Choosing a for-profit partner for your nonprofit has tremendous potential to help your organization and drive your mission forward, if you do it right. And today, when traditional funding sources are smaller than ever, corporate partnership is a strategy you can’t afford to ignore. And there are many great examples where such partnerships are a genuine win-win.
Cause marketing, the most popular type of nonprofit/for-profit partnership, was a strategy used initially by national high-profile organizations like American Express and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. But today’s options for effective cause marketing are much broader than that, reaching to the local level. But the key question remains: How do you assess whether cause marketing is the right strategy to pursue and, if so, how to start? READ MORE
Thanks so much to my friend and colleague Kivi Leroux Miller for surveying 780 nonprofit communicators like you on your habits, practices and preferences, and then sharing what you reported in the new, free 2011 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report.
I found the report incredibly useful as it compiles data I’ve never seen before, including what most excites and scares nonprofit communicators. I was pleased to grab Kivi for a few minutes to ask her a few questions on the findings:
Nancy: What single finding is most vital for nonprofit marketers to pay attention to, and how should they respond to it?
Kivi:We should continue to experiment; we’re all learning. What I think most nonprofits will find comforting is that everyone is excited about all of the new communications tools available these days and how they create new opportunities to connect with supporters. At the same time, they are intimidated about not having the time and skills to use them well.
Everyone is in the same boat: We are all learning and trying to figure out how to integrate the tools well. I hope nonprofits of all sizes will see that they aren’t alone in that, and that they should feel free to experiment right along with everyone else.
Nancy:I was surprised to see Facebook ranked as a more important tool than print marketing/communications materials. Of course a strong Facebook presence definitely offers significant reach if an org has many likes.
But how can you really compare the value of two such very different tools? Is there a more productive way to look at these tools?
Kivi: Cost and purpose are the determining factors:I believe the cost of print marketing compared to online marketing is a significant factor in these decisions. At some level, the effectiveness of direct mail becomes irrelevant if you simply can’t afford to send it out. That’s especially true for communications that are more informational or rapport-building in nature, as opposed to a direct fundraising appeal.
Nancy:Most survey respondents email supporters monthly but is that really enough? I think that it’s tough for a supporter to feel connected with any organization it hears from just twelve times a year.
How do you recommend that nonprofits ensure they do connect with their supporters if they email just monthly?
Kivi: I was actually thrilled to see 75% emailing at least monthly, because many of the small organizations that I hear from, especially those who are transitioning from a print newsletter, often think monthly is too often!
But I agree with you; I think monthly touch points are the bare minimum. If email is well integrated with other forms of communication, including print, in-person contacts, PR, and/or social media, I think a monthly email schedule can work just fine.
Nancy:What nonprofit marketers identify as exciting them and scaring them in 2011 is fascinating. How can they put these findings to work?
Kivi: I think nonprofits can use this report, and this section in particular, to benchmark themselves in some ways against the nonprofit sector as a whole.
I think nonprofit communications staff often feel alone in the wilderness, and even alone in their own organizations. The report validates some of their concerns, and I hope it encourages them to reach out to each other to find solutions and support.
Nancy: You note that more than half (51%) of nonprofit organizations have a marketing plan but, in digging into the responses, I see that just 32% have a formal plan that’s approved by leadership. That’s startling to a marketing planning advocate like me. Which of the other findings do you think are related to a lack of a formal, approved plan? And what is the best way to help nonprofits close the planning gap?
Kivi: I think the stats on marketing planning are closely related to the “what excites you” and “what scares you” responses. The organizations with written plans are more excited about finally getting organized and integrating their communications; the ones without plans are more scared about not knowing what to do or how to do it.
The realization that you really do need to pay attention to marketing and that a marketing plan is the must-have framework to work from is just now hitting many organizations, and I think it comes directly from having an overwhelming number of choices in ways to communicate. When all you had to do was produce a quarterly print newsletter and send out a few press releases, the marketing plan was pretty clear cut. But the sheer number of communications channels now available to even the smallest nonprofits requires more strategic decision-making. I’m looking forward to seeing those planning numbers rise in the coming years.
