Have you mastered the monthly eNewsletter? Do donors receive gift receipts in their inbox? And do you send donor appeals via Constant Contact like it's no big deal. If so, it looks like you're ready to flex your organization's email muscle and take your donor communications to the next level! Here are three ways you should start using email to improve donor relations:
1. Email your annual report/impact report.
The Greater Cleveland Food bank (top) and Girls Who Code (bottom) brought their annual reports online. Using the web-based tool ISSUU, print pieces are easily converted into interactive online pieces.
Annual reports are time intensive projects that require financial reporting, program summaries, and photos to make your years' worth of work shine. Instead of sending your beautiful report by mail, send it electronically. By saving precious postage money, you can expand the pool of annual report recipients if you send it by email. Great online tools, like ISSUU, make it easy to display a print piece online. The Greater Cleveland Food bank and Girls Who Code took advantage of the online annual report to include tons of photos, interesting infographics, and bright colors. Plus, supporters can reference the report throughout the year because it won't end up in the recycling bin a week after it arrives.
2. Email special greetings.
Your organization should make an effort to celebrate special events beyond year-end holidays. Does your organization help infants and young mothers? Mother's Day is an obvious choice for a special occasion you should embrace. (Mothers2Mothers does a great job celebrating!) Does your organization support youth programs? Then use Absolutely Incredible Kid Day or National Kid's Day as an opportunity to let your programs shine. You organization's anniversary is another great reason to send a special greeting to your donors.
3. Email project updates.
Donors want to be kept in the loop when it comes to big financial projects like capital campaigns. Sending monthly updates and photos of your building's remodel is the perfect way to show donors that their gift is making a concrete difference. Even if your organization isn't undertaking a capital campaign, considers announcing when you achieve a goal. Did you serve your 5,000th client recently? Tell your donors! Did you help twice as many students attend college this year as you did last year? Send an email to your supporters! Just like family members and friends who send email updates, maintain your relationship with your donors by sharing exciting news with them right when it happens.
While everyone on your email list might not read every email you send, sending more frequent and compelling messages increases the likelihood that you'll catch a donors' eye. Don't hesitate when it comes to sending an out-of-the-ordinary message to donors. Test and see what works best and listen to the feedback. In time, your supporters will start looking for that anniversary announcement or the stellar annual report in their inbox.
Now that you know the three reasons why your nonprofit needs content marketing, how do you get started? Just like with more traditional nonprofit communications, you need to define your voice for your audience.
1. Create a cohesive voice and style.
If your nonprofit were a person, what kind of person would you want it to be? Funny and relatable like Mindy Kaling? Or knowledgeable and self-deprecating like Woody Allen? Define who you want to be (responsive, fun, caring, friendly, helpful, etc.) and stick to it—but be sure to evaluate your nonprofit voice and style to determine if it’s working for you. You’re not the same person you were 20 years ago, and your voice shouldn’t be, either. It’s okay to make changes to your established nonprofit voice and style, just be sure to have a good reason and to have an ear to the ground for what’s working with your supporters.
2. Be the voice of the people.
Communicating with your supporters is one important part of content marketing, but what about the people you help? Are you adopting their voice or letting them speak alongside you? Make a plan for how you talk about and showcase your beneficiaries.
3. Lure people in with cheese, and then give them the broccoli.
In her Nonprofit 911 webinar Kick-start Your Marketing Calendar with Great Content, Kivi Leroux Miller suggests luring in your supporters with cheese, and then giving them the broccoli. What's that fun topic your supporters love? Is it your monthly happy hour, social media training classes, or a nature hike? Do your fans love humor? Talk about the fun stuff first as a way to engage with your network. Then introduce the messages you need them to know and that you think would really benefit them but might not be as much fun, such as domestic violence statistics, online privacy issues, and deforestation.
Nonprofit communication is changing-and not just because of social media. Thanks to content marketing, instead of simply keeping donors up to date, nonprofit communicators and fundraisers are directly tying more long-term goals to communication and seeing great results. Here are the three reasons why you don't want to miss out!
1. Content marketing uses the great stuff you already have.
Is your nonprofit putting out unique information, like a blog covering community development, data on homelessness, or white papers about animal welfare? Content marketing means using your existing content to attract people (like donors) to your cause. Putting out irresistible content can encourage people to connect with you because they want to know more. But when you're just keeping them up to date with a newsletter or asking for money with an appeal, you're not giving them anything, so your message can seem like an interruption.
2. Your "partners" will eat it up.
With so much emphasis on "finding your target audience," "identifying your target audience," and "messaging for your target audience," it can be hard to rethink who you're talking to and why. Instead of focusing on your supporters and their demographics as a "target" to be aimed for and an "audience" to broadcast at, think of your supporters as your partners. Although it's still a good idea to segment the people you're communicating with, it's important to think of them as people who are interested in dialogue. By engaging in content marketing and truly informing supporters, you can develop a back-and-forth conversation that encourages regular communication and lays the foundation for a lasting relationship.
