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304 posts categorized "Communications/Marketing"

How to Talk to Your Donors About Funding Outreach and Awareness

July 22, 2016

Money-tree-symbol-Stock-Vector-familyWhy is it that fundraising for specific programs comes so easily to nonprofit professionals, yet asking for money to boost marketing or fundraising activities makes our palms sweat?

Professional fundraisers like Dan Pallotta have done much to call out this type of mindset. In no uncertain terms, Pallotta and others have argued that by not asking funders to invest in their fundraising and marketing activities, nonprofits undermine their ability to generate the kinds of dollars and awareness they need to solve our most pressing problems.

There are several reasons for this reluctance. One of the most persistent, however, has to do with boards choosing to focus exclusively on programming and dismissing investments in marketing and fundraising capacity as unwarranted and unjustified spending on "overhead." Goals involving income, whether donated or earned, are given short shrift. The general attitude is: "Let's see what we can do with our existing marketing/fundraising budget."

This is just wrong. Regardless of how well-intentioned, a board simply can't insist that you generate greater awareness of your cause — not to mention impact — and then do nothing about it.

What are board members in that situation thinking? Are they afraid donors will run for the exits if they're asked to fund something other than programs? Really? Donors deserve more credit than that. They want the same thing we want: to be able to sit down with friends and family and say: "This cause and the work this organization is doing is important to me."

Like most of us, they want the issues they care about to go viral, generating as much awareness and attention as possible. That's because they know it will take more — a lot more — than their gift or donation to truly make a difference. And that's why a growing number of them are ready to put their dollars behind truly creative fundraising and marketing efforts.

We need to stop being so bashful about funding the marketing and fundraising efforts needed to make the public aware of our work. We need to lean in to these conversations — and to not be reticent when a donor asks about awareness, fundraising, or marketing.

What might that sound like?

Here are a couple of discussion points to use when talking with your donors about investing in your marketing and fundraising efforts:

1. You (the donor) believe in the cause and the work we are doing. Wouldn't you like to share that work with people who haven’t heard about us – and who may care as much about our cause as you do?

The donor almost certainly will understand that there are others out there like him. So feel free to mention that:

  • In order for someone to be passionate about a cause or issue, he or she first needs to be exposed to it. And the best way to do that is to create a marketing campaign that: a) generates greater awareness of your cause among the public; b) includes options for potential supporters to provide you with their contact information; and c) enables you to establish a relationship with people who give you their information.
  • Once they're made aware of our cause or issue, people tend to want to help. Which is why we need your help to make it easy for them to do that, either through direct mail campaigns, social media campaigns and online donation pages, peer-to-peer fundraising events, and the like.
  • Our success in acquiring new donors and supporters is built on consistently (rather than episodically) exposing them to the people we serve and the impact of our work. And that requires robust and evolving internal systems. Without the support of existing donors like you, we can’t afford to build our capacity and keep up with the latest technologies.

2. The people we serve have stories to share that can generate greater interest in and support for our cause. We need your support to develop the creative elements necessary for our marketing and fundraising campaigns to be successful.

Once you've decided to scale your outreach and awareness efforts, a lot will depend on whether you have the necessary design, strategy, and copy writing resources in house or have decided, instead, to enlist outside assistance. If the latter is the case, here are some talking points to use with donors:

  • We're the experts on this issue, but we realize we need some help in crafting the messaging and designing the materials that will inspire people to embrace our cause. We have a lot of knowledge and a lot of skilled people on staff, but professionals from outside bring a fresh perspective and, because they don't have competing priorities, often can execute a project faster and more cost effectively.
  • We need to invest more in our fundraising and creative outreach if we want to connect with and acquire new donors and supporters who care about our issue. Think of it as an investment in the sustainability of an organization you admire and already support.

It's a big world out there with a lot of problems — and a lot of people who are trying to fix them. If you count yourself among them, you need to become more fearless in your fundraising and in asking others to support the good work you do.

Your donors won't mind. They want you to succeed and have the greatest impact possible. It's your job to help them understand exactly what that entails.

Start having those conversations sooner rather than later. Your donors and supporters are ready to do what needs to be done to get your cause or issue in front of as many people as possible and to motivate those people to act!

Derrick Feldmann is the president of Achieve, a research and marketing agency for causes, and the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Design Vendors Are Destroying Nonprofit Organizations!

June 30, 2016

Stop_figureven·dor

/ˈvendər,ˈvenˌdôr’/

Noun

  • a person or company offering something for sale, especially a trader in the street.
  • a person or company whose principal product lines are office supplies and equipment.

