Google Grants Provides Free Advertising to Nonprofit Orgs

Google is demonstrating its commitment to sharing its success with the nonprofit sector with its new in-kind grant program:

"It harnesses the power of our flagship advertising product, Google AdWords, to non-profits seeking to inform and engage their constituents online. Google Grants has awarded AdWords advertising to hundreds of non-profit groups whose missions range from animal welfare to literacy, from supporting homeless children to promoting HIV education. "

Google Grant recipients use their award of free AdWords advertising on Google.com to raise awareness and increase traffic to their websites. Each organization that receives a Google Grant gets at least three months of in-kind advertising. Here are some recent success stories:

  • Room to Read, which educates children in Vietnam, Nepal, India and Cambodia, attracted a sponsor who clicked on its AdWords ad. He has donated funds to support the education of 25 girls for the next 10 years.
  • The US Fund for UNICEF’s e-commerce site, Shop UNICEF, has experienced a 43 percent increase in sales over the previous year.
  • CoachArt, supporting children with life-threatening illnesses through art and athletics programs, has seen a 60 to 70 percent increase in volunteers.

Click here for details on how to apply.

Top Dog Media Guide for Nonprofits: The Publicity Hound

I just discovered The Publicity Hound, an info-packed blog written by publicity expert Joan Stewart. Joan provides quick, useful tips on topics from working with media photographers to when to pass up publicity. Take a look. I think you’ll find Joan’s insights very useful for your nonprofit’s media work.

Are you Getting Attention?

How to Keep Your Nonprofit Marketing Skills Sharp and Your Interest High — From Colleagues in the Field

How do you keep your nonprofit marketing skills and interests fresh, when we’re all fighting against not enough time and money? That’s what I asked colleagues to share in this week’s Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants.

The Big Top is here at Getting Attention this week (call me Ringmistress), and your peers have some great professional learning strategies to share:

Marc Sirkin of NPMarketing Blog takes a three-fold path to professional learning, built on a foundation of love of learning and reading, willingness to try new things and sheer curiosity.

Beth Kanter at Beth’s Blog is a passionate continual learner who pursues learning with a discipline I’ve rarely seen (she dedicates 30 minutes daily to learning). Her learning strategies include searching for, digesting, capturing and organizing perspectives and data online (blogs plus) — an activity which in itself enables Beth to process new ideas (much as taking notes in the classroom did for me as a student) — and getting to face-to-face meetings (mostly vlogger and blogger meet ups) on a regular basis.

Kivi Miller at Nonprofit Communications learns most when she teaches — as a speaker, writer or trainer.

Kerri Karvetski of KK’s Blog counts on LinkedIn as a powerful network to query on the challenges you’re facing or the best way to pursue your new communications goal (she’s right on target here, what a creative strategy for learning),  reading cutting -edge blogs (live conference and campaign blogs and wikis) and volunteering to keep learning and invested.

And finally, yours truly recommends writing (all the time, all media, all topics), nurturing a community of peers as a network (mine’s a combo of offline and online, folks in the field and in related fields),  getting away from the desk to face-to-face meetings (irreplaceable) and finding your nonprofit marketing muse.

How to Retain Baby Boomer Volunteers

There are about 79 million Baby Boomers out there — born between 1946 and 1964 — and they’re volunteering at a rate higher than ever before. But 31 percent of those who volunteer fail to return the following year, reports a just-released study from the Corporation for National Service.

So how does your organization change this attrition rate? Clearly, you need to focus on this group of volunteers as a unique segment of your volunteer base — learning their interests, needs and patterns, how to capture their experience and energy, and what factors impact their decision to volunteer from year to year.

