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6 Common Challenges with Marketing and How To Solve Them

Finding new ways to reach and engage donors is a continual challenge for nonprofit marketing professionals. Effective marketing requires being creative, staying aware of ongoing trends, and navigating obstacles efficiently. Of course, there are still several common challenges that most nonprofits’ marketing strategies will encounter.

Facing challenges is a normal part of the marketing process, and what matters most is how your nonprofit responds to them. Do you first devote more time and resources to the problem? Attempt to minimize its impacts? Hold a meeting to reevaluate your nonprofit’s strategy?

Each of these approaches can be the correct solution depending on the specific challenge and the resources your team has to invest in resolving it at that time. Of course, the first step to overcoming many common challenges is to conduct research and determine if an equally common solution already exists. To help your nonprofit with that research, this article will explore six common marketing challenges:

  1. Lack of a Defined Audience
  2. Unclear Lead Sources
  3. Unready Website
  4. Data Silos
  5. Poor Follow-Up
  6. Attaining Board Buy-In

For most nonprofits, the most common marketing challenges will be related to their digital strategy. This article will explore specific strategies for overcoming these problems, though keep in mind that often the most effective approach to technology-related issues will be reassessing how your nonprofit uses software and potentially investing in a new solution.

1. Lack of Defined Audience

Who is your nonprofit marketing to? While your marketing team may be aiming to attract a wide variety of audiences, creating materials that are too broad can inadvertently limit the number of supporters who will take interest in your nonprofit.

To define your audience, first assess your current supporters. Identify their shared characteristics, such as demographics, engagement trends, and interests. Use this information to divide your audience into several unique groups with similar goals, problems, and motivations. By defining multiple audiences, you will be able to better tailor your messages to each group, increasing the likelihood they will engage with your content.

Additionally, try varying your marketing strategies depending on the group you are targeting. Remember, not every supporter needs to be invited to every event, participate in every fundraiser, or read every article your nonprofit creates. For example, you may hold a gala specifically for your older major donors, as well as a 5K targeting younger, more active supporters.

2. Unclear Lead Sources

A marketing campaign is effective if it earns your nonprofit new leads who later become donors or volunteers. If your nonprofit lacks an established framework for tracking leads, it can be difficult to determine if your marketing campaigns were successful.

Use lead-tracking methods and resources such as:

  • Tracking links
  • Analytics tools
  • Donor survey questions
  • Referrals

Track clickthrough rates and popular landing pages to discover which links are resulting in supporters visiting your website and which of your pages are the most successful at attracting supporters.

Other marketing materials may require taking a more indirect tracking approach. For example, perhaps your nonprofit creates a matching gift video promoting corporate giving opportunities and includes it on your website homepage. Some donors who immediately apply for a matching gift may have been influenced by your video, while others may have done so independently.

To determine the video’s effectiveness, nonprofits could compare the overall volume of matching gift applications before and after posting the video to check if there was a notable increase. Alternatively, the nonprofit could create a follow up survey specifically for completed matching gift applications with a question asking how they learned about the matching gift process.

3. Unready Website

Your website is one of your strongest marketing tools, providing donors with key information about your nonprofit and leading them towards converting. A website that looks unprofessional, is difficult to navigate, or is generally unengaging can negatively impact the extensive work put into your external marketing materials.

If your website has a high bounce rate, session times, or low conversions, you may need to update it. To leverage your website as a marketing tool, ensure that it is:

  • User-friendly. Your website’s navigation should be as intuitive as possible. Improving your website’s interface often requires an outside perspective to understand how new visitors are most likely to interpret your navigation. To create a more user-friendly interface, gather a group of volunteers and run tests such as card-sorting. Ask volunteers to reach a certain page and narrate their thought process aloud, providing insight into the decisions and assumptions a person may make while navigating your website.
  • Optimized for mobile. Optimizing your website for mobile ensures your audience will be able to use your website no matter what device they are using. Most CMSs will automatically create mobile-friendly versions of your webpages. However, it can be worthwhile to take the time to adjust the mobile version of your pages further to reduce load times, streamline navigation, and minimize scrolling.
  • SEO ready. You can increase organic traffic to your website by improving your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. SEO best practices can increase the chances that your content will appear on the search results page for keywords related to your nonprofit. You can improve your SEO by creating content, such as blog articles, that are optimized for keywords your supporters are likely to search. For example, an animal shelter might write an article for their blog that’s optimized for the keyword “local no-kill shelters.”

If your nonprofit is in need of a new website, DNL OmniMedia’s nonprofit website design guide recommends partnering with a consultant.

A nonprofit marketing and website design consulting service can create a new website designed to your nonprofit’s specifications that also makes use of marketing best practices. For example, consultants will have insight into where to strategically place calls to action, what images best inspire action, and how you can create campaign pages that will be shared across social media.

