Non profits

4 Doable Ways to Get Closer & Boost Action

There’s a proven way for your organization to start and strengthen vital relationships with the people whose support, loyalty, and actions you want—donors, volunteers, and even staff (too often overlooked here).

This approach is easy to learn and execute. And it’s something you do on a personal level all the time: Getting to know and understand others with whom you want to build a friendship—learning what’s important to them and how their days go. These insights enable you to focus in on what’s important or interesting to both of you, and how best to keep in touch via a commonly-used channel (social, mobile, text, mail) at a receptive time.

Here are four proven methods of harvesting these priceless insights:

1) Launch a Marketing Advisory Group

Begin by identifying your target audiences and prioritize segments of each that share wants, needs and preferences. Then put together a marketing advisory group incorporating as many of these perspectives as possible—that way you’ll have the right person to turn to when you need her. In addition, this group will provide a solid diversity of opinion when you solicit input on a specific campaign or message.

Next, invite prospective team members to participate. If you don’t have people in mind that represent all the perspectives you need, ask program or other colleagues for recommendations.

Make sure to specify your expectations and to keep them modest. I recommend that you ask team members to help at most once or twice a month, asking for no more than 5 to 10 minutes of their time for each ask.

Put your marketing advisors to work in the way it’s most beneficial—that may vary depending on the task at hand. Ask a few of them for input on draft messages for the new advocacy campaign  and a few others for a critique of the draft mini-site for the campaign. Or ask all of them to complete a brief online survey to share their perception of the new program and the gap it will fill. Whatever your decision, make sure you ask with thought and don’t overburden your advisors. Most importantly, thank them frequently and often.

Try it for six months, refining the program over time to be of greatest value for you and least burden for your marketing advisory team. When you do, I promise you’ll know, and connect with, your audiences better than ever before.

2) Listen to Social Conversations

There’s so much being said online—about your organization, causes or issues, campaigns, and organizations you compete with for donations and attention—that you’ll learn a lot by just listening. By monitoring social channels for conversation on relevant topics, you’ll see what resonates and why, enabling you to better engage your people.

Keep in mind that with this kind of social listening, you won’t know who’s talking and how that person maps (if at all) to your targets. Nonetheless, if there’s a groundswell of conversation on a topic important to your organization, you want to hear it.

Social monitoring options range from free tools like Google Alerts to paid services such as Mention, and social listening services such as which enable you to focus in and listen to your people (those in your donor management system, e-news subscribers, volunteers, and others).

Case Study: American Friends Service Committee Uses to Connect
A few days after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), noticed a significant shift in focus on social media to the hashtag #Ferguson. They could quickly see that terms such as “police” started trending, nationally and among supporters in AFSC’s database (CRM).

AFSC created a saved search to see exactly who in its CRM was talking about Ferguson on Facebook and Twitter. Next, they invited those supporters to a Google Hangout that resulted in record-high participation and 74 donations. That’s incredible targeting!

3) Ask & Listen in Your Social Communities

If your organization has an active community on Facebook, Twitter, or other interactive platforms, you have a focus group ready to roll. But before you just ask, and ask, and ask again, prioritize what you want to know. Also, decide how to filter and weigh what you hear since your social communities may not map exactly to your donors and prospects.

Facebook has a few advantages as an audience research tool:

  • Since you can easily run your organization’s donor or email list against Facebook subscribers who have liked your page, it’s easier to map responses to your prioritized audiences.
  • The new-ish Facebook Live Video tool is an excellent way to gather quick feedback on a draft logo, design, message, or email format (anything, in fact, easy to view via an online video) IF you have a huge and active following on Facebook.
  • Polling is super easy to set up and respond to.

4) Ask Folks as They’re Leaving a Program or Event

This technique is ages old but works well, as long as you ask just one or two quick questions. If your question is brief, ask verbally. If you want to gather names or have a couple of questions, then have pens and printed mini-surveys or tablets on hand for responses. If the event is online, pop up a quick survey before the finish.

BUT these insights boost actions ONLY when you…
Capture, Analyze, and Share What You Learn, then ACT on it

Keep in mind that what you learn about your audiences is valuable only when you log, share, and analyze it across your organization.

This process will position you to put your findings to work most effectively right now. Then go one step further to extend their value by adding these insights to supporter data. That’s your path to getting closer than ever with your people, and activating them to move your mission forward. Go to it, friends.

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered right to your inbox!
Subscribe to Getting Attention email updates.

Categories: Non profits

Best Marketing Tips & Tricks (#17NTC)

Liz Polay-Wettengel is National Director of Marketing and Communications for InterfaithFamily, a Jewish non-profit based in Newton, MA.

For three years in a row, my colleagues from InterfaithFamily and I have participated in the annual Nonprofit Tech Conference (from NTEN). It is, by far, the conference that we learn the most from. Every year, we have come back with new ideas, fresh perspectives, and tools to do what we do better.

This year was no different. Held in Washington DC, the 3,000 attendees at the 2017 conference brainstormed on topics far beyond the “traditional” definition of technology—nonprofit marketing, development, leadership, and organizational infrastructure.

