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This ONE Thing Transforms Your Marketing & Fundraising

The opportunity you have in front of you today is SO big, that it’ can seem overwhelming. …
You’ve decided to take another look at your engagement practices (Yea, yea, yea!), rather than just doing it. Breathe deep—the changes you make will have a huge impact on results.

What are YOU going to change? What will stay the same? PRIORITY NOW is the proven path forward.

You know that marketing and fundraising have to be more on target than ever, with messages based on right-now data and stories from across your channels, campaigns, and programs. That’s the path to Priority Now—the relevant, memorable and unified supporter or participant experience you must provide, an experience that builds on each person’s till-now engagement with your organization and is most likely to spur her next action.

Here’s how to produce a relevant, memorable, and unified supporter experience:

1) Center supporters and participants at the heart of your organization, now and forever.

This isn’t bright-and-shiny new, but it’s more important than ever. Let me put it this way: If you don’t shape program and services, marketing and fundraising around your supporters’ and participants’ actions, wants, habits, and values, you’ll alienate folks who are close now and fail miserably in making new friends.

Volunteers, donors, activists, program participants, and other supporters are vital to achieving your mission. You can’t do it without them so keep your eye on the prize.

To Do

  • Focus on no more than three groups of individuals—those most likely to take the actions you need or who represent the greatest risk to achieving your marketing goals (how you use marketing to achieve your organizational goals) if not engaged within the next six months.
  • Break these groups into segments by special interest, wants, previous actions, location, or any other combination of characteristics
  • Get to know them.

Practically speaking, there’s just ONE path to that kind of unified experience: Right-Things, Right-Now Marketing. Get there with this Right-Things, Right-Now Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template

2) Listen to and learn from your people in a way that’s radically different from what you’re doing right now.

To Do

  • Set an end goal of treating (and communicating with) your supporters and participants as individuals, rather than one-size-fits-all, as much as possible. That means you shape engagement to each person’s experience (more realistically, each segment of folks who share similar perspectives and experiences).
  • To get there, learn everything you can about your people every way you can, on an ongoing basis:
    • Develop personas or profiles that typify a member of each audience or segment and surround yourself and your colleagues with persona headshots—it’s hokey, but it keeps the people who count at the top of everyone’s mind
    • Ask and listen to input to learn more about your people’s habits, preferences, wants, and dislike. People want to get what’s relevant; this is how you make it happen
    • Listen to what’s being said about your organization and team online, and engage with the speakers human-to-human
    • Compile information on interests and more via every single conversation (make it easy for your team to share the insights they gather) and active transaction (giving, volunteer sign up, event registration) pages, e-mail, and social.

3) Set up systems, roles, and responsibilities to harvest, share, and analyze data, feedback, anecdotes plus other insights

To Do

  • Assess where supporter information to date—preferences, habits, relationships, and interactions— lives across all departments and databases in your organization
  • Implement a robust database tool that enables you to integrate all data and anecdotes on a single supporter, prospect, or participant (now fragmented in multiple departments and records) into a single, in-depth profile. That’s the key to the rich insights (a true 360-degree perspective) necessary for truly integrated marketing that reflects your peoples’ interactions with your organization over time and is delivered consistently—across marketing channels and strategies—for a more relevant, resonant experience.
  • Log, share, and analyze what you learn about your people across your organization—instead of limiting your analysis to actions within a single program, campaign or channel—in a way that’s easy to access for all.

The more coordinated and robust your insight is into each person you’re hoping to engage, the higher the probability you’ll motivate him or her to take the next action (or realize that he/she’s not a likely prospect).

4) Shape rewarding and connected relationships with your people OVER TIME—a cumulative supporter or participant experience.

Your prospects and supporters are just like you—Individuals want content and programs to be customized to their preferences, habits, and history of action.

The Altimeter Research Group has deemed this the “me-cosystem: The ecosystem that revolves around “me,” an organization’s data and technologies to deliver more relevant, useful, and engaging experiences. Supporters will benefit from contextualized experiences (digitally and otherwise), in exchange for giving up personal data.”

To Do

  • Apply your learnings and analysis, and those of your colleagues, to shape marketing and fundraising outreach, and hone programs and services on the fly; and
  • Ensure that one experience links to the next for each one of them (within reason, of course).