Most organizations treat volunteers as a single audience — and they’re no more a single audience than your donors, staff or board. Remember that Boomers:

  • Have different interests (including volunteer interests) than previous generations. The study reports that boomers are most likely to volunteer with religious organizations (which has remained consistent), however their second area of volunteer involvement is now educational or youth service organizations, rather than the civic, political, business and international organizations favored in an 1989 study.
    • Pinpoint those interests and make relevant volunteer opportunities available, presented in an engaging way.
  • Stay in the workforce longer, but have a series of jobs or professions.
    • Provide challenging, inspirational opportunities. When engaging BB volunteers, look to put their skills to use to keep them engaged while building your organization’s capacity. Win-win.
    • Seek activist working to affect change or propel a movement, not volunteers (that image of the grey-haired lady is hard to kill).
    • Make sure you position your organization in a clear and compelling way, and that staff and volunteers are consistent in how they spread the word.
  • Perpetuate the “virtuous cycle.” The more hours a Boomer volunteers, the more likely she’ll continue volunteering.
    • Make sure you approach your volunteers as assets, as you do your donors and employees. The more positive experience a volunteer has, the more likely she is to keep it up.

When you take these steps, your organization will be reward with a corps of skilled, dedicated, energetic volunteers with many years to keep volunteering, and who are great prospects for giving in the coming decades.

9 Steps to Great Nonprofit Podcasting

Hats off to Internet marketing consultant and blogger Carson McComas (aka frogbody) for drafting his right-on-the-money list of podcast guidelines. I’ve riffed from his list to create this one for nonprofits:

1) Keep your podcasts short at the beginning.

  • No longer than 10-15 minutes till you test  what works best.
  • Portability is one of the greatest draws of podcasting, and you don’t want your listener to have to stop mid-cast.
  • The ideal podcast length may be generationally-based. Research just now underway.
  • But, in time, if the subject, and podcasters, can support it, you can go up to 30 or 45 minutes.

2) Stick to a single topic for each podcast.The format is tight, keep the focus that way too.

3) Keep your nonprofit’s podcast voice personal and chummy.

  • Remember what a turn-off the voice equivalent of muzak (think automated tele-marketer), and do everything you can to avoid that.

4) Outline your podcast, before you start recording.

  • This should be a no brainer but you’d be surprised. Nothing will discourage your nonprofit’s listeners from listening again as much as a drifting, focus-free podcast.
  • Stay on message.

5) Verbally identify your podcast at the start of your podcast with “Date, issue number, topic/guest, etc.

  • We need this meta data to give it context.
  • Someone may listen out of sequence months or years later. “Take a couple seconds to lay it out at the start,” advises Carson.

6) A conversation is more engaging than a monologue.

  • Bring a second podcaster into the conversation, when possible for variety in voice and perspective. Keeps things a little more lively.
  • Carson thinks that a male-female conversation is most compelling. I’m not sure here. What do you think?

7) When you interview a guest, don’t hog the mike.

  • Remember, the reason you’re doing the interview is that your guest has something to say.
  • Let him or her say it, with you serving as facilitator.

8 ) Be professional, with your equipment, and your editing.

  • You wouldn’t throw a poorly-printed campaign into the mail, so why would you produce a hard-to-hear, unedited podcast?
  • Tighten up your podcast like you do every written communication. Your listeners will thank you.

9) Make it easy for listeners to get new podcasts via email

  • Include iTunes and Odeo subscribe links on your nonprofit’s blog and website to make it easy to subscribe.

20 Ways to Make Your Nonprofit Stand Out

This great list of questions to ask yourselves as you shape your nonprofit’s messages was written by Kathy Widenhouse, a freelance writer for nonprofits, and featured in the always useful Writing for Nonprofits e-newsletter.

Use these questions to shape a list of attributes that make your organization unique, then focus on the one or two that are most compelling. Features those consistently in headlines and other high-profile marketing messages, and weave the balance into body copy. Here’s Kathy’s list:

Distinguishing your nonprofit from the competition

1. How is the organization different from its closest competition or colleague organization?

2. What additional services does your organization provide that others don’t?

3. What services are more effective through your organization?

4. Does your organization offer a competitive price or greater value?

5. How does your service excel in quality (from your audiences’perspective)?

6. What specific or timely event(s) does your nonprofit address?

Demographic Differentiators

7. Within a certain geographic radius, are you the only/among the few organizations that offer your type of product or service?

