Liz Polay-Wettengel is National Director of Marketing and Communications for InterfaithFamily, a Jewish non-profit based in Newton, MA.
For three years in a row, my colleagues from InterfaithFamily and I have participated in the annual Nonprofit Tech Conference (from NTEN). It is, by far, the conference that we learn the most from. Every year, we have come back with new ideas, fresh perspectives, and tools to do what we do better.
This year was no different. Held in Washington DC, the 3,000 attendees at the 2017 conference brainstormed on topics far beyond the “traditional” definition of technology—nonprofit marketing, development, leadership, and organizational infrastructure.
Key takeaways from my deep-dive into NTC learning include:
On communication and branding
• 53% of supporters leave because of lack of or poor communication
• What NPOs talk about isn’t what donors care about. Communication can fix this.
• Clarify positioning (head) and personality (heart) to get to brand strategy and use in communications
• Something I feel strongly about: develop strong (and emotion based) messaging tie it throughout your organization
On working together
• “I don’t see competition, I see collaboration” this is important not just for storytelling but for NPOs in general.
• “Rising tides lift all boats” in the workplace can be about giving others a say at the meeting/committee. Bring others up with you.
• “Partners make you stronger” I’ve been preaching this for a while! Work together. Collaboration, not competition.
• “Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants.”
• “To tell a story you have to be a good listener.” Listen to all the people around you from staff to volunteers to program participants.
• Stories must resonate. Must be seen, heard, shared, felt, remembered.
• SHOW without telling. Can you tell your story visually?
On digital content
• “What’s your goal? Who’s your audience?” Video isn’t always the answer. Think it through.
• Success is defined by YOUR goals, not just your social numbers
• It doesn’t have to be AMAZING! Just try stuff.
• For digital, sometimes it’s the quick not so slickly produced content that gets engagement
• Make videos not necessarily to inform and teach but to inspire (my favorite mantra of the conference)
• Awe, excitement, and humor in digital content inspire emotions that increase sharing
• Your plan is meaningless if you don’t know your audience
• “If you have ‘general public’ as your audience in your marketing plan, please go to the office on Monday and delete.”
• Planning is essential for communications especially when a crisis impacts your work. Allows for quick impactful pivoting
• Don’t let the “how” of measuring goals block you from setting them. Pinpoint what you’re trying to accomplish, and how to measure progress.
There is far more to NTC than the sessions I attended, as there is far more to the conference than the sessions. Connecting face-to-face with our fellow nonprofit warriors is as fulfilling and educational as learning from session speakers.
Some of my most meaningful conversations were at a lunch table, in hallways, and in the hotel bar. My thanks to those who led sessions this year, you always inspire me to be a better marketer. Finally, a huge thanks to Amy Sample Ward and the NTEN team who put on the conference of the year, every year. I will see you next year in New Orleans.
Capture more takeaways from NTC sessions via these collaborative notes for 2017 NTC sessions.
Liz is a veteran marketing professional with extensive experience in traditional marketing and digital strategy with a strong background in social media. A storyteller at heart and a former music business professional, she has been an innovative thought leader in the non-profit space for over a decade.