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This is What Nonprofits Need More Than a Facebook Donate Button

Urge Facebook to offer Facebook Ad Grants to nonprofits like yours—Please add your name now to this petition.

Facebook is a vital tool for most of us, and their attention to the nonprofit market (as with the introduction of the Donate button this week) is fantastic. However, they change the platform’s ways and rules at a million miles an hour, making it tough for us nonprofit marketers to use this important channel well to move our missions forward.

There’s no debate that Facebook is a productive platform on which to interact with supporters and build your base. But each change they make generates a lot more work for organizations like yours (our clients too!) to learn the latest and greatest techniques, and shift campaigns accordingly.

But one of Facebook’s recent changes is far worse than that—several months ago Facebook introduced promoted posts. I want you to understand what this is—a pay-to-play approach limiting the ability to reach Facebook fans on a regular basis to marketers who pay to promote their posts.

That’s going to cut many of your orgs out of the Facebook game altogether and put the rest of the sector at a significant disadvantage. But there’s something you can do about it!

Please join me in urging Facebook to introduce an ad grant program for nonprofits, so organizations like yours aren’t silenced by promoted posts. Sign this petition now

Thanks for joining me! I’ll keep you posted.

 

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

Making It Work – Nonprofits and Pro Bono Creative

Welcome back to guest blogger, Susie Bowie, Communications Manager at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

There’s an unexpected stranger standing at the intersection between nonprofit organizations and creative agencies offering “free” website, advertising or marketing services.  He has many names, but is most commonly known as “Why did we say yes?,” “We should have thought about this more” and “Man, this is a disaster.”

The danger can come from both sides. Small to mid-sized nonprofit organizations are notoriously (but often unfairly) characterized as unsophisticated when it comes to marketing prowess. Boards and grantmakers alike often don’t want to fund basic marketing. Nonprofit staff can underestimate the investment of their time required—even in a pro bono project. On the agency side, creatives may get into the business of over-promising and under delivering to the simplistic nonprofit client who shouldn’t have been such a big deal.

I recently spoke with Patricia Courtois, Principal of Clarke Advertising and Public Relations (based in Sarasota, Florida), about how to make it all work from both sides of the fence. A long-time award-winning veteran of the advertising and public relations field with clients from Tropicana to Sara Lee and ClosetMaid, her team’s campaigns have won national recognition. Her recent engagement with All Faiths Food Bank here in Sarasota included a television spot that won a National ADDY. It was a great experience for both, by the way. And if anyone knows the ground rules for a healthy and productive engagement, Patricia does.

Here are some checkpoints, based on her extensive experience in the field:

For Nonprofits:

  • Free isn’t always better than nothing. Use discretion when it comes to choosing your creative consultant. Just because a company or individual offers their services without a fee doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your organization. Do your homework—check references, find out what the agency might expect from your nonprofit in return. If they want to promote their firm on your collateral material, for example, that may be something you need to consider carefully.
  • Understand that you share the commitment. Pro bono creative still involves staff direction, availability and support from your nonprofit. Know that many times, agency staff work after-hours on your pro bono project so they can still fulfill obligations from paying clients. Respect that with flexibility and being super-organized so your meetings are efficient and productive.

For Creative Agencies:

  • Make sure your staff is fully committed to the cause. Is the nonprofit’s mission a fit with your agency’s mission? Is it something everyone is on board with? If not, your account executives may feel resentment about the use of their time on the project. And finally, the nonprofit engagement should be much more than a way for you to market your own services.
  • Make sure there’s skin in the game. Creative services can be undervalued if there is no cost at all to the nonprofit. Patricia recommends payment for some portion of the service—even based on a nominal amount a nonprofit may have budgeted—so there is some level of devotion to the project.
  • It’s a business contract, even if it’s pro bono. Providing a full scope of work to be jointly signed—along  with timelines, the number of hours being provided by the agency, graphic assets provided by the nonprofit, etc.—is key to avoiding frustration and inconsistent expectations.

The name of the game here is clearly defined boundaries, expectations and intentions. Keeping in mind that not every creative agency is a match for your nonprofit (and visa versa), you can use these guidelines to find the right partner and to firm up relationships with existing ones.

