Thu, July 17 2008

Great tag lines - do you have one?

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Taglines are tough.  They challenge us to sum up the essence of all we do in a few words that are pithy, profound and pack a punch. 

My blogging frolleague Nancy, also known as president of Nancy Schwartz & Company, has a big announcement about those tough little beasts:  She’s found the BEST nonprofit taglines of 2008. We’re happy to see Network for Good friend LandChoices as a big winner.  (I voted for them!)

Nancy says the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards program came about when so many powerful taglines were submitted to a survey she did on nonprofit taglines. More than 1,000 taglines were submitted.  Survey findings, the entire list of submitted taglines and details on finalists and award winners will be featured in a report to be published in September.  Stay tuned for the report - I’ve seen a sneak preview, and it’s packed with great pointers on vastly improving your tagline.  I’ll blog it as soon as it’s off the presses.

Without further ado, here are the winners in each category along with comments on what makes them great:

Arts & Culture:  Where Actors Find Their Space —NYC Theatre Spaces
This clearinghouse for NYC rehearsal and performance spaces uses a double entendre to go beyond a description of its services and highlight the value of its work.

Civic Benefit: Stand Up for a Child —CASA of Southwest Missouri
CASA’s tagline provokes anger, compassion and a desire to help, in just five words.

Education: Stay Close…Go Far. —East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
This simple yet distinctive tagline from East Stroudsburg cuts through the clutter. Its straightforward character mirrors that of the school.

Environment & Animals: Helping Preserve the Places You Cherish —LandChoices
LandChoices’ tagline thoroughly communicates the value of its work while evoking one’s most precious memories of walks in the woods, wildflower meadows and childhood camping trips. There’s a real emotional connection here.

Grantmaking: Make the most of your giving. —The Greater Cincinnati Foundation
This clear tagline articulates the value of the foundation for donors considering an alternative way to give.

Health & Sciences: Improving Life, One Breath at a Time —American Lung Association
This unexpected focus on the breath—a core element of life—gets attention, and understanding.

Human Services: When You Can’t Do It Alone —Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Sarasota–Manatee, Inc.
This tagline tells the story succinctly and powerfully: It’s all about getting help when life becomes overwhelming. It makes a strong emotional connection.

International, Foreign Affairs & National Security: Whatever it takes to save a child —U.S. Fund for UNICEF
UNICEF engages hearts and minds with its passionate focus on helping children. Who could turn down a request for a donation?

Jobs & Workforce Development: All Building Starts With a Foundation —Building Future Builders
Voters enjoyed the word play here: It adds depth of understanding without being glib.

Religion & Spiritual Development: Grounded in tradition…Open to the Spirit —Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS)
MTS conveys the two equally important halves of its values and curriculum in a way that makes you think about the connection.


The Art of Active Aging —EngAGE
EngAGE surprises with the imagery of active aging and the use of the term “art” to describe the way it does its work.

Because facts matter. —Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP)
This tagline introduces the nature of OCPP’s impact in Oregon and entices the reader or listener to find out more. Its value proposition—the truth—is particularly compelling at a time when facts are frequently disregarded in public debate.

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Tue, July 15 2008

15 Secrets to Great Subject Lines

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Katya’s note:  The name of a white paper recently caught my eye - it promised 15 rules to good email subject lines.  My marketing colleague Rebecca Ruby here at Network for Good was interested too—and lucky for us, she read it and summarizes it here for us.  Thanks Rebecca!

By Rebecca Ruby, marketing maven at Network for Good

Lyris HQ has a great a white paper “Email Subject Lines: 15 Rules to Write Them Right,” which highlights the make-or-break importance of subject lines.  It’s well worth taking a few moments to go through their registration and obtain your own copy, but here my favorite highlights:

Test! Test subject lines. Write them early (not at the last minute). Test again, measure results, and use those analytics to drive future content.
Structure and content are both important. You need to be cognizant of where the key info goes, as well as how strong your call-to-action is.
Subject lines play into trust-building. The subject line can include a branding element or another device to tie to the “from” address. A quick way to kill that positive messaging? Stretching the truth about what’s inside the message.

Here’s a breakdown of their entire list:

1. Read the newspaper. Newspaper headlines highlight a story’s most important fact in a limited space—which is coincidentally exactly what marketing email subject lines should do.

2. There is no sure-fire formula. Subject lines are non-recyclable and not necessarily the same when sending different types of campaigns.

3. Test, test, test. According to rule 2, there’s not a surefire winner, so be sure to allow time for testing.

4. Support the “from” line. The “from” tells recipients who sent the message, and the subject line sells that recipient on whether to open it. You don’t need to repeat your company name in the subject, but do consider some subject-line branding (ex: the name of the newsletter).

5. List key info first. Put the key information in the first 50 characters. Not sure where the subject line will be cut off? Send it to yourself to test and check!

