Non profits

Inside Scoop: Powerful Testimonials from Your Peers

Guest blogger Karen Petersen is Director of Annual and Planned Giving at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Ala.

In my previous life, I was a TV reporter. My favorite part of the job was interviewing people and weaving their words together with mine to construct a compelling story. Little has changed since I changed careers.

In fundraising, we are all storytellers!

To tell the best stories, we need to find convincing characters who can provide passionate and powerful quotes. As Nancy has said in previous posts, “testimonials provide credibility.

You may automatically reach out to external donors for your organization’s testimonials. However, you may be surprised by the storytellers you can find in the cube, office or even lab next door.

I work for a nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving human health and quality of life through genomic research, educational outreach and genomic medicine. The majority of my colleagues are self-professed nerds—brilliant introverts who believe less is more when it comes to all forms of communication.

Take Dan Dorset, for instance. He’s a computational biologist who spends hours at his computer, writing custom software and analyzing petabytes of genomic data. Dorset searches for genomic markers which can lead to urgently-needed diagnoses in clinical cases or groundbreaking discoveries in research.

Dan is also a dedicated donor, among the Institute’s 75 percent of employees who donate to the Institute through our annual Employee Giving Program. This year, I asked him to provide a testimonial for our campaign.

This was Dan’s first go: “I only donate to organizations that demonstrate competence in efficiently and effectively pursuing their stated objectives. As an employee of HudsonAlpha, I have no doubt that my donation is being put to good use for the advancement of beneficial scientific and medical knowledge.”

Sure, that would work for analytical folks, but we needed something to tug at heartstrings. I asked him to channel his inner “blue,” the emotionally-motivated shade of the True Colors personality assessment. He responded with this testimonial homerun:

“I’m lucky enough to work in the revolutionary field of genomics. The scientific advances have begun to reveal real medical solutions, and situations that were hopeless or sad now have answers. I’ve witnessed our team using genomics to save the life of a newborn. There is tremendous promise in this field, and the talent and structure at HudsonAlpha makes it the best in the world in terms of impact and innovation.”

Wow. It’s so easy for us to typecast people into their primary personalities, but we don’t fit into boxes and our testimonials shouldn’t, either. When considering his philanthropic options, Dan looks at the bottom line: numbers and fiscal responsibility. But he can also deliver heartfelt diamonds when encouraged to dig deep.

Dan’s testimonial, along with several others, recently prompted one employee-donor to increase her pledge by 400 percent. Her reason: “My co-workers inspired me.

If you haven’t even asked your colleagues to give: What are you waiting for? Like Dan, they likely have generous support to give and, even more importantly, passionate, heartfelt stories to share.

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Categories: Non profits

Just ONE Call to Action (Case Study)

Remember when you were a teen and your mom told you to clean up your room, call your grandmother, and set the table all within the same five minutes.

Remember how frustrating that was. How even if you wanted to do what your mom wished—not every teen’s desire, for sure—you couldn’t do three things at once. So instead, most of the time, you did nothing!

I was thrown back there this morning when I uncovered this card I had picked up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met). Just count the calls to action featured on this small postcard:

  1. Share your memories and photos online, tagged with #Met145. Or is that @metmuseum?
  2. Celebrate with a 145th-anniversary cocktail, dessert, or menu.
  3. Donate at this extremely long web address to build the future of the Met.

By presenting three calls to action, and two ways to execute one of them, the Met confuses and overwhelms us, rather than spurring us to act. Even if we want to support the Museum’s mission, we don’t know which action is the priority or where to start.

I’m a real fan of the Met, and love strolling its varied galleries and exhibits. But this piece could so easily be revised for greater impact, simply by reducing the calls to action to JUST ONE.

Use this example from one of our greatest cultural institutions as motivation to review your organization’s calls to action. Ask people to take just one doable action at a time. Then put these individual calls to action together in a series, like steps in a staircase, to create the bigger action your organization wants your people to take. One step at a time, each and every time!

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Categories: Non profits

6 Ways to Train All-Org Messengers

Flickr: Chip Griffin

The pressure is on to connect and mobilize your people as the world in which we work grows increasingly complex, crowded, and uncertain. Why not recruit folks already connected with your organization to help as marketing and fundraising ambassadors?

Your colleagues, board members, volunteers, and loyal donors have tremendous potential to strengthen relationships, drive participation, and raise money IF you launch this six-step training program:

1) Share a clear call to action
Get super-specific when you ask people to step up as organizational messengers. Break your request down into small, doable steps. For example, request they “email your five closest friends or family members to ask them to support our organization during this first-time matching gift campaign” or to “discuss your passion for our organization with friends next time you go on a walk or out for dinner, sharing email addresses for those wanting to know more with me at”

Vague requests such as “spread the word” or “help us meet our goals” are more likely to push prospective ambassadors away than to mobilize them for action! The clearer you are, the more doable your call to action for newbie messengers.