6 Steps to Stronger Relationships – Share Your Relevant, Valuable Content

Email marketing strategies have matured and are no longer strictly about increasing the number of subscribers.

Today, the priority lies in building a quality list of names. And the 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report is a must-read guide to getting there, highlighting what works best to grow relationships with an engaged base and prospects.

The Report is based on survey findings initially billed as insights on building a stronger email list. But the strategy I’m going to share with you goes much further than that.

Effective marketing is rooted in strong relationships with the right target audiences – those with whom your organization’s shares wants and/or needs.  I write about that time and time again.

Assuming that’s so (it is!), content marketing — creating and distributing relevant content to your target audiences — is the best way to strengthen those ties and raise the engagement level of your base.

Here are 6 steps to effective nonprofit content marketing:

  1. Build your understanding, and your boss’ and colleagues’, that relevant content helps your organization develop trusted relationships which motivate your prospects to share email addresses and contact information.
  2. Review models: The Environmental Working Group is a wonderful example of an organization that shares most of its practical, unique content at no charge and, in doing so, has built a huge cadre of loyal supporters!
  3. Do do the audience research it takes to find the point of content connection, based on where your organization’s wants meets those of your audiences. That’s the he sweet spot.
  4. Inventory your content. Most nonprofit organizations are rich in useful content, but don’t know where or what all of it is so can’t use it to build engagement.
  5. Plan and launch your first content marketing campaign. Make it small and focused so you can get clear and quick results.
  6. Fine-tune and get out there again!

Is content marketing one of your strategies? If so, how are you implementing it? If not, why not?

How to Create Enough Good Content
(Case Study)

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.

For many organizations, simply getting an e-newsletter out regularly, with enough  content — let alone enough good content — is a win. That was certainly true for NTEN a few years ago. But since then, we’ve developed loftier goals for our e-news NTEN Connect, transforming it from a chore we had to cross off the monthly to-do list to a blockbuster driver of traffic to our blog. And we managed to reinforce our values and culture while doing so. Here’s how:

THE CHORE

NTEN is a small organization. With just a handful of staff members, we felt the pain of the e-news challenge intensely.

Writing enough good, timely content to fill a monthly newsletter was simply not an option for our overburdened staff. Instead, in 2007, we started stocking it with articles written by members of our community .

While we selected the topics and the authors for each issue, producing the newsletter itself became a matter of curation rather than creation. This shift also aligned nicely with one of our core values: providing a platform for our community’s views. And we took one step further to publish our newsletter stories on our blog (on our website). Readers of the newsletter received a teaser for the article – usually the first paragraph or two – and a link to read the entire article on our site.

We very quickly saw a jump in the website metrics we track. Traffic started to rise and we got lots of compliments on the new format. At that point, we knew we had something good on our hands, but knew we could do even better.

THE EXPERIMENT

We shook up our e-news format again in November 2008. Rather than hand-picking topics and authors, we invited the community to write about anything they wanted. Submissions flowed in, including quite a few we couldn’t use. While we put out an interesting issue, it didn’t drive traffic quite the way we had hoped it would.

Then we added a twist to the experiment in Fall 2009. We had always used the newsletter to “break” stories, publishing all of the new articles at once on our website, on the day we sent out the newsletter. This time, we posted the articles on our website as they were submitted, letting the authors know that the most successful posts — those that generated the greatest usage as measured by page views, time spent on the site, and comments — would be included in the November newsletter.

By this time, of course, social media had burst upon the scene. Being that the NTEN community is generally pretty tech savvy, we saw them using blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to share news, likes and their own accomplishments. So we tapped the power and reach of the community for the newsletter, leveraging our authors’ social networks to drive traffic to our site and increase newsletter subscriptions.

Our incentive strategy worked! That November, we saw an 80% increase in blog traffic over November 2008. We watched our authors using their social networks to highlight their accomplishment – “Look! I have an article on the NTEN site!” – driving traffic our way. That single month was a huge factor in our 22% increase in blog traffic in 2009.

Unfortunately, blog traffic in every other month (when we curated newsletter content) flatlined.

