Fri, February 01 2008
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
I was having lunch with some of my favorite web designers the other day, and we got to talking about the scarcity mentality. They were especially irritated with unethical web designers that create websites that nonprofits can’t access themselves, so they could generate more business for their firms in perpetuity. They told the story of one nonprofit that hired them saying their last designer wouldn’t even give them high-resolution electronic files of the logo they’d designed—so the firm could charge the nonprofit each time it needed to do something with their logo. It had never occurred to that nonprofit to beware of that in their contract. While this made the firm money in the short term, the nonprofit was so irate they hired a new designer (my friends) and doubtlessly spread lots of bad word of mouth about that awful firm.
Hoarding, secrecy and a spirit of scarcity are not good strategies.
Then I saw this excellent point made by blogger Terri:
The non-profit universe is set up so that everyone must compete for the same money. This prevents a lot of networking, partnering and coalition-building. I think this is a shame. Just as it is possible for me to invite you over for dinner without giving you my house, it must be possible for agencies and others to connect and interact in ways that increase the visibility, credibility and effectiveness of everyone.
I love the dinner/house analogy, Terri. Well said.
In addition to funding fears curtailing collaboration in our sector, I see information-hoarding as another bad phenomenon. I’m appalled by some funders, nonprofits and companies that serve our sector refusing to freely share what they know and learn.
They don’t get that scarcity mentalities lead to more scarcity.
I believe in giving away everything you can, in sharing information freely and in collaborating openly with others. While this sounds scary in a competitive world, it actually gets you more resources at the end of the day. When you’re generous with others, they usually end up reciprocating. You get absolutely amazing word of mouth and massive amounts of goodwill. When you join forces with worthy partners, you usually get more visibility and resources for both parties. When you act with integrity, you get more business. Really.
I’m not saying there isn’t competition in this world. I’m saying how we react to it is critical to our success. We can fight over the same small patches of territory or we can try to band together for a bigger land grab. The rare disease organizations have done this with great success with federal funding. Newspapers have done this to great success, making online content free - they then get more traffic and therefore more ad revenue. Network for Good does this too with our Learning Center and free calls - we share everything we know about fundraising. And we’ve ended up with more nonprofits using our services, which has led to more revenue.
Generosity has an excellent ROI.
Parsimony pays back accordingly.
Fri, February 01 2008
Filed under: Social Media •
Today at Network for Good’s Six Degrees site, we wrapped up our part of America’s Giving Challenge, a campaign by Parade and the Case Foundation. We saw amazing performances by our wired fundraisers, and though the results aren’t yet final we can say they were incredible - many individuals raised tens of thousands of dollars for their causes.
To celebrate their achievements, I want to share this week’s tips from Network for Good on this topic, authored by my talented colleague Rebecca Ruby. Here’s what she says:
If you’re sitting at your computer hugging your organization’s mission statement, branding guide and/or special event brochure (the one that was approved by everyone in your office, your board, your babysitter, etc. etc.), it’s time to take a deep breath-this idea might scare you.
It’s time to turn your message over to your constituents.
That’s right: let your fundraisers spread the word for you, outside of your direct reach. People are most likely to donate to a cause if asked by someone they know. Unless you personally know everyone in your town, city, state, country, etc., you need to call in the big guns: your wired fundraisers.
Wired fundraisers come in two varieties: passionate fundraisers who happen to use social networking (also known as Web 2.0) tools and people who use these tools who have turned into fundraisers. In order to take full advantage of social networking opportunities, you need to develop a plan to find your wired fundraisers (and capture their email addresses), empower them with your message and let them use their social networking tools to fly solo.
Here are a few steps to get you started:
Pick one social networking channel in which to get involved. Try Change.org, Facebook or MySpace. Or set up a blog. But most importantly, don’t try to tackle everything that’s out there. It’s better to have a strong presence in one network than to spread your organization too thin across Web 2.0.
Search for potential supporters. Search the Change.org network, Facebook Causes or MySpace pages for a nonprofit with a similar mission as yours. See who their “friends” are and invite them to your cause once you’re up and running. Here are some examples:
Make it easy for supporters to find you. As proactive as you’ll want to be in terms of reigning in new supporters, they’re going to look for you-make it easy for them to do so! Name your social networking page exactly as your organization is named. Again, have a strong presence in one channel rather than all of them. (Better a potential volunteer or donor can find your blog than miss your pages scattered across many networks.)
Build your house file. Once supporters of your cause have found you, make sure you give them a strong call to action to supply their email address to you so you can contact them later.
Encourage your new supporters to do your work for you (you know what I mean). Having Facebook friends isn’t enough. Now that you’ve started to cultivate relationships with these Internet superstars, empower them to share your charity with others: ask them to recruit friends to volunteer for you, create a charity badge and invite them to post it on their own blogs and social networking sites.
Learn more about wired fundraisers by reading Network for Good’s white paper The Wired Fundraiser: How Technology is Making Fundraising “Good to Go.”
For more information about social networking, check out transcripts from the two Nonprofit 911 conference calls on Network for Good’s Learning Center - many of these tips come from them!
