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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

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.

Proactive Budgets Get the Marketing $ Needed for Impact!

The hands-down, most hated and most frequently-avoided marketing task is budgeting. Believe me, I hear it constantly.

Now’s the time to get past this bias and digest the coming series on on budgeting how-tos. You’ll learn the value a budget brings to your work as it translates the actions outlined in your marketing plan into expense. You’ll discover is a completely different way of looking at your marketing work, that works as both a clear framework for your decision-making on wants vs. “nice-to-haves” and a powerful tool for getting the marketing dollars you need to meet agreed-upon goals.

Start building your budgeting skills and confidence right now:

Q: I have a to-do list a mile long. That’s my marketing plan and what I use to create my budget. Or do I need something else, too?

A: No, Virginia, that to-do list is not your marketing plan! It’s a marketing checklist that you hope will move your organization forward. I guarantee that even if you complete every single one of those tasks, you won’t be contributing as much as you could to meeting your org’s goals.

That’s because this kind of marketing is all action and no traction. You’re generating a stream of one-off marketing outputs that have little impact. In fact, these one-offs are likely to confuse and alienate the people you really need to motivate to give, volunteer, and register.

So scrap the laundry list and take a one-day marketing planning sabbatical (here’s a marketing plan template to work from). In just a single day, you’ll finish with a much clearer path in front of you to:

  • Direct and prioritize your focus, and ensure you make the most of your budget
  • Know what you are working towards and make the best decisions on how to get there (critical for leadership buy-in and ongoing support)
  • Craft an accurate, realistic budget built on logic and strategy, one that will greatly increase your success rate in getting the budget you need
  • Track progress (against concrete, measurable benchmarks)
  • Confidently draft a realistic daily work plan.

You’ll see clearly how much you have to spend to reach your goals and, via tracking results, will gain a sense of what strategies work best to achieve which goals. And when you’re making marketing decisions throughout the year, use the plan as your framework.

Your plan (can be a one-pager) will enable you to distinguish “needs” from “wants,” to craft a budget around what really matters—what’s going to drive your marketing impact–motivate your people to take the actions you need!  For example, based on your budget framework, you may decide to promote your advocacy campaigns via direct mail and email, social, text and paid advertising in order to match legislative time frames. At the same time, your budget might indicate that it makes sense to hold off on enhancing your already-strong membership program with the launch of a members-only community.

What’s keeping you from budgeting to fuel your marketing impact?

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!

Rebrand to Connect: Red Rover Tells All (Case Study-Part 1)

RRlogo

Within the first five minutes of meeting Leili Khalessi last year, I learned that she and her colleagues were in the process of rebranding their organization, including a new name. As Marketing and Communications Manager with (what is now) Red Rover, Leili was right in the middle of that challenging project. So I jumped on the opportunity to ask if she’d share the organization’s experience in this marketing adventure.

Most important takeaways:

  1. Pinpoint the problem you’re trying to solve with your marketing decisions, especially when it’s as big as a new name
  2. Ensure your organizational name/brand is recognized (and repeatable), before you invest in program branding. If you don’t, you’re likely to end up with people thinking your organization provides that one program only, which limits your growth in size and direction.

Here’s part one of this useful case study:

Q: Tell me about Red Rover. What’s your focus and how do you carry it out?

A: RedRover’s mission is to bring animals out of crisis and strengthen the bond between people and animals through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education.

We use three main strategies to get there—engaging volunteers and supporters, collaborating with others and maximizing the use of online technology.

Q: What was the problem you were trying to solve, and how did you come to rebranding/naming as the solution?

A: Well, our previous name (United Animal. Nations) got in the way of making and sustaining supporter and partnership relationships on so many fronts. So rebranding/renaming was the clear solution

We have evolved a great deal since our founding in 1987, having narrowed our focus over the years to focus in on a few key issues affecting companion animals in the United States and Canada, rather than addressing a wide range of animal issues internationally.

But our initial name (United Animal Nations) and globe-like logo conveyed that we were international in focus (which we weren’t). In addition, the name sounded politically charged although, legislative and policy work have never been a priority for us.

Additionally, we heard consistent feedback that the name United Animal Nations sounded militant, extremist and activist. That’s a huge deterrent to building relationships with supporters of all kinds.

