and social media communications.

Some of the above may make you uncomfortable because social media is less predictable than traditional communications strategies. But the more people you have involved in conversations about your cause, influencing their friends, creating messaging together, the better able you will be to connect with people and learn from them.

Social Media Revolution

This video had to be refreshed by the authors because things are changing so fast. Here is the latest version. This is compelling evidence as to whey engaging in social media is no longer an option to consider. It is what needs to be done to be relevant and engaged with your stakeholders.

Non-Profits: pay attention to “crowdsourcing”


According to McMillan Dictionary, “Crowdsourcing is trying to find a way of completing a task, a solution to a problem, etc. by asking a wide range of people or organisations if they can help, typically by using the Internet.”

Crowdsourcing is the next evolution of “outsourcing.” Whereas the latter speaks of sending work or functions to a particular company or organization to do for you (because they can do it better or faster or cheaper or all three), crowdsourcing engages anyone who cares to be engaged in helping you solve a problem, generate ideas, mobilize a volunteer effort, or fund something you need money for — and much more.


Crowdsourcing is made possible by the Internet and the myriad social media tools and sites that can serve to engage people from around the world or at least people you may not have any relationship with locally in your organization’s cause or work.  Crowdsourcing also speaks to making sure you are offering lots of choices to people in terms of how they might lend a hand.  The crowd after all is looking for many things, not just one cause.

From a fundraising perspective, crowdsourcing is related to micro-donations (“a very small sum of money donated to a charitable cause by millions of people. All the small sums can add up to the desired total amount” – Source: McMillan Dictionary). 

Methods of raising money through micro-donations include text messaging fundraising programs arranged with a cellular provider, via Twitpay, but also via websites like

The Donorschoose site is an American-based fundraising site that embraces both crowdsourcing and micro-donations. The overall theme is education of American students but within that theme, donors are provided with myriad choices on how to support what THEY want to support. Here’s a brief blurb from their website: 

Here’s how it works: public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on Requests range from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class.

Then, you can browse project requests and give any amount to the one that makes your eye twinkle. Once a project reaches its funding goal, we deliver the materials to the school.

Since 2002, the organization has raised more than $40 million, benefitting more than 2 million students. Look at the rate of growth.

Find out more how this fundraising group works by going here.

Who provides the money to charities?

One might think in Canada, with all its emphasis on social programs, that the government provides a larger percentage of funding to nonprofit organizations that does the United States. According to Charity Village, that’s not true. In Canada 31% of revenues to charities come from government; US governments provide 57%.

The differences don’t end there. Canadian charities rely on fees for service (51% of revenues)  more often than their US counterparts (31% of revenues). Revenues from philanthropy in Canada are 9%, compared with 12% in the United States. 

Who knows what the benchmark should be, but Charity Village reports the following: “The global average of civil society sector revenue breaks down as follows: government contributions contribute 35% of revenue, fees and charges contribute 53% of revenue, while philanthropy contributes only 12% of revenue.”

So what does it all mean? First, philanthropy is currently not the major financial fuel for charities, which is probably important to keep in mind. Relationships with governments and their various granting streams are probably more important for most service providers than focuing on growth in revenues from donors.

Second, in Canada, hard economic times which result in government cutbacks to charities will impact service recipients to a greater extent, given the already high dependence on user fees and a lower rate of revenues of philanthropy compared with the United States or worldwide.

One current unknown is if the above data includes health care in the equation. If not, Canada’s data would look different that that of the United States (i.e. universal healthcare compared to market driven healthcare).

Implications for Canadian charities:

1. Get more adept at your relationships with governments is probably the first priority or work to ensure those organizations that represent you (associations, Chambers of Voluntary Organizations) are doing that.

2. While your own capacity to solicit donations from individuals may not be strong, work on relationships with United Ways or, if appropriate to your “field” with federated fundraisers.  For some organizations it might be possible to take advantage of some of the new ways to fundraise that meet the needs of younger people who tend to raise money and mobilize volunteer support in non-traditional ways (I will write more about that another time).

3. Explore ways to leverage new technologies, many of which are free or low cost, to handle communications and operational functions. Not only will technology help decrease costs in the long run, they provide new – and often better – ways to connect, communicate, and engage your constituents. Collaborative use of technology is another option.

If you want to know more about how to think about, plan for, and execute some of these changes, let me know. (Email)