The days of the one-off marketing project or fundraising campaign are over. Now it’s about insights, profiles and personas, and [a series] of connected experiences.

5) Get agile to satisfy supporter expectations that your nonprofit is continually adapting to fit their schedules and lives

And that has to include how they interact (or not) with your marketing and fundraising outreach, and your programs and services.

Beware! There’s still way too much talking about data and stories among nonprofits, and way too little action on these insights. Priority Now means changing that. In fact, “[supporters and participants] are insisting that [nonprofits] sew together all of the micro-interactions (between organizations and individuals) in an intelligent way. And when [organizations] disappoint, their people often let them have it, and very publicly,” says Wilkins.

To Do

  • Replace traditional campaigns—based on pre-determined start and stop dates and series of messages—with real-time marketing, based on supporters and participants’ actions and schedules
  • Kill the e-mail blasts: Sending the same e-mail to everyone at the same time is the loudest “who cares” I know
  • Segment your lists as precisely as time, expertise and tools allow, grouping prospects by shared wants, values, or engagement history to produce more relevant content
  • Start to tear down the age-old barrier between program and marketing/fundraising efforts (and views of the people you want to engage or engage more).

6) Shift toward “all for one and one for all” teamwork

Priority? Throw down the gauntlet and tear down your marketing and fundraising ivory tower to excite and empower your colleagues!

In fact, that’s the only way you’ll build the all-organization relationships, sense of adventure, and satisfaction necessary to drive speeded-up marketing, delivery, and revision cycles on both program/service and marketing/fundraising fronts.

To Do

  • Join your colleagues across your organization in shaping ambitious but realistic roles and responsibilities for data and story gathering, sharing, analysis, and action.
  • Dedicate yourself, no matter your role, to making your donor experience as relevant and resonant as possible.

I urge you to forget whether you staff a program, run the teen volunteer program, do back-end accounting, or have the word “marketing” in your title. Instead, focus on joining forces to produce a satisfying, memorable, and unified engagement experience for your people. It’s the ONE thing that will move your mission forward.

Bonus: Reduces your workload, increases your confidence that you’re doing the right thing, and sends your professional happiness sky high.

Kick start your ONE thing now, with the Right-Things, Right-Now Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template

P.S. Get more nonprofit engagement tools, tips, templates & case studies delivered to your inbox!
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P.P.S. Thanks to Gary Keller for inspiring me to focus on the ONE thing, as “Success demands singleness of purpose.” I recommend you read Keller’s The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

3 Tools Power Ambassadors to Success

We all have an incredible marketing and fundraising resource right in front of us—our colleague, board member, and loyal volunteer ambassadors. But most of us look right past them!

You STILL HAVE TIME to launch your team of messengers to advance your campaigns. They’re already fans, so many of them will be eager and effective fundraisers. So that’s all good. However, your ambassadors’ reach, engagement, and ultimate impact on donations is directly related to saying the right thing at the right time. And it can’t be a script, repeated from everyone to everyone. Spamming robots just don’t work. But…

Provide these three message tools to your ambassadors, and you’re golden. They’ll ensure your ambassadors’ comfort and confidence, so they’re more likely to reach out to friends and family members (a.k.a. donors and prospects). Plus they’ll boost the odds prospects hear the kind of consistent yet personal outreach that generates true engagement and the actions you want!

1) Your #1 tool! Ready-to-use email signatures make it easy for your ambassadors to close their emails in a way that’s hard to ignore or forget. That means more recipients will respond and spread the word to family and friends.

Take this memorable email signature from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

2) Graphic badges ready to cut-and-paste into your ambassadors’ emails, tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts.

Who can resist a face like this?

graphic_badge-fundraising_hsus

Or a laugh like this one?

3) Cut-and-paste templates like this email for teachers to customize when fundraising via DonorsChoose.org

Fundraising Ambassadors

Create the templates you anticipate your ambassadors will need most frequently. Have no idea? Ask them!

Get these three tools in your ambassadors’ hands a.s.a.p. so they generate as much engagement and action possible, with the greatest ease and confidence. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

5 Storytelling Tips for Your #GivingTuesday Campaign

Guest author JennNonprofit Storytelling #GivingTuesdaya Sauber is a crowdfunding and digital marketing expert at CauseVox, a peer-to-peer fundraising software for nonprofits.

