The Starbucks app-volution: non-profit app development

Starbucks recently announced their field test for a new mobile application that would allow customers to order their drinks before they even enter the store, cutting down on wait times and lines in the already small cafes. If it goes well in the 150 stores in the Portland area, it will receive a national rollout as they continue to improve mobile ordering.

They aren’t the first to give this a shot – Chipotle, the burrito chain with an eye towards the future, already offers customers the ability to pre-order their favorite burrito and pick it up at the store through a mobile application. The app can also store orders for repeat purchases, improve wait times and better work with under utilized kitchens during slow hours.


We knew mobile and the mass adoption of applications was going to be big – marketers have been predicting it for years. Yet non-profits are still far behind on this learning curve finding the right way to utilize this mobile movement.

There are a couple of options:

1) Go mobile first. If your website doesn’t work on mobile, you’re potentially alienating a huge portion of your audience. A recent study from ComScore determined that 18% of Millennials are “mobile-only” Internet users. That’s nearly a fifth of potential donors and friends that may never actually see your site if it isn’t mobile friendly.

2) Consider using mobile for donations. But be careful – Apple prohibits the ability to accept donations through iOS apps, so you’ll need to utilize a third-party application to make this happen.

Do you have any thoughts on how non-profits could jump on board for app development?


Priorities: Taking one step at a time.

“That’s a good idea, but I don’t think we can spare time on that right now.”

“Doesn’t something like that cost money?”

“We really can’t afford to pour money into something without a financial return.”

“Can’t you just talk someone into doing this for free?”

“The intern can totally do that, right?”

Let’s face it – you’ve probably heard at least one of those before. If you’re at the top, you’ve probably even said one of those things before. In the end, we all know that it comes down to how much we spend for how much we receive in return. When every dollar comes from an expectant donor, each dime spent on marketing has to stretch just that little bit further.

So how do you prioritize? Here are some quick guidelines:

1) Have a plan.

First things are first. Develop a social media governance plan (like one of these) and policy that aligns with your organization’s strategic goals and spread it. When your efforts work in conjunction with each other instead of against, you’ll work half as hard for more return.

2) Watch out for glitter.

Just because it’s new and it sparkles doesn’t mean you need to spend money on it. When the quick-talking woman with a great sales pitch calls for the third time promising unbelievable results, remember:

3) Know how to measure. 

Not all of the benefits of a social media initiative are going to be clear cut or result in dollars and cents. But catch yourself up to speed on how to measure engagement on the different social media platforms. Have an understanding of the power of shares, the meaning of CPM (cost-per-impressions), etc. A great place to start is here – Metrics that Matter with Moz!

4) When in doubt, ask. 

You aren’t expected to be the expert in a day. In this world, the expert of today is on the missed boat of tomorrow. So don’t be afraid to surround yourself via Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or wherever the forward-thinkers are and follow along. Google what you don’t know, ask when you have options and test until you’re blue in the face.


Striking gold in Ice and Water – The viral hit of 2014 in non-profit marketing

Occasionally, the right cause meets the right person at the right moment and lightning strikes. For some, it’s a flash in the pan with no quantifiable result – for others, the effort results in millions of dollars toward amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. In August of 2014, social networks exploded with videos of people dumping buckets of cold water over their heads and promising to donate $10 or $100 to ALS research or any number of other causes. Through challenges from family and friends on social media, celebrities and plebeians alike doused themselves with water and continued the trend. It was cold. It was funny. It made millions of dollars for ALS cure research.

And it made marketers all over the world go slack-jawed with envy.

Viral Marketing: What is it?

According to one definition from West Virginia University’s P. I. Reed School of Journalism, “viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass a marketing message on to others, creating the potential for enormous growth in the exposure and influence of the message.” Marketers, naturally, want to spread their message as quickly and as effectively as possible – in today’s social media world, buzz is everything. So how do you not only get them to read or engage with your content, but share it or challenge others too?