Synonyms: retailer, seller, dealer, trader, purveyor, storekeeper, shopkeeper, merchant, salesperson, supplier, peddler, hawker; scalper, huckster, traffic

__________

Over the last sixteen years I've learned that if there's a word folks in the nonprofit community love to use to describe design firms, it's vendor. Maybe it's me, but every time I hear it used in conversation or read it in an RFP, the "V-word" is accompanied by the soothing sound of nails on a chalkboard. I don't believe I'm being thin-skinned here, but applying vendor to a design firm like Constructive is, well, a bit insulting.

"What's the big deal?" you might be thinking. "Why should I care?"

Both good questions. The short answer is that if you work for a nonprofit and are tasked with researching and choosing a design firm to lead your organization through a website redesign or other design project, using the word vendor is symptomatic of a bigger problem. It suggests a mindset that misunderstands what design is. That shortchanges the value of good design and the value a social change organization can get from working with a design firm. And that damages the kind of relationship any nonprofit would want to build when working with one.

Sounds serious! But if I'm overstating the case, I'm only overstating it slightly.

To understand what's so troubling about putting the "vendor" label on design firms, it's helpful to deconstruct the term itself. Take a look again at the definition of vendor and its synonyms at the top of this article. Pretty uninspiring, right? By definition, a vendor doesn't provide insight or strategic value. Vendors have customers, not clients. (Does any nonprofit really want to be treated by their design firm as a "customer"?!). At best, they are trying to sell you something — usually a commoditized product or service. At worst, the thing they are trying to sell you is a lemon.

Would anyone in their right mind want a vendor to do something for them as important as design?! Well, it depends on how you view design.

So why is vendor used so frequently in the nonprofit sector to describe the design firms that play such a critical role in translating organizational strategy into tangible experiences? I don't believe it’s because anyone is intentionally minimizing the value that design firms bring to the table. (If anything, the case for strategic communications in the sector is on the rise.) To me, it's a subtle sign of a more widespread misunderstanding that can lead to missed opportunity — one that's often exacerbated by design firms themselves and the organizations that hire them.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 18-19, 2016)

June 19, 2016

Gettyimages-orlando-candlelight-vigilOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

Getting Attention! blogger Nancy Schwartz offers some good advice to nonprofit communications professionals about the right (and wrong) way to respond in the wake of the unthinkable.

Democracy

The editorial board of the Guardian captures perfectly why the public assassination of British MP Jo Comer by a right-wing extremist was such a cowardly, heinous act — and why it should be a wakeup call for everyone who cherishes decency, open debate, and a commitment to both democracy and humanity.

Education

How did a Montana-based foundation help boost the high school graduation rate in that state to its highest level in years? The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation's Mike Halligan explains.

Big data and analytics were supposed to "fix" education. That hasn't happened. Writing on the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of the best-selling Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland?, and Jonathan Hasak, a Boston-based advocate for disconnected youth, explain why and look at something that actually could make a difference.

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Time to Honor the Fearless Donor

May 27, 2016

Regular-Charity-DonorsToo often – I've been guilty of this, too – fundraisers focus excessively on the acquisition of the new donor. We spend a lot of time and resources crafting the right message, testing potential activation strategies, and building engagement programs in hopes of growing our base of supporters.

The problem is that we get so busy trying to build our supporter base with new donors that we tend to overlook the individuals who are already invested in our cause.

I recently had lunch with a friend who shared an anecdote about the time he stood up in front of a roomful of people to promote a cause in which he believed passionately. It was clear as he was telling me that it was a memory he would not soon forget. This is what he said:

"I remember the first time I shared in public that this was a cause I supported. You know, it's not easy to stand up in front of other people and tell them you believe in something. It shouldn't be a big deal, but it isn't something I do. I had to conquer my fear of telling others I care about something, knowing they might not feel the same way. I had to get over the fact that others might not care as much as I did. It's not part of my personality to wear my emotions on my sleeve, and standing up in front of that roomful of people was a pretty big deal for me...."

As nonprofit leaders and fundraisers, we tend to move on after a donor has given time, money, or skills in support of our cause. And we tend to overlook the many reasons the donor may have had not to support our cause. We similarly forget that although it may come naturally to some people to stand up and articulate their support for an issue or cause, not everyone is wired that way.

So, if you're engaged in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, here are a few things to "remember" as you go about your work:

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5 Steps to Help Turn Interest Into Action

April 29, 2016

Steps-to-successHere's a situation: A few hundred people, maybe more, start acting like they care about what you do, decide to follow you on social media, and/or sign up for your email list. But when it comes to needing them to actually take action for your cause, they pretty much disappear.

