Eugene Nonprofit #7 – St. Vincent de Paul

Today I will post my final blog entry in my series of profiles on Eugene-Springfield area nonprofits. Throughout this term I have received valuable feedback from local representatives and learned a lot about what makes a social media strategy work. I appreciate all the help I have received and hope that my blog in turn is a useful resource for others!

St. Vincent de Paul own several stores in Eugene and Springfield, including this boutique store on the corner of 6th and High in downtown Eugene.

For my last blog post of the term, I will write about the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, the local affiliate of the national and international Societies of St. Vincent de Paul. Proclaiming to be Lane County’s largest nonprofit human services organization, St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1954 and helps over 84,000 individuals and families every year. They state the following as their mission:

“We assist the poor and those in need of consolation, seeking out and utilizing every resource. Being mindful of the sanctity and dignity of all, any charitable work that advances those goals is within the mission of St. Vincent de Paul.”

To carry out their mission, St. Vincent de Paul works in six areas: affordable housing, emergency services, homeless services, recycling programs, retail thrift stores, and self-sufficiency services.

St. Vincent de Paul uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare. They also maintain a semi-monthly blog, Do Something Nice Every Day, written by Community Relations Director Rebecca Larson about how even small acts of kindness can make the world a better place. Another blog, “Where in the World is Terry McDonald,” is in the works.

While the blog can be found under the “News and Events” menu, only Facebook and Twitter are featured in the top right corner of the website. Typical of other local nonprofits, their Foursquare appears vacated. However, their other three social media websites have all been recently updated. Both Facebook and Twitter are updated on a fairly regular basis, with their posts on both websites often sharing the same content.

What is interesting about St. Vincent de Paul is that while they do post some promotional material, they also like to publicize inspirational stories, often ones about the people they help. One interesting example is the following tweet/post, which received 21 likes on Facebook:

A family was getting by on $167 a month in unemployment. They came to us with a shut-off notice for their utilities. We paid the $400 bill.

The nonprofit also uses both platforms to engage in two-way communication with their consumers. Last Friday as of this writing, for example, they responded to a question from eBayGreen and tammera111 about recycling mattresses by tweeting a CNN video.

Their ZMOT shows a moderate focus on their mission and the good they do for the community. A Google search for St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County produced the following results:

Many of these listings show a positive reception to St. Vincent de Paul, with only small negative reviews that are typically outnumbered. Likewise, this ZMOT shows a strong focus on the organization itself. However, the appearance of only a couple links explicitly outlining the work they do is a bit troubling. To be fair, this depends on coverage from outside media. Still, their emphasis on the difference they make directly on others is a unique asset the nonprofit could use to its advantage.

The trick for St. Vincent de Paul is to translate these stories into independent news coverage such as the KEZI story to generate positive coverage of the organization and maintain customers. Of course I am hardly an expert at this, so I unfortunately offer no solutions. Overall, though, St. Vincent de Paul maintains an original, vibrant social media approach that can attract and maintain customers and donors.

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Final Winter Term Best of Links – Prompt Response

Photo courtesy of Mashable.

In my final prompt response for the term, I take on the case for Twitter, and why it may serve as a valuable component of even the most basic social media strategy for Eugene-Springfield nonprofits. In past blog entries people have asked me about why they should use Twitter. Admittedly this is an important question. Most social media websites are worthless for most nonprofits, who have a strong incentive to only use what will add value to their organization. To some people, Twitter is only a platform for celebrities to spout off insensitive, crazy (and sometimes unexpected), and generally not very well thought out opinions.

To be honest, I myself have only recently tapped into the potential of Twitter. But yes, it’s there. Currently Twitter is growing more than twice as fast as Facebook, and is estimated to double in size by 2014EMarketer claims that Facebook grew 13.6% in 2011, which comes after a 38.6% surge in 2010. By contrast, Twitter grew 31.9%, which comes after a 23.5% jump in 2010.

Why is it that Facebook is plateauing while Twitter soars above the competition? Part of it is simply that Facebook has less growing room than Twitter. Out of a total U.S. population of about 308 million (as of 2011), Facebook claimed nearly 133 million users, while Twitter claims 24 million. Even if Twitter doubles by 2014 it will still have only a third of Facebook’s current domestic audience share.

Globally, Facebook is also much larger, and still has room for expansion. While Facebook is expected to reach a billion users, Twitter’s international audience recently hit the 200 million mark. However, both websites can expect to make huge gains internationally. In Brazil, for example, Facebook grew by 192 percent, and Twitter by 40 percent. Both way outgrew Orkut, whose greatest popularity is in Brazil.

