Not for Profits and Building Digital Campaigns Part 1

September 2, 2011

Picture of Cables

With social and digital media becoming a powerful way to connect, it’s no wonder many Not for Profit (NFP), community and Non Government Organisations (NGO) are looking to use these tools for raising profile, engagement and campaigning.  I’ve been fortunate to work with several NFP and NGO organisations in Brisbane and below are some reflections about process and resources for developing digital and social media campaign ideas. This is Part 1 of a three part post. Part 2 is more specifically about some campaign ideas and Part 3  looks at launching a campaign (both still to come).

Know Who Your Organisation Is

To be able to design and implement a campaign that is going to build profile and develop community engagement- it’s important to know that Not For Profit’s, community and Non Government Organisations function and are governed very differently to commercial businesses. These organisations are not necessarily only driven by commercial goals, but also by other core objectives such as social justice, art, education, community, public health and so on. Make yourself familiar with the organisation’s core goals, objectives and mission statement. Research how they are governed, how decisions get made and what makes them tick.

  1. Funding – where do they get their money from? Is it purely government funding, philanthropic, self-generated, fee for service or a combination?
  2. Objectives  – what are the goals and core values that underpin the organisation?
  3. Services – what services do they provide and how do they deliver them?

All of these aspects will help you to design a campaign that adds real value to the organisation. It will help you target the right areas and also philosophically be more aligned with how the organisation wants to be seen and presented in its field. For example, I have recently starting working with Isis – The Eating Issues Centre, which provides one on one and group counselling and referral services to people with eating disorders and eating issues.  They also provide other services including training, workshop and advocacy around size acceptance and messages for positive body image.  Some of Isis’s core values are empowerment and engagement. These frameworks define their business so I had to keep these central to the execution of any campaign.

Be Strategic

To be streamline and effective with a campaign, it’s important to be strategic. There are so many online, digital and social media tools, at times it can be overwhelming. Before you consider jumping on and generating a profile with Twitter, Facebook, Google +, WordPress, Blogger and so on, clarify a couple of things first. Look at what is trying to be achieved in order to work out how you’re going to use the tools that are available. This will also help you determine which tools to use – as not all of them will be suitable and will merely dilute your campaign strategy. For example, in the context of Isis, two target areas were identified as underpinning any digital campaign.

  1. Community Engagement  – raising awareness of the organisation’s objectives and services, while finding ways to engage the public and community to help raise awareness around eating issues, positive body image messages and recovery. This area also extended to people in the community who were Isis service users. There was an overwhelming desire for people who had benefited from Isis’s services to ‘give back’ to the organisation, and a digital campaign was one way to harness this energy.
  2. Sector Engagement  – raising awareness within the specific sector about the projects and achievement of Isis and to gain support from key sector organisations (more funding possibilities, networks and profile raising).

These target areas helped to define the strategy around the campaign – and began conversations about specific campaign themes and ideas.

Generating Ideas  – Consultation is the Key

So the fun part begins– creating ideas for campaigns. You can of course propose ideas for specific campaigns yourself but another really powerful way to generate ideas is to involve the people who have contact with the organisation or it’s particular sector. Consult with some or all of these people to generate ideas, feedback and insights. These people could be staff, funding bodies or the people who access your organisation’s services. In the context of Isis, I met with a group who were a combination of staff, volunteers and people who had accessed the service for counselling and support. This was a really powerful way to generate ideas around specific campaigns and defining which online tools were most appropriate. Group process is really important if you want to get the most out of the group. Set the tone of the session first, present a brief overview of what you are doing and why. To generate specific ideas present 2 or 3 stimulus questions. It could be around a theme that is currently being worked on with the organisation or just general questions to start the ball rolling. Example questions I used were:

  1. How would you like to see the web site, or other tools like Facebook, blogging, Vimeo or twitter used (to achieve community and sector engagement)?
  2. How can you contribute your skills (maybe you like to write, photograph, design, make videos, research, co-ordinate people, manage facebook/twitter etc)?
  3. Are there any skills that you could learn through a digital strategy (video making, photography, blog writing, more social media skills)?

As mentioned earlier, engagement and empowerment are important aspects to the organisation. Therefore I ensured that there were avenues for people to imagine themselves both contributing and learning. It was also a really great way to ask people to put themselves in the picture – this really helped to generate some powerful campaign ideas.

Capturing Ideas

This is where it gets really exciting, ideas start to fly and you want to make sure that you capture everything so you can structure it later on. Some really useful tools are

  1. Pen & Paper – yep, good old-fashioned pen and paper is still very useful particularly if you split your group up. Make sure someone in each group is the designated scribe.
  2. Mind Mapping – at this stage things don’t have to be linear or structured so mind mapping is a great way to just get the ideas down. I use MindNode (free mac app which works on iPad too). There are PC options too so try  FreeMind or  MindApp.
  3. Video – great way to capture the whole session – but make sure you get explicit consent first, and  be very clear about what the video is being used for. Is it just for documentation purposes or will parts of it be broadcast or screened?
  4. Voice Recording – use your Android, iPhone or smartphone to record the session, ideas or responses to the questions. You can then take the important points and transcribe them to a document or report later.

Wrap Up

So you’ve walked away with either some fully-fledged campaign ideas or perhaps just the beginning of some. So where to now? Go away and collate everything, let is sit for a while and then structure the key points.

  1. Organise Thoughts and Ideas – get everything down in one place, again you can use the Mind Mapping apps mentioned in the previous section to structure everything.
  2. Report Back  – send a summary of what was discussed to your key contacts it the organisation and integrate any last minute feedback
  3. Planning – ascertain what resources are needed, the time it will take and the expertise needed to implement and develop a timeframe around this

Once this has been done – you can begin realising the ideas and hopefully make them into a tangible and exciting new digital campaign! This is Part 1 of a three part article. Part 2 will discuss specific campaign ideas and Part 3 will be about how to launch your campaign. Part 2 & 3 coming soon – follow me on Twitter  or LinkedIn to get the next post updates.

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