The Facebook Algorithm

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In terms of nonprofit organizations and affiliated individuals, Facebook has been somewhat of an underused or misunderstood tool. However, when used correctly it can be an incredible resource. One of the keys to cultivating your audience on Facebook is understanding the Facebook algorithm.

The popularity of Facebook is very impressive. ESC consultant and social media expert Mike Byrnes recently spoke at an ESC social media workshop citing statistics such as:

  • 1/7th of humanity is on Facebook
  • More than half of the sharing on the internet is done on Facebook
  • Facebook accounted for 5 out of every 6 minutes spent in the Social Networking Category

Share of Time Spent on Social Networks

social media image

The key to understanding how to capitalize on Facebook’s popularity to expand your reach comes down to understanding the Facebook algorithm. The Facebook algorithm consists of:

  • Affinity – Your relationship and interactions with your followers
  • Weight – The content of post, photos and photo albums have the most weight
  • Time Decay – How long ago did you post or interact

All three contribute to your “rank.”

Facebook-EdgeRank-Formula

Affinity

Interaction is extremely important when building a Facebook presence. You do not want to simply put out a statement and walk away. Instead try to create engagement and interaction with your audience. This can be achieved by posting questions or calls to action, starting discussions, commenting on posts, “liking” comments on your posts, and sharing are all ways to increase your engagement and affinity with people. The more you increase your affinity the more likely you are to have a greater reach in the future.

Weight

On Facebook photos, photo albums, and videos carry the most weight. Photos are more likely to be “Liked”, shared, and commented on above all other content. This does not mean the best practice is to only post photos and videos, be sure there is a variety of content posted. It is also good to note that the weight component can overlap with the affinity component, for example comments on a post hold more weight than a “like” on a post.

Decay

This simply refers to how old your post is. The more you interact on social media platforms the more you extend your reach. However, this does not mean post anything and everything, instead be thoughtful about your posts. Remember to post what will engage your audience. While there are scheduling tools on Facebook, sometimes the real time posting has more traction and carries more weight.

Would your nonprofit benefit from a social media consulting project? Contact Ulea Lago, ESCNE Director of Consulting, at ulago@escne.org or call 617-357-5550 to find out how a consultant could help your eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island nonprofit.

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Managing Your Meeting Goals

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One of the most important aspects of leading an organization or team is the skill of facilitation. According to ESC Consultant and facilitation expert Jack Smith there are three components to essential components to facilitating effectively, planning the meeting, managing the tools, and managing the meeting. Planning the meeting is the process that ensures the groups interactions and participation are constructive. Managing the tools ensures that the technical aspects for the sessions contribute to the meeting process and goals. The third and what many find most daunting is managing the meeting.  However, with proper preparation and planning this can be the easiest part of the process.

Managing the meeting includes three components: planning the meeting, conducting the meeting, and following up after the meeting. Begin planning the meeting by defining the goals you want to achieve and from there set your agenda. The agenda should provide a preview for the meeting as well as setting the flow of the meeting.  As part of the preparation, think through the following:

  • The people – who needs to be there.
  • Materials and audiovisuals – creating, gathering, and preparing
  • Location – book a room or venue
  • Decide whether or not the meeting goals would be better achieved through a face to face meeting versus a telephone conference or a virtual meeting
  • What the process of the meeting will be

To help set the flow of the meeting and keep the meeting organized and on task, set a time for each agenda item. After the outline of the agenda has been established the rest of the information is “sandwiched” in. This “sandwiched” information will help make important decisions. Sending out the agenda ahead of time allows people to review and prepare discussion and thoughts on the agenda items.

While it may seem unnecessary to some, it is often a best practice to establish ground rules at the beginning of the meeting, such as, returning from breaks at agreed times, turning off electronic devices and cell phones, and reminding attendees to participate and listen actively and respectfully. Remember it is the facilitator’s job to leverage the diversity within the group. This is done by showing personal leadership, valuing and respecting the diverse opinion, and intervening if necessary to prevent inappropriate remarks. The facilitator is not there to be a lecturer, but rather to listen, ask leading questions to stimulate productive discussions, and keep the meeting on track.

