Fri, May 02 2008

Donor Research Roundup

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Here’s a nice summary of recent donor research by Nonprofit Communications guru Kivi.

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Fri, May 02 2008

Six Steps to Social Media Success

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

Here is my May column for Fundraising Success.

Put down your iPhone, close your Facebook profile and stop Twittering for just a second.  I have something to say to you, head to head and heart to heart.

Technology is cool.  It can be incredibly effective way to promote your cause.  But hard wires don’t necessarily create human bonds.  Your social media strategy can’t simply be a toolset – it needs to be a conduit to living beings.  “Java” doesn’t inspire people unless you’re talking about the kind you get from Starbucks.  Technology doesn’t compel people.  People do.

I’m taking this precious space to make this point because I think it goes in the forgotten fundamentals category that is the focus of this column.  It is all too easy to fall in love with all the sexy social media tools out there and forget WHY people are attracted to social media in the first place.  If you don’t stay grounded in the basic human needs that fuel the success of those shiny tools, you will be – in the words of Nicole Engelbert from Datamonitor – a fool with a tool.

There are a lot of lengthy and overwhelming definitions of social media, social networking and Web 2.0 out there – pick your jargon.  I will not quote them here.  Let me give you my definition.

All that social media stuff is simply people using the Internet to:

1. Be seen and heard
2. Connect with each other

That’s it.  And that’s as basic and human as you can get.  Social media is about the social, not the media.

Here are some examples.

Bloggers and vloggers want a platform for personal expression, and they like connecting with people who care about their content.  (In case you’ve been living off the grid for the last few years, blogs are personal online journals/columns.  Vlogs are video blogs.)  Everyone can be a pundit in the world of social media.  Even I have one.

Social networkers want a platform for personal expression (think a MySpace page), and they want to connect with others (think online “friends”).  So do people (including your kids) who love instant messaging.

Being seen and heard and connecting are the emotions that drive social media, and they should drive your online outreach strategy.

This should be a relief to all of us who think we lack the technological chops to successfully participate in the online world.  You don’t need to be under age 20 or an IT director, you just need to grasp what makes it work.

Here’s a six-step way to make that happen.  And you need to make it happen.  Why?  Because online outreach is a cost-effective and efficient way to reach people at a time when we’re all low on resources.  Because it’s a way to find new constituencies and reach a new, younger generation of donors.  Because giving up control of the message and having a conversation can strengthen your relationship with the people with support you.  And if none of that moves you, remember that people tend to donate more money online.

The Six Steps to Winning Hearts and Minds on Web 2.0:

1. STOP!  If your Executive Director is commanding you to start a blog or get a Facebook presence today, stop right there.  Spend a bit of time thinking more strategically.  You want to figure out WHO you’re trying to reach online, WHERE they are, and HOW to best communicate with them.  If starting a new blog (and there are already tens of millions of them), you want to be sure there’s a case for it. 

2. LOOK AND LISTEN!  The beauty of the Internet is you can quickly find the people online that are predisposed to your cause.  In a world where there are active online communities of people fascinated by medieval pottery or support groups for people struck by lightning (really), there is surely is a constituency that loves your cause, somewhere out there.  Find those people, watch where they are congregating and listen to what they are saying.  This is very easy to do by setting up simple alerts so that each time someone mentions your organization or anything related to your cause online, you will be notified.  Check out and watch lists on

3. SEE AND HEAR!  Start acknowledging what potential supporters are saying.  Post friendly comments on their blogs with constructive thoughts and useful information, openly identifying who you are and your organization.  Bloggers love those kinds of comments.  They like having an audience!  Do the same on online communities, MySpace pages, etc.  Give online communities useful tools and interesting content from your organization.  Be generous.

4. CHOOSE!  At this stage, you’ll have a growing sense of whether there’s a need for you to blog or participate more formally in a social network.  Be strategic about concentrating your efforts in a few high-yield areas.

