358 posts categorized "Communications/Marketing"

What's New at Foundation Center Update (September)

September 22, 2018

FC_logoHurricane season is upon us, and we'll be regularly sharing data here on PND with you about where funding for rebuilding is going. Grace Sato from our knowledge services team will also be speaking about disaster funding along with special guests from philanthropy on Tony Martignetti's radio show later this month. We've been working on sharing data and knowledge about other timely topics as well:

Projects Launched

  • We released a new report, The State of Global Giving by U.S. Foundations: 2011-2015. The report is the latest in a decades-long collaboration between Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations focused on analyzing trends in international grantmaking by U.S. foundations and is the tenth jointly published report since the collaboration began in 1997. In addition to a detailed look at trends by issue area, geographic region, population group, and donor strategy, the analysis also relates these trends to key events and developments, including the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals campaign, the emergence of Ebola in West Africa, repeal of the global gag rule, and the increasing legal restrictions faced by civil society organizations in countries around the world. Check out features in FastCompany and Alliance magazine, and this Slate Money podcast!)
  • Just in time for the midterms, our Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site has a new look, making it easier to navigate from the funding tool to the IssueLab research collection to a collection of infographics. Check it out at foundationcenter.org.
  • It's Nonprofit Radio Month! The third episode of Nonprofit Radio Month at Foundation Center aired September 21 and was focused on building relationships with family foundations. The episode features Tony Martignetti in conversation with our most popular fundraising expert, Senior Social Sector Librarian Susan Shiroma; Stuart Post, executive director of the Meringoff Family Foundation; and a Meringoff Foundation grantee, Read Alliance executive director Danielle Guindo. Check it out, and join us every Friday in September from 1:00-2:00 pm ET for more Nonprofit Radio.
  • Foundation Center Northeast (NY) will host Arts Month in October, featuring a variety of panels, programs, and networking opportunities for artists and arts organizations.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Our president, Brad Smith, was named to the 2018 NPT Power & Influence Top 50.
  • CF Insights has launched a new publication on CEO professional development.
  • Foundation Center has a robust portfolio of custom training for organizations (and/or grantees of foundations). Now is the time to invest in building the capacity of your staff/grantees. Email us at fctraining@foundationcenter.org for more info.
  • On September 25, in partnership with GlobalGiving and GuideStar, Foundation Center will launch BRIDGE (Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities) information as open data, making it easier to identify and share information on social sector entities around the world.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 158,719 new grants added to Foundation Maps in August, of which 17,063 grants were made to 2,059 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Update Central is back in Foundation Directory Online Professional! Register for monthly alerts to ensure you're up-to-date on grantmaker leadership changes and new foundations.
  • New data-sharing partners: Bennelong Foundation; Buhl Regional Health Foundation; Community Foundation for Monterey County; Connecticut Health Foundation, Inc.; English Family Foundation; LA84 Foundation; Light a Single Candle Foundation; Perpetual Trustees; SumOfUs; Woodward Hines Education Foundation; and Wyoming Community Foundation. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • Eighteen new organizations have joined our Funding Information Network in 2018, including the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust, First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, and the Roswell Public Library in Georgia.

Data Spotlight

  • As the country gears up for the midterms, we're looking at who's funding U.S. democracy. Did you know that more than 3,000 funders have made grants totaling $1.7 billion in support of civic participation? Learn more at foundationcenter.org.
  • Funders have granted nearly $400,000 in 2018 to organizations working in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. Learn more about funding for this region at equal-footing.org.
  • We completed custom data searches for the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership and the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. (And I'm curious: Did you read through to the end? If you did, tweet your favorite Foundation Center resource to @fdncenter with the hashtag #FCLove and you’ll be entered to win some swag!) I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 2)

September 13, 2018

Yesterday, in the first installment of a two-part series, Kathryn Pyle explained how the new "House on Henry Street" exhibition came about. In part two, she talks to the people behind the project about the unique challenges they faced in trying to distill a hundred years of social work and history into a cohesive experience.