The beauty of a movement like #GivingTuesday is that the nonprofit world gets to shine in the midst of the chaotic and overwhelming madness that is the holiday retail season.

But let’s face it: when your nonprofit is one of hundreds, or thousands participating in this growing global giving day, making your story stand out can be an intimidating task. You’ve got a short lead in to December 2, and then you have 24 hours (less if you think about when people are awake and online) to inspire people to give.

So how do you amp up your fundraising appeal in a way that encourages people to click that donate button? Use the power of storytelling! Here are a few of my favorite tips to consider as you craft your storytelling plan for #GivingTuesday.

1) Make your story relevant

When planning a move, people always say “location, location, location.” For #GivingTuesday, it’s of the utmost importance to keep things relevant. And we’re not just talking about staying on topic to your mission—but think of the time of year, think seasonal.

Read more

WE Rules! Make Your Messages Matter Now

LisaSargent 2.1

Guest blogger Lisa Sargent is one of the best fundraisers and copywriters I know. She focuses here on donor communications, but her take is relevant for all nonprofit campaigns and audiences. Read on, and we up!

Lately it’s been that the 24/7 donor communications fiesta … is getting a little tired.

Same old players, same old info, recycled the same old ways: more you/less we, Flesch Kincaid and readability, ban all jargon, timely thank-yous, and on and on and on.

Then Nancy Schwartz wrote this. She said:

“[It’s] about WE…not you. This is a critical shift in voice that I’m starting to feel is very important.

For so long, experts have advised cause communicators to address prospects and supporters in second person—you. The shift to WE—signaling the power of collective action for stronger results—is a vital strategic shift.”

Having heard countless nonprofit pundits tell you to circle every instance of ‘we’ in your appeals and find a way to replace all of them with ‘you,’ some of you are no doubt shaking your heads. No doubt you’re thinking, So now ‘we’ is okay? Puh-leeze.

Then why was I nodding my head (while shouting, “YES, Nancy!”), at her post?

Because I too had noticed that same shift.

The shift that donors want something more.

Then I read Vu Le’s (Nonprofits with Balls) superb post on community-centered fundraising.

Again I found myself shouting, “YES!” … and I knew it was time to speak out.

Because quietly and since 2010, I’d been letting words like “we” and “us” creep into my copy. Not the look-at-how-great-we-are, institutional “we.” (See Future Fundraising Now for more. Also heed the advice on “I.”)

No, no, no.

I’m talking about the we’re-in-this-together, you-and-me “we.”

Quietly, I’d been including stuff in appeal letters, donor newsletters, and acknowledgments that quite frankly fly in the face of what a long line of experts tells you is handsdown bad, and would bring about the equivalent of some kind of nonprofit Armageddon.

But I couldn’t shake the shift.

What’s more, donors and other folks were responding. Call it donor realism. Call it community-centered fundraising. Call it whatever you like.

The results I saw mattered more.

Double-digit response rates to newsletters. Sixty-five percent retention rates. Lapsed donors returning. Increased feedback. Plus signs, big and small, that we’d struck a chord.

There were other things my clients and I had been doing. I’ll share some with you momentarily. To me it’s early proof that a seismic shift must occur in the way you and I communicate with prospects and supporters.

Does it mean the death of donor centrism? Does it mean you stop treating folks well? Does it mean no more “you” in copy?

No. That would just be absurd. But when famous consultants start blogging that words like “programs” and “services” are jargon (true story), I believe that we, as an industry, are in deep, deep trouble.

Are we so lukewarm about our work we’re afraid that people will stop giving simply at the mention of a word like “program”?

People of fundraising, your donors can take it.

Because more than anything, what they crave isn’t a bunch of copy with artificial “yous” inserted all over the place. What they crave isn’t always even the story of one (proof here).

What they crave is authenticity.

What they crave is to be treated like the incredible insiders they are.

What they crave is to feel knowledgeable and enlightened and part of something bigger.

