Manoverboard

Manoverboard has hit many milestones, but the one that was announced today might be the closest to our hearts.

Today, Manoverboard was named as an honoree on the B Corp Best for Workers list. We have earned an employee impact score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, the comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community, and the environment that is used to certify B Corporations.

A business is more than a building, a service, or a product. A business is made up of people, and treating those people right is a crucial part of doing business the right way. That’s why we’re proud to lead our fellow B Corps in working to create a better life for our employees.

That belief—that how we treat our people matters just as much as our profits—is one of the reasons we became a B Corp in the first place. B Corps like us meet what Inc. magazine calls ‘the highest standard in socially responsible business.’ We are leading a global movement to redefine success in business so one day all companies compete to be not just the best in the world but best for the world. We are incredibly proud to have performed so well in this community of businesses, particularly in an area that’s so important to us. We believe all businesses will one day incorporate employee impact into their corporate DNA.

Our 81 fellow honorees have taken the lead in providing comprehensive benefits and wellness programs, paying living wages, and creating opportunities for employee ownership—we’re proud to stand among them. Check out the full list at bestfortheworld.bcorporation.net

At Manoverboard, we will continue to provide our clients with the very best digital tools and strategies to deliver new ideas and connect meaningfully with audiences. Thank you for helping us succeed where it truly matters, and for choosing to support businesses that know people and place are every bit as important as profits.

Today, it’s impossible to deny the prevalence of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and blogs. Social media has proven to be so powerful that many businesses and non-profit organizations have implemented it in their communications and marketing strategies.

Having a strong online presence is especially important for non-profit organizations, whose causes rely heavily (sometimes entirely) on their supporters. Since many non-profits already have to deal with tight budgets and limited staff, social media isn’t always high on their priority lists. However, while effective social media requires constant time and effort, the attention that your cause can garner along with the connections you can make with your audience are a worthwhile tradeoff.

Here are the top 5 reasons why non-profits should use social media.

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1. Engage and Connect

Social media networks are the perfect platform for asking questions and opening up discussions with your audience. Research has shown that posing questions, specifically those starting with the words “would” or “should” attract much more likes, comments, and shares than posting a simple statement. Opening up the dialogue with your followers make them feel as though their voices and opinions are being heard. This contributes to strengthening your non-profit’s relationship with supporters and building your online community.

Search engines and analytic tools enable you to listen to what people are saying about you online. Having a good presence on social media allows you to control the content, but it’s also a place where people can voice concerns or displeasure related to your organization. Tracking mentions provides a great opportunity for engaging in conversations with ambassadors, as well as addressing questions or concerns people may have about your organization and its cause. Moreover, social media is a great place to thank your supporters publicly. Tagging them in photos and posts not only makes them feel appreciated, it also allows your posts to be shared with their followers, thereby extending your reach to their audiences. Underlying your social media strategy should be this: help your stakeholders and help them help others.

2. Drive Traffic

As we discussed in one of our previous posts, 6 Large Non-Profit Websites You Need to See, most people will turn to a non-profit’s website in order to find out more about the cause and how to get involved. Most of your supporters will only seldomly check your website for updates, meaning they likely only think of you and your cause periodically. Having them like your page on Facebook or follow you on Twitter provides an opportunity to appear on their feeds and give them daily reminders of your mission. Social media is a great tool to help drive traffic to your website, and subsequently attract donations, volunteers, and raise general awareness for your cause.

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In return, use your website to drive traffic to your social media accounts by including buttons linked to any and all platforms that your organization uses. Many organizations even include their Twitter feeds on the homepage of their site to entice visitors to subscribe to their social media accounts. If blogging, make sure to include links to any posts on your social media channels to encourage people to read and share it.

