Thu, June 18 2015

Making Meme Magic: Q&A with Smile Train

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fun stuff • Marketing essentials •

Isn’t the Internet a magical place? We sure think so. And it just got even more magical thanks to #seriousbaby, a new campaign recently launched by Smile Train.

In the campaign, you meet baby Walter. Walter is standing in solidarity with kids who have unrepaired clefts and can’t smile. He’s serious about not smiling. And Walter’s call to action is clear: Donate to Smile Train. Do it. He’s serious.

I had the opportunity to find out more about this campaign from Shari Mason, senior director of integrated marketing at Smile Train.

What was the motivation to launch a new campaign for Smile Train?

Shari Mason: Smile Train is always exploring new, out-of-the-box ways to convey the importance of our cleft repair work and engage new and current supporters alike. We launch awareness campaigns at regular intervals throughout the year to enhance engagement with our donors and maintain momentum for the cause.

Walter #seriousbaby

As we approached this newest campaign, we had the idea to depart from traditionally “serious” charity tactics and, instead, use humor as a tool for driving awareness around the serious condition of cleft lip and palate. The use of video and visual memes allowed us to tap into the sharing culture that defines the social and digital Web and bring our global vision to new, younger audiences.

Cleft is far more than a cosmetic issue: It also impacts eating, breathing, and speaking; leads to social isolation; and can prevent a child from leading a full and productive life. Baby Walter, the nine-month-old protagonist of the campaign, emerged as a humorous, relatable voice for reinforcing the severe impact of cleft on affected children and rallying audiences to help share smiles across the world.

I noticed there isn’t any Smile Train branding on seriousbaby.org. Why is that?

SM: We decided not to include branding on the campaign site to create as organic and seamless an engagement experience as possible. Our goal was to put the campaign and call to action around our life-changing cleft repair work front and center.

Walter #seriousbaby

How have current donors responded to #seriousbaby?

SM: We have received nothing but positive feedback from our donors so far. The catchy, humor-driven approach to awareness, combined with the use of sharable videos and memes, has enabled our donors to substantively engage with the campaign and maximize sharing across their own platforms. Our donors have been wonderful advocates for the campaign and continue to positively engage with the seriousbaby.org landing page and share campaign assets far and wide. In particular, we’ve noticed that our younger supporters, including members of Students for Smile Train and our Young Leadership Circle, have strongly embraced the campaign—a testament to its success in engaging millennials around the cause.

How are you promoting the video?

Walter #seriousbaby

SM: To promote the video and drive audience views, we are continuing to widely share the Tumblr campaign page across Smile Train platforms, spanning Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and have seen a ripple effect of sharing and posting via our supporter networks. In addition, we have featured the campaign and a link to our donation landing page on the home pages of our global websites and have employed digital banner ads to garner eyes across the Web. We have supplemented social tactics with direct outreach and email communications to our donors and supporters.

Our integrated approach to communications has touched all channels, enabling us to maximize outreach to current and prospective donors around the campaign’s call to action in support of cleft-affected children worldwide.

How are you measuring success for this campaign? Do you have a goal for views, clicks, new donors?

SM: Our goals for the campaign are twofold: 1) Engage existing and new audiences with shareable content, and 2) test out-of-the-box ways to raise donations. To measure success as it relates to both goals, we are focusing on the following metrics:

  • Video views
  • Site visits
  • Content shares
  • Campaign mentions
  • Social reach
  • Donations

We are thrilled with the positive engagement Serious Baby has inspired so far and cannot wait to see how many new smiles—and transformed lives—Walter’s “Smile Strike” and call to action help create for children in need.


Thanks for the insights into your newest campaign, Shari! I hope the video continues to reach a wide audience and that #seriousbaby inspires donors to give big!

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Wed, June 10 2015

Why Are You Sending Donors This Email?!? A Lesson in Segmentation

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

I’m a monthly donor to a nonprofit I love a lot. They use a membership model to boost monthly giving. However, I noticed that during their seasonal membership drives, I continued to get emails asking me to become a member.

At first I ignored this, thinking maybe they incorrectly segmented their list. Then, when I got a second appeal email a few months later, I thought maybe my membership had lapsed. I checked, but no, I found the receipt for the gift I made the previous month. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

I reached out to the organization on Twitter to ask why I was getting emails asking me to become a member when I am already a member. They apologized and began investigating which emails I might have received. They came back with the news that it didn’t look like I had received any emails by accident, and then asked me to share those emails with them to help solve the issue. I gladly took screenshots of the emails I had received. As I was in the process of sharing them with the nonprofit’s donor relations associate, I noticed one line of text that I had previously missed.

The call to action in this email was a hyperlinked sentence reading something like this: “Click here to become a member, increase your monthly gift, or donate.” Um, what? The entire email (including the header image) had language that asked me to generally “support the membership drive.” I blew right past the rest of the email because the first message I saw didn’t apply to me. I was already a member. I must have received this by mistake.

Social Webinar Quote

Along with the email screenshots, I sent a suggestion: It would have made much more sense if you had segmented your list and sent three separate emails to the three groups of people you are targeting with this one email. Why send one confusing message to everyone in your database when you have the power to send three targeted emails?

