Nancy E. Schwartz

Your template helps enormously. Thanks so much for the Marketing Plan Template. We’ve just completed our strategic plan and are poised to plan our marketing. We didn’t quite know where or how to start and your plan helps enormously.” — Pam Voss-Page, Executive Director, Student Leadership Services

I outlined the value of planning and evaluating your nonprofit marketing in a recent post, and clearly hit a nerve. Many of you are frustrated by “just doing it,” and feeling that your nonprofit communications impact suffers as a result. And I heard from many of you eager to plan, but not knowing how to start or where to find the time.

In response to your requests, I’ve developed this ready-to-use nonprofit marketing plan template for you to download. I urge you to just jump into completing it. If you don’t, the impact of your organization’s communications is as uncertain as a bingo game.

Your investment of five to ten hours will give you a baseline plan useful in starting a meaningful dialogue with colleagues and guiding your daily marketing focus. Just block out an hour (first thing in the morning is ideal) each day for one to two weeks to complete your marketing plan (download here)

I guarantee that your nonprofit communications impact will soar as your communications plan will provide:

  1. A clear path forward for your nonprofit communications, no duplication of effort thinking what next.
  2. Concrete measurable objectives so you know what you are working towards.
  3. Stronger connections with your base and prospects — leading to more giving, volunteering and advocacy.
  4. Increased productivity–making the most of your time and budget.
  5. A pithy overview of your work ready to use to build understanding and support of colleagues and funders.

Go to it!

Nancy Schwartz on April 20, 2010 in Planning and Evaluation, Tools | 12 comments
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I was shaken by new stats on a crucial shift in online user behavior–only 5 to 15% of your website users are coming in through your home page. Tip of the hat to Gerry McGovern’s take on the decline of the home page for clarifying what works now for nonprofit marketing online .

As a result, your site users:

  • Won’t be “introduced” to your organization (as happens when they enter via the front door, or home page).
  • Aren’t likely to know the breadth and depth of content and tools on your sites.
  • Won’t be asked to give or subscribe to your e-news (usually buttons featured on home page).

What to do about the decline of your nonprofit’s home page:

  1. Feature Donate and Subscribe (to e-news) on every page throughout the site, above the fold (e.g. visible without a user scrolling down).
  2. Label navigation elements (buttons, menu bar) to be broadly accessible and include on every page.
  3. Write/revise content to provide context, so users understand and can act, no matter what page they’ve come from (which may be Amazon, a competitor’s site, weather.com or another page on your org’s site).
  4. Include a site search engine window on every page. It’s the easiest way to reduce user frustration level.

This is just one of several critical shifts in site usage patterns I’ve been meaning to share with you. I’m in the process of reconfiguring my consulting site, Nancy Schwartz & Company, and have reviewed current trends in site usage to make it as effective as possible. I’ll be sharing other tips on site design out with you in posts to come.

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 .

Nancy Schwartz on April 19, 2010 in High-Impact Websites | 2 comments
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NTEN‘s 10th Nonprofit Technology Conference (a.k.a. #10NTC). And let me assure you the conference is about much more than technology as the IT folks think of it. That perspective is there too but the 1,500 participants are an unusual amalgam of nonprofit communicators, fundraisers, program staff, some foundation folks and yes, the tech specialists.

The common theme is use of technology tools to do the work more effectively, and efficiently. What’s unique is how the richness of cross-functional participation enables nonprofit communicators to strengthen understanding of other critical points of view within their orgs and better engage colleagues as participants in communications success.

These are some of the most compelling points I heard in NTC sessions, drawn from session leaders as well as participants. When possible I’ve credited the thought, but couldn’t catch many of the sources.

1. Marketing Strategy

  • You have to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert — John Kenyon reaffirming my insistence that you have to define goals, key audiences and best ways to meet them before “just doing it.” In our session on integrating social media strategy with communications strategy.
  • When approaching communications–think strategically, act tactfully. — Co-panelist,  Demetrio Maguigad, Community Media Workshop
  • Focus on what you do best, network the rest. — Allison Fine and Beth Kanter
    • What can your org give up?
    • One small step to becoming a networked communicator: Ask your Facebook fans to post your message as their status update. It works!

2. Messaging & Marketing Content

  • Don’t convince supporters of the value of your cause; show them that your cause relates to their wants and values. (From the Marketing/Fundraising meet and greet. Read tweets from this session #10NTC.mktg here.)
  • Online writing needs to be conversational, direct, informal and skimmable. Users read only the 1st sentence then move on.

