Tue, February 04 2014

Is your nonprofit content URGENT?

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Writing •

If creating compelling content can help you make the case for giving and hold the attention of supporters, exactly how do you come up with the best stuff for your nonprofit? Creating content for content’s sake won’t do much for your cause and may have a negative effect when done poorly. A lot goes into making and effectively distributing quality content, but ideally your nonprofit content should be URGENT:

Useful:  This one should be obvious. As you plan content for your organization, ask, “Will our community find this useful?” Of course, educational content almost always fits the bill, but content can be useful in other ways, too. Information that allows supporters to feel empowered, in the know, or inspired is still incredibly useful.

Relevant:  Publish stuff that means something to the people who you want to read it. Get specific and understand the identities you can tap into to make your content command your readers’ attention. Make it relevant to your cause, your community, and what’s happening right now.

Genuine:  Any piece of content you produce should be uniquely and unequivocally “you”. Whether you create text-based stories or rich visuals, your supporters should be able to immediately recognize your organization’s voice. To ensure your content is genuine, clearly define your nonprofit’s personality by creating a brief brand guide that includes all of your key visual elements, core values, and your writing style.

Edited:  This is an easy way to rise above the messages you’re undoubtedly competing against. Well-edited writing stands out. Make sure every piece of content you produce is edited and reviewed. Yes, check for grammar problems, spelling errors, and typos, but even more importantly, revise your pieces with these key ABCs in mind: authenticity, brevity, and clarity. If you can’t hire a professional editor or proofreader, establish an in-house “buddy system” for reviews. Your colleagues may not be English majors, but a set of fresh eyes will do wonders for your finished product.

Necessary:  Each piece of content you create should tie back to your fundraising and marketing strategy. Ask yourself, “What are we trying to accomplish with this?” Whether you’re creating a thank you video or collecting stories to use in your next fundraising appeal, understand the real role your content is meant to play. Use an editorial calendar to map each piece back to a clearly defined goal.

Tested:  And Tracked. These two Ts go hand in hand. As you send newsletters, social media updates, and share blog posts, continually test and track which types of content work best with your different audience segments. Use Google Analytics or your website platform’s internal reporting to understand which pages are most popular and how readers navigate your content. Keep an eye on your email reports and social media metrics to further inform your content planning.

Does your organization have a plan to improve its content in the coming year? What is working for you? Chime in and let us know in the comments.

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Fri, January 31 2014

What are Your Groundhog Day Problems?

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fun stuff •

Groundhog Day Problems

Do you remember the 1993 classic film, Groundhog Day?  Bill Murray’s character, Phil, keeps living the same day over and over and over again. Phil tries to break the cycle of endless February 2nds with extreme endeavors including kidnapping the official Groundhog Day groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.

Can you relate? Does your organization seem to address the same fundraising or marketing challenges each year? To break the cycle of déjà vu, try implementing some of these best practices to solve these four common problems:

1. People continue to unsubscribe from your email list.
What’s your nonprofit’s email strategy? If you don’t have a strategy, you won’t get very far. To reduce the number of unsubscribes, make sure you are setting clear expectations for your supporters before they even join your email list. Let them know the type of content they will see and how often they’ll hear from you. Also, don’t make it only about the ask. Be sure that for every email appeal you write that you send at least four other messages that don’t explicitly ask for a donation. For more email engagement strategies, download our free eBook.

2. Online giving is flat.
Do a quick assessment of your online giving experience:

o How quickly can donors find your donation button on your website?
o Can donors securely make a donation and set recurring donation levels on a clean, branded, donation page?
o Does your online donation page have a compelling image and a clear call to action?
o How do you follow up with donors after they give?

Simple adjustments like placement of the donation button on your home page or refreshing your donation page to include branding, images, and a call to action can help boost online giving. For a more in-depth assessment of your online donation experience, check out The Donation Page Grader. It’s a simple quiz that can help you determine areas for improvement. 

3. Social media is on the backburner.
A recent study from Pew found that 73% of U.S. online adults now use social networking sites, so don’t ignore social for one second longer! Short on time? A free tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite can let you schedule your posts and keep an eye on keywords and hashtags. Keep in mind that we always recommend having a good website and a solid donation page before diving into social media. But, if you’re ready to take the plunge, check out our Social Media Mini Guide and start tweeting!

