AMA: How NPOs Can Use Community Media for Fundraising

Genia Stevens
Feb 6, 2018

I’ve served on the board of several nonprofit organizations, and I’m very familiar with one of their major battles: raising money. I’m also familiar with one of the reasons NPOs find it difficult to raise funds: They don’t know how to turn community members into brand advocates.

Nonprofit organizations can benefit from using community media to collaborate with local organizations and activists. Here are three ways NPOs can use community media for fundraising purposes:

1. Establish Strategic Partnerships With Community Media

2. Use Community Media To Tell Your Organization’s Stories

3. Partner With Influencers In Community Media

I recently wrote an article on this topic on Forbes:  Three Ways NPOs Can Use Community Media For Fundraising

Please take a look at the article - and ask me anything!

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Conversation (70)

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Do you believe that working in a small team is better to stay organized during campaigns? Do you still welcome volunteers?

Feb 9, 12:53PM EST0

If it’s a non-profit organization, does this mean the organization takes zero money from campaign funds? How do the staff get paid?

Feb 9, 12:49PM EST0

How do you manage to get noticed by the media and for them to help you out in promoting your campaign?

Feb 9, 3:40AM EST0

Do you believe your job as a digital marketer contributes greatly to the success of the non-profit campaigns you manage?

Feb 7, 10:40PM EST0

I think my job as a digital marketer is to serve a support function. I provide only a few of many tools agencies need to provide the services their communities needs.  While I believe I can be an extremely effective and efficient addition to an NPO's team, the best contribution I can make is helping NPOs find all the tools they need for success. 

Last edited @ Feb 8, 6:56AM EST.
Feb 8, 6:56AM EST0

How can Nonprofit Organizations hire great employees?

Feb 7, 8:44AM EST0

Thanks for this question.

I have limited experience with hiring team members for NPOs.  I have been included in the hiring process on several occasions (as part of the executive team) for securing a new Executive Director.  

Our first task was to discuss organizational goals.  From there, we reviewed the current job description to ensure it described the person the organization really needed (based on organizational goals). 

I remember being on a board where we developed an ED job description during the process of developing our 3 yr-strategic plan.  That job description was written with organizational goals in mind.

The same thought process is useful when hiring other teams members - AND securing volunteers.

Last edited @ Feb 7, 4:45PM EST.
Feb 7, 4:45PM EST1

Talking about community media, there are many countries where internet/social media/digital apps are not available in many areas. How can a local NPO raise funds in such conditions?

Feb 7, 7:16AM EST0

Excellent question. 

If your question is asking what community media tools might be available in those conditions, this is my response:

In many of those countries, community radio (sometimes called rural radio, cooperative radio, or development radio)  is the dominant media tool for dispersing important political, social, and economic news.

I have no direct fundraising experience in those countries so I can't offer any additional insight.

Feb 7, 7:31AM EST0

Thank you for joining my AMA:  How NPOs Can Use Community Media for Fundraising.

Hopefully, I can answer your community media and fundraising related questions.

I'm available after the event here:

@GeniaStevens (Twitter),  LinkedIn, Facebook, my website, and email.  

Please note:  Unless specifically stated, I am not affiliated with any websites or organizations mentioned (or linked) in the answers I have provided. 

Last edited @ Feb 6, 8:10PM EST.
Feb 6, 8:01PM EST0

What are your thoughts on online crowdfunding? Is it truly the best way to raise financial assistance for a cause quickly?

Feb 6, 10:46AM EST0

I'm a huge fan of crowdfunding; however, I won't state that any single fundraising tool is the best way to raise money quickly.  Here's why:

Your past donors might be the best way to raise funds quickly.  If your organization was nurturing your relationship with past donors the way it should be, then THOSE donors would act like the brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles you can call when your house burns down and you need help RIGHT NOW.

But, too many NPOs only remember their past donors when they need more money.  They're like that friend who's only your friend when he needs a ride somewhere.  Yeah.  THAT friend. 

I have a lot of NPO-friends like that.

Last edited @ Feb 6, 2:15PM EST.
Feb 6, 2:15PM EST0

How can you determine a legitimate funding campaign versus a scam?

Feb 6, 9:38AM EST0

This is a good question.  Crowdfunding is a great fundraising tool; however, it's a tool that's abused often. 