3. It's the first step to becoming a favorite cause!
The more you participate in continuous dialogue with your supporters, the greater your chance of becoming a favorite cause. If donors put you at the top of their list, you'll reap huge rewards: more donations over time for bigger amounts and more regularly. And how do you remain a favorite cause? You keep communicating!
Okay, so how do you do it?
Stay tuned for part two of this article: developing your nonprofit's unique voice.
Want to add visual content with a data-focused approach to your existing nonprofit outreach?
With all the noise out there-trillions of messages coming at you each day via ads, emails, texts, and tweets-it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Visuals can send information to the brain remarkably fast and make seemingly boring information (such as a white paper or an annual report) look fun and exciting! Here's what your nonprofit's visuals need to succeed:
1. Have a reason.
The strategy behind creating an infographic should be considered before you gather your data and get going. Ask yourself: Why should I create this content, and what will I do with it? Will your infographic provide thought leadership, answer a burning question, drive brand awareness? If you're making a piece "just because," acknowledge that and determine if you have the resources to spare before you continue.
Network for Good's infographic, the Digital Giving Index (the top of which is shown here) showcases the latest stats on $190 million in online donations.
2. Use good data.
Case studies, fact sheets, client data—there are a wealth of places you can find data to visualize. Be sure that your data is sound, and include clear sources to show you're credible. If your supporters are captivated, they might want to explore the topic and your data further.
3. Tell a story.
There's no guarantee that something you make will go viral, but you can set up the conditions. A great story is the number one way to capture an audience who wants to spread the word. Make the story obvious and something your audience can relate to.
4. Use purposeful design.
When someone looks at your infographic, can he quickly and easily access the story and the data? Is the presentation successful? If it's hard for a viewer to understand what she's seeing, what roadblocks stand in the way and how can you remove them?
Bonus: "Keep it simple, stupid" isn't just something your math teacher told you. Many people think infographics need to be supercomplicated. Don't overthink! Picture familiar symbols: stop signs, smiley faces, Mickey Mouse ears. They're all extremely simple while communicating complex ideas.
Data visualization is a great way to help your audience see, hear, and engage with you and your brand. To learn more about how your nonprofit can use infographics, check out our free Nonprofit911 webinar with Joe Carillo of Visual.ly, "Infographics 101: Show Off Your Data."
You just filed for your 501(c)3 designation so the IRS will recognize your group as a tax-deductible nonprofit organization. Congrats!
Now you're ready to start fundraising, but there's a catch: Your donors can't give to a tax-exempt organization, and you're not eligible for grants yet because you aren't officially recognized as a not-for-profit entity. You're ready to get your nonprofit's fundraising off the ground, but you're stuck until you hear back from the IRS. However, there is a way you can apply for grants and raise tax-deductible funds: fiscal sponsorship.
A fiscal sponsor is a tax-exempt organization that agrees to receive funds and conduct other administrative functions on your group's behalf. Your fiscal sponsor processes your donations and then disburses the funds to your organization. Sometimes a sponsor will take a small administrative fee for processing the transactions, but it's still a great option for organizations that need to raise money now and want to make sure their donors can give knowing their gift is tax-deductible.
Who can serve as a sponsor? Technically, any 501(c)3. The National Council on Nonprofits recommends that you look for an organization with a mission that is similar to yours. Be sure that both parties agree to the terms of the partnership, and clearly outline those terms in a written agreement to make the sponsorship formal. The Foundation Center has tips to help you determine who can best serve as your fiscal sponsor, as well as resources to ensure the partnership is a positive experience for both the sponsor and the organization being sponsored.
What does a fiscally sponsored organization look like? Honor Flight Capital Region is one such nonprofit. Honor Flight celebrates World War II veterans by arranging special trips for them to visit their memorial in Washington, DC. The experience provides veterans from America's Greatest Generation with a feeling of camaraderie during their special day of honor. As you can see on Honor Flight's website footer and donation page, the organization clearly states that it's fiscally sponsored. Beyond that, the nonprofit functions just as any other nonprofit would. It can solicit tax-deductible donations through its DonateNow page and apply for grants.
Ready to start looking for a fiscal sponsor? Visit the Fiscal Sponsorship directory and look for organizations that are ready and willing to serve as a sponsor. For more information on how a sponsorship works, visit the Society for Nonprofit's resource center.
Fiscal sponsorship steps:
As a busy organization, it's rare that you have time to even think about testing your nonprofit email marketing. You're focused on getting your newsletter or announcement out the door so you can get back to what you do best.
But what if running an email marketing test didn't need to take a ton of time? What if, instead, it could fit in with the work you're already doing and still provide the insight you need to improve your results?
It starts with understanding what you want to test.
Focus on testing one thing at a time. If you test more than one element in the same email, it is challenging (and sometimes impossible) to determine exactly what influenced the response.
Here are some easy and telling tests to start with:
Other tests could include the time of day or day of the week you send, with an image or without, and the placement of a CTA button or link.
Now, decide how you'll measure your results.
For subject lines, your most effective metric will be open rates. This will tell you how many people saw your email in their inbox and took the next step to open it.
For tests within the copy of your email, focus on clicks. This will tell you how many people not only opened it, but who also viewed your content and took some action within the email.