8. What particular age group, gender or income level finds appeal in your services?

9. What secondary demographic group finds appeal in your services?

Staffing

10. How do your staff members’ skills make your organization more attractive?

11. How do your staff members’ unique training and experience enhance your nonprofit?

12. How does their passion or excitement for your group’s mission augment your effectiveness?

Track Record 

13. How long have you successfully been in business?

14. If you are new, how do you explain your success in such a short time?

15. How do your outcomes measurements look?

16. What are your donor satisfaction statistics?

17. What do clients and donors say about your organization?

Vision

18. Is your mission or are the services you provide visionary in any way?

19. Do you find that your services are not duplicated elsewhere–or only in a cursory way?

20. Do you repeatedly develop new approaches and services to stay ahead?

Are you Getting Attention? Subscribe to our free e-newsletter today.

Nonprofit Messaging Crisis Cripples 8 of 10 Organizations

The overwhelming response to our recent survey on nonprofit messaging reinforces how vital it is for your organization’s messages to connect with key audiences.

Relevance (i.e., connection) is a prerequisite for conversation and thus, for communications success. If your messages are off, your organization will fail to engage your base. And, without that engagement, there’s no way you’ll motivate them to act – give, volunteer, register or advocate.

So, based on our findings, it’s clear that strengthening messaging is a priority for many of you. I urge you to digest the findings below to learn more about the state of nonprofit messaging today, and how you can shape messages that do connect.

Here’s the survey if you’d like to review questions asked while digesting the findings.

Most Nonprofit Messages Don’t Connect Strongly with Key Audiences

Eighty-four percent of nonprofit communicators say that their messages connect with target audiences only somewhat or not at all. That’s 915 nonprofit communicators working with organizations of all sizes, issue focus and geographies who rate their messaging as failing to generate the conversations they need to.

Looking at the flip side, only 16% of nonprofits rate their messages as connecting well. This is a dismal success rate, especially since it’s not due to lack of effort. Survey respondents report working extremely hard to achieve their marketing goals: huge effort with minimal results.

That’s a very serious problem.

Behind the Disconnect: 86% of Nonprofits Characterize Their Messages as Difficult to Remember

Most nonprofits report that their messaging suffers from lack of inspiration (73%), poor targeting to audience wants and needs (70%), and difficult to remember (86%). Three strikes and you’re out.

Few communicators laud their messaging for its strengths: Only 13% of organizations characterize messaging as cogent while 8% describe their messaging as potent.

These comments from survey participants explain why their messages fail to connect:

  • “Our messages need to be more succinct to communicate how effective we really are.”
  • “We don’t move our base to action.”
  • “We have individual elements that are ok solo, but no unified path.”
  • “Our messages aren’t hard-hitting or targeted enough. So they fall flat.”
  • “We need to shape messages that are simple enough for staff to remember and feel comfortable in repeating it to others.”
  • “Too much jargon. I can’t even understand what we’re saying.”

Inconsistency Reigns Supreme, Leaving Confusion and Annoyance in Its Path

There are numerous tactics to craft more relevant messages. However, when aiming to increase relevance, it’s imperative to go beyond delivering a few relevant messages here and there. The real challenge is to consistently deliver messages that connect.

Here’s the rub: Less than 50% of nonprofits report consistent use of their core messaging (organizational tagline, positioning statement and talking points). That means that even though most organizations have taken the effort to craft messages, those messages aren’t used consistently across channels (website, direct mail, email), audiences or programs.

Inconsistency breeds confusion and annoyance. When your network has to decipher what organization is reaching out to them (because the messages are unfamiliar) and what you’re trying to say (because it’s new to them), you’ve failed. They just won’t do it in the noisy, cluttered message sphere.

Your Checklist for Messaging that Connects

Most nonprofit communicators (78%) see these characteristics as crucial for messaging that connects:

  • Clear
  • Focused
  • Concise
  • Engaging
  • Unique
  • Memorable

What’s Getting in the Way: Effective Messaging Stymied by Lack of Focus and Leadership Support

Survey respondents share many of the same barriers to (and frustrations in) improving messaging. Here are the leading obstacles to doing better:

  • Lack of leadership support
  • Too busy
  • Concerned about expense
  • Diverse audiences
  • Complex programming
  • Blinders, e.g. lack of external perspective
  • Colleagues, volunteers, members untrained as messengers.

