Nonprofit Communications

julia marleneGuest bloggers, Julia Reich, a designer and brand strategist at Stone Soup Creative and Marlene Oliveira, a copywriter and communications consultant at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity recap their #15NTC session on nonprofit consulting.

At last month’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, we hosted a session on making the move from in-house nonprofit professional to consultant serving the sector. During the session, we combined very short presentations on specific topics with speed-dating style opportunities to ask questions, matching groups with a mix of established consultants in the room. Here are some of our tips and takeaways!

Think about the financial aspects:


Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments
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nonprofit communications questionsYou are my best source of blog post and article materials. You’re consistently sending me queries and asking questions on nonprofit communications, which I do my best to answer via the Getting Attention e-update and blog. Thanks for your ideas and energy!

Today though, I have questions for you. Here are a few questions that I don’t have good or current answers for, and hope you do.

If so, please answer in the comments box below or, if you’re reading this in a reader or via email, just email me.

  • I am looking for samples of an official written policy about President/CEO and staff speaking engagements to provide guidance on the process for vetting these opportunities, how to accept invitations, the topics to speak about and those to avoid, etc.
    • Have you ever seen anything like this or perhaps know of anyone I could check in with on this? —  From Gloria Royal, Director of Communications, Arcus Foundation
  • When producing numerous nonprofit communications and fundraising and print materials over the course of a year, which approach is best? — From Gary Mathews, Development Officer, The Brookwood Community
    • Bid out each project and select a printer for each based on estimates received.
    • Based on bids for proposed printing needs for the year, go with one printer for most, if not all, projects.
    • Work with a print broker which somewhat combines the two approaches.
    • What’s your advice to Gary? My answer–Gary, I don’t help clients with ongoing, high-volume print production anymore. When organizations need that, it’s usually on the fundraising side. But when I did more of that, I always bid out every job (and asked a print broker to bid as well). Over time I developed a few reliable and well-priced favorites that generally were the three or four who received the bid request, but always used the competitive nature of the request to generate the best estimate.

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you with your input on these questions. Please send your nonprofit marketing questions to me and I’ll answer as many as I can (asking for help when necessary).

    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!

    Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications | 0 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 in Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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Lift Your Head and Collaborate to Power Up Your Nonprofit's MarketingLet me introduce you to David J. Neff, nonprofit marketer extraordinary, who kicks off a periodic series of posts from guest bloggers.

I believe strongly in the value of multiple perspectives and weaving in guest writers into the Getting Attention blog and e-update is the best way to do it. Welcome, David…

“Hello! Today I want to introduce you to the #1 focus for nonprofits in 2010, getting to know other organizations and collaborating with them.

So what does that mean? Am I talking about the “kids who need coats” organization teaming up with the “kids who need bikes” non profit so that kids can ride bikes when it’s cold? Not exactly (although that would be nice).

What I am talking about is stopping your daily grind from time to time to lift your head. For you to climb out of your silo to have coffee with the communications director of the organization down the street who has no idea what your organization does; to discuss how you can co-promote, share mailing lists or plan a joint event. Or to schedule a call with the marketing consultant for that organization so much like yours but serving a different county.

Unsure where to start? Take 10 minutes a create an online survey and ask your email list what organizations you should be talking to (asking where else they give or volunteer is a great way to generate ideas). Or post a blog entry or Facebook page request. I think you’ll be amazed by the direction you get.

As the co-founder of the nonprofit Lights. Camera. Help., I know I was thrilled with the feedback we got from our network. They named film festivals all over the country that we’re now sharing ideas and experiences with.

At the very least, get to know colleague organizations in your region. Explore local meetups, 501 Tech Club, video camp or tech camp. Or simply google local “nonprofit meetings.” I can almost guarantee something is going on in your area and urge you to get there.

So press pause on that campaign and look around for a chance to say “hello”. Doing so is a wonderful source of enrichment and inspiration. Enjoy it.”

About David: David works with nonprofit organizations via Ridgewood Communications and Lights.Camera.Help. As long-time director of Web and interactive strategies at the American Cancer Society, he was named as 2009 Nonprofit Social Media Marketer by the American Marketing Association.

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.

Guest Blogger in Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches | 3 comments
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How to Generate Buzz via Social Media Real Life Dos and Don'tsHas this happened to your organization: You experimented with social media tools and found that nothing happened at all?

If so, you’re not alone. One of the most frequent complaints from organizations trying social media out is that after taking the plunge–whether tweeting, blogging or launching a Facebook fan page–nothing happens.

Now there’s help: I partnered with NTEN ED Holly Ross to share guidelines and case studies on using social media tools to build buzz (and reach) via this webinar for the Communications Network. And now the video recording and slide deck are available to you, at no cost.

Our presentation covers the nuts and bolts of social media success, the readiness required to put them to work and a laundry list of dos and don’ts. Although the case studies are about grantmakers, the examples and findings are equally relevant to nonprofit organizations.

I recommend you take an hour out to make sure your social media buzz building is all it can be. Here’s what one participant had to say (and another, just in).