Key takeaways from my deep-dive into NTC learning include:

On communication and branding
• 53% of supporters leave because of lack of or poor communication
• What NPOs talk about isn’t what donors care about. Communication can fix this.
• Clarify positioning (head) and personality (heart) to get to brand strategy and use in communications
• Something I feel strongly about: develop strong (and emotion based) messaging tie it throughout your organization

On working together
• “I don’t see competition, I see collaboration” this is important not just for storytelling but for NPOs in general.
• “Rising tides lift all boats” in the workplace can be about giving others a say at the meeting/committee. Bring others up with you.
• “Partners make you stronger” I’ve been preaching this for a while! Work together. Collaboration, not competition.

On storytelling
• “Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants.”
• “To tell a story you have to be a good listener.” Listen to all the people around you from staff to volunteers to program participants.
• Stories must resonate. Must be seen, heard, shared, felt, remembered.
• SHOW without telling. Can you tell your story visually?

On digital content
• “What’s your goal? Who’s your audience?” Video isn’t always the answer. Think it through.
• Success is defined by YOUR goals, not just your social numbers
• It doesn’t have to be AMAZING! Just try stuff.
• For digital, sometimes it’s the quick not so slickly produced content that gets engagement
• Make videos not necessarily to inform and teach but to inspire (my favorite mantra of the conference)
• Awe, excitement, and humor in digital content inspire emotions that increase sharing

On planning
• Your plan is meaningless if you don’t know your audience
• “If you have ‘general public’ as your audience in your marketing plan, please go to the office on Monday and delete.”
• Planning is essential for communications especially when a crisis impacts your work. Allows for quick impactful pivoting
• Don’t let the “how” of measuring goals block you from setting them. Pinpoint what you’re trying to accomplish, and how to measure progress.

There is far more to NTC than the sessions I attended, as there is far more to the conference than the sessions. Connecting face-to-face with our fellow nonprofit warriors is as fulfilling and educational as learning from session speakers.

Some of my most meaningful conversations were at a lunch table, in hallways, and in the hotel bar. My thanks to those who led sessions this year, you always inspire me to be a better marketer. Finally, a huge thanks to Amy Sample Ward and the NTEN team who put on the conference of the year, every year. I will see you next year in New Orleans.

Capture more takeaways from NTC sessions via these collaborative notes for 2017 NTC sessions.

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered right to your inbox!
Subscribe to Getting Attention email updates.

Liz is a veteran marketing professional with extensive experience in traditional marketing and digital strategy with a strong background in social media. A storyteller at heart and a former music business professional, she has been an innovative thought leader in the non-profit space for over a decade.

Categories: Non profits

Proactive Budgets Get the Marketing $ Need for Impact!

The hands-down, most hated and most frequently-avoided marketing task is budgeting. Believe me, I hear it constantly.

Now’s the time to get past this bias and digest the coming series on on budgeting how-tos. You’ll learn the value a budget brings to your work as it translates the actions outlined in your marketing plan into expense. You’ll discover is a completely different way of looking at your marketing work, that works as both a clear framework for your decision-making on wants vs. “nice-to-haves” and a powerful tool for getting the marketing dollars you need to meet agreed-upon goals.

Start building your budgeting skills and confidence right now:

Q: I have a to-do list a mile long. That’s my marketing plan and what I use to create my budget. Or do I need something else, too?

A: No, Virginia, that to-do list is not your marketing plan! It’s a marketing checklist that you hope will move your organization forward. I guarantee that even if you complete every single one of those tasks, you won’t be contributing as much as you could to meeting your org’s goals.

That’s because this kind of marketing is all action and no traction. You’re generating a stream of one-off marketing outputs that have little impact. In fact, these one-offs are likely to confuse and alienate the people you really need to motivate to give, volunteer, and register.

So scrap the laundry list and take a one-day marketing planning sabbatical (here’s a marketing plan template to work from). In just a single day, you’ll finish with a much clearer path in front of you to:

  • Direct and prioritize your focus, and ensure you make the most of your budget
  • Know what you are working towards and make the best decisions on how to get there (critical for leadership buy-in and ongoing support)
  • Craft an accurate, realistic budget built on logic and strategy, one that will greatly increase your success rate in getting the budget you need
  • Track progress (against concrete, measurable benchmarks)
  • Confidently draft a realistic daily work plan.

You’ll see clearly how much you have to spend to reach your goals and, via tracking results, will gain a sense of what strategies work best to achieve which goals. And when you’re making marketing decisions throughout the year, use the plan as your framework.

Your plan (can be a one-pager) will enable you to distinguish “needs” from “wants,” to craft a budget around what really matters—what’s going to drive your marketing impact–motivate your people to take the actions you need!  For example, based on your budget framework, you may decide to promote your advocacy campaigns via direct mail and email, social, text and paid advertising in order to match legislative time frames. At the same time, your budget might indicate that it makes sense to hold off on enhancing your already-strong membership program with the launch of a members-only community.

What’s keeping you from budgeting to fuel your marketing impact?  Please share your budgeting challenge (or success) here.  I’ll cover in a future blog post!

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered right to your inbox!
Subscribe to Getting Attention email updates.  Better yet, ask your board chair and boss if you can subscribe them–great for them, great for you. Just one post weekly  + one e-news monthly.

Categories: 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.

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered right to your inbox!
Subscribe to Getting Attention email updates.

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!

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered right to your inbox!
Subscribe to Getting Attention email updates.

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!

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered right to your inbox!
Subscribe to Getting Attention email updates.

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!

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered right to your inbox!
Subscribe to Getting Attention email updates.

Categories: Non profits