Sound familiar?

It's a scenario I hear a lot from frustrated fundraisers and nonprofit marketers who struggle to convert fans and followers of their organizations into supporters and champions. In part, that's because the idea of "doing good" has never been more popular. But actually doing something to make a difference is a different story.

What can you do you to change this dynamic?

First, let's take a step back and examine the way the average person engages with a cause he or she cares about.

Because humans are inherently empathetic, when we see suffering, injustice, or an opportunity to make a difference, our brain tells us to do something. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that we're ready to go all in for the cause. Instead, most of us will opt for a lower-cost option like signing up for a newsletter, following an organization on social media, or signing a petition. These kinds of "actions" satisfy our impulse to do something without committing us to do more (like making a donation or volunteering our time).

When we opt for this kind of low-level, low-cost action, we are signaling to people or an organization working to address a cause that it's okay to communicate with us. As a result, the development and marketing folks at the organization will begin to send us information about the organization, fundraising solicitations, and even requests to volunteer or organize an event or activity.

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How to Translate Brand Strategy Into an Effective Website

April 14, 2016

Effective-website-designIn my last article, I noted that the best place to start when developing a website is with a clear brand strategy. It is what provides the shared understanding needed to unite the big ideas and day-to-day details of a nonprofit's activities into a cohesive online experience. It is the glue that ensures a site's design, content, and code work together in harmony to express the entirety of an organization's mission, strategy, activities, and impact to a range of audiences.

No small task, especially when talking about a process that typically spans months and involves many participants.

A Complex, Multidisciplinary Process

The process of creating a website is, by its nature, collaborative and multidisciplinary. It involves many contributors — each with a different area of interest, expertise, and professional vocabulary — and typically spans months and countless decisions, which means there's no shortage of opportunities for miscommunication and stumbles. Over the years, I've learned that these can be minimized (they're almost never eliminated, trust me!) by a framework that emphasizes collaboration and establishes clear goals for the team, in a language everyone can understand.

That is why brand strategy is such an effective unifying force. In a medium that calls for collaboration across such a wide range of stakeholders, it is the one thing that everyone can (or should) agree on, support, and apply to the area they are responsible for.

Sounds great in theory, but what, you're probably thinking, does it look like in practice?

Every website has four major components: Brand, Content, Technology, and Design. The most effective sites are those that get all four working together like members of a band — each playing their part, and each complementing the work of the others. When executed well, the results are much like the experience of hearing a great song: harmonious and uplifting, with a clear point of view you can easily relate to.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 9-10, 2016)

April 10, 2016

Robin-on-branchOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

Black Lives Matter is both a sprawling social movement and a civil rights organization with more than thirty chapters across the United States. But that distinction, and many other  nuances, rarely make it into coverage of either the movement or the organization, writes Jephie Bernard, a student at the Columbia School of Journalism, on the CJR website.

Communications/Marketing

And not a moment too soon...  NWB's Vu Le rides to the defense of the Oxford comma.

Global Health

"Pessimism is fashionable. It's also wrong," writes Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther. "People are safer, better-educated, better-fed, and wealthier than they used to be. Democracy and human rights are spreading. Perhaps most important, people, and in particular the world's poorest people, are healthier." So why aren't we cheering? Because, says Gunther, echoing others, "the world's governments, aid agencies, foundations and nonprofits could be doing much better."

Grantmaking

On our sister Transparency Talk blog, the Surdna Foundation's Adriana Jimenez explains how the foundation's decision to move to a workflow- and cloud-based system grants management system has enabled it to work more collaboratively with grantees; increased collaboration and learning within the foundation; and improved its capacity to share data and lessons learned with the rest of the sector.

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The Importance of ‘Opportunity’ When Appealing to Donors

March 24, 2016

Opportunity_nametagRecently, I received the following in a direct-mail solicitation from an organization seeking my support:

In the past year, we have paired 300 kids with the mentors they need to be successful. Now we are calling on you to help us make sure it happens again....

Almost immediately, I asked myself, Is this the best way to start a solicitation? Does it convey anything remarkable? Am I really crucial to the organization’s impact equation? And what is the real "ask" here?

Clearly, what the organization wants is my support. It says so right there in the second sentence. But is it something I'm likely to give?

Beyond the appeal to emotions, whether someone gives or not tends to be driven by the simplest of equations: Is this worth stopping what I'm doing, grabbing my credit card, filling out the pledge form, putting a stamp on the envelope, and making a trip to the mailbox?