4. Data Silos

Your nonprofit collects data from a variety of sources and sends messages to numerous staff members to take action on that data. However, nonprofits are often slowed down or experience outright interruptions in their work due to data not moving as it should and instead getting siloed in specific databases or systems.

Data silos are a common occurrence and can be particularly challenging if they occur during a marketing campaign. As your outreach efforts require receiving and sending an extensive amount of messages, it is essential that internal feedback, donor messages, and engagement data all flows to your marketing team as quickly as possible.

You can prevent data silos by integrating your various software solutions. This ensures information in one database will be automatically updated in another system, rather than requiring a manual migration. Some platforms, such as Salesforce NPSP, can integrate with a wide variety of native and third-party applications, making it easier to synchronize your software and eliminate data silos.

5. Poor Follow-Up

Once your marketing campaign attracts a new donor, what steps does your nonprofit take afterwards? Nonprofits that only focus on the initial conversion and have limited follow-up are unlikely to significantly grow their donors’ value or make long-term connections necessary for cultivating major gifts.

For each of your marketing strategies, ensure you have a follow-up procedure in place. This can be as straightforward as sending automatic thank you messages to donors who give under a specific amount and flagging donors who give over that threshold for additional follow up, such as a thank you card or phone call.

This applies to fundraisers and events, as well. After participating in an advocacy campaign, peer-to-peer fundraiser, virtual gala, silent auction, or any other activity your nonprofit hosted, reach out to donors to thank them for their participation and provide next steps to continuing their involvement with your nonprofit.

You can improve your follow-up by using an email authoring tool. These tools allow you to construct follow up emails and welcome series for each event or campaign you host. You can also create separate emails for those who didn’t participate, invoking a sense of FOMO that will provide another call to action to attend your next opportunity.

6. Attaining Board Buy-In

When planning a new marketing campaign, ensure that one of your strongest assets, your board, is being leveraged to improve your campaigns rather than acting as an obstacle. When launching a new marketing campaign, include your board in your stakeholders to consider to help attain their buy-in early on.

While planning your marketing campaign, consider strategies for getting your board involved and how you can pitch these strategies to your board members. Some board members will naturally be more ready to help with your fundraising campaigns than others, but there are several steps you can take to make your board more fundraising-friendly overall. These include:

  • Setting expectations. Does your board already think of fundraising as one of their responsibilities? If not, consider how you can reset expectations to get them more involved in your marketing strategy. In your board members’ job descriptions, ensure you include specific details about how you expect them to contribute to fundraising. Then, when presenting a new campaign, write out a description for how you would like board members to get involved and have specific roles in mind that you can delegate to each member.
  • Addressing common concerns. Board members often hesitate to take part in fundraisers due to common concerns and misconceptions about marketing. For example, a board member may express that they wouldn’t know what to say when conducting outreach. You could address this concern by providing board members with fundraising scripts, conducting orientation sessions, and walking them through the details of your marketing plan.
  • Providing resources. Marketing and fundraising are ultimately skills, and you can help your board attain them by providing necessary resources. These can include basic tools all of your board members will likely appreciate, such as message templates and scripts, and more intensive solutions for specific members, such as training courses. NXUnite’s guide to fundraising training suggests looking for workshops tailored specifically to board members, which can help them manage their board responsibilities and fundraising work, as well.

Making your board a part of your outreach strategy can lend your marketing campaigns additional credibility and access to new networks. Work with board members to tailor your marketing approach to specific donors they have a connection with, improving your ability to steward major giving prospects.


Marketing is often resource-intensive, requiring a significant amount of your budget and time to acquire new donors. To ensure your marketing efforts lead to a high return on your investment, have strategies in place to overcome common challenges, from defining your audience and ensuring you have internal buy-in to preparing your software for your next campaign.


Carl Diesing Author Photo

Author: Carl Diesing, Managing Director

Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with on-going web development projects. Together DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. As Managing Director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.

In this guide, we'll cover how to start an effective nonprofit blog.

How to Start An Effective Nonprofit Blog

So, you’ve decided to join the exciting world of nonprofit blogging. Your website’s blog lets you tell your nonprofit’s story in your own words, update audience members about your events and activities, and even engage with a new audience of potential supporters.

But just like any marketing endeavor, you must approach nonprofit blogging strategically. Your posts should be intentional, engaging, and informative. This helps your organization build a professional reputation and ensure your content meets your online engagement goals.

With that in mind, we’ll explore these five steps to starting an effective nonprofit blog:

  1. Set goals for your blog.
  2. Find your storytelling style and voice.
  3. Create a content strategy.
  4. Craft your graphic design strategy.
  5. Promote your blog.

Of course, the very first step of starting a nonprofit blog is ensuring that your CMS supports blogging capabilities. Popular platforms like Drupal and WordPress have built-in blogging features that make it easy to get your new blog up and running. Once you’ve determined a blog is an actual possibility for your organization, you can launch into the following steps.

