140+: In the Moment


Now, we VOTE! Only a few more days! #eddies11

Vote for Early Childhood Investigations Webinars for the #Eddies

The Edublog Awards are in FULL SWING! But there’s only a limited time to vote, and we need to make sure early childhood educators are well-represented. Last week I posted my list of nominations and Early Childhood Investigations’ nominations (they are slightly different) for the Edublog Awards. Now, the voting is open! From now until December 13, you can vote for a winner in every category one time a day.

We hope you will vote for our nominees and for Early Childhood Investigations (which was listed as Early Childhood Webinars) in the Best Open PD/Unconference/Webinar category.

Let’s represent! Help us ensure that early childhood educators are among the Eddie winners this year, and vote every day!

My Picks for The 2011 Edublog Awards #Eddies11

Edublog AwardsIf you know me, you know I love technology. I thrive on social media. And, most of all, I am passionate about the intersection of early childhood education and social media. Technology makes it easy for me to learn more about the field and connect with people I might never have otherwise known and learn from ECE leaders with a simple click or two.. I can also broadcast what I learn to thousands of others in our field with just a little bit of initiative and know how. And, there is so much to share! That’s why I’ve  nominated a few of the best resources for Edublog Awards this year.  Hopefully, you will do the same. Unfortunately, there are only a few more days in the competition, but it’s never too late! Voting ends December 2, 2011! HURRY!

Since 2005, Edublogs has been hosting blogs and providing custom blogging platforms to teachers, school districts and  students, and the folks that operate the platform have a yearly competition to recognize the best resources as nominated by users. The awards are presented the resources that receive the most votes. Early education is underrepresented, mostly because our field has taken a bit more time to embrace social media and the Internet as sources for professional development. I think we’ve arrived now, so it’s time for us to collectively nominate and vote for the resources we think are most valuable. We’re going to have to do a lot of voting, because we, collectively, are a fraction of the overall field of education.

I nominated many outstanding early childhood educators on the Early Childhood Investigations Blog, but because it’s so important to cast nominations often and because I left out some important people, I’m casting again, here on my personal blog.

Fran Simon’s Edublog Award choices:

* Best Individual Blog: Dr. Michele Borba’s Reality Check

* Best twitter hashtag : #earlyed

* Best individual Tweeter: Karen Nemeth @KarenNemethEDM

* Best group blog: Early Ed Watch by New America Foundation:
http://earlyed.newamerica.net/blogmain

* Best educational use of a social network: Early Childhood Education, Child Care, and CCR&R Professionals Forum, Hosted by Adrienne C. Barr

* Best teacher blog: The Grass Stain Guru, by Bethe Almeras

* Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast: Bam! Radio Network

* Lifetime achievement: Ellen Galinsky- Ellen blogs everywhere and has been for a long time. Check her out:
On Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-galinsky

On Mind in The Making: http://mindinthemaking.org/

On MomsRising: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/author/Ellen-Galinsky/

On HBR Blog Network: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/05/learning_to_taking_on_challeng.html

On Families and Work Institute http://familiesandwork.org/blog/

And, so many other blogs… to many to mention! You go, Ellen!

Make your choices! It’s easy to nominate… Just follow the directions on the Edublog Awards page!

“Duh! I Shoulda Thought of That!” LinkedIn Version

Duh! I Shoulda Thought of That: LinkedInLast week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to drive through a whirlwind tour of my favorite social media system, LinkedIn, with enthusiastic members of the Maryland Chapter of PRSA. We were having so much fun, (or at least I was having so much fun) covering some of the “Power Tools” I use to light up LinkedIn, that we lost track of time, and never got back to the slides in the formal part of the presentation.  Here are just a few of the bonus tips I intended to cover. (Can be found in the presentation itself on my site.)

“Duh! I Shoulda Thought of That Tips”

1) You must have a keyword-rich, interesting and remarkable profile.

2) Use your vanity URL.