4. I’m scrambling for newsletter content … again.
Quality content can be time consuming to create and too many edits and reviews can kill a piece quickly. The first step to stopping the cycle of the newsletter content crisis is to plan out your messaging. Start by creating an editorial calendar. (This will also help you plan out content for other mediums, such as your blog and social media.) Next:  refresh your content. Your messaging should be relevant to your readers, interesting enough to share with a friend, and strategically distributed. Want actionable tips for a content makeover?  Register for Network for Good’s next free webinar, all about content for nonprofits. Nonprofit expert, consultant, and author Kivi Leroux Miller will share how to get your content in order.

What are your organization’s “Groundhog Day” problems? How do you plan to break out of the cycle this year? Share your challenges with us in the comments below or chime in on Twitter with the hashtag #groundhogdayproblems.

Image credit: Bill Murray and Punxsutawney Phil in Groundhog Day directed by Harold Ramis. Columbia Pictures, 1993.


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Thu, January 30 2014

7 Ways to Make 2014 the Year of the Donor

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

The good news is that giving continues to grow. The bad news is that donor retention rates aren’t what they should be. Think about the donors who came into your organization’s ecosystem during the past year. Will they give again?

You can improve the odds of keeping more of your supporters by declaring 2014 the Year of the Donor. What this looks like for your organization may be different than for your nonprofit peers, but here are a few basics to get you started:

1. Have a solid plan.

The biggest way to ensure your donors remain your top priority is to create a well-organized plan for cultivating your organization’s supporters throughout the year.

To do: Create a comprehensive donor stewardship plan that complements your overall marketing strategy and retention goals. Your plan should include a timeline, messaging guidelines, and who will be responsible for each component of your donor outreach. For more planning tips, take a look at Network for Good’s donor stewardship checklist.

2. Send an amazing thank you.

Of course you’re thanking all your donors. Right? (Right?) But are you making it an amazing experience of effusive gratitude? Is your thank you so awesome that donors will tell their friends all about it? Even tell strangers? If not, there’s always room for improvement. Your goal: Express to impress!

To do: Take the time to write a series of really great donor thank you letters. Make them personal, memorable, and full of gratitude. Your thank you letters should reinforce the projected impact of a donor’s gift and open the door for an ongoing relationship. If possible, hire a professional copywriter to polish your thank yous.

3. Keep the conversation going.

Your thank you note is really just the start of a new conversation with your donor. Keep this conversation flowing by updating your supporters on your work and how their gift has helped make it possible. Update supporters on what’s new in your community, your work, and how they can continue to be involved. As you build on this communication, you’ll have earned the opportunity to invite them to give again.

To do: Create an editorial calendar to plan your outreach and news you’d like to share. Use your email marketing tools to segment your lists so you can separate donors from those who’ve yet to give. Communicate to these two groups differently when sending updates to tailor your message to reflect donors’ special status.

4. Clearly articulate your impact.

One of the main reasons donors don’t go on to give a second gift is because they’re not sure how their money was used to create real impact. It’s your job to make sure supporters know exactly how their gift is being used and how it makes a difference. Get in the habit of making this a part of everything you do—from fundraising appeals to your monthly newsletter.

To do: Illustrate a donation’s impact through photos, testimonials, and quantifiable results that are easy for donors to understand. Incorporate these elements in every piece of donor communication you send. Build a collection of stories that are organized by program or locality so you can easily match these with the profiles of your donors.

5. Invite donors for their feedback.

More and more donors don’t want to just give and run—they want to be an active part of your cause. Because they’ve been moved enough to donate, they can offer valuable insight on what went into their decision and how you can continue to reach them and others in their network.

To do: Regularly invite your donors to provide you with feedback. Add this to your donor thank you phone script and conduct periodic donor surveys to collect their input on everything from your newsletter content to how you contact them. Making them feel more invested in your work will bring donors even closer to your organization.

6. Regularly test and improve.

It takes a lot of work to acquire new donors, so it’s crucial that you do everything you can to keep the ones you’ve got. One way to do this is to find and fix any leaks in your process. Once you’ve fixed the obvious problems, optimize your donor retention strategy by testing new messages and acknowledgement techniques.