HSS_Intro panel"Given our limited resources and the small space, we realized that any attempt to describe the significance of Henry Street Settlement in the late nineteenth century and show its relevance to our time meant that it had to be a multi-platform project," historian and curator Ellen Snyder-Grenier told me when I met with her earlier this summer. "On-site displays of artifacts and text could only tell a limited story. We decided that short films could round out the history and a website could expand the exhibit, breaking down temporal and space limitations."

Keith Ragone, the exhibit designer, recommended creating a 450-square-foot gallery from two smaller rooms on the first floor of the agency’s original townhouse and then "extending" that physical space through the clever device of having two windows looking out onto a late-nineteenth-century streetscape.

Ragone and his collaborators were familiar with the extensive trove of still photographs from that era and selected a number for the exhibit and website, but they also wanted to incorporate moving images into the display. Snyder-Grenier's research led her to the Edison Company films collection at the Library of Congress.

"I was flabbergasted by the extent and scope of the collection," she told me. When she discovered the three-minute film New York City 'ghetto’ fish market, she knew she had found the key element for their "view from the windows."

Another surprise was the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Film Collection, a digitized archive housed at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. The collection includes two hundred VNS promotional films, the earliest made in 1924. Lillian Wald herself appears in one from 1927; it’s in the exhibit and is embedded in a graphic timeline on the website that takes the visitor from the 1910s into the twenty-first century.

Cantos/ New Dances (1957) is a short film featuring the work of choreographer Alwin Nikolais, who established his dance company at the Henry Street Playhouse, later named the Abrons Art Center. Nikolais served for two decades as the artistic director of the center.

"Culture and the arts have been important from the beginning, and the Abrons Art Center has presented some of the most influential artists of our times," said Susan LaRosa, a marketing and communications officer at Henry Street for the past eleven years. "It was important that we acknowledge that, and the Nikolais film highlights one of our pivotal figures."

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 4-5, 2018)

August 05, 2018

Heatwave-europeOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

It's a little late, but we just wanted to give a shoutout to Social Velocity's Nell Edgington and her new website. Congrats, Nell — it looks great!

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

What does it mean for funders to build power? And how can they incorporate a power-building frame to measure meaningful progress on their DEI efforts? On the NCRP blog, Caitlin Duffy, senior associate for learning and engagement at the organization, shares the insights of four leaders in the sector — Daniel Lee, Alejandra L. Ibanez, Rhiannon Rossi, and Elizabeth Tan — who recently participated in an NCRP-sponsored webinar on the topic.

As she prepared to depart the Meyer Memorial Trust after more than a decade, Director of Programs Candy Solovjovs sat down with Kimberly Wilson, the trust's director of communications, to talk about the evolution of its grantmaking.

Fundraising

News that some dictionaries have started to include an additional definition for the word literally has language purists and the word police up in arms. To which Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks says: Like, get over it. "[L]anguage changes. And that's a good thing. Even though it means an old 'rule' gets revised now and then."

In part two of a two-part series on board fundraising for the GuideStar blog, fundraising consultant Clare Axelrad looks at the different types of stories your board members can tell and/or elicit from the prospects they approach for gifts. 

Grantmaking

A recent survey of the field by PEAK Grantmaking reveals that too few funders who collect demographic data on their grantees can articulate how they plan to use that information. On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Michelle Greanias, PEAK's executive director, shares some recommendations for funders and nonprofits looking to ensure they are collecting and learning from demographic data in ways that will help increase the effectiveness of their work.

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Engage From the Inside! (Part 2): The Benefits of Internal Branding for Nonprofits

July 27, 2018

BrandThe theme of this series is that "brands are created from the inside-out." So while it’s essential to drive external branding with a well-designed strategy, it's also important to use that strategy "to focus your mission and cultivate the right kind of internal behavior, actions, and culture." The shorthand for this concept is called a "living brand," a concept that’s been part of business management lexicon for some time. Living brands help build and maintain organizational identity and cohesion, which is especially important in the social impact sector, where success is harder to measure than it is in the bottom-line-driven for-profit world.