Despite the difference social media can make for your organization, don’t expect your website, social media pages, and blog to be hits over night. Social media and content marketing take time and patience—so does building an audience. Many digital thought leaders believe that it takes several months to see results from social media marketing. Integrating social media into your overall communications and marketing strategy is a potentially powerful force, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

3. Shareable content means more exposure

The more shareable content you produce on social media, the more people will see what your organization is doing and be motivated to get behind it. Given how easy it is to share content online, social media is a great place to create momentum for your organization and any campaigns you may be running. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is an example of an amazingly successful social media campaign. You’ve surely noticed the videos of people, celebrities and civilians alike, dumping cold water on themselves inundating your social media feeds for the last few weeks. Over $70 million dollars has been donated to the ALS association to date, a colossal hike from the $2.5 million that was donated during the same time period last year.

There’s no denying that this wouldn’t have been possible without the use of social media. There are several different factors that contribute to the campaign’s success. First, it’s the direct call to action from someone you know publicly challenging you. Then, the time-sensitivity of only having 24 hours to complete it adds a level of urgency. Finally, the simplicity and hilarity of this campaign is the final factor that has helped make it go viral. It’s incredibly easy to pour a bucket of ice water on your head, and then upload a video proving that you’ve accomplished it. Unless you’re Paul Bissonette of the Phoenix Coyotes, who took it upon himself to make the most epic Ice Bucket Challenge video the Internet has seen, helicopter and glacial water included.

Like Bissonette, it’s important to be creative with your social media campaigns. Finding inventive ways of tapping into the ideas people may be already thinking about, but are not actually doing, could be the key to creating an Ice Bucket Challenge of your own for your cause.

4. Marketing Tools

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is only one example of many fruitful online campaigns. As opposed to traditional means of advertising such as television, radio, and print ads, social media is a great and affordable way to run a marketing campaign that has potential for wide reach. To facilitate and maximize your social media campaign, consider using a social media management tool. There are several applications, such as Hootsuite, SproutSocial, and Buffer, that can help organize, monitor, and analyze your social media campaign. Tools like editorial calendars can help with scheduling and deadlines, and analytics tool can help you determine which parts of your campaign are successful, and which ones need further research.

It’s best to vary the types of post you use on social media, whether you’re running a campaign or not. Try to mix in press coverage, news about your organization, stories of people you’ve helped, spotlights on volunteers, information on upcoming events, and reminders of how easy it is to donate or contribute to your cause. Be visual! Posting pictures and videos is much more likely to get “likes” than writing a simple status. It’s also important to determine the appropriate posting frequency to avoid inundating your followers’ feeds. Too much, too often could put you in the “unfollow” zone, though consistently is key. Update frequently and be dynamic. In fact, social media is the ideal place to give followers a behind the scenes look at your organization. This personalized content can be more compelling than traditional promotional materials such as brochures and newsletters.

5. Extend your PR reach

Having the right amount of digital influence can boost your presence in the public eye. For example, find out if there are any celebrities (local and otherwise) or people with large online followings that advocate for your cause and ask them to promote you to their audiences. This is an easy favour to ask from your well-known supporters. Social media can also allow you to connect to far away supporters and like-minded organizations that you can develop partnerships with. Part of your PR strategy should include having your friends and partner organization link back to your site. Backlinking is incredibly important to boost your search engine optimization and demonstrates that you have the wide-ranging support of other organizations.

Additionally, not only can you link to any press coverage your organization has received regarding news and events, you can also use social media as a way to work your public relations and media relations. Contacting a journalist or someone from a media outlet through social media can be more successful as it is more direct than simply adding to the slew of emails they receive every day. As social media platforms become more and more popular, consider approaching digital publications and popular bloggers for additional exposure. Asking them to publish or share news or information about your organization can help you reach unexplored audiences.

Like most things in the digital world, social media is evolving quickly. Start small, try it for yourself, and find out what works for your non-profit online. If you run into problems or find that navigating the complexities of social media is out of your scope, Manoverboard would be happy to help with an online campaign. Check out these blogs for more references on how to incorporate social media for your non-profit:

http://www.nptechforgood.com
http://www.bethkanter.org
http://socialmedia4nonprofits.org/blog/

For many years, Microsoft Word has been the traditional word processor of choice for students, business professionals, and anyone looking to create microsoft-word-logoand print a document. As the world moves away from print and toward digital publication, we compare our personal favourite online publication platform, WordPress, with the ubiquitous Microsoft Word.

