Thu, August 14 2008

What your home page is probably missing

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Websites and web usability •

Answer: a great photo.  One that moves you to a smile, a tear or a click to donate.

I look at dozens of nonprofit websites a week, and almost none of these have a dynamite photo.  They may have no photo.  Or a photo, but it’s small.  Or corporate, stock-photo-looking image.  Or a dull photo.

This should be the hottest priority for your home page.  People glance at web pages, not peruse them.  You want to pull them in fast, and there’s no better way to do that than with a compelling image.

Do you work with kids?  Feature photos of them - or taken by them - on the home page.  Or put a piece of their artwork on the home page.  Do you work with animals?  Put a big image of Rover on your page.  Do you do something abstract, like advocacy for public lands?  Show one of your super advocates standing in front of something they saved.  Do you work on domestic abuse?  Put a big photo of one of your hotline staff on the home page.  HUMANIZE what you do.  Bring it to life.  Put it in pictures.  Make that image a big piece of your home page real estate.

But Katya, you might say, what about YOUR home page?  Errrrr, right.  Paging Dr. Hypocrisy.  BUT, we’re about to do this right at Network for Good’s nonprofit site - This is “before.”  Stay tuned for the transformation.  Goodbye field, hello humans.

Some great inspiration is at Collective Lens.  I’ve invited them to share tips for great photos, and they kindly agreed, so stay tuned for those in an upcoming post.



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Mon, August 11 2008

3 ways to dig out of info overload

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fun stuff •

Thanks for the thoughtful and sympathetic responses to my last post.  And Beth much appreciation for the great tips.

I truly believe that email is valuable, but it can take over your day.  So can meetings, phone calls and other task-oriented events.  And in the buzz of busyness in these tasks, it’s easy to lose the vision you need to know what you should do first and why. 

Here’s how I’m trying to cope:

1. I made a list of seven questions that speak to the seven most important strategic goals I have at work.  They are questions about big aims.  For example, on of them is, “Does it improve customer service?”  I hung the list right over my desk.

2. Whenever I have a pause in my day or an inner debate about what to do next, I put any task that takes over two minutes against the list.  If the answer to all seven questions is NO, then the task gets tabled.  There’s no question, how you spend your time determines your success or failure with just about anything.  Saying no to things that aren’t important frees up the time to focus on what is.

3. When things are important, I try to build a system around them that ensures they stay important.  Our marketing team went on retreat at the beginning of the summer, and we spent a whole day on practical ways we could improve the experience of Network for Good prospects and customers - the people who use us to raise money.  We spent hours going through everything we do from their perspective, and we uncovered all kinds of ways we could be more helpful to them.  We turned that into a to-do list that we meet on bi-weekly.  How many strategy retreats end up as a summary in a binder somewhere?  We feared that, so we assigned owners and deadlines for every idea.  Of course, no one is perfect.  Our most recent meeting has been delayed twice because of urgent things that arose in the office - but at least those were things that spoke to the seven priorities hanging above my desk.

I still fail all the time at this and every other good intention, but I’m trying to stick to the plan.  I’m also trying to make sure I structure the unstructured time I need to think creatively.  Sometimes doing nothing is the best possible way to come up with great ideas.

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Thu, August 07 2008

Your inbox: the death spiral of reactivity

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fun stuff •

When I got back from vacation on Monday, I had more than 1,000 emails.

After two days, I finished answering all of them.  It was a hollow sense of accomplishment - sort of like eating the whole box of Thin Mints.

This have been the worst two days EVER in terms of my mood and creativity.

Then I read what Seth Godin said on this topic.  Read his whole post - in fact, read his blog every day - but here are my favorite lines:

Do you spend your day responding and reacting to incoming all day… until the list is empty? ... and then you’re done.

...Years ago, I got my mail (the old fashioned kind) once a day. It took twenty minutes to process and I was forced to spend the rest of the day initiating, reaching out, inventing and designing. Today, it’s easy to spend the whole day hitting ‘reply’.

Carving out time to initiate is more important than ever.

Then I read what Beth said:

According to a new study from AOL, 59% of people check their email in the bathroom.  The study of 4,000 users also showed people check their email from the following locations:

•  In bed in their pajamas: 67%
•  From the bathroom: 59%
•  While driving: 50%
•  In a bar or club: 39%
•  In a business meeting: 38%
•  During happy hour: 34%
•  While on a date: 25%
•  From church: 15% (up from 12% last year)

This is warped.  What’s worse - I think I have done most of these.

No wonder I’m in a bad mood - I’m in reactive hell.  Read email - send email - react - react - and, as Seth says, forget how to initiate.

What’s the solution?  Beth has some suggestions.  They’re good.

Here’s what I’m going to do:  Get out of the email weeds and look at the rest of the world.  Tomorrow, I’m hanging over my desk the top 10 things I need to get done to advance Network for Good’s mission.  I’m going to spend more time checking that list than my inbox.  I’ll let you know what happens. 

I’d hang it up now but I need to check the 10 emails I received while writing this post.



