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.


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

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.

9 Secrets To A Great Friendraiser

In case you are not familiar, a friendraiser is a great way to generate potential supporters by having current donors bring a friend to a special closed event just for them. The event is basically a private party for these folks with good drink, good food, entertainment, and even speeches that give an overview of your organization.

Its important to make sure the main people invited are donors and that they get to bring along a few friends (and their significant other), because it helps in two ways:

  • It acts as a way of saying thank you to donors (usually only invite big ones or big supporters who volunteer a lot). Give them booze, good food, conversation, and something to show off to their friends. Treat them like royalty in front of their friends and they’ll love you for years.
  • It eases any possible anxiety that the donors friends might have about going to the event, essentially they already know someone and it makes it much more comfortable.

Now some key pointers about friendraisers that you should keep in mind when planning:

  1. Have it during the summer and outdoors with a backup plain if it rains. Nothing is more powerful for making a romantic connection between a cause and its donors than a beautiful outside evening event in the summer. We say romantic because it should be. After all, you want them to fall in love with your cause.
  2. Keep the complete list under 100 total if possible (not including staff and volunteers for the event) because if it goes over, the setting cannot be as intimate. We’d say 150 max. And make the event 2 – 3 hours and on a weeknight, probably 7-10pm. Weekends seem to be sacred times for relaxing and most of the influential folks you’d want to attend will be leaving on weekends during the summer for the beach, hiking, road trips, and in the winter for skiing or just staying in because of weather. etc…. Thursday night is always good.
  3. Every primary staff member of your organization should attend the event and mingle with folks. Name tags with your job title is essential. I know, i know, it sucks to have to mingle. If your organization is usually a dress down type of atmosphere than make sure everyone dresses up. You want to feel like you belong in the same room as these donors and they’ll all be dressed to the nines. But the truth is that these folks really want to learn about you and they WANT to fall in love with you guys. This is the best way to ensure that happens.
  4. Do a slide show or something like that. Use a slide show of pictures and a small presentation to give attendees an understanding of what you do. You could also do a video montage or even a clip from a documentary or something if you have it. No matter what multimedia you use, you should have your Director/CEO speak and you should also have your Director of Development or Director of Outreach speak – you want the attendees to know their faces. Overall, we’ve found at past friendraisers that you really only want the total time for speeches to be less than 15 minutes. Any longer than that and people get anxious, want a refill on drinks, need more food,  and so on, so keep them short!
  5. Designate a host. Ideally, you should have a major donor as the host, but a celeb would work as well. If you opt for a celebrity, get a local one because they’ll have a closer connection with your org and the region, rather than paying for one to travel in from somewhere else. This person should either open their home (apartment, house) to everyone to throw the event there, or should offer to help invite all of their influential and supporter-ready friends to the event. Its really so much easier if they invite a substantial portion of the folks because the attendees will already be interested in coming because they know the hosts.
  6. Be liberal on the booze. Make sure their is plenty of wine and drinks. You should think about approaching organic beer and liquor makers once you know whom the host will be. Often they’ll send out their own bartenders to cater the event and supply alcohol for free because they want the exposure to the influentials. Don’t take advantage of the distributors though. Tip the bartenders and also introduce the distributor management to any donors you have that run restaurants, sports facilities, etc.
  7. Give goodie bags. Really, people will not necessarily expect it at an event like this and you can fill them with memorable items that can keep them thinking about your cause long after the event is over. Also, it will help to entice any sponsors for the event (like mentioned above). Make sure the gifts are appropriate though. Pens are good, drink coasters are good, wine is good candy is not. Also make sure their is a postcard or brochure in the bag that reminds people of the goals and mission of your cause.
  8. Don’t do any actual fundraising at the event. What we’ve found is that if you try to “sell” something at a friendraiser or actively ask for donations, it doesn’t come across that great. Its much more advantageous to just show them what your organization is all about and make them fall in love with you. Then in the follow up you can mention ways to donate and get involved (in-kind donations should be mentioned too). But obviously if someone wants to open their checkbook and give you $10,000 on the spot, don’t turn it down!
  9. Follow up is really important. Make sure that you get everyone’s contact info before the event so its easiest to follow up after. If you use something like http://eventbrite.com for everyone to RSVP then you can require them to give their email and phone numbers. The host should also have much of this contact info. For extra brownie points make sure the host sends a personal letter to each attendee. This could be done over email but its so much more awesome if its handwritten and on actual paper. It doesn’t need to be a huge letter, just enough to thank them, mention how great the cause is, and wrap it up with a personal closing like “See you at the little league game” or “lets get together for lunch next week”.CAS

Those are all the things we’ve found to be great ingredients to a successful friendraiser. If you have more feel free to comment or reach out to us at the contact form in the footer.

Featured image from James Vaughn on Flickr.