3. Storytelling

  • Stories (on one person or family) and images make a much stronger immediate impression than stats. The “power of one” (one subject, rather than 500 people) engages and will motivate your network to act.
  • But real storytelling is about your base (those who volunteer with you, you provide services to and others), not about your organization.
  • It’s not the “About Us” content on your website. Keep your org in the background.
  • Good stories are becoming a real differentiator for prospective donors and other supporters: Your website has less than one minute to engage your users.
  • A few good stories are more valuable than many so-so stories.
  • Make sure stories are integrated throughout your communications channels, not just in “stories” section on site. Work well to illustrate value of your programs and services, more so than your description.

4. Email Outreach

  • 11am Tuesday, in recipient’s respective time zones, is THE optimal time to send email campaigns. Make sure your ESP (email service provider) enables you to capture zip codes and sort sends by time zone. — Jordan Dossett, Antharia
  • You have just 8 seconds to capture a recipient’s attention before he clicks away. Here’s how to strengthen your emails.

5. Social Media

  • Trying to control the internet (and its social media content) is like putting a
    wire fence around water
  • 50% of nonprofits plan to increase staff commitment to social media. But only 40% have external budget for this. Disconnect (but not as much as I anticipated).
  • 60% of orgs are now on Twitter, up from 38% from 2009. You should be there personally, to learn the medium, even if not for your org.
  • Your social media policy in one tweet (140 characters): Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic, and represent us well. — Beth Kanter
  • Shorter videos work for new donors, longer format for existing donors who are invested. Repurposing is king!

6. Online Fundraising

  • The hard truth: 1% response rate is typical.
  • Social Survey Results-only 3.5% of organizations have raised 10K or more on Facebook.

More #10NTC “notable quotables” here.

P.S. I hope you can join me next year for #11NTC in Washington, DC, March 17-19, 2011. Subscribe to NTEN’s e-news to ensure you get registration info in the fall. There’s a great early-bird discount.

Photo: Geoff Livingston

Nancy Schwartz on April 15, 2010 in Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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andrewsullivanI blogged this practical but fresh perspective from Andrew Sullivan’s keynote talk at NTC (NTEN‘s annual conference). Sullivan, top blogger at The Atlantic‘s Daily Dish, shared his take on the potential value of blogging (and other online channels) for orgs and what it takes to realize that value to strengthen relationships.

Author, provocateur and early (since 2000) blogger Sullivan covered what’s different about online communications and community, and what that means for your nonprofit:

  • Blogging (and other online content and conversations, I’d say) is about relationships, not content.
  • Online readers, even when alone, are not really alone. Immediately, without waiting for the news or the paper, they enter in a relationship with the writer.
    • Readers interact w/content in a personal setting–at their computers, which are personal–where they do their work, keep photos, etc–so you are speaking directly to each one in a way you can’t via print, even if they don’t participate actively in online conversation.
    • So online reading and conversation becomes more part of your audience’s lives. It’s a great opportunity.
  • But, for that to work, online content has to be ever-changing.  If it’s not (like a static brochure site, as so many orgs have), it’ll fail to engage your network. And likely to alienate them.
    • When you have this relationship with your network, you already have their permission. So your organization can move quickly to introduce them to a campaign.
    • The speed is critical since our focus shifts very quickly.

Online communications is unequaled for relationship building, but is reinforced through direct mail, phone outreach and in-person gatherings.

But your organization’s online communications success may not come easily. Here are some of the common challenges cited by Sullivan:

  • The lack of control inherent in social media (such as enabling readers to comment on your blog, which I suggest you do) is terrifying, especially for those with something to hide. That’s everyone, and every  organization.
  • As a blogger or site producer, your role changes from expert to conduit of thought for your network.  Most organizations fear this shift, thinking it signals a decrease in their significance.
  • A personal face and voice (or a few of them) for your organization online is a must. You don’t develop a relationship with an institution, you do so with an individual.

What do you have to add to the list of benefits, or deterrents? Please comment below.

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: Flickr Lydia Mann

Nancy Schwartz on April 13, 2010 in Blogging for Nonprofits | 7 comments
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I’m pleased to welcome back Rebecca Leet, author of Message Matters, who helps nonprofits and foundations sharpen their goals and connectwith the people who can achieve them.  Rebecca covered the importance of knowing your base in her last post.

