Viral Marketing

Here’s how your nonprofit can win — big-time — with word-of-mouth marketing (w-o-m): Put traditional community organizing strategies to work.

Thanks to Michael Silberman of Echo Ditto and Darren Barefoot of Biro Creative for sharing their creative guidance on w-o-m at the recent NTC (NTEN’s conference). I’m so eager to share it with you, as there’s huge potential for your nonprofit marketing impact.

A Heartbeat Isn’t Enough: Your Nonprofit Must Be Remarkable

  1. Your marketing — online and offline — must be remarkable to be recognized, remembered, passed on and acted on.
  2. But…many of your routine offline and online marketing tactics — the email advertising, content strategy you implement daily — are unremarkable, inefficient and, as a result, counterproductive! They just heartbeats.
  3. The most effective nonprofit marketing teams don’t scale their work by buying email lists or Google Ad Words, or by spamming members with more and more direct mail, or via requests to sign petitions.
  4. Instead, they scale by being remarkable so they’re remarked upon
  5. That means your organization will be getting a good deal of your marketing done for you  — for free — by your most committed and passionate fans. And there’s nothing better than others’ talking about you; it’s human instinct to mistrust those who trumpet their own strengths.
  6. Word-of-mouth happens only when you provide a remarkable experience for them by being incredibly effective, unique, bold, creative and repeatable.
  7. Two steps to get there:
    • Create a remarkable relationship. A reliable path is linking your focus to what your supporters want to change in the world. The Howard Dean campaign motivated its supporters to go far beyond the usual tasks to host or join house parties.
    • Engage supporters in meaningful, engaging activity and continue to move them to higher levels of engagement. Vancouver’s Talk Green to Us site engages its citizenry via a offering multiple ways to interact, from proposing ideas to commenting or voting on submitted ideas. Make your asks bite-sized so the point-of-entry is low.

5-Star Word-of-Mouth Models

  • Greenpeace’s fundraising campaign/site for the second Rainbow Warrior features compelling storytelling, a fantastic 3-D rendering of the ship, and the opportunity to fund individual parts of the boat.
  • The University of Kentucky has put giant Facebook place icons throughout the campus to showcase its connectivity to prospective students. As students check in with their friends via Facebook, they also spread the word on the University. This is a perfect offline/online connection.

Please share your questions and recommendations for word-of-mouth marketing here. Word-of-mouth is finally evolving into a practical, tangible strategy and it’s a huge boon when we share what’s working and what doesn’t.

For more insight into word-of-mouth marketing, review the session slide deck here.

P.S. Get more in-depth case studies, templates and tools, and guidance for nonprofit marketing  success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Viral Marketing | 3 comments
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Extend Your Org's Reach -- At No Cost

I’m a big proponent of engaging your base to increase the impact of your communications (and impact). Communications-wise, help usually takes one of two forms: spreading the word (engaging their networks) or advising your org on how best to engage folks like them.

Engaging your supporters, the folks who love your work the best, to engage their networks (a.k.a. viral marketing) is a no-brainer. But it’s incredible how rarely this tactic is used effectively. Here’s a great example of an org that’s working it to the max:

  1. The Communications Network, a membership organization for communications professionals working for or with grantmakers, has a conference coming up.
  2. The group, and the conference, are small in size. Even so, many of the attendees won’t know each other. And, conference content has value for a far larger group of nonprofit communicators.
  3. To ensure that the value extends beyond the four walls of the conference itself, and to weave connections among attendees who don’t know each other, the Com Network recruited and trained its Gorilla Engagement Squad to tweet, blog and video on the gathering.
  4. Lots of fun, no cost, broader and deeper reach!

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 in Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches, Viral Marketing | 0 comments
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Brilliant Awareness Building & Micro-fundraising Campaign for Global Women's Rights -- Twitter Used to Spread the Word like Wildfire

A powerful, imaginative coalition of organizations has formed to fight global poverty in honor of International Women's Day, in the A Powerful Noise campaign . Most interestingly, they've put a highly-viral micro-fundraising campaign on Twitter at the center of their awareness building strategy for global women's rights.

The campaign is working big time. Here's how:

  1. The coalition developed a documentary on the issue, entitled A Powerful Noise, to be shown on Intl. Women's Day (March 5th).
  2. The documentary is complemented by a visual petition (very cool) and the micro-fundraising campaign.
  3. Individuals (like me, and so many others already) were invited to include #apowerfulnoise in a tweet (a post on Twitter) anytime from March 2nd to March 5th. The word has spread like wildfire.
  4. For every post, film distributor NCM Fathom will donate $.50 to CARE (for up to 10,000 tweets), an organization working to end global poverty, in honor of the documentary's one-night premiere with a town hall discussion featuring women all-starts. The single night date drives immediate action.
  5. The tweet campaign (which I'm sure wil generate the full $5,000 donation) works far beyond raising that gift. More importantly, its working fantastically (at little organizational cost or effort — beyond the creative genius) to spread awareness to a huge network, peer-to-peer.