We continued experimenting with the e-news throughout 2010 to boost site traffic, redesigning the template and removing less-popular features. Nothing helped us reach the boost that the social network November 2009 edition created.

THE LEAP

So, in September 2010, we moved to our Community Guided Content model. We still ask authors to write about specific topics, but we post new articles to our website almost daily, then use the stats to determine what goes into the actual newsletter. Since this shift, blog traffic is up 37% year-over-year  and shows a fairly steady month-to-month growth rate. Plus time spent on web pages on page is up – a modest but welcome increase of three seconds.

This new strategy means we’re driving a lot of traffic to NTEN.org overall: We’re up 24% year-over-year in 2011. The blog/newsletter strategy drives most of that, as you can see from the increase in blog traffic as a percentage of total site traffic for the last few years:

2008: 17%
2009: 19%
2010: 22%
2011: 25%

Most importantly,  publishing more and more diverse content on the blog gives us a sense of what the NTEN community is most interested in. Then, when we compose NTEN Connect each month, instead of guessing what we should send out to our 30,000 subscribers, we can look at our blog and social media analytics data to learn what our blog readers have already found most engaging.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

We now have a successful newsletter strategy in place — one that aligns our values and goals, and has significantly expanded our visibility and prominence in the sector. This year alone, our newsletter subscriber base has increased 50%.

Next, we’re hoping to match newsletter content even more closely with our audiences’ wants and interests. We’ve begun experimenting more with segmentation: instead of sending out one issue to our full list, we deliver seven different versions based on job function, e.g. Executive Directors receive different content than IT staff members.

Going forward, we’ll be able to tailor newsletter content based on the articles our readers have interacted with over time. Already, we’ve seen the potential for this level of segmentation by including dynamic content based on our subscribers’ membership status and activity levels. And we expect to continue refining our content strategy on an ongoing basis to ensure it meets the needs of the NTEN community. That’s what makes a successful e-newsletter!

What are your strategies for creating content that’s valued by your audiences and advances your organization’s mission — for your e-news, blog, or other channels — when it’s just one of many must-do tasks?

Email Subject Lines: 6 Cardinal Sins to Avoid

Welcome to our newest guest blogger, Kerri Karvetski. As owner of Company K Media, Kerri helps nonprofits communicate online.

Email subject lines have one main job—to get your email opened. You have two seconds to grab your reader’s attention. That’s a lot of pressure. So avoid these avoidable mistakes.

Writing subject lines is mostly art, but there’s some science to it as well. If you steer clear of these subject line sins, there’s a world of opportunity available to you.

Sin #1: Too Long
At 50 characters, most email programs cut off the subject line preview in the inbox. Subject line real estate is extremely valuable, so go shorter when possible. Your readers will thank you, especially mobile readers.

You are absolved of this sin if…you have a highly targeted audience. MailChimp analyzed millions of headlines and found that these audiences appreciate the extra detail you can put in a longer subject line.

Sin #2: Too Short
One-word subject lines used to be the hot new technique, but the party’s over. A few political campaigns still use them, but most nonprofits can’t pull it off. Too vague and gimmicky. Skip them.

Sin #3: Boring
Nothing makes me reach for the “delete” button faster than subject lines like, “March Newsletter.” I know you’ve got a monthly newsletter; I signed up for it. I also know it’s March.

Give me a reason to read this newsletter. Tell me your best story.

Sin #4: Personalization Abuse
Personalization is great, but you can get too much of a good thing. Use personalization in subject lines wisely and sparingly.

Sin #5: Sticking Your Tongue Out at the Spam Filters
Gone are the days when the word “free” automatically flags your message as spam, but you still have to be careful. Avoid these content spam triggers:

  • AVOID ALL CAPS. It’s shouting and tempting fate.
  • Holy $%*&^$!!!???? Excessive use of punctuation and symbols will surely get you in trouble.
  • If you can, look in your spam folder. Cringe. Be offended. Have a chuckle. Don’t write stuff like that. (Learn more at MailChimp’s How Spam Filters Think.)

Sin #6: Betting the Farm on the Subject Line
High open rates are great, but high conversion rates (getting people to take action) are better. Once you get the reader to open the email, you need to quickly and convincingly deliver on the promise of your subject line. And never trick your supporters into opening an email. No one likes a bait and switch.

