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4 Ways to Listen In to Boost Action

There’s a proven way for your organization to start and strengthen vital relationships with the people whose support, loyalty, and actions you want—donors, volunteers, and even staff (too often overlooked here).

This approach is easy to learn and execute. And it’s something you do on a personal level all the time: Getting to know and understand others with whom you want to build a friendship—learning what’s important to them and how their days go. These insights enable you to focus in on what’s important or interesting to both of you, and how best to keep in touch via a commonly-used channel (social, mobile, text, mail) at the time that your folks will be most receptive.

Here are four proven methods of harvesting these priceless insights:

1) Launch a Marketing Advisory Group

Begin by identifying your target audiences and prioritize segments of each that share wants, needs and preferences. Then put together a marketing advisory group incorporating as many of these perspectives as possible—that way you’ll have the right person to turn to when you need her. In addition, this group will provide a solid diversity of opinion when you solicit input on a specific campaign or message.

Next, invite prospective team members to participate. If you don’t have people in mind that represent all the perspectives you need, ask program or other colleagues for recommendations.

Make sure to specify your expectations and to keep them modest. I recommend that you ask team members to help at most once or twice a month, asking for no more than 5 to 10 minutes of their time for each ask.

Put your marketing advisors to work in the way it’s most beneficial—that may vary depending on the task at hand. Ask a few of them for input on draft messages for the new advocacy campaign  and a few others for a critique of the draft mini-site for the campaign. Or ask all of them to complete a brief online survey to share their perception of the new program and the gap it will fill. Whatever your decision, make sure you ask with thought and don’t overburden your advisors. Most importantly, thank them frequently and often.

Try it for six months, refining the program over time to be of greatest value for you and least burden for your marketing advisory team. When you do, I promise you’ll know, and connect with, your audiences better than ever before.

2) Listen to Social Conversations

There’s so much being said online—about your organization, causes or issues, campaigns, and organizations you compete with for donations and attention—that you’ll learn a lot by just listening. By monitoring social channels for conversation on relevant topics, you’ll see what resonates and why, enabling you to better engage your people.

Keep in mind that with this kind of social listening, you won’t necessarily know who’s talking and how that person maps (if at all) to your targets. Nonetheless, if there’s a groundswell of conversation on a topic important to your organization, you want to hear it.

Social monitoring options range from free tools like Google Alerts to paid social listening services such as Attentive.ly that illuminate what people in your email file (donors, volunteers, email subscribers and others) are saying on social media and help identify who is influential to improve targeting and increase engagement. This early case study from Attentive.ly really caught my attention:

A few days after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), noticed a significant shift in focus on social media to the hashtag #Ferguson. They could quickly see that terms such as “police” started trending, nationally and among supporters in AFSC’s database (CRM).

AFSC created a saved search to see exactly who in its CRM was talking about Ferguson on Facebook and Twitter. Next, they invited those supporters to a Google Hangout that resulted in record-high participation and 74 donations. That’s incredible targeting!

3) Ask & Listen in Your Social Communities

If your organization has an active community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other interactive platforms, you have a focus group ready to roll. Before you just ask, and ask, and ask again, prioritize what you want to know. Also, decide how to filter and weigh what you hear since your social communities may not map exactly to your donors and prospects.

Here are a few ways to use Facebook to get to know more about your people:

  • Since you can easily run your organization’s donor or email list against Facebook subscribers who have liked your page, it’s easier to map responses to your prioritized audiences.
  • Facebook’s Live Video tool is an excellent way to gather quick feedback on a draft logo, design, message, or email format (anything, in fact, easy to view via an online video) IF you have a huge and active following on Facebook.
  • Polling is super easy to set up and respond to.

4) Ask Folks as They’re Leaving a Program or Event

This technique is ages old but works well, as long as you ask just one or two quick questions. If your question is brief, ask verbally. If you want to gather names or have a couple of questions, then have pens and printed mini-surveys or tablets on hand for responses. If the event is online, pop up a quick survey before the finish.

BUT these insights boost actions ONLY when you…
Capture, Analyze, and Share What You Learn, then ACT on it

Keep in mind that what you learn about your audiences is valuable only when you log, share, and analyze it across your organization.

This process will position you to put your findings to work most effectively right now. Then go one step further to extend their value by adding these insights to supporter data. That’s your path to getting closer than ever with your people, and activating them to move your mission forward. Go to it, friends.

P.S. Get more nonprofit engagement tools, tips, templates & case studies delivered to your inbox!
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Get More from Your Donor Database

Your database tools have the potential to dramatically increase marketing and fundraising results if you use them right. That’s why I’ll be blogging lots of tips, tools and case studies on building out and using your database(s) to improve your supporter’s experience in 2014—via segmentation, serving customization content and personalization. More satisfying experiences lead to more of the actions you need (results!).