Unfortunately, nonprofits engaged in strategic planning and brand strategy work often struggle to translate the internal memos and documents generated by the process into broader organizational change. That's because while this work signals an organization's commitment to change and (when done well) offers a path forward, it takes consistent follow-through to get staff aligned with the ideas and concepts behind the strategy.

That's where internal branding shines.

Branding is about engaging and activating audiences, mostly through design (in the broadest sense of the term). But as is the case when engaging audiences outside your organization, you have to do more for your internal audiences than communicate what a brand stands for; you have to demonstrate it. By being purposeful about the experiences created for staff, design can help us translate strategy into something tangible and exciting — something that "lives and breathes" for staff and stakeholders alike.

In other words, positively influencing how staff view and experience their work requires you to be both strategic and creative in how you weave the ideas and concepts behind your brand into everyday workplace situations. It also requires leadership that is committed to the brand and what it stands for. So, assuming you're able to marshal the interest in and resources for an internal branding effort, what will success look like? Here are five benefits of internal branding that underscore its value to nonprofit organizations:

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 2-3, 2018)

June 03, 2018

MortarboardsOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

In a  post on Beth Kanter's Blog, Miriam Brosseau, chief innovation officer at See3 Communications, and Stephanie Corleto, digital communications manager at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, explain how you can use digital storytelling to break down the work silos in your organization. 

"Nonprofit leaders clearly understand the power of philanthropy"s voice in advocating for the nonprofit sector," argues David Biemesderfer, president and CEO of the United Philanthropy Forum (formerly the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers), in a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog. So "why doesn’t philanthropy understand the power of its own voice, and/or why does it seem so unwilling to use that voice?" 

Criminal Justice

In Town & Country, Adam Rathe looks at how New York philanthropist and art world doyenne Agnes Gund is using her renowned art collection to support criminal justice reform.

Education

On her Answer Sheet blog, Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss shares an "important article" by author Joanne Barkan about "the history of the movement to privatize U.S. public schools...[and] the national debate about the future of publicly funded education in this country." The long comment thread is also worth your time.

Innovation

Writing on our sister GrantCraft blog, Jason Rissman, a managing director at IDEO, shares three key learnings from the BridgeBuilder Challenge, a multi-challenge partnership between OpenIDEO — IDEO's open innovation practice — and the GHR Foundation aimed at finding solutions to global challenges at the intersection of peace, prosperity, and the environment.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2018)

June 02, 2018

In the movie Groundhog Day, TV weatherman Phil Connors, the character played by Bill Murray, is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — an assignment he disdains and decides to skip. There's a price to pay when you ignore Punxsutawney Phil, though, and the next day Connors finds himself stuck in a time loop, condemned to relive the events of Groundhog Day over and over. Which is a sort of how those of us in the Northeast are feeling after what seems like four months of overcast.

Don't despair. Our roundup of the most popular posts on the blog in May includes new posts by Jen Bokoff, Eric Braxton, Arif Ekram, Yaro Fong-Olivares, and Thaler Pekar; a couple of oldies but goodies (by Richard Brewster and Lauren Bradford); and a quick guide to digital marketing by Roubler's Daniel Ross.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Heroes, Collectives, and 'The Black Panther'

May 18, 2018

Sydney_composite

In the classic monomyth, or hero's journey, an individual goes on an adventure, faces and overcomes a challenge, and, as a result of that confrontation, returns home transformed. But the monomyth has long had its critics, who cite its misogyny, imperialistic slant, and tendency to exacerbate division through its focus on lone heroes and isolated villains. It's time to reconsider its ubiquitous use.

For some time now, I've warned activists and communications professionals that their well-meaning use of the monomyth framework can backfire. The familiarity of hero and villain, and of an easy-to-follow storyline, can be comforting. But people can tune out (if not actually resent) such pat and seemingly unrepresentative plots. Indeed, the embrace of simplicity and failure to honor diversity, complexity, and ambiguity can be counter-productive.

For example, elevating someone who has escaped a situation of intimate partner violence into a hero may cause those who remain trapped in such situations to feel like hapless victims. Likewise, pro-choice activists who choose to portray women who have had abortions as heroes may cause some women who are ambivalent about their decision to feel like a villain in their own stories.