1. Set goals for your blog.

After deciding to launch a blog for your nonprofit’s website, you might have some lofty ambitions in mind, such as entering the ranks of the best nonprofit blogs and inspiring thousands of new supporters to join your cause. Certainly, it’s good to dream big and aim high.

But when you’re first starting, set specific, achievable goals that you can feasibly reach given your organization’s time and resources. For example, you might identify goals such as:

  • Traffic goals. For instance, you might aim for 700 blog views within your first three months or 1,500 unique visitors in your first year.
  • SEO goals. Create keyword-optimized blog posts to improve organic search-related traffic. Perhaps you’ll aim to have at least three blog posts rank on page one of Google search results for specific keywords.
  • Conversion goals. Adding links to your donation page in blog posts can help boost your online fundraising. Perhaps you want to increase your fundraising revenue resulting from blog posts by 20% within six months.

Your blog can be an effective tool to increase awareness of your mission and encourage more donations and volunteers. By setting specific goals, you can more easily measure progress toward these ambitions.

2. Find your storytelling style and voice.

A blog allows you to be creative and speak directly to your audience. Work on cultivating a unique voice—this is the tone you use to address your audience and the feeling you wish to convey to readers. Having a distinctive, engaging voice can set your blog apart and make your posts more memorable.

As you develop your blog voice, think about your target audience—what tone of voice will they respond to best? For example, younger audiences may prefer a more casual style, while older audiences often appreciate more formal and authoritative writing.

Also, consider your nonprofit’s overall brand—what image or personality are you trying to convey? Would you like to come off as a helpful teacher introducing new concepts to your audience or a friend speaking casually about the activities and programs you have going on?

Here are a few words you might use to define your blog’s tone:

  • Authoritative and reassuring
  • Friendly and casual
  • Playful and upbeat
  • Witty and humorous
  • Emotional and inspiring

For example, according to Kanopi’s guide to healthcare web design, medical-focused websites often take on an authoritative, professional tone to reassure potentially anxious visitors seeking medical help. On the other hand, an organization that seeks to increase voter registrations among young voters might use an upbeat, witty, and playful tone to appeal to young adults.

Create a style guide for your blog that describes your unique tone and storytelling style. Include examples of words and phrases to use and ones to avoid to match the brand personality you’re looking to cultivate.

3. Create a content strategy.

Your content plan will be the bread and butter of your nonprofit blogging strategy. Having a clear blogging plan ensures that your blog roll will stay updated with new, thoughtful, and well-researched content. This shows supporters that your organization is active and continually working on new and exciting projects, initiatives, and events.

Follow these steps to build your blog’s content strategy:

  • Recruit a blogging team. Who will write the posts? Who will take photos and videos at events? Who will draft the posts and publish them online? Decide whether these tasks will be taken on by one or multiple people. Meet with your blog team regularly to assign responsibilities and ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Define your SEO objectives. Use a tool such as Google Keyword Planner or Moz to identify high-traffic keywords relevant to your nonprofit’s mission. Create clear guidelines for ensuring all posts are SEO optimized, such as using headings to structure posts, including keyword mentions throughout the text, and writing alt text for all images.
  • Create a posting calendar. Create a rough posting calendar that aligns with your blog goals. For instance, to reach your SEO objectives, make sure you’re consistently writing keyword-optimized posts. If you already have certain events on your nonprofit’s calendar, plan to publish wrap-up blog posts the week after the event.
  • Establish a verification process. The facts, statistics, and data in your blog posts should be true and accurate. Including misleading or incorrect information can damage your credibility among supporters. To avoid errors slipping through the cracks, create a process for double-checking facts before pushing your posts live. Make sure at least two people read through your posts before publishing.

Your content strategy doesn’t have to be set in stone—it can be a rough outline that you adjust when necessary. Current events will undoubtedly impact your organization throughout the year, so you can write posts as needed to address recent developments and news stories as they come up. But outlining a plan ahead of time ensures that your blog won’t become stagnant or outdated at any point.

4. Craft your graphic design strategy.

Images can stir emotions, inspire empathy, and ultimately lead to visitors feeling a deeper connection to your cause. Double the Donation’s guide to nonprofit web design says it best: “humans are a visual species, so information that’s conveyed in a visual way is more immediate and visceral.”

Establish your graphic design strategy up front to ensure your blogging team is on the same page when designing graphics and choosing images. Ask yourself the following questions while developing your approach:

  • Will you use infographics? How will you design and format these images?
  • What fonts and brand colors will you use in infographics?
  • Where will you source blog images? Will you use any stock photos or only original photography?
  • What types of images will you use as feature images? For example, do you want all feature images to show people? Do you have any guidelines for choosing stock images for feature photos?

As you build your graphic design strategy, take some time to standardize your blog post layout. Include specific guidelines in your brand style guide for the font styles and sizes, colors, button types, post margins, and other stylistic elements of your blog posts. This ensures consistency, even if multiple team members are uploading posts.