People are creating phony NPOs, piggybacking off popular stories in the media, then launching a crowdfunding campaign to milk millions of dollars out of good people with kind hearts.

The FTC provides great tips on spotting scams:  Before Giving to a Charity

I would add to that, the following tips for crowdfunding campaigns:

  • There's no real contact information.
  • They won't answer relevant questions about their campaign.
  • They get agitated when responding to relevant questions.
  • They won't provide proof (if asked) of why they need the money they're asking for (legitimate NPOs have to provide this proof).
  • They won't tell you exactly where the money is going.
  • Their answers to relevant questions are vague.
Feb 6, 2:09PM EST0

What is the ROI of your strategic partnerships? How did you calculate it?

Feb 6, 7:50AM EST0

My partnership ROI is established by the mission and vision of such partnerships. Partnerships are formed with specific goals in mind, at least they should be. I measure my ROI based on whether I've met or exceeded my goals.

For me, a true partnership involves my potential partner investing their resources into the joint venture. Those resources could be time, skills, services, effort, and/or money. How a partnership investment is measured starts with establishing the KPIs we'll use to determine the effectiveness of the partnership.

As we implement our strategic partnership, my team consistently monitors and measures the plan to see if we're on task to meet our goals.

Feb 6, 1:52PM EST0

What is the perfect example of an effective fundraising campaign? Can you share examples?

Feb 6, 1:13AM EST0

I avoid using the word perfect when discussing fundraising campaigns.  Every campaign has its flaws; however, even a flawed campaign can be effective.

Here are a few great examples of effective fundraising:

Using Video Content to Tell High-Emotion Stories: Nonprofit Marketing

3 Twitter Fundraising Campaigns That Show the Power of Influencers

Successful Social Media Campaign:  The Invisible Dog

Feb 6, 1:37PM EST0

Do you think social media can help with fundraising?

Feb 6, 1:11AM EST0

Yes. Absolutely. Many organizations (of all sizes) have social media fundraising success stories. 

If an NPO isn't using social media as part of their fundraising strategy, I suggest that changes as quickly as possible.

Last edited @ Feb 6, 8:08PM EST.
Feb 6, 2:17AM EST0

How did you learn about the strategic partnerships for the first time?

Feb 6, 12:59AM EST0

Partnering with other businesses and organizations is something I've done for over 20 years as an entrepreneur. I started doing it out of necessity, mostly to survive. Now, I recommend partnering as a thriving, not surviving, strategy. 

Feb 6, 2:16AM EST0

Is there any common trend you notice in all the NPOs when it comes to fundraising?

Feb 5, 1:39PM EST0

I haven't worked with enough NPOs to speak to "all NPOs" as it relates to fundraising. I can tell you what I know about the NPOs I've worked with.  

Those NPOs usually struggle with fundraising because they lack resources (like the people needed to implement and manage campaigns), funds (money needed to pay for marketing and outreach campaigns), and knowledge (the information they need to plan effective campaigns).

Feb 5, 3:08PM EST0

What are the other ways for the NPOs to raise funds?

Feb 5, 11:00AM EST0

There are tons of ways NPOs can raise funds. I'll give just a few examples:

  • crowdfunding
  • soliciting current and past donors (using email, social media, and direct marketing)
  • crowdsourcing fundraising ideas
Feb 5, 3:10PM EST0

How did you manage to get your article published on Forbes? What are your tips for the aspiring writers?

Feb 5, 6:39AM EST0

I'm a Forbes Agency Council member. The Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only, organization for executives in public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.  One of the many benefits members receive is being a columnist for Forbes.  

But, if you're interested in being a writer for Forbes or any other top website, I would suggest you look at any future content you write as thought-leadership work. 

Thought-leaders provide solutions to industry problems. I can tell you that my Forbes editors will not publish my articles if they that are nothing more than my opinion.  When writing articles, I keep in mind that I will have to show examples (or provide back-up data as often as possible). 

Too many bloggers/writers create content without linking to sources, resources, or data - mostly because they see it as promoting competitors in their articles.  If you (or anyone else reading this) has a habit of doing that, break that habit today.

Feb 5, 3:21PM EST0

How many years of experience do you have in fundraising?

Feb 5, 4:41AM EST0

If I go as far back as high school, I would say 27 years! 

