Thu, January 17 2008

The unbelievably simple missing part of great speeches

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

The other night, I heard a speech by Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system.  I was blown away.  This young woman has grabbed the DC schools bureaucracy by the (insert colorful term here), and she’s taking courageous, bold steps to cure the ailing system - including firing incompetent people.  When she spoke of her work, her intelligence and passion had me completely spellbound. 

By the end of her speech, I was ready to quit my job and volunteer for her full time.  I was willing to do anything, yet there wasn’t anything to do. 

Then the next speaker came up (who was also great), and moved us all.  But then, again, while still contemplating what to do with my inspiration, the evening moved on.

This happens to me too often: I hear an amazing speech at an event, I’m inspired, and yet there’s no where to put that energy.

I’m about to give you such and wonderful piece of advice that NO ONES DOES, so do it!  The next time you have or host an event, if you have a great speaker, get them to issue a CALL TO ACTION that people can heed in the next five minutes.  Make it something people can do right away to translate their emotion and support into tangible help.  Like text an email on their handhelds to a policymaker.  Or sign a pledge to help you.  Or give you their email address.  Or write a check. 

People want to help.  Help them help you.  Help them translate inspiration into action.  They want to.

So many people ask me how to build an email list.  How about by asking people tearing up at that speech?

I have never been to an event that has taken a single one of those simple steps. 

Try it.  If I’m there, I swear I’ll do whatever you ask.

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Sun, January 13 2008

Best Practices for Social Networking Nonprofits

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

Katya’s note: This month at Network for Good, we’re focusing on social networking with our Nonprofit 911 calls.  If you want to put social networking to work for you, check them out.  Also, check out the terrific Social Signal blog.  For a sampling of the great information there, I turn to Alexandra Samuel for this guest post from her blog at Social Signal.  This is great advice.  Thanks Alexandra for letting me re-run your thoughts here!

By Alexandra Samuel

We work with a wide range of non-profit and change-oriented for-profit organizations who are using the web to deliver their message, but more crucially, to engage audiences in a conversation. Some of the best practices we note:

1. Focus your site on a particular goal or conversation, rather than a general mandate. For example, the UN Foundation has had a dazzling success with its Nothing But Nets site, which focuses specifically on providing malaria nets to kids in the developing world.

2. Invite your community to make contributions other than money. Non-profits often experience “donor fatigue” because so much of their public interactions hinge on asking for money. The web is a great place to ask for other kinds of contributions—whether that means connecting people directly with people who need their expertise or services (as in Nabuur) or asking them to share their personal experiences (as with the March of Dimes’ Share your Story project).

3. Play nicely with other non-profit (and for-profit) organizations. The web is just that: a web of interconnections. Succeeding in an internetworked environment means working effectively with others, colllaborating, and interacting—it’s not just about getting your own message out there. So being a good 2.0 non-profit means engaging with conversations and ideas on other blogs. Change Everything, a project of the Vancity credit union, is in the middle of a contest that will award $1,000 to a non-profit organization—and the contest has fueled a great deal of interest and awareness of non-profit activities in British Columbia.

4. Don not feel that web 2.0 means building your own online community. In fact, it’s a lot easier to ease into the web 2.0 culture by making effective use of existing web tools—whether that means fostering internal collaboration by choosing a common del.icio.us tag to use when storing your favorite web sites, or creating an iGoogle page that lets you constantly see the latest news in your key issue areas, or creating a photo-based petition on Flickr (check out the Oxfam example). Or try setting up a Facebook group—we attracted 1300 people to a Flickr group within 3 weeks of launch. Once you’re comfortable with the idea of web 2.0, you can starting thinking about whether it makes sense to build some community features into your own site.

5. Be gentle with yourself, and your colleagues. It’s a big challenge for most non-profits to shift from message delivery to conversation, or from approaching your members as donors to seeing them as content contributors. For organizations that have been all about the message, and have approached that for decades from a paradigm of message control and careful rollout, it is a genuine (and at times frightening) adventure to bring your audience into the conversation in public, and before you’ve got everybody lined up to stay “on message”. Be patient with colleagues who need to get comfortable with this new approach.

6. Stay current with how other non-profits are using web 2.0, and learn from their experiences. A great way of doing that is to track the “nptech” tag on del.ici.ous, where people from all across the nonprofit sector share the latest resources on nonprofit technology activities; it’s a great place to find blog posts or tech developments to comment on. And Compumentor’s NetSquared project is dedicated to helping non-profits make the most of web 2.0.

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Fri, January 11 2008

No excuses!

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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I recently gave a presentation and was floored by the response.  And not in a good way.  I heard the following after I talked about ways to tweak a message to make it work far better - just by focusing on the audience perspective and speaking to audience priorities.  Here’s the reason why this is “not possible”:

1. I don’t have the budget to do that.
2. I don’t have the staff to do that.
3. I don’t have the time to do that.
4. I don’t have the internal support to do that.
5. I don’t have the expertise to do that.
6. The dog ate my homework.

Okay I didn’t hear #6 but I did hear the rest.

