Charter Center Wants to Optimize Multi-Audience Communication from Start to FinishSubmitted Fri Oct 22 2010 11:28:00 GMT-0400 (EDT) by Alex Cone
The New York City Charter School Center is an independent nonprofit committed to expanding access to high-quality public schools for all students regardless of where they live and the challenges they face. We believe that charter schools are partners in a larger effort to build and maintain a great system of public schools.
So what do we do? We help new charter schools get started, support existing schools, and engage the charter school community around key issues. It’s easy to see that we serve a lot of separate and at times overlapping constituencies. On any given day we may be promoting technical events for existing charter schools, engaging with start-up schools, and organizing parents to speak out about funding inequities.
This is where Salsa comes in.
We need a tool that allows us to seamlessly collect email addresses, create lists, send emails, organize events, and host petitions. Salsa must have known we were coming. The suite of tools is just what we need.
Right now we're starting the long process of re-segmenting our lists. We've begun by allowing broader (but not too many!) subscriber opt-in options. Our hope is that people get the email that they want. For us, the point of email communication is to inform. It doesn't make sense for parents to get updates on trainings for start-up schools, and start-ups aren’t necessarily interested in events for existing schools. The payoff from broader subscriber opt-ins will not only be more opens, but more satisfied constituents and fewer unsubscribes.
We’re also sorting through our subscription and event registration follow-up. Salsa has a few tools that make this quite a bit easier than developing something in house. Our advice to other nonprofits would be to use those tools. Having a sign-up form for email is one thing, but the experience after hitting 'submit' is just as important. This is one of your first chances to make a positive impression on the subscriber. Make a 'thank you' page. Be clever. Stand out. The response my not be readily quantifiable, but when you sign up for an email, don’t you want to know the organization seems to care?
All of these improvements come at a time when the discussion around education reform in the US is heating up. We know that we can’t do everything at once. We’re a nonprofit with an online staff of one. Thus prioritization becomes key. Making our email sign up process friendly to the end user is a top priority because of an influx of new visitors to our site. These are the parents who just searched for "charter schools" or the entrepreneurs with ideas for starting their own schools. It's crucial that we get these people to the right lists and keep them happy while doing it.
At the same time we are nurturing Facebook and Twitter so that New York City Charter School Center communication doesn't end with emails. A lot is still up in the air on how we’ll integrate social with email, but our intuition is that just like with email, our varying audiences will be the determining factor.
Our parting advice to nonprofits is to prioritize and make time to do what you do well. Whether it’s email or social outposts, be respectful of your end user. Wow them with the time you’ve put into making their experience great.
Alex Cone is the Online Branding Manager for the New York City Charter School Center. You can follow Alex on twitter here.