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Get More from Your Donor Database

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empathy Map Your Way to Relevant Messages

Our newest guest blogger, Rob Wu is CEO of CauseVox, a nonprofit crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising platform for nonprofits.

You know it, and I know it. Connecting with your audience is harder than ever. And that means more of your org’s messages than ever before are ignored or deleted.

So how do we cut through the noise? And how do we motivate donors to donate and supporters to take action? We have to make our messages relevant.

That’s right-things, right-now marketing and I’m thrilled to introduce you to our Empathy Map tool to help you get there!

Note from Nancy: This Empathy Mapping technique is the perfect complement to developing personas—learn how to do that here. Then put your results together and you’ll have a 360-dgree profile of the folks you want to engage. That’s right-things, right-now marketing, and that makes you a  5-star messenger!

empathymapThe  Empathy Map is a proven framework for strong connections with the folks you need to act—to give, to volunteer, to take whatever action you need to move your mission forward.

The Map highlights key elements of your supporters’ environment, behavior, concerns and aspirations, enabling you to hone your messages, tone and channels to what’s most important to them (and so most likely to be digested, and acted on). That’s relevance, and relevance rules.

Here’s how to Empathy Map to get to know the people you want to engage—it’s the only way to get relevant:

1: Identify Primary Folks You Want to Reach & Engage

Consider all groupings of prospects, supporters, staff, partners, etc. but select no more than three broad groups as your targets. More than that and you’ll be unable to make messages to any of them relevant.

2: Group Them by Common Characteristics

Consider all groupings of prospects, supporters, staff, partners, etc. your organization have. e possible segments of supporters that you have. . These characteristics can include age, geographic location, profession, social identity, etc. Prioritize the top three within each of your broader audiences groups. So three target audiences, and a max of three segments for each—that’s all any of us can engage.

3: Humanize Your People

Bring each of the (up to nine) segments to life by creating a representative supporter complete with fictitious name, and demographics such as age, income, and interests. This helps you get to know these folks. ds.

4: Empathize with Your People

Each segment requires its own Empathy Map. Note the segment name in the middle of your map. Then, with your team, jot down responses to these six questions as illustrated above:

  • What does this supporter think and feel?
  • What/Who does this supporter listen to?
  • What does this supporter see?
  • What does this supporter say and do?
  • What is the supporter’s pain?
  • What is the supporter’s gain?

Note from Nancy: This Empathy Map technique is the perfect complement to developing personas—learn how to do that here. Then put your results together and you’ll have a 360-dgree profile of the folks you want to engage. That’s right-things, right-now marketing, and that makes you a  5-star messenger!

5: Validate Your Analysis

After crafting your Empathy Maps, test them to ensure they accurately represent the people you want to engage.

Interview a sample of trusted prospects and supporters to test your analysis and conclusions. Then adjust each Empathy Map as necessary.

Now you’re ready to use the Empathy Map to define messages, tone, content and distribution strategies for your nonprofit. And the value? Your communications will get more reads and shares because they are tailored to mirror what’s important to the people you want to engage.

Note: The Empathy Map was developed by XPLANE, an information design consultancy. We’ve adapted it for nonprofits so you can cut through the noise.

Get More from Conference Participation

Guest blogger, Caroline Avakian is the founder & CEO of SourceRise, a social enterprise connecting journalists to nonprofit subject matter experts and sources, and managing partner of  Socialbrite, a social media for nonprofits consultancy and digital learning hub.


Conference season is ongoing these days. So I was particularly pleased when, at the recent, Harvard Social Enterprise Conference, keynote speaker and Echoing Green president, Cheryl Dorsey, shared some valuable hints to us attendees on conference participation best practices.

Here are the helpful tips I learned—all easy to manage but packing a big punch. Bet that you’’ll be glad you set these in motion when you return from your next conference.