6. Open rates don’t always measure subject-line success. Your end goal is not necessarily high open rate, but to have subscribers take a specific action. Focus on those results instead of open-rate numbers.

7. Personalize. Personalize subject lines based on your recipients’ content preferences and/or interests, and then be sure to make it easy for readers to find and update this information upon receiving your message.

8. Urgency drives action. Set deadlines for action, and consider using a series: “Only five days left until–!” followed up later in the week with, “Just 24 hours left until–”

9. Watch those spam filters. Run your copy through a content checker to identify spam-like words, phrases and construction. A couple of big no-no’s: all capital letters and excessive use of exclamation points.

10. “Free” is not evil. As a follow-up to number 9, avoid putting the word “free” first, but you needn’t leave it out entirely.

11. Lead, but don’t mislead. Subject lines are not the place to overpromise. Be truthful about whatever the text claims to avoid distrust.

12. Write and test early and often. Flip your thinking: Craft and test your subject line prior to composing the rest of your message. (Remember rule 3?)

13. Review subject-line performance over your last several campaigns or newsletters. Not only will this type of data-mining shed light on your subject-line successes (highest conversation rates, click-through rate, etc.), it will drive future content strategies.

14. Continue the conversation. Sending campaigns more frequently than once per month or quarter helps create a back-and-forth with readers, and also allows for content follow-up if something from a previous campaign has news.

15. Can you pass the must-open/must-read test? Must-read means this: If a subscriber doesn’t open the email, they will feel like they are out of the loop and may have missed an offer they will regret not taking advantage of. Also, be sure to check out whether your message is going to the bulk-folder (see rule 9).


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Wed, July 09 2008

Watch reality fundraising TV at 1 ET today

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fun stuff •

It had to happen sooner or later - reality TV for fundraisers.

This is a really fun idea that my frolleague Alia called to my attention:

Seattle, WA (PRWEB) July 9, 2008—On Wednesday July 9, 2008, interns from across the nation will assemble in The Borgen Project’s office and in 60-minutes try to raise as much money as possible through a live broadcast. Unlike a traditional closed-door fundraising session, this one will be viewed live via the Internet.

By mixing reality TV, Dialing-for-Dollars and Web 2.0, The Borgen Project is trying to make fundraising more interactive and informative.

“This is fairly groundbreaking,” said Clint Borgen, President of The Borgen Project. “As a donor, you can watch live via the Internet as you talk to a volunteer inside the boardroom.”

In addition to speaking with volunteers, donors can also chat with other supporters who are watching the live broadcast.

Through this live broadcast, The Borgen Project is aiming to break down the walls between donor and fundraiser by creating a relationship that is less intimidating and more interactive.

“Wednesday will be rough around the edges,” Borgen said. “But I think it will be a good starting point for a new fundraising method that nonprofits and political campaigns will begin to adopt.”

The live broadcast can be viewed at here on Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 10 a.m. PST.

The Borgen Project is a campaign to bring U.S. political attention to severe poverty. The Seattle-based organization operates on a national level meeting with congressional leaders and mobilizing public support for poverty-reduction legislation. Learn more at


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Wed, July 09 2008

How to fix boring newsletters

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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This is my July column for Fundraising Success.  Special thanks to frolleague Kivi for her great advice.  Check out more of it hereTake her course, even.  You won’t be sorry - you’ll be a storyteller!

Most nonprofit newsletters are very boring.  I subscribe to about 20 of them, and only one or two are interesting enough to regularly skim.  Most are full of cookie cutter human interest stories that elicit little more than a yawn. 

This got me thinking, is this sample representative?  If so, yikes.  Newsletters are an important way that we cultivate relationships with donors.  If we’re generally dull and needy in those communications, our audience will lose interest.  And that ultimately spells financial heartbreak for us.

So what’s a nonprofit to do?  How do we take our newsletters from snoring to soaring?

Looking for an easy answer to this question, I decided to turn to punt.  I picked up the phone and called an expert who focuses on this very problem.  Why not let her do the work?  And here’s what trainer, writer and newsletter guru Kivi Leroux Miller of Nonprofit Marketing had to say.  If you want more of her wisdom - look here.

Katya:  Why are there no stories, or only milquetoast stories, in so many newsletters?  What gives?

Kivi: Two reasons, I think. First, people are afraid that they can’t pull it off. When you say “storytelling,” most people envision either someone like Mark Twain or Toni Morrison or a wild-haired grandpa on a stage at some mountain storytelling festival spinning some yarn – someone with way more creative juices flowing.  Or they simply don’t think they are good writers, and the thought of writing something that qualifies as a “story” is just too daunting.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Nonprofits have tons of great stories. Finding material in the nonprofit sector is never a problem.

Katya: So fix this problem for us!

