4 Ugly Truths About Marketing For Nonprofits

There are several pitfalls marketers need to avoid when marketing for nonprofits. Here’s the top 4 issues we hear about over and over again, with some solutions we know will help make it easier!

1. You Are Always Marketing, Whether You Want To Or Not

Problem: Brands aren’t something you can turn off and on, whether you like it or not, your supporters are always perceiving you through the messaging you are and are not sending them. For instance, not having a social media presence is just as powerful, if not more, than having one. Of course, in most cases by not using social media you’d be alienating a large portion of your potential donor base. Other examples might be an animal shelter not having uniforms to easily identify its staff or volunteers, a hospital foundation not sharing the stories of how donations have been used,  – you get the picture.

Solution: Don’t put off your most obvious marketing needs, start making baby steps today. You can begin with a marketing plan! There are several places to find good marketing plan examples: Nancy Schwartz’s is good and robust, Kivi Leroux Miller has a nice simple one, and there are tons of others online. Below is the one we use for our clients. Feel free to download the PDF and adapt it for your own use. A marketing plan is truly the center of what we’ve found to be the success of really good marketing for nonprofits.

[gview file="http://markandphil.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Marketing-Plan-NPO.pdf"]

2. Your Biggest Competition Is Apathy

Problem: We see this one a lot. Organizations do a great job of identifying their real world competition but don’t realize that their biggest competition is really a supporters default attitude to do nothing. Why should they sign your petition? Why should they donate towards your capital campaign? Why should they retweet your message?

Solution: You need to give them a reason to say “Yes!”. We find that its smarter to give folks a reason to say yes, rather than worrying about why they say no (power of positive thinking people!). So start by making sure that whatever your marketing action is, it is something that gives the audience a compelling reason to partake – what’s in it for them? For instance, for Shop Your Values Week, we wanted to let NYers know about all the great sustainable and local stores that are in New York City. So to convince folks we made a microsite showing a map of all the locations and their specials for Shop Your Values Week. This gave folks incentive to want to learn more, be a part of the week, and share it with their friends. We easily could have just cut corners and listed the places with no other info, but that wouldn’t have been compelling!

3. Your Marketing Plan is Never “Finished”

Problem: Marketing plans, like business plans, can be so time consuming to create that once you’ve completed it you literally don’t want to have to look at it again for another year. Do not fall into this trap! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Solution: You need to be reviewing your marketing plan at least once a quarter if not every single month. Think of it this way, the marketing plan acts as your blueprint for all of your marketing efforts, so if you see something isn’t working or you find a possible new solution that might work, then you need to be able to adjust accordingly for that. Make your marketing plan a living document. Print it out and tape it to your wall. YES, tape it to your wall where you cannot hide from it! What you’ll find is that you’ll be paying more attention to your marketing actions and whether they are helping support your big picture objectives or just consuming unnecessary resources.

4. Marketing Takes Time, Consistency, and Dedication

Problem: We know its hard out there but unfortunately there is no shortcut when you’re marketing for nonprofits. Its going to take consistent efforts on your part over a long period of time.

Solution: Fortunately there are tons of people and tools out there that can help you be consistent and reduce the amount of time you have to spend “doing” your marketing actions. For instance, a web application like Hootsuite can help you manage your social media marketing – allowing you to see streams of social media content relevant to your organization, schedule messaging, and more. You should also check out DivvyHQ – it can help with scheduling and brainstorming your content marketing throughout the year. We’re absolutely loving it! They also offer a 10% discount to nonprofit organizations.


Ad Only Shows Up For Kids Eyes

ANAR Foundation manages hotline in Europe to help at risk children and teenagers from abuse and neglect. On this hotline they can find the help they need in a totally anonymous and confidential manner. But they struggled with figuring out a way to get children to know the number even exists. How could they get their message out to a child abuse victim, even when they might be accompanied by their aggressor?

Knowing the average height for adults and children under 10, GREY Spain has created two different messages. Using an outdoor lenticular print they show adults an awareness message, while children see an additional message that offers them help and the number for the hotline.

I love how ingenious the use of technology and design has become in this campaign to solve a real problem this foundation was having reaching out to their target audience. Hopefully we’ll see more adaptations like this to come from them and other similar groups.

via Gizmodo

10 Tips For Your Annual Appeal

Its that time of year again! Time to execute your Annual Appeal to get some last minute donations before the new year. We stumbled onto a great blog post from fundraising consultant Ruthellen Rubin. The post is 2 years old but the information is timeless! As she says, copy this list, print it out, and refer to it offen as you plan and execute your Annual Appeal.

Ruthellen’s Ten Step Plan:

  1. (The best) Letter (we are capable of constructing) is written, proofread and approved.
  2. Mailing Lists are segmented by groups.
  3. Targeted asks for loyal donors have been thoughtfully determined.
  4. Complete mailing package (traditionally: letter, donation return envelope and an informational insert) weighs under one ounce for postal mailing.
  5. Printer/Mail House has been notified of your schedule.
  6. Website has been updated to reflect the same information that is in your postal mailing.
  7. E-Appeal has been constructed in sync with your postal appeal and thoughtfully scheduled.
  8. Plan is in place to coordinate your social network voice to correspond to your Appeal.
  9. Gift processing strategy has been reviewed with your business office so that donors will be thanked accurately and promptly upon receipt of their donations.
  10. Your “case for support” this holiday season is reflected in all communications with supporters.