3) Ummm… This is SOCIAL media! That means you sorta need to be open to connecting with people. (Hello?)  make your profile PUBLIC and accessible! Check and update your settings!

4) Increase your connections. Make it a goal to add more each week.

5)  Join 50 Groups, set up notifications so they come to your email, and READ and comment on them.

6) Create your Company Profile, add your products and services, post jobs, and ask employees to use the official company name so they show up as employees.

7) LinkedIn allows you to add links on your profile to your website, blog, and other sites. Use them, and name the links appropriately.

8)  Update your status at least several times a week. If it makes it easier, link your Twitter account to LinkedIn or use Sharaholic, HootSuite,Sesmic Desktop, or Tweetdeck to post on LinkedIn and Twitter at the same time. Time saver!

9) Make friends with social media “Power Tools” like Sharaholic, HootSuite,Sesmic Desktop, or Tweetdeck (and others) to make power-posting possible.

10) You have a smartphone… Use it! Put the LinkedIn app on your iPhone, BB, or Android and use downtime (standing in lines is my fav) to post.

11) Get to know the Learning Center on LinkedIn and subscribe to the LinkedIn Blog.

12) Follow LinkedIn on Twitter.

13) The final “DUH!” Tip:  Publicize your personal and company LI presences on your site, on print materials, on other social media sites, and on your forehead, if all else fails!

Want more? There are two more slides of tips in the bonus material in the presentation:

That was fun! More next week?

Does Social Media Open Doors or Distract Early Childhood Educators?

I’ve always marveled at early educators’ ability to focus so intently on the children, families, and staff in their programs. To me, it’s a huge blessing. It’s also a curse.  We are so mission-focused that we often don’t have the time or inclination to step back, look at the bigger picture, and decide how our work fits in to the overall scheme of where we’re going. Don’t get me wrong, I know from firsthand experience that operating programs that offer high-quality early learning experiences takes 100% of our energy, focus and passion. By the end of the day, there’s often little energy left over for much else. But, is our laser focus on our programs a help or a hindrance? And, does engagement through social media distract us or help us do more?

Laser Focus: Help or Hindrance?

Think about a laser for a moment: It shines a very intense light on a small area.  Lasers do a great job shining through a swath, but leave other areas untouched. Are we so focused on our missions to make a difference for the children in our care that we fail to make important conceptual, political, and professional connections that can have more impact? I know when I operated programs, I often thought, “leave the political and networking stuff up to other people. I have my hands full, and I am doing important work.”  Once I left the  my programs for other related early education jobs, I saw that I missed incredible  opportunities that would have benefited the children in my program and the direction of the field in general.

Why is it taking so long for us to engage?

Why am I writing about this now? I’m lamenting the void of engagement and sources of timely, relevant information in early care and education. I’m frustrated by how long it is taking for program practitioners to look up from guiding our lasers to see that there is a country and a world in which we operate, and it’s full of opportunities and insight. I’m also surprised to see how slow our community leaders are to add blogs and other social media as strategies to engage their members, supporters, and advocates.

But, I know I am  preaching to the choir. Given that you are reading this post, you probably  read other blogs, and engage on social media sites. YOU are probably NOT one of the hundreds of thousands of early childhood practitioners who are don’t  purposely set aside time to learn more, network, advocate, or exchange ideas related to their work. (And, I ask you, what are you doing to encourage your colleagues to test social media?)

There is a dearth of social media interactivity and engagement in our field. Stop to think about the size of our field. It’s hard for me to fathom (and harder to find the real data) about how many early childhood educators there are in the US. (Statisticians, if you can wrap your head around this one, give me a shout!)  I do know that there are only a handful of  commonly read reliable and credible blogs and journals in our field to serve (conservatively) hundreds of thousands of educators.  And, having been actively searching for early educators on social networking sites and listservs for many years now, I can estimate that less than 1% of us are engaging online. Contrast those (admittedly rough) stats with those related to business, and you can see how technically and engagement-challenged we are as a field.