Kivi: You just need to learn some basic storytelling patterns. In the book “Made to Stick,” which I highly recommend, Chip Heath and Dan Heath identify three different types of inspirational stories: The Challenge Plot, the Creativity Plot, and the Connection Plot. All three have very basic elements and once you know what to listen for, you’ll start hearing bits and pieces of these stories all around you, every day. At that point, you simply have to ask a few questions to fill in the gaps and you’ve got great stories for your newsletters and other donor communications.

Katya: Errr– what’s a challenge plot?

Kivi: The Challenge Plot is your basic three–act structure that practically every Hollywood movie is based on. These are your classic underdog stories, against all odds stories. You start out by introducing the character and his situation and goals. Then in Act II, he faces obstacles and the tension mounts. Things might start to work out, but then it usually gets worse. Then in Act III, the action peaks, and the character finally triumphs over the obstacles.

Katya: Who’s the underdog?  The nonprofit?

Kivi:  No!  Many nonprofits throw themselves into the middle of the story, but that’s not where they really belong. The nonprofit doesn’t come in until Act III and then just as a supporting actor in helping the main character overcome the obstacles. Many nonprofits want to make the story all about them or their staff, but with a few exceptions, the main character really needs to be a client, volunteer, donor, or someone else involved in or affected by your work.  You want the reader to relate to the story, and that’s easier to do if it is about t someone who is not on your staff.

Katya: OK got it.  And the creativity plot?  That sounds juicy.

Kivi:  Creativity stories are those with the “aha!” moments and those “what if we . . .” stories that work out in the end. For a good creativity plot, you need a well-understood problem and a standard response that just doesn’t work. Again, use the people around you – clients, volunteers, donors – to explain the problem and inadequate solution. Then you talk about the new approach that your nonprofit or someone affiliated with your nonprofit is trying, and test runs and theories are OK here. It doesn’t need to be a completely well-thought out and fully tested solution. Then you close with a vision of a new reality and how the original problem would be solved.

Katya: Who in the nonprofit world has aced a creativity plot?

Kivi: I love the Heifer International founder’s story. The founder, Dan West, was ladling out milk rations to hungry children when he thought, “These children don’t need a cup, they need a cow.” From there, the whole idea of providing livestock to poor families was born. The families not only get livestock to provide food and income for themselves, but when their cows or goats have babies, they pass them on to other families in need, continuing the cycle of lifting families out of hunger and poverty. 

Katya: And last, the Connection Plot?

Kivi: This one is a little harder to pull off without sounding sappy or forced, but once again, with the right elements, it’s easy. These are the bridging the gap stories and big meaning in small events stories. Start with a small, specific situation or event and then look for the larger connection to the greater human experience. These stories usually have a little surprise or epiphany in them that really drives the point home. You’ll see connections between the people in the stories and also between the storyteller and the reader. Interplast’s blog has some great connection stories about the doctors who are correcting birth defects in developing nations.

Katya:  Cool beans.

Like this?  Check out more of Kivi’s stuff and her storytelling course - available ON DEMAND, no less - here.




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Mon, July 07 2008

Must read: the changing US consumer

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

There is a great piece in Advertising Age online today from Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics magazine (registration required to view the article).  He writes about the changing face of consumers.  Like me, they’re getting more wrinkly and set in their ways by the day.

Here are a couple of the highlights (warning: sweeping generalizations ahead), along with thoughts on the implications for us.  You can read the full article here (with registration).

OLDER:  A full 80% of the growth in US households in the next five years will be from those headed by people over age 55.  Yep, that’s right—EIGHTY PERCENT.  The average age of the US household is already only six months shy of 50.  The first boomers hit 65 in less than three years.  So what does that mean?  The older set (65+), says Francese, tend to be risk adverse and inflexible in their attitudes.  That means clever marketers will play to this world view with messaging about guarantees, safety and experience.  Warranties, corporate history and testimonials work.  So, nonprofit marketers, emphasize your organization’s storied history and great performance with these folks.  Don’t be too cute or flashy.  Meanwhile, the second fastest growing segment is folks 25-34 - a group that is increasingly diverse ethnically.  The bigggest spending, best paid group—those 35 to 54 - is shrinking.  Groan.

ALL OVER THE PLACE, IN EVERY SENSE OF THE EXPRESSION:  As you read this, I suspect you’re having the reaction that I did - sheesh, how are you supposed to reach such different groups?  It gets even more challenging when you consider geographic segments.  The West is getting younger and more multicultural while the Northeast is getting older and whiter.  (I told you there would be generalizations - this is demographics, after all.)  The answer?  Segmentation of course.  You’re going to need different positioning for different audiences—AND different message delivery vehicles.  The latter is actually good news - it’s easier to target your message when not everyone is getting your messages the same way and when people are clustered into certain locations.  There are people who live online and on their phones, and there are folks who stick to the newspaper.  You need to look not only at the age of your audiences, but also where and how they live so you know the best way to reach them.  Fancy marketers call this ethnographic research.  Throw that into your next convo to look extra smart.

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