5. BE EASY TO FIND!  Part of social networking is going out and connecting to people.  Also make sure you’re easy to find so people can connect to you.  Be sure your website can be easily located via search engines.  If you decide to have a social networking page, give it an obvious name.  Don’t be so clever you don’t show up in search.

6. ASK!  Once you have relationships with supporters on social media, give them different ways to help you – not just by giving money, but telling their story, spreading the word and expressing their opinion about your issue – in their own words.  Turn the conversation into collaboration for social change.  Give up control.  You never had it anyway.


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Thu, May 01 2008

Changing the Messenger

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Pursuant to my post yesterday, I want to show two wonderful examples of establishing the trust triangle with unlikely yet completely authentic messengers for an important cause.

Read these stories and ask yourself, “Who should be my messenger?”  No matter your marketing talents, there is probably someone better than you to speak to your cause - especially someone helped by it!


David Stoker of Ashoka wrote me today to say:

Read your post today about trust and the power of trust between friends in combination with a cause.  That is really the underlying mechanism that drives the idea of, what we call, a Citizen Base.  When citizens own, operate, and market to other citizens, the cause becomes rooted in the community at a level of connectivity that makes it more likely to succeed and grow.  A great example we’ve seen in this regard is Men on the Side of the Road in South Africa.  The personal connection they forged between individuals was the key to their success.  I find it quite compelling in terms of building trust between segments of the population that would perhaps look at each other with suspicion.

Here’s the story, in Ashoka’s words, about this project:

MSR was created when Ashoka Fellow Charles Maisel devised a way to employ the 18,000 males who gather at roughly 180 sites throughout South Africa waiting for a day’s labor. Through a national marketing campaign, MSR initiated a massive tool drive for old, unused, and even broken tools, which can then be repaired and used by the day laborers. Instead of having to go to anonymous drop-off points to donate, citizens are asked to call MSR, who then sends out these day laborers to pick-up these tools directly from the community, thereby building a human connection.

Imagine if the next time you donated something, a person who was benefitting collected it from you!  Wow.


Pets for the Environment has a brilliant new spokesperson—a dog.  Here is Eddie’s story (he has a blog, too, natch):

I’m a dog on a mission.

When nonstick chemicals from a frying pan killed my buddy Feathers, and my feline friend Cleo and I found out that we’re full of chemicals too, I was barking mad. Did you know that the humans’ government doesn’t make companies test chemicals for safety before they start using them in our toys, furniture, or even our food? And where do you think all those flame retardants, mercury, and perfluorochemicals end up? In us! And I know because I was tested. The chemicals in me are the same kinds of chemicals in people, and scientists think that other cats and dogs—and horses and birds and bunnies and snakes—around the country are full of them, too.

That’s why I started Pets for the Environment. The humans have made a mess, and they aren’t doing anything about it. I need your help educating our humans and getting their government to pass toxic chemical reform legislation. They’ll never listen to just one pet, but all of us barking and meowing and cawing and squeaking together can make a lot of noise. Join Pets for the Environment and help me make a difference!

Check out the site, where you can find the blog, a wall of cute (dog photos sent in by fans) and other great examples of messaging with the right messengers.

Trying to reach pet owners?  Speak through a pet.




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Wed, April 30 2008

Trust is a triangle - why and how to get it

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

My dad visited this weekend.  He’s a psychoanalyst and quite brilliant, so I spent time asking him about some of the issues I’m exploring with Mark Rovner under the topic, “the seven things everyone wants.”  My dad had some particularly fascinating comments about trust.

I want to share those today because there is a huge demand for trust in our sector, yet a serious supply problem.  Holly at NTEN blogged on it just yesterday.  She cited a some important data:

Want to guess what the number one source of trusted information is for most Americans? People like them—their friends, colleagues and peers.