I recommended:

  • One email to nondonors—email list subscribers, I suppose—who haven’t yet given a gift.
  • One to lapsed donors asking them to renew.
  • One to current members asking them to increase their monthly gift.

By segmenting the list and choosing extremely clear, appropriate calls to action to target each group, I’m sure this organization would have received a larger response to their season appeal.

I received a big thanks (and another apology) from the nonprofit’s VP of development. I made it clear that I wasn’t a whiny, fussy, mad donor (although these folks do exist—and please listen to their feedback, but don’t take it personally). I truly wanted to see this organization grow and raise more money with better seasonal appeals. The VP asked if she could contact me again to get feedback on their next appeal and recommendations on how they can better segment and target their donor base with appropriate messages and calls to action. (Of course I said yes!)

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated case. I get confusing emails from nonprofits all the time. Don’t let your emails fall into this dazed and confused state! Here are some steps you can take to ensure you don’t confuse your donors:

  1. Invest in a smart donor management tool to help you easily keep track of donors’ gifts, communication history, and more. We recommend Salesforce and Donor Perfect because they sync with our online donation pages.
  2. Make an audit of your emails on a seasonal basis. Make sure donation receipts, thank you emails, appeals, newsletters, etc., truly speak to the audiences receiving them. Survey your donors and ask what they think of your communication.
  3. Segment your email audiences and provide relevant content. In my example here, the information most relevant to me as a current donor would be the steps to increase a monthly gift.
  4. Don’t stick with one method forever. Test how you segment your donor database, and test different content. You won’t know what resonates most with your donors unless you try something new and measure it.
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Wed, April 29 2015

Your Storytelling Questions Answered: Q&A with Vanessa Chase

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

Last month, Vanessa Chase, founder of the Storytelling Non-Profit presented a Nonprofit911 webinar on how to incorporate storytelling in email appeals. The webinar was amazing, and I highly recommend you watch the archived version. Because so many people listened in, there were tons of great questions, but we didn’t have time to answer them all during the Q&A portion of the webinar. I gathered some of those questions and asked Vanessa if she could answer them here on our blog. Read on to hear Vanessa’s tips on donor surveys and her recommendations for how to include visuals in your email appeals.

What was your inspiration for starting the Storytelling Non-Profit?

Vanessa Chase

Vanessa Chase: I’ve been a fundraiser for a number of years, and I absolutely love the profession! A couple of years ago, I was working as a development officer. As much as I enjoyed working directly with donors, what I really loved was donor communications. But I noticed how ineffective donor communications tend to be, so I started to research and test narrative in communications. It led me to find that using stories not only helped us raise more money, it deepened the relationships we had with donors. Shortly after that, I started writing on my blog about what I was doing and sharing my learnings about storytelling with other fundraisers. My main mission continues to be finding ways to help nonprofits improve donor relations through their communications.

In your webinar, you mentioned that surveying donors is a good practice all nonprofits should do. Do you have examples of donor surveys that I can share with our readers?

VC: Surveying is one of the best things nonprofits can do to improve their fundraising programs. Through surveys, we can gauge donors’ satisfaction, identify ways to improve their satisfaction, and communicate with them more effectively.

Here are some sample survey questions, and here’s a copy of a survey I received from Union Gospel Mission.

If a nonprofit’s mission breaks out to three distinct program areas, do you recommend including stories on all three program areas in an appeal, or should you just stick to one area? Does that give donors the full story?

VC: This is a great question. One of the things nonprofits struggle with the most is trying to figure out which stories to tell, especially if they have a lot of programs. In appeals, I think it is always best to make a specific ask for a specific program. These tend to have the best conversion rates, because the asks are very tangible and donors can wrap their minds around what they are giving to. The trick is figuring out which of your programs garners the best response from donors, and then leveraging those stories for undesignated fundraising.

One of the things I recommend nonprofits do is create an editorial calendar for their storytelling over the course of the year. It’s helpful to know what your fundraising plan is, and then decide what stories you will tell and when. That way you can coordinate stories and messages across channels.

During the webinar, we had a lot of questions on the topic of using visuals in emails. There is no doubt that visuals complement stories. Do you have any recommendations for using photos versus using none in email appeals? Are videos worthwhile? Have you seen any research on this?

VC: I’m sure there is research on this topic, but unfortunately I haven’t come across it yet. You can think about the principles of direct mail here. We all know that what is "above the fold" is important. That can make or break the donor reading the rest of the letter. I think the same is true for emails. Once someone opens it, you want to make it easy for them to engage with. I have seen a number of nonprofits use an image above the fold of the email. But it is usually not just an image. They will overlay text on the image—typically the call to action—and hyperlink the image to the donation page. It kind of acts as a giant "donate" button right at the top of the email.

Do you have any suggestions on how to share stories that are specific enough to be moving but not so specific that they risk breaking confidentiality?