Why Do We Use WordPress?

You may not know that we build nearly all of our websites with WordPress. One of the reasons we love working with WordPress is that it’s extremely wordpress-logo-circlemalleable. WordPress is a fantastic content delivery tool with near endless options for customization. Think of it this way: building websites with WordPress is a bit like building something with Legos. You can build anything you want using Lego pieces and still have incredibly unique designs even though you’re using the same tiny Lego pieces. The same goes for WordPress; you can build a one-of-a-kind website using different fully modifiable templates, features, and tools.

One of the reasons why WordPress is so customizable is because it is open-sourced. While some design strategy firms have their own proprietary content management system that only their staff can use, there is a very large community of people using WordPress as an online publishing platform. This means there is a great deal of expertise about WordPress out there. There are also countless forums to find solutions to any questions or issues users might be experiencing. Since there isn’t a single entity working on it, more people are engaged and WordPress more rapidly develops. This leads to community members writing a myriad of plug-ins for WordPress. Just like the saying “There’s an app for that”, someone has written a plug-in for just about any task or feature that you’d like to include on your website.

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These plug-ins, along with an extremely user-friendly interface, make using WordPress incredibly easy. Almost anyone with a blogging background will quickly familiarize themselves with how to use the site. In fact, we’ve trained clients who have never seen the software before to be comfortable in updating a WordPress site in under one hour. Users can manage their sites or blog with little to no technical knowledge. This is great for clients who intend to regularly update and add content to their own websites.

Similarities and Differences

At first glance, WordPress and Microsoft Word may seem like completely different programs with different purposes. However, while WordPress and Microsoft Word serve distinct functions, these programs also have several similarities. In fact, WordPress displays the main elements of any typical word processor. The toolbar above the text area has options for headings, bullets and numbering, adding links, and text styling. These are familiar looking: a bold “B” for bold, an italicized “I” for italics, etc. WordPress also has a proofreading feature to help eliminate typos as well as a word count tool that allows you to keep track of your text’s length. Like Microsoft Word, you can make changes to the text directly in the WordPress editor. Once you are happy with your post, you can preview it or publish it directly and immediately to your site.

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Despite their similarities, WordPress does possess certain features that Microsoft Word does not. For example, I’m sure we can all remember at least one infuriating instance when we forgot to save a document in Word before the file is accidentally lost. To put your mind at ease, WordPress has a convenient auto-saving component that regularly saves your work as a draft. Furthermore, WordPress also has a revisions feature that allows you to look back at every version of your document, as opposed to overwriting it completely like it does in Word.  This features helps to avoid the need to save multiple versions and the subsequent headaches of finding the right one. It has saved our own hides numerous times and our clients are always happily surprised to see that revisions are built into the software.

Furthermore, WordPress isn’t as proficient as Microsoft Word for creating charts and tables. However, yep, you guessed it, there’s a plug-in for that. As a digital publishing site, WordPress is also much more capable of incorporating multimedia in your document. WordPress is capable of incorporating a video, a photo gallery, and audio files directly on the page.

Where People Get Tripped Up in WordPress

Since Microsoft Word was one of the first and most popular word processors around (hey, anyone remember WordPerfect?), many people are reluctant to make the switch to an online processor. The initial experience with WordPress can be intimidating for a new user and like any other program there can be a learning curve. The interface and web design jargon may initially seem daunting, however, it is easy to adapt. At Manoverboard, we do all of the handholding to get clients comfortable with WordPress and make sure that any questions you have are answered. Your designer and developer should walk you through, too.

Moreover, developers can customize the interface settings to make it as user-friendly as possible for clients who intend on updating their own sites. They do this by stripping the toolbar down to the essentials and spending time educating clients on how to use the program for their needs.