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What Nonprofits Can Learn From Amtrak

I recently took a train ride from our offices in Poughkeepsie to Toronto – a cool 12 hour trip! I genuinely prefer train travel if I can do it so I don’t mind sitting in a train for that long because I know I am helping the environment and its a hell of a lot less stressful than flying!

One thing I noticed this last time I was traveling on the train was that Amtrak does a terrific job of identifying their customers enthusiasm for their service. You see, there are two types of train riders: Tourists and Commuters. Now when I say tourists I mean that these folks only go on the train every now and then, maybe once or twice a year. Commuters on the other hand try to take the train whenever they can. I’ve got about 325 hours logged on Amtrak travel this year because I choose to use it rather than flying or driving.

So to identify with its Commuters, Amtrak does many little things around the experience of their service to keep us coming back. I’ll talk more about this in a later post, but the thing I wanted to point out is that no touchpoint is too small for them. Here is a picture of a cup holder that tells the customer how good of a deed they are doing by taking the train. Love It!


Imagine what that would mean if you did the same thing for your organization? What if you had small touchpoints places where you come into contact with your supporters? Could it improve their overall giving experience? You betcha!

Image courtesy of amtrak_russ on Flickr.

Get A Free Flickr Pro Account For Your Cause

As the new year approaches is a good idea to start thinking about how you’re going to be handling your marketing for 2012. One thing we think should be on every causes radar is making sure you have a one-stop place for pictures and graphics to be used with your organization. Our best recommendation for this is Flickr and now they’ve teamed up with Tech Soup to create Flickr for Good, offering 10,000 1-year Flickr Pro accounts. Pretty Awesome if you ask us!

Not sure what you can do with a Flickr account? Well check out our client Catskill Animal Sanctuary’s Flickr. They do a terrific job of updating it regularly with new pictures of their animals, supporters, and staff. By doing this they provide a personal side to whom they are as an organization and make them very approachable for donations and support in the future.

To apply just click on the corresponding link of the country your cause is in:


For organizations based in the United States or Canada, apply directly to TechSoup.

DonorTec provides technology information services to NGOs throughout Australia and is operated by Community Information Strategies Australia.

TechDonation provides social welfare services in Hong Kong and is operated by The Hong Kong Council of Social Services (HKCSS), an umbrella organization for 340+ agency members.

Charity Technology Exchange
CTX is a program of the Charity Technology Trust (CTT), an NGO that empowers British charities through the effective use of technology services and consulting.

Photo courtesy of bradleypjohnson on Flickr

A Content Plan For Twitter: What Should Your Organization Tweet?

Whether you use your Twitter account for personal or business reasons, one of the biggest challenges is deciding what—and when—to tweet. Tweeting your every move can turn off your followers, while failing to tweet at all can cause those once eager followers to lose interest.

Fortunately there are some techniques your business can use to make the most of your online presence. Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the wave of the future, and it is important for companies of all sizes to use the power of these sites to grow their brands and please their customers.

  • Think about what you are interested in and use that as the basis of your tweets.  Keep abreast of the latest developments in your organizations topic areas and pass that interesting information along to your supporters.
  • Spread your tweets out among several different staff members and maybe even volunteers, rather than doing all the work on your own.  Having more than one person tweeting will also bring a number of different viewpoints to the table as well. You can do this easily with Hootsuite or Cotweet.
  • Use Twitter to promote your blog posts, but be sure to provide some background information along with the link.  Make your followers want to click your links by providing interesting and useful content. Use a shortener service like bit.ly so you can get more room for your descriptions!
  • Solicit the opinions of your followers, and don’t be afraid to let them ask questions.  You can learn a a great deal about how your organization is viewed in the outside world by interacting with your Twitter followers. If you want hardcore surveys check out Wufoo, it lets you create any kind of forms you want.
  • Follow interesting people and companies, both inside and outside your industry.  Twitter is a great place to build your organization and your personal network.
  • Tweet about non-cause related items as well.  While Twitter is a great place to promote your organization, it is also a great place to learn from the experiences of others.  If you find something interesting, tweet it to your online followers.
  • Make your tweets useful, especially when you are promoting your own programs and services.  Make sure that the information you provide will be interesting and useful to your followers. Try to answer the standard questions like “who, what, when, and where”. Also if your so inclined answer the “why”.
  • Share your organization’s human side, including any outside activities and cause marketing endeavors.  Encourage your staff to tweet about their personal lives as well as the business side of their lives.
  • Resist the urge to promote your organization constantly.  It is fine to use Twitter as a marketing tool, but the site should be much more than just promoting your business. We can’t stress this enough because even though you probably have many passionate followers that love you, they don’t really want to only hear about you.
  • Post interesting articles from both inside and outside your niche.  The people who are following you on Twitter will have many different interests, so be sure to tweet the things you find interesting.  Chances are good that someone on your list of Twitter contacts will find the information you post interesting and relevant.
  • Share images and video. Everyone wants to see what your organization is up to. Make it easy for folks to then share those images and video with their followers as well by using an online service like Flickr, YouTube, or Vimeo.

