Archive for the ‘Marketing for Nonprofits’ Category

Nonprofit Managers: Don’t Neglect Your Blog!

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

backgound check, credit check, volunteer background checkWhen was the last time you updated your nonprofit’s blog? You may have started blogging a few years ago, diligently writing posts on a regular basis. But at some point, you just stopped. Is it too late to revive the blog? And is it necessary?

Blogs are still a valuable marketing tool. In fact, with all of the social media options available today: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumbler, Flickr, and more—your blog can become the hub of your social marketing efforts.

In addition, a blog helps you reach new supporters and donors, who may only find you through an Internet search. Fresh content is the best way to keep your website ranking high in search engine results. And blogging is the easiest way of keeping your content fresh.

Blogs, along with additional social media marketing, can raise awareness and position your organization as an expert in your field. Inspire trust by publishing articles, educating your audience and answering their questions.

So, maybe it’s time to reinvigorate your blog. Sharpen your pencil, dust off your keyboard; do whatever it takes to motivate yourself to start writing again. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. The Internet is jammed with ideas for blog posts (of course, keep your content original) and a little time spent looking around could result in several weeks’ worth of blog post ideas.

And remember, if you simply don’t have the time to keep your blog updated, you can always ask a volunteer or staffer to handle it for you. There are also agencies and marketing freelancers who can help with writing, editing and marketing your blog.

Don’t forget to publicize your blog’s content through social media. Tweets, likes, repins and shares are very important in the marketing mix of today’s nonprofit organization.

Branding Sets Your Non-Profit Apart From the Crowd

Friday, July 27th, 2012

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkTry to imagine McDonald’s without its gold arches, or Starbucks without its mermaid. They’re part of the experience customers have each time they interact with these companies—whether in person, through online, TV or print ads, or through social media platforms. Branding is important to these global companies, because it helps customers understand what the company is about, and reinforces that meaning at every opportunity.

A brand is how your audiences think of your organization, and the promise you offer. Branding can extend awareness, build trust and attract resources and partnerships for non-profit organizations. It can motivate donors, staff and volunteers, as well as beneficiaries.

You’re going to leave an impression in someone’s mind, anyway, so why not make sure you’re controlling it through effective branding? Start with the very essence of your organization; your mission statement is a great place to begin. Then distill it down until it differentiates your organization from every other one out there. Finally, use it consistently in every form of communication.

Differentiating your agency from others through branding starts with having a name that works, and extends to every other aspect of operations: from the look, tone, voice and the way you deliver your services. Your organization’s name, logo and tagline can come together in a package that quickly and effectively communicates what you’re about to the internal and external audiences: from the board of directors to the general public.

Your name and tagline should say what you do and whom you serve as simply as possible. For example, if your organization helps find housing for Boston-area homeless families with children, you might be called “Under One Roof,” with a tagline, “Keeping Boston families together in safe, affordable housing.” A simple logo can graphically depict the name and tagline, and help to reinforce the mission at a glance.

Keeping logo colors consistent is vital to strong branding. If your logo colors are deep purple and white, never use pastel lavender and yellow. Every time your logo is seen, it should look consistent. The same goes for typefaces used for your name and tagline.

Branding might not seem like it applies to non-profit organizations, but in a crowded and competitive field, an attractive, consistent brand that communicates what your agency is about can help you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Creating Buzz For Your Non-profit

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkYou don’t have to be a media or marketing maven to create a buzz around your non-profit. It does take some time, a little creativity and a willingness to try new things. No matter if your charity is saving animals, kids or trees, you can engage your audience and attract new supporters through a few well-thought-out activities.

Here are four ideas for creating buzz:

  • Adopt a school. Partnering with an elementary, middle or high school is a great way to introduce young people to volunteering. At the same time, you’re educating a new generation about your charity’s work. And the kids are likely to tell their families and friends about it. It could take time to find a school willing to create a partnership, but it could be well worth the effort!
  • Create a contest. Contests are a great way to create a buzz. Just solicit a donation from a business or supporter. Fun experiences, like a river rafting trip or hot-air balloon ride, or a product or service that ties into your mission, are all great ideas for contest prizes. If you’re an art museum, give away a painting. If you’re a youth services organization, have the kids create a sculpture. If you’re saving the environment, a great contest prize is a ready-to-plant raised vegetable garden. You can either sell raffle tickets or solicit entries on Facebook and other social media outlets.
  • Enroll in classes and seminars. Your local community college, technical school or university probably offers free or low-cost classes in technology, web design, social media or marketing – or dozens of other business-related topics. You’re likely to meet other business people and business owners that will soon learn about your non-profit. If you don’t have time to attend classes, look for half-day or one-day seminars that will both teach you valuable skills and expose your charity to a new audience. And if you cannot find the time to attend, send a co-worker, or even a volunteer.
  • Produce a simple event. Not a fundraiser—fundraisers are to raise funds. Other events can simply create buzz. For example, if you have a new building, hold an open house. If you’ve recently acquired a donation, find local groups who might be interested, and invite them to check it out. Or, contact an expert in any given field and ask them to give a presentation. Invite the public or make it a private event. Just reach out and inform people about your organization.