“I had lunch recently with a long-time client, the head of a national environmental organization.  Even before we ordered, she shared her worry that a major program just wasn’t living up to expectations.

She wondered if developing a message specifically for that program might help.  She glanced over her shoulder a little sheepishly and asked how do I know if we need a message?

She shouldn’t have looked around nervously because she asked a good question. And its a question more orgs should ask before they jump into the message development pond. Instead, they start by saying I think we need a message rather than asking will a strong message help?

Here are nine questions to ask to gauge whether messaging will help you reach your goal:

  1. Am I satisfied with how well people listen when we talk about the program?
  2. Does the conversation reflect an understanding of the program’s focus and impact?
  3. Do our team members discuss the program in basically the same way?
  4. Are we talking to the right people, the specific groups that will help us achieve our goal?
  5. Do we connect quickly with our audiences – do they engage or are they staring at us blankly or with confusion?
  6. When we talk about our program, do we use language our next-door neighbor will understand or are we using jargon?
  7. Do we understand what desires motivate our target audiences and connect with those wants in our messages?
  8. Will we use a message if we develop one?  (Yes, that’s a legitimate question!)
  9. Are we willing to involve colleague departments (e.g. development, research, chapter relations) in creating the messaging because we need their insights and want them using the messaging, too?

Although much of my professional life is focused on developing messages, I’m the first to say that a powerful message is not the answer to every floundering program or reluctant donor.  It’s worth asking yourself, before you start, whether a strategic message is really what you need.”

P.S. Messages that connect are a priority for all organizations and the prerequisite for motivating your base to act. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Guest Blogger on April 8, 2010 in Branding and Messages | 1 comment
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I’ll be leaving for NTC 2010 crack of dawn on Wednesday and I can’t wait!  Here’s why NTC is such a learning machine for nonprofit communicators.

Hope to see you there. If you are going, please say hello. Just tweet or DM me at @NancySchwartz to set up a meeting spot.

P.S. Here’s a learning machine that comes to you — the in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on April 5, 2010 in Professional Development | 0 comments
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“We’re working so hard, but we’re not getting the results we want.”  That’s a tune I hear, again and again, from nonprofit communicators exhausted from their efforts, disappointed at hitting a wall and frustrated by not knowing how to do better.

All action and no traction. That’s what most marketing is, nonprofit and for profit. A series of discrete actions—a direct mail invite for a fundraising event, a two-part email campaign to introduce a new program, a blog launched for an advocacy campaign—with no connection between them.

My response is immediate and assured, as I’ve seen it work time and time again: There are two clear and doable ways for even the smallest organization to generate marketing impact—planning and evaluation.

These are the two keys to nonprofit marketing success, and a topic I’ll be focusing a lot on in coming months. I’m going to break it down for you so you understand each and every step, and provide checklists and worksheets to help you execute them in the time you have.

Review this outline to learn the benefits planning and evaluation will bring to you and your organization’s marketing impact, all through practices that are doable (for even one-person shops) and productive.

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.

Nancy Schwartz on April 1, 2010 in Planning and Evaluation | 0 comments
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I’m pleased to introduce you to Julia Hartz (at far left) and Tamara Mendelsohn of Eventbrite for Causes. Julia and Tamara focus day in and day out on making events more productive for nonprofits. They are my third guests in a periodic series of posts from other authors, and it’s great to add their perspective to the mix.

“With all the ways to connect online, we’ve increasingly heard the question ‘do you  think live events are dying?’  In fact, we see quite the opposite, and believe that online connections—especially social media—are the catalysts to more live events. Here’s why:

  • In a world where information is delivered at fire hose speed, many nonprofit organizations feel the difficulty of delivering a memorable message.
  • A recent Getting Attention study found that 86% of nonprofits characterize their messages as difficult to remember.
  • It is more and more difficult to cut through the clutter and chatter to create memorable experiences.
  • In response, many nonprofits are bringing it back to the ‘real world’ to make an impact: Gathering people in person to exchange real handshakes and real smiles, leveraging the magic and excitement of events to make their organization’s message more memorable, to put real faces to names, and to inspire people to support their cause.
  • As many orgs see it, throwing a live event may not be as scalable or broad-reaching as an online campaign, but it can be much more meaningful.