Think about what you're trying to learn. If your goal is to find out how the length of your email or the type of content you include influences donations or registrations, you'll want to track donations and compare them with previous results. If you're driving traffic to your website or blog, you can use a tool like Google Analytics to track referral traffic to your site.
Once you know what you want to test and how you'll measure your results, now you can put the test in motion.
When it comes to who you'll send your test to, you have two options: You can either split your entire nonprofit email list in half and send one version to each, or take a random sample and do a pre-test.
A pre-test is an excellent way to find out what works before sending an email to your entire list. This knowledge can greatly improve your overall response rate. It also protects you from sending a poor performing email test to a large portion of your list and wasting your efforts. To pre-test, choose a random sampling of 100 people from your master nonprofit email list, then split that group in half and send each half one of the two test campaigns.
Once you have everything ready, send your test emails.
The great thing about email is that you get your results quickly. Within a 24- to 48-hour period, you'll know which email communication got a better result. (It takes weeks when testing with direct mail!)
Declare your winner, send that email to the remaining members of your list, and watch the results come in.
It's really that simple.
Testing your nonprofit email marketing is about listening to your audience—something nonprofits know better than anyone! Let their actions tell you what's working, what's not, and what you could be doing differently. This will not only help improve your email marketing but will let you better connect with the people who matter most to your organization and attract more donors, supporters, and volunteers.
Accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, your nonprofit website is an invaluable tool for interacting with your target audience and allowing visitors to learn about your nonprofit. Having the insights to efficiently manage your website are important to optimize the experience for your supporters and ensure the success of your nonprofit. Fortunately, Google Analytics provides organizations with a cost effective way to monitor the metrics that matter and help your team make informed decisions.
Here are three metrics that your nonprofit should be measuring:
The audience location metrics enable you to specifically determine the geographic areas that your site content is reaching. By monitoring this metric, your nonprofit will have the tools it needs to determine if it's effectively reaching its intended target audience. Additionally, this metric can be used as a means to reveal emerging or previously unidentified audiences as well as the effectiveness of your promotional efforts.
The picture depicted above shows that an organization located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is generating a significant amount of its traffic from outside its city limits. Based on this insight, the organization could consider expanding their target audience into new geographic territories or hosting a fundraising event in a new location.
Mobile Traffic Behavior
As the number of mobile site searches increases, optimizing your nonprofit mobile site for smartphone and tablet users is becoming even more critical to interacting and engaging with your supporters. Mobile traffic behavior metrics let you monitor your site's mobile traffic growth over time. When analyzing this metric, it's important to remember that an increase in mobile traffic growth alone doesn't indicate that your site is mobile friendly. As mobile visitors typically spend less time on a site that isn't adequately optimized for their devices, time on site, and average visit duration metrics should also be evaluated.
Page Bounce Rates
A "bounce" occurs when a visitor navigates to a page and then immediately leaves. Depending on the intent of any given webpage, a high bounce rate could indicate a low level of audience interaction and engagement. For example, if your volunteer application page has a high bounce rate, then you need to reevaluate the page's contents as visitors are not spending enough time on the page to fill out any information.
Although these three metrics only begin to cover the extent of the metrics offered by Google Analytics, they provide a foundation from which you can start to measure the performance of your nonprofit website and your reputation. Knowing how to use the information displayed by these metrics will undoubtedly aid your nonprofit staff in optimizing your organization's website content and improving overall audience engagement. For more information about the metrics that your organization should be utilizing download the free e-book, Top 10 Things Your Association Should Measure in Google Analytics.
DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers.
Women today make up just under half of the nation's millionaires. Over the next 20 years, through divorce, the death of a spouse, or inheritance, American women will control some $25 trillion dollars.
This shift in wealth creates an incredible opportunity for much good to be done in the world. In my practice, I have seen that most women consider themselves to be philanthropic, and charitable organizations would be well served to provide opportunities for these women to flex their charitable muscles!
Here are my tips on how to approach women who are taking the reins of their wealth for the first time, often in a crisis:
1. Approach donors with empathy
Major life transitions such as the death of a spouse, divorce, and even retirement, can take a deep emotional toll, often forcing women to take more control of their financial life. Some may be prepared, but many are not. She will need time before she is ready to give to your organization as she learns how much money she has, where it is, and whether she and her family are going to be secure for the long run.
2. Show her the good you do
The fact is, women think about money differently than men. As a group, women tend to be more concerned with the ultimate purpose of money rather than with an investing strategy and performance numbers. They first want to know that their money will securely carry themselves and their families through the future. After that, many women want to use their money to effect change in the world. Before you ask for money, show donors how the funds you do have are making an impact and demonstrate the good you're already achieving.
3. Invest time and support to build a long-term partnership
There is a vast difference between winning a check from a one-time donor and building a long-term relationship with a philanthropist who is going to be dedicated to your cause for years to come. If you want a donor to partner with you over time, you should invest in them and make them feel appreciated, too. Before seeking contributions from women in transition, set your organization apart by encouraging her to seek wise counsel that can help her navigate the decisions of her new life.
