Case Studies

NEA's Open Call for Logo Design Builds Awareness  Improves UnderstandingEarlier this week, National Endowment for the Arts(NEA) chairman Rocco Landesman announced the NEA’s open call for a new logo design to convey its focus (tagline?), “Art Works.”

Designers, you’ll find the RFP here, The deadline is February 26th,with the winner gets $25,000. Much better than the take from typical design crowdsourcing ops like

The announcement, made to students at Miami’s architecture and design high school, gave the NEA a wonderful chance to take center stage. That’s an opportunity usually left to the programs it funds. Landesman described the NEA’s needs here:

These two words – “art works” – pretty much sum up everything we are about at the NEA and I hope you will see them everywhere. Art, artists, and arts professionals work to change the communities they inhabit: they are placemakers and help create livable, sustainable, complete communities. I look forward to having a logo that conveys that.

You know that contests are all the rage — from America’s Giving Challenge to Chase Community Giving — but this is an interesting amalgam of contest, crowdsourcing and flat-out PR. I think it’s a brilliant communications campaign. Here’s why:

  • Most of us only have a vague idea what the NEA actually is and does. This contest is a powerful platform for Landesman and colleagues to build understanding of its value.
  • Art Works is the NEA’s thoughtfully-conceived brand. They’ve done the planning to ensure that its relevant and this contest is a wonderful way to build its network of messengers.
  • And it’s news (new, time sensitive), so will be spread by traditional and non-traditional media (like me).
  • The contest gives the NEA to talk about itself this week, while the submissions are coming in, at the deadline and when a winner is selected. That’s several points of entry into the news cycle.

I’ll be tracking the coverage and response this campaign generates for the NEA, and will share back with you. Meanwhile, what’s your take on this strategy? Does it work for you?…

NOTE: Please read the comments section. AIGA has come out strongly against this practice of soliciting graphic design work on spec

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies like this one and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on February 4, 2010 in Case Studies, Graphic Design, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments
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PETA's Media Relations Win Groundhog Day as Animal Rights PlatformHere’s a a fantastic model of an organization linking its issues to a major news event to generate headline attention.

Shortly before Groundhog Day, PETA took on the Punxsutawney groundhog club, heralding its call for groundhog (and more broadly, animal) rights via a blog post and press release. And PETA advocates went one step further to suggest that Punxsutawney Phil’s annual weather forecasting responsibilities be taken over by a robot.

PETA says it’s wrong that Phil is subjected to the bright lights and crowds related to the Feb. 2 tradition. Event organizers downplay those concerns and insist that Phil is beyond fine, living better than other groundhogs in his climate-controlled environment.

An extremely active conversation blossomed in comments to the blog post. And, even more significantly, major news outlets like NPR, the LA Times and the Christian Science Monitor picked up on the controversy. At this moment, 9:23 am on Groundhog Day, a Google search on “peta ‘punxsutawney phil’ ‘groundhog day'” generates 43,000 results! PETA rules.

Kudos to PETA communicators for realizing there are few days (any others?) when animals are scheduled to make the headlines and acted on it. In connecting Phil’s rights with a national event, they secured widespread mainstream and niche media coverage of animal rights issues at little or no cost. Phil’s in good hands!

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Photo: oygirl.files.wordpress / CC

Nancy Schwartz on February 2, 2010 in Case Studies, Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications | 5 comments
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How Correcting Errors of Substance Builds Credibility Your Base's LoyaltyBack in November, I received this email from the folks at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). It’s a powerful example of how acknowledging an error of substance (i.e., not a typo or missing photo) can be a good opportunity to reinforce your organization’s brand (in this case, reliability, accuracy and passion for the truth).

Here’s what happened:

  • In striving to write a succinct review of a recently-published article, EDF implied the incorrect reason behind wasted electricity in the electricity production process.
  • When the error was pointed out by an EDF member (an engineering professor), EDF morphed this mistake into a clarion call on its commitment to accuracy as the only way to “promote meaning solutions to our environmental challenges.”
  • Sam Parry, EDF’s director of Online Membership and Activism reached out to the initial email list with a pro-active apology, correcting the error, thanking the professor and asking readers to let him know whenever they spot an editorial error.
  • Outcome: Sam scored on multiple fronts — 1) Thanking EDF supporters for their support, 2) Stressing the organization’s passion for truth-telling and 3) Engaging supporters to help EDF perpetuate its focus on the “business of truth telling.”