Tue, January 29 2008
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
What a Ham, by Mostlysunny1 via flickr
A great nonprofit leader I know recently saw a cool online quiz that he could appropropriate for his own work, and his reaction was “Great. I love piggy backing.”
It occured to me how rarely I hear this.
In our sector, we tend to focus on how little we have and how much more we need. But we would need less if we got more creative about piggy backing - for example, aligning with an issue or news already getting a lot of attention, or riding a demographic trend, or using (with permission, of course) great content developed by other entities. Not much money for audience research? Read other research - or as my buddy Craig LeFebvre says, look at campaigns directed at your audience that work. (Not just those in your issue area—but those that target your audience. The underlying values and messaging could be piggy back material.)
In other words, never build when you can borrow.
Before you start from scratch on anything, spend an hour seeing what’s already there, what can help you and what stands in your way. Act accordingly.
Here are some marketplace forces - aka potential piggies - to get you started:
1. Is there a demographic, lifestyle, social, health, natural or economic trend that we can ride? What trends might bring attention to our cause?
2. Are laws or regs in place that could help us succeed?
3. Is there research being released that is attracting publicity and bolsters our case?
4. What’s got the eye of the media? Can we play off that story?
5. What companies benefit if we succeed? Can we co-opt them?
6. Who else is talking about our issue and how could they help influence our audiences?
7. What content or material has already been developed that we can use?
An example of piggy backing in my book is the Five a Day campaign. That highly successful campaign to get us eating more fruits and veggies piggy backed onto the increasing number of people overwhelmed by their busy lifestyles by packaging fruits and veggies so they were more easy and convenient to consume - the original fast food.
Another example is Network for Good’s own Learning Center. We didn’t start from scratch in creating a site with original articles - we feature the work of the many smart writers and bloggers who’ve already written great material.
The lesson? Piggy backing often makes us more effective. It’s not about scrimping and stealing. It’s about riding on the back of what has already been built and has momentum in the marketplace.
Thu, January 24 2008
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
1. We’re not our audience
Check that appeal/letter/message before you send it. Is it focused on you or your audience? The correct approach: focus on, respect and engage the audience first.
2. Our audience doesn’t think like us
Check how you make your organization/services/information accessible to people. Is it presented to match your org chart or the mindframe of your audience? Correct approach: you guessed it, the latter.
3. Our audience doesn’t take action without guidance
Check every communication with your audience. Does it make it clear what you’re asking them to do and why? Is your “ask” unmistakable? Make sure it is.
Mon, January 21 2008
Filed under: Nonprofit leadership •
We’ve heard a lot from the presidential candidates about hope, change and the economy. That’s all important. But there’s another thing we need to hear. Let’s get them to talk about us. Our sector. Our causes. Our concerns. We’re all about hope and change and a better life, right?
Sound impossible? It’s not. All of us nonprofit folks, standing together, are a force to be reckoned with—bigger than any union or corporation or other entity grabbing headlines for its influence. There are 14 million nonprofits employees out there and 60 million volunteers. We generate billions in revenue and put billions more into county and state coffers through payroll taxes. So let’s get the candidates - and the next president - to take our sector—and ourselves and our issue—seriously. We can do it.
Robert Egger, one of the great leaders in our sector and a wonderful friend and colleague, has been at this for quite some time. Robert is Founder and President of the DC Central Kitchen, the Co-Convener of the first Nonprofit Congress and, most recently, the Founder and Director of the Nonprofit Primary Project, which developed presidential candidate forums in New Hampshire. And today, he has created an easy way for this to happen in every election, national or local. V3 is his new website that shows how we can get all of this to happen. Check out V3, which he funded with money from his speaking engagements. It’s great to see such a beautiful piece of marketing for a such a great cause: us. (Full disclosure: In addition to knowing/admiring Robert and weighing in on the V3 site, I know and have in the past hired the creative folks behind the site design - I think their work is excellent.) Finally - an easy way for us to do something tangible to advance our cause and our sector as part of the political process. Robert got me very charged up about this effort when I saw him last week to discuss his message, and I hope he’ll get you charged up, too. (Read this.)
In Robert’s words, here’s what V3 does:
1. The V3 Campaign website – From the site, we will list EVERY election in America (mayor, state legislator, congress, senate, president), and provide links to each of the candidates, allowing any nonprofit employee to send a questionnaire that will ask three things: 1) Describe your personal or professional connection with a nonprofit. 2) How would you partner with nonprofits? 3) How would you strengthen the sector to be a good partner with you?
2. The V3 Site will record all written or recorded responses. If a candidate proposes a staff position, an office to work directly with nonprofits, or a bold new vision for managing community resources–BANG—it’s on V3 and other nonprofits can use it to challenge candidates in their community. If they do not respond, it’s on V3, and all of their constituents who work or volunteer with a nonprofit will know that they do not understand or value their work enough to suggest a detailed plan of action. Then, nonprofits and their supporters can vote according to their own personal convictions. Cause and effect—totally legal—only we drive the car.
I hope you’ll go onto V3 and sign up to ask any candidate what they’re doing to commit to working with nonprofits. In just a few minutes, you can feel you did something substantive to get seen and heard. If you care about your cause and want it to get noticed by your government, this is a great way to get started. Do it, and ask one other person to do it, too.
And here’s proof it’s working already.