Friends for Funding

The biggest takeaway for me from this class is the need for transparency in our content. People have a hard time arguing honesty, and it is also an attribute we not only look for in people,  but in organizations. Organizations which exercise transparency in all aspects of their cause are more likely to collect good partnerships and network with quality organizations that will further their outreach. This is especially important when looking for funds. Not only for an organization, but looking for funds personally also involves a level of transparency. For example, grant writing involves a level of transparency, in that the donor is looking for a story that they can understand and want to help.

The Networked Nonprofit shares a lot of similar information with Content Strategy for the Web but fills in the gap of information for where to find cost effective funding tactics. One of the first tactics discussed is free agents, or people who are used, free of cost, to create buzz for a cause or organization. These free agents are discussed as more frequent due to millennials capability of, for free, expressing their love of hate for anything from food to companies. This same content can also be used to network with local organizations of these free agents who share similar interests with the organization being promoted. This promotion is usually friendly dialogue between friends who are sharing their experiences. Friends are valuable resources because we tend to turn towards people we trust to give us advice on anything from purchase to, in the case, where to donate.

As demonstrated consistently throughout the semester, transparency within an organization allows for trust to be built, similar between friends. An organization is seeking to connect with their audience but also those within the organization. Internal relations is just as important as impressions from those on the outside because employees are one of the biggest proponents for an organization. People who are unhappy with their job are going to express their unhappiness with those around them, and also possible on an online platform. Internal complaints are just as important as paying attention to negative online reviews as well. Organizations or companies which respond quickly and sincerely to their online audience tend to have better representations of who they are.

This friendly dialogue is something we discussed at length with our client. We and their clients know the great work they do but we explained the importance for them to be transparent with their work. Our client had a lot a good video and pictures on her phone and was an amazing storyteller, and we told her those were all powerful attributes that should be shared on the site and their social media.

SDA does have Twitter but they were not using it effectively. We explained that Twitter is highly interactive and since they were not very interactive on any of their platforms, besides email, we suggested they delete their Twitter and instead make an Instagram account. Although Instagram is also interactive, it allowed for more transparency without as much interaction. A picture is worth 1000 words, or a well crafted caption, and we also discussed the use of links and tagging to draw traffic from their tagged partnerships or drive traffic to their other platforms like their Facebook or website. One of the biggest focuses we had was their blog, which could serve as their ultimate platform to connect with their audience. Well crafted blogs can be just as interactive as a Twitter as long as their content was well presented, unlike their current posts.

For myself personally, being honest through my writing is something I strive for, and my experience working with nonprofits has demonstrated the importance of being passionate for your career. Writing for an organization that may be seen as a job rather than a career is going to be more difficult. Often the language comes out dry or flat and maybe does not get at the heart of the company, but instead face value mission. For a career, I want to be able to write as passionately as I feel towards my organization, giving anyone reading my writing the same feeling I have. This skill can be well adapted towards grant or proposal writing, hopefully for a cause that is meaningful to me.

Storytelling was a theme seen in both texts but definitely covered in TNN. Working for a corporate or for-profit organization is of course meaningful and fulfilling, but working for a nonprofit I believe requires another level of commitment. In order to receive funding, you need to convey to someone that your organization deserve their time, and a good cause always has a good story, something people can relate to and want to be apart of. People are always more willing to help out a friend, so it is important to speak about your organization as if it is a close friend. If you can craft a legitimate argument to someone in a way which make them feel as passionate towards a cause as you, they are going to want to be apart of that cause with you. I hope to be apart of something that make me feel passionate towards their cause one day.

 

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Final Post

This semester has been a good learning opportunity filled with tools to use in future endeavors. The skills taught and learned gave deeper insight into how to use social media for social good, and to create content that reflects the passion in whatever we decide to do. Besides the other two books for the class, we focused on Halvorson and Rach’s Content Strategy for the Web (CSW) and Kanter and Fine’s The Networked Nonprofit (TNN). Both books are good starting points for anyone interested in developing their online avatar, and provide extra valuable information for anyone working in the nonprofit sector who may be looking for ways to increase their online traffic. This final blog post will be an overview of the strengths of both texts and how together they can be effective tools for anyone looking to strengthening their online presence.

