Organizational Culture – The Foundation for Great Branding

Organizational Culture - The Foundation for Great Branding

A Solid Foundation

It seems like discussions surrounding organizational culture are all the rage these days with the business kids. As an ED of a local non-profit, I often share with our rm2g clients that a strong organizational culture is the foundation for great branding. Spend time working on the inside, and it becomes much easier to communicate who you are to those on the outside. If your organizational culture or health is weak and your focus is on external branding, you are building a house of cards.

What is Organizational Culture?

Business writers Ravasi and Schultz state that organizational culture is a set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations. A definition I like even more comes from Gary Kelly, President of South West Airlines. He simply says organizational culture is “WHO you are.”

Leadership and Organizational Culture

As a leader, it is your responsibility to spend time studying, observing and fostering healthy culture. It’s where your brand starts. At Family Life Services we are going through a great book by Patrick Lencioni called the Advantage. In it, Lencioni says the best companies—the ones with the true advantage have a healthy culture and spend time nurturing it.

Non-profit leaders, listen up. If you don’t spend time building this foundation, your clients, staff, board of directors and other stakeholders will sense that your brand is off. And that means you aren’t going to get total buy-in for your mission.

The Advantage of A Great Organizational Culture

Here’s a great video in which Michael Hyatt interviews Lencioni about his new book and this “advantage”. At Rocky Mountain Media Group, we know you can’t have a great brand without first building a strong internal culture .We hope this post gets you thinking about how your organizational culture is shaping your brand.

Patrick Lencioni talks about core values versus aspirational values in the video. What is a core value that shapes your organizational culture, and what is one aspirational value you are striving for?



Non-profit Executives on Social Media

One question that comes up consistently at rm2g from our non-profit executive friends is, “If my non-profit has a social media space, do I still have to personally engage on these platforms as well?”

The answer is simple.

Yes, yes, yes and yes.

My question back to them is always this—Why wouldn’t you?

As a nonprofit leader, would you ever walk out of, or even refuse to enter a room full of people talking about your organization or the issues you care about? Would you just ignore them?

I don’t think so. Not ever.

But unfortunately, that is what you are doing everyday you avoid the social space. And trust me, your constituents are noticing.

If you are not personally engaging on these platforms you are frustrating your organization’s advocates, who want to hear from you. You may even be causing them to wonder what are you trying to hide.

And trust me, they aren’t thinking the things on the list you have in your head. The I can’t be on social media, they might think… That list. You know the one.

They aren’t thinking:

  • How much time is he/she spending here?
  • Is this what my donation is going to support?
  • Why don’t they just get a volunteer to do this?

On the contrary, when you are personally engaged online and you take the time to answer questions about the non-profit you manage, from your own profile, your supporters are wowed.

They are more likely thinking:

  • Wow, that was quick. And a personal response!
  • This person truly cares about the mission of the organization and about me.
  • How great that I can get in touch with them and connect on a personal level.

I’m not saying that hiring someone or allowing a volunteer to manage your organization’s accounts is always bad. But I am saying that doing so doesn’t give you a permission to check out of the space. And having someone else manage your personal accounts just doesn’t work. It is you they want to hear from as a leader, and you come across as phony when someone else is writing your posts. And if you think they won’t find out, think again.

Your constituents expect you to be there, in your own voice, joining in the conversation, sharing your leadership lessons and telling the story of your organization. Don’t disappointment them.

We can help you with executive training and get you socially engaged on the  platforms that are right for you personally.

If you need assistance, please contact us. This is one of the most favorite things we do at Rocky Mountain Media Group.

Are you connected with any non-profit executives on social media who are doing this well? Who?

8 Nonprofit Social Media Tips


Here are eight simple tips to help get your nonprofit social media presence off the ground.

1. It Starts At The Top

The CEO, President or Executive Director alone will determine the success of your social media efforts. If the leader buys in and is involved, both personally and professionally for the organization,  there is a better chance of using social media effectively. When the voice of your organization “gets it”, the importance of social media is demonstrated by example. If it isn’t a high enough priority for the head of the organization to be involved, it won’t be a high priority for anyone else either. This means that it won’t get the time and effort it takes to be successful.

2. Have A Plan

Determine what you want to accomplish in the social space and develop a plan that will move you towards those goals. I talked about the importance of planning in this post.

3. Find An Expert

Look around your organization and see if there is someone who is familiar with the social media space. I’m not talking about someone who just has a Facebook account. This person should have a working knowledge of several platforms and should spend a significant amount of time using these tools for personal platform building. If you can’t find someone, you may want to look externally for someone to train the team.

4. Pick Your Platforms

All social media platforms weren’t created equal. Start by finding out where your audience is spending their time and energy. Next, look for platforms that support the type of content you plan to create and share. Find 1-3 platforms that allow you to create for and connect with your audience. [Read more…]

A Tale of Two Sites – Questioning A Non-Profit Web Strategy

Recently I had the privilege of presenting to a group of non-profit leaders on the subjects of branding and social media. All the leaders worked in the same field, non-profit organizations that demand a high level of confidentiality for their clients as well as close relationships with donors.

During my training I raised a question about their web strategy  that was the equivalent of taking a stick and poking a bee hive. I loved it, because it got people asking questions. Questions about why they do things the way they do. Questions about best practices and how new media affects those practices. The question that evoked this conversation was: Is it better for your organization to have one website or to have separate sites for clients and donors? Not an earth shaking question, but one that drew a stronger response than I anticipated. Most organizations in this field have embraced a web strategy of having two separate sites, and this practice has been ingrained in their DNA as a best practice.