Jump on Twitter before COB March 5th to make a powerful noise; simply post an update including #apowerfulnoise. Then get thinking how you can put your base to work to expand your network — via Twitter or any other social media tool that makes it easy to spread the word.

Nancy Schwartz in Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications, Social Media, Video, Viral Marketing | 1 comment
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Is Your Org Ready To Put An Engaged Base To Work -- Pew Survey Findings Show High Voter Expectations Of Involvement In Obama AdministrationThere’s so much emphasis on the challenge of building your organization’s base. After all, without a base, there’s no progress.

But once you open the door, you have to be ready to welcome and more fully involve your base. You need to walk the talk — if you invite folks to give or sign a petition, to staff a table or to participate in a program, then continue to be responsive, enabling them to be (increasingly) involved in the way they want to be. Far too many organizations aren’t poised to do so and play mad catch up, risking a vital resource.

Nothing proves the need to walk this talk more strongly than the recent release of survey results on post-election voter engagement (thanks to the Pew Internet and American Life Project). Researcher Aaron Rich reports that most of Obama’s campaign troops plan to remain engaged with the incoming Obama Administration and mobilize others in support of his agenda. That’s no surprise to me, but is the administration ready?

Rich also reports out that:

  • 62% of Obama voters expect to be involved in moving the administration’s agenda forward by asking others to support its policies. That’s voters, not campaigners.
  • 46% of Obama voters and 33% of McCain voters expect to hear directly from their candidate or party leaders over the next year, and many of them have a particular medium (phone vs. email vs. text vs. social networking) in mind.

Things are clearly different now, with Obama’s base (and McCain’s too, to a lesser extent) unwilling to shrink into the background. For example, my ornery friend Mark Sirkin complained to me today that he “…had to yell at [the Obama transition team] for calling me on the phone. I said hey, I’m a Web donor  [so get me online]. Don’t make me give you a fake phone number.

Dig into these findings yourself to understand fully how your base’s expectations have changed. They are going to expect to be more actively involved in forwarding your issues themselves. You have to be ready to give them whatever guidance, tools info or motivation they need to do so most effectively. Are YOU ready?

Click the Comments link below to tell me how your organization is helping your base move your issues or causes forward, or not.

P. S. Don’t miss out on the in-depth articles, case studies and guides on key nonprofit communications topics featured in the Getting Attention e-alert. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Nonprofit Communications, Trends, Viral Marketing, Volunteers | 1 comment
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You're (In)Famous, and So Am I MoveOn's Personalized Video Paints Dark Future for Non-Voters

You've probably already received 10 emails about this "vote-or-else" campaign from, but I have to chime in with my admiration. It's irresistible. has outdone itself with this funny, engaging but ultimately, extremely thought-provoking video news report from the future.  And the video and news site are peppered with the “suspected non-voter’s” name(mine, or yours). It's the ultimate in targeting. Take a look.

Even better, makes the experience easy to share by filling in a simple form with your friends' contact info. You can make 'em laugh and make 'em think, in a second.

So vote, or else…

P.S. Learn how to craft the marketing message that matters most — your tagline. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don't dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches, Video, Viral Marketing | 1 comment
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Here's How a Committed Base Markets Your Org or Cause YesWeCarvecomI was delighted to learn about, a funny but powerful pumpkin-carving campaign launched by Obama supporters.

The four imaginative individuals who got this going aren’t campaign staffers, but passionate Obama-ites who brainstormed this delightful way to spread the message via a far-too-commercial holiday.

Now everyone I know is passing this site around, discussing which design to use and planning to deliver an inspiring message on Halloween eve that’ll leave candy corn in the dust. Now that’s a powerful viral marketing base!

Here’s what your org has to have if you want your base to do the same:

  • A clear, inspiring impact in the communities you serve
  • The ability to stay real and reliable, consistent in your org "personality" and presence
  • Strong, iconic messaging (easy to remember, repeat and riff on).

With these three key factors in place, your base will have what it needs to get inspired and spread the word.  Now back to choosing our stencil design….

Tip of the hat to Celeste Wroblewski.