To do: Track and measure every interaction with your donors. If you don’t have Google Analytics on your nonprofit website or donation form, that’s one place to start. Identify where donors may be falling off by looking at your website bounce rate, form abandonment, and email unsubscribes. Use A/B testing to see which calls to action and content types work best for your audience.

7. Create feel-good moments.

Everyone gives for different reasons, but we all want to feel good about our charitable gifts. To keep this positive vibe flowing, it’s important to create moments of connection and with your donors. Ronald McDonald House Charities does just that with this simple thank you video that puts the donor at the center of the experience and in the embrace of those who feel the impact of their donations every day:

To do: Commit to making your ongoing donor outreach unique and personal. Get creative with photos, video, and perks for your donors to help your cause stay top of mind. Recruit volunteers and beneficiaries to help keep your communications authentic and original. (Want more ideas on using images to stand out? Read these 10 ways nonprofits can use visuals.)

How will you make 2014 the Year of the Donor? I’d love to hear your plans, and I know your donors can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Wed, January 29 2014

An inside look at Fundraising with Businesses: An interview with Joe Waters

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Cause-related marketing • Fun stuff •

Joe WatersHave you ever wondered how your nonprofit could further expand its reach, win over new donors, and raise more money? One way is to explore cause marketing and collaborate with businesses to get new exposure for your cause. Partnering with businesses is not just for large organizations and nonprofits no longer have to rely on a sponsorship model to see results. Joe Waters, author of Cause Marketing for Dummies and writer of the blog Selfish Giving, recently released a new book that serves as a practical, how-to manual for creating successful fundraising programs with businesses. In Fundraising with Businesses, Joe offers 40 doable ideas, complete with examples and tips for getting started. I had the chance to ask Joe a few questions about the new book, and his outlook on the future of cause marketing.

Fundraising with BusinessesWhat inspired you to write Fundraising with Businesses? How does it differ from Cause Marketing for Dummies?

Joe Waters: I wrote Cause Marketing for Dummies to give people an overview of cause marketing. The challenge is that most people don’t know what cause marketing is and they define it in different ways. I tried to clarify this in my latest book by replacing cause marketing with fundraising with businesses. Compared to CM4D, FWB gives the reader a much deeper dive on the strategies for fundraising with businesses. So many nonprofits only think of two things: cash and sponsorship. I don’t even talk about sponsorship in this book. Nonprofits need to know that there are many creative ways to raise money with businesses—to be exact, there are 40!

Beyond the additional revenue a successful business fundraising program might bring in, what are some of the other benefits of doing a fundraiser with a business?

JW: A good business fundraiser gives you access to the largest group of givers: individuals. Think of your work with businesses as a conduit to the largest piece of the philanthropic pie. Of the dollars nonprofits raise, only 6 percent—on average—comes directly from businesses. 72 percent of monies come from individuals. Traditional corporate giving (e. g. grants) is like playing the slots in Vegas—long odds and small payouts. The 40 strategies I outline in FWB bring in consumers, employees and shoppers. That’s the real jackpot.

What is the biggest mistake (or missed opportunity) that nonprofits make when it comes to partnering and fundraising with businesses?

JW: A lot of nonprofits miss all the great things that are right under their feet! Many have existing sponsorships that can be converted into more lucrative fundraisers. If you’re working with a business that boasts lots of locations and foot traffic, sponsorship is just the tip of the iceberg for fundraising. You could be doing so much more. However, the biggest mistake is when nonprofits don’t even realize the potential businesses have for their organization. So often, effective business fundraising isn’t about finding the opportunity. It’s about detecting and acting on the partnerships you already have.

Of the ideas you highlight in the book, which type of fundraiser is your favorite to participate in as a donor? As a fundraiser?

JW: As a former fundraiser, it’s hard not to focus on the “money” strategies. These are point of sale strategies like pinups, register programs, donation boxes and roundup fundraisers. These programs raise hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Even local programs can raise five or six figures.

As a donor, I love any program where there is sincerity and engagement from the business. I want to know that the business really cares about causes. For example, last year after the Boston Marathon bombing the businesses on Newbury Street, a high-end shopping district just one street over from the marathon finish line, pulled together for a one-day shopping event. Their aim was to help a fellow stylist who lost both her legs in the bombing. They raised over $100K. It was great to see so many businesses coming together to support someone in so many ways. While I call my blog Selfish Giving, I love examples of unselfish giving best.