Why did it work?

There are several theories why this particular effort went global. Each has merit and could be duplicated, though achieving the same success without the perfect, ‘once in a blue moon’ mix is unlikely.

1) It was fun and different – but it wasn’t hard.

Today’s internet activists often fall into the slactivism category. They want the quick laugh and the “feel good” that comes after the fact, but they don’t want to invest much to do it.

2) There were varying levels of opportunities to engage

Don’t want to empty a bucket of ice water over your head? Donate extra. Don’t want to donate? Dump the water and challenge your friends. Want to do both and get extra points, or nominate extra people? Do that too. It’s up to you to decide – but for the marketer, any of the above is a step in the right direction.

3) An unpolished, grassroots effort.

This is probably the hardest part, for marketers. Judging by the videos themselves, it seemed pretty clear that this effort didn’t come from a marketing team. There wasn’t a hashtag or a specific branded look to it – it was just about people responding to their friends for a great cause. As a non-profit, this should always be one of the ultimate goals: energize your population, drive them to take action with your friends, and they will do your fundraising for you.



Undercover – Plan Norway & Thea’s wedding blog

Non-profits today understand blogging. Constituents on the inside and outside take a few minutes to share their stories, their perspectives on the industry and state of the cause, and increase the knowledge of their readers. Why does it work? It brings to life the story of the people behind the taglines, the mission, the photographs. Readers are compelled by the words of the volunteers. Yet sometimes, the stories need to go deeper – beyond the volunteers and into the lives of those touched by the cause.

Plan Norway found a way.Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.33.15 AM

Instead of writing about why Norwegians should care about child marriage (particularly when the practice is outlawed in Norway) – Plan Norway started the wedding blog of 12-year-old Thea, written as if by Thea in the upcoming weeks before her marriage to a man nearly triple her age. She discussed concerns about bearing his children, planning the wedding and the censure and opinions of her parents, despite her frustration and sadness with the situation. Paired with the heart-wrenching words of a young girl were photos similar to what could be found on any Instagram or Facebook feed. Outcry ensued from the Norwegian community, and after only a few weeks live, Plan Norway revealed that Thea’s wedding blog is a part of their #stopbryllupet campaign to raise awareness for the nearly 40,000 girls in other countries forced into marriages at a young age.


While analytics for the popularity of this blog and the coverage that followed the reveal are scarce, one article from HelloGiggles had share states of over 20,000 on Facebook from that story alone. Coverage ran in Norway and in the United States, including in the Huffington Post and the Independent in the UK.

So what worked for this non-profit to stir people into caring about a cause not prevalent in the country of origin?

1). Contextualization. With some causes, it’s important to put things in the context of the reader’s culture. People aren’t surprised to see commentary and photos of 12- or 13-year-old girls from Indian or middle-eastern countries getting married – but the moment the girl could be your daughter’s friend from down the street, the conversation changes. This blog, though false, was a shock to those who might have previously glossed over an anti-child bride initiative.

2. Viral medium. Today’s teens are all over the place on the Internet. They have Twitter, Tumblr, maybe Facebook, and a good portion of them express their thoughts on blogs like the diaries of yesterday. This medium was the perfect choice for Thea’s blog, particularly given the user, the easy share factor and easy discoverability.

3. Honest Voice. This particular tactic might not work for all causes and all non-profits, but there’s one thing we can all take to heart. There was no denying the honest, engaging voice of Thea and her struggle. This is what shocked and appalled us. She became real in our eyes through her words and her photos – and this has power.

Next time your organization is looking for a guerrilla storytelling tactic, consider sharing the story of your cause from the perspective of someone living it with an honest voice, on the proper medium, and in a context that will stir the hearts of your audience.


Show-off: Infographics

You’ve seen them – those beautiful infographics that take your breath away with their stunning visualizations of hard-to-comprehend data. Sometimes they use food, sometimes color, but they always result in shares across social media. It’s the power of showing something instead of saying it. And you know you want them, particularly when you have great data just sitting at your fingertips!