Most communicators are mistake-phobic. We labor away — conceiving, writing, designing and finally…publishing our communications. And when something is wrong — no matter who finds it — it’s dismaying.

But it doesn’t have to be. Some errors are due to sloppiness, and that’s truly dismaying. But errors like this one can be a real opportunity. Congrats to EDF for seeing the opportunity in the mess, and responding artfully but authentically.

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on January 19, 2010 in Case Studies, Crisis Communications, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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Red Cross' Communications Innovation in Haiti Disaster Relief Effort -- Smart StuffBefore digging into American Red Cross’ stellar communications on the Haitian earthquake relief effort, I urge you to contribute to help the people of Haiti. Here’s a list of several organizations you can give to.

Please spread the word to colleagues, family and friends. Relief needs are huge.

At the moment of, I wanted to tip my hat to the American Red Cross for its immediate and creative communications strategy on the situation in Haiti and fundraising for relief efforts (through its International Response Fund). Their work is a great model for your organization when you’re responding to a crisis or simply handling everyday business.

Here’s how the Red Cross’ communication innovation is boosting the impact of disaster communications:

  1. Pushing out the latest from Haiti via the Disaster Online Newsroom, a blog that makes it easy for Red Cross staffers to get new info out a.s.a.p.
  2. Producing almost-real-time, short-form, easy-to-absorb video on the state of the devastation and the challenges faced by the relief effort. This video was “on the air” (via the blog) five hours after the earthquake struck.
  3. Sharing the Red Cross’ relief strategy as it evolves (via the video). The weak infrastructure in Haiti has resulted in the collapse of many entries into the damaged entries. The Red Cross outlines its preparation in surrounding countries for entering Haiti today.
  4. Making it incredibly easy to give via mobile phone.Text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross relief for Haiti.
  5. Mobilizing social media tools to spur awareness, giving and conversation in multiple communities. You can follow the Red Cross’ Haitian relief news via Twitter (@RedCross), the org blog and Facebook.

Overall, the Red Cross is doing a great job in utilizing a broad range of communications channels and capitalizing on each one’s strengths.

Other organization’s are also responding effectively. Oxfam has communicated its relief focus (public health, water and sanitation to prevent the spread of waterborne disease) which is very helpful in making giving decisions. Partners in Health, already on the ground in Haiti, is bringing medical assistance and supplies to hardest-hit areas.

P.S. Follow these key strategies to maintain the impact of your org’s communications in the shadow of a disaster like this one.

To learn more about social media and other key communications strategies, get the in-depth articles and case studies featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on January 13, 2010 in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 3 comments
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Project Hope Empowers Citizen Fundraisers wDIY Web Pages I recently heard from Project HOPE‘s (PH) Marisol Murphy-Ballantyne, who wanted to share the communications innovations integrated into the org’s new website.

Frankly, I (and your audiences) couldn’t care less about a new website. And organizations that announce the launch of a new site as if it’s news drive me nuts.

But when I hear about a new or improved site that makes it easier or more effective for the org and its base to achieve its goals, that is news.

Marisol and colleagues made many of the typical updates in the new site — improving access to basic information on its international health education and humanitarian programs, and adding homepage links to Project HOPE’s Facebook Fan and Cause pages, and its Twitter and YouTube channels.

But far more important are these two changes, likely to make a real difference in engaging the org’s base:

  1. A new series of stories of individuals like Consuelo Rodriguez participating in PH’s programs are much more meaningful that the broad-based descriptions and stats of those served that are featured in the program summaries.
  2. The ability of donors, friends and fans to create their own fundraising webpages, similar those created by ActBlue supporters during the 2008 elections. Users choose the specific Project HOPE program (by geography or focus) they want to fundraise for, describe what the organization means to them, then quickly and easily create and promote their fundraising page. The leading fundraiser to date (and this is brand new) has raised over $10,000!

Thanks for the heads up, Marisol. These are two significant improvements to the site that are strong models for your colleague nonprofit communicators.