2) Design training to make it easy for your ambassadors to connect & motivate giving and the other actions you need most
The more comfortable your ambassadors are in sharing their passion and your organization’s impact, the more they’ll do it (and do it well). Ask folks who are already serving as “unofficial” messengers what their colleagues should know. Their success stories and flops make great training content.

Credit: Rachel Calderon

3) Uncover your ambassadors’ burning questions or greatest barriers to reaching out on behalf of your organization
When Rachel Calderon, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Central Florida Foundation, charged Foundation board members to serve as brand champions, she asked them to share their burning questions. Responses ranged from, “How come more people don’t know what we do and why?” to “How do we reach influencers in specific industries?”

Rachel’s query revealed collective nervousness (it’s comforting to know you aren’t alone) and enabled her to address gaps in knowledge and technique. Asking works far better than guesswork in uncovering what’s hold your ambassadors back. Keep those lines of communication wide open.

4) Build on your messengers’ personal passions

Credit: City Year L.A. Board Member Octavia Spencer

Fundraiser-extraordinaire Gail Perry shares a powerful approach to uncovering board members’ passions: “Why do you care?”

Gail asks board members to share what sparks their enthusiasm for your organization’s work. She finds that as your ambassador shares what fuels his passion for your cause and impact, “he re-ignites his own passion.” Win-win.

This technique works equally well for colleagues (it helps them connect their particular function with the bigger picture), donor, and volunteer messengers.

5) Guide ambassadors to share their passion with an ask
Build your team’s skill and confidence by sharing concrete examples of situations that are ripe for an ask.

  • What to say “as is” (your organization’s name, tagline, and positioning statement) vs. what to say in their own words (their own stories and the ask)
  • What to do when x, y, or z happens
  • Who to ask for help and how
  • What to do with any insights they gather from these conversations (invaluable for strengthening your marketing and fundraising approach). 

6) Motivate them to practice, practice, practice (and more practice)
The best way I know to replicate conversations is to create ultra-specific scenarios for your ambassadors to role-play. Ask them to break into pairs to role-play a few different scenarios you provide, taking each role so they get to stand in the shoes of their conversational partner. Then ask a few pairs to “present” to the group to spark more questions.

Practice typically highlights problem areas so you can lead your messengers through them. Most importantly, practice shifts the unknown into the familiar.

Now’s the time to select, ask, and train your ambassadors to jump on board to help meet your 2017 goals. Then launch them with this toolkit in hand, so they generate the greatest engagement, donations, and personal satisfaction possible. To teamwork!

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Categories: Non profits

1 Week into 2017: Where are You Headed?

This practical, doable marketing plan template takes you from goals to benchmarks, work plan, action, and impact! 

Eeesh! Those New Year’s resolutions—including the ones we set for marketing and fundraising work—are so hard to keep.

That’s because most resolutions are action items, rather than goals (the real “what we want to get to”). When things in our work worlds change—making those actions irrelevant or too difficult, or throwing them into question or making them too difficult— there’s no clear framework for assessment and adaptation. So the resolutions fade out, leaving you disappointed.


  1. Articulate your marketing goals (a.k.a. resolutions) —start with a max of three smart, realistic, and attainable goals for the next 90 days. If you get pressure to go beyond that, push back as hard as you can. Planning too far ahead in this volatile environment is a waste of time and effort, and too many goals are pure self-sabotage.
  2. Outline the specific benchmarks that will indicate you’re making progress towards these goals (or not). You have to be able to SEE these benchmarks for them to indicate how you’re doing.
  3. Create a nitty-gritty work plan of the actions most likely to get you there, including the frequently-overlooked 1)who does what and 2)skills and time required.
  4. Monitor your benchmarks on a frequent, ongoing basis and adjust actions accordingly. Even if this means you can’t execute all planned communications, your end result will be better! Action without benchmarking typically wastes your time and effort.

Get this practical, doable marketing plan template now.
It’s a proven path to getting attention and driving actions you need right now!

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Categories: Non profits

3 Techniques to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed in 2017

Guest bloggers Beth Kanter & Aliza Sherman wrote The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, a must read for communicators & fundraisers.