Here’s how my clients and I are making this subtle shift in voice and practice that:

1. We use words like “we” and “us” to inspire action and engagement. Refer to Vu’s and Nancy’s posts mentioned above. As Vu wrote, “None of us are heroes without all of us.” He’s spot on. (Warning: if you think this clears you to use the institutional “we,” banish the thought. Then read Tom Ahern’s books.) We use “I” a lot, too.

2. We don’t hide our partnerships with other organizations. In a donor newsletter, we recently highlighted a program that one of my clients runs in partnership with another charity. On their own, neither had the resources to fund it. But the need was there, so they joined together to make it possible. Donors loved it.

3. We show struggle. And yes, sometimes defeat. This is an old copywriting adage we call “show your warts” that holds true for nonprofits – it’s transparency like you’ve never seen.

In a recent appeal from one client’s CEO, we talked about his six-month struggle to get government funding for an important program. He talked about the budget – what was included, and what they denied. We framed it honestly, without bashing anyone: times are tough for everyone. Donors came through with flying colors.

4. We are unabashed adapters of The Big E. I can’t express how much I agree with Vu Le on this one when I say: Educate Your Donors. But not in the organization-focused way it’s been presented all these years.

In your donor newsletters, share updates on programs. Talk about bigger issues – even some you might not be able to tackle yet. Showcase your staff, and what they see. Share numbers. Take donors inside the work you do…the work they make possible! Overwhelmingly, we’ve seen that donors are thrilled to feel like experts around causes they believe in.

5. We use jargon. Am I paving the way for gems like “paradigm” and “stakeholder”? Does it mean you can now start using “food insecure” for someone who is going hungry? Or “housing challenged” for someone who is homeless? No way, no how!

What I do mean by jargon is that you need to get real.  If you’ve been given provisional state funding or short-term, contingent funding, say so. If you need to talk about a gap in the budget, do it. If in-network healthcare is being moved from your area at an alarming rate, leaving the lives of good people hanging in the balance, say so.

6. Our thank-you letters often serve as receipts. I’ve been openly criticized for this, and I hold firm.

Nearly ten years ago I crafted all the donor acknowledgements for what has become one of the largest animal welfare charities of all. We told folks that, to conserve resources and help more animals, their (lovely, personal, timely and sincere) thank-you should be saved for their records, because it also doubled as a tax receipt. Donor feedback was fantastic; retention didn’t dip. Another of my clients includes a BRE in their otherwise uncompromisingly no-ask thank-yous – a practice I myself railed against for years. Again they’ve seen no drop in retention, and donors have written back to thank them for sending an extra postage-paid envelope.

Programs and services are not dirty words. Maximizing donations is not a taboo topic.

Needing the money to pay for overhead – electricity to keep the lights on, the water running, and boots on the ground – is nothing to be ashamed of.

Speaking of unashamed, if you visit my (ridiculously outdated/overhaul coming) website and find that some of my advice here seems to have changed slightly from advice of ten – or even five – years ago?

It has.

I’m not ashamed to say that the way I communicate with donors is ever changing. That every day, these good people teach me something new. That I hope I never stop learning as long as I live.

Vu and Nancy are onto something. Listen up.

P.S. I’ll make a prediction neither one of them has. More and more, I’m seeing properly crafted donor newsletter packs pull their weight as never before (like 7:1 ROI good). I’m talking a proper mix of content, infographics (NOT pie charts), design, quality writing, reporting back/gratitude, opportunities – things like that.

I could be completely sucking wind on this theory. But my guess is it’s another sign that same-old won’t fly.

How WE Do It: The Best Video Ever (Case Study: We Rules)

5 Must-Haves: Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Toolkit

Rob Wu, CauseVoxGuest blogger Rob Wu is CEO of CauseVox, a crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising platform used by nonprofits to create fundraising websites.

Today, fundraising extends far beyond motivating people to donate. We want engagement, we want other actions, and we want to build a relationship! We also want as many people as possible rallying for our cause.

Here’s where peer-to-peer (P-to-P) fundraising comes in, as a reliable method of leveraging your existing audience to raise money on your behalf. It’s a great way to reach a broader audience, activate new donors, and re-engage current supporters.

