Tag: Marketing

Something fundamental is changing about the way the web works. Hundreds of new top-level Internet address domains are popping up, bringing with them fresh opportunities for communicators.

You’ve probably already spotted new top-level domains (TLDs) in the wild. You may have even typed them into browsers. .Berlin, .club, or .fail may not have made much of an impression on you, but new top-level domains have implications for online marketing, campaigning, and organizing.

Since the dawn of the World Wide Web, top-level domains have been limited to .com, .org., .net, .int, .edu, .gov, .mil, and country codes. But that changed when ICANN, the body responsible for the Internet’s naming system, approved a radical expansion of TLDs. To date, 1,200 new ones have been approved and more than 25 million domains have been registered with new suffixes like .guru, .london, and .coffee.

This shift in how the Web parcels out real estate has created a new frontier complete with a land rush and ambitions to draw borders and claim virtual territories.

New branded domains like .google, .homedepot, and .canon are walled gardens that promise to give brands new prominence on the Internet. Others are verified domains, like .bank and .ngo, that are only granted to applicants who pass established eligibility standards. For instance, you can’t register a .bank domain unless you’re a registered financial institution. The majority of new TLDs, of course, are generic words being auctioned off to the highest bidder, like .nyc, which just sold RealEstate.nyc for $21,300.

Why Marketers and Campaigners Should Care about New TLDs

Aside from nerding out about the evolution of the Internet, new TLDs are fertile ground for marketing innovation. For starters, you’ve got a shot at campaign URLs you’ve always dreamt of but whose .org and .com versions were taken long ago. Securing short, pronounceable and meaningful keyword URLs can also deliver SEO and brand value.

As a strategic communications tool, TLDs help brand websites by conveying more about an organization than .com ever could. A .ngo, .shop, or .pizza domain primes web visitors and lends credibility before they reach your site. It affirms they’re headed in the right direction.

Hosting sites on verified TLDs—domains restricted to those who pass eligibility criteria—will, in theory, help brand your content as trusted and legitimate. In the lead up to the presidential election, the verified .vote domain promised to be the TLD “where honest and effective voter engagement begins.” Successes like RockThe.Vote and voter registration website Alabama.vote are early indicators that .vote is delivering on that promise.

There are indications that search engines may attribute greater authority to verified TLDs with good track records because they are nearly guaranteed to offer highly relevant content, a key component for search ranking.

TLDs as Organizing Tool

The ultimate potential for TLDs may be as an organizing tool. TLDs are essentially registries, and in contemporary culture, owning and operating a registry has real power.

In the real world, the US Green Building Council defined what green buildings look like by creating the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. By becoming a certifying body and registry, it became the tastemaker and arbiter for environmentally-responsible building. The same thing can happen on the web.

That’s the thinking behind .eco, a new TLD I’m working on. When .eco launches in early 2017, it will set the standard for who can identify themselves as environmentally responsible on the Internet.

When over 50 environmental orgs, including Greenpeace, WWF and NRDC, came together to support .eco, they set eligibility standards that will make .eco a powerful online authority on who gets to identify as an environmental actor. The first expression of the .eco community’s power is our domain granting program. We’re giving away hundreds of high-value domains to environmental orgs.

Imagine if the Carbon Disclosure Project and similar orgs went after the .CO2 domain? They could become the definitive registry of corporate emissions reporting and mandate best practices for CO2 disclosure and reporting. Stakeholders could be confident that when they visited Nike.CO2 or SanFrancisco.CO2, they would find trusted information.

While you’re rushing to nab your .eco, .ngo and .organic domains for upcoming campaigns, it’s worth considering how creating new TLDs could be part of your change-making strategy, too.


Photo credit: Dileepan Ramanan

If you work in a digital, fundraising, or communications role at your organization, there is a good chance you’ve come across Google AdWords. Potentially, you have also been tasked with managing the account.

For nonprofit staff, managing an AdWords account can become an additional burden that gets ignored in the face of more important tasks. This article outlines a routine and task list for managing your organization’s AdWords account.

What is AdWords and Google Ad Grants?

For those not familiar with AdWords, these are the ads that are shown at the top of the Google search results page above the organic results. These paid ads allow advertisers to jump the organic search results and help bring people back to their websites when the user is actively searching for products or services.