If there is one thing we can agree on, it is that that last quarter of 2016 was especially stressful. Not just the usual hectic workload of year-end campaigns, but a difficult election season—a combination that has left many nonprofit communications professional feeling overwhelmed and

For many of us, the holiday vacation time probably did not come fast enough. We all probably enjoyed a nice reprieve from deadlines, tasks, and deliverables. And, after taking a break, it is hard to get back into the swing of things.

One thing we do know for sure, 2017 will be the year that we will absolutely have to exercise our resilience muscles in order to do our best work and not get slowed down. In our book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout, we discuss ways that nonprofit professionals can use at work and avoid the stress of competing priorities. Here are three techniques to put to work right now:

1) Set Boundaries

There are times when you need to stand firm and protect yourself in order to be productive. Setting boundaries is about making clear choices and priorities and standing firm to defend the space and time you need to recharge.

Saying “No” more to requests that take up your time can be challenging in the workplace. You can’t always say “No” to your boss or board. But you can draw some clear lines to know when your workload is going overboard, and you need to bring it up to your superiors to make some reasonable adjustments.

Wendy Harman, formerly the director of Information Management and Situational Awareness at the Red Cross and a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow, uses an accountability buddy to stay on track with boundary setting. She and a friend speak weekly for 10 minutes to check on how their boundary setting is going. The conversation helps them both become more aware of where they are overloaded at work or even in their personal lives.

2) Work to Your Energy

Knowing the peaks and valleys of your energy at work can help you identify the best times to be working on the more challenging assignments and when to do lighter tasks until your energy rises again. Get to know your Ultradian Rhythms, the natural rhythms of your body and brain that repeat throughout the day. These differ from your Circadian Rhythms that rise and fall with light and dark, and dictate your sleep cycles.

“I take breaks to stretch my eyes and body every 90 to 120 minutes,” says Cheryl Contee, CEO of Fission Strategy, who applies techniques to work with, not against, her Ultradian Rhythms. She learned this technique from the book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz. Schwartz explains that our brains can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before it needs a break for ten to twenty minutes.

An effective way to manage your energy is to design your workday based around those rhythms. While you may not have complete control of your daily calendar, being aware of your energy flows and trying to plan out your work tasks to align with those cycles can make you more productive.

3) Unplug Regularly

If you are around other people, especially in conversation with others, turn off your smartphone. Don’t succumb to “Technoference,” the distraction and relationship interference one experiences from looking at one’s devices instead of focusing on the person or people in front of them.

Try a digital detox by disconnecting completely from your electronics for any extended amount of time. Start by simply turning off your smartphone or mobile device in the evenings after work or on the weekends. Build up to entire weekends or make sure to leave devices in the car when you’re going out to eat or attending an event. Any deliberate and consistent amount of time away from technology will improve your ability to focus and relax.

By giving your brain and body essential downtime throughout the day and workweek, you are replenishing your much-needed energy to be happier, healthier and more productive.

What new habit will you commit to in 2017 to build your resilience at work?  Come share with us in the Happy Healthy Nonprofit Facebook Group.

Meet authors Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman on The Happy Healthy Nonprofit Book Tour starting January 31, 2017. Dates and details here.

Beth Kanter @kanter was named one of the most influential women in technology by Fast Company and is the award-winning author of The Networked Nonprofit books. She is an internationally-acclaimed master trainer and speaker.


Aliza Sherman @alizasherman is a web and social media pioneer; founder of Cybergrrl, Inc., the first women-owned, full-service Internet company; and Webgrrls International, the first Internet networking organization for women. She is a motivational keynote speaker and the author of eleven books, including Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

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Categories: Non profits

Still Time: 5 Ways to Up Year-End Giving

The clock is running out on year-end fundraising.

Whether you’re exceeding expectations or are barely meeting the bare minimum, you can do even better. I know what you’re thinking: “There’s so little time.” But I want to share five doable adjustments you can make right now to increase year-end donations.

1) Expand your prospect pool program participants, volunteers, and advocates (Low-hanging fruit alert!).

Talk about potential. These individuals are already part of your organization’s family to some degree.  Now’s the time to focus on “converting” this group of prospects into donors.

  • For existing supporters and participants:
    • Incorporate a big thank you and a year-end ask into your email series to these folks.
    • If you have the ability to segment your lists, send messages aligned with individuals’ connections with your organization. For example, if they signed a petition to save the polar bears from the effects of global warming, provide an update on your organization’s progress on that front and related campaigns.
    • Feature tangible wins if you have them. Details like these make your impact real, memorable, and easy to repeat. Here’s a great example from EWG: “This year, EWG led the charge for GMO labeling and successfully kept the DARK Act from passing Congress – even though opponents spent more than $75 million against us. “
  • New stakeholders (coming in this month, and ongoing):
    • When these folks register, volunteer, or sign a petition, thank them and ask them to donate so your organization can do more of what they
    • If possible, customize your ask to match their interaction with your organization. Their action tells you what they care about. Segment them by activity history and interests to respond with relevance!
    • Say it not once, but at least three times, in your welcome email series (e.g. auto responder)
2) Make your wins and goals as specific and memorable as possible.