Creating buzz simply takes a little time, some creativity, and willingness to ask people for help. It can be a great way to spread the word about your non-profit!

Blogging Tips for Non-Profits

Friday, December 17th, 2010

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkKeeping your non-profit organization’s website current and fresh is easier than ever. Even if you don’t have an updatable content management system, you can still write blog posts about events, post photos of activities and fundraisers, and keep your supporters engaged by keeping them informed.

Your blog is like a baby. It cannot be neglected. It needs regular care and feeding. And yes, it takes work to raise it properly. But it’s worth the effort.

Here are some tips to make your NPO’s blog easier to update and more successful:

  1. Promote it. If you’re not already on Twitter and Facebook, what are you waiting for? Posting updates on Twitter and Facebook about your new blog posts instantly sends traffic there. And that’s why you’re writing your blog, correct?
  2. Feed it. Do not neglect the blog! It’s too easy to let it go—especially if you haven’t written a post lately. But blogs are very forgiving—like a good friend, you can pick up the conversation as if you haven’t really gone away.
  3. Focus on your audience. What information do they want to know? What news or photos will they be interested in? What have you learned recently that they might enjoy hearing about? Delivering good content is about figuring out what your audience wants and then giving it to them.
  4. Don’t do it alone. Do you have a volunteer who is a good writer? Or a marketing person? Ask them to guest blog for you. Or give a staffer a chance to be creative. As long as the writer is enthusiastic about your non-profit’s mission, you really can’t go wrong. And really, don’t you have other things to do?
  5. Mix text and visual content. Break up the long blocks of text with photos. Throw in a video now and then.
  6. Keep it newsy. Google your NPO’s category—not under the “web search,” but under the “news search.” You’ll find all kinds of news you can write about.
  7. Include keywords. The blog is about informing and engaging your audience, yes—but it’s also a great way to help them find you. Include the keywords that describe your organization or the topic of the post so that when someone Googles that word, your blog comes up in the results.

Quick Fundraising Communications Tips

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

volunteer screening, background check volunteerToday we’re sharing a potpourri of easy-to-remember tips to keep in mind when creating nonprofit fundraising communications pieces: emails, newsletters, direct mail or blog posts.

Be Interesting: People will read your communications piece—if it interests them. Make it easily scannable, with bold headlines and pull quotes to draw the reader in.

Don’t Focus on Features: Focus on benefits. It’s an old sales technique that really works. You can say “we distributed 500 pounds of food last week,” but it’s more effective to relate a fact with a benefit: “we helped 35 elementary school kids stay alert and improve their test scores by providing a good breakfast.”

Aim for Variety: Mix up your message with some facts and figures, some from-the-heart stories, and some straight-up appeals.

Tell Them What You Want: Don’t send out a communication without a call to action. You don’t want people to say “So what?” after reviewing your message.

Get to the Point: Journalists know that the most recent, most important stuff needs to go first. Don’t fall into a trap of leading up to your important points—put them front and center to grab the reader before your piece ends up in the recycle bin.

Keep your Audience in Mind: Try to narrow down to whom you’re really speaking. A broadly-written piece will appeal to exactly nobody.

Don’t Ignore the Envelope: Adding a headline or appeal to the outer envelope gives the recipient a reason to open it.

Update Your Website: This may seem to have nothing to do with a communications appeal, but think about this: if you’ve done your job and grabbed the reader, they will likely head to your website. If it’s out of date or doesn’t “match” the appeal they just received, you’ll have a disconnect that could end what might have been a beautiful relationship.

4 Reasons to Keep Email in the Non-Profit Marketing Mix

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

volunteer screening, background screening for volunteersGood marketing can really help your nonprofit organization (NPO) stand out from the crowd. And standing out can mean the difference between bringing in donations and struggling.