In too many instances, the answer to that question is "no." While the typical solicitation often includes language from an organization's mission and values statements, it rarely appeals to potential supporters with a unique and compelling proposition.

The solicitation is your opportunity to motivate potential supporters to make a difference. And it's their opportunity to do something to contribute to a cause they believe in. Through a combination of the right words and a well-calibrated appeal to the emotions, it should move them from indifference to action and beyond.

Here are a few examples of the kind of language that works well when presenting your "ask":

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The One Strategy You Need to Design an Effective Website

March 02, 2016

Bigstock-Web-Design-For many organizations, a website is the biggest window into their work and values, helping their supporters and other audiences understand what the organization believes in and stands for, what it does, and why its work matters. In many cases, it also is a critical component of the day-to-day operations behind those efforts, whether as a publishing platform for knowledge sharing and thought leadership, or as a direct link to the organization's events management and CRM systems.

Nonprofits, educational institutions, and businesses whose work is dedicated to advancing positive social or environmental change must not only make sure their websites meet all the criteria by which the success of websites in general are measured (i.e., usability, visual design, and compelling content), their websites also must paint a much bigger picture of the organization — elevating its issue(s), educating audiences, and generating action while clearly communicating everything in the context of the organization's mission and values. No surprise, then, that at Constructive we believe that as purposeful as organizations tend to be about developing the strategies and actions needed to drive change, they should be equally focused on the decisions that determine whether their websites contribute to those goals.

Unfortunately, many organizations with incredibly inspiring missions too often end up with a website that falls flat and leaves their audiences more confused than committed, more exhausted than energized.

Why is this?

The Discontent of Our Disconnect

When organizations set out to redesign a website, the problems in need of solving on every organization's list inevitably include things like: "confusing; not user friendly," "content and resources hard to find," "not engaging or visually appealing," "difficult to update," and, most telling of all, "fails to clearly communicate our mission and work."

It is baffling how so many organizations can go through a lengthy website design engagement and still wind up with something that fails not only in website-specific areas like usability, visual design, and technology, but also in terms of the most important strategic goal of all — clearly communicating an organization's mission.

The reason, I believe, is actually quite simple.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (February 2016)

March 01, 2016

A couple of infographics, a book review by Matt, a short Q&A with the MacArthur Foundation's Laurie Garduque, an oldie but goodie from Michael Edwards, and great posts from Blake Groves and Ann Canela — February's offerings here on PhilanTopic beautifully capture the breadth and multiplicity of the social sector. Now if we could only get it to snow....

What did you read/watch/listen to last month that made you think, got you riled up, or restored your faith in humanity? Share with the rest of us in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The Power of ‘The List’: 4 Ways to Maximize Your Contact List

February 16, 2016

Contact_multichannelAs the smoke clears from another end-of-year fundraising season, fundraisers and nonprofit leaders are starting to assess how their campaigns and strategies worked.

While there are countless assets to every fundraising campaign, today I want to discuss what in my opinion is one of the most important – "the list."

The list I’m referring to is your database of names, email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers – the repository of all the contact information you have on current, lapsed, and potential donors.

At the beginning of every new year, fundraisers and development professionals have a simple goal: develop a fundraising strategy that will yield more revenue for their organizations so they can fulfill their missions and scale their efforts to do more good. So, why should they worry about a list of contacts?

Take it from me. You can have the best mission, the best creative, the best design, and the best messaging in the world, but none of it will matter if your list isn't up to the job. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the "health" of your contact list is probably the single greatest factor in the success (or failure) of your next fundraising campaign.

That's right. So, don't waste another day wondering whether you need a new direct mail strategy or your messaging is off. Until you've taken these steps to strengthen your list, everything else is putting the cart before the horse:

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How to Double Online Giving in Six Months

February 11, 2016

More and more of the giving to nonprofits is taking place online, which means it's critically important that your online storefront is not only open for business but is optimized.

OnlinegivingAs part of my research on this topic for my new book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, I interviewed Roderick Campbell, CEO of nonprofit fundraising platform CommitChange, who was kind enough to share a few takeaways from his organization's efforts to maximize digital donations for Mercy House, a $3.8 million nonprofit that has provided housing and support to California's homeless population since 1989.