4. Finally, make the appeal for your cause
Once these women have made the right connections, and have had the right coaching and advice, they often feel a new excitement about what their wealth can accomplish in the world. Speak with them about how they give of their resources—often both time and money—and make the case for why your cause is worth it!
Charlie Jordan is a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and partner with Brightworth in Atlanta. He advises high-net-worth clients—particularly women—in investment management and tax and estate planning and he works closely with them to establish plans for their charitable giving. He is also on the board of the Georgia Planned Giving Council.
Your event's success depends on the quantity (and quality) of guests who RSVP (and actually show up). Getting guests to let you know that they're coming shouldn't be so hard, right?
If you're busy fighting responses like, "I'm too busy that week," "I lost the invite," and "I don't know anybody else going," don't lose hope! To help you get more RSVPs, try these five ideas before your next fundraising event!
1. Designate hosts to invite 10 of their friends
Ask your long-time donors to serve as hosts for your nonprofit event. The host role can mean whatever you want, such as simply listing host names in the program or, for a more involved role, asking them to share why they've supported your organization for so long. Hosts should invite their friends and colleagues to the event so that they can learn about your organization (and hopefully become new donors). (Want to learn more about harnessing the power of peer-to-peer fundraising?)
2. Send a paper invite and an email invite
Some donors are constantly checking their email and other donors might never glance at their overflowing inbox. To accommodate all types of event attendees, send traditional and digital invitations. Network for Good's EventsNow powered by givezooks! can help you send email invitations and track RSVPs.
3. Make it easy to RSVP
The easier it is for invitees to RSVP, the more likely people are to let you know if they're coming. Keep guests excited about your upcoming event (and encourage more people so say yes) by updating them on behind the scenes planning and special guests. Plus, don't forget to remind them of the date a few days before!
4. Send a special invitation to recurring donors
We always encourage nonprofits to make their donors feel like superheroes. To make your most loyal donors feel super special, treat them to a handwritten invitation or a phone call from a board member.
5. Follow up with past attendees who have yet to RSVP
Review the guest list from last year's event about 2 to 3 weeks before RSVPs are due. How many of these guests are planning on coming this year? Follow up with them personally, and if they can't make it, ask them to make a gift to help underwrite the event.
Bonus: Broadcast your event online
This won't help you get RSVPs, but it's still help people "attend" your fundraising event. Use a service like Ustream to broadcast your event online so that friends near and far can still be a part of your special event. Be sure to include a donation button next to the stream so that it's easy to give!
Want more tips on hosting a great nonprofit event? Download our new Events Checklist.
If you're already using email marketing and social media to promote your nonprofit, it's important to unite your online communities—giving supporters the opportunity to stay connected with all the stuff you're doing online and giving you the opportunity to better engage your target audience. Start by having your digital tools work together, here's how:
1. Make it easy to connect on your website
The first step to combining your social media and email marketing is making it easy for supporters to sign up for your mailing list or find your social networks directly from your website. Put buttons on your homepage for both so that when visitors find you, they can decide how they want to be engaged. Hopefully they'll choose both!
Tip: Need more help perfecting you nonprofit website? Check out this free eguide!
2. Bring your audiences together
Even if you've already connected your website to your social media pages or email sign-up form, it's likely you still have some people who are seeing your content only via social media or are only receiving your newsletter.
It's crucial that you're able to bridge that gap and bring those audiences together. One way is to include links to share content in your newsletters. Much like with your website, this will help turn readers into fans.
On the flip side, you'll also want to make it easy for fans to sign up for your announcements. Do you have a way to sign up for your newsletter on your Facebook page and in your Twitter bio? When someone sees all the interesting content you're sharing through social media, don't make them search for a way to sign up.
Tip: If you're a Constant Contact customer, you can easily add an email sign-up form to your Facebook Page.
3. Demonstrate your value
If you want fans and followers to sign up for your email list, you need to make sure you're demonstrating the value of doing so.
In addition to having a clear call to action like Join my List!, you also want to include a description on the sign-up form telling people exactly what it is they should expect to receive. What type of content will you be sending them? How frequently will they get it? Is there any bonus or discount for subscribing? Tell people exactly what you plan to deliver and highlight why it's great.
The same applies when linking your newsletter to your social networks. Don't just ask people to Like us on Facebook, explain why!
4. Use consistent branding
Whether someone is visiting your website, connecting with you on Facebook, or seeing an email in their inbox, the experience they have with your content needs to be consistent. Not only in the quality of the content, but in the look and feel of your marketing materials.
One way to do that is by using the same logo on Facebook and Twitter as you use in your email newsletter. That way, when someone does click through to become a fan or to read your newsletter, they immediately recognize that they're in the right place.
You should also pay attention to the colors you choose. The color scheme on your website is likely the scheme you'll want to use in your email newsletter and, when possible, on Facebook. Color Cop is a free and easy-to-use tool that enables you to pull the exact colors from your website so you can implement them on other marketing content.
5. Get more from your newsletter content
Sharing your email newsletter content on Facebook or Twitter is a perfect opportunity to fill your social media content gaps.
