Monday, July 23, 2012

Survey says non-profit social media has improved from “Tediously Dull” to “Slightly Boring”

A new, massive year-long survey of the US non-profit sector has found significant improvements in social media content. The study, by the Snidely Center for Social Media Studies, says most charity social media is now “slightly boring” – a clear improvement from last year’s survey, which found most social media was “tediously dull”.

“We’re seeing the non-profit sector make steady improvements in social media content,” said lead researcher Dibble Brewer. “Last year, most charity social media was about as exciting as watching paint dry. This year, it’s like watching a TV documentary on the history of paint drying – perhaps one narrated by a famous actor. There’s a marked progression. It’s very hopeful.”

The study surveyed more than 4,000 US charities about their social media use. More than seventy percent were using Facebook and just under half were using Twitter. Twenty percent didn’t know what social media was and had to be given a written description, and in some cases a five hour tutorial.

The content from all the charity social media was then fed into a super-computer which analyzed its content. Teams of test subjects were then shown selected samples of the social media content. For the more dangerously dull examples, the social media was displayed to monkeys in laboratory controlled settings. The research was not without risk. One test subject went into a one-week coma after being exposed to hospital foundation social media and two test monkeys died. All the research was collated and then plotted on a ten-point scale, where 0 was brain-numbing boring and 10 was very interesting.

“While there is a wide variety of social media out there we were able to determine from our research that the vast majority of US charities have very boring social media. The sector as a whole rated a 2 this year. Last year they were a 1,”said Brewer.

The study theorizes that social media use by the sector has been so bad in the last few years that even charity leaders themselves knew they had to do something to improve.

“We’ve seen a lot of soul searching in the sector. They know their social media sucks, but it’s hard to change,” explained Brewer. “There are many barriers holding them back. They don’t have the time and resources to spend on developing their social media. They don’t have skills to create great content. And, worse of all, they are all very dull and boring people themselves.”

“Overall, we’ve seen great improvements. Charities are beginning to really develop solid content for their social media instead of just putting up stories of what funny thing their cat did yesterday at breakfast. We’ve noticed that they have started to actually think that maybe their stakeholders have interests outside being simply stakeholders of their organization. Now, if only they could find something that was so terribly boring, I think they’d be all set.”

The study recommends that charities try stop using Facebook posts that start with “We’re having another event…” or “Gee, has it been a year since we posted last?”. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Charity can’t understand its own tweets

No one at Metro’s largest charity can understand their own Twitter feed. The staff and volunteers at the Metro Community Foundation Trust say they find the tweets very complicated and difficult to read.

After trying to avoid using social media for years, the Trust final tasked communications officer Barb Smiley with the job of starting a Twitter page, as well as a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. The new social media worked well for several months until Barb started using more complicated Tweets aimed at the Trust’s 40,000 donors.

“Barb is a wonderful person. She’s been working very hard trying to understand all this social media stuff, and that’s great. But now, I can’t understand her,” said Dibble Brewer, CEO of the Trust.

Last week, Barb issued a Tweet from the Trust’s Twitter account called “MCFT Attwicted”. In it, Barb wrote “ICNBI, #MCFT is Attwicted to #Twitter #Fundraising.”

The week before, Barb wrote a Tweet that said “#MCFT is an artwt, not #Splatter.”

Other times, the Tweets feature strange URLs that look like a collision of letters and symbols. In fact, the Tweet feed at the Trust’s website has so many “#’s”, “@’s” and micro-URLs links that many of the charity’s older donors have complained that they are using “profanity”.

Brewer was initially supportive of Barb’s efforts, but began to question the Tweets when people would ask her about them.

“I have no idea what ‘IMHO, #MCFT’s gala dinner was the #Best’ means. Members of the Board wanted to know what it meant, and I couldn’t tell them. I think it means something positive, but for all I know, it might in fact be telling our donors to go eat horse poop,” Brewer recalled.

Things got worse when Barb began to include Twitter-talk in emails and memos. Staff complained. Many thought that Barb was trying to “show off”. One thought she might have had a stroke while typing on her keyboard and was trying to call for help. This prompted a frantic office-wide search for Barb, who was out at lunch at the nearby Internet cafĂ©. Police and fire fighters were waiting when she returned.

Brewer says unless Barb can start using plain English in her Tweets she may have to pull the plug on the whole social media thing, which she says is a “passing fad anyways”, “like yoyos”.

“I never should have agreed to let Barb start using social media. It’s turned her into another person,” said Brewer. “I don’t understand social media. I just want her to go back to writing press releases that no one ever reads.”

When told about the problems that the Twitter account was causing, Barb expressed shock and dismay.

“LMFAO, DYK #MCFT could be such a whoot?” she said in an email to all staff members. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Eurozone turns to Metro fundraiser to raise $200 billion

Naming Opportunity

The European Union has hired local hospital fundraiser Dennis Snidely to raise the billions of dollars needed to keep its banking system afloat and to bail-out the economies of Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland.

Snidely, who headed up the $10 million Metro Hospital capital campaign last year, will be in charge of raising $200 billion dollars over the next two years. Snidely will lead a team of three people – an assistant, someone to work the database and a part-time proposal writer. They have set up their new office in a rundown strip mall on Rideau Street.