After the meeting is over, sending out the meeting minutes is always best practice. The minutes should include notes on the discussion and decisions made during the meeting. Meeting minutes should not only consist of notes on the meeting but also action items and who was assigned to them.

If your nonprofit could benefit from affordable management consulting, please contact ESC’s Director of Consulting, Ulea Lago, at ulago@escne.org or call 617-357-5550. We serve nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and we offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit for all interested area nonprofits.

 

The 4 Functions of a Nonprofit Board

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The world of nonprofit governance is a mystery to most people- even those on nonprofit boards!  How should board members spend their time?  What are a board’s responsibilities?  What should the rest of an organization expect from the board?

We asked a couple of our governance consultants to help us sort out the responsibilities of a nonprofit board.  As it turns out, there are 4 main functions of nonprofit boards, although the amount of time spent on each varies depending on the size of your organization (more on that later).

Function #1:      Executive Oversight

The first responsibility of the board is executive oversight.  It is the board’s responsibility to hire, evaluate, and compensate the Executive Director.  The board must also be mindful to monitor the finances, budget, and key performance indicators for the organization.  Finally, the board must provide leadership consistent with the mission of the organization.

 

Function #2:      Operational Support

Board members may find themselves involved in important day-to-day work, especially in smaller organizations.  For example, board members may be involved in running a fundraising campaign or writing grant proposals.  Board members bring with them a wealth of experience and many skills.  In smaller organizations especially, board members can make a huge difference in the daily operations of their organization.

 

Function #3:      Resource Development

The top responsibility for board members it to make donations happen!

Introducing new donors to your organization should be at the forefront of every board member’s mind.  Maintaining relationships with the donors you already have is also extremely important.  Keeping your current donors up to date on the current happenings of the organization or writing personalized thank you notes go a long way towards fostering good will.

 

Function #4:      Self-Renewal

Recruiting new board members will keep fresh ideas flowing and help an organization to continue to move forward.  Staying stagnant will only hurt a board and recruiting is the best way to stay alive!  Self-Evaluation is also important is a board’s self-awareness.  By setting and tracking goals, boards can gain great insight about their own performance and how they can better help their organization.

 

The time spent on each of these 4 functions varies based on the size of the organization.  One of our consultants, Terry Hamacher, estimated the amount of time different size nonprofit organizations spend on each function.  Generally, the need for operational assistance will go down as organizations get larger and the need for development will go up.

% Of Time Spent On Each Board Function

 

 

ESC of New England offers management consulting and capacity building services in a variety of areas including Governance, Marketing, Strategic Planning and more. Please contact Ulea Lago, Director of Consulting, at ulago@escne.org for more information. We offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit to all interested nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The 21st Century Volunteer

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Volunteer recruitment has changed over the years—not just from the development of new techniques and technology, but in the way that people perceive and take on service opportunities. ESC President & CEO Bethany Kendall breaks down the key characteristics of the modern volunteer in her workshop on volunteer management, based upon material by Thomas and Jonathan McKee.

The new volunteer is very busy with multiple obligations. 21st Century volunteers have many demands on their time. They’ve got numerous obligations to attend to—often several volunteer responsibilities on top of jobs, parenting, and other engagements—and need to be expert time managers. This implies that they’re willing to wear a lot of hats, but will need to feel passionate about a mission in in order to agree to take on an assignment and stick with the commitment.

The new volunteer wants flexibility. Busy people can’t always manage their time perfectly, so 21st Century volunteers need an organization they work with to be flexible. If your nonprofit thinks making 100% in person meeting attendance mandatory for board members or volunteers, you’d do well to think again. Modern volunteers will commit, but must have the opportunity to connect virtually when necessary.

