Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Heartbleed & AMO

April 11th, 2014 by Michael Probert

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Heartbleed & AMO

As you may have heard, the latest security bug in the news is Heartbleed. It is a vulnerability that affects systems that use OpenSSL for encryption, and AMO was not affected by the vulnerability at any time. We just wanted to let you all know that your data is safe with us.

Out of copious amounts of caution, if you host your email with us we advice you to change your password just to be completely safe.

We take your data security very seriously here at AMO and value your business.

- AMO IT

Do you ever wonder why some posts on social media platforms get more traffic than others? Most likely it was due to when the post was published. To help you out, we put together a graph of the best and worst times to post on different platforms.

social-media-times-to-post2This article was originally posted on ArcStone Technologies’ blog.

 

All of the locations of the Google Maps Pokémon

April 1st, 2014 by Michael Probert

Gotta Catch ‘em all!

Google put together a fun Pokémon themed April Fools day prank on Google Maps where users could go and catch Pokémon all around the world. It was only released on mobile devices as to encourage downloads of the Google Maps app. Here’s  link to a thread on Reddit that crowdsourced the locations of all of the Pokémon around the world, enjoy!

Rules of the Conference Call

February 26th, 2014 by yvang

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Conference calls are a great way to get information out to a group of people — especially if distance is a factor — but we have all suffered through pointless calls. So if you’re looking to have or attend a conference call anytime soon, keep these rules in mind:

  • If you’re questioning whether you should hold a call or not, don’t have it.
  • Everyone knows what time the conference call is. Make sure you show up early — being a minute late is too late.
  • Keep it to the point. Ten minutes should be the maximum length of any conference call.
  • Since it’s only ten minutes long, make sure you give the person holding the call your undivided attention.
  • If you are holding the call, make sure you leave room and time for feedback for questions. The best thing about conference calls is that it is a back and forth. If you wanted to have a conversation without the nuances that audio can provide, an email would have sufficed.
  • If you need to talk to someone, pick up the phone and call them. Don’t spend that time involving others in a call that isn’t relevant to them.

This blog is a repost from ArcStone. ArcStone is a web agency located in Minneapolis that specializes in design, marketing, development, and hosting.

Is It Time to Rewrite Your Bylaws?

February 3rd, 2014 by Michael Probert

When was the last time your association updated your bylaws?

If your answer is, “Bylaws?” then it might be time for a review of the written rules that govern your organization’s internal affairs. Whether it’s a small thing – updating your officers – or a more major change – revising your purpose – rewriting your bylaws can help refocus and refine your association’s organization, mission and function.

Revising your bylaws can also help your association or community function more efficiently, save money or get back on the same page – all good reasons to revisit your rules and regulations.

It might be time to revise your bylaws if:

  • You need clarification on anything in the current bylaws that focuses on how your association operates, including items such as voting, officer terms, management, maintenance and so on;
  • Your association is undergoing a significant change in how it is run or how it functions;
  • You haven’t reviewed your bylaws in ages and don’t even know what they say anymore.

If you haven’t reviewed your bylaws in the past year, take some time to read through them word for word as an organization. What has changed or evolved? What else should be reflected in them? How is your association functioning on a daily basis? What changes do you foresee for the future? Are your financials in good shape? What are your voting procedures? How is your board functioning?

Updating your bylaws requires approval from your voting members as well as a little time and organization, but will set your association up for greater success – and less distress – in the future.

As always, we are happy to anticipate and address any issues you might have related to bylaws and to overall association management.

Member Survey

If only you had asked…

Those are the words you never want to hear when you’re talking to members about the services or opportunities they would have liked to see. Or when you’re asking former members why they never renewed.

The right series of questions is one of the simplest, most powerful tools for turning your member database into your best source of strategic intelligence. If you know what members need and want, you have a far better chance of delivering it. If they’ve spotted a new opportunity, you’ll want to tap into it. If they’ve got their eye on a trend that could be threat to your sector, you’ll want to know about it.

And at the most basic level of all, if they can see that you care enough to ask those questions, they’ll be more likely to pay attention when it’s time to renew.

The Art and the Science

An effective member survey is part art, part science. The best surveys:

  • Have a clear purpose and focus on a specific set of programs, services, or issues
  • Give members a compelling reason to respond, backed up by even a small incentive if possible (a $5 gift card is enough to boost participation rates)
  • Involve a first announcement and at least two reminders (as long as you take care not to keep promoting to members who’ve already responded)
  • Have been field-tested before they’re deployed
  • Are built on survey tools that make it easy to track individual responses
  • Are distributed by multiple methods, from e-blasts to social media to sample telephone outreach.