CSW focuses on building content for anyone who is interested. The broader themes and ideas align with the nonprofit goals of TNN. Beginning with CSW the biggest takeaway I found that overlapped with the goal of TNN is the idea of transparency. In CSW, the first chapter discusses the importance of learning how to listen (Halvorson 10). The two biggest categories that need this attention are those inside the organization and those outside of it. TNN also have a section on listening (Kanter 61) which is a useful tool that can allow organizations, “to orient themselves online”. TNN further states that the process, “involves sifiting through online conversations on multiple channels like social networks and blogs” (61). CSW starts this process by listening to those on the inside. Focusing on internal relations is important because it can identify key issues within the organization and could reveal how people outside of it views or understand the mission of the organization. One way suggested in both texts is conducting different types of analyses within and outside the organization. CSW begins with the alignment of stakeholders and the importance of keeping the momentum going with them through regular communication during the entire process (Halvorson 45). Keeping stakeholders happy is important but further more, “the best way to conduct an internal analysis -by far- is to talk to people inside the organization” (69). Interacting with those who handle the day-to-day grind of the organization are the ones who are going to have some of the best insight of what is going on inside and outside the group. After listening to the internal relations CSW moves onto focusing on the core strategy of the organization and lists being “inclusive” as one of the effective core strategies allowing for a “wide variety of individual and team contributions” (96). Being inclusive throughout the entire process allows for open dialogue and a greater understanding of the problems or strengths of the organizations.

TNN focuses on the ways that content strategy can help a nonprofit and gives tactics for people wanting to strengthen their online presence. TNN’s greatest focus which overlaps with CSW is the importance of good content in order to create the transparency desired and also create traffic for the sites. One of the first strategies towards creating good content once again focuses on the importance of transparency within and outside the organization. This can be achieved through content that demonstrates the social culture of the organization. The organization’s culture, “comes from melding the psychology, attitudes, experiences, and beliefs of the people who lead organizations. Others inside and outside of the organization react to those patterns and norms” (Kanter 42). Good content creates good reactions from those representations of the organization. Although transparency is important throughout the content strategy, TNN recognizes the challenges of figuring, “out what to use when and how so we can better manage a world with social media in it” (96). Some of the suggestions of simplifying the content presented includes: creating a schedule for the posts, pruning information flow and finding trusted sources (97). This allows for the most direct and informative content without overwhelming visitors or burning out those who post the information. CSW breaks this process down into four categories: substance, structure, workflow and governance (Halvorson 103). These rules allow for content to be, “more more effective and easy to manage if you set some parameters and priorities about who your content is for” (105). Both texts not only focus on the importance of transparency through communication but the importance of transparency also through the use of well crafted and sourced content which gives not builds internal relations but also builds relationships with those outside the organization.

The biggest strength of CSW which is not covered in TNN is the importance of conducting an audit on the social media and sites already in use and good instructions on the best ways to go about this task. The chapter begins with the different kind of content audits and the process and the kind of information involved or discovered during and after the audit. The book does a good job of laying out the important steps and tasks involved in the audit process and the importance of taking the time to conduct then audit. 41jQ0rWRLjL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_After the completion of the audit the book does a good job going into the process of analyzing the information from the audit. The book notes the importance of this analysis as something that cannot be ignored or out-of-date otherwise, “entire strategies are build on un-researched assumptions and isolated opinions- costing everyone time and money” (Halvorson 70). The importance of taking the time to conduct the audit gives the organization an opportunity to patch any holes that are causing misrepresentation of the organization. By creating a content audit and analysis its purpose is not to create suggestions for the content but instead, “its sole purpose is to ensure that everyone on the content team starts the content strategy process with the same information about the complex ecosystem [the] content lives in” (89). Looking at what others are seeing as the representation of the organization gives insight into what strategies would be best to make the campaign seamless and effective.

The best strength of TNN is the chapters which focus on the use of content to develop a fundraising campaign. Once again focusing on transparency, TNN goes into the importance of transparency when it comes to raising funds for your organization. Transparency in the fundraising sector is demonstrated through, “annual reports, financial statements, and audit reports [posted]download online” and by, “listening, engaging, and building relationships” with the target audiences or donors (135-137). TNN gives successful online fundraising tactics including: credibility, donor recognition and storytelling as all effective ways for the organization to further connect with those interested in helping (146). Another way mentioned earlier in the book is the use of crowdsourcing, or the, “process of organization many people to participate in a join project often in small ways” (106). Although TNN focuses on the volunteering aspect of crowdsourcing, this tactic can also be used today when it comes to fundraising. In tangent with crowdsourcing is the use of free agents, or, “individuals working outside of organizations to organize, mobilize raise funds, and communicate with constitutes” (15). Both are cheap solutions that nonprofit are looking for in order to increase awareness of their organization while also limiting the funds used. This is one of the biggest differences between the two texts: TNN focuses on the use of content for nonprofits while CSW focuses on content strategies for anyone wanting to increase their knowledge of online traffic and representation. Both books are valuable on their own but I believe someone working within the nonprofit sector would benefit from reading CSW first and then TNN to close the gaps while CSW on its own is valuable to anyone wanting to build their online avatar.

