A Nonprofit Marketing Don’t – “Our Organization Needs Your Input”

Flickr - mtsofanThat’s the subject line of this morning’s email from our local JCC, asking for my input on its member survey.

My immediate response was to delete it, because it’s all about the JCC’s needs and not about what members like me need. At least that’s what the subject line conveys!

Has your organization ever alienated its audiences doing something like this, something totally narcissistic?

Here’s what’s really annoying: The JCC folks do get it right in the first sentence of the email itself — There is only 1 week left to take our online JCC feedback survey. Please take a few minutes to complete it. Your opinion is extremely important as it helps us focus our improvement efforts on the areas that matter most to our community. We hope to hear from all of you!

But that’s the only sentence in the entire wordy email that speaks to serving the wants and needs of us JCC members. And most folks won’t even get there because the subject line is so JCC-focused.

Let me say it again — it isn’t about you and your organization. The engagement you crave comes only when you identify, understand and speak directly to the wants of your target audiences in language they’ll connect with.

If anything, I recommend you over-emphasize your audience focus. Because you’ll miss out entirely if it’s all about you.

My suggestion for a far more effective subject line is this: Pls take 5 minutes to tell us what you need. Same request, just turned around to address member needs, which makes a huge difference.

What are your strategies for getting to know your audiences and showing them that their wants and interests are important to you? Please join the discussion.

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Nancy Schwartz on October 18, 2010 in Branding and Messages | 5 comments
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  • Nancy,

    Excellent example of how a seemingly innocent message can alienate members, donors, and readers because of the wrong focus.

    I often suggest that after a nonprofit writes a message, they leave it alone for a day or two and then concentrate their edits it making it more member-centric. Other editing can be done separately but dedicate one round to this.

    In your example from the JCC, it appears as though the very first sentence of the email could easily have been: “Your opinion is extremely important. It is how we focus our improvement efforts on the areas that matter most to you and all our community.”

    I modified their copy slightly.

    Your revised subject line is good too. A few other quick thoughts I had were: “Because your opinion matters” or “How you can quickly make a difference”

    It appears that the email you received was a REMINDER to take the survey. So the subject line might also read, “Reminder – Your Opinion Matters” or something like that.

    The more effort nonprofits put into mastering reader-centric copywriting, the better their responses will be, including stronger retention and loyalty.

    Good post on a very important topic.

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Thank you, Karen, for your great suggestions. I think the JCC needs your copywriting services!

  • Concrete examples are always much more helpful than merely “telling” someone what they should be doing. Thanks for sharing Nancy.

    Another suggestion might be: Win an amazon gift card for your opinion!

  • Pingback: A Nonprofit Marketing Don’t – “Our Organization Needs Your Input” « Peel Leadership Centre()

  • Good points here, we’re now living in a value economy where people won’t give their time for information that doesn’t provide them value.

    Forgotten Voices we spend time tracking what content gets the most online attention and try to push more of that content. We are also happy to ask people what they want to hear more about, and how they want to hear it through mediums like twitter, facebook, etc.

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