Like this one, for example.


It may take some practice, but the end result will always be worth it. Take a few minutes and check out this video to explore how to create your next infographic!


New Media Strategy Implementation for non-profits: Smithsonian Institution Case Study

As for profit brands attempt to harness the power of Web 2.0 and social media, it’s more important than ever that non-profit organizations step up their social media strategy creation. Not only do you need a policy in today’s world, but you need a strategy that aligns with corporate goals. So who is doing this well?

Let’s take a look at the Smithsonian Insitution’s Web and New Media strategy, designed back in 2009. You can find the full plan here, but I’ll hit the high points.

The Smithsonian strategy states three driving themes: updating the digital experience, updating the learning model and balancing autonomy and control within the Smithsonian. While I won’t go into why these are individually important for the Smithsonian (though they all tie into the comprehensive strategic plan), the kicker for other non-profits is to recognize how important it is to tie in your overall strategic themes. Essentially, what is it that you want your new media efforts to actually achieve on a grand scale? Answer these questions:

– Am I branching out to reach new audiences or to deepen relationships we already have?

– Is social or new media the best place to complete the current strategic business objectives?

– Will these new media efforts integrate fluidly into our traditional media efforts?


Next up, the Smithsonian guys identify eight different goals, each with their own policy, program and tactical recommendations. These include mission, brand, learning, audience, interpretation, technology, business model, and governance.

Key takeaway? Plan, embrace strategy, and be ready to measure. You can’t jump into new media blindly with a few promoted tweets and a hashtag. So do yourself a favor – take the time to plan ahead!


Into tomorrow: Emerging Media and activism

When the world seems like a dark place, it can be helpful to be reminded there are nearly 3,400 non-government organizations (NGOs) attempting to make an change (United Nations Economic and Social Council, Statista, 2010). The cause may be animal protection, environmental, orphan and widow care, poverty alleviation, community building, digital literacy, well building, evangelism,  or one of thousands of others – but each has a similar understanding. Spread awareness, raise funds, make an impact, share the impact. Many traditional media tools are outside the realms of all but the largest of non-profit organizations like advertising on television, print, outdoor, etc. Emerging media, or participatory media, presents a unique opportunity for NGOs to use free or cheaply efficient methods around them – activating the power of the people and relationships to call attention to people in need.

New media was defined in 2001 as containing four components: “1) Communication is structured by the technologies present; 2) Networks exist that connect individuals to other parties and information, 3) Information or communication resources exist and 4) Content is digitized.” (Rice & Gattiker). Emerging media, a decade later, carried many of these same traits. It’s driven by the technology that supports it – dominantly mobile, hinting at wearable technology like Google Glass or the Samsung smart watch. Networks, specifically social networks, connect people to people despite time or geography. Finally, three and four are both true in an all-encompassing, immediate way – everything is digitized and an infinite amount of information is available for anyone with access.

Non-profit organizations must learn to utilize these new and emerging media technologies in order to better reach a larger audience and empower them to take action. For-profits are doing it, so why shouldn’t NGOs? Not only will it support the the growth of the organization itself, but smarter use of the technology will lead to more effective outreach and alleviation of the specified problem. The purpose of this blog is to identify and explain emerging and new media trends in use by for profits or in development – and then to apply that information to the variety of non-profits in the world. This could cover anything from search engine optimization to data mining, or creative social networking know-how and community development. Throughout the next nine weeks, this blog will explore ethics,  creative design, new developments in software and tech and more.


Above all things, know that to do well is to have the means to do good. So use what you have.

Do good.


-Jordyne Gunthert


Rice, R.E. & Gattiker, U. (2001). New media and organizational structuring. In F. Jablin & L. Putnam (Eds.), New handbook of organizational communication (pp. 554-581.) Newbury Park, CA: Sage.