While there are often good reasons to share a story that elevates a protagonist to hero status — and by extension, invites listeners to imagine themselves as heroic protagonists — the technique should be carefully deployed.

Even if we acknowledge that the hero is one person among many, and that the focus on her story is meant to be emblematic of a larger story, we are still categorizing her as good or bad, heroic or villainous.

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Engage From the Inside! How Internal Branding Strengthens Nonprofits (Part 1)

May 15, 2018

Brand-graphicImagine you work at a nonprofit or a foundation with a decent-sized staff (a few dozen to as many as a hundred employees). It might be a national research institute or a local community development organization. It has several departments focused on different issues or areas of operation. There may be physical offices catering to different needs or populations. It might even be part of a larger network of organizations.

Whatever the situation, each day everyone comes to work and does his or her best to contribute to the organization's mission. But while there's a sense of what you're all working towards, there are disconnects. Silos and knowledge gaps are stifling innovation and affecting results. New funding streams have led to mission creep. The organization has grown, added lots of new faces, and its strategic plan needs revisiting. Staff have very different ways of talking about the organization's work.

The result is fragmentation that's making people inside the organization less effective — and is confusing lots of people outside the organization. So leadership decides it's time to address the problem by working on the organization's branding with the goal of creating clarity and getting everyone on the same page.

Falling Short of Our Goals

Branding is important to the success of any organization, but it's particularly important for those in the nonprofit sector. Social impact work is complex and often abstract; results can be more difficult to measure (and achieve) than in the for-profit world; and the temptation of new opportunities for impact (and the funding that comes with them) means mission creep is always a concern.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 12-13, 2018)

May 13, 2018

Pexels-photo-414659Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Power is shifting at the top of U.S. museums — and that's a good thing. Nadja Sayej reports for the Guardian.

Communications/Marketing

If the latest Atlas video released by Boston Dynamics hasn't got your attention...well, take a look. But before Atlas and his pals decide that we're all so much useless wetware, you might be wondering what the implications of AI for nonprofit marketers are. Forbes contributor Dionisios Favatas, digital lead for the award-winning Truth Initiative, a youth tobacco prevention campaign, shares some thoughts.

Google has rather sneakily announced significant changes to its popular Google Ad Words program. In a post republished on Beth Kanter's blog, Whole Whale's George Weiner fills in the details.

Health

New menu labeling rules that require chain restaurants and other food retailers to provide calorie counts and other nutrition information to their customers are about to go into effect. How did we get here? And how do the guidelines connect to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health vision? The foundation's Jennifer Ng'andu explains

Higher Education

"Anyone who believes that public higher education is crucial to our democracy should be alarmed by the recent suggestions by George Mason University’s president that donations to the institution from the Charles Koch Foundation have had 'undue influence in academic matters,' " writes Rudy Fichtenbaum, a professor emeritus of economics at Wright State University and president of the American Association of University Professors, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Why? Because such donations threaten the twin principles of shared governance and academic freedom that "ensure that institutions of higher education serve the public interest, as opposed to the narrow special interests of big corporations, wealthy donors, or powerful politicians." 

The 18-year-olds graduating high school this spring have known schools as sites of violence their entire lives. How can higher education support them and help advance the movement they have started to prevent gun violence in schools? On the Inside Higher Ed site, Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, shares some thoughts.

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A Quick Guide to Digital Marketing for Nonprofits

May 02, 2018

Dig-marketingDonating to charity has changed for the better over the last few years. These days, pretty much everything takes place online, and giving to charity or supporting a good cause is no different. Which is why charities and nonprofits hoping to stand out had better have a robust online presence.

There are lots of ways to do that, but here are a few basics your organization should be thinking about:

1. Email marketing. Email is one of the best ways to reach supporters and potential donors. Whether your goal is to boost the number of subscribers to your newsletter, keep supporters and volunteers up to date on recent developments, or kick off a fundraising campaign, email is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to do it.