Striking the Right Balance

Associations have to value their members’ time as well as their opinions. That means striking a fine balance by asking enough questions, frequently enough to take the pulse of your membership, without making people feel they’ve been surveyed to death. But the right survey strategy will keep members engaged and deliver the unmistakable message that they matter—which really is the cornerstone of the relationship you want to build with them.

Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meagan Rockett is Director, Client Solutions with Greenfield Services, Inc. She works closely with professional and trade associations in consulting and implementing unique strategies to increase all aspects of member engagement.

Amp Up Your Donations

January 21st, 2014 by Michael Probert

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As an association, it can be hard to maintain a steady flow of donations. Nonetheless try to increase them – especially in a less than sure economic climate. But there are some things you can do to not only encourage more donations but also make it even easier for your donors to give, by taking it all online.

Online fundraising isn’t the future – it’s the Now!

According to the 2013 Nonprofit eBenchmarks Study, online fundraising revenue increased by 21% for one-time gifts and a whopping 43% for monthly giving in 2012. This means that online fundraising isn’t just an idea for the future – it’s crucial to the success of your nonprofit right now.

But you already have a website and a Facebook page – what else do you need, right? How about a strategy to make it easy for them to give, for getting your donors to give regularly, to enable them to give on the go, and enlist them as ambassadors for your cause? Here are some tips that can help your non-profit move into the future, now.

Top Tips for Increasing Fundraising Donations

Celebrate your donors using a donor database

Keeping track of your donors in a database is a no-brainer. If you want to raise funds you’ve got to build relationships. Though one-time donations are still the most frequently given, they’re not the ideal. Just like any other industry, if you want to succeed you need repeat business. Set up a user-friendly database to help you keep donor information all in one place.

Now, you have a mailing list of qualified leads – people who not only believe in your cause but who’ve believed enough to give before. These are the people you should be celebrating, their “giving anniversaries” or their birthdays or inviting to your fundraisers, etc.  Knowledge is power – wield it with a database.

Keep it simple and be bold

Once you have them on the hook, you don’t want them wiggling away. Don’t give your donors an excuse to leave you empty handed. Frustration with online transactions leave users abandoning their initial impulses and there’s nothing more frustrating than to go through a complicated online process in order to give away your hard-earned money.

Once you have people on your website, it’s important that you draw their attention – ask for what you need with bold, easy-to-read, can’t-miss-it, donate now buttons that lead to secure online donation forms. Be sure to include a simple, quick loading form for account creation, allowing them to login and make their next visit even easier.

Electronic Donations

We’re all familiar with the convenience of shopping from your desktop, sales from online shopping have grown 300 percent since the beginning of 2004 and according to Forrester Research’s U.S. Cross-Channel Retail Forecast, by 2017, 60% of all U.S. retail sales will involve the Internet in some way. This is why, if you haven’t started already, you need to be accepting donations via electronic payment methods like credit and debit cards.

Easy-to-use online donation software, makes it simple to use a laptop, tablet or smartphone at your next fundraiser to collect electronic donations, quickly and painlessly and electronic donation forms on your website, allow your visitors to give anytime, anywhere.

Giving Levels and auto-recurring donations

According to the research, suggesting giving amounts leads to increased average donations. Providing a handful of suggested donation options makes it easy for a donor to know what you need and how they can help, just remember to include the “other” box for the big fish donor that wants to make your day. Want to really take it next level, pair this strategy with a recurring donation checkbox and it’s a win/win.

Recurring monthly donations are the place to be. Every non-profit would love to be able to better forecast and plan their finances and grant funds allocations. Auto-recurring donations allow you to budget smarter because you know when they’ll be coming in. Best of all, your donors can sign up for the plan that’s right for them choosing the amount and weekly, monthly or yearly giving options.

Go Mobile

Mobile usage is estimated to overtake desktop usage this year. This means your website needs to be responsive, most especially, donation forms. Use your site’s analytics to guide you towards your most high traffic pages and make sure those donation forms work seamlessly on all platforms and devices.

Make them feel secure

With recent database hacking scandals in the news, everyone’s worried about their information being compromised. Earn your donors’ trust by taking the appropriate precautions to ensure their information is secure. Showcase the logos of any security measures you’ve taken (Norton, Verisign, Sitelock, etc.) and give your donors peace of mind.

How to Secure a Grant

January 24th, 2014 by Michael Probert

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How do you secure a grant for your organization? If you’re a non-profit this just might be your number one question. Well, this and how to amp up donations (hint: we’ve got you covered there as well. Read the article here.) While there is no foolproof guaranteed way to land the grant you have your eye on, there are some important steps you can take to ensure you’ve given your organization a fighting chance at landing the grant of your dreams.

