Liz Polay-Wettengel is National Director of Marketing and Communications for InterfaithFamily, a Jewish non-profit based in Newton, MA.

For three years in a row, my colleagues from InterfaithFamily and I have participated in the annual Nonprofit Tech Conference (from NTEN). It is, by far, the conference that we learn the most from. Every year, we have come back with new ideas, fresh perspectives, and tools to do what we do better.

This year was no different. Held in Washington DC, the 3,000 attendees at the 2017 conference brainstormed on topics far beyond the “traditional” definition of technology—nonprofit marketing, development, leadership, and organizational infrastructure.

Key takeaways from my deep-dive into NTC learning include:


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Friends and colleagues, today is Giving Tuesday—the national day of giving—and I’m raising money for an organization dear to my heart: NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Network). Please join me in supporting my NTEN challenge.

NTEN is the place so many of us nonprofit communicators find community, plus a wealth of resources and support unavailable anywhere else.

Donate now to join me in building a stronger network of nonprofit professionals like us; folks who do more with less by leveraging technology tools to increase their impact and move their cause forward.

Your donation of any size—$10, $25  or more—will be used and appreciated. Please donate now. Thank you for helping NTEN, and helping me meet my ambitious goal of $1,000!

Here’s the back story:


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NTEN Annual Conference #14NTC

The Nonprofit Technology Network has a refreshingly open method of designing the program for its 2014 annual conference, and the votes of folks like you are a key part of it.

I’ve partnered with some fantastic experts on these two sessions and hope you’ll to help bring them to life by voting for them today. Voting closes Wednesday, July 31 so vote now please!

Marketing & Fundraising Meet & Greet


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Guest blogger Holly Ross has spent seven+ years at the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), working with community members to identify technology trends that are reshaping the nonprofit sector. Brett Meyer, NTEN Communications Director, co-authored this post.

As nonprofits have flocked to the e-newsletter as an inexpensive and timely way to communicate with stakeholders, the number of newsletter tips has also proliferated. While subject lines, “from” addresses, and your template design are all important, they aren’t the biggest challenge to putting out a quality newsletter.  The most difficult part is creating good content, content your subscribers want to read.


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A spa for your intellect, creativity and spirit…
Register now for NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) and we’ll finally have a chance to meet in person! More importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to nourish and energize yourself talking with–and learning from–some of the most creative, passionate folks in the nonprofit world!

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NTEN has a refreshingly open method of designing the program for its annual conference, and the votes of folks in the sector (members plus) are a key part of it.  I’d like to ask for your help in shaping the communications agenda at the conference.

I’ve partnered with some expert communicators to propose these two sessions, and hope you’ll to support us by voting them up today.
Voting closes Friday, September 23 so vote now please!

Say it in Pixels: Visual Storytelling in the 21st century READ MORE

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I’m thrilled to welcome Holly Ross, our newest guest blogger. Holly has spent seven+ years at the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), working with community members to identify technology trends —  from ubiquitous access to technology leadership — that will reshape the nonprofit sector. Full Disclosure: I’m an NTEN board member and a huge fan.

“Social media is not a megaphone, it’s a conversation.” You’ve doubtlessly heard this phrase uttered at dozens of conference sessions and read it in many blog posts. Although that’s the first lesson most of us learned about social media, it’s been the hardest to implement. Having a “conversation” with people you may not know very well, on a platform you’re not entirely comfortable with, isn’t easy to pull off. It’s a skill that has to be developed.

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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.

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Register now for the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) and we’ll finally have a chance to meet in person! And if you register before December 7, you’ll save $100.

Full disclosure: I’m a board member of NTEN, which runs this conference. But I became a huge NTEN champion through attending this conference — the only venue I know of where program, fundraising, communications folks and other key nonprofit staffers and consultants learn and talk together about common challenges and strategies!

It’s cross-fertilization at its most valuable, and most engaging. You’ll love it.

The program is too extensive to cover here but I promise you you’ll learn, be inspired and meet folks you’ll never forget (in the best way). Please join me there.

Register now to save $100. Early bird registration rates end COB December 7!

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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

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