Look into the Selfish Giving crystal ball: What’s the next big thing for cause marketing/fundraising with businesses?

JW: Mobile, mobile, mobile. I’m bullish on how much mobile will impact fundraising with businesses. It already has from an engagement perspective since mobile is where most people are getting their cause news and information via email, the mobile web, and social networks. I have to remind nonprofits that people are now carrying their causes around with them in their pockets and bags. The future of nonprofit marketing and fundraising is engaging people where they are and where they care.

One technology that is making this future a reality is iBeacon. iBeacon is “micro-location” because it’s designed to work in a physical location (like a store) with your phone - specifically your retail apps. With an iBeacon transmitter businesses can better interact with smartphone-toting consumers in and near their stores. Sure, they can push coupons to them when they walk in the door, but they can also give them one when they linger in a particular aisle or over a specific product.

Companies can even push reminders to consumers. “Last time you were on our website you were searching for a blend of coffee that we now have in stock.”

Think about the possibilities for cause marketing. Companies can let customers know when they are supporting a cause, which products are eligible for a donation, and even ask you while you stand in line at checkout if you want to donate to a cause. iBeacon could also process that donation right from your mobile device.

I warn people that if people and their addiction to their phones drive them crazy, they may want to plan for a long nap. It’s only going to increase the next few years. But thanks to generous companies and nonprofits it won’t just be Snapchat, Facebook, and Angry Birds. People will also be using their phones for good.

Thanks to Joe for giving us the inside scoop on the book and what’s next for fundraising with businesses. For more of Joe’s thoughts on cause marketing and nonprofit trends, follow him on Twitter.


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Mon, January 27 2014

What you can learn from the Grammys

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Beyond the usual celebrity antics and costume changes, the acts that stood out at last night’s Grammys were ones that delivered favorite songs in unexpected ways. But what does a musical awards show have to do with marketing your cause?

When you have the opportunity to grab your audience’s attention, it’s important to rise above the background noise and deliver your message in a way that will stand out. How do you express your core mission in a way that people will remember? Here are three lessons from music’s big night.

Try an alternate melody.
One of the best parts about live performances is that you get to hear familiar tunes performed in a unique way. Rare is the musician who will play a song exactly the same way twice. Hearing a favorite song in a new way moves the experience from the background of our minds into focus, challenging us to pay closer attention to understand each nuance.

If your outreach is becoming less effective, it may be time to find new ways to express your key points. To catch the attention of your long-time supporters, avoid sending out carbon copies of the same missives that you send year after year. One easy way to do this is to leverage the different stories from all parts of your organization. Testimonials from staff members, donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries can give you the opportunity to tell your story from different, and often refreshing, angles.

Tap unexpected—yet relevant—partners.
Last night’s show relied on carefully constructed pairings. While longtime singer-songwriter Carole King’s duet with younger counterpart Sara Bareilles felt like an obvious no-brainer, teaming classical pianist Lang Lang with the heavy metal icons of Metallica may have seemed like an odd choice. However, the intensity of the song they performed was a perfect match for shredding guitars and booming piano, creating a memorable mash-up.

To add interest to your next campaign, consider recruiting new spokespeople for your nonprofit outreach. Not just any pairing will do—your messengers still need to make sense in the context of your work and your brand. You’re not aiming for pure novelty or shock value. Potential partners should have a connection to your target audience, cause, and local community.

Deliver it with style.
As usual, the Grammys’ producers took it over the top with pyrotechnics, aerial stunts, and a mass marriage ceremony officiated by Queen Latifah. While these tactics aren’t realistic (or recommended) for your nonprofit outreach, it probably wouldn’t hurt to add a little surprise to your next newsletter or appeal.

Look at your communication plan and identify ways you can change it up a bit. Do you always send an email newsletter? Try creating a short video that includes the same information. Thank you notes printed on your organization’s letterhead are nice, but a note printed on the back of a photo that illustrates your work is more likely to stand out and be shared.

How do you plan to jazz up your nonprofit’s outreach? Share your ideas and keep us posted on the results in the comments or give us a shout on Twitter.

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