It's also a chance to make better use of the content you're already creating and get it the exposure it deserves. Sites like Facebook and Twitter will enable you to open your newsletter up to a whole new audience—not only your current fans, but also their friends who'll see your content when someone else engages with it.
And if the content in your newsletter isn't time sensitive, you can wait a few days before you share it. This gives your emails a longer shelf life before you send another.
Tip: If you're thinking about taking your newsletter from print to digital, follow this guide.
Email + Social = Success
Remember that whether someone is a fan on Facebook or a subscriber on your email list, they're a member of your online community. These are people who have opted to receive updates from your organization and are eager to show their support.
By combining the power of social media and email marketing, you'll be able to grow your community and get more from your marketing efforts in the years to come!
As Constant Contact’s Content Developer, Ryan Pinkham helps small businesses and nonprofits recognize their full potential through marketing and social media.
This is a test. I repeat, this is a test. I've got a few questions to run by you to figure out if your nonprofit's website is doing all it can to bring in donations.
According to NTEN's 2013 Staffing & Investments Survey Report, the average nonprofit organization has 0.7 full-time staff members allocated to "web" work and 0.7 allocated to "online/digital" work. Let's face it, 1.4 people can't possibly spend as much time maintaining and updating an organization's website as an outside firm could. Many of you are the web/online/digital person at your organization, right? And we'd all be millionaires if we had a nickel for every well-meaning comment or email we've received that encourages us to try a new tool, make the site copy more meaningful, and, most importantly, get more donations.
I'm happy to report that the three things I recommend will be fairly easy to implement and will make a difference in your donor efforts. (Want some step-by-step guidance? Download our eguide, "How to Create an Effective Nonprofit Website.")
So, back to that test.
1. Is your site responsive?
B) Somewhat ...
C) I'm not sure.
D) What's responsive?
If you answered A, pat yourself on the back and move on to the next question. For the rest of us, let's talk about what makes a site responsive.
Most of us have accessed websites on mobile devices. In fact, a few people might be visiting your website on mobile devices right now. If your site doesn't respond to users on specific devices, they'll have more reason to take their eyeballs elsewhere.
Imagine a first-time visitor experience: Jane comes home from work. She makes dinner and sits down to watch a few days' worth of The Daily Show while she catches up with friends. She scrolls through her newsfeed on her iPhone's Facebook app and sees that a good friend in another state is running a marathon to raise money for cancer research. Jane wants to support her friend from afar, so she clicks the link in her friend's post and ends up at the beneficiary organization's site.
It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure book—Jane's ability to donate will depend on whether this site works on her phone. Otherwise, she'll have to wait until she goes back to work and remembers to donate. Jane is a busy woman; do you really think she'll remember to do that? Probably not.
2. Is your donation form easy to use?
B) There are five questions, is that easy?
C) There are three pages of five questions, is that easy?
D) I get a lot of error complaints, so maybe not.
If you answered A, you're 2 for 3. Go on to the third question and see if you passed the website donor test with flying colors. If you answered B, you're on the right track, as long as those questions are simple and essential. If you answered C or D, we've got some work to do so let's get to it. (Need some help setting up a donation page that matches your website? Check out DonateNow!)
Getting people to your site is most definitely the first step. But once they're there, how easy is it to donate no matter where they are on the site? Donation forms run the spectrum from stunning and touching to disastrous and annoying. It's best to make the form simple and don't ask for too much. Handing over hard-earned dollars should be a joy, not a chore.
No matter how simple or complex your organization's donation forms are, regularly test the checkout experience. Check it from different browsers and make sure you've got a confirmation and thank you email set up to send within minutes of the donation processing. Acknowledging and thanking donors—whether they're regulars or first-timers—should be a given, but not everyone is on top of that essential step.
That reminds me of one more thing you could add to the checkout process to strengthen your relationship with potential, new, or ongoing donors.
3. Do you have an e-newsletter or a downloadable asset to collect email addresses?
B) We have an email list and send a newsletter out every few months.
C) We have a snail mail newsletter that goes out semiannually.
D) No, should I?
If you responded all As, it looks like you have everything covered. Congratulations!
If you answered D, make it your goal to build an email database in 2014. Google Analytics is a lifesaver in terms of getting to know your website visitors' habits, but it can only track so much.
Give people a reason to hand over their email address in exchange for something they wouldn't otherwise have access to, whether it be an insider's guide to fundraising success or a newsletter with priority registration for your events. Make it clear that when someone gives you their email address for a downloadable asset, they're automatically opting in to your subscriber list. Give them the option to opt out. An email address is the beginning of a relationship with a visitor who could potentially become a donor, so be mindful of the content and frequency of the messages you send.
So, how did you do? If you're 0 or 1 for 3, don't worry—the best part of the web is that it can change! The time you spend improving your site to be more donor-friendly will be rewarded with more donations in the long run, just wait. I truly believe you will have little to no trouble accomplishing the steps we just walked through.