Interestingly, since Microsoft Word is ubiquitous and WordPress can be intimidating to work with in the beginning, many people initially write their copy in a Word document before copy/pasting it into a WordPress form. This combination of Microsoft Word and WordPress can often cause complications. What many people don’t realize is that there is a great deal of hidden coding that comes along with copy/pasting text, which can come along for the ride and disrupt the formatting. Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 12.21.56 PM Some of the templates in WordPress will already have their own settings for paragraph breaks, text styling, and spacing, including standard paragraph breaks. Users can avoid these problems by either transferring the Microsoft Word document in plain text before copy/pasting it into WordPress, or by using the handy “clear formatting” button in WordPress.

While Microsoft Word still serves its purpose in the world of print, WordPress is a remarkable and almost limitless tool for web designers to create unique, versatile, and user-friendly websites for any client.

Design – and design thinking – has rapidly reshaped traditional business. But as social enterprise and philanthropy become filtered through a design lens, what are the implications for social impact investment? (This article is the first in a series covering the intersection of design and impact investment.)

In early 2014, John Maeda left his position as president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to become a design partner at renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). Working “at the intersection of design, technology, and business,” Maeda’s mission at KPCB is to help its portfolio companies “build design DNA into their company cultures.”

While this is intuitive to those in the technology & design communities as a greater realization of design’s influence in tech (famously driven by the likes of Steve Jobs and Jony Ive), it only begins to illustrate the extent to which design – and particularly design thinking – is integrating itself in a big way into almost everything. Less explicable is design consultancy IDEO’s foray into fighting global poverty. IDEO, the firm behind the design of some of the most influential products over the last few decades, announced its IDEO.org initiative in 2011. Its mission statement proclaims, “At IDEO.org, we believe that the most potent weapon against global poverty is design.”

…Huh?

While that may seem somewhat implausible, it begins to make a lot more sense within the context of how design and design thinking have come to be defined today. While questions of design may often be thought of as “first-world problems,” the reality is that design actually has broad implications for the developing world.

What is Design?

This is not a trivial question. Many continue to view design as strictly physical or visual. Whether it’s the industrial design of a MacBook or the slick user interface of your favorite app, design usually refers to something we can see or feel. But the term has much broader applications. It’s already well established how high-quality product design can improve people’s lives. To the extent that this became obvious with the original iPhone in 2007, it’s easier to see how this can be extrapolated to products targeting low-income consumers in developing countries. If good design translates to greater convenience in wealthier nations, its impact elsewhere might be felt through actual higher living conditions.

It’s no longer particularly novel for social enterprises to put a lot of thought and effort into a product’s physical design. The Institute of Design at Stanford (aka the d.school) has an entire course – “Design for Extreme Affordability” – dedicated to the concept. D.light, a San Francisco based company that makes affordable solar lamps for developing countries with limited electricity is a, well, shining example of a social enterprise where good design is integral to the product. Born out of the d.school, co-founders Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun prototyped their initial product with design at the forefront (coincidentally, D.light also counts several impact investment funds among its investors). But what is IDEO.org getting at by calling design the most potent weapon in fighting global poverty?

Enter design thinking. When IDEO.org refers to design, it isn’t referring to the physical or the visual. It means design in the sense that its parent company – IDEO – has driven over the last few decades: design as a human-centric process as applied to the consumer experience surrounding a product or service rather than just the physical object itself. This reflects the notion that design ultimately transcends the physical product and expresses itself in the human connection it forms through the experience.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

—Tim Brown, IDEO president and CEO

This holistic thought process about the entire experience surrounding a product or service has changed the way companies across all industries approach problems. It entails going far beyond physicality and thinking critically, as a designer, about every step of the creation process and its implications on the end-user experience. And while the utilization of design thinking has become more commonplace, its application in social impact (encompassing economic development, social enterprise, environmental sustainability, philanthropy, and poverty alleviation) is a much newer phenomenon.

Design thinking in social impact comes on the heels of the full integration of design and technology; it therefore has broad implications for social impact investments (loosely defined as those intended to be commercially attractive and sustainable while ultimately catalyzing some sort of positive social or environmental impact). With funds like KPCB thinking about how to leverage design for its portfolio (which have previously invested into some of the most prominent technology companies including Google and Facebook), similar thinking can and should be applied to the rapidly growing impact investment sector.