The new volunteer thinks outside the box. Of the organization, that is. The 21st Century will bring your nonprofit innovation and may suggest ways in which to help shake up the status quo. Be sure staff and board members alike are open and willing to accept that new volunteers are eager to explore efficiency through innovation.

The new volunteer will not tolerate incompetent volunteers or staff. Your organization should be comprised of individuals appropriate to your nonprofit’s success. For example, if a volunteer board committee is led by someone who has no meeting facilitation skills, you are very likely to quickly lose members. . There are two solutions that can go hand-in-hand: conduct appropriate trainings—sessions that are additional to basic foundational training, specific to certain volunteer roles, and when recruiting target particular strengths, prior experience, and interests. Targeting and training can help you avoid many pitfalls in volunteer relations and overall organizational success.

The new volunteers dos not want to just make a contribution—they want to make a difference. This is the overarching ideal of all 21st Century volunteers. Engage volunteers in activities that allow them to directly impact –and be aware of their contributions in the community– for the best possible retention and volunteer satisfaction.

Source Materials, McKee, Thomas, and Jonathan McKee. “Keynote Talks on Volunteer Leadership.” Volunteer Power.1 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Aug.2014. <http://www.volunteerpower.com/&gt;.

If your nonprofit could benefit from affordable management consulting, please contact ESC’s Director of Consulting, Ulea Lago, at ulago@escne.org or call 617-357-5550. We serve nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and we offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit for all interested area nonprofits.

Assessing Your Burnout Risk Factors

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Employee burnout is one of the greatest risks posed to a nonprofit’s success. ESC consultant Sue Ogle teaches leaders to assess the following factors when reviewing their organization’s risks:

Workload
When assessing employee workload, nonprofit leaders should reflect on influences that may make the employees they manage unable to perform to their highest capacity. First, they should be sure the job is defined correctly. When a position is ill-defined, it can cause strife, confusion and a general sense that there is never enough work being covered. Secondly, managers should assess their expectations. Are they fair under the constraints of the position in question? And lastly, nonprofit leaders should check to see if a position, or the organization in general, is under-resourced. This last point is common among nonprofits, so leaders should be diligent in demonstrating and teaching efficiency when resources are tight.

Control
Is the employee given autonomy and an open forum to share influential opinions? This is ideal in preventing burnout, as micromanagement or restriction of decision power can greatly affect the passions of a previously enthusiastic employee.

Reward and Recognition
If an employee is underpaid or generally unfulfilled in his or her work, don’t expect energy levels to stay high for long. This burnout factor can be intensified if the employee is also not recognized for doing good work. Managers should be careful to keep praise genuine—dig deep to find something regularly, whether that is every day or every week, that your employees do well and voice that to them.

Fairness
Nonprofit leaders also must be aware of tendencies to play favorites or to participate in office politics. Blurring the lines between professionalism and cliqueiness is a sure way to make employee energy levels drop hard and fast.

Values
Keep check of how your employees relate to your mission. It’s important for nonprofit leaders to remind their staff of why they do what they do in the first place, and what drew them to the organization; in the nonprofit sector, it is inevitable that at least part of the draw for any employee is the mission.

Work Team
Stay in touch with how individual employees mesh with other staff members and the organization’s board. If there is disconnection, burnout can happen easily. Work daily to keep employees on the same page with one another and your nonprofit’s culture overall.

If your nonprofit could benefit from affordable management consulting, please contact ESC’s Director of Consulting, Ulea Lago, at ulago@escne.org or call 617-357-5550. We serve nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and we offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit for all interested area nonprofits.

Use Storytelling to Report Nonprofit Outcomes

Nonprofit leaders may tend to associate storytelling with marketing efforts, but creating a narrative for your organization is equally helpful in outcomes measurement for nonprofits. ESC Consultant Barry Seltser breaks down what an organization’s story should include, and how nonprofit leaders can collect the necessary information to build an effective narrative for reporting outcomes.

Whether you are building an annual report targeted to constituents or presenting the outcomes of a particular project to your nonprofit’s board, all narratives must answer the following questions:

  • What is the situation?
  • What did we do?
  • Why did we do this?
  • What happened as a result of what we did?
  • Why does it matter?