We need to connect to learn from and partner with others in our field. That is not a new concept. We all connect through community or committee meeting every once in a while. We take a workshop or go to a conference a couple of times a year. We already read Young Children, Child Care Information Exchange, or one of the few journals for early childhood education. Awesome!  Those IRL (techno-speak for “in real life”) experiences and activities are absolutely vital.  Adding social media to those activities widens the circle of influence by allowing you to connect with others exponentially. The folks at CommonCraft illustrate the point so well. If you haven’t seen this yet, take a look at Social Networking in Plain English. Do you see how using social networking before or after meetings and conferences can extend the benefits well beyond the walls? This is just one example of the power the Internet has to help us influence and educate one another.

So, is social media a distraction for early childhood educators or an accelerant?

I assert that we need more to do more. We need more blogs. We need more interconnectedness.  What do you think? There’s a lively conversation about just this issue going on in the Internet4ECE group on LinkedIn. Of course, you need to be a member of LinkedIn and a member of the group to read it. (Oh, am I secretly trying to illustrate engagement on the Internet? I would never be so sneaky.)

Resources:

I have a nice list of ECE blogs on slide 22 of my presentation from NAEYC’s Professional Development Institute: Supercharge Your ECE Program With Web 2.0. There’s a lot of additional information about social media in our field in that presentation, and you will find other resources on the Social Media for ECE on my website.

I’m dying to convince you. I’m dying for you to convince others, Check out some of my other presentations, resources, and the Social Media in ECE Directory I am compiling*, and share them if you find them helpful. Let me help you convince others that social media is a professional development, advocacy, and outreach accelerant, and an isolation-buster, bar none.

*If you would like to be included in the Social Media for ECE Directory, register! It only takes a couple of minutes!

UPDATE: Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service (via 140+: In the Moment)

New update to my post, Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service about being unable to resolve a payment issue that caused Facebook to disable my account.

I know will be accused of exaggerating, but I promise that I have tried to contact Facebook more than 30 times to arrange for payment to for a mistake I made! Really! I’ve used their online forms and the specified email addresses, only to be met with a 5 of my emails to every 1 canned responses from Facebook. The responses do not respond to or correspond with the text of my email, and if I am lucky enough to get a response, it arrives with a 3-5 day delay.

At this point, it is just too funny to be frustrating! It’s one big cycle that demonstrates complete disregard for customers.As a marketing geek with considerable experience in SaaS management, including customer service, I am intrigued by just how low the Customer Service at Facebook can go. When you compare the historically horrible customer service offered by Dell, Microsoft, Verizon, and Comcast, and they come out looking like customer service heroes next to Facebook, you know there is a problem.

I wonder if the playground posse at Facebook even has a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). I appears that my cases are brand-new each time I write. Do the FB kids know about CRM? Or are they too busy thinking of the next great way to socialize our universe to worry about such mundane and 20th century concepts as customer service?

Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service Poor Facebook. The company has its hands full. With relentless Congressional pressure to stop abusing our trust and peddling our privacy, the “leadership” at Facebook probably doesn’t have time to think about providing customer service to paying customers. The Facebook kids are so busy planning to build a totally social universe where it is at the center, they can’t be bothered to provide even passable customer service to those of us who pay for … Read More

via 140+: In the Moment

Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service

Facebook Fails at customer service imagePoor Facebook. The company has its hands full. With relentless Congressional pressure to stop abusing our trust and peddling our privacy, the “leadership” at Facebook probably doesn’t have time to think about providing customer service to paying customers. The Facebook kids are so busy planning to build a totally social universe where it is at the center, they can’t be bothered to provide even passable customer service to those of us who pay for ads. As a matter of fact, Facebook expects us (the peeps with the money to spend on advertising) to adapt the their vision of customer service, which is totally online and delivered with an attitude.  The message I’ve gotten any time I’ve tried to get customer service from Facebook is: “we may get to your problem when we can, and if you are worthy, otherwise, read our rules and responsibilities. You are on your own.”