Over the past year or so, many charity organizations have found new supporters, reached out to their communities, and signed up volunteers through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These are two fantastic ways to create a sense of community around your NPO, and to spread the word about events, accomplishments and needs.

But while Twitter and Facebook can reach far and wide, they are not the only ways NPO marketers should be engaging with their supporters and fans. Email is still a great communication tool that perhaps has been put aside in favor of the quick and easy updates on Facebook and Twitter.

4 Reasons to Keep Email in the Non-Profit Marketing Mix

  1. Email is more personal. When a supporter or volunteer receives a well-crafted email message, they pay attention. It’s important to find ways to create that one-on-one connection with your target audience. Email is also perceived as more professional than Facebook postings or Tweets.
  2. Email lasts. When a professionally-produced email message, like a newsletter or update, is your means of communication, it can easily be reproduced or archived on your website. A tweet is not forever. And some email recipients will keep your message around for awhile—you can’t say that about the fast-moving information stream of Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Email fosters two-way conversation. When a supporter opens the email and has a question, they can hit “reply” and start typing. They can keep their communication off the internet and private. Many of your volunteers and fans will appreciate such privacy.
  4. Email allows you to use and grow a valuable asset—your NPO’s email list. Why develop connections with people if you’re not going to leverage them? When people give you permission to send email by signing up on a list at an event, it’s because they actually want to hear from your nonprofit organization through email!

Non Profits: How to Stay Relevant to Your Supporters

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

volunteer screening, background check, volunteer credit checkWhen budgets are still cut to the bone, and donor dollars are more precious than ever, how can non profit managers produce a good return for their marketing efforts? Whether you use social marketing, email marketing or direct mail marketing, the first thing to remember is that your mission and message must be relevant to your audience.

Don’t assume that the same message delivered the same way will always work for your audience. For one thing, it is changing: supporters will shed their loyalty to a non profit organization (NPO) quickly under the influence of others. Consumers today want to know they’re part of something bigger before committing to parting with their money. That can mean checking the online reviews of a hotel before making a reservation, or supporting a charity because all their Facebook friends are. If other people approve of something, they’re more likely to make a commitment.

Relevance is providing consistent messaging that strikes a chord with the reader. It’s about delivering a message in a pre-approved manner. It’s about being where your supporters are.

Relevance means knowing what your supporters need and developing a message that addresses those needs:

  • Supporter #1 needs to feel like they’re making a difference in their community. Your job is to provide the true stories of how your organization is doing it.
  • Supporter # 2 needs to know that when they donating money to your nonprofit, most of the dollars go to programs, not overhead. A simple statement on your website, mailer or email message will fill the need.
  • Supporter #3 is unable to give money, but would love to volunteer—you should meet that need with information that welcomes them to give their time to your NPO.
  • Supporter #4 needs to be able to trust your organization. Provide facts that communicate longevity, program success, awards and honors won, and real accomplishments.
  • Supporter #5 needs authenticity. If times are dire at your NPO, say so. Don’t make things sound rosy one month, and horrible the next. Consistent, honest communication will go a long way to building trust.

When your supporters are taking more time than ever to decide how to spend their charity dollars, remember that remaining relevant is one of the most important things you can do.

Marketing for Non-profits: Do This First

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

volunteerscreeningblogThere are more ways to solicit donations, recruit volunteers and spread the word about your organization than ever before. While non-profit organizations are still holding walk-a-thons and bake sales—although the latter has been in decline, due to food allergies and liability issues—the emergence of social marketing and online networking means it’s far easier to reach much wider audiences.

Online fundraising tools like GlobalGiving and ChipIn make it easy for charities to solicit donations right on their websites. No custom programming needed! Facebook and Twitter allow non-profits to gain followers and friends to help publicize their events and needs in a flash. Facebook even helps with Causes, which allows fundraisers to ask for donations from their friends and contacts. It’s good for finding volunteers, too.

Dozens of other sites have popped up to help non-profits publicize their missions and raise money. But before you jump in the social marketing pool, the first thing to do is ask yourself a couple of questions on behalf of your NPO:

1. How Well do I Know my Organization?
2. How Well can I Communicate my Organization’s Brand?

Before you take advantage of the remarkable tools that now exist for marketing through social media (in other words, social marketing), make sure you’re ready. That means knowing your organization inside and out—and communicating the brand quickly and clearly.

Do you Know Yourself?
You may think no one knows your non-profit better than you. But can you put it into meaningful words? Can you express your best-fit client, your ultimate goal and your organization’s place in your community? What are the strengths of the organization, and where do you need help? What skills are you looking for in volunteers? Knowing your organization backwards and forwards makes it easier to make connections with people who can make a difference to your organization.