P.S. More effective messaging is a priority for all organizations. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the free 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications, Professional Development, Recommended Resources, Social Media | 1 comment
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Call for Input--Your Stories on Two Key Nonprofit Marketing TopicsI’d like to ask for your help. I’m putting together a presentation and an article, on two different topics, and want to highlight my guidance with real-life stories of nonprofit marketing in action. Here’s what I’m looking for:

1) Are you using a keyword strategy as the first (or only) step to search engine optimization (SEO)?

  • I’m writing an e-update article that guides organizations on how to identify the right keywords for SEO (the first step to getting your org’s online content as far up in search engine results as you can, ideally in the first 10).
  • Seeking mini-case studies of organization’s who are doing this.
  • Please share your story here. It will take 5 minutes, at most! Thanks.

2) Are you integrating your social media outreach into your overall communications strategy?

  • I’m speaking at NTC on this crucial topic, and need some case studies from small or medium organizations to share.
  • Please share your story here. Won’t take more than a few minutes.

If you can’t answer yes to either question, but you know a colleague at another organization who can, please forward this request.

Many thanks!

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Social Media | 1 comment
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There’s nothing like online communications for getting “of the moment” word out to your organization’s networks.

I was delighted to see these three orgs reaching out via facebook and Twitter, inviting those of us in blizzard conditions to learn and be entertained (in person or online).

This is smart communications–seeing a key point of connection (stuck at home, bored perhaps, a bit more time than on the typical work day) and communicating around it at the moment of. Gear up so your organization is ready to do it next snowstorm (or legislative storm).

The Power of Timely Outreach -- 3 Snowy Day Campaigns 1
The Power of Timely Outreach -- 3 Snowy Day Campaigns 2

The Power of Timely Outreach -- 3 Snowy Day Campaigns 3

Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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5 Ways to Charge Up Your Marketing Skills -- Reach Beyond Your NicheIt’s typical for most of us humans to focus on keeping up within our fields. That’s more than enough — There’s no way I can keep up with even 60% of “general” marketing and nonprofit communications content (not issue-, field- or audience-specific).

But rather than putting all my energies there, I cherry pick what’s highest value and go elsewhere for learning and inspiration. Digesting other types of content enables me to:

  • Get a clearer perspective, outside the nonprofit communications headspace.
    It’s crucial but challenging to do so if that’s what you focus on. But remember, most folks your organization is  reaching out to aren’t in that space.
  • Harvest strategies from those working in other industries and functions.
  • Refresh your mind and your creativity.

Here is some of my favorite brain candy:

  1. Water Words that Work is written by a communicator in the environmental field for his peers. OK, this is communications but it’s so specialized that I learn strategies that I’ve never thought of before.
  2. Boomers gives me insights I need to know to help organizations motivate this generation so crucial to org impact.
  3. Serious Eats, the world’s most delicious cooking blog, provides a wealth of delicious writing. I’m frequently inspired by the fluent language and tone of these food writers (and have made many of the recipes as well, all superb to date). Food isn’t everyone’s thing but if it’s one of yours, it’s hard to beat a memorable phrase like “the crisper whisperer.”
  4. Zen Habits helps me keep focused and productive. Blogger Leo Babauta walks his talk and shares those experiences. No loosey goosey here — just strong, clear writing and useful insights into how humans work. BTW, Leo is a masterful headline crafter. Take a look at these blog post titles.
  5. Arts Marketing is one of those “I just found this but why didn’t I know about it before” discoveries. Like Water Words that work, this is a specialized blog (arts marketing is quite a difference beast due to the ticket sale element). Fantastic strong opinions, and lots of great ideas to integrate into your communications.

Please share your favorite brain candy with the Getting Attention community by commenting on this post. I’m always hungry for more!

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: EvatheWeaver

Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications, Professional Development, Recommended Resources | 1 comment
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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 in Case Studies, Graphic Design, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments
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How to Communicate in the Shadow of Disaster -- Guidelines for Respectful but Effective Outreach

As I read accounts of Haitians struggling for basic needs post-earthquake, I’m struck by the number of lives that have been taken and touched by this disaster. It’s almost all one can think of.

That’s a significant communications challenge for the nonprofit organizations delivering aid: How to mobilize giving while communicating respectfully about their efforts and impact on the ground? How to keep giving going even as the earthquake, and the plight of survivors, is no longer top of mind? And what about the many other organizations not directly providing relief efforts but soliciting donations to pass on to relief organizations, or the majority of nonprofits that must maintain their communications and fundraising initiatives despite the world’s focus on disaster recovery?

What is the place of nonprofit communications in the wake of disaster, particularly when even the most recent crisis of epic proportions—the January 2010 7.0 earthquake in Haiti—has generated less giving than the Hurricane Katrina relief effort?

For a nonprofit, the answer lies in the way (if any) your organization is involved in the relief effort. The following guidelines derive from an analysis of news of, and fundraising for, relief efforts in the response to the Haitian earthquake and the plight of its three million survivors in need. Review them today to ensure you’re taking the most effective path in this tricky time.

P.S. Here’s another useful guide to read right now: You’re Not in Competition with Haiti.

P.P.S. More effective messaging is a priority for all organizations. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the free 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Crisis Communications, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment
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