You know that cause marketing is a partnership between a for-profit and a nonprofit. Each partner has something to offer the other.
Cause marketing is certainly a potentially significant strategy in your overall nonprofit marketing plan. And some of you have a cause marketing program in place already. But for those of you who don’t (and that’s most nonprofits), how do you know when cause marketing is right for your nonprofit? Can it ever work for small or medium nonprofits, or is it just for the big guys? And if you decide to go forward, how do you bring the program to life?
P.S. Vote nowto build your messaging skills and learn how to strengthen your own organization’s taglinesby selecting the best in class in the 2010 Taggies – the third annual Nonprofit Tagline Award Competition. It’s a fun project that will help nonprofits in all fields discover what works, and why. Voting closes in a week so do it now!
If you’re a Target shopper and/or a Ben & Jerry’s (B&J) fan you probably know about Volunteer Match‘s (VM) cause marketing coup.
Back in June, B&J launched its Berry Voluntary and Brownie Chew Gooder flavors at Target (a long-time VM supporter), aiming to encourage local volunteering via VM’s Scoop it Forward program. After registering for a volunteer activity and forwarding the opportunity to five friends, all six people received a coupon for a free pint of one of the new flavors, redeemable at Target.
Reinvigorated to Reach New Audiences
That’s a five-start cause marketing partnership but focus on even the most engaging promotion flags after a while. VolunteerMatch was determined to use this opportunity to engage additional audiences to build awareness of volunteering.
They devised a brilliant, funny strategy to do so — challenging Stephen Colbert (who has his own B&J flavor, Americone) to an ice cream taste off.
And what better (potentially viral) way to launch the challenge than this video: “I challenge Stephen Colbert – man to man and spoon to spoon – to see who has the ice cream flavor that people prefer,” joked Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch. “Anywhere. Anytime. Any tongue.”
After trying each flavor, Baldwin invites tasters to vote for the flavor they prefer, which is a great way to further engage those who hear about the taste off.
But the creative team at VM didn’t stop there. They generated major attention by storming the line of folks waiting to see the Colbert Report taping last week. VM distributed sample sizes of Berry Voluntary, proffered a written challenge to Colbert and the show’s producers, and launched the video big-time!
With Great Immediate Results
The long-term results will be how increased awareness from the taste-off generates more VolunteerMatch volunteers. But that won’t be clear for awhile.
What’s immediately apparent is that the spectacularly original and marvelously engaging approach has gotten big time attention. The story launched on Monday and was immediately covered by Fast Company and the Huffington Post, among other channels. That means that VM has already reached new audiences.
Next step, getting Baldwin on the Colbert Report! I’ll keep you posted on progress.
Powerful Inspiration — Use It to Spice Up Your Campaigns
There’s lots of inspiration here. My challenge to you is this: How can you take a great existing marketing or fundraising campaign, spice it up and roll it out to engage new audiences (or re-engage those who might have seen it the first time round)?
P.S. Vote nowto build your messaging skills by selecting the best in class in the 2010 Taggies – the third annual Nonprofit Tagline Award Competition. It’s a fun project that will help nonprofits in all fields discover what works, and why.
A new research reportjust released by cause branding pros at Cone shows that 79% of those online are behind orgs harnessing email, Web sites and social media to build awareness, grow giving and motivate action. Better yet, 60% of this group has engaged with one or more cause — from forwarding an email to a friend to purchasing a cause-branded product.
That’s all rosy, but here’s the disconnect. Despite this high level of interest and awareness of causes online, action lags far behind. Only 18% of users have donated via online media and/or done more to help the cause in another way.
Evidently, it’s fear that’s keeping them from giving online. That’s what the research tells us. But I think the disconnect is much greater than that.
My take is that online media (especially via social media tools like Facebook and Twitter) is more about friendraising than fundraising at this point. Dollar and gift counts are low now but are growing and will continue to do.
If you buy my take, then focus on building communities, not dollars. If you hit too hard on giving, you’ll alientate some of your org’s friends, and they are hot prospects for future giving. You don’t want to lose them.
What’s your take on Cone’s findings, and what they mean for your online strategy? Please share your thoughts with me via email or the comments box.