5. Promote your blog.

Once you start creating well-researched, informative blog content, you’ll need a way to drive traffic and increase engagement with your posts. Marketing your blog posts can increase awareness of your blog, boost your website traffic, and introduce more people to your mission.

Promote your blog across platforms such as:

  • Social media. Post links to your new blog posts on any social media sites you use—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Pull out interesting quotes or statistics from the posts to include in your captions.
  • Email. Include recent blog posts in your weekly or monthly email newsletters. You might even create exclusive blog content or sneak peeks just for email subscribers.
  • Paid advertising. Promote blog posts using Google Ads to help capture both paid search engine traffic, supplementing your SEO efforts. Consider applying for the Google Ad Grant program to earn $10,000 per month in Google AdWords funds. This can allow you to pursue a paid advertising campaign without spending more of your marketing budget.

You can grow your blog audience quickly by promoting your content regularly across each of these platforms. The more eyes you can get on your blog posts, the wider your audience of potential new donors, volunteers, and other supporters will be.


Adding a blog to your nonprofit’s website can be a great way to revamp your online presence and grow awareness of your mission. By following these steps, you can ensure that your blog is a valuable, trustworthy resource for learning more about your cause and how to get involved.


Allison Manley is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Kanopi.

Author: Allison Manley, Director of Marketing & Communications for Kanopi 

Allison is a recovering (and award-winning) designer who applies her creative and organizational skills to marketing strategy for Kanopi. Her diverse, multi-disciplinary background — which in addition to design includes glassblowing, publishing, podcasting, and figure skating — contributes to strong relationships to which she offers a broad perspective.

Her job is to tell the story of Kanopi by sharing information, writing, working with staff and partners, and keeping the brand cohesive across all channels. When not keeping the Kanopi brand on point, Allison is working on double jumps on an ice rink, chasing small children, or organizing something somewhere.

Two people with a tablet that asks for a donation

3 Strategies for Smarter Virtual Fundraising in 2022

Virtual fundraising is an easy way to grow your nonprofit’s reach and revenue. Unlike a traditional, in-person fundraiser, a virtual fundraiser allows you to reach people all over the world. This way, you can pull in support from people outside of your local community and keep donors engaged, even from miles away. Plus, your local supporters will appreciate the convenience of being able to participate in your fundraiser from the comfort of their homes.

For these reasons, virtual fundraising was a staple in the nonprofit community throughout 2020 and 2021. Despite having to be physically apart, people were still able to engage with their community through technology and make an impactful difference. This was seen through countless virtual fundraisers and giving days, including Giving Tuesday 2020, which raised $2.47 billion. It’s no wonder that virtual fundraising has continued to be a great option for nonprofits in 2022, but there’s always room for improvement.

Virtual fundraising can be very effective with the right strategies and tools on hand. Use these three tips for smarter virtual fundraising in 2022:

By incorporating these strategies, your nonprofit can take its virtual fundraising to the next level. Let’s begin.

Market your fundraiser widely.

Your virtual fundraiser needs sufficient marketing in order to maximize support. After all, how can people get involved if they don’t know that it’s happening? Use the following communication channels to promote your online fundraiser widely so new and existing supporters can join in on the fun:

  • Email. Leverage your nonprofit’s constituent relationship management (CRM) platform to segment donor email lists. Donor segmentation is an easy way to organize donors in your database by gift frequency, recency of support, and gift amount. Tailor your messaging to these different audiences and send specific emails that will resonate with donors and motivate them to give. This is much more effective than generic donation request emails, which feel less personal and are less likely to boost donor retention.
  • Social media. Capitalize on social media’s virality and spread the word far and wide about your virtual fundraiser. Consider your audience’s demographic and which platform they are most likely to engage with. For example, an older demographic would be more likely to learn about your fundraiser on Facebook rather than TikTok. Once you’ve decided on a platform, develop eye-catching content, like videos explaining your fundraiser or a graphic design that explains the significance of your fundraiser, to increase excitement.
  • Your nonprofit’s website. Your website forms the foundation of your organization’s digital presence, so this is the perfect place to advertise your upcoming virtual fundraiser. Create an event landing page that explains all the details of your virtual event, including logistical details like the time and streaming platform if applicable, how the funds will be used, and how supporters can get involved.
  • SMS messaging. Your supporters are already spending more and more time on their phones, so why not send text messages to get the word out about your fundraiser? Sign up with a text-to-give provider to access a unique phone number and keyword that your supporters can text to opt-in to text messages from your nonprofit. You can send updates about your fundraiser and your mobile-optimized donation page link.

Regardless of which platform you choose, make sure to keep your communications engaging and make a strong case for support. You need to encourage supporters to not only read your messages, but take the next action by signing up for your virtual event or giving to your campaign. Add visual elements to drive impact and appeal to people’s emotions.

Incorporate peer-to-peer elements.

This creative fundraising style is a tried-and-true option to amp up your virtual fundraising efforts. According to Donately, peer-to-peer fundraising empowers your supporters to take the reins on fundraising by creating their own unique campaign pages. Then, supporters will send the link to people in their personal networks, helping your nonprofit easily expand its reach.