The key goal in weaving a narrative for reporting outcomes is to attribute any change or improvement to what you did. The power of storytelling itself will make a greater impact and highlight the true accomplishments of any effort fully, linking your organization’s actions to the outcomes produced.

If your nonprofit is not already practicing storytelling as a part of your outcomes measurement process, you may be at a loss as to where content for such narratives can be found. How do you unlock these stories from wherever they are hiding? According to Barry, nonprofits have a breadth of sources to tap into.

In creating a narrative to report outcomes, nonprofit leaders should ask themselves: Who are my best informants? Who knows about my organization’s ability to help achieve optimal outcomes? In addition, whoever is assigned to interviewing people should consider where and when it is appropriate to approach these “storytellers”. These individuals tasked with asking the questions should consider where targeted interviewees would be most comfortable sharing their experiences, who they would be most comfortable talking to, and how they are most likely to give you the information you need (i.e. over the phone, in person, by email, etc.). While not all story-gathering opportunities can be anticipated, nonprofits should routinely ask for storytelling content during standard procedures such as exit interviews, regular reporting cycles and training sessions.

Has your nonprofit successfully used an organizational narrative to report outcomes? Please comment with success stories, further questions and discussion on this tactic.

ESC of New England offers management consulting and capacity building services in a variety of areas including Outcomes Measurement, Marketing, Strategic Planning and more. Please contact Ulea Lago, Director of Consulting, at ulago@escne.org for more information. We offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit to all interested nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

How to Make Nonprofit Content Stick on Social Media

 

Some nonprofits are in a better position than others to create compelling content, especially in social media marketing. For instance, the number one tip we come across is to post compelling photos, but let’s explore that for a moment:  how can a nonprofit offering management consulting services compete with another working to find homes for kittens and puppies? It’s a question we ask ourselves often at ESC, but we’ve come across a few strategies that can put any nonprofit in a great position for recruitment, fundraising and general exposure on any social media platform.

Create content that works in a way that fits your brand
You see this same advice over and over again—post photos! Post videos! This can be an extremely simple process with huge results for “photogenic” organizations like animal shelters, nature conservations and other photo-friendly nonprofits. You also don’t need a media release signed by that dog up for adoption or a beautiful sunset. So what can organizations with more obstacles do?

One option is to post photos that are more genuinely graphics. Posting photos on social media is all about share-ability. Make a statement or insert a quote using sites like Quozio, ReciteThis, or BeHappy.Me, slap on your organization’s logo (Microsoft Paint will do the trick if that’s all your working with), and post away. This is the simplest way for organization’s who don’t necessarily have the subjects, time or resources to take photographs for content.

Share what’s already been created
Another strategy, while less direct, is to share photos from other pages that are relevant to your mission. If you work with other organizations, share their content and write unique posts that tie in your connection. Whatever connected content is out there is an opportunity to save you time—and as nonprofit professionals, we understand you can never save enough time in the day. You can, and should, do the same with videos. Work with your Marketing Manager, Executive Director, or Media Committee to decide how to promote your organization by rebranding relevant content.

Do less
Veering away from photo and video sharing exclusively, be sure that whatever you tweet, post, pin or share is accompanied by (or made up of) copy that is short and to the point. Even on Twitter where your messages are limited to 140 characters, don’t use up all the space if it’s not entirely necessary. As shown in the above graphic, attention spans online have dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds over the past 13 years. While this may seem like a tiny change, it represents the absolute necessity for content to be concise online. Don’t throw just anything on social media hoping for eyes. Take time to whittle down your words, simplify your images, and make sure that what you share is not just seem but absorbed in, quite literally, the blink of an eye.

If your nonprofit could benefit from social media marketing consulting or other consulting services, including traditional marketing, branding, strategic planning and more, please contact ESC Director of Consulting Ulea Lago at ulago@escne.org or call 617-357-5550.