Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Over and Out

I'm taking a short break from blogging as I'm off to Asia and then East Africa.

In my absence, please take a moment to flip through the archives. You'll find a list of all the catagories down the right-hand side, but some of the most active have been:

If you're having a tough day, you might enjoy the Voluntary Sector Humour tab.

You can also find me via my website, LinkedIn and on Twitter: @ConsultantMGW

Failing all that, drop me a line:

Keep on keeping on!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Who Decides a Charity?

Just wanted to clarify something that confuses a lot of my charity start-up clients.

When people think 'charity,' their first thought is usually the Charity Commission, and there is a persistent belief that the Charity Commission decide who gets to be a charity in the United Kingdom.

This isn't actually true.

We operate a rather odd dual registration process between Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Charity Commission.

HMRC are the authority on who qualifies for tax exemption as a charitable organisation.

There are then three charity commission, one for England & Wales, one for Scotland, and one for Northern Ireland.

In England & Wales, you can't apply for a charity registration number until you have more than £5,000 annual income in the bank. This is mostly because there are just so many charities that it's impractical to keep track of them all. Whereas in Scotland, with a smaller population of people and charities, you are expected to register straight away.

However, you do not need a registration number to be classed as a 'small charity' in England & Wales. Provided you satisfy the criteria of a non-profit organisation under HMRC, you're a charity.

You still have tax exemption, you can still apply for GiftAid, and you carry the rights and responsibilities of any other charity under charity law - including the right to seek funding.

Many organisations worry that if they don't have a charity number from the Commission, they are not a legitimate charity.

This simply isn't true.

In fact, such is the strange nature of this duel registration, that even if the Charity Commission decline your application to register, some organisations still continue as charities under Companies House. 

A registration number may instill greater trust in the public and allow you to apply to a few more donors, but on the whole it makes little difference. It's more important to focus on building the capacity of your organisation, and undertaking charitable projects, than to focus solely on attaining a registration number.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Friday, 4 April 2014

Facebook Algorithms

Last September I took on a special interest Facebook group which had 14,000 likes. That was pretty good going by anyone's standards, but over the next three months, along with a team of volunteers I put together, we took that past 50,000. Today, we're a little over 62,000 likes.

The reason it took the same time to add 12,000 likes as 36,000 is because of changes to Facebook's algorithms.

An algorithm, in the context of Facebook, is a process which decides who gets to see which posts. When you post to your feed, not all of your friends or followers will see every post you make. In fact, very few will, because Facebook want you to pay to promote your posts and reach a wider audience. On our page of over 60,000 followers, we're lucky if even 1% view each post. 

When people see your posts, they're more likely to comment or share, so more of their friends are likely to see it and like your page. That's why you want the algorithms to work in your favour.

As you can see above, in November 2013 the page went viral and we started getting higher and higher views per post. Then, in December, Facebook seem to have fiddled with their algorithms and we were lucky if 200 people viewed a post, despite having the highest number of likes ever.

It was hugely frustrating - the most anti-social network ever.

However, certain types of post gain far more views than others.

Simply posting links gets you a very low view count, whereas posting plain text (without links) gets you more, as does posting/uploading new images.

Views also increase the more people interact with a post, so a top-scoring post would be something like a question. No links, just 'What did you do at the weekend?' because it's a text-only post and people are likely to start interacting with it.

This works two ways because the more a person interacts with posts from your page, and visits your page, the more of your posts start to show up in their news feed.

Have a go at posting different types of content to your page, and watch what it does to the view count. You'll soon learn which posts, and which times of day, gather the biggest crowds. 

If you'd like to know more about how this whole Facebook charade plays out, check this article: 8 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Combat Facebook’s Algorithm Changes

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Screen Capture and Screenshots

If you follow this blog regularly, you've probably seen some of the step-by-step guides I write for things like scheduling tweets with FutureTweets and setting up a domain name.

The reason these guides are so easy to follow is because they contain screenshots. These are captured images of the computer screen which illustrate which button to click on and which part of the screen to look at.

If you Google 'free screen capture tools,' you'll find plenty of them. My personal favourite is Greenshot

Once installed, it runs quietly in the background until you hit the Print Screen button on your keyboard. This is usually somewhere along the top-right of your keyboard, and often abbreviated to prt scrn or prt sc. Sometimes it's above another command and you may have to hold down the Function (fn) key or Shift at the same time.

When you do this with Greenshot installed, your cursor will turn into a target. Simply drag and drop this over the part of the screen you want to capture.

Once you let go of the mouse button you will get an option menu:

This allows you to save the screen capture to a specific place. 

Clicking the first option will bring up the browser window so that you can decide the file destination (i.e. Desktop) and type (i.e. JPG).

If you have lots of instructions to capture, you can then hit the second option Save Directly, which will save to the same location and file type as you did the first time.

You can then copy/paste or import the screenshots into a Word document or blog, or attach them to e-mails. Or, like me, upload the Word documents to Google Drive or Dropbox and make a public link available so that people can download the instructions.

It's a great tool for HowTo procedures in the office, especially for sharing skills among volunteers and staff. Add simple instructions to the Intranet or a folder for people to access whenever they need help.