But it's important that your email content and presentation be engaging. Emails that consist of big chunks of dry text and cliched images are more likely to hurt than help. Try to send two but no more than four emails a month — and don't forget to include a CTA (call to action)! (You’d be surprised how many organizations don't.)

One good solution for those just getting into email marketing is MailChimp, an email marketing platform/service that makes it easy to format and structure your email newsletters for maximum impact.

2. Social media presence. Social media has changed the world — mostly for the better. It's a great tool for charities and nonprofits, not least because platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest make it easy to share all sorts of campaign materials. With a few lines of code, you can also add social sharing buttons to your website and emails. Why is that important? The more people who follow you, the more donations you're going to receive!

3. Donation pages. Your organization's donation pages should be clear and to the point. People just don't have the time to comb through paragraphs of information and instructions — you want to make it as easy for them to donate to your organization online as it is to purchase a book or a buy pair of socks.

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What Is That Noise?

April 19, 2018

NoiseHow many times have you been startled by a noise and thought: What in the world?

You try to ignore it, but it won't stop, so you decide to take action. You go looking for the source, find and disable it, and sigh as you walk back to your chair.

I know the feeling. It's a feeling of exasperation, the feeling you get when someone or something absolutely insists you pay attention, whether you want to or not.

It's the feeling many of us have after we've been exposed to nonprofit marketing.

Hey, I get it. Marketing is noise to some and the stuff of life for others. It can inspire, persuade, and make us fall in love. It can move us to action or dissuade us from taking a stand. It can be something we welcome into our world — or something that intrudes on us when we least expect it.

The question you need to ask is: Is our marketing something our supporters want, or is it the noise in the background they wish would stop. Based on my experience, there's too much of the latter happening in our space.

Let me explain.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 7-8, 2018)

April 08, 2018

Cherry-blossomsOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

The Hewlett Foundation's Ruth Levine argues (persuasively) that "the benefit/cost ratio for [nonprofit] annual reports is pretty unfavorable" and that "[t]they are more trouble than they're worth." 

Reinvent the wheel. Close the loop. Onboarding. Vu Le has gathered nineteen of the most annoying phrases used in the nonprofit sector.

Diversity

On the BoardSource blog, Kevin Walker, president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation since 2008, shares five recommendations for foundations that want to do something about the lack of board diversity in the field. 

Giving

When should you start teaching your kids about charitable giving. Forbes contributor Rob Clarfeld shares a few thoughts.

Higher Education 

After a lifetime working in and around students and public schools, Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and a former chancellor of the New York City public school system, reflects in an op-ed in the New York Times on the "troubling fact" that "[d]espite the best efforts of many, the gap between the numbers of rich and poor college graduates continues to grow."

The Times' Kyle Spencer reports that, with the price of higher education soaring, middle-class families increasingly are looking to community colleges as an option.

"For years, researchers have highlighted the vast inequities that persist in the country's K-12 education system with students of color disproportionately enrolled in public schools that are underfunded, understaffed, and thus more likely to underperform when compared with schools attended by their white peers," writes Sara Garcia on the Center for American progress site. "What has received less attention is the fact that these inequitable patterns do not end when a student graduates from high school but persist through postsecondary education."

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Leading Narrative Change

April 06, 2018

BigDipperActivists, philanthropists, and social entrepreneurs increasingly are focused on influencing people and shaping opinions, behaviors, and policy through narrative. There's also an increased focus on culture change through narrative.

Although the definition of the word can be nuanced, narrative generally refers to the big, overarching stories that result from the amalgamation of smaller stories. As the Narrative Initiative puts it: "What tiles are to mosaics, stories are to narratives."

Liz Manne and Erin Potts, co-founders of A More Perfect Story, offer another practical analogy to guide our understanding:

  • Stories are stars.
  • Narratives are constellations of stars.
  • Culture is the galaxy which contains the stories and narratives.

Just like constellations are groupings of stars that help us organize our understanding of the night sky, stories are assembled into narratives to more efficiently transmit our beliefs and collective meaning.