I could fill you in on my tales of woe trying to rectify an overcharge with Facebook, but I won’t bore you with the details. Just rest assured that this social media consultant wants to pay for what she purchased, not overcharges, and she followed every step of the process as outlined by Facebook…MORE THAN 30 TIMES, and still can’t get resolution. Big, bad, bully FB disabled my account, and basically the company is now completely ignoring my requests to restore my access. I wonder if it is coincidence that I have Tweeted and posted on LinkedIn about Facebook arrogance and inconsistent product development prior to ever requesting customer service. Or maybe my account has not been restored because I had the audacity to try to get someone at Facebook’s attention in the light of day on Twitter.

Oddly, it never occurred to me that the account might have been deactivated because I have made negative comments until I read “Facebook we have a problem,” by Robert Scoble, a blog post that highlights the trials and tribulations vocal users have experienced with Facebook.  It’s fascinating to read the comments by readers who have been abused by Facebook, but the most compelling reading of all are the responses from Facebook leadership, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. The arrogance and lack of interest in basic tenants of customer service seep through in every syllable of the responses.  Even though Scoble maintains a close relationship with the “in” posse at Facebook, in a follow-up post he agrees that  the kids at Facebook have a lot to learn about business, trust, customer service, and long-range strategy planning. Check it out at “Our trust relationship with Facebook: complicated.”

But, I digress. The real issue is Facebook’s hypocrisy about playing by the rules of engagement in social media, the arrogance they display with their insistence that customer service can only be offered through email and online forms, and the lessons they will eventually be forced to learn about customer service. Right now, Facebook is on top, and somehow paying customers are suffering through the customer service void because Facebook offers very effective targeted advertising, and everybody who has something to sell wants the service. But there’s going to be a bottom. There will come a time when the people with the money choose to spend it elsewhere where they have at least minimal customer service.

So the big question is how long can Facebook continue to ignore paying customers, fail to provide customer service, and use the service like a playground on which the company defies all the rules (from development to privacy to customer service) and bullies everyone who wants to play?

Cross-pollinating with Hashtags on Twitter

Cross-pollinating on Twitter?  What is she talking about now?

I’ve blogged about the joys of Twitter as a tool in non-profit organizations (specifically early childhood education) and mentioned hashtags before, but today, let’s go a little deeper to see how hastags can help unrelated twitterers (or Tweeps) connect through common interests. The Twitter Fan Wiki explains that “Hashtags were developed as a means to create “groupings” on Twitter, without having to change the basic service.”

First, the basics:

What is a hashtag?
Hashtags refer to the practice of placing the “#” symbol prior to a “tag” (or topic category) to indicate that a tweet will be of interest to anyone who is interested in the topic.

Here’s a sample tweet to help illustrate hashtags:

What you see is a tweet with information that would be interesting to anyone who is following the topic #ece (or early childhood education),  #teachers, #education, or #educationcareers.

Hashtags are very helpful because you can easily find information about topics that interest you without wading through lots of tweets that are not interesting to you.

How do you use hashtags?

If you are not already “following” topics, you can easily do so by using the search function on Twitter or your twitter client by entering the search term you want to follow. If a tweet about information that interests you is posted, but you are not online at the time to see it, you can see it whenever you search.  For example, I am interested in #leadership, #nonprofit issues, #fundraising, #socmed (social media), #marketing, early childhood education (#ece, #earlychildhood, #NAEYC, #PreK), #parenting, women’s issues (#women), progressive issues (#p2), and #advocacy, among other topics. So I keep my twitter client (Seesmic) set to search for those hashtags. Whenever I start up Seesmic, I can quickly scan to see what’s been posted.

You will rarely find a tweet from me in which there is not a hastag. I just believe tweeting without hashtags is like shouting into the wind. The only way someone is going to see it is if they happen to be online, or if the organic tweet includes a commonly searched term.