How Can Design Elevate Impact Investment?

First and foremost, impact investment funds need to be acutely aware of how design is used by their portfolio companies. In the same way that they conduct operational due diligence and monitor the financial state of their portfolio companies, fund managers must be cognizant of how design thinking is (or isn’t) being applied. This is particularly important given that many well-intentioned social programs & products in developing countries are not successful because they fail to properly consider the actual consumer experience or actively iterate their products around it. If non-mission driven businesses are applying design thinking to improve their products, then surely socially motivated business and investors should too – given that the stakes are much higher.

A prime example of design thinking in social impact is seen in financial inclusion, which relates directly to impact investment given that microfinance and SME (small & medium enterprise) banking make up perhaps the largest asset class for impact funds. Until recently, the creation process of financial products for the poor rarely took into account behavioral economics as it relates to the core experience of a low-income entrepreneur receiving a microloan. Much of the recent criticism of microfinance and its sometimes underwhelming effects on people’s livelihoods can be traced back to microfinance institutions (MFIs) not properly understanding their customers, and not sufficiently prototyping new products and services before taking them to market.

Consider how pervasive design is for Square, the US-based financial payment startup; its compact credit card scanner, clean user interface, and vision of the way consumers should pay for things. Square has essentially revolutionized payments for small entrepreneurs in developed nations and facilitated more commerce at an ultra-local level. While their concept is solid regardless, design has been the most important factor behind its rapid adoption due to its simplicity, intuitiveness, and visual appeal. This becomes important for social impact when one imagines how a well-designed financial product could lead to wide adoption in developing countries and alter its socioeconomic landscape.

Square with bkgd

Before IDEO.org, IDEO founder Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt (who went on to found IDEO.org) wrote Design Thinking for Social Innovation in the Winter 2010 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSRI). In describing the essential process of prototyping, Brown and Wyatt nail exactly why design thinking is so important in products for the developing world.

“Through prototyping, the design thinking process seeks to uncover unforeseen implementation challenges and unintended consequences in order to have more reliable long-term success. Prototyping is particularly important for products and services destined for the developing world, where the lack of infrastructure, retail chains, communication networks, literacy, and other essential pieces of the system often make it difficult to design new products and services.”

In practice, this methodology is captured perfectly by Design that Matters (DtM), a Massachusetts non-profit focused on “user-centered, context-appropriate design for social impact.” This translates into what DtM describes as identifying “the best applications for new technologies to serve the poor in the developing world, and the best channels to deliver those innovations.” Through rapid prototyping, DtM designs and manufactures products such as the Firefly, a phototherapy treatment for infants with jaundice, which can be difficult to treat in hospitals with few resources.

DtM Firefly

What Does Design Have To Do With Investing?

If design is beginning to matter more for traditional venture capital funds, then it’s bound to become pervasive throughout impact investment. On one level, impact investment funds need to focus on visual design. This is important for their portfolio companies’ products, but also equally crucial as a means of interacting with investors. Of course this goes for any type of firm, but given the mission-driven nature of impact funds, having well designed websites, marketing materials, and impact measurement reports are even more necessary for getting their message across (philanthropic organizations realized this long ago and have invested significantly in these areas). Compelling web design and messaging creates better engagement with investors. And initiatives to catalyze social change among the underprivileged are deserving of compelling marketing efforts to maximize engagement. Good design acts as a cue that products for developing countries are considerately designed with purpose.

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic venture capital firm started by Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar; its web presence is an excellent example. In addition to being visually appealing, it boldly and clearly expresses its unique mission upon first glance, while cleanly delivering simple information that tell the viewer a lot about its impact. And with thought leadership becoming increasingly important for impact investment funds, its website does a nice job of presenting that as a key component of its web presence.

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OmidyarNetwork_PrivateCapital OmidyarNetwork_Investment

As the impact investment industry grows in size and influence, impact funds will need to distinguish themselves. Having compelling visual design at the investor level and solid design thinking within its portfolio companies will serve the space well.