Emily Lonigro Boylan is the founder and creative director at LimeRed Studio, a creative services firm in Chicago that works with groups that inspire positive change. LimeRed works with nonprofits, higher education, and social enterprises that promote the people, programs, and ideas that make people's lives better.
As a filmmaker with more than 30 years of professional experience, I have witnessed the ability of film to get to the heart of a message, faster, and more powerfully than any other medium. That is why I am passionate about helping nonprofits use film to their best advantage.
Here are my top four tips for getting the most out of your film projects to help reach your fundraising and branding goals.
The author readies for a video shoot.
Credit: Havey Productions
The best starting point is a well-articulated purpose and strategy. Remember, if you can't say it, you can't do it.
For the Daniels Fund Scholarship Program, Havey Productions produced a series of vignettes profiling scholarship recipients. The strategy was "to provide an engaging, revelatory, and inspirational look at Daniels Scholar graduates so as to inform and inspire high school students, employers, and communities on the opportunities offered by the scholarship program and the qualities exemplified by Daniels Scholars."
A strategy is important because it'll guide you as you decide who you want to collaborate with creatively, which content to include in your nonprofit film, the spokespeople to use on-camera, the budget for your project, and many other critical decisions.
As with any other marketing exercise, developing the right strategy for your video project will come down to three main questions:
It is during the strategy stage that you answer these questions. Need more help getting started? Check out these five tips for nonprofit video.
2. The difference between film and video is art
With the advent of digital video, the line between "film" and "video" has been blurred—but the distinction is important:
Knowing the difference between the two is key to selecting a production partner that is right for your nonprofit video project. I recommend that you pay close attention to the production values of their prior work.
"Production values" refer to the technique, method, and artistic approach applied to the creation of a video or film. To harness the full emotive potential of film, find a professional whose work demonstrates artistic production values and emotional impact. It's not about gimmicks like quick cuts, fast zooms, or contrived transitions. Rather than simple reportage video shot with little direction or set preparation, the cinematic techniques of film production pay great attention to the craft of visual storytelling, lighting, mood, movement, focus, and the essential artistic motivation of controlling the human eye. At best, technicians and artists from both styles can create beautiful images.
3. Making the emotional connection
A good filmmaker is a skilled storyteller who can help you unearth an emotional hook that captures the heart of your mission or campaign. An effective film elicits a visceral response and moves people to action by stirring their emotions. The personal decision to support an organization or cause is not about information—it's about inspiration.
Film is also an excellent vehicle to reinforce your nonprofit brand. Involving your production partner in the early stages of the development will ensure a film project that is more on-brand. At Havey Productions, one of our areas of expertise is Legacy Films—films that help distinguish a nonprofit's vision, mission and identity for both internal (staff, board members, and volunteers) and external (donors and the general public) audiences.
Remember and use these basic elements of a good story line:
As you strategize and collaborate to make the crucial emotional connection with your audience, remember that filmmaking is an art that when done well can inspire powerful action. (You can also try following these 11 rules for video fundraising.)
4. Collaborate with your filmmaker
We hear it every year at the Oscars—"Film is a collaborative medium."
The production process has many moving parts that are all important. Begin collaborating with your producer or video technician early and include them in your team's creative discussions.
When you begin filming, it's helpful to have an internal point-person that can liaise with your filmmaker and represent the interests of the various stakeholders in your nonprofit project. Establish a timeline for the major deliverables in the production process including these basic checkpoints:
The message your film sends to the public in words, music, images, and production values is perceived as a direct reflection of who you are, so take good care to make it a great reflection.Jim Havey, Producer, Director, and Founder of Havey Productions, is an Emmy Award–winning filmmaker specializing in all aspects of film for the non-profit sector. Based in Denver, he has worked with an illustrious list of non-profits in the Western United states including: The Daniels Fund, Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation, HopeWest Hospice, University of Wyoming, Colorado School of Mines, Historic Denver, Inc. and many others. For inspiration on your next film project, visit HaveyPro.com or Facebook.com/HaveyProductions.
LinkedIn has grown into one of the most popular social media sites for individuals to make connections and build their networks. Although at times it may seem like only big businesses or recruiters use LinkedIn, it also offers plenty of great tools for nonprofit organizations. In fact, LinkedIn can help your nonprofit extend your marketing efforts and drive growth.
Make a company page for your nonprofit like Network for Good had done on LinkedIn.
It all begins with your company page. A LinkedIn company page showcases your nonprofit's cause, benefits, events, and services while sharing relevant news and information that your donors might not find on their own. Plus, your followers have the opportunity to share your content and extend your organization's reach. Here's how to get started:
1. Create your page
If your organization doesn't have a company page, create one now! Follow these steps to quickly set up your page. Make sure you add a header image, logos, a detailed description about your nonprofit and the community or industry you serve, a website link, and featured groups.
2. Maximize your presence
Add products and services to your page such as your fundraising events, partnership activities, training programs, or volunteer opportunities. Once you've created your products and services section, ask your connections to recommend them through the tools offered by LinkedIn—it's easy. Having recommendations on each of your events, products, and services will allow prospective donors to see who's finding value in your organization.