Great subject lines don’t always have to be clever or witty to work. Experiment. Accept failure as part of the learning process. And, most importantly, keep trying.

More Ways to Strengthen Your Email Impact

101 Secrets to Great Volunteer Recruitment—Part One

If you know the fundamentals of your work but it still feels like you’re missing out on a secret to effective volunteer engagement, we understand.

It can be lonely being the one responsible for volunteers. All around the organization the rest of your colleagues are dug in doing their work, setting program goals, delivering services, raising funds. Meanwhile you’re trying to figure out the best way to align a prospective volunteer’s need with your own program goals.

You may also be an “accidental expert” on volunteer engagement whose people skills have been recognized but not necessarily rewarded with resources.

Recently VolunteerMatch asked our network of 80,000 nonprofits about their secrets to effective volunteer recruitment.

Readers of Getting Attention won’t be surprised to see just how many secrets are about communications best practices! Here a few of my favorites:

Go Where the Volunteers Are

Most nonprofits can’t afford billboards or TV ads to advertise volunteer needs. Fortunately you don’t need to. To get the attention of great volunteers, your message merely needs to be in the right places at the right times.

For volunteer coordinator Marjorie Williams, her best prospecting doesn’t start at her organization’s website or Facebook page, but out in the community. “We put bulletin announcements in the local church bulletins,” she said.

Likewise, Tanya Munro Erway says her creative recruiting includes a blurb in her realtor’s newsletter which goes out to thousands of area resident and posting flyers at ethnic gourmet food stores for a specific language need.

Their secret: Target your audience where it already is.

Strike While the Iron’s Hot

I once had the most amazing volunteer reach out to me. A whip-smart former Accenture consultant, she saw one of my ads online and immediately reached out. She was perfect – so too bad I was on a team retreat! By the time I dug her email out of my in-box four days later, her interest had cooled – on my organization and on me.

That’s why Joan Malley, manager of Harbor House in Rochester, NY, has a 24-hour turn-around rule. “This doesn’t allow time for their enthusiasm to cool off,” she says.

Quick response can also turn incidental interest into something deeper. Stephanie Rokich, a volunteer recruiter at a National MS Society chapter in Salt Lake City, follows up with anyone who has expressed interest in her organization because you never know. “When we post about an upcoming event on Facebook and people ‘like’ it, I immediately send them a message asking if they are interested in volunteering,” she says.

Their secret: Use responsiveness to turn the spark of interest into a fire.

8 Interview Guidelines for Capturing the Best Stories

As nonprofits continue to realize the value of storytelling in their print and digital communications, strong interview skills are critical for capturing constituent stories. Interviewing really is an art, as I learned when I first started writing professionally more than a dozen years ago.

These eight guidelines can help you conduct better interviews and accurately capture the most compelling stories.

1. Prepare. Try to get a sense of the person you’re talking to, when possible—look at a photo, a website, historical information, whatever your organization or Google has available. (But don’t make assumptions based on those things.) Spend some time putting yourself in that person’s shoes and considering what their perspective might be. (Might be.)

2. Compile a list of questions. Have an idea of what you hope to cover—you don’t want to waste people’s time with a lack of focus. As you talk (i.e. listen), skip questions that seem less relevant and instead raise questions you hadn’t thought of previously. Skilled interviewers ask the “right” questions and also can tell instinctively when to delve further or move on.

3. Record. You’ll be surprised what you can miss if you’re trying to take notes by hand, either with a pen or keyboard. Make sure you ask permission first, though.

4. Pay closer attention than you think you need to. It’s surprisingly hard to listen, process what you’re hearing and think of the next question to ask quickly. I recently heard a recorded interview where the interviewer summarized what the interviewee said after each question—but got it wrong almost every time. She clearly wasn’t hearing the nuances of what her source was relating. This is also why you record; so you can pay less attention to your notes and more attention to the person talking.

5. Clarify rather than draw conclusions or assume. Remember that you’re trying to gather someone else’s story. In order to clarify what they’re saying, ask “Am I understanding correctly that…?” or “It sounds like…, is that true?” rather than “So, you were X and did Y.” And never judge.

