Online tools for NFPs via Google
24 April 2012 at 10:11 am
The Internet search engine giant, Google has been reaching out to the Not for Profit sector with a raft of free tools and apps and in Australia the rush to be informed has been overwhelming, according to the experts.
In a Pro Bono Australia special, the Melbourne Business School offers some Not for Profit take- outs from two recent Google information sessions.
For Not for Profit organisations, keeping up with online technology can be daunting, time consuming and costly. Yet the potential gains for marketing, publicity, fundraising, administration and productivity are massive. Ignorance can be costly, especially since a lot of the new tools are free.
Google has been reaching out to the third sector via Google.org and its Google for Non-Profits Program, which helps NFPs make the most of its free tools and apps. Google Earth has also proved a vital tool for the World Health Organisation in analysing dengue and flu trends, and for organisations responding to natural disasters.
Two information sessions for Not for Profits held last week at Melbourne Business School were massively oversubscribed – about 600 people were turned away. The sessions were run by Google employee Scott Riddle, one of a team of volunteers running sessions around Australia.
One of the NFP representatives at the session, Inga Norgrove, PR and Communications Manager with Very Special Kids, said she expected apps like AdWords to dramatically change her organisation’s online presence. “It’s extremely exciting to discover that Google , which is such a huge organisation, has so many areas where they can assist Not for Profits, and grants that I certainly wasn’t aware of.”
It’s not hard to see why the sessions have generated such interest: an estimated 90-95% of Australian web searches are through Google, and it’s a similar story worldwide; the free Google Analytics app has revolutionised market research; and the company operates the Android smartphone platform, and owns YouTube and Blogger.
Google’s ubiquity may raise eyebrows, but it’s also something NFPs can use to their advantage.
Don’t call us
Google does have a Sydney office, but there is no Australian team dedicated to NFP support. Riddle and others run sessions in a voluntary capacity and ask that NFPs go online to sources like forums and sites like www.google.com.au/nonprofits if they have any questions or would like to apply for any of Google’s grant programs.
Come file with me: the Cloud
Universities like Melbourne and Monash have been migrating their student and staff accounts over to Gmail, which offers integration Google Docs – cloud-based document management, which comes with presentation and spreadsheets apps. Cloud computing has its disadvantages (you need to be online), but it is handy for working with people spread over several locations, doing away with the need to hold files in multiple folders (which Google calls “collections”) on multiple hard drives. It also allows for group editing – each user comes up as a different colored cursor.
Google Groups enables creation of special email lists (say newsletter recipients) and file sharing, including calendars. And for those on business trips, try this trick using Translate.google.com: type in “taxi to the airport please” and hold the phone up so the driver can hear the translation.
DIY websites from blogs
The increasing sophistication of blogging platforms has been steadily putting web designers out of business. Blogs started out as web diaries and users were tied to that chronological format. Now, though, you can add “static” pages, enabling you to set up a website with no knowledge of html in minutes using an off-the-shelf template. The market leader in this space is WordPress (which accounts for some 80% of the world’s blogs) followed by Google’s Blogger.
YouTube is not just for kitten videos: it’s a powerful tool for NFPs wanting to get their story across, as evidenced by the Kony social media campaign.
The YouTube non-proft program allows eligible organisation to ad features like a ‘donate now’ button and Call to Action Overlay are also available. YouTube has a terrific store of training videos on these features. Riddle said streaming for live simulcasts of concerts and conferences is already available to some YouTube partners and may eventually become more widely available.
Rising through the ranks
Cutting through the clutter on the web is a challenge for any organisation. One of the most complex, mysterious lifelike forms in existence today is search engine rankings. Moving up those rankings is the holy grail of profit and non-profit organisations alike, and this dark art is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
At the MBS sessions, Riddle explained SEO relates to “organic” rankings, ideally based on a website’s attractiveness to users, its traffic and validation (by back links) from other quality sites. Although SEO has been easily exploited in the past by websites using “link farms” to bump up traffic to annoying websites devoid of meaningful content, Google now uses hundreds of variables to weed out those sites.
High quality websites have a better chance of moving up the rankings, but actively improving your site ranking can be, in Riddle’s words, “unbelievably complex”. Many organisations often outsource this job to SEO consultants.
Search Engine Marketing, on the other hand, relates to paid links that show up at the top of search results as ads, and this is done through Google AdWords. It’s easier to gain visibility through AdWords, but this comes at a price: advertisers pay per click. Ads are put through an automated auction system, and advertisers can set in advance caps on their daily spend.
Organisations nominate keywords to direct traffic to their sites (eg, tsunami appeal donate), and see which keywords were more successful in attracting traffic. Google offers grants in some countries (including Australia) worldwide to eligible NFPs of $10,000 a month in free AdWords advertising.
Google Place listings are type of search result that is generated in response to location-sepcific searches (“pharmacy Melbourne”)). Users can also view their search results on a map. Because Google pulls data from Sensis (Yellow Pages), your organisation may already come up pinned on a map when you do a search. Riddle encouraged non-profits to ‘claim” their Google Place pages. Click on the link “Business Owner?” or visit google.com/places.. Once Google has verified your bona fides, the page is yours, and you’ll be able to upload info like opening hours and photos. One session participant said she was constantly fielding calls from people who thought her service offered accommodation – somehow it had been categorised incorrectly. Simple solution: click on the link “Report a problem”.
Perhaps the most powerful tool in this suite is Google Analytics, which is free to NFPs and corporate heavyweights alike and can be used by anyone who has access to the back end of your organisation’s website. It tells you what a typical website visitor’s path is to your site, and which pages they linger on. Try testing different email message subject lines – which ones elicited the most traffic and donations?
This article was supplied by Melbourne Business School, which hosted both Google for Non-Profits seminars held in Melbourne on 19 April 2012. As well as its flagship 12-month MBA program, Melbourne Business School offers a Graduate Certificate in Social Impact through its Asia Pacific Social Impact Leadership Centre, which is also running the Murra Aboriginal Master Class series from June. The MBS Centre for Ethical Leadership offers scholarship for the Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. And MBS’s Career Services team can also help you source students under its not-for-profit internships program.
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