Here are respondent comments about their barriers to creating messaging that connects:

  • Lack of Leadership Support and/or Understanding
    • “Funds are prioritized for fundraising, not marketing. Our leadership doesn’t understand how the two are halves of a whole. How can I build that understanding?”
  • Staff and Leadership
    • “Too many cooks. Each department and location has their own ideas and frequently don’t check in with marketing to see if it’s ok to use them.”
    • “Hard to engage, reach and train staff in our 41 locations.”
    • “Hard to shape a useful message development process, as board members have widely divergent perspectives and are very involved in communications. Help.”
    • “No time to train/educate/empower staff, board and volunteers to understand and deliver messages.”
  • Complexity of Issue Focus
    • “It’s tough to create effective messages for an anti-poverty project that focuses on education and long-term change over time in a foreign country that is not in ‘crisis’ mode (such as Sudan or parts of Africa), yet is still one of the poorest in the Western hemisphere.”
  • Diversity of Program Work
    • “How do we find a way to speak for more than 32 programs in a targeted way while maintaining consistent organizational messages?”
  • Lack of External Perspective (a.k.a. blinders)
    • “Our messages are typically crafted from the ‘inside out,’rather than shaping them to the wants and needs of specified audiences.”

There’s Huge Potential for Stronger Nonprofit Messaging: Three Steps to Take You There

These survey findings are incredibly useful in showcasing what’s critical in making messages work, and what it takes to get there.

Here are my recommendations for your first three steps to stronger messages.

  1. Ensure that your organization’s strategy and goals are crystal clear
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hired to develop a message platform (tagline, positioning statement, talking points) for an organization but can’t get to ground zero because there’s no agreement on organizational direction and goals. Without clear organizational goals, marketing goals can’t be defined but without them it’s impossible to define the right audiences to engage. If this is your situation, your problems are bigger than weak messaging. Get on it!
  2. Build understanding and support of leadership and colleagues — You need their insights and reach
    The three most-cited barriers to effective messaging (lack of leadership support, too busy, and concern about expense) underscore the degree of messaging crisis. Communications succeed only when it’s built on effective messaging. Refusing to invest the time and money it takes to craft those messages will undermine your entire communications agenda. It’s an investment your leadership can’t afford not to make. But here’s what you’re up against: Nonprofit staff members most focused on making the most of their messages are communicators (58%), fundraisers (40%) and program staff members (21%) in order of survey participation level. That’s important because it highlights that communicators have a lot of work to do to develop support for and input in the message development process. Cross-organizational participation is even more vital once your messages are ready to roll. Your colleagues are your primary on-the-ground messengers via their workday conversation and communications.
  3. Start with your tagline — Less is more
    It’s always harder to write something shorter than longer, and your tagline is as short as it gets. It is the absolute essence of your messaging. Moreover, your steps in the tagline development process build the insight you’ll need to craft a potent positioning statement and key messages or talking points (the other two elements in your message platform).

Consistency is the Be All and End All of Messaging Impact

There are a numerous tactics to deliver more relevant messages. However, when we aim to increase relevance, we don’t mean that we simply want to deliver a few relevant messages here and there. Simply developing a compelling welcome email is not enough. The real challenge in email marketing is to consistently deliver relevant messages.

Make it easy for your network to recognize that a communication is coming from your organization by being consistent – in language and tone – in your outreach to each segment.

Tell Me about Your Messaging Hopes, Challenges and Strategies

Please leave a comment below on what you’re doing to strengthen your messages (at the organizational or program/campaign level) and what’s getting in your way. Thank you.