Now onto the cross-pollinating concept:
I use hastags very strategically to allow people who are interested in one topic discover other related topics and communities. For example, I often read information related to leadership from which  managers or people who follow #management might benefit, so I add #leadership #management. I also see tweets with #ece that parents might like, so I retweet with the #parenting and #parents hashtags.  Also, I really want to make sure the ECE community becomes aware of social media and technology resources, so I not only add #ece to my social media tweets, but I also created the hastag #ecetech. (How did I do that? I just started using it in my technology related tweets along with ece, and people started picking it up, and now we have a little group. COOL!)

Hashtags are great for live tweeting or creating chats at specific times. For example, there were a lot of tweets from the NAEYC conference with the #NAEYC_AC hashtag. It was great to stay on top of what was going on.

Hashtags can help you participate in Twitter chats. Let’s say you want to have a conversation about a specific book. You would just post a tweet like:

Hey, Tweeps: #booktitlechat at 8 PM Tuesday, 4/13. #topic #topic #topic

  • #booktitle = the title of the book
  • chat indicates that there is going to be a live Twitter chat
  • #topic= a related group or topic that people might find interesting.

Of course, to make the chat really work, you have to give people a lot of notice and tweet about it a lot…right up until the time you are ready to start. Notice that the various #topic hashtags help cross-pollinate, and  bring various groups of previously unrelated people together. As the chat gets underway, the various Twitterers can find more people with whom they might like to connect, and then follow them.

Does cross-pollination on Twitter make sense now? Add a comment if you have other ideas or if you think I am just plain nuts!

The Top 3 Dirty Little Secrets of Social Media Marketing

Money on social media hype image

You’ve heard it all from passionate presenters and evangelical bloggers…There’s tons of hype about the power of social media.

Let’s get real. Social media  offers a lot of potential for marketing. Companies and nonprofit organizations are experiencing success using social media for marketing, outreach, advocacy and fundraising. Lots of us internet marketers think it’s the best way to engage with and establish relationships with customers and constituents, and perhaps (if we have done a good job) get them to transact with us. BUT…In the heat of the moment when social media passion has taken over, there are (at least) three secrets social media marketing evangelists might fail to mention:

1) Social media marketing is just not right for every business. Face it: If you are marketing niche products or services into a very traditional sector, it just might not make sense.  Using any marketing medium effectively requires putting the message where the target audience is, and where they want to engage with you.

Are farmers really going to make Facebook their first stop for information when they need to buy a tractor? Are they going spend a lot of time engaging in an exchange of ideas information about equipment on social networking sites? (Hold on there, farmers! I know you use social media. Stick with me for a minute!)  I’m just saying social media should not be the primary tool in the marketing mix for some businesses. The fact is, there are better ways to market some products and services. To be effective with any marketing strategy you have to  pick the right mix.   Social media marketing is a powerful tool, but true geeks like me must be strong enough to admit when social doesn’t make sense.

Don’t buy the hype if the person offering the advice  is not thinking specifically about your products or services and your core market.

2) You simply cannot push your message. I know this is not really a secret. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki and lots of other smart social media marketers constantly tell us social networking is about all the things we learned in Kindergarten about making friends.  But if you follow social media it seems like a lot of marketers are treating the medium like advertising, alienating their audiences, and making it obvious that their brands are not really customer-centric.

Social networkers expect two-way or many-to-many conversation and real engagement. That means you must share interesting conversation, establish value, and give your audience a chance to chat. You have listen to them and you must respond, just as you might if you were in their living rooms at a party. Because, indeed, this is SOCIAL (as in the companionship of others) media.

Would you invite people to a dinner party and start pitching the minute they arrived? Even if it was a business-related event, you would have to at least engage in a conversation or two. And if you feigned interest, the other guests would consider you a phony. HELLO! Social networking is where your company will be tagged as relevant and interesting or doomed to be like a narcissistic outcast because the content is just pitch after pitch. Boring. Useless. Irrelevant. Crass. Just like a bad party host.