Feb 5, 3:23PM EST0

According to you, how are people interested in charity today?

Feb 5, 4:06AM EST0

It's my belief that people are genuinely interested in helping others.  Social media has increased awareness of the many organizations and causes out there.  We are much more aware of how many people need help. And we want to help, even if we only have a little to give, we will give if we're moved to do so.

Feb 5, 3:25PM EST0

What are the steps taken by you to create awareness about NPO fundraising?

Feb 4, 6:49PM EST0
  • This is a difficult question to answer without knowing more about:
  • the purpose of the fundraising 
  • the community the organization serves
  • what tools the organization plans to use for fundraising
  • who will implement the campaign and what's their budget for the campaign (basically, do they have the right resources?)
Feb 5, 3:30PM EST0

What are the tips you would like to give the NPOs on fundraising?

Feb 4, 3:26PM EST0

Before any NPO launches a fundraising campaign, write down a plan. You'd be surprised how many NPOs don't do this.  Many of them have an idea of what their fundraising campaign will look like, or what they will do to raise money; however, there's no written plan, with designated key players - people who are responsible for the various moving parts. 

I sat on the board of an NPO that provided services to children and adults with special needs.  We spent 6 months developing our 3-year strategic plan.  Part of that plan, was a marketing plan and part of THAT plan included a fundraising plan. It was tedious, but worth the time spent.

Feb 5, 3:34PM EST0

As a board member of the NPOs, what do you think all the NPOs are lacking in?

Feb 4, 11:04AM EST0

I can't speak to "all." I will speak on what I have experienced.  The NPOs I have experience with lack:

  • Resources (money, time, volunteers)
  • Great board members (too many vacancies)
  • Creativity (paralyzed by group-think because the board members aren't diverse enough)
Last edited @ Feb 5, 3:38PM EST.
Feb 5, 3:38PM EST0

Can you explain what community media is? What's its purpose?

Feb 3, 1:10PM EST0

Usually when I'm asked this, I tell people it's what we used to call public access television.  It's the channel we turn to when we want to watch our local city council meetings, school board meetings, or that quirky cooking  show your neighbor created because she wants her own TV show. That's a very simplified way of describing community media (and the folks in community media will probably cringe at my description).  

It's community-created and community-driven media.  Public access TV/community media is essentially rebranding itself.  Technology and the internet has opened opportunities for community media to effectively compete with commercial media.

Creating content using community media centers then pushing that content out through multiple channels (social media, mobile, websites, smart TVs) allows community media to reach far more people than they can with their cable channel. Since you (as a community member) can just walk into the station and create your own TV show if you wanted to, that's a great tool to have in your toolbox.

The best part?  Community media centers can train you on how to use their equipment to create your content. 

Feb 5, 3:48PM EST0

How did you become the board member of so many NPOs?

Feb 3, 1:06PM EST0

I was asked and I agreed!  In the beginning, I'm afraid I agreed too often. 

Typically, professionals with established reputations in a certain profession are asked to join BODs because those boards have a need for certain experts (read: volunteers who will provide free services on a consistent basis). 

Like most professionals who are excited to help, we over extend ourselves and realize we have to pick the causes that are nearest and dearest to us. 

Feb 5, 3:53PM EST0

How can NPOs utilize mobile apps like WhatsApp for fundraising?

Feb 3, 1:04PM EST0

I'm glad you asked!  Here's a recent article I wrote on that very topic.

How Mobile Apps Can Help Community Media With Community Outreach

Feb 5, 3:55PM EST0

What can be the good starting point for a fundraising campaign?

Feb 3, 1:00PM EST0

The best starting point is writing a plan.  I would suggest using a cross-functional approach using very diverse voices. This will help the NPO come up with the most creative and effective strategies possible.

Feb 5, 3:56PM EST0

What do you mean by strategic partnerships with community media? Can you elaborate?

Feb 3, 12:53PM EST0

Community media centers often need more people to use their services.  If these centers can't show there's a need for their services, they lose funding.  Community media centers also need more marketing and outreach support.

One way an NPO can partner with community media is to create content using community media's tools and services.  By doing this, NPOs provide community media with the following:

  • Volunteers who create content for the community media center. This is content the center doesn't have to create
  • Marketing people. Once the NPO creates their own content, they'll promote it. By promoting their content, they promote the community media center.
  • Outreach efforts.  When the NPO promotes their content, it essentially creates awareness that others can use the community media center to create content as well.