It all reminded me of the same kind of excuses that keep us out of shape:

If you hear yourself saying any of the above, stop yourself and think differently.

Think like this:

1. My budget is so small I’d better invest the time to have the right message so I get bang for my buck.
2. My staff is so small I need to focus them on working smarter.
3. My time is better spent fixing a bad message than sending out more bad messages.
4. I need to market internally what I want to do by showing how it helps my colleagues meet their goals—that time spent will mean far less time overall on internal politicking, resistance and drama.
5. I do have the expertise to do a better job - there are great blogs and resources (like my organization’s free http://www.fundraising123.org learning center) to help me.

DO NOT THINK IN TERMS OF CONSTRAINTS.  Think in terms of possibility. It’s not about what you can’t do.  It’s about what you must do.  Just do it!

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Fri, January 11 2008

Mission statements that work, email that doesn’t

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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There were two gems in other blogs over the past week, and I want to pass them on. 

1.  THE 15-MINUTE MISSION STATEMENT: If you know me, you know I think nonprofits spend way too much time crafting mission statements in an exercise that too often degenerates into navel-gazing neurosis.  Yet they can be useful to focusing programs if they are done right.  Here’s a neat solution from Kelly Kleiman on her blog The Nonprofiteer, which was picked up on the Give and Take blog: Simplify the process by spending an hour — or even just 15 minutes — drafting a single sentence that outlines their mission”  “We do [activity] so that [result will occur].” I like it.

2. THE FUTURE OF FUNDRAISING:  Mark Rovner says this: “Here is the current online fundraising model: build your prospect list however you can and then bombard them relentlessly with email solicitations. If you’re clever, maybe throw in mail and phone solicitations as well. Repeat, repeat, repeat…”  The problem? It works less and less effectively, it drives people away and it’s not sustainable.  If you’re doing this, stop.  Focus on growing a list of new prospects that want to hear from you and treat them well.  There’s a lot at stake.  Mark says:

EVERYTHING is going to change. In his latest book, Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin makes the point that organizations and companies are generally built around the mode of marketing available to them. If your organization began its life between 1970 and 2000, chances are it was built around cheap mail and high response rates. The first victim of expensive mail and low response rates is your fundraising efficiency. And in this era of CharityNavigator, your fundraising efficiency is no secret.

I agree.

PS I’m still scratching my head over how I could post on the perils of AstroTurfing one day and be AstroTurfed on my blog the next day (see comments). The irony!

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Tue, January 08 2008

4 Essentials of Cause-Related Marketing

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Cause-related marketing •

Photo by sadalit, flickr.

If you are a company or nonprofit teaming up to do cause-related marketing in 2008, take heed: slapping charitable branding on a product is not enough.  Today’s consumers are socially conscious but they are also savvy—and skeptical.  Cause-related ventures are held to high standards, and vague claims of social good are scrutinized.  So, in support of Cone’s What Do You Stand For? project, here are the four things all cause-related ventures should stand for:

1. Suitability
Does the partnership pass the sniff test for suitability? For example, even if the company donated all of its profits, Hummer would never be a good partner for Greenpeace.  Sounds obvious, right?  But I’ve seen some partners that seemed poorly suited this year, including Trident promoting Save the Children nutrition and literacy programs.  Gum doesn’t fit with nutrition—or literacy, since it’s not even allowed in libraries or schools.  Operation Smile would have made more sense as a partner.  You want a fit that makes sense to the consumer - it’s stickier that way (pun intended).  You also want a fit that makes sense to the partners, who should look for a deeper win-win.  An ideal partnership is one where the cause and company’s objectives reinforce each other. 

2. Authenticity
A close cousin of suitability, authenticity is about the company walking the talk of the cause.  A nice example is the Pure Prevention campaign, which my organization helped plan and support (so I’m biased).  Luna Bar walks the talk of health concerns and nutrition, so it makes sense for them to support a cause that focuses on the environmental causes of breast cancer.  Check it out here.

3. Transparency
This is HUGE.  It’s not enough to say, we’re partners and a portion of proceeds benefits xyz charity.  Both the company and the charity need to say what amount of money is going where to do what.  Very, very clearly - on everything.  Put it on price tags, marketing materials, everywhere.  Err on the side of openness.  The RED controversy shows there are people out there watching! (PS: RED has done a good job on reporting - check out their site.)

4. Selling Point
Lots of research, including from Cone, shows consumers will buy cause-related products over those that don’t have a charitable tie-in, PRICE AND QUALITY BEING EQUAL.  So don’t think alignment with a cause is a unique value proposition, unless you have the same price and quality.  If you don’t, you need other selling points.  The Susan G. Komen partnerships make things pink, which believe it or not, is a selling point—people went crazy for Campbell’s cans in pink because they looked neat (and were different and unexpected).  So color can actually be a selling point.  What value can you add to you add to the product in question that extends and supplements the charitable merits it presents?  Figure it out.  You want people to buy into this!

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to follow these principles - and don’t just take my word for it.  From Cause-Related Marketing Blog, here’s a great analysis of what happens when you don’t.

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