Another reason that could explain Twitter’s rapid growth is the ease with which users can share links and other information to their subscribers. While Facebook also allows this type of sharing, it is arguably more cluttered there, since these links must compete with mundane status updates, photo albums, and sidebar ads for attention. Twitter, by comparison, is less crowded, although your message still has to compete with millions of others for attention.

In any case, both are invaluable to an effective social media strategy, and are the only two websites I can comfortably recommend to any inquisitive nonprofit. They will not make your nonprofit, but they are important tools for communicating your message to target audiences.

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Eugene Nonprofit #6 – McKenzie River Trust

Part of the office building where McKenzie River Trust is located.

In my J440 class last term I worked on a media kit for McKenzie River Trust. If it isn’t available right now, I will include it as part of my resume in the future. Founded in 1989, the McKenzie River Trust was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1990. They now conserve and protect nearly 3,300 acres of land in Oregon’s Lane and Douglas counties. To do this, they either buy land off willing owners, or they protect it via conservation easements. The organization envisions “a future in which intact, functioning ecosystems provide clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and productive natural landscapes throughout western Oregon.” Three of their goals are to protect special lands, restore natural systems, and connect people to places they care about.

Of all the local nonprofits profiled so far in this blog, the McKenzie River Trust by far maintains the most simplistic approach to social media. While they use Facebook and YouTube, they only advertise their Facebook page on the bottom right corner of their homepage. Interestingly enough, they are also the only nonprofit not to have a Twitter account. Given the number of people who use it and the opportunity to share important information, this seems like a lost opportunity, even through the perspective of minimalist social media.

Also, the frequency with which they update their Facebook page is sporadic. Some days, such as last Friday as of this writing, they post multiple times within the day. Other days they post only once. Sometimes they post nothing. Usually the gap between posts will be no longer than a few days, however.

What they may lack in consistency, though, they make up for in their two-way communication. Last Friday, for example, they posted – among other links – a KLCC article about the McKenzie River Trust purchasing the Coyote Spencer Wetland area located five miles southwest of Eugene. One fan, a student at the University of Oregon, left the following comment:

Sweet! Looking forward to a tour this Sunday ^_^

The McKenzie River Trust responded in a little under an hour, with their response receiving a like:

Hi [name omitted]! You must be in the UO Wetlands class. Ryan says he’s looking forward to meeting you on the field trip this weekend.

Their willingness to engage with their audience is a positive development in the McKenzie River Trust’s social media plan. Unfortunately, this only works when they’re providing information on a regular, consistent basis. Even if they change nothing about the frequency of their posts, their message would be reenforced by the introduction of a Twitter account. However, I would caution against the introduction of other mediums, as the McKenzie River Trust may benefit from a more simplistic approach.

Their ZMOT broadly reflects the focus on the nonprofit’s mission of protection wildlife. A Google search for the McKenzie River Trust produced the following results:

What’s good about their ZMOT is that it means that McKenzie River Trust are able to maintain focus on their organization. Not a single one of these links has anything to do with anything but the organization. Of course, only a couple links are stories that actually show what the nonprofit does, and many of them are listings on other websites. This limits the organization’s exposure to its potential audience.

People cannot have a positive or a negative image of an organization they have never heard of and understand little about. To correct this, the McKenzie River Trust should consider expanding their social media plan – probably no more than a Twitter account – and continuously engage their audience. They have a good message and do good at what they already go. They simply need to do more of it.

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Late Linky Love – Prompt Response

This week’s prompt response is particularly relevant to Eugene-Springfield area nonprofits. Though these responses are part of my J452 assignment, I feel today’s is important for nonprofits reading this as well, because my blog has continually emphasized the centrality of an effective, simple, and rigorous social media approach.

A growing number of nonprofits are using Pinterest as part of their social media strategy. These include the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Amnesty International USA, AARP, the Georgia Wildlife Federation, and nonprofit marketing consultant Joe Waters.

Currently none of these Pinterest profiles have a large audience. The biggest of the ones mentioned is Amnesty International, with nearly 2,000 followers. However, with over four million users, Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media sites, so it definitely has potential.

What makes Pinterest so appealing to a growing number of nonprofits? The answer lies in its simplicity and the ability to express what it is your nonprofit is about:

The simple social network is attracting nonprofits that want to share images, inspiration, and ideas. While many nonprofits have attracted little more than a modest following on Pinterest, they like the network because it is especially easy to use.