You tell us that your biggest challenge is getting your peer-to-peer fundraisers prepared, informed, and engaged. This five-part fundraising toolkit will be a great help:  Read more

Nonprofit Video Experts Share Tips & Tools: #501TechNYC (Part 1)

It’s so challenging for nonprofits to get video right, especially with limited budgets and bandwidth. That’s why I so appreciate the practical guidance shared by NYC’s 501 Tech Club presenters Cathe Neukum, Executive Producer at International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Lane Beauchamp, Manager of Marketing and Media at Broadway Cares. Here’s a brief summary of what I learned:

Know Before You Go

  • Why us and why now? Ensure that the video is designed to advance priority goals, and is one of the best methods of doing so. Don’t just do it to do it. (Lane)
  • Powerful videos require planning, lots and lots of planning. Know what you’re getting into before showtime. (Cathe)
  • Make your video shareable. It’s not enough for people to like it, they need to share it. (Lane)
  • Earmark some of your video budget for paid distribution; social is a pay-to-play world at this point. (Cathe)

The Greatest Challenge in Producing High-Impact Video

  • Broadway Cares’ greatest challenge is balancing both stories—the razzle-dazzle of the Broadway community it serves (and who support it), and its less glamorous but vital mission, fighting HIV/AIDS.
  • IRC’s greatest video production challenge is streamlining staff participation. Cathe warns that having too many “cooks in the kitchen” will seriously slow your video production process, and slay your vision.

#1 Success Factor
“A creative mind is more important than the equipment you use. Someone on staff must have a clear vision of content that will play well on video, and help bring it to life,” says Cathe.

Who Does What?
Lane is part of an eight-member communications team at Broadway Cares that produces (from concept to design) and distributes all videos. Broadways Cares brings in additional help (typically volunteers from the Broadway community—lucky them!) when needed.

IRC takes a different approach, with Cathe serving as the one-woman in-house video shop. She was hired to launch the video program (showing IRC’s investment in the medium and channel), and outsources video production and distribution help.”It’s vital to have the creative expertise in-house to direct the production team, at the very least. Your organization will gain more control by doing it all in-house, but the potential downside is that things can get stale” says Cathe.

Read Part Two, featuring planning, process, people, and distribution guidance.

What’s your organization’s #1 success factor for effective videos? Your greatest challenge? 

Get More Video Views & Shares: #501TechNYC (Part 2)


Read Part One

Thanks to NYC’s 501 Tech Club for inviting knowledgeable nonprofit video makers from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and International Rescue Committee (IRC) to share tips, tools, and case studies with us video expert wannabees. Here’s more of what I learned from them:

What’s Happening with Video at
International Rescue Committee (IRC) & Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
Cathe Neukum is Executive Producer for IRC, where she’s responsible for all video content. In her two-and-a-half year tenure, she’s increased the organization’s visibility on Facebook and YouTube by over 800%.

Cathe’s latest video (at top) features actor and activist Mandy Patinkin standing with IRC aid workers in Greece to welcome families fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries for a better life. This video has been viewed 5 million times on Facebook.

Lane Beauchamp is Manager of Marketing and Media for Broadway Cares. Since he joined the team in 2010, the organization has shifted its marketing focus to digital engagement, particularly through video. Broadway Cares was one of the first nonprofits to film in the studios of YouTube Space NY, to broadcast live on Periscope, to use video on Instagram, and to leverage video on Facebook.

In-House Creative Guidance a Must
Lane and Cathe agree that in-house creative guidance is a must for producing a video that gets viewed and shared. They stress that it’s tough—if not impossible—for an outside creative to shape video that addresses your organization’s goals and is relevant to your target audiences. There’s just too much complexity and nuance involved.

“The right creative mind is more important than the equipment you use,” says Cathe.

Keep Your In-House Team Small and Focused
You know how challenging it is to work with colleagues on concept, review, and approval of narrative communications content. Well, that increases tenfold with videos. Folks typically don’t know what they like or don’t like, until they see it.