So we trust people like us.  That is definitely true.  But how does that work?  What is trust, really, and how does it come about?  That’s what I asked my dad, since he’s spent a lifetime understanding people’s minds.

He says trust is a triangle.  Person A trusts Person B when Person B authentically represents or speaks to something that matters to us.  Think of that thing as “C” - the third point that makes a triangle.  For example, a person might trust a politician that stands for their vision of America.  A customer of Amazon will trust another customer at Amazon who credibly reviews a book they are considering buying.  A person might trust a brand if it consistently stands for quality.  A person will trust their spouse if they stand for a faithful marriage.  It’s not so much the person on the other side of the relationship as the stakes we share, the point that forms a triangle.

Given the power of word-of-mouth marketing, if we’re trying to promote a cause (the “C” of our triangle), we need to ensure that our target audience (“A”) sees a triangle—that they actually care what we stand for—and that the other person in their triangle is not necessarily us but someone very close to them.  That creates a strong triangle of trust.  We don’t get a triangle if they don’t care what we do or don’t know the person speaking. 

What does this mean to us?  That our triangle requires new points.  It’s time to change our message - so we are creating a point of trust that matters to people - and the messenger speaking to that point.  We won’t have trust without that kind of shape.

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Mon, April 28 2008

Great video tips from See3

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

See3 recently sent around this nifty list of video tips.  I really like it, so I’m sharing it in its entirety, followed by a video I think exhibits many of these principles. More on See3 at the bottom of this list.  Thanks See3!

10 Things to Remember When Shooting Video for the Web

We are consistently meeting organizations that are thirsting for more effective and creative ways to use video in their online strategies.  We think that integrating video is critical, but doing it the right way can make all the difference to your campaign.  Here are some useful tips for making a better video.

1. Tell a story.  If you want your audience to identify with your mission, you need a compelling story that connects your work to real people. If a story moves you, it will likely move others as well - and become the foundation for deeper involvement.

2. Keep the audience in mind.  Are you trying to reach urban street youth or retired veterans?  Tailor your messaging for a targeted audience and consider how you want it to feel before the camera starts rolling.

3. Make a clear call to action.  You have their attention, now tell your viewers how you want them to engage, whether it’s donating money, visiting a website or volunteering.

4. Shoot video with repurposing in mind.  Video footage can be reused for different projects and messages.  Building a media library is a valuable long-term asset for your organization.  Have a camera ready for every important event.  Ask volunteers to document their work and make it available for future events, trainings, and online use.

5. Think outside of the box.  Consider new ways to make your video edgy or gripping.  Use music, stills, or archival footage to reel a viewer in and then maintain energy throughout the piece.

6. Prepare a script and get some feedback.  Yes, even a one- or two-minute video needs the arc of a well-considered story.  Scripts help lay the foundation for every piece of good production out there.  Use feedback from trustworthy sources to make improvements.

7. B-roll (footage where people aren’t talking) is important.  Too many talking heads can make it difficult to hold a viewer’s attention.  Collect all the footage you can and choose your best content when it’s time to edit.

8. Sound is critical.  One of the most underappreciated aspects of production is sound quality.  Web viewers are more likely to watch a poor-quality video with good sound than a good-quality video with poor sound.

9. Give the viewer the right web tools.  Can the viewer forward the video to a friend, subscribe to your RSS feed, get involved, and sign up for your newsletter right there on the spot?  If not, they should.

10. Host a screening.  Working with award-winning documentarians makes screenings here at See3 one of the most exciting parts of our work.  Professional films rely on screenings, so why shouldn’t nonprofits?  Screenings foster discussion and feedback from others who care about your message.  It’s also an opportunity to meet up with others in your nonprofit community.  For See3, it helps us maintain the award-winning video quality that we strive for with every project.

Interested in learning more about our production services?  Give us a call at (773) 784-7333 or email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

And here’s a video from a highly successful fundraiser from our Six Degrees program, Samantha Millman.  Thanks, Samantha!


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