“It’s not one of those things like Facebook where you have so many layers to it and there are so many things you can do,” says Joe Waters, a nonprofit marketing consultant who is active on Pinterest. “It’s a virtual pinboard. It’s not that complicated.”

Although these are powerful advantages, I am hesitant to recommend Pinterest to all – or even any – local nonprofits. Understanding the demographics that drive Pinterest’s growth is critical to deciding whether or not to integrate it into your social media plan. Ignite Social Media provide such demographic information.

First and foremost, if your plan is to target men, forget Pinterest. 80 percent of Pinterest’s user are female. 56 percent of Pinterest user are between the ages of 25 and 44, and 69 percent make between $25,000 and $75,000 a year. Although 60 percent have some college experience, only 25 percent have a bachelors degree or higher.

Based on this information, Pinterest targets a highly specific audience and is definitely not recommended as part of a general social media plan to accompany Facebook and Twitter. However, if your plan is to reach out to middle-aged, middle class, moderately educated females, then by all means use Pinterest.

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Eugene Nonprofit #5 – HIV Alliance

HIV Alliance's location off Garden Avenue, near Wendy's and across from Hirons.

To clarify any conflicts of interest here, my cousin is the Prevention Outreach Coordinator for HIV Alliance, the subject for today’s blog. This nonprofit states their mission as “[s]upporting individuals living with HIV/AIDS and preventing new HIV infections.” However, HIV Alliance is unique in including a vision statement, stating they “will be an international model for effective and efficient HIV prevention, advocacy, care and education.” They further clarify what they mean by their vision statement, addressing such concerns as the lack of resources to address HIV/AIDS, the severity of the disease, and the current socio-political climate impeding action.

HIV Alliance has roots that date back to 1985, when Shanti in Oregon first organized volunteers to help HIV/AIDS victims and their families with both emotional support and health care. The modern organization was founded in 1994 by a merger between HIV/AIDS Resources and Lane County AIDS Hospice Services. Today they provide HIV case management in six Oregon counties, dental care in 18 counties, and prevention and education programs in the Eugene-Springfield area.

Unlike other local nonprofits, HIV Alliance doesn’t post links to their social media websites (although they do post their Twitter feed in the bottom left corner of their homepage). Although they do have FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn pages, their social media engagement is relatively minimal compared to other local nonprofits. Neither are maintained on a daily basis, although sometimes multiple posts are made in a day. They made their latest Facebook today about the link between African American women and HIV/AIDS. Twitter is even less frequently updated, with the last tweet made on February 21 about Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UN AIDS.

HIV Alliance have an important message and an ambitious, international vision that needs to be heard. However, without correctly implementing social media – especially Facebook and Twitter – they risk their message drowning in the sea of information. While more social media channels is not necessarily important, and they do feature a lot of events, frequently communicating with their audience is especially important in a world where the government is hostile to their cause.

Their ZMOT demonstrates a relatively strong, clear focus on their organization and its mission. A Google search for HIV Alliance produced the following results:

Aside from the links to the Iowa and international groups – probably an accident due to the similar names – HIV Alliance’s ZMOT demonstrates focus on the nonprofit, their mission and their work in the community. Even the accidental links are an interesting connection. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance in particular feeds into their vision of being an international model.

However, if anything impedes HIV Alliance’s mission, it would have to be their aforementioned lack of social media engagement. While their simplification of it can be used to their advantage by the lack of clutter, it is important for them to inform their followers with information about their organization and the HIV/AIDS cause on a regular, consistent basis. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter offers HIV Alliance the best opportunity for them to engage in the two-way communication that is critical to sustaining their mission. In other words, use it or lose it.

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Week 7 Best of Links – Prompt Response

Working outside is not one of the tips to increasing productivity. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Today I return to practical advice that local nonprofits can apply to their public relations practices. My J452 professor shared with me a helpful link on how to maximize your social media use. The information in the link is especially applicable to Facebook and Twitter, the two most frequently used social media websites among both the nonprofits I’ve blogged about and the general population.

First, they recommend prioritizing your work week to avoid distractions. According to Reuters, “[t]he average information worker…loses 2.1 hours of productivity every day to interruptions and distractions…” If that seems remarkably high, I’ve sometimes lost even more hours to Facebook and YouTube that I could’ve spent studying. Planning what to do during your work period can definitely be a lifesaver!