Communicating the Brand
Think in terms of what your organization does to change something that’s wrong in the world—that’s the brand. It’s what drives the organization, what makes it different from others—and what would be lost if it didn’t exist. Every person involved must speak about the brand in the same way in order for it to be most effective. A well-written tagline helps.

Once you know the organization and the brand, then set up a Twitter account, write blog posts, share them on Facebook and send targeted emails. Social marketing is all about educating your volunteers, fans, supporters and followers about what you’re doing and how they can help you affect change.

How Does your Non Profit Website Rank on Google?

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

How quickly are web searchers finding your Non Profit Organization (NPO)? What terms are they searching under? How does Google rank websites, anyway?

Every one has experienced the frustration of typing in a few key words and not finding the site we were hoping to find. Or, of typing in key words for our own organizations and seeing everyone’s site but ours on Google’s results page.

Google’s algorithms rank websites using all kinds of information; and while there are no magic bullets that will rocket your non profit organization’s site to the top of the rankings, there are easy ways to make it easier for Google’s spiders to find it (spiders are little robots sent out 24/7 to see what’s happening on the web and report back to Google).

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a way of modifying your site to make it more spider-friendly. There are thousands of theories and myths around SEO. There are also a bunch of generally-accepted principles that actually work.

Keywords are extremely important. Keywords are the phrases or single terms that searchers use to find a site. They can be broad or targeted; for example, “women’s services” is broad, while “domestic violence help for women” is more targeted. Type in a typical search for your organization and see how you rank. Add your region, city, or state to further narrow the search to your organization.

Keywords that your targeted audience will likely use to find your organization’s website should be included:

  • In title, keyword, and description tags your web developer can add;
  • In headlines and body copy throughout the site.

Content should be updated regularly. A good way to achieve this is to have a Content Management System (CMS) site. Most new websites are built on this type of platform, which allows site owners or administrators to make simple site changes, based on a template. No more asking your web designer or developer to make all of your changes!

Another way to achieve the goal of fresh content is to incorporate a news page and/or blog into your site. News, photos, and videos of events and other important matters will keep visitors interested and returning to your site. Updated content will also help your Google rankings.

Ask for backlinks, which are links on other sites to yours. The best backlinks include your keywords. For example, a partner agency, like United Way, might include a link to a “domestic violence prevention organization” using that phrase as the link text, rather than the name of the organization. All backlinks are helpful to website rankings, but this type of text link from a respected organization is extremely valuable. So, ask everyone you can to link to your site!

These are just a few easy ways you can help your non profit organization’s website improve its Google rankings. Try them, give the spiders a week or two to find the changes, and see how it ranks. Keep implementing the changes and you should see improvement!

In Non Profit Marketing, Communicate Like Humans Do

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

There is a nonprofit marketing revolution afoot. It’s about ridding marketing communications of robotic jargon and complicated language in favor of engaging in conversations—like humans do.

Take a look at your non profit organization’s marketing materials: from the website and online forms, to the newsletter and email messaging. How many instances of words like “paradigm,” “accountability,” “impact,” “leverage,” “mission-critical,” and “synergy” do you find? Do you ask interested website visitors for their personal information, or do you demand it?

Overused terms like “paradigm” don’t have much meaning when readers just gloss over them. And category-specific jargon might be confusing to some readers—and turn them right off. Real humans don’t talk in jargon—and after all, when you’re promoting your non profit organization, you are talking to real humans.

It’s important to keep marketing content simple and friendly. Pretend that your brochure, website, volunteer application, or newsletter is a person—with a personality, a distinct voice, and a professional, straightforward vocabulary.

Share information as a friendly neighbor would—and keep that “friendly neighbor” tone in mind. Don’t assume your audience knows what your organization does, how long it’s been around, or who is on the executive team and board of directors.

Put a likable face on your non profit organization. Staff, volunteer, and management photos make you look real—and human. And when posing the board of directors for their annual photo shoot, put them outside in more casual outfits instead of around a big table with their hands folded.

Instead of demanding information on your online forms, ask for it. Forms can be friendly! Rather than Name/Address/Phone/Email for registration forms, use language like:

  • Introduce yourself!
  • Where would you like emails sent?
  • Can we call you?
  • Where should we send news?

When you think of your audience as humans, and your marketing materials as people you’re asking to communicate for you, it only makes sense to use human language to do the job!

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