What does the NPO get out of this?

  • Free (or very low cost) use of the media center's tools
  • Free (or very low-cost) training on using video and audio equipment
  • A unique marketing and outreach strategy

It's a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Feb 5, 4:06PM EST0

How do you think the community media will get benefitted by partnering with NPOs?

Feb 3, 12:51PM EST0

Partnering with NPOs improves a community media center's relationship with stakeholders in the community.  It allows them to build social capital and it allows community media centers to have access to volunteers working through other NPOs.  Community media centers could always use more volunteers,

Feb 5, 4:09PM EST0

What can be the potential drawbacks of using community media for fundraising?

Feb 3, 12:47PM EST0

Like any partnership, the drawback could be relying too heavily on community media to get the job done.  I'm not suggesting that community media is THE answer for NPOs and their fundraising challenges.  I'm suggesting it's a great addition to their current or new campaign.

Feb 5, 4:12PM EST0

Is there any case in which your strategic planning failed to produce the outcome?

Feb 3, 12:45PM EST0

Yes.  Absolutely!  That happens when:

  • We're no longer following the plan
  • We're not adjusting the plan as necessary
  • The plan is so rigid, there's no room for adjustment
Feb 5, 4:13PM EST0

Do you think community media is the cheapest medium for a fundraising campaign?

Feb 3, 12:43PM EST0

No.  The cheapest medium for fundraising is word of mouth. However, even that approach might require using your resources (people, time, money) to gain momentum.

Last edited @ Feb 6, 8:06PM EST.
Feb 5, 4:14PM EST0

Do you think the alliance with community media would work everywhere?

Feb 3, 12:41PM EST0

Good question! The alliance with community media has the potential to work "everywhere."  However, that's a lofy goal.  I'm aware that not all community media centers are at a place where they are able to partner with NPOs (for various reasons).  Those centers might have 1 - 2 volunteers running the station and seriously lack the time and resources to be of much help. Also, community media centers are often run by BODs. - and THAT is a whole 'nother issue to deal with.

Last edited @ Feb 5, 4:19PM EST.
Feb 5, 4:18PM EST0

Is there a team working behind you for your campaigns?

Feb 2, 11:30PM EST0

I have a very small team.  There are 4 of us.  The rest of my team consists of independent contractors I hire on an as-needed basis.  I'm a huge fan of the freelance workforce!  I encourage my clients to utilize freelancers as often as possible.

Feb 3, 12:49AM EST0

What are your tips for the smaller NPOs which can’t afford to partner with media?

Feb 2, 7:47PM EST0

Community media centers provide services for free (or a very minimal charge).  Training, use of tools (video, audio), and access to station space are often free.  You provide your own volunteers (interns, community members) and establish the social media, community outreach, or community engagement strategy you want to implement.

Last edited @ Feb 2, 8:45PM EST.
Feb 2, 8:44PM EST0

What kinds of NPOs are welcomed by the people today and why?

Feb 2, 5:33PM EST0

Pretty much any kind of NPO is welcomed; however, we're seeing people's interest in NPOs associated with popular social, political, and cultural issues doing better with fundraising.  Those NPOs, if they can piggyback off the momentum the media creates around these issues, can do well with their fundraising.

Feb 2, 6:11PM EST0

What are your important tips to turn community members into brand advocates?

Feb 2, 4:44PM EST0

*Tell stories about the people your organization has helped - authentic storytelling reaches your audience's heart.

*Communicate often, even when you're not asking for money

*Remind your community members that you NEED them and that real change happens with them

Feb 2, 6:17PM EST0

Being a member of the board of NPO, what is the toughest challenge you face?

Feb 2, 2:12PM EST0

Lack of resources: people, money, and time.   Utilizing the resources available through community media can help NPOs address these challenges.

Feb 2, 6:18PM EST0
In which kinds of NPOs have you worked? Is there any preference for you?
Feb 2, 12:35PM EST0

I've served on the board of NPOs focused on:

*poverty alleviation

*providing services to children and adults with autism

*advocating for changes in mental health services

*fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people

Feb 2, 6:20PM EST0
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