Staff and volunteers were asked, “Are you like PETA?” After hearing descriptions of our programs, an emergency management official who visited our office a couple of years ago sighed with relief and said, “I thought you were a terrorist organization!”

Finally, since we work so closely with government agencies and schools, it’s particularly important that we remain (and are perceived as) politically neutral. United Animal Nations failed on this front.

As a result of these multiple problems, our name (United Animal Nations) continually bubbled up as a real problem (and weakness) during our annual strategic planning. It was constantly getting in our way, and just didn’t represent the kind of organization we were.

Q: It’s crystal-clear that your previous name and brand was a deterrent to engaging supporters and partners (one of the worst marketing problems an organization can have).

Were there any other factors that pushed the name change? I ask because renaming and branding are steps most nonprofit folks (esp. leadership) are deathly afraid of!

A: That’s a long story!

We knew that although the name United Animal Nations was familiar and comfortable to many people, it caused the problems we already mentioned. But there was even more:

As United Animal Nations, our splintered program brands created a confusing environment that got in the way of reaching our communications, outreach and fundraising.

Over the years some of our programs—Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS), the Humane Education Ambassador Readers (HEAR) and LifeLine—had developed identities of their own that were absolutely disconnected from each other and from the parent organization itself.

For example, some people didn’t realize that the Emergency Animal Rescue Service was a program of UAN—including some of our volunteers. You can see what a huge problem that was.

Q: What was the problem you were trying to solve, and how did you come to rebranding/naming as the solution?

A: Well, our previous name was a real barrier to making and sustaining supporter and partnership relationships on many fronts. So rebranding/renaming was the clear solution

We have evolved a great deal since our founding in 1987, having narrowed our focus over the years to focus in on a few key issues affecting companion animals in the United States and Canada, rather than addressing a wide range of animal issues internationally.

But our initial name (United Animal Nations) and globe-like logo conveyed that we were international in focus (which we weren’t). In addition, the name sounded politically charged although, legislative and policy work have never been a priority for us.

Additionally, we heard consistent feedback that the name United Animal Nations sounded militant, extremist and activist. That’s a huge deterrent to building relationships with supporters of all kinds.

Staff and volunteers were asked, “Are you like PETA?” After hearing descriptions of our programs, an emergency management official who visited our office a couple of years ago sighed with relief and said, “I thought you were a terrorist organization!”

Finally, since we work so closely with government agencies and schools, it’s particularly important that we remain (and are perceived as) politically neutral. United Animal Nations failed on this front.

As a result of these multiple problems, our name (United Animal Nations) continually bubbled up as a real problem (and weakness) during our annual strategic planning. It was constantly getting in our way, and just didn’t represent the kind of organization we were.

– See more at: /articles/4254/branding/nonprofit-branding-case-study.html#sthash.v1PNDo7H.dpuf

Q: What was the problem you were trying to solve, and how did you come to rebranding/naming as the solution?

A: Well, our previous name was a real barrier to making and sustaining supporter and partnership relationships on many fronts. So rebranding/renaming was the clear solution

We have evolved a great deal since our founding in 1987, having narrowed our focus over the years to focus in on a few key issues affecting companion animals in the United States and Canada, rather than addressing a wide range of animal issues internationally.

But our initial name (United Animal Nations) and globe-like logo conveyed that we were international in focus (which we weren’t). In addition, the name sounded politically charged although, legislative and policy work have never been a priority for us.

Additionally, we heard consistent feedback that the name United Animal Nations sounded militant, extremist and activist. That’s a huge deterrent to building relationships with supporters of all kinds.

Staff and volunteers were asked, “Are you like PETA?” After hearing descriptions of our programs, an emergency management official who visited our office a couple of years ago sighed with relief and said, “I thought you were a terrorist organization!”

Finally, since we work so closely with government agencies and schools, it’s particularly important that we remain (and are perceived as) politically neutral. United Animal Nations failed on this front.

As a result of these multiple problems, our name (United Animal Nations) continually bubbled up as a real problem (and weakness) during our annual strategic planning. It was constantly getting in our way, and just didn’t represent the kind of organization we were.

– See more at: /articles/4254/branding/nonprofit-branding-case-study.html#sthash.v1PNDo7H.dpuf

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. 

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.