By Nicole Eldred, Claire Hoffert, Katie Monks and Colin Wallace
Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development is a non-governmental organization launched in April 1994 and located in Johannesburg, South Africa. The organization is opposed to all forms of oppression, exploitation and violence against women, and focuses on the prevention of gender violence and the empowerment of women. Nisaa promotes women and children’s rights through awareness and advocacy, educational training, counseling services, shelter services and developing both national and international partnerships. The organization’s mission is to enable women and children to live in a world free of violence. Nisaa has three offices in the greater Johannesburg area: in Lenasia, Soweto and Orange Farm.
We met with the supervisor and assistant director of Nisaa, Sima Vallabh, who gave us a list of projects she would like our group to work on. We realized that we didn’t have enough time or resources to complete all the requests made by Nisaa. However, based on Vallabh’s ranking of the organization’s communications, we chose to work on the most pressing issues—an online newsletter, press releases for the launching of a new book about teenage girls and their stories, and social media audits. For social media, we focused mainly on generating more content for Nisaa’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Vallabh discussed the need for the organization to find new ways to raise funds because a lot of its funding is program-based, which means the funding is gone once the program is executed. She also mentioned that corporate funding is harder to obtain because most corporations are uncomfortable with abuse and gender issues. The organization’s staff say there is a general feeling among the public that the women are adults who could have left abusive situations. Many corporations seem to prefer to support animal or children’s causes. To address this, we decided to do a couple of promotional videos for Nisaa in which women involved talked about their personal stories and the role Nisaa is playing in their lives. We interviewed women at the shelter and women who worked for Nisaa to create the videos.
Additionally, we created an online-only quarterly newsletter that Nisaa can mail to current and prospective donors. The newsletter focuses on what Nisaa has accomplished lately and upcoming events. We took pictures for social media albums and created an 18-page Digital Communication Strategy Manual showing Nisaa how to ensure continuity on the social media platforms once we leave. While time and resource constraints limited what we could do, we felt we accomplished more than Nisaa anticipated.
We audited all of Nisaa’s social media websites. With regards to Nisaa’s Facebook page, we made a list of positives and negatives for the organization to refer to, as well as compiled a list of tips for how the organization can most efficiently run its page. We followed new people on Facebook, created content for more relevant posts, and also made a list of things to continue. This included creating an event for the organization’s upcoming Book Release. The organization’s page has already gained more followers, and its resources and support are much more accessible to the general public.
After delinking automatic Facebook posts that showed up as links on Nisaa’s Twitter site, we started generating original content on both sites. We followed new people, started using consistent hashtags, tweeted about the organization and current events, and responded to messages and tweets. As a result of our work, we were messaged by Lawyers v. Abuse, an organization that Nisaa could partner with in the future.
We produced three different videos for Nisaa which were uploaded to Nisaa’s YouTube channel. We also compiled tips on how to run the YouTube channel, including how to log in to the actual YouTube page, how to upload content to the Nisaa Channel, proper YouTube etiquette, and other tips to maximize YouTube discoverability.
In auditing the Nisaa website, we created a multi-pronged approach to maximize efficiency and emphasis in what needed to be done versus suggestions that could be completed but are not necessary. We broke the website audit down into both content and layout positives and negatives. While we presented this information to Vallabh, the assistant director, the organization outsources its web page design a webmaster. We are currently working with the webmaster to create a donate button for the website with links to PayPal and credit card payments.
A main focus of our work was the creation of an online newsletter to be sent out to current and potential donors via email. The newsletter was designed to be delivered quarterly to an expanding email list, and was designed using a template on campaignmonitor.com. From here we customized the template to mimic the colors and feel of the organization. We chose purple because Nisaa’s main office is a purple house, and it is a color of women’s empowerment. The main focus of the letter was dual pronged. The first was awareness about Nisaa, its programs, upcoming events and current goings on of the organization. The second reason was that the letter was an inexpensive and easy fundraising tool, just as the newsletter links to the donate button on the Nisaa webpage. In the end we hope that the newsletter allows Nisaa to reach out to new donors and to raise more money from existing ones.