There are several peer-to-peer fundraisers you can host online that will not only engage donors, but also get them excited to give. Host any one of these virtual fundraisers with a peer-to-peer element to maximize support for your organization:

  • Walk-a-thon. Get your supporters up and moving for a great cause! With a peer-to-peer style walk-a-thon, your supporters will create their own fundraising pages in advance of the big event and can compete to raise the most amount of money. Supporters can even obtain pledges from their friends and friends for every lap they walk or how long they walk. Plus, these walks can take place anywhere—individual participants can simply go on a walk around their neighborhood and still feel connected to your nonprofit’s community.
  • Social media challenge. Come up with a catchy hashtag relevant to your organization and its fundraiser and a challenge that people can easily complete from the comfort of home. For example, if you’re an animal welfare organization, you can suggest that people post their best photo of their rescue pet along with why they’re supporting your nonprofit in the caption. Supporters can include their fundraising page link on their profile so their followers can quickly give.
  • Giving days. Inform your supporters at least a month in advance that your nonprofit will be participating in a giving day, such as Giving Tuesday. Then, give them clear instructions on how to make a campaign page so they can spring into action and market their fundraising page widely on the giving day.

To get the ball rolling on your peer-to-peer fundraiser, you can reach out to your most active or connected supporters ahead of time to create fundraising pages. This will help your nonprofit reach as many people as possible, boosting your donor acquisition rate.

Develop a monthly giving program.

A monthly giving program can help establish a reliable revenue stream for your nonprofit. According to 360MatchPro, monthly giving made up 17% of all online revenue last year, meaning that more and more people are interested in recurring giving and eager to donate. With this boost in revenue, your organization can worry less about budgeting and focus more on advancing your nonprofit’s mission.

Monthly giving isn’t only beneficial to your nonprofit; it also caters to donors’ convenience and flexibility. When donors sign up for monthly giving, they’ll no longer have to fill out your donation page each time they want to give. Instead, they’ll fill it out a single time with their monthly giving amount and billing information, and their gift will automatically be transferred to your nonprofit each month.

Make sure to give donors the option to adjust (and potentially increase!) their monthly giving amount or change their billing information if their card changes or expires. Donors will feel more comfortable giving to your organization when they know they can make changes as needed.


Even as we move past physical distancing, it’s clear that virtual fundraising is here to stay for its many benefits. Take your next fundraiser online to increase revenue and pull in support from all over the world. Following these strategies can help engage your existing donors, boost your donor acquisition, and create a predictable revenue stream that your nonprofit can access at any time. Good luck!

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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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.

How Great Website Design Drives Connection & Action

High-Impact Nonprofit Website DesignThanks to guest blogger Alex McLain, who designs engaging websites for nonprofits as a member of the Wired Impact team.

Creating a new website for your nonprofit is a mind-boggling task. You’ve got a million questions reeling through your head throughout the process, but one of the most important to consider is: “How important is the role of design in our website?” Without a doubt, your answer should be, “Very important.”

In order to wow website visitors and keep them returning to get more info, make more donations, or sign up for events, your site needs to stand out in a sea of websites that “get the job done.” Here are 10 ways great visual design drives website impact:

1. Makes a Good First Impression
I know what you’re thinking, “How can a website make a first impression? It’s not human. It’s not going to walk into a room and shake hands and kiss babies.”

But your website is one of the main faces of your organization (and frequently the first one new folks see). When potential supporters come to your site, you want them to immediately feel a sense of awe and be comfortable navigating and browsing through your site.

2. Inspires Confidence in Your Organization’s Impact
People want to support a nonprofit they trust will make a difference in the world. The work you do is important, and deserves to be showcased in a bold and beautiful manner. A striking, professionally designed website can help establish confidence and authority surrounding your cause.

3. Demonstrates that You Are Active and Relevant
Having an up-to-date and visually appealing website helps people to see that your nonprofit is actively working in your respective community. If your site looks like it’s from 1992—with a jarring background color and poor graphics—your organization may be perceived as inactive or out-of-date, and maybe even incapable of efficiently solving the problem you focus on. Having a dated site makes it far less likely that your visitors will be inspired to get involved.

4. Evokes Emotion
Being in the nonprofit sector, a huge part of what you do likely revolves around emotion. Maybe you’re fighting to keep the ozone layer intact, providing food for malnourished children, or rescuing homeless animals. These topics alone start to evoke emotion from supporters. In positioning your marketing efforts as cheerfully hopeful, boldly passionate, or even using sadness (with care) to grab people’s attention and compel them to help, you’re further delving into people’s emotions to motivate action. In fact, a study by a Wharton marketing professor on how to increase charitable giving found that “feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations.”

A stellar design will bring your organization’s story to the forefront of your website, both visually and textually. It will motivate people to act based on how they feel toward your cause, and your nonprofit’s ability to be a part of the solution.