Prepare for Success

Though most legitimate non-profits have these things in place already, if you’re a newborn non-prof, it’s important to note that having all your ducks in a row as they say, makes the grant writing process easier. Make sure you have these things in place before starting your grant process:

  • Clear mission and vision, goals, and objectives
  • Appropriate tax status
  • Accounting systems
  • That your programs are intrinsic to the well-being of the community
  • A multi-pronged fundraising plan

Once you have the basics in place, you can begin the long journey that is preparing a potentially successful grant proposal using these techniques:

Where to look for grant funding

It takes a bit of homework to figure out who’s interested in funding projects like yours, the more potential source fits you find, the better, as competition for grant money is steep. Begin locally, searching for community foundations, businesses, and city and county government agencies. Then move on to internet searches, the local library, network with other organizations and savvy grant writers to find funding resource networks that best align with your organizations vision and mission.

You can also find great resources in community and economic development agencies as well as contact your state governor’s office or your congressional team members to find leads for regional and federal grant money that may be available for your organization or business.

Writing an Effective Grant Proposal

It all begins with research. Once you’ve focused in on a list of grants you’d like to apply for, begin doing your research on each individual funder. Here’s where you read everything you can, starting with the information they provide about themselves and their grant application process. Pro Tip: follow application instructions to the letter.

But your research should move beyond that as well. You’ll want to see samples of winning grant applications and look for any evaluation results you can find for any previous grant winners who have implemented programs similar to yours – this will help you find out what gets funded and what doesn’t and once funded what worked and what didn’t. (Check out http://www.npguides.org for proposal examples.)

 

Other important tips include:

  • Research best practices for your proposal and incorporate language from the experts on your particular solution.
  • Incorporate language found on the funder’s own website to help them seem how your goals align.
  • Hire an experienced grant writer or assign the employee in your organization with the best command of the language and a knack for writing clean copy. Then have them tell your organization’s story in a compelling way that keeps the reader interested, writing in short, impactful sentences and using action words wherever possible.
  • Hire a proofreader or editor to read your writing and keep it tight. Again, this position can be filled internally by a detail oriented wordsmith but remember having grammatically correct, clean copy could mean the difference between getting your funds or not. It’s worth it to have it done right.s
  • Ask only for what you need not what you dream of – this isn’t like winning the lottery, you’re competing with organizations who run a tight ship, using frugality to their advantage against those who are wasteful. Philanthropy is still a careful investment because those doing the investing want to be sure their dollars go to do the most good.
  • Write grant requests regularly – the more you write, the greater your chances of receiving awards.
  • Keep your eye on the prize: What would this money mean to your organization? Write with this in mind, write toward this goal, tell them what you will accomplish with this money and why it’s best invested in you.

Grant writing is a lengthy process, especially for a beginner. Take the time to get organized and provide all the information to compel them to say yes but remember many great proposals still get rejected. If your funding request gets denied though, capitalize on it as a learning opportunity and find out why. This way you can fix those issues the next time you apply.

7 Ways to Promote Your Next Event (For Free)

January 18th, 2014 by yvang

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So, you’ve set the date, planned your event, and secured your venue. What’s next? Telling people about it. Some organizations may have a promotional/publicity budget to advertise an event, especially if it’s a major one, but there are many ways to get the word out without having to break the bank – you just have to look for it. Even if you do have a budget for advertising, there are many small ways to promote for free, and you should always keep these in mind.

Here are some tips — some obvious, some that take a little bit of work — but all that can help to get some more people to your event. These are only the start, and you should use this as a base and see how many other ideas you can add to it.
Passing the word

1. Word of Mouth - The first, and most logical, place to start is with your members and supporters. Use meetings, regular communications and newsletters to let your colleagues know about an event and encourage them to tell their friends and people they know. Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful selling tools because it also comes with a reliable, credible endorsement. You are more apt to attend an event that you have a personal connection with.

2. Sell Tickets - When spreading the word about your event, without making it sound like a sales pitch, members and colleagues can have physical tickets with them and sell to anyone interested. If doing this, make sure you make regular checks to see who’s sold how many, in order to calculate how many tickets remain and ensure the money comes in.

3. Email - Make sure you have send out a newsletter to let everyone on your mailing list know about the event (where, when, why, cost, RSVP etc). Not only is this an easy and cheap form of communication, it ensures people are notified instantly, and that they can easily forward on the message to others they think might be interested. Make sure you include all the necessary information in the email; it’s tough enough to get someone to click on your email, so it’s best to be to the point with your message. You can issue a reminder but don’t misuse this power to badger people continually – aka spamming people.

4. Posters - For locally-based events, posters are a good way to get word about the event out to people that may not be in your immediate networking circle. Include event details and use an eye-popping image in color that will catch people’s eye and post copies wherever regulations allow. The areas that have more traffic, the more likely your poster will make an impact. It is etiquette in these circumstances to go round after the event and take them down. Keep in mind that postering is mass marketing is like casting a wide net. With mass marketing the return rate is usually 1%, thus for every 100 people that see the poster, most of the time, only 1 person will come to your event.