 

One Oh Fo Sho

This post is designed to build my avatar and give you guys a feel for what I have experienced semi-recently that has lead me to where I am today. I think it’s fitting that this is blog post ten, and I graduated in 2010. Our senior class slogan was “One Oh Fo Sho” and my life is definitely no where even close to where I thought I would be, that’s fo sho.

I was originally going to be an Animal Science major/Vet Tech. I was a zookeeper in Wahpeton in 2012 for  a year and everything seemed to be working itself out, until I realized that zookeeping was not what I wanted to do forever so I took some time off and decided I wanted to go back to NDSU and finish my English degree starting Spring 2013. I had taken a few classes before I left NDSU but at that point I was so confused with what I wanted to do, I felt it was best to stop spending big money on uncertainty.

I left the zoo and worked a few odd jobs in the Wahpeton area until I could afford to move back up to Fargo. During one of my visits to Fargo to see friends I met some guy that I thought was funny, attractive and I found out we had mutual friends at NDSU. He also told me he was a veteran, but at that point that meant very little to me other than I made him wear his dress uniform once so I could ogle. Eventually, we were Facebook official so, you could say things were pretty serious. After about a year of dating we decided it made sense to move in together. Before meeting Chris, I had never known anyone in the military, let alone a combat veteran, and while we were dating I didn’t notice anything “different”. Not until we were living together did I understand why Chris was worried about living with someone.

Living with a veteran has been a new experience for me, and it has also been a big adjustment for Chris too. I hate to sound too diary-ish but it gives important context to the short story I wrote for Northern Eclecta titled, “The War at Home”. I can’t even describe the life of a student veteran, in my opinion, in complete sentences. I’m not trying to umbrella every student veteran (or veteran) as experiencing the same things as Chris does, but there are 100’s of articles, books and studies on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress D(isorder)-they’re trying to get the D dropped), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and other post-combat related issues that appear for many veterans. I want to note that my experiences are secondhand, and are my own interpretation of what I perceive.

For me it has been snippets: Night-terrors which lead to little sleep. He still has to go to class. College politics leaving students empty handed. Emotions: Guilt. Shame. Intense moments of happiness. Intense moments. Back pain. Counseling. Medications. Alternatives. Veterans Affairs appointments. There are things in our lives that we are hyper-sensitive to because of Chris’s experiences: Fireworks, large crowds, sudden drops on roller coasters, strobe lights, turbulence on flights…

Although things have worked out well for us, I can’t help but think of even just one of the over 400 student veterans on campus who are lonely and dealing with the same things that I know Chris struggles with. These are people who often don’t seek any sort of help because they have a lot of pride, so it is important for them to know there are people available to them and who are there with open arms just to listen, help without judgement and to just be someone who says, “hey, I don’t understand what you’ve been through but I’m here if you need me”. Sometimes that’s all people need. Dating a veteran has given me the opportunity to experience some of the emotions and day-to-say struggles that many other veterans face, and has made me want to be someone who is there to at least listen and be engaged with their stories.

I teach English to veterans, typically older, who want to freshen up or gain skills for returning to school. One of the biggest things I tell them is to be transparent with their professors and let them know of any special requests they may have like not wanting to sit in the front of class or needing to step out in the middle of class if necessary. The former NDSU Veteran’s and Military Services office now is only a certifying office, leaving student veterans to fend for themselves. With little support from administrators and little knowledge throughout the student body as a whole on the effects of post-military life, I find myself wanting to get their story out, students just like us, who offered their lives in exchange to protect ours. The least we can do is stand with them and make sure they are receiving the help they need to succeed. The very least we can strive for everyday is try to not be shitty people and lend a hand, open our hearts and open our ears to the other human beings in our world.