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on January 6, 2010 in Case Studies, High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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Reader Favorites to Power Up Your Nonprofit Communications in 2010This year saw the explosion of social media, online video and mobile content. We’ve friended, tweeted and absorbed more content on the web in 2009 than ever before. This means there’s more content competing for your audiences’ attention, so getting the basics right is an absolute imperative.

Take a look at this list of 2009’s most popular Getting Attention articles for insight into mastering your core marketing components in 2010 and beyond.

1. This Creative Brief Template Helps Ensure Powerful Copy and Design

Taking the time and energy to craft a thorough summary of your goals, preferences and needs for a writing or design project will save time and money, and ensure you get the results you envisioned.  This article and template give you everything you need to succeed.

2.  Nonprofits’ Most Missed Marketing Tool — Email Signatures

Crafting your email signature to feature key information about your organization is a simple and inexpensive way to communicate your message to your contacts. Read this article to learn what works best.

3.  How to Design an Effective Marketing and Communications Budget (Case Study)

More than ever, it’s vital to have a plan and budget to guide and support your marketing efforts.  Dive into this article to learn how to outline a budget that will help you accomplish your goals.

4.  5 Steps to Great Graphic Design for Your Nonprofit

Finding the right graphic designer or team is challenging. But now there’s help: This article breaks the selection process down into five easy steps for developing strong relationships with the right designers. This is a proven path to design work that conveys the essence of your org while captivating your audiences.

5.  How to Write a Letter to the Editor that Gets Published and Read

A letter to the editor is great alternative to a news story for nonprofits, giving your org the chance to state an opinion, offer an alternative viewpoint, or move someone to action, in your own words. Here are 10 proven guidelines for letter to the editor success.

P. S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Flickr photo: go-mel


Amy Kehoe on December 10, 2009 in Branding and Messages, Case Studies, Copywriting, Getting Attention, Graphic Design, Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications, Planning and Evaluation, Recommended Resources | 1 comment
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How Joedy Isert's Listening Helps Heifer InternationalListening is all the rage right now and for good reason. With an ever-increasing number of communications channels, there’s much more to listen to and the ability to do so.

Most importantly, as I discussed a few weeks ago, what’s said about your organization, leaders, programs, or issues is information critical to your decision making. But, despite the fact that listening IS a must and quite feasible for nonprofits of all sizes to implement, far too many do a poor job of it or don’t do it at all.

Here’s someone to learn from: Joedy Isert (at left), director of branding and communication at Heifer International is a great listener. He emailed me just 15 minutes after I blogged on my vote for Heifer’s Holiday Catalog as the most powerful holiday fundraising campaign out there.

With just a quick but heartfelt email, Joedy thanked me for my post, emphasized how the organization values its donors and other supporters, and shared how he and his Heifer colleagues are similarly touched in “rereading the powerful stories of the lives that have been changed by the simple gift of a cow or goat.”

Joedy made a connection between us in mentioning the Heifer team’s rereading of the catalog’s stories, and in his closing wish for a good holiday wishes for me and my family. So now, although I’ve never spoken to Joedy, I feel I have a connection at Heifer International should I want to develop another Heifer story for the Getting Attention blog or e-newsletter. He’s succeeded in generating one of the greatest benefits of good listening — helping your organization’s story to travel.

Thanks Joedy, for your note and for sharing your story! Keep those ears to the ground.

P.S. Learn how to craft a compelling story for your org in 8 words or less. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz on November 19, 2009 in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Web 2.0 | 1 comment
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Homeboy Industries Hits Home with Powerful Tagline

Every once in a while a message comes along that stops you dead in your tracks. Nothing Stops a Bullet like a Job, the tagline of Los Angeles-based workforce and community development organization Homeboy Industries, does just that. 

Voters for the 2009 Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards responded strongly to this tagline and rightfully so. The tagline packs a punch with its vivid imagery, telling a memorable story in just seven words.  

Here are a couple of the specific strengths that make this tagline so powerful:

  • It speaks directly to the interests of each audience segment; engaging the community it serves, inspiring donors to take action and encouraging others to learn more about the organization.
  • The straight-talking tone of the tagline is used consistently throughout all of Homeboy’s communications from its mission statement to its Virtual Car Wash fundraising campaign. This consistency ensures that audiences gain and maintain a sense of the organization, and are more likely to remember and repeat what’s different about it.

Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job raises the bar for nonprofit communicators to create powerful taglines that tell a story and inspire action.  How does your org’s tagline stack up?  

Amy Kehoe, Manager – Getting Attention

NOTE: This is the first post written by Amy Kehoe, our new manager at Nancy Schwartz & Company/  Amy brings a strong marketing background and endless creativity to our work, and
will be contributing to the blog on a regular basis.

P.S. Learn how to craft a compelling story for your org in 8 words or less.   Subscribe to the Getting Attention e-update today toget the free 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don't dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz on November 10, 2009 in Branding and Messages, Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Taglines | 0 comments
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JCC Crisis Communications Mastery Turns a Mess into MagicWe’re loyal members of the local JCC (Jewish Community Center, a combo YMCA and cultural center) and were taken aback to receive an email a few weeks ago on plans by a Kansas group to picket the Center.

CEO Alan Feldman first contacted us on October 21st to alert us that members of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) — an anti-gay, anti-Semitic extremist group from Topeka, Kansas — were planning to picket on Tuesday, October 27th. Feldman delivered this news with concern, but also with reason and calm. This warm yet professional tone reinforced my faith in him, which was particularly important as he’s been in the role just a few months.

In his initial email, Feldman matter-of-factly described the picketing plan and the security strategies in place for that day. He acknowledged that the threat was upsetting but reassured us that there was no real danger.

In his follow-up email the next day, Feldman acknowledged the passion of members’ responses but spoke firmly against acting on the many suggestions for a counter-protest. Instead, he invited members to a more productive response; joining area clergy and educators in a community dialogue while the protest was in action. “While we agree that we must speak out against intolerance, we believe that any counter-demonstrations outside will only further their agenda for publicity and dilute our message of tolerance and equality,” Feldman said.

The dialogue was attended by more than 150 members and others in the area, whereas the protest didn’t interfere with JCC operations. Feldman closed this chapter with a thank you email on October 29th, commending the community for joining together to combat intolerance and bigotry, and thanking those from the police to JCC staff for their hard work in mastering a difficult time. “By not altering our daily routine, we were able to demonstrate our commitment to the Jewish community in a peaceful and powerful way. Thank you for joining us in promoting tikkun olam (repairing the world).  Our mission is to build an inclusive Jewish community that celebrates the strength of its diversity,” he said

In taking control of a real threat to motivate community-building, Feldman succeeded in turning a negative into a success story. Here are the keys to his success:

  • He acted quickly, but calmly, on hearing of the planned protest. In addition to ensuring that members weren’t surprised or heard it elsewhere, this early response gave Feldman the opportunity to show how the JCC was on top of the situation.
  • He didn’t get his hands dirty by slamming the WBC.
  • Instead, he (and the JCC overall) took the higher road, using the protest as an opportunity to schedule a community dialogue.
  • He provided members with enough, but not too much, information. Feldman kept us updated but didn’t feed our frenzy with daily or hourly updates. He filtered through only what was useful for us to know.
  • Feldman took control of the crisis, ending the story on an up note, thanking all who helped the JCC through this difficult time (it was a great opportunity to strengthen bonds with those in the area) and encouraging all members to perpetuate their tikkun olam.

Take a close look at Feldman’s examples so you’ll be poised to make your next crisis into magic. There will be one, so why not work it to your organization’s advantage?

Flickr photo: k763

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention
Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on November 3, 2009 in Case Studies, Crisis Communications, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment
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Five-Star Arts Marketing Coup Peak Performances Makes Me Feel WantedI've blogged before about high-impact marketing from the wonderful Peak Perfs performance series at Montclair Sate University. Now they've done it again.

My husband and I have tickets to hear Cajun/Zydeco music there this weekend, and just received an e-invite to learn Zydeco dancing at a free pre-performance session. Easy-to-organize and a great way to build interest and community, at little cost or effort.

Such add-ons are another potent arrow in Peak Perfs' community-building quiver, complementing its frequent pre- or post-performance discussions which are often held online to extend the opportunity to those who couldn't make the show.

If they keep it up, we may buy all-season tickets next year. It's nice to be courted and engaged. 

How can your organization extend itself or its programs or services beyond the standard to engage your network?

P.S. Don't miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update.  Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on October 27, 2009 in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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