Connect to convert: Nonprofit communications

Let’s be real: Your organization is one of the many that can’t use kitty or puppy photos to raise money or recruit volunteers.

In Part One of this mini-guide, I shared my take on why such emotional candy works so well to raise money or recruit volunteers. And cited a reliable litmus test for photo-story impact—1) If you’d share them with your family and friends; 2) would they “like” or share them.

But you can make emotional connections with your target audiences, even WITHOUT kittens and puppies.

In fact—if your organization is not an animal rescue or another organization directly related to puppies, kitties or babies—these alternatives are far more effective in helping your forge connections and motivate your audiences to give, register or volunteer. Most importantly, they are authentic, relevant messages, rather than manipulative click-bait.

Here are two tested methods, with examples:


Nancy Schwartz on November 3, 2015 in storytelling | 1 comment
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Part Two

Adorable! Few of us can resist photos like this one, which is why you see so many organizations communicating cute.

But if your organization doesn’t have piglet or puppy photos to share, what can you do? Assess what makes these photos so magnetic, then share some of that.


Nancy Schwartz on October 20, 2015 in storytelling | 0 comments
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FullSizeRenderI’ve rarely seen a bigger message fail than this one.

There’s clearly been some controversy on this nearby street about front lawn etiquette. Typically, there are lawn lovers, who water and fertilize their way through summer. Then there are the folks (my family among them) who focus on garden beds instead, and others who just cut the grass. Peaceful coexistence, till now!

When you demand your audiences take action, you’ll fail every time. What you will succeed in is pushing prospects and supporters away for good.


Nancy Schwartz on September 8, 2015 in Messaging | 0 comments
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RobOur newest guest blogger, Rob Wu is CEO of CauseVox, a nonprofit crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising platform  for nonprofits. 

You know it, and I know it. Connecting with your audience is harder than ever. And that means more of your org’s messages than ever before are ignored or deleted.

So how do we cut through the noise? And how do we motivate donors to donate and supporters to take action? We have to make our messages relevant.

That’s right-things, right-now marketing and I’m thrilled to introduce you to our Empathy Map tool to help you get there!

Note from Nancy: This Empathy Mapping technique is the perfect complement to developing personas—learn how to do that here. Then put your results together and you’ll have a 360-dgree profile of the folks you want to engage. That’s right-things, right-now marketing, and that makes you a  5-star messenger!

Guest Blogger on March 6, 2014 in Right-Things Right-Now Marketing | 15 comments
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Note: My one and only goal is to help build your communications skills and your org’s ability to connect. To that end, I try to remain as unbiased as possible in all content.

If you watched last week’s Romney vs. Obama debate, you know that Romney reigned as the far better communicator. Pundits and regular folks alike agreed on that, and even diehard Obama supporters had to concur.

Although you may object that action matters far more than words (I’m all for that), the way that actions are conveyed is what shapes perception in most situations.


Nancy Schwartz on October 4, 2012 in Strategy | 23 comments
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As of a few minutes ago, when I spoke with program manager Kim Bancsi, we have 3 spots left in the Tagline Focus Project (starts tomorrow, July 10).

When those seats are gone, I’ll close enrollment and bring my full attention to our new crop of program participants.

Now’s the time to join this hands-on, limited-enrollment production program, with one-to-one coaching from me. Register now and let’s get started!


Nancy Schwartz on July 9, 2012 in Branding and Messages | 0 comments
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Over the last years, American Rivers has conducted in-depth research with a variety of Chesapeake Bay leaders on their understanding of polluted stormwater runoff and potential solutions, and their response to a variety of messages.  They do great work.

So I was thrilled to find this clear, well-tested message development worksheet American Rivers developed for organizations advocating for better stormwater solutions. This approach is applicable to your message development around any issue, in any region.

Nancy Schwartz on September 12, 2011 in Branding and Messages | 0 comments
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Opinion journalism (a.k.a. op-eds) is an unmatched opportunity for your organization to speak through the news media directly to policy makers, your constituents and other target audiences.

This rare opportunity for you to frame the messages offers the potential to change minds, albeit usually over the course of time, with a series of op-eds. It’s an opportunity not to be missed!

But so many of you have told me that you’re intimidated by entering this realm, that I knew it was a must to outline the path to getting there: READ MORE

Nancy Schwartz on September 7, 2011 in Media Relations and Press | 2 comments
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It's About Them -- Your Network -- Not Your Org, So Shape Your Messages AccordinglyYour network (my new word of choice for your audience/base/supporters) has to be your organization’s guiding light, 24/7. Because if what you do, and how you say it, doesn’t interest with their interests and needs, your organization is dead in the water. (FYI — that intersection is your brand, but that’s another post.)

When you craft messages, it’s imperative that they resonate with your network. Not that your organization doesn’t have some very real needs that may have nothing to do with the outside world, but either you find the meet with your audiences or your communications fail.

Take a look at these crystal-clear examples of what works (that intersection) and what doesn’t: These are email subject lines from three organizations, each asking me to respond to an online survey:

  • XXX Religious School needs your opinion! (thumbs down)
  • What do you need? (thumbs up)
  • How can we help your child? (thumbs up)

Each subject line makes the same request, but the first one does so from the point-of-view of the organization, whereas the latter two do from from the reader’s perspective. The benefit is clear; I can guarantee you that these latter two surveys generated a much higher level of participation — the organizations behind them are so focused on their audiences that the audiences are bound to respond more eagerly. Everyone loves attention, and to be understood.

My prediction? Extend this focus to all of your work — program and communications — and your organization will flourish.

P.S. Don’t miss out on the in-depth articles, case studies and guides on branding, messages and more featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Photo: Flickr Moog

Nancy Schwartz on February 18, 2009 in Branding and Messages | 2 comments
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