Quick Tips: Make your photos look great

There’s no substitute for having a great graphic designer, whether that’s in house or as a trusted on call contractor.  However, if your organization’s communications and/or development plan includes maintaining some social media accounts or blogging, then you need a way for the person staffing those accounts to create images that serve you well.

I don’t think I should need to say it, but great writing is not enough on the web.  Whatever you’re using, you need to mix up your media, and it all needs to be a) reasonably high quality and b) brand appropriate.  I’ll get to a primer on gifs, video, and data presentation some other time.  Today, let’s focus on images, and a tool that I’ve been enjoying recently: PicMonkey.


  • It’s pretty easy to mess around with.  Taste is harder to come by, so make sure you have the right person using it, but you can make things look good, tailored, processed, etc. in any combination using mostly automatic functions.  If you’re really good, you can make it sing…but that’s the best measure of a tool: can you become functional with it quickly (yes, I think), and can you keep getting better (pretty infinitely).
  • It’s a very good way to layer text (with a mindbogglingly vast selection of fonts) over photos.  That’s something simple and easy, conceptually, that can enhance your pinterest, twitter, or Facebook feed…and  this tool makes it trivial to execute.  (You’ve got to come up with good photos and good words – that’s still hard – but putting it together doesn’t need to be)
  • The price is right for nonprofit use.  You can get decent mileage out of their free version, but the cadillac version (they call it Royal) is all of $33 for the year.

Give it a try.  You may even enjoy the collage feature – ask some of your clients/community members/whatever term applies for the people who are at the heart of your mission and operations to share 5 shots each that they feel captures your organization.  Combine them in house.  Not only are you likely to come up with some shareable and feel-good images, but you’re likely to learn something essential about perspectives on your work.  Zero risk, and the chance you might find a new angle that will resonate deeply with donors, and other tidbits to put in your pocket for the next big solicitation push.

Keeping up with the Joneses – social media edition

Interesting new survey just being reported on HubSpot on social media practices among 9,000 small to medium nonprofit organizations in North America.  Check it out here.

It’s always interesting to see what other folks are doing, in aggregate – my clients know that I am constantly asking where they are in relation to best practices and common practices.  You should never confuse the two…but the rules are the same: you need to know what the best practices are and you need to know what the herd is doing, because you never want to be far afield from either unless you have made a strategic choice to do so.

So, go through the report.  See how you stack up.  Remember that these are NOT best practices…and I’m going to go through some of the things I think are problematic for the organizations represented here…but aren’t you curious to see how you rank with social media savvy?

Helpful hint – be sure to include some of these findings in your next presentation to the board.  Regardless of whether you seem to be far ahead of the curve or need help to prioritize a jump into the 21st Century, it’s GREAT fodder for productive conversation at the board level.   Read more

Mailbag: My Board has social media ADHD

Q:  In general, my board is full of great, smart, very accomplished people.  But they are fixated on whatever new social media platform or app they read about last week.  They don’t use them, they don’t understand the difference between Facebook and Pinterest and Tumblr and Vine (and sometimes get the names wrong…I’m not kidding, one woman told me I was behind the times for not using “Pee – Interest” in my development strategy.)  How do I get them to realize that I’m already overworked and when I’m having a hard time getting our basic materials together, I can’t run a dozen separate social media accounts too?

A:  Kudos to you for standing your ground, which it sounds like you’ve done.  Too many folks find it easier to simply yield to their board member’s desires and create institutional profiles and accounts.  I’m waiting for someone to be brilliant enough to create an actual dating profile for their organization in hopes of turning OK Cupid into their next great fundraiser…because that’s probably more useful than throwing together yet another cut and paste social media identity without understanding how that particular platform is going to fit into your brand and overall visibility strategy.  And oh, yeah – you’re probably not going to be able to raise a lot of money through Facebook.

You know all that already.  Here are some tips for convincing your board that there’s no magic bullet to be found on instagram or twitter.  Read more

The hubris of nonprofit social media

The 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report is out.  I’ll be coming back to their findings a couple of times, because I think it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of your industry, so you are making informed decisions to keep up with your fellow organizations or buck trends.

I was at a philanthropy conference last week and griping about this report with a professional who leads development efforts for a mid-sized institution in a bigger city.  This person laughed at me and said that keeping on top of trends was the luxury of consultants, that people “actually working” in development were just trying to make their goals any way possible.  These are the kind of people who give you, dear reader, an opportunity to truly shine…because they are not uncommon.  They’re just idiots.  Fundraising is a profession – and if you don’t have the professional pride to concern yourself with knowing your industry’s best practices, you deserve to be embarrassed – and you will be, sooner or later.

But I do sympathize with the time pressures we are all under – that’s why blogs like this exist.  Read the report for yourself if you can, but I’m going to highlight a couple of interesting findings that I think many readers will find useful.  (If you’re here for the personal development side of development, go ahead and tune out…this post is for the fundraisers.) Read more

Quick tips: Don’t make this twitter mistake

@devshrink – I’ve been doing it wrong.

Syntax is really important, always, but most of us are learning twitter syntax on the fly, and for those of us for whom twitter is foreign enough to qualify as a third or fourth language, it’s trickier than we’d like to admit!  I’m grateful for tips like this from Hubspot and Jay Acunzo!  Check out their original post – it’s more detailed than mine – but here’s the quick and dirty version.

If you start a tweet with @username, it WILL NOT BE SEEN BY ALL YOUR FOLLOWERS.  Only the folks who follow BOTH you and the person your reference will see that tweet.

If you want all your followers to see your tweet, but you want to reference @username, you need to start your tweet with a character – any character (except those with syntactical relevance).  You can throw in a period, you can throw in an apostrophe…or you can switch up your sentence so you start with a word or two.

Quick Tips: Wordle

In my consulting work, I spend a lot of time on storytelling.  If you want to figure out a strategy forward, it helps to have everyone who’s involved with your organization agree on who you are and what you do now…and getting stakeholders to tell their personal and institutional narrative is a great start towards that agreement.

One of the things I frequently do after getting a bunch of people to write down answers to a few questions (nothing particularly complex – things like “how would you describe your organization to a friend?” and “what are the values of your organization in 140 characters or less”) is run those answers through Wordle.

Professionally, I must advise you not to take any leadership or strategy advice from Captain Ahab.
Professionally, I must advise you not to take any leadership or strategy advice from Captain Ahab.

People think it’s magic. Read more