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We have news for you

20 Mar

Listen up. Barapani is a full service fundraising company now.

We’ve taken the past few months to think hard, work on the numbers, and get this together for you.

Digital. Tele-calling. Events. Major donor fundraising. Media planning and buying. Full on fundraising, as we’d say in Bangalore. And a research lab to back this up.

We’ve been around as Barapani for seven full years now. And there’s one thing we’ve been focused on: How to get you and your not-for-profit to raise more money year after year for your work.

We have been around as the funding environment has evolved in the past couple of decades.  We have seen the rug being pulled from under the feet of some of us all too soon, as priorities of countries and donors have changed.

We’ve walked along with those of you who’ve been truly visionary and recognised that the road to building a committed base of long-term support does not lie in a single viral campaign or a flash mob, but in the often mind-numbing task of filling out donor details on an Excel sheet (or its rich-cousin alternative).

Not all of you have causes immediately attractive to an evolving public. Not all of you have something to offer that can be captured in a soundbite. We’ve walked alongside you as well.

In short, we’ve been around long enough to know a couple of things.

  1. What works very well in fundraising.
  2. Even more important. What doesn’t work in fundraising.

And so, today we’re announcing the start of a new Barapani. One that’s bigger, better and more focused on what you need.

Thank you for walking with us.


Have website, will fundraise? Not necessarily.

21 Feb

Creating a website and waiting for donations to pour in is a bit like buying a car and expecting it to drive itself.

So we put the website URL on visiting cards, brochures, annual reports, and email signatures, and then wait. Those with some resources to spare dabble in social media (read Facebook) and post the website URL on Facebook with an appeal. When that still doesn’t pay, we shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves, “Well, as a small/ medium not-for-profit, we can’t afford to advertise the way these big organisations can, so this is the best we can do.” The enthusiasm for the website wanes, and in no time, the website is dead. But we know that we should be doing more on the web, so every three to five years we fiddle with the website and make cosmetic changes.

This cycle is all too familiar for us who have been working with not-for-profit organisations of all sizes for the past 16 years.

So here it is, in simple, unequivocal terms: Just a website will not raise you money or supporters online.

Simple promotion tactics – while important – are not enough.

  • Putting your URL on print materials is a good start, but people have to key in your URL into a browser, and that calls for serious interest or commitment.
  • Putting your URL on your email signature is slightly better, but most people tune out your email signature, unless you force them to read it in some way.
  • Posting an appeal, even a well-written one, on Facebook is good, but if you haven’t built the relationships, no one is reading.

In last week’s post, we talked about how it’s not what you do with the donate button, but what you do around it. This week, we talk about how it’s not about just having a website, but how you drive donors to visit and give on it.

What you need is a digital pipeline that drives potential donors to your website, engages them in conversation and gets them to give again.

Here are three ways in which you can do this:

  1. Put in place a regular email marketing campaign to build and nurture a list of warm donors. An email newsletter can become your #1 tool in driving online donations. It can get people to give for the first time, and one-time donors to give again and give more.
  2. Get donors who have given even once to engage with you on social media, say Facebook. This gives you a low-cost method of regularly communicating with and retaining donors.
  3. Tie these three channels – the website, Facebook and the email newsletter – into a digital loop that powers your acquisition and retention engine.

Now that your basic loop is in place, you can add elements (such as advertising) according to your budget.

To find out how to put this digital pipeline in place, write in to us.

A cold, hard look at the Ice Bucket Challenge #icebucketchallenge

20 Aug

Two weeks ago, I hadn’t heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Three days ago, I stared goggle-eyed at the tweets piling up on #icebucketchallenge.

Two days ago, YouTube went crazy with vids of famous people dunking buckets of ice water on themselves.

Yesterday, I watched every single one of them.

Well, almost. Awww, wasn’t Bill Gates the best? Wasn’t Tim Cook’s the most boring IBC (ice bucket challenge for the uninitiated)? WTF was Melinda Gates thinking, wearing that top hat from Toyland? And Satya Nadella, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Conan O’Brien, Sania Mirza… how sporting of them! Not to mention the scores of lonely hopefuls who dunked themselves in their living rooms, shot it on a shaky handycam balanced on the TV, set to the sound of canned applause (they must have had to do the cleaning up afterwards, unlike Nadella, Bezos and the others).

This morning, as I crawled into work suffering the chilly after-effects of my IBC Youtubathon, sense returned. I asked some questions. Was the IBC a brilliant campaign that would forever change the face of ALS research and care? Or was it a one-trick-pony that would go the way of #nomakeupselfie and others?

But first, what is it?

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a fundraiser to raise money for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease in the US). Most people are unlikely to know the full form, but most do know that Stephen Hawking has lived with it for most of his life.

What the Ice Bucket Challenge has done is capture the public imagination, catapult ALS from being an unknown (and unpronounceable) disease to one that’s widely recognised (the acronym, not the full form) – at least among netheads. And it has raised tons of money.