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Wed, August 06 2008

7 Ways to Build Your Email List

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   How to improve emails and newsletters •

One of the most common questions I get asked about online marketing is, “How do I build an email list?”

I took a stab at answering this question with two smart cookies (I mean savvy marketing professionals), Jocelyn Harmon and Alia McKee.  (We took a whole range of additional questions from nonprofits as part of a Network for Good Ask the Expert call - you can check out the whole thing here!)  Here is the list we devised:

1. Make sure that all your media mentions are driving people to your website (make it a call to action)!

2. Create a strong email-address-collection device on that website.  (NOT something lame like “sign up for news” but rather give them something enticing. Give them an incentive or a reason to join. Give them a discount on an event. Give them an article you’ve written or tips for better living and then get their email address in return for your sending that gem to them.

3. Optimize search: A lot of nonprofits are not taking advantage of Google grants—more on that here.

4. Collect emails from donors via direct mail - maybe they’d rather hear from you electronically.

5. Use your email signature - it is a great tool for doing marketing, whether it’s promoting an event or asking people to sign up to hear from you on your website.

6. Ask people to sign a petition - with their email address and with permission to contact them.

7. Collect email addresses at events.  I have been to 10 nonprofit events in the last 18 months, and I can’t think of a single one that collected my email address. Lost opportunity! 


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Tue, August 05 2008

Beware the bumper sticker

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

I’m back from vacation!  It was excellent to take a breather.

Hot off the presses, here is my latest Fundraising Success column.  It’s inspired by a car I once blogged about here.  By the way, no offense if you have a hippy car.  In fact, if you DO have one, send me a photo via email and I’ll send you a copy of Robin Hood Marketing:)

Some time ago while driving in my home base of Washington DC, I stopped at a red light next to a Honda Civic of a certain age.  An old age.  The hatchback and bumper were covered top to bottom with bumper stickers.  You know the kind of car I’m talking about.  There’s one in every traffic jam – especially if you live in a college town.  It’s a compact car chockablock with a bewildering array of declarations of belief.  Maybe you even drive one (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

It’s fine to drive such a vehicle, really, but it’s not okay to operate like that in the office.  You see, that car got me thinking.  I can’t get the image of the thing out of my mind.  I think the reason is, that car is a rusting symbol on wheels of so many of the mistakes we make in our sector. 

Too many nonprofits are the equivalent of what I call the hippy car.  Here’s what I mean. 

1. We’ve got a bumper sticker marketing strategy.

As nonprofits, we tend to declare what we believe and think that’s persuasive.  It’s marketing by mission statement, and it’s annoying to others.

Slapping a bumper sticker on a car is a way of declaring your views that is one-way.  You speak out and everyone else is left to listen (and smell your exhaust).  That’s your prerogative as a vehicle owner, but it should not be your style as a marketer.

If you are a very loud preacher for your cause who rarely breaks to listen to your audience - or take in their perspective - you could end up with an audience of one.  Yourself.  We should be passionate, but be in a conversation with potential supporters.  Good marketing is not a stickerfest, nor is it a monologue.  It’s a give and take.

Don’t have a bumper sticker marketing strategy – go for more of a carpool experience.  We should all be on this ride together.

2. We’re getting ourselves written off as hippy dippy or irrelevant.

Tthere’s something about the whole package of that car that lacks credibility for most the drivers idling alongside it.  If we’re passionate about a cause, we may wear it on our sleeve, or on our bumper, with great pride.  Such zeal can be good and bad.  Good, in that passion can be wonderfully persuasive.  Bad, in that too much passion (especially the angry, slightly raving kind) can start to sound coo-coo.

If we push our agenda into people’s faces with this level of subtlety, we’re going to get dismissed as “out there.”  I get a certain feeling when I see cars like this: “Wow, that looks like a nice, well-intentioned person, but hope I don’t run into them at a cocktail party because they’d never stop talking.”

I guarantee that the Ford SUV with the Support our Troops ribbon and the unmarked Accords and Camrys around the hippy car were not converted to a single cause on the car because the message delivery and messenger have that icky polemic feel.  Don’t have a tone that says finger-wag.

3. We’ve got too many stickers.

The driver of the car I saw was apparently one busy dude, because he supports about ten causes, five indie bands and a score of other unidentifiable organizations, secret societies or issues I’m not hip enough to recognize. 

He also somehow found time to brake for squirrels and leprechauns.

Wow.  I wish I had those time management skills.

But seriously, this is a great example of way too many messages.  Remember, people can usually only handle about one message at a time.  And you’ll be lucky if you can consistently get your supporters to attribute one idea or concept to your organization. 

The more messages you heap on to your message delivery vehicles (pun intended), the more you seem like a raving, wide-ranging, unfocused mess.  People will react to your communications the way they would if you’d stuck bumper stickers all over your body – they’d run the other way.  Or cross to the other side of the street. 

In other words, no one is going to stick around (ha) long enough to figure out what on earth you stand for if you declare yourself like this.

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