Their next tip is a little weirder. While it is definitely important to figure out what time of day you’re most productive (for me it’s usually at night), they also link to an interesting infograph that discusses the best times to post on Facebook and Twitter. Here are a few of their tips (they have an interesting methodology):

  • The best time to tweet is 5PM ET
  • 1 to 4 tweets per hour is ideal
  • The best days to tweet are midweek and on the weekends
  • The best day to share on Facebook is Saturday
  • The best time to share on Facebook is Noon ET

They also discourage multi-tasking, which is definitely a good idea. Multiple sources have effectively argued that multi-tasking is a myth. When you use social media, avoid e-mail, instant messaging, multiple windows/tabs (guilty as charged), and other distractions that keep you from doing one thing well – social media.

Finally, they provide a list of internet tools to maximize your time dedicated to social media. They organize this based on three categories: “curation tools to quickly gather and share content;” “social aggregators and management tools to follow and engage on multiple platforms;” and “social bookmarks to effectively organize and store websites.” For the latter category, I want to note that StumbleUpon and Reddit are extremely popular among my peers. Delicious is a website my J452 professor uses.

To comment on trends I’ve already noticed in local nonprofits, I also feel it’s important to focus your efforts in a couple of social media tools that work best for your organization. Almost everybody uses Facebook and Twitter, and these are by far the most important assets for any organization’s social media use. Whatever else you use depends on the needs of your nonprofit, but use sparingly.

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Eugene Nonprofit #4 – Greenhill Humane Society

Everyone likes animals. This is Charlie, my golden retriever.

Greenhill Humane Society, the subject of today’s blog, is a private, 501c(3) non-profit animal shelter. Funded entirely by charitable donations and service fees, their mission statement is to “provide safe shelter for animals in transition, serve as advocates for animals and their people, work to end animal overpopulation and educate the public about compassion and responsibility towards all animals.” Programs provided include adoption services, education, domestic violence assistance, senior assistance, on-site volunteer opportunities, and foster care. They appear to operate independently of other state, federal, and international level organizations.

Greenhill uses Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and YouTube for its social media. Of these, only Facebook and Twitter are featured on the webpage, on the left sidebar. However, Greenhill updates both pages on a nearly daily basis, often with multiple postings in a day. Their last post on both pages links to The Animal Rescue Site, where people can vote for their favorite animal rescue organization in their state to win a grant worth up to $5,000. 13 people liked their Facebook post, with three comments confirming votes.

While the positive reception of their messages is good, what’s more important is their engagement with their fans. For example, one of their Facebook fans wrote on their wall last Thursday:

I tried stopping by today but you were closed 😦 I bought a bag of cat food and a few cans of wet food along with a kitty house for the cats. I’ll see if I can stop by tomorrow!

Greenhill took less than three hours to respond:

Thank you Ashley! There’s a donation bin outside the front door for days that we’re closed.

On top of that, they also “liked” a link posted on their Facebook page by one of their fans. This constant interaction with their audience and willingness to accept and respond to criticism shows a willingness to engage in two-way communication. Because of this, they secure an already loyal following attracted to their mission of rescuing animals.

A little more puzzling, however, is their Foursquare and YouTube usage. Neither appear to have been updated this year. The last tip left on their Foursquare occurred on April 3, 2011, while they uploaded their latest YouTube video on December 23 that same year. Since their webpage features neither website, this is probably worth discarding as social media attempts that failed to deliver the same results as Facebook or Twitter.

Perhaps it is their recognition of what social media websites work that helps contribute to their strong ZMOT. A Google search for Greenhill produced the following results:

Also worth noting are links to reviews found on the right sidebar from Yahoo!, Insider Pages, and GreatNonprofits. Despite relatively mediocre reviews from Yahoo! and Insider Pages – notably, each only features a handful of reviews – on GreatNonprofits Greenhill is distinguished as a Top-Rated nonprofit for 2010. They also enjoy an average rating of 4.5 out of 31 reviews. Pages advertised as “similar to http://www.green-hill.org” include the Oregon Humane Society, S.A.R.A.’s Treasures, Heartland Humane Society in Corvallis, and Willamette Humane Society in Salem.

With such a strong ZMOT, Greenhill is able to effectively communicate its message to its audience and maintain a positive image of itself. In fact, this positive image is so strong that it help Greenhill maintain its reputation in the face of criticism. For example, while the most recent Google review gives the organization a rating of 1 out of 5, only 2 out of 4 people found the review helpful.

By engaging with their target audiences through social media and channeling their message, Greenhill maintains a large following that helps them carry out their mission of giving all animals a home. Their work pays off in their winning second place in Best Nonprofit, losing out only to FOOD for Lane County. If there is room for improvement, it probably lies in their eliminating social media they don’t use, such as Foursquare.

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