5. Prompts Actions: Donations and More
A well-designed website highlights specific, doable calls to action in strategic places throughout your site.

Make action opportunities clear and easy to find. Showcase what you want your visitors to accomplish on your website. Do you need volunteers? Add a “Sign Up to Volunteer” banner to your homepage. Do you need donations? Include a “Donate Now” button in a prominent spot in your navigation.

6. Enhances User Experience
User Experience basically means how your visitors feel when interacting with your site, and it is insanely important to take into account when designing a website.

According to the Online Marketing Institute, 85% of people abandon sites that are not well designed and easy to use, and 83% of people flee sites that require too many clicks to find what they’re seeking. For this reason, ensuring that your design is visually engaging and well-organized can be invaluable for your nonprofit. You want people to stay on your site for as long as possible, learning more about your organization, and ultimately donating or getting involved in other ways.

7. Makes Your Site Easy to Use On-the-Go
Mobile is a must at this point, but there’s more to great mobile site design than just pretty pictures, a nice color palette, and enough breathing room in between lines of text.

Responsive design refers to a site that automatically adjusts its layout to fit the screen size of the device it’s being viewed on, and is something you should definitely consider. Optimizing your website for mobile devices can be priceless in a world where over 74% of internet users are accessing the web on their mobile phones, according to eMarketer. And in a study released by Google, 25% of online donors in 2013 made a donation on a mobile device. That’s a ton of donating potential you don’t want to lose.

8. Connects You with a Younger Audience
It’s no secret that Millennials are always online. Whether they’re surfing the web, tweeting, pinning, Facebooking, whatever the case may be; Millennials care about socializing and sharing what they feel passionately about.

According to the 2013 Millennial Impact Report, keeping a website updated, and using photography are very important for keeping Millennials interested. In fact, 75% of respondents indicated that their biggest turnoff is an out-of-date website. By having a well-designed site, you can attract this generation now, and steadily build relationships and support for your cause throughout their lifetime.

9. Reinforces Your Brand
Consistency is the key to seamless branding across all communications platforms. Integrating in typography, imagery and colors across online, print and social content smooths supporters’ transition among media.

When people are able to quickly identify your organization by its familiar “look and feel” (known from materials they have already seen), that’s a valuable short cut to trust for you. You’re instilling trust that your nonprofit is organized, and has a clear vision plus the ability to tackle that vision head-on.

10. Converts Casual Visitors into Supporters
Your website is the portal into your world. Your site enables potential supporters to see what you’re accomplishing and how you’re doing it. By having an up-to-date, visually stunning website, your organization can draw people into the work of your organization and create emotional connections without requiring you to meet face-to-face.

By compelling site visitors to stay connected and share your cause with friends, you can raise more money, grow your volunteer base, meet new supporters, organize larger fundraisers, and ultimately extend closer and closer to realizing your mission and vision.

Has your nonprofit launched a newly-designed website recently? If so, how has it affected your presence on the web?

Use Audience Personas to Connect & Convert (Case Study)

Nonprofit Audience Personas

Thanks to See3 for sharing this useful case study, originally published on the See3 blog.

Learn more: Create personas to bridge the gap with your target audiences

Many nonprofits fall into the trap of believing that their audience is the general public, when the truth is that your supporters are much more nuanced than that.  By putting together a comprehensive profile of your audience, your nonprofit is better able to create personalized content that speaks to your audience and drives them to action.

An excellent way to narrow in on your organization’s audience is to develop audience personas. Audience personas are imaginary people that you create who represent your audience, based on real aggregate audience data. Each persona has demographic information that helps make them real for the viewer, including things like age, race, gender and even a name.

Additionally, since these personas are created based on information about your real constituents, you already know things about them—like what they read, where they work, what they like to learn about from your organization and what kinds of communications work best for them.

Recently, See3 partnered with Make-A-Wish Foundation of America to help the organization better understand its audiences and develop an organization-wide content strategy.

With this project came the task of establishing personas that the organization could use in telling stories that attract and retain a strong base of volunteers, donors and wish referrers. Once we brought the personas to life, they were featured in print materials—including a deck of cards, posters, and a flip book—designed to keep Make-A-Wish’s audience top of mind for its communications team. 

We spoke to Jono Smith, the Director of Brand Marketing and Digital Strategy for Make-A-Wish America, to understand why the organization decided to invest in content strategy. Though our conversation, we identified three essential considerations for every nonprofit developing its content strategy: 

Nonprofit Audience Personas

1. Push your organization to start telling new stories.

When you think of Make-A-Wish, what’s the image that comes to mind? Most likely, it’s the idea of a sick kid experiencing hope and joy in the form of a wish experience, most likely through an incredible experience like a trip to Disney World or Hawaii. 