3. Engage your followers
When posting updates to your company page, make sure you're following best practices to create content your followers will read, comment on, and share.
Use images: According to LinkedIn, posts with images have a 98% higher comment rate, so don't skimp.
Include links: Posts with links to other content have twice the engagement rate than posts without.
Add videos: Adding a video to your company page update can result in a 75% higher chance of that update being shared by your followers.
Post frequently: Organizations that post 20 times per month reach at least 60% of their audience. That works out to about one post per business day.
4. Attract more followers
First, invite your donors and connections to follow your company page. Explain that you'll be providing valuable content and updates, making it easy for them to stay informed. This will give your current followers a reason to share your content with their connections, providing your organization with exposure to a greater audience and the opportunity to gain new followers. You can always view who is following your company by clicking on the number of followers near the top of your page. Second, try experimenting with sponsored updates to reach additional new followers. Be sure to try the great segmentation tools LinkedIn provides to help you reach your target audience. Last, add a LinkedIn icon to your website and email signatures and link the icon to your company page.
5. Make it part of the big picture
It's important to think about LinkedIn when creating your communications plan. It should include updating your company page and seeking connections. Remember, the goal is to use LinkedIn to provide information your donors will be likely share with their networks, which includes prospective donors.
For even more information about how your nonprofit can network with social media, download "The Social Media Mini-Guide for Nonprofits." And for more on how you can take advantage of the networking tools offered by LinkedIn, download a free copy of "4 Simple Steps to Growing Your Membership with LinkedIn."DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. Learn more at weblinkinternational.com.
It might be old news, but it's still true: Visuals trump text. Content with compelling images experience 94% more views on average than content without images.
Nonprofits can harness the power of visuals to help boost their online presence, generate an engaged social media following, and share information with supporters and donors. Here are 10 ways your nonprofit can leverage visuals online and off.
1. Release data with an infographic
Infographics are a fun way to visualize data in a shareable format. Successful infographics highlight relevant data that truly interests people in a visual, aesthetically pleasing way. (See a nice gallery of nonprofit infographics from The Chronicle of Philanthropy for some examples.)
Want some help with your own infographics? Register for our upcoming Nonprofit 911 webinar, Infographics 101, for an introduction.
2. Enhance storytelling
Storytelling is an essential part of nonprofit marketing. Images enhance stories and create an emotional connection to characters and your cause. Do you include images of the people or animals your nonprofit impacts, like the St. Bernard Project did in their Faces of Katrina campaign? Including real faces will help your donors feel an emotional connection to your cause.
3. Highlight quotes and facts
Have a great quote from a conference? Make it shine by overlaying the quote on an interesting picture from the conference. Have a powerful fact to share? Couple it with a graphic and share it on social media to add visual interest. This type of visual is a great idea for nonprofits who want to share facts and quotes on Facebook.
4. Create a collection
Many organizations have a set of images from a special event or volunteer day that participants and donors would love to view. The perfect way to share these images is through a collection or Facebook album. The Best Day Foundation, an organization that plans adventure activities for children with special needs, shares collections of their Best Day events (and tons of smiles!) on their website.
5. Show your funny side with memes
Because memes are typically funny or adorable, they're great visuals and very shareable. The National Wildlife Federation made one that totally fits the bill by poking fun at the popular "Hey girl" meme featuring actor Ryan Gosling.
6. Document events
Having a photographer at an event can prove helpful days and even years after the event is over. Here are some ways you can use these photos:
The Arts Council of New Orleans used a Facebook album document their May Arts Market.
7. Showcase behind-the-scenes activities
Behind-the-scenes photos can help organizations show supporters that there are people just like them making sure the mission of the organization is lived out every day. Public radio station KSER uses behind the scenes photos to show the normal and exciting things that happen at their station.
8. Make your website shine
When you think of your organization's website, what are the first words that come to your mind? Are the images blurry and stretched stock images or are they crisp, professional photos that truly exemplify your organization's mission? Your website should be your nonprofit's home base online, so make sure the photos boost your organization's image. Our friends at Care2 have great tips about how to choose appropriate images for your website.
9. Organize and direct
Nonprofits can spruce up emails and websites by adding visual cues to help donors and supporters find the information they need. Using icons to organize content like an email list sign up, donation page, petition, volunteer opportunities, and wish lists can help supporters quickly navigate to your prime content.
10. Spread the love
It's becoming more common for Facebook and Twitter users to dedicate their profile or cover image to their favorite nonprofit during special campaigns. Think of it as a digital bumper sticker. Parents of Girl Scouts were encouraged to share this image to show their support on Facebook.
Want more tips? Check out these articles:
Now is a great time to look at your overall marketing strategy and think of new ways to grow your organization. An email newsletter is a great way to do it!
With a regularly scheduled newsletter, you can keep your audience up-to-date and make sure that your supporters never miss a chance to volunteer, donate, or spread the word about your organization. You'll also have the opportunity to stay top-of-mind and strengthen relationships with the people who already support your cause and want to get involved.
To help you get started, here are five tips to consider for your next email newsletter plus some great examples of other nonprofits that are already taking advantage of this powerful marketing tool and are seeing great results!