1. Start with the end in mind

What are the top three things you want to get out of this conference? Whether it’s meeting a particular attendee or speaker or gaining a better understanding of how to create a social media strategy for your nonprofit, the more specific you are, the likelier you are to walk out of that conference feeling satisfied and accomplished.

Also, something that stood out to me as being really powerful was that Cheryl mentioned being conscious of not only meeting those who can help you, but those who you can help as well. They are equally important.

2. Use your business cards to their fullest potential

In the flurry of meet and greets, it is likely you get home and don’t remember half of who those cards are from. To remedy this, think of one actionable item for each person you meet. Then write it on their business card before you walk out of the room.

3. Lessons learned

Take a minute and write down the three things you learned after each conference session you attend. It will all seem like less of a blur once you get back home and you’ll be able to take action on the items that really stood out.

What are some of your favorite conference-going tips and tricks?

Nonprofit Facebook ROI—Yay or Nay? (w/John Haydon)

Get ready for a roaring point vs. counterpoint, thanks to Facebook for Nonprofits expert John Haydon, who shares his Yay below.

I’ll be following up with mini case studies and links to research supporting my recommendation. Please share your Facebook plan (or plan not to use) and why here, and/or tell us what it does (or doesn’t do) for your organization.

NAY, IN MOST CASES
You’ve probably noticed the raging discussion about the value (or not) of Facebook for all organizations (profiteers too)—it even made the most mainstream ever Time magazine.

There are two main reasons Facebook use is in question:

  1. Long-time ugh: Facebook constantly changes its algorithm (a.k.a. formula) for what’s fed to your org page “likers” on their own pages and its page design, without advance notice or how-tos. That means for those of us with limited resources, it’s an enormous expenditure of time (and the related ) to learn how to adapt, and to do it.
  2. Most recent ugh: Pay to play with a huge decline in organic reach of your content. Now the frequency with which your posts are placed on “likers'” own pages relates to the level of Facebook ad buy by your organization.

What’s clear is that Facebook isn’t free— plan to pay to have your messages delivered.

My recommendation: Use Facebook ONLY if

  1. You’ve selected Facebook as your social media channel of choice because your priority people ARE on Facebook, and you have a good way to drive them to your page and keep them there. Few organizations can effectively utilize more than one social media channel, at least to start.
  2. You use Facebook as a complementary channel to direct marketing (online and offline), your website and the other places where you have a track record of motivating the actions you want (giving, registering, etc.). Content and look and feel are consistent, tone varies depending on channel and the segment of folks you’re reaching out to in each channel and/or each campaign.
  3. You set concrete goals for whatever is measurable on your page (much isn’t) and try to link actions taken on other channels back to Facebook (and other influences)
  4. You are willing to invest a lot of time, expertise in your Facebook presence, AND a lot of cash for ad buys (your nonprofit will be competing against Zappos and Proctor & Gamble—what are your chances?).

Most organizations I know DON’T FIT THIS PROFILE. So for most of your organizations, Facebook is NOT worth the investment, even if your CEO or board chair is pushing it hard.

Please share your Facebook plan (or plan not to use) and why here, and/or tell us what it does (or doesn’t do) for your organization.

Now over to John…
YAY, IF DONE RIGHT (from John Haydon)

Nancy: What is the value in nurturing a brand page/community for orgs on Facebook?

John: Every marketing plan—whether it’s for a brand or a nonprofit—should include word of mouth elements. You want to create opportunities for your community to tell their friends about you.

The fact is, people talk with their friends on Facebook about what’s important to themmovies, weekend activities, family milestones, and causes.

Nurturing your community on Facebook increases the likelihood that they’ll talk about your nonprofit with their friends. In fact, according to one study, Facebook is the most powerful word-of-mouth social media channel.

Nancy: Are there a few criteria a nonprofit can assess to clarify if and/or they should invest (or continue to invest) in its Facebook brand page?