Twitter is a powerful marketing tool for your cause, but it is much more than that.  The world of social networking has transformed the way we interact with one another, and smart non-profits who were able to get in on the ground floor of this new media sensation are already reaping the rewards. Overall, we’ve found that its really just laziness that gets in the way of most organizations following a content plan like this. Break that cycle now and if you need help feel free to get in touch!

Image courtesy of Twitter Buttons on Etsy

How To Increase Your Likability

As we take some time this Thanksgiving week to reflect on what we’re thankful for, we also should examine what it is that makes us likable to other people. We love this infographic from silicon valley wiz Guy Kawasaki, an excerpt from his new book Enchantment.

Of course this kind of thinking could be used in a professional as well as personal situation, but more importantly we think this is terrific food for thought when it comes to fundraising. Knowing the basics of human interaction like this is of course one of the basic requirements of success for any major fundraiser, so take the time and review this a little bit. You might be surprised at what elements you’ve forgotten about or perhaps become a little lackadaisical with as you age.

How To Increase YOur Likability Infographic

10 Twitter Marketing Tips for Your Non-Profit

Twitter can be a valuable marketing tool for your business, but the sheer enormity of the Twitter network can be a bit overwhelming.  If you have just joined Twitter, you may find yourself fielding follower requests.  You may also feel the need to tweet your every move, but it is important to put some sanity back into your Twitter-enabled life.

There are a number of things to keep in mind when you are just getting started with Twitter.  These rules apply whether you are using Twitter for business or for personal reasons, but they can be even more critical when it comes to business Twitter sites.

  1. Avoid the temptation to read every tweet from your followers. It can be tempting to try to keep up with what all of your followers are doing, but the enormous size of the Twitter network makes this impossible.
  2. You do not need to apply to every tweet you receive, even if that tweet is directed only at you. It is important to review each tweet you receive and choose the ones you want to respond to.
  3. Be sure to use the one on one communication feature of Twitter for private conversations. There is no need for all your followers to participate in a conversation directed at only a single person.
  4. Use the Twitter search feature to look for mentions of your organization. Twitter is a great way to keep track of what others are saying about you and how your business is perceived in the wider world.  Join the conversation about your cause when it makes sense to do so.
  5. Use third party programs to manage your Twitter life. Twitter can be a complicated place, and applications like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck can make it a lot easier to manage your tweets and your follower community. You can even set tweets to go out at specified times in the future – awesomesauce!
  6. Ask a few trusted employees to tweet on your organization’s behalf, but be sure those workers are getting their regular work done as well. Having more than one person tweeting on behalf of the organization is a great way to give an individual voice to your company while providing a varied point of view.
  7. Post links to interesting news articles or blog posts, but always use a link shortening tool like Bit.ly to make those posts manageable.
  8. Use Twitter as a marketing tool, but also use it for fun. Using Twitter to share fun or interesting stories will get you more followers and make you a more interesting Twitter user.
  9. Be sure to comment on other people’s tweets on a regular basis. Commenting on what others are talking about is a great way to build a community of like minded people
  10. Make your tweets interesting and useful. Whether you are working with your website or your Twitter account, it is still important to provide your readers with interesting and engaging content.  Twitter is a powerful tool for communication and marketing, but it is important to use this powerful tool the right way.

Guerilla Marketing Slides

We had the pleasure of presenting at the Opportunity Green conference this year about Guerilla Marketing. Given our stance and emphasis on making sure that all good causes don’t spend their time, energy, and budgets wastefully – we put together a pretty comprehensive workshop that defines Guerilla Marketing, outlines its ingredients, provides real-world examples.

We’ve provided the slide below and you can also download an example marketing plan if you would like.

Feel free to follow me (@schutzsmith) or Mark & Phil (@markandphil) or send me a quick email (daniel@markandphil.com) if you have any questions or would like us to present a workshop like this in detail for your organization. (We’re willing to do it for travel expenses and beer! Not kidding!)

[slideshare id=10124525&doc=workshop-111111160516-phpapp02&w=600&h=500]

Budgeting Your Non-profits Marketing & Fundraising

As the new year approaches, we cannot stress enough about the importance for making sure you have a proper budget figured out for your marketing and fundraising needs in the coming year. All too often we hear these budgets being thrown around and put together as guess-work, but the reality is that they need to be handled with some care and precision to ensure that your organization can make a significant impact with its followers moving forward.

One tool we suggest to clients is to put together a marketing plan and start pricing out some of the marketing tools that they are going to need in the coming year. Then whatever number they come up with, double it. Seriously. We’re not telling you all of this because we want your money. Quite on the contrary, we won’t see most of your money because it will actually go towards vendors and goods that will be used to execute your plans. Its very important that you take the time to plan this properly otherwise you’ll find your organization struggling all year to make any real progress in its marketing and fundraising efforts.

Feel free to download our example Marketing Plan and let us know what you think!

Image courtesy of Toban Black on Flickr.