To us, social media is the genesis of more live events, not less:

  • Before social media, if you had a niche passion it was difficult — if not impossible — to connect with others sharing the same passion. But that’s precisely what social media is great for: enabling like-minded individuals to connect.
  • Since social media tools enables us to easily discover what causes our friends are supporting and what events they are going to, their causes (because they’re something important to our friends) become relevant to me. Your friend Sheila can easily share her favorite cause’s event through her social network, and those that are interested will dig in.

It’s the power of social media that strengthens live nonprofit events today, enabling causes to come to life in a meaningful and tangible way.”

P.S. More effective messaging is a priority for all organizations. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Guest Blogger on March 31, 2010 in Events | 0 comments
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fundraisingThis afternoon, a client asked me about to share my top fundraising resources. Her organization is shifting gears, re-orienting its focus to
better match audience wants and interests, and eager to find funding to make it happen.

In crafting this list, I realized it may be of interest to you and that I’d like to know where you turn for fundraising guidance. Do keep in mind that my core learning strategy is to read/listen to (and talk with, when possible) the best heads on a topic. I learn most easily from case studies that give me the specifics I need to relate what I’m learning to the client project at hand.

Here are my top six fundraising guides. Please share your favorites now in the comments box below (click comments link at bottom or, if you’re looking at the permalink version of this post, just scroll down to bottom):

  • Tom Ahern–Lots of great case studies and fundraising models analyzed and annotated. Easy to learn from, and absolutely on point.
  • Tom Belford & Roger Craver:The Agitator–These guys love to present multiple points of view on a topic which makes the reader work, in a good way. Again, case studies, strategy and a wicked sense of humor.
  • Jeff Brooks: Future Fundraising Now–Formerly blogging at Donor Power, the incredible Jeff Brooks is cranking out almost-daily to-dos now, and every one is golden. Go, Jeff, go!
  • Network for Good: Fundraising 123–This online donation service goes way beyond their donate button to provide top-quality articles and webinars (all free) to strengthen fundraising and marketing skills.
  • Pamela Grow: Grantwriting Blog–Pamela brings a fresh perspective to her sage fundraising advice, as in today’s post pointing out how nonprofit fundraisers can learn (what NOT to do) from Food Network star Paula Deen. Good learning that’s fun and provocative, with lots of examples.

Click on the Comments link below to add the fundraising guides you rely on, and to read about the very important 7th guide I forgot to mention in this post.

P.S. Marketing and fundraising are two halves of a whole. 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 .

Nancy Schwartz on March 26, 2010 in Fundraising: Innovations & Research | 34 comments
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Rebecca LeetI’m pleased to introduce you to Rebecca Leet, author of Message Matters, who helps nonprofits and foundations sharpen their goals and connect with the people who can achieve them.  She’s my second guest blogger in a periodic series of guest posts and it’s great to add her perspective to the mix. Welcome, Rebecca…

“I discovered years ago that the best time to shop for a near-new stationary bike or treadmill is February. Why? Because those who made a New Year’s resolution to exercise realized pretty quickly that although they need to work out, they don’t want to.

Those gleaming treadmills ready for re-sale remind me of a truth we communicators often overlook: people’s actions are driven more by what they want than by what they need. It’s a lesson that message developers can’t afford to forget.

Focusing on desire affects every aspect of creating a message that connects.  It affects the focus.  It affects the words. And focusing on desire may totally change how you  target audiences for your message. Here are two examples of how it has:

  • I once worked with a social service agency that was making a giant shift in the way its 6,000 professionals would work going forward.  The agency needed a message to motivate them to change.  By focusing on the desires that drove the staff, we realized there were two distinct segments among the target audience (the workers): one saw the change as an opportunity and the other saw it as a threat.
  • Another client was introducing a radically-different approach to preventing child abuse.  Three years after launching it, some stakeholders wanted to know how to implement the new practices, and nothing more.  Others wanted to be involved in improving the approach.  When we began developing a message, we thought our audience would break down by profession – social workers, early childhood professionals, etc.  They didn’t. They were the Implementers and the Innovators.

Next time you craft a message for your organization or program, consider what desires lay behind the actions your audience takes.  You’ll be surprised how groups that looked different suddenly look similar.  And groups that looked the same may look different.”

Thanks much, Rebecca, for a crucial reminder!

P.P.S. Messages that connect are a priority
for all organizations and the prerequisite for motivating your base to act.
Learn how to craft the most essential
message — your tagline.
Download the 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos,
don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz on March 25, 2010 in Branding and Messages | 0 comments
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