There are some professional doubters quibbling about the punctuation, of course.

Their No. 1 quibble is:

The IBC is not really raising awareness on ALS – people are doing it as a fad, and will forget all about it when it dies down. It’s a fake campaign.

Sure, Thomas, but the money is very real. And that will support research into this disease that has a life expectancy of two to five years, and ensure better care for people living with ALS.

While numbers are mounting day to day, an August 19 report said that the IBC has raised more than $15 million since three weeks ago, when Pete Frales, former Boston College baseball captain who has ALS, posted the challenge video. 

In the same period last year, the charity raised $1.8 million.

Go figure.

Quibble No. 2:

It thrives on peer pressure.

Peer pressure. One of the first lessons we learn in fundraising class. Tell us fundraising folks something new.

Quibble No. 3:

It feeds the narcissistic side of people.

Hmmm. If people are doing something to raise money for a cause, why deny them their moment in the sun (or in ice water, in this case)? Be generous with giving donors the credit and the glory. And take a deep breath.

I do have some worries, though.

One, the Ice Bucket Challenge is raising more money than ever before raised in a campaign by the ALS association and related charities, but is it enough? Research into life-threatening diseases needs a bottomless bucket. I hope all these $100 donations (except the likes of Charlie Sheen who gave $10,000) add up to enough and more money to support path-breaking research on ALS.

Two, I hope the recipient charities are holding emergency meetings and staying up late at night inking their donor relationship and communication plans.

That’s the only way to make sure that long after all this ice has melted, there will still be a steady trickle coming in.

How nonprofits can use Twitter lists to curate content, research and stay updated

19 Aug


As a child, were you ever told the story of the thirsty crow and the pitcher of water?

It goes like this. The thirsty crow wanted a sip of water from a long-necked pitcher, but couldn’t get his beak in. So he dropped pebbles one by one into the pitcher till the water level rose, drank and flew away.

Twitter lists are a lot like that. We’ll see how.

Twitter! Not for me, oh no!

Many not-profits that I work with leave Twitter well alone, because they feel that:

  1. There’s too much information out there, and I don’t have the time.
  2. I don’t want to wade through the noise of Twitter (eg. What did Amitabh Bachchan do this morning) to find a single article of interest, because, you guessed right, I don’t have the time.
  3. I wish someone would make sense of all the information on Twitter and bunch together just the stuff I’m interested in (also called Content curation and aggregation).

If you can’t follow ’em all, Twitter list ’em

And that’s where Twitter lists come in. There’s a lot of water out there, and you need to drop these pebbles in to get the water to the top.

For example, one of my interests is Fundraising. I want to keep up with stuff that’s going on in the world, watch people and non-profits who’re doing brilliant campaigns and stay on top of my game.

All I have to do is create a Twitter list and add people who are doing path-breaking work in fundraising to the list. (These are people I already follow on Twitter.) These people are likely to follow other people that inspire them, so I wade through their list of followers and unashamedly follow some of them who look interesting. Soon, I have a list that is curated, organized and easy to follow. If I don’t have time to look through my entire Twitter feed, all I have to do is go to my list, and catch up on the most important goings-on in the world of fundraising.

Five steps to creating your own list on Twitter

Step by step, here is how to create a Twitter list of your own.

  1. On your Twitter page, go to the Settings and help tab on the top right hand and click on lists.
  2. Click on Create new list, give your list a name (eg. Fundraising) and add a short description.
  3. You can keep your list private or make it public (which means other people can follow your list).
  4. Add a bunch of people from the list of people you follow – take some time with this step. You want to get the best of the Twitterati on your subject here. Select people who read and tweet widely on the subject of fundraising.
  5. That’s it! You now have your own selected list of the best and latest information on fundraising on your Twitter feed.

Or follow

If you don’t want to take a trouble of creating your own list, then follow the Twitter list of someone else who’s taken the trouble to put it together, and you get a pretty well curated list for free! (Fundraising enthusiasts, my list of the Bold and the Beautiful in Fundraising is at – follow away!)

What’s in it for you

A Twitter list is a lifeline in an age of information overload. You get just the information you want, pulled together in a single place. A great way to make sure you’re on top of what’s happening around the world in your field.

Twitter lists are great for research on any subject. If it’s a new subject you want to look up, you can follow the above steps to get a customised Twitter list that has the latest information on the subject of your choice.

Another benefit of Twitter lists is that it creates a virtual group of your peers – or people with whom you want to hang out. You get to keep up with what they’re reading; you can retweet them; tweet them; and build relationships with peers in this way.

The common crow had oodles of common sense

The technology is new, but the idea is centuries old, courtesy the common crow. Who’d have thought a crow could teach you how to tweet?

PS Since we are on the subject of how smart crows are, take a look at 6 Terrifying Ways Crows Are Way Smarter Than You Think.

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