The more specific you are when you talk about your organization’s goals and your donors’ role in achieving them, more immediate and real they become. That means you’re more likely to motivate donations and inspire people to spread the word.

Here are a couple of great examples:

  • EWG’s plans for next year are ambitious: We’ll be digging even more into the food additives and chemicals in your drinking water as well as taking on the dangerous practices of Big Food companies and the chemical industry head on.
  • Big Oil’s 2016 plans off the Atlantic coast mean torture to endangered right whales: Seismic blasts 100x louder than a jet engine. Every ten seconds. For WEEKS at a time. For endangered right whales with extremely sensitive hearing, each blast inflicts enormous pain, suffering and can even cause death. Stopping Big Oil’s offshore plans and saving the last 400 right whales will require everything we’ve got.
3) Amplify your call to action.

First of all, make sure your campaign features a clear and specific call to action multiple times in each appeal (on every channel). You’d be amazed how many fundraising appeals fail to include three critical words: “Please give now.”

You can make the call to action more inspiring by making a direct connection between year-end gifts and advancing your mission (e.g. providing more scholarships, serving from individuals in a program etc.). Doing this will help move donors forward with you into 2017 goals and impact. On the other hand, referring to meeting a financial year-end goal has little meaning.  That means having asks like this:

  • Your contribution will bring the unique stories of 97 Orchard’s historic residents to over 220,000 visitors in 2016.  Together, we can reveal broader themes that illuminate the universal immigrant experience and the American dream. Renew your support and make a tax-deductible gift to the Tenement Museum today.
  • Now it’s up to us to make sure that EWG has the resources to keep up its life-changing research and advocacy in 2016. Please, join me in supporting EWG now – your gift will be MATCHED, doubling your impact.
    (From celebrity fundraiser, Fran Drescher)

and not this:

  • Less than 24 hours until midnight, and just $17,904 to go! Help us hit our goal — join XXXXXXX with a $15 membership gift now.
4) Dial for dollars.

Now’s the time to ask your leadership and board members to call your top 20 to 50 donors who haven’t made a year-end or Q4 contributions yet.

Ask your team member with the closest relationship to each donor to make the call.

Make sure you guide your callers to start these conversations with a thank you. The more specific the thanks, the better. If possible, callers should share highlights from 2016 that can be attributed to donors’  continued support. If not,  they should specify how previous gifts were used.
Next, callers should ask donors to give (if they haven’t already, this is vital information and you have to get it right). It’s far harder to say no over the phone.

Whether these calls generate a donation or not, they’ll strengthen your organization’s relationship with these solid-gold supporters.

5) Emphasize that donations = tax deductions.

The closer we get to December 31, the more value a 2016 tax deduction holds for prospects. It suddenly seems like April 15 is around the corner!

The draw of a tax deduction is more potent than ever this year, as tax regulations are bound to change under the new Administration. There’s no inherent emotional appeal here,  but the bottom-line bonus is worth emphasizing in your year-end communications.

I hope you’ll consider integrating one, or all five, of these tactics in your year-end communications. I’m confident they’ll enhance this year’s results and next year’s growth for your nonprofit.

P.S. As you put these last-minute fixes into place, make sure you keep changes consistent across your year-end channels and target audiences. You don’t have to use the same language in every ask, but you should focus on the same stories or impacts.

Originally published on the Network for Good blog.

Categories: Non profits

5 Steps to Consistent Communications (+ Instant Connection)

Whether you’re all in on year-end fundraising or working in some 2017 prep, I bet you have some pretty ambitious goals to meet. You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise.

Here’s a proven but frequently overlooked method to help you get there: consistent communications. Consistency enables your people and prospects to recognize your organization’s communications in a flash. Time and time again, I’ve seen consistency across channels, programs and services, and audiences help nonprofits like yours motivate the actions they need. Those are the same messages likely to be remembered and repeated. Here’s how to get there:

1) Consistency generates an immediate “aha”
For your organization, consistency means developing a relevant and memorable brand (with core organizational messages and a unique graphic identity) and linking positive, real associations across each message, campaign, and platform.

Once you get consistent, your supporters (donors, program participants, volunteers, and more) and prospects immediately know your organization is the source of various communications they digest. You make it easy for them to recognize you by providing the same “brand experience” across the board.