3) Social networking is not easy and immediate. I’m sure you’ve seen the books and blogs that Get more followers imagepromise dramatic and immediate results from social media in just a few minutes per day.  Those plans use technology and tactics that can automatically build an audience, but the technology cannot deliver the right audience or build meaningful relationships with them. Onceyou’ve found your core audience, engagement with those people must authentic– a real person must respond authentically.  It takes a lot of time and patience to build followers, friends, and fans.  It requires authentic interest in your audience and commitment to sharing.

If you do not have at least 10 hours a week (that’s a .25 FTE)  to spend on social media and no money to hire someone, you probably should not plan to use social media as a primary tool in your marketing strategy. You can set up a presence on a social media site with less of time investment, but you can’t expect significant results.  And, even with someone devoted to social media for a quarter of their time, you should expect it to take at least 6 months to build up meaningful results. And, ROI? Bonus Dirty Little Secret: It’s not your mother’s ROI any more! ROI in social media is gauged differently now… But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned!

So, what? I know it seems like I am a social media Scrooge, but I’m one of the social media-crazy evangelists who sometimes gets so carried away that I forget to offer these important footnotes.  But I do think it is important to know how and when to use the tools that fit the job.  You deserve pragmatic advice.

So, what do you think? Am all wrong? Leave a comment and tell me why!

Social Media? Give it to the Intern! (NOT!)

Today, just for fun, I searched the job listings in online for “social media.” 9 out of 10 of the results were for Interns. I was pretty surprised, and a little bit ticked off.  Do managers think social media is something to relegate to Interns?

WAIT: I am pro-Intern!  As a matter of fact, I routinely hire Interns and have found incredibly talented, insightful, and productive young people who are capable of producing amazing work . But…

There’s a common misconception that just because young people are often use social media to connect with their peers and organize their social lives, they are perfectly suited to take on social media for companies. That’s like asking a 16-year-old licensed driver to drive an 18 wheel tractor-trailer on a highway at rush hour.

The skills needed to devise a well constructed social media plan and execute it every day are more complex than just putting out a few tweets and posts on Facebook. It is true that some Interns do understand how to use social media tools with great depth, but they probably are not:

  • subject matter experts on your organization’s mission, products, and services;
  • aware of the competitive landscape in your field;
  • familiar with the buzzwords and language that are specific to your field;
  • capable of writing well-constructed posts that will cause readers to take action;
  • marketing experts  with understanding of engagement;
  • able to craft the goals for your social media plan and implement them without supervision.

These are critical skills needed for any social media program. You should seek those skills in the professionals you hire to manage your social media.

Don’t get me wrong, Interns are often very talented and are capable of executing the day-to-day basic tactics. But you should not expect to turn over the keys to social media to Interns without careful direction and supervision by a professional with more in-depth understanding of marketing basics and your products and services.

So, rock on, Interns! Direction is the key!

UPDATE: For more information about how to select the right candidate for your organization’s social media program, read:Is the Right Person Doing Your Nonprofit’s Social Media?” on the Wild Apricot Blog

Social Media Newbie Notes: What Does the Internet Reveal About You?

Have you ever “Googled” yourself? Don’t lie, and don’t be embarrassed! Of course you have! Searching for yourself on the internet is not (necessarily) conceited. As a matter of fact, these days it is almost critical that you search for your name online. It is important to follow your digital footprint, and even more important to claim it.  Searching for and claiming your online identity is called Online Identity Management (OIM) or Personal Reputation Management.

In general, it is a good practice to become aware of information about you (or someone else with your name) that is floating around the Internet. You may be surprised to find very obscure information that has been made available about you online. In some cases, you might need to correct inaccuracies (if you can), or be prepared to defend your reputation.

If you don’t find yourself online, you should set up at least one online presence, if for nothing else but to claim your identity. There are hundreds of tools you can use to establish and protect your identity, including these listed by Mashable and CNet. If you decide to take action to protect your identity, be sure to link to them from credible and reliable sources.