1. Provide value
"We've used it to promote educational tips and fundraising drives to keep our supporters updated and bring them closer to our mission."
—Marlo Manning of Fairy DogParents
People sign up for your email newsletter because they believe in your cause and want to stay informed. By providing information about the great work that your nonprofit is doing, you'll have more people opening your email newsletter and a better chance for people to take action.
2. Stay focused
"We found out that the longer the email was, the less likely it was for people to actually get the information in it. If we send out emails about a specific topic, then it can reach the right people a lot better."
—Mari Irizarry of Reel Works Teen Filmmaking
While you want to provide value, you don't want to overwhelm your readers with too much information. You also don't want to overcrowd your nonprofit newsletter and make it difficult to read on a mobile device. By delivering a more focused message, you'll not only improve your chances of driving action from your readers, but you'll give your audience what they want.
3. Make it easy for people to get involved
"With our emails, we give them multiple opportunities to get involved. It's important for our contacts to understand that they are a crucial part of our community and their support, whatever they are able to give, is what keeps us going."
—Kayla Peck of Strong Women, Strong Girls
While the primary focus of your newsletter will be to keep your audience engaged, you also need to make it easy for people to take action. Make sure that you're making it easy for them to do so and presenting concrete, easy ways to be involved.
4. Be consistent
"Showing up and having a consistent, relevant presence in our newsletters and social media is super hard because we're so busy, but it's one of the things we live or die by. It would be unacceptable not to have up-to-date, relevant news on Facebook or in our emails."
—John Rife of Winter Park Harvest Festival
Consistency is key.
Come up with a schedule that works for your organization and stick to it. As your newsletter starts showing up in your supporters' inboxes on a regular basis, people will start to expect it. If you're doing things right, that expectation will turn into anticipation and you'll have more people opening, reading, and sharing the content your nonprofit sends out.
5. Be social
"We were fortunate to have a couple that volunteered to match all donations up to $50,000 for the entire month. We were able to drive almost all of our donations with our email newsletter and Facebook page."
—Molly Feltner of Gorilla Doctors
Adding a social element to your email newsletter can help improve communication and extend the reach of your message. Provide links to your social networks from your email newsletter and use sites like Facebook and Twitter to share your content and grow your email list.
Start your own newsletter success story
Keep these tips in mind as you plan for success in 2014. With the right strategy, an email newsletter could be exactly what you need to grow your organization and achieve your goals in the New Year.
As Constant Contact’s Content Developer, Ryan Pinkham helps small businesses and nonprofits recognize their full potential through marketing and social media.
Nonprofits can benefit from many types of donations, gifts, and support from their community—particularly in the new year. Whether in the form of cash donations, in-kind offerings,
Credit: eBay Giving Works
or even by volunteering for a favored cause, there are numerous ways to encourage supporters to show their commitment to your cause long after the holiday giving season ends.
Here are three quick tips to maximize your fundraising efforts:
1. Send reminders and shout outs via social media.
Find out more about your donors and their online social engagement. Are they active on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest? If you don't have an online social media presence, then get registered and see if your supporters are talking about you in the social space. Thank them for their support, and be sure to like and retweet their comments. You can also respond to them with updates about how they can continue to further your cause through donations, online auctions, volunteering, or simply spreading the word.
2. Get the community involved with activities and festivities.
Think of ways you can bring people out of their homes to fundraise together for your mission, such as the well-known charity fun run. Those who don't want to run or are physically unable can assist with planning, registration, and logistics. You can also have "virtual runners" who still collect donations but don't physically run in the race. If running isn't of interest to your supporters, other popular options include bake sales, community meals, and concerts. Encourage your supporters to have a fundraising goal, and make sure they reach out to their friends and family in person and online to lobby for donations.
3. Get rid of extra or unwanted holiday gifts.
Many people get overwhelmed with how to handle items they received as gifts that they don't need, want, or like. Encourage your donors to make good use of this dilemma by selling these excess items to support your cause. One option is a community garage sale, particularly during town markets and fairs. People can sell items at a winter market, just make sure they promote to buyers that the funds will benefit your cause. Another option is to sell items online as part of a nonprofit auction. The eBay Giving Works program allows eBay sellers to donate a portion of their sales—and buyers to shop for a cause—all while supporting their favorite charities. eBay users can also save your cause as their favorite charity, so that they always have the option to donate to you when buying and selling. (Want to learn more? Register at at www.ebaygivingworks.com.)
Whether it's by spreading the word online, participating in a community activity, or selling items online, there are many options for your supporters. By trying these three tips, you'll be sure to increase engagement and support in no time.Sara Orrick is the Nonprofit Engagement Manager for eBay Giving Works. Since its inception in 2003, eBay Giving Works has been the driving force behind nonprofit fundraising on eBay. Through this charity platform, people can shop, sell, and donate to causes they care about. To date, eBay Giving Works has raised over $350 million for over 30,000 nonprofits. This free fundraising platform is a no-brainer for nonprofits who are looking for fresh, fun, and free ways to attract their online community. @HelloSaraO