John: It isn’t reason enough for you to simply have a Facebook Page. If your nonprofit depends on fundraisers and volunteers to exist, Facebook should be an important communications channel. Most of the people in your database probably use Facebook already.

If you want to see how many people in your community use Facebook, you can upload your email list as a custom audience and see how many Facebook users are in your email list. Just follow the instructions in this video.

Nancy: What should orgs change strategy wise, with this new algorithm?

John: The purpose of the News Feed algorithm is to display the most interesting content to each Facebook. This way, they will continue to to use Facebook as an important way to connect with friends.

Because Facebook is a friend network, using your nonprofit’s “brand voice” will not work. For example, if all you talk about is your 50th anniversary fundraiser gala, you will bore people and therefore get zero visibility in the News Feed.

The solution is igniting your nonprofit’s “friend” voice (your community sharing your content with their friends).

Nonprofits can start with these questions:

  • What does out community get passionate about?
  • What’s truly useful and interesting to them?
  • What needs are not being met by competing organizations?
  • What are specific ways you can become indispensable in their lives?

– again, getting your current true fans talking about you with their friends on Facebook.

Nancy: How should nonprofit communicators start advertising on Facebook, if they fit the criteria I shared?

John: There are four things to keep in mind when using Facebook ads:

1. Have a plan. As with any type of ad investment, be really clear about why you are using ads in the first place. Do you want more website traffic? Do you want more engaged fans? Do you want more likes?

2. Target wisely. If a breast Cancer foundation targets all women in north America, they will be wasting money on Facebook ads.

For example, it’s better to target only women who have expressed an interest in breast cancer (liking breast cancer related Facebook pages). Additionally, use your Facebook page Insights to determine what demographic is most likely to like your page, and engage with your posts. Targeting Facebook adds wisely will not only save you money, it will increase conversion rates for those ads.

3. Only promote awesome. If you are using Facebook ads to promote page posts, make sure you’re only selecting posts that have performed well. This way when people do see the post as a result of an ad, they will be more likely to engage with it as others have done before.

4. Avoid smelly fish. Facebook ads are like relatives and fish – they go bad after about 5 days. Always make an effort to push fresh posts with ads, instead of letting an ad run for 30 days.

Nancy: What can we expect next from Facebook?

John: You can expect more competition in the newsfeed from brands, friends, and competing nonprofits. Your only solution is to become likable in the real world, not just on Facebook.

Please share your Facebook plan (or plan not to use) and why here, and/or tell us what it does (or doesn’t do) for your organization.

Asana—Streamline the Work Behind Your Work (Nonprofit Blog Carnival)

Guest blogger, Leili Khalessi is the Marketing and Communications Manager for RedRover, a national animal welfare organization. She’s also on the board for The Yoga Seed Collective and couldn’t help but make a few yoga-related puns below.

Thanks to Leili for contributing this stirring post  to this month’s blog carnival—The Work Behind Your Work . There’s still time for yours—Deadline Friday April 25.

As nonprofit communicators, we all know what it’s like to try to find balance in our work despite competing priorities, multiple teams and never-ending deadlines. Never have I felt so “at home” professionally than at the Nonprofit Technology Conference (#14NTC), where I attended a session on “The Work Behind The Work” with Sarah Durham (founder of Big Duck), Stephanie Bowen (most recently with KaBOOM) and Nancy Schwartz. Across the room full of do-gooder marketers, it was clear that while we’d all happily bend over backward for the organizations we support, we were eager to learn from each other’s ways to zen.

I shared my favorite (free!*) tool for project management: Asana (www.asana.com). Asana is a web-based task manager designed to enable individuals and teams to plan and manage projects without email.