Today, my husband asked me why I include my maiden name along with my married name on public documents and online. It had never occurred to him that in the 21st century, because our information is so readily available, middle names and maiden names help people distinguish themselves from others with the same name. Because my name is not very unique. I can easily find hundreds of references to Fran Simon who are clearly not me, and that is only on the first two pages of Google results. That’s why I often use my full name, including my maiden name (Fran Sokol Simon), or my complete initials (FSSimon) online. Think about that when you set up your online presences.

It’s a good idea to monitor your identity as well. Set up a Google Alert to search for your name.  Whenever your name comes up in Google, the system will deliver the results to you by email, so you know what people are saying about you. Here are some examples of Google Alerts I set up about myself:

Google Alert for FSSimon

The following links will provide you with more information about OIM:

Secure A Powerful Online Presence By Claiming Your Online Identity

Claim Your Identity Through Google Profiles

Work Smart: Claiming Your Name on the Web

Nurturing Donors Online is NOT Magic

Have you ever been disappointed with the results you are getting with your online fundraising program because you thought it was going to be so easy? As you began the process, you might have thought you’d put a donation button on your web site, and suddenly the donations would start flowing. That is a common misconception, and it’s one that often sabotages online fundraising. Getting donations online requires some effort, some  creativity, and a few key tools.  Of course, you must have online donation software that actually processes the transaction, but that’s only a fraction of the story. You have to set all of the action into play! You have to ask for donations, remind supporters about your great work, and then ask again. Online fundaising should one tactic in your overall fund development toolkit, and should be combined with other strategies. But, if you are asking for donations through postal mail and events, you may miss opportunities to engage donors on the spot, in the moment that they are considering your well crafted appeal. The immediacy of the connection between an email that links to your donation button offers opportunities to capitalize on the natural need for immediate gratification. There’s a natural cycle involved in engaging donors online. It looks like this:

The Online Fundraising Cycle

The Online Fundraising Cycle

What are the two most basic tools you need to make the online fundraising cycle go around?

  1. You’ve got a great website (check?) (Think carefully about what “great” means!)
  2. You are using well designed, high-impact, regularly delivered email newsletters and email blasts to keep your supporters, donors, and constituents informed (check?)(No? Download The Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide from Network for Good.

If you are missing either of these elements in your online fundraising toolkit, it’s time to get to work! Here’s what you can do to improve your organization’s chances of becoming an online fundraising superhero: Your Website and your DonateNow pages When was the last time you took a look at your site as if it was the first time you visited? Sit down at the computer and pretend you have never been there before.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the site provide information that is compelling, complete, and tells the story of your organization’s work?
  • Does it include a form for visitors to complete if they want to learn more about your organization or subscribe to regular email communication from your organization?
  • Do you ask visitors if they would like to receive an email newsletter?
  • Do you know how to capture those addresses and use them to contact potential supporters?

Take a look at the sites of other similar organizations. How does your site look compared to the “competition?”

  • Is  your site as attractive and does it look as professional as the other sites in your field?
  • Are you proud of your site?
  • Would you be proud of your site if a potential grantmaker visited?

Ask a friend to take a tour while you watch. See how that friend gets around and be prepared to ask questions.

  • Is it easy to find your donation links?
  • Do your DonateNow pages tell your story?
  • Can your friend easily describe your work and tell you why your cause is important and worthy?