This story framework is powerful, and it’s one Make-A-Wish has been using for the past 35 years successfully. However, Make-A-Wish experiences impact more than just wish kids; they have significant effects on the families, doctors, social workers and volunteers who are involved. But those impact stories weren’t getting back to Make-A-Wish’s supporters, and they weren’t helping the organization convert new supporters who weren’t as affected by the organization’s traditional messaging.

“We discovered a significant lack of personalization and segmentation in our brand messaging and storytelling, and personas were our response to that,” Smith said.

To help Make-A-Wish diversify its storytelling, See3 created nine audience personas to represent current and potential volunteers, donors and wish referrers. All of these supporters play a critical role in Make-A-Wish’s mission to grant wishes to children living with life-altering illnesses, and they all experience the impact of Make-A-Wish differently. By considering these personas before developing stories, Make-A-Wish is more likely to tell stories that speak to these audience’s needs, challenges and goals. 

MakeaWish-Manuel

2. Put your audience first.

“Most modern marketing organizations in the for-profit and non-profit sector today utilize some form of audience personas,” Smith remarked. “It’s a proven technique and, if you’re going to compete for donors, a strong competitive advantage.”

With so many for-profits and nonprofits investing in audience personas, Make-A-Wish knew it was time for them to do the same. Taking an audience-centric approach is nothing new to the for-profit world, but it can be hard for nonprofits to make this switch.

As do-gooders, we often think that talking about our organization’s accomplishments and the important work that we’re doing should be enough to engage our supporters. But stories that focus on the nonprofit often fail to drive constituents to action. It’s important to think about how the content you are creating provides value for the people who support your organization. Make them the hero of your story and show them how their contributions are essential to the work you’re doing. 

Nonprofit Audience Personas

3. Get your team on board.

To make sure these personas are effectively implemented across all 60 Make-A-Wish chapters and other affiliates, the organization provided training on the value of personas and how to use them in their daily work. 

“The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Smith. “This is a long time in coming, and people are excited to start implementing them and learning more about how to utilize them in their communications.”

This persona portfolio is just the kickoff of Make-A-Wish’s audience persona journey. Chapters will play a significant role in the next step by participating in a content strategy training program organized by See3. We know that their insights will provide rich insights in understanding target audiences and help to make personas even more relevant on a chapter level. We’re looking forward to partnering with many Make-A-Wish chapters to help them take their content strategies to the next level.

Learn more: Create personas to bridge the gap with your target audiences

Thanks to See3 for sharing this case study. Concrete models like this one are priceless in showing what’s possible and how to get started. 

7 Steps to Passionate Volunteer Messengers

You face an uphill battle to recruit volunteers and retain them at ever higher and more effective levels of engagement. For those of you with small or all-volunteer organizations, there’s absolutely nothing more important. And, as time and budgets get tighter, and reliance on volunteers increases, it’s harder than ever.

There’s a proven yet seldom-used method to boost success in both dimensions AND extend your organization’s reach and impact without adding budget or hires: Building your team of passionate volunteer messengers.

The value of launching your volunteer messengers is huge; a real win-win doable with limited time and expense. Take these seven steps to launch your team of passionate volunteer messengers. I’ll follow up with posts on each step, starting with the most productive pilot program I know:

1) Assess potential barriers to success

What’s likely to be in your volunteers’ way? ASK if you don’t know

  • Lack of confidence or skill
  • Don’t see it as part of their role
  • No or limited access to target audiences
  • Not interested.

2) Get success factors in place

  • Staff trust and respect for volunteers
  • Internal support for program
  • Active, visible volunteer modelers

3) Recruit your first team of messengers (Pilot)

  • ASK for help; don’t assume!
  • ID best opportunities: Specific campaign works best, with a clear goal and deadline. Ideal to select a campaign that is related to your messengers’ volunteer work.
  • Select a small team most likely to act or have the greatest influence: Evaluate volunteers’ roles, networks, talents, communications skills, personality, and passion level.
  • Get to know your messengers: What motivates them? What do their days look like?

4) Develop the right systems & tools

  • Design policies and guidelines: Best practices, do’s, don’ts for conversations and social media.
  • Develop tools and templates to increase your volunteer messengers’ ease, participation, and confidence.

5) Provide training & ongoing support

  • Provide practice-based training: Reinforce value and rewards; introduce scenarios; review messages, policies, templates, and tools; getting help. Practice and more practice.
  • Support messengers: How can you boost success via ongoing supports—coaches, FAQs, private Facebook group, training the trainers? How will messengers get immediate help?

6) Launch, thank, & reward

  • Thank your volunteer messengers with verbal appreciation and recognition.

7) Assess, analyze & revise or expand

  • Assess pilot program impact via anecdotes and messenger feedback
  • Analyze impact vs. what it takes to deliver the program and ROI of other approaches
  • Revise program as indicated and/or
  • Build out your program by adding volunteers to your messenger team or launching a team for another goal.

Keep posted for my recommendation on what to launch with and case studies that show you how it’s done!