That’s why I reached out to my friend James Porter when I heard he was headed to the Salesforce1 World Tour—Salesforce’s road show rolling out its new Salesforce1 platform—asking him to guest blog on what we need to know about Salesforce. Here’s James…

Nonprofits like yours have benefited from Salesforce’s “free” Nonprofit Starter Pack for years and now, with Salesforce1, Salesforce hopes to solidify its place as the nonprofit database platform of choice. In fact, there are so many New York City-area nonprofits using or considering using Salesforce that all of the nonprofit-focused sessions were vastly overcrowded, with as many folks shut out as could fit in each meeting room.

Here’s what I learned, or was reminded of:

  • The more accurate and complete the data you enter, the more useful and accurate your findings, analysis and actions. Good data in generates value out, no matter what database solution you use.
  • One of the best ways to jump start adoption among colleagues who don’t view the database as their responsibility is to focus on what’s in it for them. Sit down with database users—both in and beyond marketing and fundraising teams—and ask them to list five things they’d like to be able to do with the database (even if they can’t be done right away). If possible, it’s best to have this conversation before implementing the database.
  • To get a full and accurate 360-degree view of your constituents’ habits, actions and preferences, feed in data on every way they touch your organization (and vice versa) across all channels (website, social, direct mail, telemarketing, physical store, etc.), campaigns, programs and departments. Such rich data sourcing is what makes it possible for you to slice-and-dice to get the precise segment you want or customize a certain message for greatest relevance.
  • Mobility enriches data and increases timeliness. The new Salesforce1 app for iPhone and Android helps front-line fundraisers and marketers solicit and enter more information about donors when out of the office (no chance of forgetting key elements) in a flash.
  • Apps (on the Salesforce App Exchange and beyond) for taking online donations (processing fees still apply), project management, and calendar management are likely to help your organization, especially if it’s on the smaller side, to operate more efficiently.
  • Easy-to-use reports from Salesforce and similar constituent or donor databases can help you make more accurate decisions going forward, and illustrate the value of the data gathering and analysis approach to your boss .

Word of Caution: Salesforce is a powerful tool and can do a lot. But many of the Salesforce-based successes that nonprofits share are achieved with the help of consultants. The same holds for the Blackbaud CRM/donor management product successes you hear about.

And Salesforce’s out-of-the-box Nonprofit Starter Pack will only do so much for your organization without customization (even with apps), so figure the cost of consulting assistance when you are choosing your database solution. Once you use the Starter Pack for a month or two, start compiling a list of features and functions (i.e. what you want to do) that are beyond the capabilities of the starter pack, and start figuring out how to get the expertise you need to bring them to life via a consultant, firm or hire.

While we’re talking databases, take a look at:
Big Pressure for Big Data? Here’s What to Do

Ask Yourself 4 Questions for Effective Nonprofit Taglines

Welcome to guest blogger Allison Van Diest. Allison, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Blackbaud, prides herself on being not only a marketing “artist” but a marketing “scientist”  able to measure the marketing impact. She has some terrific guidance to share with you on shaping a tagline that works…

What has less than 140 characters and tells the world what you’re up to?

Yes, Twitter does.  But how do you think the Twitter folks got the idea that a short, punchy phrase or two can be among the best ways to communicate?  Decades ago, taglines showed the world that a few well-chosen words can mean more to a reader than pages of advertising copy.

The purpose of a tagline is to create an impression that is meaningful and moving, as succinctly as possible.  And in today’s landscape of light speed communication, with constraints on readers’ time and attention, a well-written tagline is critical.

It is your best tool in capturing the imagination of a prospective supporter and also arms them with the perfect message to send to their network (through Twitter, perhaps!).

Sold on the idea of taglines, but not sure yours is prize-worthy? Enter the Nonprofit Tagline Awards program anyway, there’s nothing to lose. And every entrant will be invited to join me in a special free webinar on building leadership support for critical marketing projects. But back to taglines…

If you’re not satisfied with your tagline, consider sending it through a quick positioning refresh to make sure it truly captures your spirit.  As a reminder, a strong positioning statement answers these questions:

  1. Who (what group) does your organization serve?
  2. What does the group you serve hope to accomplish?
  3. What does your organization provide to the group you serve?
  4. What is the outcome if the group you serve accomplishes its goal?

Consider how how this information is conveyed by TexasNonprofits, a 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Award winner:  “Building community deep in the hearts of Texans”

  1. Who (what group) does your organization serve?  Texas nonprofits
  2. What does the group you serve hope to accomplish? To encourage higher levels of giving so they can do more good in Texas
  3. What does your organization provide to the group you serve?  Resources and support to aid the nonprofit community
  4. What is the end state if the group you serve accomplishes its goal?  Texans are even more philanthropic and nonprofit impact goes even further

With its tagline, TexasNonprofits conveys mission and impact in a clever and memorable way.   This year’s Taggies will once again celebrate well-crafted taglines and – hopefully – inspire other nonprofits to follow suit, so please enter yours today (deadline is July 28).

 We can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to!

The 2010 Nonprofit Tagline Awards program is made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of Blackbaud, Event360, Eventbrite and See3 Communications.

P. P. S. Follow the tagline award news on Twitter via the hashtag #taggies