“I’m really very honoured that all of Europe has asked me to raise what amounts to be $270 million a day for the next two years,” said Snidely. “I’m really up for this challenge. I’ve got a wicked giving pyramid going already.”

The new campaign, to be called “Save Europe, Please”, will focus on asking people across Metro to give their entire life savings and the future incomes of their children to help Europe’s banks from collapsing and its governments from running out of money. The fundraising plan was announced in Brussels last week after several Eurozone countries refused to introduce austerity measures aimed at bringing their finances into line. The European leaders instead opted to go with a massive American-style fundraising campaign.

“We did a Google search on US hospital fundraising campaigns and found out how easy it was for Metro’s hospitals to raise $10 million,” said European Commission spokesperson Francois Tetedulard. “We read all about Dennis and how he had single-handedly raised all this money. So, we hired him. Now, all our financial troubles are over.”

The European Commission said they were most impressed that Snidely had a CFRE designation and that he had introduced many new fundraising techniques such as a woman’s giving circle, a group of young community leaders and made “not bad” planned giving video.

The campaign will rely on a combination of major gifts from individuals, annual direct mail appeals to donors across Metro and a planned giving initiative that will ask people to leave their entire estate to the campaign after they pass on.

“We’re looking for ten signature gifts of $10 billion to start the quiet phase. For that, the donors will get a special plaque at the Eurozone headquarters in Brussels, a luncheon with the head of state of a leading European country and a tour of the European Central Bank,” said Snidely.

Snidely: Asking for Europe
The campaign is also planning a number of high profile naming opportunities. For $12 billion, a donor may be able to place their name on several European countries that are financial basket cases, such as Greece. For those who want something more subtle, the campaign is offering to put the donor’s picture on the Euro currency for only $1 billion.

A number of events are also planned. A gala dinner is being planned for next month, featuring European cuisine and a silent auction. A golf tournament is planned for the later summer.

Snidely is already on the street making appointments with local high-profile donors in Metro.

“This will all boil down to relationships. You just can’t walk in and ask someone for $10 billion to help Europe. You’ve got to engage them first and get them interested. Then, when they’re ready, that’s when you ask them for the equivalent of the GDP of a small country. It’s a process.”

The campaign already has a Facebook page with 14 “likes” and plans to make really lousy YouTube videos that no one will watch.

The campaign has already raised $4,000 in its first week, mostly from the internal campaign aimed at campaign staff. Snidely admits that is a lot lower than he hoped but he’s optimistic that soon they’ll be able to raise much, much more. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Police turn to fundraisers to help in hostage negotiations

Police across North America are beginning to use experienced fundraisers to help defuse violent standoffs. The US Chiefs of Police Association says seasoned major gift officers are beginning to replace traditional hostage negotiators in police forces around the country.

“Police forces are beginning to realize that there’s only one kind of person that can defuse a tense hostage situation and that’s someone who could charm a tail right off a beaver. That’s why we’re turning to fundraisers,” said Chief Dibble Brewer, chairman of the Association, and head of the police force in Turpentine, Texas.

Brewer says they started recruiting fundraisers for their hostage negotiations unit two years ago after an incident at a local liquor store in which a gang of three robbers took ten people hostage, one of them the head of fundraising at the local hospital. The hostage negotiator brought in to end the standoff failed to find a solution. Police were about to assault the building when the fundraiser inside managed to charm the thugs into surrendering peacefully. He also secured planned gifts for two of them and the other made a donation to the hospital of $150.00 and a sawed-off shotgun and shells.

“That’s when we knew that fundraisers were the way to go. We needed those kinds of weapons in our arsenal,” said Brewer.

Initial attempts to send police officers to fundraising school to learn how to make major gift solicitations didn’t work. The officers were only able to raise a small amount of money from hostage-takers and research showed that many of them did not renew their pledges.

Brewer started recruiting successful fundraisers from local charities instead. The force gave them police training, bullet-proof vests, brochures and a new fundraising database. The new hostage negotiation team began work a year ago and has been wildly successful. It was able to end more than 13 hostage situations without violence and raise $500,000 for the force’s benevolent fund and local charities.

Six months ago, a gang of terrorists raided an Army base outside of town to try and steal chemical weapons. The raid went badly, and the terrorists took hostages at the base’s donut shop. Things looked bleak until the new fundraisers came on the scene. Within two hours, the terrorists had surrendered without a shot being fired, had told police where their hideout was and had pledged more than $15,000 to a children’s charity that helps unite sick kids with stray dogs and cats that need a home.

“Those guys were amazing. They started out saying they wanted to come visit the terrorists inside the donut shop just to talk about their fundraising campaign, and not to ask them for a donation. Then they started talking. We fed them information on the terrorists, such as their families, the name of their dogs and kids and their giving history. Next thing you know, these scum were signing the pledge sheets and handing over their weapons of mass destruction,” recalled Brewer.