Brett Davidson, in "The Role of Narrative in Influencing Policy," offers this explanation of narrative change work:

Narratives embody fundamental assumptions by which we interpret and understand the world. Because they constitute the culture in which we live, we are often unaware of these assumptions and the narratives through which they are conveyed. Therefore we need to find ways to reveal, challenge and change them....

Working with story and narrative is different than working with messages. Working with story and narrative is multi-directional and requires active listening, a willingness to invite participation, and comfort with complexity. Today, leaders of nonprofit organizations have multiple channels for both communicating and listening, and audiences are increasingly distracted and fragmented. Working with story and narrative therefore requires leaders to be intentional about which stories to look for and share, and to select for the narratives they want to influence.

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Breaking Through Branding B.S.: The Benefits of Nonprofit Brand Strategy

February 27, 2018

Branding-strategyWhen I tell people I work on brand strategy for mission-driven organizations, I get a lot of blank stares and raised eyebrows. I get it: brand strategy is a bit of a buzzword these days and not exactly easy to define. Adding to the confusion, there's a lingering perception that brand strategy belongs exclusively to the corporate world, that it's something mega brands like Nike, Coca Cola, and Starbucks leverage to woo new customers in a crowded marketplace.

So this article is for all those interested in, confused by, or skeptical about nonprofit brand strategy. It's my answer to the raised eyebrows, a proclamation of my firmly held conviction that a well-articulated brand strategy can be transformative for organizations working to create social change.

Agreeing on a Definition

Our team has written a lot about brand theory, and my aim in this article is to move beyond theory and discuss some of the tangible outcomes of a successful nonprofit brand strategy. But to make sure we're all on the same page, I first want to quickly review what brand and brand strategy are.

There are many definitions of brand, but for our purposes let me define it as the collective perception of an organization shared by its customers or constituents. Brand lives in the minds and experiences of all the different people who come into contact with an organization, including staff, board members, donors, beneficiaries, etc. Brand strategy is an articulation of how a brand is meant to be understood and expressed. At Constructive, we break down brand strategy into the ideas that drive and position an organization, the messages that express them, and the designed experiences that translate these ideas into more tangible deliverables such as a visual identity, communications collateral, and digital presence.

So with that out of the way, how does a successfully defined brand strategy actually help social change organizations accomplish their mission?

A Gut Check

In my opinion, some of the greatest benefits to be gained from a brand strategy engagement come from the process itself.

Brand strategy engagements typically (and always should) begin with extensive research and analysis of the organization and its existing brand. At Constructive, this phase is known as "discovery," and our research can take the form of interviews with internal and external audiences, surveys, peer analyses, and workshops with organizational leadership and staff. The culmination of this phase is a brand assessment that articulates the organizational goals for the brand strategy engagement, the perceived weaknesses and strengths of the organization's current brand, and a plan for mitigating challenges and leveraging opportunities.

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Labels…Do They Matter?

February 22, 2018

I-am-what-you-label-mePhilanthropy researchers have spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to understand the donor's point of view, and they've taken much of what they've learned and condensed it into a sector-specific typology: Donor. Volunteer. Activist. Advocate. Maybe it's time, however, for a more sophisticated approach to how we classify these types of constituent relationships — and how we structure our organizations around them.

In many nonprofits, departments and staff are organized according to the nature of their constituent involvement. You have volunteer coordinators, corporate donor managers, major gift directors, membership managers, and so on. What's more, many nonprofits still keep their development functions separate from their marketing and communications teams.

The most effective nonprofits don't operate this way.

Ask yourself this: Do the labels we attach to people influence how we relate to them, or how they view their relationship to us?

What do we really mean when we say things like, "She's a key donor." "He's a great volunteer." "She's a real advocate."

Do the people we talk about in those terms see themselves in the same way? Does she see herself as a "donor," or a "volunteer," or an "advocate"? And does it matter if she doesn't?

From donor engagement studies and the research on millennials we have done, we know that most nonprofit supporters don't think of themselves in terms of their transactional relationship with the organizations they support. They don't give or volunteer out of loyalty to an organization. More often than not, their willingness to give or volunteer is rooted in the idea that their support for an organization or cause will improve the lives of others.

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