VC: Confidentiality is extremely important when you’re dealing with vulnerable populations and issues, so from an ethical standpoint, your organization should prioritize confidentiality. I recommend changing the person’s name and any details that could make them identifiable. Additionally, before you use the story, give the person a chance to read it to make sure they are comfortable with how they are portrayed.

Can you share examples of great email appeals that implement storytelling best practices?

VC: Here are two examples worth reading: This is from Splash, an organization that works to provide clean water to underserved populations, especially children, and this appeal is from Women Against Violence Against Women.


We’re partnering with Vanessa to see how nonprofits are currently leveraging stories in their communications. And we want to hear from you! Please fill out this short survey on your storytelling practices. Thanks! And thank you, Vanessa, for providing great examples and inspiration to help nonprofits tell better stories.

Storytelling for Nonprofits
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Wed, April 22 2015

Create Great Visuals: 10 Tips and Tools for Nonprofits

Helene Kahn's avatar

Communications and Marketing, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

More and more nonprofits are using visuals to tell their story, illustrate impact, and create a case for giving. But creating visuals can sometimes be costly, time consuming, and seemingly impossible without advanced software. At Network for Good, we see clients using visuals in amazing ways to share their stories, engage donors, and raise more money in ways that are effective, easy, and—guess what?—FREE! We've compiled a top 10 list of tools and techniques to help you incorporate more visuals into your organization's work.

10. Keep it simple! Start by taking and sharing pictures of your team and the people, places, or purpose you serve. Pictures taken with your phone are totally okay!

9. Empower your constituents to help. Ask volunteers, board members, and others involved with your organization to take pictures and send them to you. Then you'll have options to choose from when you need a photo.

Brianne Nadeau is Martha's Table! Supporter/Neighbor/Volunteer + Ward 1 DC Councilmember10 years#IAmMarthasTable at bit.ly/IAmMT

Posted by Martha's Table on Thursday, April 16, 2015

Martha's Table is encouraging their community to share #IAmMarthasTable photos on social media to celebrate their 35th anniversary.

8. Have pictures, but they need to be edited or jazzed up? Check out Picmonkey, a great free photo editing service.

7. Once you create a great image, make sure it's correctly sized for every social media channel. Our friends at Constant Contact created a great cheat sheet to help you size all your images.

6. Do file names like JPEG, PNG, and GIF confuse you as much as they confuse me? Here's a helpful chart to show you when to use what file type.

5. Still don't have a picture you want to use? Check out this helpful list of stock image sites to find a picture to fit your need.

4. Share your impact using an infographic. Check out Picktochart, a fantastic infographic creator that's free for nonprofits!

3. If you haven't discovered Canva yet, go check it out! Canva is our favorite tool on the marketing team here at Network for Good—and we're pretty sure it'll be your favorite too. Plus, it's free!

2. Join us tomorrow for our next Nonprofit911 webinar, “The Art of Social Media,” featuring Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist at Canva. Guy will be talking about how to build your online presence and how to use visual tools to do so! Register now!

The Art of Social Media Webinar

We made this graphic with Canva!

1. Have fun and be creative! The days of posed headshots and perfectly positioned group photos are behind us. People engage with brands and organizations in fun, organic, and unique ways. Might we suggest a social media selfie contest?

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Thu, April 16 2015

The Key to More Effective Donor Communication

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

To truly connect with donors and inspire them to become a part of the work that you do, you need to speak to them. Really speak to them. This means getting extremely clear on the message you’re trying to send, and making it incredibly relevant to why they care about your mission in the first place.

This is why the key to more effective communication is specificity

When your emails and other communications are specific, they can be more relevant, interesting, and authentic. Your job as a marketer or fundraiser is to definitively answer the question, “Why me?”  You can’t do that with broad and generic messages. Generic messages are not just typically boring; studies have shown that vague statements can introduce skepticism among readers. Definitely not the feeling you want to evoke!

How do you make your message more specific, and in turn, more relevant? Think about the unique stories your donors have when they relate to your cause. Group donors into meaningful categories based on:

  • their giving history/habits.
  • the programs they support.
  • how they came to your organization.
  • their ongoing relationship with your organization.


When you can segment your supporters into specific groups that speak to these qualities, you can tailor your messages just for them. A personalized, relevant message will make it much easier for you to break through and hold their attention.

For best results, your comprehensive communication plan should include:

  • a list of key segments for your organization
  • how your organization defines each segment
  • the historical and projected fundraising results from each group
  • the specific tactics and messages that will help you build relationships with each type of donor

Map out how each segment relates to the rest of your audience and which triggers move someone from one group to another. If you don’t have this data, start by talking with your most loyal donors to find out what has them giving year after year. Then, put a plan in place to regularly collect and track this information. 

How do you make this happen? The right tools can transform your communications approach. A customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as Salesforce, or a donor management solution, like DonorPerfect, can help you organize and track these crucial details about your supporters and enable you to segment and communicate with your donors more effectively, strengthening their relationship with you and improving your fundraising results.

Want to find out how to combine your online fundraising efforts with better donor management? Learn how Network for Good’s platform integrates with the top solutions and see how you can boost individual giving for your nonprofit.

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