We created a video that pieced together what some women at the shelter had to say about Nisaa. We put together a promotional video as a means to tangibly show the good work that Nisaa is doing. It is one thing to tell people that an organization is doing a great job, but it is another thing to be able to show donors exactly what it’s done.
We decided to make a video defining abuse through the eyes of survivors. Though we had permission to only show the faces of two of the women, the video describes how abuse ranges from violence to the refusal to permit women to express themselves.
We also made a video of one woman’s story of abuse. We thought that hearing how she got out of an abusive situation would resonate with viewers.
We updated two albums on Facebook to create appealing content that shows some of the activities Nisaa is up to. The first album shows pictures of the vegetable garden that the women cultivate at the shelter. The next album shows the crocheted pot-holders, bags, scarves, hats and blankets that the women make in a weekly Skills Development workshop. By having this tangible view of what the women do daily at the shelter, both the audiences of clients and donors will be more likely to involve themselves with the organization.
An important part of updating Nisaa’s social media platforms was adding video and picture content. But we had to be mindful about dealing with victims of abuse and the safety and security issues that arise with women and children in the shelter. We created a form–a photography and video release–that authorizes Nisaa to use the faces of the women in promotional materials, social media sites and other online or print locations.
We created a digital Communication Strategy Manual for Nisaa to show subsequent volunteers to continue with the social media updates as well as methods for posting to social media after we are gone. This will ensure continuity and current postings on Nisaa’s social media platform. The manual includes easy tips, funding resources and consent forms. The manual consists of sections on how to shoot videos from a phone, how to edit videos and how to upload content from a phone. The manual also has a section on funding resources, which included our research on local and foreign entities who fund organizations like Nisaa. A section of the manual included a form letter that can be used to apply for grants.
Nisaa staffers asked us to create what they called press releases for the book they are releasing on June 3. Upon further probing, we realized what Nisaa had in mind was a flyer rather than a press release. We created two flyers–one for donor organizations, and one for girls aged 16-20. Some of the details weren’t available when we left South Africa, so Nisaa will have to fill them in later.
Vallabh asked us to audit Nisaa’s website and its Facebook and Twitter pages. We included positives and negatives about the use of each platform, and ended with general social media tips to work on in the future in this presentation:
After our initial social media auditing presentation, we gave an overview on all we had accomplished so far at Nisaa. We separated the PowerPoint presentation into sections on the Facebook audit, Twitter audit, YouTube audit, Newsletter creation, Video uploading, Consent Form, Press Release, Digital Communications Strategy Manual, Long Term Goals for Nisaa, and what we still need to receive from the organization to complete the tasks requested of us.
We had challenges with communications, internet, Nisaa’s internal organization, space constraints, resources and transportation to other Nisaa offices. There was a general lack of communication within Nisaa itself and with communicating with us. Nisaa didn’t have room to house all four members of our group, and we had to work from the guesthouse where we stayed in Johannesburg. However, neither location had dependable Wi-Fi connections. Nisaa does not have a lot of funding, so we had to figure out how to teach them to do the things within its limited resources. One of the biggest issues was working with the website; the person who runs the website is not an employee of Nisaa, and doesn’t live in Johannesburg. Therefore, being able to create a donate button wasn’t possible while we were in South Africa. Despite the challenges, we all feel so lucky to have been given the chance to work with such an amazing organization as Nisaa. The opportunity to speak with such strong women, who live in the shelter and work for the organization, was invaluable, and we will use the skills we acquired while learning from them and working for them in the many years to come.
Nisaa exposed us to working with people of diverse backgrounds. We had to develop new interpersonal skills and learn how to work with people who have different work styles. We also learned how different upbringings in different countries can affect working and communication styles. We discovered how much experience can affect passion in the workplace. Through our time with Nisaa’s clients, we were exposed to harrowing stories of abuse with themes that are common around the world, everywhere from South Africa to the United States. Interviewing women at the shelter gave us an emotional connection to our work that we never could have gotten in the classroom.