Nancy Schwartz in Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches, Viral Marketing | 0 comments

Two of My Fav Original Thinkers Share Nonprofit Marketing GemsSo much great content comes my way, I just had to share a few sparklers from two folks I am continually inspired by:

1) Seth Godin urges nonprofit marketers to focus on whom you’re talking with (not your org) and the  relationships rather than the tools. He also advises that we test, test, test to find the best strategies for our organizations.

  • Get more tips and insights via the full transcript of Seth’s online discussion with Chronicle of Philanthropy readers and staff. He knows what he’s talking about. Really.

2) Allison Fine shares her research on what it means to Millennials (15-29 year olds), to have the ability to become an advocate for their cause instantly, broadly, inexpensively, and what that ability means for nonprofit communications. She found young people to be very idealistic, marinating in causes, alienated from government and public policy — in short, Social Citizens.

  • Your org has to learn how to work with Millennials most effectively if you want to move forward, and they’re incredibly savvy marketing wise. As Allison said at the close of a recent speech on her research, "If we don’t figure out how to incorporate Millennials into our nonprofit organizations, they’re just going to start their own causes, overnight, using free tools.”
  • Dig into Allison’s paper to learn more about her methodology and guidance on talking and working with Millennials, then keep up with the conversation in her Social Citizens blog.

Photo credit: abielskas

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Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Nonprofit Communications, Social Media, Specific Audience Segments, Viral Marketing | 0 comments

Your Org's Name Here -- Don't Miss This Incredible Nonprofit Marketing OpportunityFinally, concern about environmental impact has motivated governments and retailers to ban or discourage use of plastic bags. In some cases, paper bags are included in policies that range from charging for bags to selling recyclable or reusable bags as recently reported in The New York Times.

Last year, San Francisco banned all plastic bags that don’t easily break down. NYC retailers must offer plastic bag recycling.  And, starting in February 2008, Whole Foods will offer customers a choice between free recycled paper bags (deemed a winner by the National Resources Defense Council) and purchased reusable bags ($).

Here’s your organization’s opportunity:

  1. Green is seen almost universally as a good, and a value. No need to convince there.
  2. People still need bags, even as plastic bag bans go into effect more widely.
  3. Reusable bags are selling like mad (anecdotal, from my observations, and buying experience).
  4. Produce Your Nonprofit Here bags for sale via your org (at hugely above cost) and/or via retailers (a perfect cause marketing gig, but make sure your cut is substantial).

See some examples above, modeled by our shining star, Charlotte. Make ’em striking enough (attractive, not just serviceable) that they’ll be used again and again (and multiples purchased). Not only do you get the revenue from the purchase, you get the benefit of your bag users marketing your org as they carry the bags around town.

Here are some other creative resusable bag examples, all way more attention getting than the norm. Perhaps a breast cancer org should jump on a cause version of the "No Plastic Bags Bra," a no-hands solution storing two reusable bags in the bra cups.

Happy bagging.

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Nancy Schwartz in Earned Income/Ventures, Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches, Viral Marketing | 4 comments

Invite Your Supporters to Fundraise for Your OrganizationSuch viral fundraising  or micro philanthropy is just one of the 10 great ways nonprofits can benefit from blogs (their own and others) outlined by blogger supreme Britt Bravo. I’ve shared many of these same ideas, plus a few more, with you in recent posts but not this one, which is brilliant.

Britt points to some of the bloggers (Beth Kanter stands out in my mind) who have raised lots for causes, and the availability of plug-ins that bloggers in your audience can easily add to their blogs. This is a low cost, high potential means of enhancing your fundraising. Make it happen.

Here are a few examples to get you going:

That’s the kind of virus every organization would like to have!

Here’s how to start:

  • Reach out to donors, inviting them to join your fundraising team — featuring the invite in an e-newsletter is a great appraoch
  • Ask those who have a Web site and/or blog to fundraise there
  • Point them to a how to page on your Web site, with links to fundraising tools (such as the Network for Good charity badge, ChipIn and FirstGiving)
  • Ask them to register online (just so you know what the response, and success rate is).

Please share your experiences with supporter fundraisers in the comments field below.

P.S. Now dogs can fundraise too. Just ask Jaspar.

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Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications, Viral Marketing | 1 comment

I’m so pleased that Marc Sirkin, nonprofit online marketing guru at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, commented on one of my blog posts recently. In doing so, he introduced himself and his great blog on nonprofit marketing, npMarketing Blog.

Tune in for Marc’s laser insights on marketing innovations (LLS is big into word of mouth, aka WOM) and corporate partnerships, among other topics.

Funny coincidence. In a previous life, Marc spearheaded the March of Dimes’ Share Your Story wiki (community website) that I featured in a recent post.

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Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Nonprofit Communications, Recommended Resources, Unique Approaches, Viral Marketing, Wikis | 1 comment

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