I love women’s organizations. The people I meet who are working on feminist causes never cease to inspire me. I have encountered women around the world who dedicate their lives to the most outstanding causes – women’s health, human trafficking, lobbying, childcare, domestic violence, women’s economic empowerment, equality, leadership, gender in the media, education, and more. There is much work to be done for sure, but watching women’s intelligence and dedication always leaves me breathless.
Yet, I have seen some great women make some significant mistakes in the way they present their cause – whether to potential donors or to partners or to the media. I don’t believe that these mistakes have anything to do with any kind of inborn differences between men and women. It’s just a matter of training – how our cultures have taught women about what it means to be polite. Deborah Tannen, for example, has written extensively about women’s communication styles, how we like to be collaborative, accommodating and nice – all great qualities, except that they don’t help us with getting ahead. Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever also provide ample evidence in their book Women don’t Ask that women tend to shy away from saying exactly what we want and believe.
Women can learn to do this differently. Women who are the power and engines of gender or feminist-based organizations can acquire some skills – and grab a few good tips – to get the message across more powerfully and effectively. It’s about telling our stories in a way that we are heard.
Here are my top seven tips for women in not-for-profit to improve the way your story comes across:
Sheryl Sandberg is about to become a very rich woman — and I’m really happy about it. The world needs more rich women, especially women who understand the importance of empowering other women.
The New York Times called Sandberg the “$1.6 billion woman,” based on the anticipated public offering of Facebook, where Sandberg is COO.
Sandberg, who has been a strong, vocal advocate for women’s advancement in the workplace, is actually one of the few women on top in Facebook. Tellingly, there are no women on the Facebook board, and Sandberg is the highest ranking woman in the company — number four from the top. Of the 10 most senior positions in the company, only three are held by women.
Certainly Sandberg has a reputation for promoting women’s successes at work — helping working mothers to find creative schedules and day care, encouraging women to be powerful and assertive, building a culture in which women’s real, complicated lives and concerns are welcomed rather than dismissed as signs of women’s lack of professionalism. But when it comes to women’s equality all the way to the top, the Facebook record remains mixed.
You want to get people to buy into your cause. You want to reach people and get them to go "wow". Then you want them to be invested, to make your cause their own, and ultimately to take action to support your cause. But how?
The process of building your support base is a function of the effectiveness of your "Cause Marketing". At Spirit Consulting, we spend a lot of time working with clients on cause marketing communications -- that is, using your tools of communication to reach your goals.
Here are five tips for using Twitter to boost your cause marketing communications:
(1) 80/20 rule for self-promotion. Eighty percent of your tweets should be about something other than self-promotion. Send out links to articles related to your cause. Ask interesting questions. (Do NOT write about what you had for breakfast). Every fifth tweet can then be news about your own work -- a new campaign, an update about activities, a fundraising reminder. (Hattip to Ohad Flikler)
(2) Use keyword hashtags (#) for your cause. Think about what your cause is really about, the keywords of your cause, and don't be afraid to use those words in a hashtag (#). Think carefully about those keywords. So for example, if your cause is women's reproductive rights, find others tweeting about the issue by searching "#women's reproductive rights". You may be surprised at how much potential networking emerges.
(3) Respond to good content. Look for others tweeting about the same topics, and take the time to respond to the best content. For instance, if your cause is about "poverty in India", then do a search for "# poverty in India" and zero in on the ones that are really good. People will like to know that you share ideas and views.
(4) Mention your allies. Link to articles that your friends and allies have written or posted. People reallly appreciate your support (as you do theirs), and will often show their gratitude by supporting you back. Think of it as the twitter version of scratching each other's backs.
(5) Say thank you. When people re-tweet or mention you, don't forget to say thank you. Try not to get too entangled in extended conversations on twitter -- save those for private. But do take a moment to thank people for supporting you. This goes to one of the first rules of cause marketing: People really appreciate being appreciated!