Other police forces were quick to follow suit. There are now at least two dozen fundraiser-based hostage negotiation teams in police forces in the US and Canada. The largest is in New York City, where a team of 12 major gift officers, two planned gift officers and three database experts work. The NYC team has so far had a perfect record in ending hostage situations peacefully and has raised more money than small universities in the New York area.

“Getting criminals to stop killing people, taking hostages and blowing stuff up and instead, make a donation to a worthy charity. That’s what philanthropy is all about,” said Brewer. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Scientists discover “God particle” that explains philanthropy

The Snidely Bosom

Scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, say they have made a major breakthrough in the understanding of both physics and philanthropy. The team says it has discovered a particle that appears to be consistent with the Snidely Bosom, the so-called “God particle” that explains how philanthropy works at the subatomic level.  

Two independent research teams, working with CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, came to the same conclusion after months of study.

“The new particle we observed has all the trappings of the Snidely Bosom – the theoretical particle that explains everything about philanthropy and some other stuff about mass, gravity and whatnot,” said Dr. Dibble Brewer, Chief Scientist for CERN’s research team. “We still have much work to do, but I think we’ve made a major breakthrough. So much so, that I have no problem asking for a better parking space now.”

Researchers used matter taken from living philanthropists and placed it in the LHC, which runs through a tunnel 27 kilometres (17 miles) in circumference 175 metres (574 feet) beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. The matter, mostly made up of skin samples from Ivey League donors, was then blasted through the LHC to collide with protons from donation forms at the other end of the tunnel at a speed of 2.76 TeV per nucleon.

After admiring the colourful “splat” pattern the experiment created they then measured the weight of the resulting subatomic particle. The CERN team found a "bump" in their data corresponding to a particle weighing in at 125.3 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) - about 133 times heavier than the proton at the heart of every atom.

“It was so tiny, we used a toy measuring scale from an old Barbie set – the one where she wanted to be a nuclear physicist and have Ken stay home and look after the kids. But it worked!” said Brewer.

The Snidely Bosom was created by super-fundraiser Sid Snidely in the 1970s at the University of Southern North Dakota’s foundation. Snidely argued that fundraising could not be explained by current theories of physics. He theorized that a subatomic particle which he called “Bob” likely held the key to the understanding of the forces of the universe, such as gravity, mass, planned giving and social media.

“The Snidely Bosom will give us the answers we have been looking for, such as why people give, how they can give again and what kind of cola they prefer,” Snidely wrote just before he was downsized by the University and replaced with a 27-year old fundraiser who made twice as less.

CERN Scientists say the existence of the Snidely Bosom will radically change philanthropy. They predict that fundraisers will be able to create capital campaigns that are thousands of times more powerful than any existing today.

“In the very near future, fundraisers will be able to use a simple scanning device to see who will give and who will not. And when people give, fundraisers will have the ability to use subatomic physics to make them give at any level. And they will also be able to make donors stop asking for their tax receipts early and complaining about other annoying stuff,” said Brewer.

On hand for the announcement, Snidely told the media and fellow scientists that he was overjoyed to be the center of attention again and plans to become a motivational speaker.



Monday, July 2, 2012

Charity creates committee to find out why nothing ever gets done in committee meetings

Metro’s largest charity is hoping to make itself significantly more efficient by creating a new committee to find out why nothing ever gets done at any committee meetings.

The Snidely Cancer Foundation of Metro has a staff of 45 people, more than 200 volunteers and has annual fundraising revenues of more than $37 million, but managers and board members say that they can’t seem to get anything done at their more than 227.5 existing standing and special committees.

The Foundation has a finance committee, a marketing committee, a fundraising committee and an annual fund committee. But it also has a committee for its website, staff relations, human resources, social media, donors whose last name starts with the letter “C”, environmental sustainability, capital purchases of appliances for the staff lunch room, community relations, Elvis impersonators, publications, staff parties and board retreats. Some of the more esoteric committees include one on the musical contribution of Burt Bacharach and another on the role of clowns in planned giving. Altogether, staff, board members and volunteers spend three million hours each year in committee meetings.

“We realized we have some sort of process issue here. We have lots of committees in place, most of whom do outstanding work. But we never seem to be able to get things done. It’s a mystery,” says board chair Dibble Brewer.

The issue came to a head when a board meeting had to be extended from three hours to three days to accommodate all the annual reports from the various board, staff, volunteer and community committees. One board member had to be hospitalized for dehydration after the boardroom’s water pitchers ran out the first day.

After a short discussion, the board agreed with a staff suggestion to strike a new committee to investigate why all the other committees don’t work.

“We knew what the problem was, but we couldn’t think of an answer until our CEO said we should form another committee to deal with it,” said Brewer. “It was brilliant.”

The new committee’s mandate is to poll each of the other committees and search for solutions to the Foundation’s process issue. Made up of 67 staff, board members and volunteers, the committee is made up of seven sub-committees that will deal with specific issues, such as recruitment, process, finance, human resources and what the main committee will have for lunches when it has to meet at noon. Its mandate calls for the new committee to report back to the board in seven months.

“I think we really have this problem licked this time,” said Brewer. “Our days of being stuck in committee are over.”

The board plans to form a new committee to implement the process report on the Foundation’s committee structure in about a year from now.