Five Reasons Why Facebook Marketing Seems So Impossible

john-haydon-headshotwebGuest blogger John Haydon  advises nonprofits on new media marketing strategy. John is the author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, a contributor to the Huffington Post and an instructor for MarketingProfs University.

It seems that most brands and nonprofits are still trying to get their head around what works on Facebook. What content works best, what time to publish updates and how to use sponsored stories are just a few of the topics discussed among nonprofit marketers.

But these issues are just symptoms of bigger challenges that we all need to better understand.

Here are five reasons why Facebook marketing is presenting new and/or unusual challenges to you and your colleagues:

1. You’re still thinking push

You’d think that social media would have changed the mass-productive push mentality that’s been so pervasive since the Industrial Revolution. But it hasn’t.

Facebook, and most social media for that matter, are still viewed as a free email list to be “targeted” and marketing to. To amp things up on Facebook, you have to flip this mindset 180 degrees and instead think about creating a space for your supporters to share what matters to them.

Start asking:

  • What’s their agenda?
  • What are they already putting out there that’s in synch with your cause?
  • How can you capture that on your Facebook Page?

2. You need to understand people

Google tells you what people are searching for in in the form of words typed into a little search box. It’s literally spelled out for you. Not so with Facebook.

What makes Facebook users share, comment and like is still very much a mystery. Look for patterns in Facebook Insights and make inferences based on those patterns for insights into the emotional drivers of your people!

3. You’re competing with their friends

Think about the last time you opened up Facebook on your laptop or mobile device. Was it to find out what your favorite brands were sharing? Exactly.

It’s the same thing with your supporters. Every time you publish an update in their Newsfeed, you’re competing with birth announcements, political rants, vacation pictures and recommended bands! You’ll never trump someone’s friends, but the more you can come across with a friend-like voice, the better you’ll do.

4. You’re competing for attention

Facebook users are constantly distracted. They might have the best intentions to view an update they were notified about by email, but as soon as they open up Facebook, they see more notifications in the menu and in their friends lists.

They see a dog dressed up as little red riding hood. They also see ads that are also competing for their attention. Capturing and recapturing people’s attention will always be a challenge on Facebook.

5. You’re dealing with mobile devices

Every other challenge mentioned here happens in a much smaller dimensions on mobile devices. Did you know that each image you post on your Facebook Page takes up the entire screen on an iPhone? There are fewer elements to distract users there’s less space to play with.

Curiosity and Creativity are the key

Most of the challenges here are not insurmountable, but sometimes they feel that way. The best way forward is to have a solid understanding of how to best use Facebook for your organization. Write this plan down, and stay curious!

Practice Makes Progress—Into Focus Nonprofit Video Guide

PracticeSee3 and friends have just released Into Focus, the first-ever benchmark guide to video in the nonprofit sector. It’s a good read based on solid research, with these key takeaways:

  1. Video is important and getting more so
  2. Nonprofit orgs want to make more video, but don’t have the skills, metrics or budget to do so.

The same can be said of social media, marketing planning and other marketing approaches that generate organizational resistance. BUT the data and models in Into Focus have crucial implications for the right-now actions you should take to:

  • Understand and articulate that content strategy (including video) is a must-do method of moving your cause forward
  • Educate and train colleagues to get it, invest in it and participate in it
  • Bring your content to life across channels and formats.

I recently asked See3 founder Michael Hoffman to share his recommendations for nonprofits that want to flee the common can’t-move-forward-due-to-no-resources-or-confidence trap. Here’s the 8-step escape route he suggests:

1) The goal (and challenge) is not just to learn how to use video effectively, but to integrate a new approach into your organization’s culture and operations.

2) The role of video in the content spectrum has changed. Shift your mindset from videos as one-offs or supporting specific projects or campaigns, to a continuous video story (composed of multiple videos.)

3) The time to do more and  better with video is now. The adoption cycle has speeded up big time. Plus video is a superstar format for mobile delivery.

4) Right now, most nonprofits simply sprinkle video into the communications mix. To be video-strong, take a more deliberate approach to building skills, metrics, comfort level and more.

5) The most reliable approach is to make video a regular practice, finding a way to integrate short, simple video into the work you’re already doing.

6) Start with a low-commitment project, focused on building skills, generating productive feedback and building organizational comfort with and understanding of the medium.

Quick-start examples include creating a video issue of your organization’s e-newsletter, thank-you videos for specific donors (post on YouTube then email the link to the donor) or interviewing a beneficiary, colleague or a volunteer on how they got to your org and why they care about your cause.

7) Post your videos on social media channels, framing them as experiments to build momentum and action around your cause in a new way. Share where you are with video, and where you hope to get to.

8) Your initial video projects will help you develop a video production habit, build confidence and create feedback and learning that will guide what’s next (and be strong fodder for your recommendations to your boss and colleagues).

Practice makes progress. Start your practice now, by reading Into Focus.

How have you helped shift your organization’s culture to embrace a new approach?