Yoga practitioners will recognize the word “asana” as referring to yoga postures – so it’s no surprise that this flexible app keeps RedRover’s communications work meditatively calm yet groovin’ in the flow. Here’s why we use it:

  • Project manager’s paradise: For me, lists = bliss. Asana gives me a place to lay out tactical plans with due dates and assignees for each task. The app structures the organization into teams, then projects, then tasks and subtasks. You can drag to re-order your tasks to customize your workflow by timeline or priority. As a manager, using Asana has only made it easier to communicate priorities downward, dog.
  • A process for every project: Creating our own templates in Asana enabled us to take the guesswork out of the work. Our editorial process, steps for creating an e-newsletter, and marketing campaign planners are all examples of project templates that live in Asana. Yes, live – all team members are encouraged to constantly refine and update our processes within Asana so that we’re always improving.
  • Less email: Yes, thank goodness! Project participants can leave comments on tasks, tag other team members and even attach documents from Dropbox and Google Drive. No more wading through long threads of messages – our project communications are much more direct through Asana.

*Asana is free for teams of up to 15 members, with unlimited projects and tasks. It’s worth trying out, even as an individual if you don’t want to involve other team members.

Start by putting your to-do list into Asana, or try setting up a routine project into the app to get a feel for how it works.

101 Secrets to Great Volunteer Recruitment—Part One

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

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

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

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

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

Go Where the Volunteers Are

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

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

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

Their secret: Target your audience where it already is.

Strike While the Iron’s Hot

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

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

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

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

8 Interview Guidelines for Capturing the Best Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RIGHT Way to Tell Your Story via Video

 

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

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

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

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

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

1. How do you want to change the audience?

2. Focus in on a genre

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

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

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

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

3-Step Communications to Re-engage Volunteers

We are delighted to have Colleen Farrell, Senior Director, Marketing and Communications at New York Cares, join us as a recurring guest blogger.

New York Cares is New York City’s leading volunteer organization and runs volunteer programs for 1,000  nonprofits, city agencies and public schools, enabling more than 50,000 volunteers annually to contribute their time, expertise and energy to a wide array of organizations that address critical social needs citywide.

Every fall I feel like a kid going back to school. I don’t have to worry about pop quizzes these days, but there’s a big shift as we transition from the slower summer months into our busiest time of year.  New York Cares’ inventory of volunteer projects increases dramatically -– doubling between August and November.  Volunteer interest also ramps back up after summer, with a spike around Thanksgiving.

Our communication and management challenge is to quickly re-engage volunteers after the summer, and ensure we mobilize the right number of people at the right time as projects expand. Here are three things we consider:

1. Ensure capacity is in place so volunteers can act now.

We calculate the volunteers we need each month, then create a communications plan synced with our project roll-out schedule.  For example, we scale back new volunteer orientations during the summer.  In late July, we begin asking volunteers to become project leaders for fall (which is critical for starting new projects).  From August onward, email, social media, and orientation schedules accelerate to bring in more volunteers.

There have been times where volunteer demand has outstripped our capacity –- it’s disappointing for volunteers, and something we work hard to avoid.  The volunteers you turn away may never come back.

2. Start with existing volunteers.

The adage, it’s more efficient to get business from existing customers than win new ones, applies to volunteers, too.

We track and analyze volunteers’ histories through our database.  This helps us forecast how many of last year’s volunteers are likely to return (about 50%) and how many new people we need to recruit to fill our available opportunities.  We target communications accordingly.

3. Build a monthly messaging plan.

We create an editorial calendar aligned with our programs, and try to unify messaging across channels.  We pick a lead theme each month or season  – in the fall, we’re all about education.  Messaging is simple and action oriented.  We provide context about the current volunteer needs, paint a picture of the impact they can make, and provide clear direction on how to get involved.

Some of our most experienced volunteers will be too swamped to re-engage: that’s reality. But we stay in touch, and try to offer other, less time intensive ways to help – fundraising, donating, and friendraising, for example.

What are your Fall strategies for re-engaging volunteers and other supporters?

Making It Work – Nonprofits and Pro Bono Creative

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

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

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

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

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

For Nonprofits:

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

For Creative Agencies:

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

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