But that “best practice” seems to have, at best, been established out of fear and not from asking what is actually best for the client, the donor, or even the non-profit. Fear is never a great reason for developing a position or policy. At worst, this web strategy remains the norm because  it is the organization selling them a second web-site that is encouraging the practice.

So as I talked with these leaders, I challenged them to re-think their reasons for having two sites. I presented them the following five reasons why one site is better than two.

1. Branding

Developing a consistent brand story is essential for a small non-profit operating in a local community. Having two sites makes it difficult to do this, especially when part of your brand promise is trust, confidentiality, authenticity and safety. How do you keep clients from visiting the donor site, and what are you posting there you don’t want them to see? Having one site, telling one story, helps you build a consistent, trusted brand.

2. Maintaining the Site

For a small non-profit it is often challenging to maintain a single website, let alone two. Many use third party services to host and maintain their sites for them. This usually makes it difficult if not impossible to update site. Having a single site, that they control makes it easy to share new, relevant information regularly.

3. Donors

As a donor to small non-profits I don’t want my donor dollars going to create a second website whose sole purpose is to  try to reach me and garner more donations. A simple donate now button on your site is sufficient (clients know you are a non-profit and won’t be offended by a donate button – they see it on every other non-profit site). And if I am looking for information about your mission, I should be able to find it from looking at the services you offer clients.

4. More on Donors

A static website that you never update isn’t the best way to reach a donor anyway. Use your new site with a blog to communicate important events happening at your organization. If there are things you want to share with donors privately, you can send a newsletter, either in print or via email. You can even create a Facebook group just for donors.

5. Google

If none of the above reasons are compelling, maybe this one will be. Sending visitors to two sites isn’t helping your Google page rank for your non-profit. Obviously you want to rank high in a Google search, and sending all that traffic to one location will help. If you rank high in Google search results organically, you won’t have to spend as much on Google Ads.

My recommendation, take the money you are saving from the Google Ads and what you are spending for a second web site and put it all into making your client site better. Get rid of the template, make it match your brand, and take control of your content.

Sometimes having an outside perspective can be beneficial. When “best practices” become dated, change is hard to initiate. Internal blinders are hard to see beyond. A fresh perspective and some hard questions can jump start the process. Our job is to help by asking those questions. If you run a nonprofit, your job is to answer them honestly and do what you believe is best for your organization.

I want to thank those who attended the training for being willing to engage in the conversation, for helping us better think through our position, and for all they do to make a difference in their communities.


Five Tips For Optimizing Your Volunteer Experience Using Facebook


At Family Life Services, we use Facebook to connect, engage and thank our volunteers. Here are five quick tips to help you optimize your volunteer experience through your Facebook page.


    1. Prior to  a work group from an organization coming to your facility you should like their company or ministry page. It will make it easier to  tag the group on your page when time the time comes, and  by tagging their name in your post, it will also show up on their page as well. This is a great way to acknowledge them publicly for their service and let their fans, as well as yours, know how great they are.
    2. Make sure you have all the volunteers sign a release form before they do any work.  The release form should include a line about releasing all photo and video images for use in ALL forms of media. This way you can post pictures of them working hard on your page right away. At Family Life Services we host a large number of teen groups. If you have a group that has volunteers under 18 years old, be sure to have parents sign the release for their children.
    3. Be sure to mention individuals or groups before the actual workday happens. This not only builds anticipation and energy for the volunteers before they even get to work, but lets your fans know that you are partnering with another organization and encourages them to support that organization as well.
    4. During your orientation session with the volunteers, be sure to invite them to like your page prior to them diving into the work. At Family Life Services, our Volunteer Coordinator thanks folks for coming and welcomes them into the family. One way we do that is by asking volunteers to join the community on Facebook. Many times they will take out their phones and like our page right on the spot. Don’t miss this opportunity. Also remind volunteers as you are taking pictures of them throughout the day that you will be putting these up on Facebook and invite them to go in and tag themselves.
    5. Always follow-up volunteer engagements with a personal thank you. Social media is a great way to recognize volunteers, but it should never replace a personal touch. So send a note, or make a phone call to follow up with individuals and groups who volunteer after the work is done. Don’t rely completely on Facebook to say thank you.


Maybe you have some of your own strategies as well. In the comments please share the ways you like to be recognized through social media, or other ideas to optimize Facebook for volunteers.


(The photo is of a group of volunteers from Axis, an organization that volunteers regularly at Family Life Services)

Six Questions A Non-Profit Should Answer Before Going Social

If you run or work for a non-profit agency, there are six questions you should have clear answers for before you start a social media presence.


1. Why social media?

Sure it’s the latest, greatest, next thing. It’s a great way to get the word out about your organization, and everyone else is doing it. But those aren’t good enough reasons to go social.

Before you create your first account, you need to be able to answer the question “Why social?” Do you want to communicate with volunteers, fundraise, or are you looking to create awareness in the community about your organization? In order to be effective on any of the social networking platforms, you need to be clear about why you are there and what you hope to accomplish.


2. What is the best place to start?

Figuring out where you should begin is the next step. I’ve seen people approach their social media strategy like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. Just because you build that Facebook page doesn’t mean they will come. You want to choose your platform based on your answers to question 1 and where the people you are trying to connect with live socially.  Twitter could be a great way to communicate with and organize volunteers, or your blog may be the prefect tool to raise awareness about the services you offer.


3. How does your brand translate?

It is important to determine what you want the voice of your organization to be before you begin. Ideally, your online presence feels just like it would if someone were to call your organization or walk in your front door. Which leads to the next question. [Read more…]