5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Tagline Development Process

Developing a high-power tagline for your nonprofit can be a daunting task, especially with so many competing priorities.  Whether you are creating a first-time tagline or revitalizing an existing brand, here are five steps to jump start the process:

  1. Confirm that the tagline (or lack of one) is a problem. Feature a few talking points about your organization (or your tagline, if you already have one) in conversations with colleagues, members and volunteers.  Make a note of their reactions.  Does your messaging inspire people to dig in and ask more questions or get involved, or does it create confusion about your organization’s work and impact?
  2. Get your colleagues on board.  Let your colleagues know that it’s time to develop stronger messaging for your organization based on what you’ve heard in your listening research, and that you’ll need their help. Be as specific as possible about your goals and outcomes, and how you’d like them to help.
  3. Uncover some audience intelligence, Sherlock Holmes.  Ask colleagues (and volunteers, if you need to) to insert your organization’s messaging (or current tagline, if you have one) in their own conversations in the field and report back to you what they find. Make it easy for them to report back in a way that’s easy for them and useful to you.
  4. Summarize the feedback you get and your recommendations for moving forward.  What does and doesn’t work? What does that suggest about revising existing messaging or shaping  a new tagline?
  5. Is more research needed? Decide if you need to take your audience research one step further or you’re ready to kickoff the tagline creation process with a brainstorming session.

These five steps are a proven stepping stone to developing a strong tagline for your organization. Supplement them with our free guide to powerful messaging for your organization: The Getting Attention Tagline Report features don’t dos, must dos and over 2,500 nonprofit tagline examples to kick-start your message brainstorming.

By Amy Kehoe, Manager – Getting Attention

Flickr photo: Jeff Carlson

6 Steps to Showcasing Your Marketing ROI

I was really jolted by this Ask Nancy query I recently received. Jessica (names have been changed to protect the innocent) asks for help with the most challenging (and most critical) step in nonprofit marketing — getting the support of decision makers and colleagues for doing it right.

Q: Help — We’re losing ground past and we need professional marketing help. How do I get the budget and support to get it?
      
My organization has been in existence since the 1960s, longer than any other environmental group in the state. But, like many nonprofits, we’ve never been good at marketing ourselves, and therefore don’t have the membership base we need. As a result, we’re beginning to lose our historical advantage.
       
We clearly need professional marketing help. I’m an implementer, but I’d be far more effective working with a marketing expert who has analyzed our challenges and designed a strategy for me to implement. While leadership recognizes our need for professional marketing help, they are not moving forward in that
direction. Help!
Jessica, Outreach Manager, State Natural Resources Council

Believe me, lack of support isn’t uncommon, especially now when tensions are high and budgets low. Many nonprofit professionals either don’t understand or doubt the value (or, in some cases, the seemliness) of marketing. Others see value in marketing but are in the “just do it” camp, not understanding that professionalism is as essential here as in other fields. It is these organizations that are frequently eclipsed by competitors in membership, fundraising and awareness. As a result, their impact is significantly limited.

Build support for marketing in your org by learning how to showcase your marketing ROI (return on investment). Read my guide to building support for doing marketing right today.

Flickr Photo: William Hartz

Make Your Web Site Press Friendly, So Journalists Cover Your Org

Web usability guru Nielsen’s latest Alertbox post emphasizes the imperative of press area usability for journalists, finding that plenty of the Web sites reviewed don’t provide adequate info for media (traditional or “citizen journalists”).

He cautions that poor site usability and missing info in online press areas can turn journalists away from covering your organization or force them to get their information from third-party sources (definitely not your messaging and likely to be incorrect). A shabby online press area is a lost PR opportunity.

Once journalists get to your site (you have to make sure they can), they need access to:

  • Easy-to-find online newsroom: Make sure you have a clean site with a clearly-labeled section called “Press,” “Media” or “News,” where journalists can get quick answers to their questions.
  • Press contacts: Being able to contact a real human being is essential for journalists researching stories. Deadlines mean that information is needed within hours or minutes, so most people would be reluctant to use an email address or contact form with no guarantee of a speedy response.
  • Basic facts: Reporters often need to confirm dates, spellings and more. To help reporters get that information quickly, make sure your sections are clearly labeled.
  • Your org’s perspective and actions on your issues: This is the stuff that differentiates your organizatons from colleagues and competitors. Make it easy-to-find, succinct and clear.
  • Financials: A core credibility meter.
  • Images to use in articles: Also, video and audio for online media. This is the stuff that enages readers which is a journalist’s ultimate goal.