5. Local Press - With enough advance notice, editors of local publications and newspapers are willing to write about your event. It’s easy to research the names of editors and send them a press release (Don’t know how to write one? This site can help.) with details. Even if you aren’t a professional publicist, it’s easy to write an email that is concise and informative. If you don’t hear back in a 2-3 days, it’s okay to send a follow-up email – just be aware of how much you email them, so you are not badgering them.

6. Radio and Television - Send your press release to local radio stations as well – for both news and also for an interview purposes. Just like with the newspapers, make sure you are sending to the right person and give them only pertinent information. These people are usually busy, and they want the story.

7. Personal promotion and Social Media - A detail that some people may miss is putting the info of the event on their actual website or sharing via social networks. In a recent study, more and more people are getting their information through Facebook and Twitter over newspapers and news outlets more than ever. The people that seek out your site are also the group most likely to invest in a ticket. Even more important, this means that anybody who hears off-handedly about the event can get the exact details. Make sure you check the listing for required updates at least weekly – out of date sites can create a bad first impression.

More Tips
• Always get your copy to the media in good time
• Ring up and check for submission dates.
• Build up your media contact list via this process of promoting your event. Record every media contact and its outcomes, and you will have a built-in list for your next event.
• Review your strategy. All of these methods, even if you do them all at the same time, have gaps and limitations and biases. Even if they do get people to your event, the cost/benefit of investing the time into these practices may be costly.
• Be prepared for the publicity and take advantage of it of any given. It may be unlikely that you will be swamped with emails and calls from press, you need a plan in place to cover this just in case. Before you begin anyone, make sure that you can meet any potential demand for the event that the publicity may generate. Have something prepared to share with anyone interested, including details, promo photos, ticket links, etc.

What’s the deal with Google+?

I found myself asking this question several months ago.  As someone who claims to know a little bit about social media I figured I’d better get on the Google+ band wagon.

It looks like I did so just in time.  I’m thinking Google+ will be the social media platform that grabs the most attention in 2013.  Sorry Pinterest, I still love you, but you were totally last year.

According to the Global Web Index report in January, Google+ is the second largest active social media platform globally. True story.

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I was turned off by Google+ at first because it’s interface is unlike other social media platforms and can be a little overwhelming and daunting to figure out how to use.

Google+ is like a grown up Facebook or Twitter with more targeted and  intimate sharing options, making it way cooler to share photos with close friends and family, or other select “circles,” on a personal level, and on a professional level, making it much easier to target your content towards the appropriate audience, especially with the communities tool.

I’ve started using it for our agency, Palmer, as well as our other clients, specifically local car dealerships.  Capitalizing on the Local feature of Google+ is key for good SEO practice for smaller businesses.

“These days, if you seek exposure in the local niche, wooing targeted G+ audiences should be your priority,” according to this SocialMediaToday article. “Positive reviews and ratings, as well as Google+ shares, are likely to improve your listing’s rankings on Google…”

Which brings me to the main point in using Google+; it is directly tied in with SEO rankings.

I recommend you create a profile immediately and start playing around with it.  Dedicate a few minutes each day to exploring what Google+ can offer you, set some goals and integrate it into your SEO/social media marketing strategy.

To set up your Google+ account follow these tips on how to begin using Google+:

  • Make sure you complete your profile.  Use keywords to best describe you, your content and/or your services when filling out your profile as often as possible without overkill. Also, include links to your other social media platforms.
  • Make your page look pretty. Your cover photo should be 940 px wide by 180 px tall and your profile photo should be 260 px by 260 px. Make sure to label your cover photo and profile picture with an alt tag that has a keyword or two in it.
  • Set up Google authorship. If you write for a blog or contribute to any other online publication.  Utilizing Google Authorship will increase the SEO value of your published content with direct links to your Google+ page.
  • Share relevant content. Use keywords, select tagging and links in your posts. Furthermore, post informative content.
  • Engage with your audience. Just like you would on other social platforms, best utilize tagging, hashtags and asking for engagement from fans. The more engagement, the better your rankings.  While this type of algorithm is also relevant in Facebook, it becomes even more important because your Google+ popularity will also affect your SEO.

Other resources:

This is a little out dated, but this HubSpot blog post explains best practices for setting up a business Google+ page as well.

This post is republished with permission from www.melissaleiter.com.

This is a guest post from Melissa Leiter, a consultant specializing in small to medium businesses in getting their story out via social media. Her clients include True Emporium, Be a Girl Today, Local Irish and many more. Follow Melissa’s blog and social media advice via her website.

“We have been using AMO since 2004 and have been really pleased with its simplicity, flexibility, and integrated features. The support staff at ArcStone has been really responsive to our needs.”

-P. Hart, Missouri Land Title Association