  • Streamline! Nonprofit videomakers have no problem getting (unsolicited) feedback from colleagues. Otherwise, your vision will be butchered, and the production process will take forever! Limit that by restricting the team of internal players to those who have something valuable to contribute to the process. (Cathe)
  • Be crystal clear on roles and responsibilities for your video team. (Lane)
  • If you have an outside creative (videomaker or consultant) driving the video creation process, make sure she has a strong ally within your organization. That’s the only way you’ll protect the value of that expertise and sanctity of her creative process. (Cathe)
  • Our departmental team develops a baseline plan for each video before bringing more folks into the process. Giving something concrete for them to respond too makes it easier for all of us to make the right decisions. (Lane)

Production Priorities

  • “Your audio quality is more important that your video component.You can shoot scrappy videos that look scrappy; you just don’t want them to sound that way,” says Cathe.
  • A good microphone, mid-range DSLR camera, and a basic lighting kit make a great video starter pack. (Lane)
  • The iPhone 6 shoots 4K video. If you use a quality mic (Sennheiser is a reliable brand), viewers won’t have a clue that you shot the video with your mobile phone. If you’re capturing ambient sound, use a road mic clipped to your phone. (Cathe)
  • Adobe Premiere editing software is great—provides enough tools without being overwhelming. (Cathe)

Distribution & Promotion Checklist

  • Embed videos directly within Facebook (vs. posting the link to the YouTube version) to generate far more views and shares. (Lane)
  • Many nonprofit organizations use YouTube as a repository for videos rather than as social channel. That approach is a barrier to generating views and shares. Instead, review your YouTube channel regularly, and clean it up if necessary. (Lane)
  • Don’t sit back and wait for your video to “go viral.” It won’t. (James Porter, session facilitator)
  • Social is a pay to play game now. Without investing in promotion (focus on Facebook and YouTube ads, and Twitter clips), it’s almost impossible to grow views. (Cathe)
  • When you have clear targets in mind, experiment with paid promotion, earmarking $500-$1,000 for promoting your video. (Cathe)
  • What your ads will buy (Cathe)
    • YouTube: A $1,000 YouTube ad spend will generate about 50,000 views plus engagement. Without it, you’ll get about 5,000 views.
    • Facebook: $500 goes a long way on Facebook, but only when a video is already starting to gain traction. It’ll help you generate about 200,000 views and 10,000 shares.

Thanks so much, Cathe and Lane. There’s nothing more valuable than learning from those who are doing it right.

Still Time: 5 Ways to Up Year-End Giving

The clock is running out on year-end fundraising.

Whether you’re exceeding expectations or are barely meeting the bare minimum, you can do even better. I know what you’re thinking: “There’s so little time.” But I want to share five doable adjustments you can make right now to increase year-end donations.

1) Expand your prospect pool program participants, volunteers, and advocates (Low-hanging fruit alert!).

Read more

6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell:

There’s so much content around on storytelling, lots of its focused on why stories are so effective.

But there’s far less guidance on helping you know what your story possibilities are, and building your skills in shaping and sharing your stories. That’s what most of you said you wanted to know to become 5-star storytellers, and that’s the focus of this article.

Storytelling starts with finding the stories your organization already has. But, most of you tell me you don’t know where to find your stories. Here’s how..
Great news here—there are 6 types of stories you can tell, and you’re likely to find all of them in your organization. So start thinking about what stories you have to tell in each of these categories:
  1. Our Founding: How your organization was created
  2. Our Focus: The core challenge you tackle
  3. Impact Stories: This most-told nonprofit story features the before and after—shows impact of your organization and supporters
  4. Our People: Donor, staff, volunteer, client/participant profiles
  5. Strength Stories: How your particular approach adds value to the services you provide, and moves your mission forward
  6. Our Future: The change you want to make in the world or what your work will lead to.

#1: The Typical Nonprofit Founding Story

Is yours as deadly as this one? Because you have all the ingredients to make it far more effective.

Typical Founding Story

Read more

Piggyback On What’s Top Of Mind— 9 Valentine’s Victories

Email Subject LinesGuest blogger, Kerri Karvetski, owner of Company K Media, helps nonprofits communicate online.

How did nonprofits share the love on Valentine’s Day 2013? Let us count the ways.

But this superstar technique isn’t limited to Valentine’s Day. Get brainstorming now to connect your cause with days coming up—St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day and Earth Day. It’s a proven way to connect with supporters and move them to give, donate, volunteer or spread the word. Here’s how:
Read more