If you’re interested in how Manoverboard can apply design thinking for impact investment, feel free to reach out.

Dollar for dollar, email newsletters provide one of the very best returns on marketing investment.

Although emails’ demise has been predicted for 20 years, it still stands that well-written, relevant bits of content, delivered directly (and ideally, regularly) to the inboxes of interested subscribers is a winning solution for businesses and nonprofits large and small. And the very best email delivery tools, such as Campaign Monitor (which we have used since its founding) and MailChimp, as well as their more powerful marketing automation cousins like Act-On, InfusionSoft, and Hubspot, offer digestible analytics to show how your content is being received.

Consent Means Kind of Interested

The important word here is interested. As you are probably aware, the Canadian government rolled out new legislation in July of 2014 that says to designers and marketers, in a nutshell, “Get Permission”. No longer can businesses in Canada simply send out email campaigns to unwitting individuals. And no longer could we assume that existing relationships imply consent. (Disclaimer: There are many additional teeth in the law. And by no means does this post mean to provide legal advice to you or your business.)

The legislation, called CASL, had few initial admirers here at Manoverboard. Our lovely list of over 500 human subscribers whose trust we had earned over the past 12 years could no longer be used. The law requires that we have clear consent from those subscribers to receive what the government calls “commercial electronic messages”.

But the law is the law. And, after studying CASL’s rules and parsing the government’s required and recommended practices, we put together a tight strategy for keeping as many of those 500 subscribers as we possibly could.

graphic from govt of Canada on anti-spam legislation

The Carrot and the Shtick

Our goal was to maintain 50% of our subscriber base. We got very close to that goal.

Here’s what we did and it’s what you might consider for your business over the next three years if you haven’t yet put together a strategy for keeping your subscribers.

First, we decided that there three staggered email blasts would be sent over the period of three weeks. We then set about writing the first email to subscribers which explained how we were complying with the law and that we were (but not too desperately) hoping that a subscriber would stick with us.

Insanely, this took about 8 hours.

(We also chose to sweeten the deal with an incentive: anyone who consented would be entered for a chance to win a subscription of Salt Spring Coffee, a sister B Corporation based in Vancouver.)

Next, we sent this email to all 552 subscribers. Within a few days, 267 people opened it (51%) and an astonishing 176 people (66%) clicked on a link. Of those 267 unique opens, 218 clicked on our consent link, which took readers to a thank you page on our site. With this email alone, we got a 40% consent rate.

About a week later, a second email was sent to anyone on our list who did not open the last newsletter. We changed the wording a little. This email went to 263 people, with 140 opens with 44 consenting to receive emails. That’s a 31% consent rate. Not too shabby.

One week later, a final email was sent to anyone who did not open the previous two. This resulted in 10 more consenting out of 39 unique opens — a consent rate of about 26%. You can see where this is going. The law of diminishing returns tells us that if a fourth email went out, we’d get a consent rate of about 18%. We did not bother.

CASL, Shmasl

In the end, our opt-in list is a decent size considering where we started – about 220 subscribers. (This number accounts for those who clicked multiple times, those who later unsubscribed, etc.)

We’re grateful to everyone who continued to stay with us. Lord knows, we all receive far too much email and our promise to our freshly squeezed list is, as always, to not be a pain and to provide helpful ideas and information.

Interestingly, we ran a similar campaign for a Canadian client with a much larger email list. Though their lists were cultivated differently, they achieved similar statistical results, proving that our strategy of multiple emails with straightforward messaging worked.

We stormed the CASL and saved nearly half our friends and followers. We can be assured that our subscribers are actually interested in our small business. Email marketing will survive another decade. In fact, it will be further refined through the application of marketing automation, guiding subscribers to their own success and becoming a more humane educational tool.

What is less clear is how the new Canadian law will influence a more aggressive, disruptive, and wily set of commercial electronic messages delivered through social media which, as a rule, has less respect for privacy, trust, and consent than traditional email marketing.

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