How did your site stack up? If it did not meet your expectations, don’t worry! Maintaining a website is an ongoing process.  You should expect to care for your site regularly, and do a significant facelift every 2-5 years.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to make sure you are hitting the most important elements. If you need help, take a look at these resources: Web Sites 101 on Fundraising 123 by Network for Good 10-Point Basic Website Checklist for Nonprofits Is Your Website a Tool for Doing? Your Email Newsletters and Email Announcements If you are not using email to communicate with potential and current donors and supporters, it’s time to think about subscribing to a professional email provider. If you already are using a system, consider the following tips to optimize your results:

  • Make sure to place the email newsletter sign-up form in a very visible place on every page of your website.
  • Be sure to ask for donations and link to your donation page in every issue or announcement.
  • Refresh your email list every time you send an announcement or newsletter with the new addresses that have been entered since the last time.
  • Plan an editorial schedule with topics that your donors and supporters are likely to want to know.
  • Be flexible with your editorial schedule. If an emergency or natural disaster occurs, you will want to include information that is interesting and relevant.
  • Write compelling stories about the impact your organization has had. Make them as personal as possible. Think like a donor….they want to know that their donations have had an impact and made a difference for the cause.

There are literally thousands of e-mail marketing systems. Here is a list of a few of them:

MailChimp

VerticalResponse

ConstantContact

EmailNow (Nonprofit Organizations only)

iContact

A Contradiction in Terms: Why This Child Care Advocate Posts Negative Stories About Child Care

The other day, I posted one of my usual missives about the horrible condition of child care in America on my Facebook page. It was just another day in my life in which I try to get people to wake up and smell the coffee about how far we (advocates, parents, child care providers, policy makers, the media, and everyone else) have to go to improve child care. Soon thereafter, and one of my childhood friends who doesn’t really know what I do for a living responded to the post by saying “It’s terrible! And those parents keep on working and sending their children.” I was horrified and quickly deleted the post.

That post made me wake up and smell the coffee about the implications of the messages I send out! I looked back at my Facebook and Twitter posts, and I realized that I’m not completing the thought! People who don’t know me think I am “anti-child care!” Whhhoooa! I know child care, and when done well, it provides children and parents with many positive outcomes. As a matter of fact, high-quality child care includes developmentally appropriate learning opportunities that make the most of the critical early learning years when brain development is most rapid. As a working mother and a child care professional, I know it is simply a necessary fact of life for most people in our nation. Clearly, I support parents and their need to work.

It’s true that based on the reports produced by  my employer, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, I have come to believe that by and large, child care in America is in a deplorable state due to lack of standards, regulations, oversight, and adequate training. I also know, based on my experience as a parent of a child who has been in child care, as a child care center administrator in a multi-site organization dedicated to high-quality early learning experiences,  and as a curriculum and assessment developer, there are examples of wonderful, well-operated programs throughout the country. Because I do know what high-quality child care looks like from the inside, and as someone with experience at the national level, I am passionate that all children and families have the highest quality care.

Why would someone who works on behalf of child care promote negative stories? It seems counter intuitive that advocates would not want to promote the stories of great examples of child care that works. Here’s why I post about negative stories:

• While there are good examples of family child care and child care programs, they are few and far between. A 2006 study by The National Institute of Child Health and Development rated only 10% of programs throughout the nation as “good.” It’s hard to build interest in change when the results are so small.
• NACCRRA’s studies reveal that parents believe the government is doing its part to protect children in child care, when, in fact, there is an alarming lack of standardization and regulation of child care throughout the country.
• There is a general lack of awareness about child care, and as an advocate and the head of Child Care Aware Parent Network, I need to do my part to raise awareness and educate the public.
• The media, policy-makers, and the general public don’t pay attention to the “feel-good” stories.
• The stories of the tragic results of poor child care provide clear illustrations of what needs to be done to improve quality throughout the nation.

I’ve learned that it is important for me to “complete” the thought when I post, so people who read the posts understand that I am not implying that parents should avoid child care, and most importantly, I do not want to make anyone feel guilty about using it. I also don’t want to perpetuate the chasm that exists between working parents and those who have the luxury of a myriad of choices. As a matter of fact, I am posting in order to encourage people to join me, NACCRRA , and our new Child Care Aware Parent Network to advocate for Federal legislation for better regulation, funding, and oversight of child care through states and the local agencies that are tasked with child care licensing. Learn more about our Policy Agenda , and join us to educate the public and advocate for the world-class child care because 11 million children in child care in America are counting on us.