Posts Tagged ‘Non profit marketing’

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.

Facebook Aims to Increase Organ Donations

Friday, May 11th, 2012

volunteer screening, pre-screening volunteersOrgan donation centers across the country have seen a big spike in their numbers of volunteers lately. Why? Because Facebook made it easy.

Recently, Facebook partnered with the nonprofit group Donate Life America to start a new initiative that allows users to add their organ donor status to their profiles. And it goes one step further, by connecting interested parties to local registries to sign up online.

With 900 million members, this has the potential to be one of the largest volunteer organ donation campaigns ever. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, said he was inspired by natural disasters like the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, as well as by the social network’s ability to connect people.

He also credited his girlfriend, who is studying to become a pediatrician. Her experiences with sick children, many saved by organ donations, moved Zuckerberg to work with Donate Life America, a national organization for local groups that are working to increase the number of registered donors.

The organization says that nearly 114,000 people currently need lifesaving organ transplants. According to the U.S. Department of Health, more than 7,000 people die each year, awaiting them. In addition, thousands more need corneal transplants to restore their sight and help them live normal lives.

Only 43% of U.S. adults have signed up to be organ donors. People often think it’s a good idea, but never quite get around to taking the next step. But every day, millions of Facebook users log in and update their status. Updating their organ donation status has become just as easy. Plus, it opens people to the conversation about organ donation. And as any non-profit organization knows, awareness is half the battle when you’re looking for donors.

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.

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.

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!

Getting Creative with Donors

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Donor writing a check on volunteer screening blogAs non profits climb out of the deep hole created by the recession, volunteer managers and fundraisers are more than a little weary. But some have used the recession to get creative when asking donors for help.

In Virginia, an art museum asked its top donors to give even more so it could eliminate its entry fee and open the museum to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Believing that the economic situation was exactly the time when folks needed access to art, four donors gave $150,000—and the fee was eliminated.

But free admission created another issue: how to appease the members whose annual fees give them the important perk of unlimited entry? The museum approached the problem with a creative solution: they changed their marketing message to help members understand all the other benefits they receive, such as invitations to special exhibits and events, and to point out that it is their membership fees that are helping others enjoy the museum.  The museum also instituted an entry fee for four special exhibitions per year, which members could still attend for free.

How is it working? The first week of September, when free admission began, saw three times the usual attendance and double the voluntary donations at the museum’s door.

Other non profit organizations are polishing up their donor and volunteer relationships. The head of a youth services foundation in Washington decided that the economic slump was not the time to do just an annual report or stage the same tired annual fundraising event. Personal cards and more frequent updates kept the charity’s name top of mind throughout the year. And when it was time for the annual fundraising event, she took a bold step by ramping it up into an elegant affair—a big change from the simple thank-you dinner of years past.

Instead of charging nothing to attend and hoping for donations at the event, the organization hired an exclusive caterer and held the function in the nicest ballroom in town. They charged $75 per ticket, and quickly sold out. Additional fundraisers at the event brought in even more cash. And, she had more volunteers than ever before, because the event was more fun than ever before!

The lesson as we come through the end (hopefully) of the recession is to be bold, come up with new ideas, and go big! Put your non profit ahead by giving people something to talk about.

End of Year Newsletter Ideas

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

man-writing-laptop on volunteer screening blogIt’s November, which means you have just a couple of months to wrap up your 2009 non profit marketing plan (if you even had one!). If you’ve been sending and/or emailing a newsletter out regularly—great! If not, a year-end wrap up is a great way to get in the habit. Newsletters don’t have to be long to be effective. In fact, most folks prefer shorter bits of easy-to-read news. Four short paragraphs are sufficient. Choose from these ideas:

Accomplishments, or Goals Set and Achieved: Here’s where you list all the good things your non profit organization did in 2009. Pull data from board reports and meeting minutes. If you submit a monthly or quarterly report to your Board of Directors, then you probably have all the information you need to compile your list of accomplishments.

Thanks to our Volunteers: Include the number of hours your volunteers donated to your organization, the number of events they helped organize, or actual jobs they performed. Statistics are compelling and impacting, so use numbers like “3,782 meals served,” or “62,000 dollars worth of time donated.”