6. Be quiet. Don’t think of interviews as conversations, during which most of us feel pressure to make small talk to fill silences. It’s fine to “Mmm-hmm” or say that you understand (if you do), or to ask for more detail or clarification or just…be silent. Don’t hijack the interview by talking too much.

7. Ask. Always ask if there’s anything else the person wants to share or feels is important for you to know. You might get some of your best information this way. I used to worry that, if given the chance, people would talk my ear off about unrelated things. Sure, it’s happened. When it does, I politely interrupt and say I need to wrap up. But it’s rare; most people are respectful of others’ time and busy themselves.

8. Stay in touch. Make sure you have contact information so you can gather more details and confirm accuracy as you incorporate interviewee stories into your content. Always thank people for sharing, and follow up with samples or links to the related material your org produces.

The RIGHT Way to Tell Your Story via Video

 

Annie Escobar is co-founder of ListenIn Pictures which produces compelling video stories for nonprofits.

I’m on a mission to end bad nonprofit video. You know, the boring, long, put-you-to-sleep video about what the nonprofit does and not why, how or results. Nonprofits have too much on the line—and too many inspiring stories—for this.

When I first started working with nonprofits to create videos, I realized that communicators see the power of video to connect their audience to their mission, inspire action and build a movement, but often don’t know where to begin.

Overwhelmed, they put everything in a single video. So my business partner Ethan and I went on a journey to give our nonprofit partners a framework for thinking about video.

Here are two approaches we use with great success to help our nonprofit partners identify where their audiences are and what kind of video will help move them to the desired action. Give them a try:

1. How do you want to change the audience?

2. Focus in on a genre

The kind of video that you want to create must be aligned with your goals. It is not effective to create a campaign video asking people to take action on your cause, if they don’t even know what the problem is.

Listed in the image below are the six most powerful non-profit video genres. The colored dots correspond with the image above, highlight the strongest matches between genre and the movement you want your audiences to make:

Use these maps next time you’re starting the video development process to help you narrow your vision and define your goals. Good luck!

What other pressing questions do you have about your video strategy?

Where to Begin with Nonprofit Marketing

I’m so proud of my friend and colleague Kivi Leroux Miller for crafting the excellent Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause (partner link). And Kivi’s been gracious enough to make Getting Attention the first stop on her virtual book tour.

I recommend you purchase the book today. Here’s why:  It’s a source every time-strapped communicator can count on time and time again – comprehensive, accessible and smart. When you buy the book before midnight tonight (June 1, 2010) and forward your receipt to book@nonprofitmarketingguide.com, you’ll be entered to win a free Getting Attention tagline review. You’ll also be entered into a drawing on Friday for several All-Access Passes to the Nonprofit Marketing Guide Webinar Series.

Here’s a small taste of Kivi’s practical nonprofit marketing advice…

“Where do I begin?”

That’s hands down the most frequently-asked question that nonprofit communicators ask consultants like Nancy and me.

Like any good consultant (or therapist), I always respond with a question of my own: What is it that you want people to do?

I can usually tell how long – and difficult – the conversation will be based on the answer I get. Responses like these signal a long conversation ahead:

  • “We want them to support . . .”
  • “We want them to care about . . . ”
  • “We want them to understand . . . ”

The problem with responses like these is that there isn’t any specific action involved. No one is doing anything. So I ask the same question again, but using the language from the response.

  • What does someone do when they are supporting you?
  • What does someone do to show they care?
  • What does someone do when they understand?

Now, we start to get to more specific responses, like

  • “Give us money.”
  • “Call their legislator.”
  • “Talk to their children about it.”

With these more specific actions as our goals, we’re equipped to shape a nonprofit marketing strategy. The conversation continues by discussing

  • Who needs to take these actions (helps us define the target audience)
  • What will motivate them to act (aids in creating a powerful message)
  • How and where to reach them (guides us in channel selection).

Writing an email newsletter or updating your Facebook page may end up as key elements of your strategy, but tactics aren’t the place to start . Instead, take some time – even just five minutes of quiet behind a closed door – to sort through these questions. That’s where to begin.