The changes outlined below helped Mercy House double online giving to the organization in just six months — and I believe they can do the same for your nonprofit:

1. Break it down: CommitChange helped Mercy House break the donation process down into four steps: recurring versus one-time; amount; info; and payment. Instead of asking for the information all at once, CommitChange simplified the process, which is especially helpful for donors in the habit of contributing via their mobile device. Another great example of what this looks like is charity: water, which is also profiled in the book.

Whatever your process, be sure to look closely at recurring giving, as it is the category most likely to create valuable ongoing funding for your cause and increase average gift size (people are more likely to donate $10 a month than $120 in a single go). A simple tweak here and there can yield great results: By leading with the recurring gift option, Mercy House increased the number of donors willing to sign up as a sustaining member of the organization by 400 percent!

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[Infographic] The 2016 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report

February 06, 2016

Kivi Leroux Miller, the award-winning author and trainer behind Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog and the Nonprofit Marketing Guide site, has released the sixth edition of her annual Nonprofit Communications Trends Report (33 pages, PDF). The report, which is available for free download (registration required), includes valuable information about which communications goals/channels are most important to nonprofits, how often they send send direct appeals and newsletters (both print and email), the social media sites they favor, the average size of nonprofit communications teams and the average salary for key team members, and what nonprofit communicators are most excited about as they look ahead to 2016.

For a taste of what's in it, check out the infographic below...

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Ways to ‘Own’ a Movement

January 19, 2016

Blue_hand_claspAdvances in technology and the emergence of social media tools make it more possible than ever for social movements and causes to quickly spread far and wide (to go "viral" in the parlance of the moment). But how do you take a cause and transform it from an idea into something with universal appeal?

In the past, the concept of organizing, fundraising, and building a movement was focused on individuals "belonging" to a cause. In the twenty-first century, however, a successful movement isn't owned by an organization or single entity; it's owned by the people who comprise the movement itself. This idea speaks to the realities of modern constituent engagement theory and how people are perceived, whether as activists, social changemakers, supporters, or donors.

Importantly, in the research we’ve conducted, it's apparent that younger people view themselves as of a cause and not for a cause. It's a critical distinction. Young people tend not to belong to a cause but rather believe in a cause — and act accordingly.

Social movement builders who understand this understand that they have to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the qualities of purpose, authenticity, and self-actualization are embedded in their messaging when engaging supporters and would-be supporters. Without these qualities, individuals are unlikely to fully appreciate the potential of the movement or their own role in its ultimate success.

The shift I'm articulating is cultural and a function (I believe) of the instantaneous digital technologies that increasingly connect us to each other and the world. It's also something that social movement builders and leaders need to grasp in all its dimensions if they hope to be successful in harnessing the power of individuals to a common purpose. What do I mean by that? And what are the signs your cause or movement may be missing the boat?

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 9-10, 2016)

January 10, 2016

5-save-worldOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson explains why it  is imperative to rebuild the city's early childhood ecosystem and the steps the foundation is taking to that end.

Communications/Marketing

According to the folks at Top Nonprofits, a good logo should be aesthetically pleasing, distinctive, memorable, timeless, scalable, simple enough for use in multiple mediums, and effective in communicating the qualities of your organization's brand. Sort of like these fifty logos.

What can nonprofits learn from public radio about storytelling? With the help of some podcast snippets, Aquifer Media's Will Coley explains.

Nice post by Ebola Deeply managing editor Kate Thomas illustrating how first-hand narratives can add meaning to hard data.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, a 91-year-old literary magazine published at the University of Virginia, is planning a year-long "experiment" on Instagram in 2016 featuring a series of black-and-white photographs and accompanying text. "We're improvising as we go along," VQR deputy editor Paul Reyes told Neiman Lab's Shan Wang. “The potential lies in how Instagram, as a platform, shapes content. Part of this is determined by what people want to write about, what they're sick of reading about, and how they might be motivated to push the limits of what can be done on this platform." 

On her Getting Attention! blog, Nancy Schwartz shares four reasons why your nonprofit needs to identify and launch a team of staff messengers ASAP.

Environment

To kick off 2016, three of last year's Goldman Environmental Prize recipients — Howard Wood (2015, Scotland) of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), Jean Wiener (2015, Haiti) of the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity (FoProBiM) and Phyllis Omido (2015, Kenya) of the Center for Justice Governance & Environmental Action (CJGEA) — share their hopes for the new year.

Gun Violence

On Medium, Joyce Foundation president Ellen Alberding commends the series of executive actions to reduce gun deaths in America announced by President Obama on January 5 — and the president's use of research funded by the Joyce Foundation to support those actions. And here's a good piece by the Washington Post's Josh Lederman explaining the president's plan.

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