Event Highlights: Add ohotos and description of the fundraisers thrown, programs given, trade shows attended, schools visited, or races run. Any group photos with your charity’s t-shirt or logo prominently displayed are effective ways to communicate involvement and support in your community

Volunteer of the Year: Choose a volunteer to honor. Include a photo and bio, including why they chose your organization when offering their volunteer services. Volunteers love to see their names and photos, and to know they are appreciated. Plus, showing them a little love will help you recruit more volunteers.

Board Members: Introduce all the members of your board, especially new members. Be sure to mention any board members who left or rotated off in 2009, and thank them for their service.

Goals for 2010: Let your supporters and community know what you plan to accomplish next year. Then at the end of 2010, you’ll know exactly what goals were met, and where you need to keep working.

Lives We’ve Impacted: Make a personal connection with your organization’s work by telling clients’ real stories. Include a photo if privacy is not an issue. Telling stories is the best way to make your organization’s mission resonate with your supporters and community.

Marketing communications are a vital link to your supporters, volunteers, and community. Keep yours consistent and interesting, and you will see a return for your efforts!

Fundraising 101: Tell a Single Story

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

poverty on volunteer screening blogIdeas and suggestions around fundraising abound—if non profit managers had a dollar for each one, they probably wouldn’t need to fund raise! But if you’re like us, you agree that there is no such thing as too many good ideas. So here’s another one: when asking donors for money, tell a single story.

In his book, “The Life You Can Save,” Peter Singer of Princeton University gives examples of human beings going to great effort to save the lives of others—one-on-one. But in the larger picture, millions die from starvation, disease, and malnutrition—when the rest of us have the resources to save them.

The example points to how human nature works at its basic level. When we’re presented with the choice to rescue a single person who is right in front of us, most would do the right thing and help. When the need becomes too big, or faceless—as in the problems of lack of clean water, medicine, and food among poor populations on the other side of the globe—we tend to think we can’t do anything about it.

Telling the single story is a powerful tool for non profit organization (NPO) marketers and managers. How are you approaching your fundraising efforts? Are you presenting a problem that seems just too big to solve to your prospective donors?

Try featuring a single effort, challenge, group, or person when communicating your NPO’s funding needs. Tell a success story—how your organization improved the life of one person, or one dog, or one neighborhood. Tell a story about what happens to a single bird in the forest when its habitat is destroyed. Focus on the people in one family who lost a treasured home in a tornado.

Remember how human nature seems to work: while individuals are willing to save the person who’s drowning right in front of them, they are apparently unwilling to donate money to save one who’s dying half a world away.

The Value of Branding for Non Profits

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

branding image on volunteerscreeningblog.comA recent report examined the brand value of non profit organizations in the United States. It was the first to rank charities by a combination of revenue, brand awareness, and potential for growth, rather than just financial performance.

The report was compiled by Cone, a branding agency, together with Intangible Business, a valuation consultancy, to help NPOs understand how their branding efforts are related to raising funds.  According to the report, non profit brands must be protected and evolved in order to generate the most revenue.

So, who came out on top? YMCA of the USA, with a brand value of $6.4 billion. Here are the top ten Nonprofit Power Brands:

1. YMCA of the USA

2. The Salvation Army

3. United Way of America

4. American Red Cross

5. Goodwill Industries International

6. Catholic Charities

7. Habitat for Humanity International

8. American Cancer Society

9. The Arc of the United States

10. Boys & Girls Clubs of America

What does branding mean to your organization? Often, nonprofits have a purpose, mission, and vision that are clear to everyone within the organization, but fall flat in its communications.  Do you have a difficult time explaining what it is your organization does or whom it serves?  Does everyone associated with your NPO tell a different story?  Have you had difficulty communicating a consistent message? If so, you have a branding problem.

Branding is more than a logo and a tagline—although both are very important to every organization!  Branding is the message, the promise, the core of your organization. The brand establishes your NPO as a worthy and valuable institution that donors can feel good about supporting—and volunteers want to work for. And it must be conveyed consistently in every touch point with your service population, community, staff, volunteers, and supporters.

Check out the websites of the top 10 Nonprofits and see for yourself how important a consistent brand effort is to each of them. Then think about your NPO’s brand message—or lack of one—so you can start improving it. You might even improve your bottom line, too!

Remember that thorough volunteer screening will help you recruit and retain the best volunteers for your organization.