Now, here’s what consistency doesn’t mean: saying the same thing to everyone in every conversation and communication. For example, use your CRM or donor database to segment your lists in the way that’s most meaningful, then customize messages accordingly. That’s vital for success in this era of content overload and personalized marketing (like the way the ad for the boots you ogled on Zappos follows you around online).

2) The result of consistent communications?
Increased conversion (giving, registering, volunteering) AND  loyalty
Consider how you tackle your inbox or stack of mail. The first things to go are emails or letters from unknown senders. That’s why response plummets when it’s hard for people to recognize that an ask or update is from your organization. On the other hand, a message they instantly know is from your nonprofit has a much greater chance of being opened, read, and acted on.

Providing a consistent representation of your nonprofit’s brand also helps supporters and prospects understand the breadth and depth of your organization. That your organization delivers several programs in your cause area. That your organization serves your community in three ways, not just the one through which they got to know you. That understanding kick starts peoples’ emotional connection and pride (a.k.a. loyalty) and paves the way to providing the kind of compelling experience that leads to long-lasting relationships.

3) Caveat: Craft distinctive messages for EACH campaign 
I do want to emphasize the importance of campaign-specific messages. For example, your year-end appeal messages should be distinct from your capital campaign appeal messages. Your volunteer thank yous should differ significantly from the way you thank your board members. Your campaign for returned vets program registration should feature messages distinct from those for registration for your teen parents support group. But still—every message needs to align with your organization’s overall brand.

4) Donation Pages: A frequent disconnect

One of the most common and troublesome inconsistencies I see is a mismatch between a nonprofit’s online donation page and the campaign promo that motivated the donor to give on that page.

When I recently responded to an email from an international relief organization to support Syrian refugees, I was surprised to find a generic, one-size-fits-all refugee relief content on the donation page. The disconnect made me pause momentarily. Although I did follow through with my donation, you want to avoid halting donations or other actions even for a second. 

Compare that to Global Giving’s campaign-specific online donations page. This page’s content builds visitors’ understanding of the specific challenges for Syrian refugees in Jordan. It’s far more likely to engage donors and may motivate them to give more. Note that Global Giving incorporates consistent organizational branding via the header content—the campaign is immediately recognizable as a “Global Giving” program. These are the kind of distinctive campaign messages, clearly aligned with organizational brand, that move a donor smoothly through her giving process. 

5) Launch a Clear Style Guide to Get and Stay Consistent
Developing a comprehensive, easy-to-use editorial and visual identity style guide (with examples) is the best tool I know to ensure consistency.  First share the value of consistency to your colleague, board member, and volunteer messengers, using examples relevant to their own lives. Then ask for their help in keeping your messages consistent. Then use your style guide to train them and serve as an ongoing reference. 

How to Create a Nonprofit Style Guide: 7 Steps to Greater Consistency and Impact

There’s no question that creating consistent communications is hard work but the return on your investment will be a huge net positive. Put consistency into play now to fire up your year-end and year-round campaigns!

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Categories: Non profits

3 Tools to Power All-Org Messengers

We all have an incredible marketing resource right in front of us—our board member, colleague, and loyal volunteer ambassadors. But most of us look right past them, much less make it appealing or easy for them to participate and succeed!

You still have time to launch your team of messengers to spur right now campaigns, registration, and giving. They’re already fans, so many of them will be eager and effective fundraisers. Here’s how to ask for participation, train and support your messengers, and thank them.

Your ambassadors’ reach, engagement, and donation impact is directly related to saying the right thing at the right time. The trick is.. it can’t be a script, repeated from everyone to everyone. That’s just not genuine or relevant.

Provide these three message tools to your ambassadors, and you’re golden. They’ll ensure your team’s comfort and confidence, which means they’re more likely to talk with more donors and prospects. These tools also increase the odds prospects hear the kind of consistent yet personal messages necessary to spur engagement and the actions you want!

1) Your #1 tool! Ready-to-use email signatures are powerful and easy to implement. Imagine the reach you’ll get if your ambassadors end their emails with something like this:

2) Graphic badges ready to cut-and-paste into your ambassadors’ emails, tweets, and Facebook posts.

Who can resist a face like this?

Or a laugh like this one?

3) Cut-and-paste templates like this email ask for teachers who fundraise via

Create the templates you anticipate your ambassadors will need and use most frequently. Have no idea? Ask them!

Get these three tools in your ambassadors’ hands a.s.a.p. so they generate the greatest engagement and action possible. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

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Categories: Non profits