Google Ad Grants is the nonprofit arm of AdWords. Google provides approved charities and nonprofits with up to $10,000 per month of in-kind AdWords advertising. This allows organizations to promote their organization on Google through text ads on the search results page.

Reality of AdWords Management

Google AdWords can be a highly effective way to bring traffic to your organization’s website when used correctly.

But it isn’t something that can be set up and left to sit. To get the most value out of AdWords, either through a Google Ad Grants account or paid use, you should routinely review and work within your account, making fine adjustments along the way.

But before you start…

Set Goals for Your Account

Like any good marketing campaign, taking a step back and planning out desired goals will keep you focused and give you something tangible to work towards.
Common goals for an AdWords account:

  • raise awareness
  • highlight programs and services
  • increase donations
  • encourage newsletter signs-ups
  • online event registration

Having goals in place allows you to make adjustments within your account in a meaningful way. Increased click-through rates, better response to your ads, and higher conversion levels are all outcomes of working towards specific goals.

Setting Realistic Work Flows

For dedicated AdWords managers, working within AdWords is part of our daily routine. But spending that amount of time in AdWords isn’t realistic for nonprofit staff who have a multitude of other tasks to complete each day.

Below is a suggested list of tasks and timelines that will keep you on track for regular account management that is meaningful and time effective.

Weekly Tasks

Keyword Level

  • Review for disapproved keywords: A disapproved keyword usually means there’s an issue with one or more of Google’s advertising policies.

Ad Group Level

  • Review for disapproved ads: Broken links to your webpage are the most frequent cause for disapproved ads and are easily fixed, for Google Ad Grants to ensure that your ads point back to your approved domain.

Campaign Level

  • Check alerts in your account at the top right corner of the interface; a little grey bell with a red alert will show up. Alerts related to account health should be dealt with quickly, but items like suggested keywords and ad groups can be reviewed at a later date.

Monthly Tasks

Keyword Level

  • Look for gaps in search terms of your ad groups and add keywords as necessary. The Google Keyword Tool is great for finding additional keywords to add and may turn up some unexpected results.
  • Review low performing keywords: Keywords with low quality scores, low click-through rates, and low conversion rates should be reviewed and paused.

Ad Group Level

  • Review A/B Testing: Well-managed AdWords accounts run A/B tests on ad copy and click-through-rates. Incremental differences in your ad performance can make a big difference in conversions over the course of a year.
  • Pause low-performing ads: Comparatively low click-through rates or conversion rates are reasons to pause ads.
  • Write new ads: If you’ve paused ads in your ad groups, now is the time to start a new A/B test by writing new ads.

Campaign Level

  • Review your campaign budgets: AdWords allows users to split the budget between your active campaigns. Once a month, take the time to review how much of your daily budget is allocated to each campaign and ensure your high priority campaigns have adequate budget allotments.
  • Check your geographic targeting for each campaign.

Additional Monthly Tasks

  • Reporting: Pull necessary reports on budget, campaign performance, and conversions.
  • Account access: Review permissions to ensure only current employees or approved 3rd party vendors have access to your AdWords account.

Quarterly Tasks

Keywords Level

  • Review your search terms report: This report shows what people are keying into Google to trigger your ads. Look for terms and phrases that can be added to your keyword lists.
  • Add negative keywords: In the search term report, you will also find phrases that aren’t relevant to your organizations. These keywords can be added as negative keywords to prevent your ads from showing when people search for them.

Ad Group Level

  • Review ad group configuration: Look for the opportunity to create new ad groups and improve the relevancy between your keywords, ads, and landing pages.
  • Pause or remove out of date ad groups: Specifically, look for expired events, seasonal programs, or old information.

Campaign Level

  • Add new campaigns in advance of seasonal fundraising, future events, and upcoming programs or services in your organization.
  • Connect with communications and development teams: Look for further opportunities that may have been missed.
  • Review dated campaigns for relevance: Keep your account up to date so that you continue to highlight your most important campaigns.

Ongoing Opportunities

The following blogs are excellent resources for learning more about Google AdWords and digital marketing:

It’s a cliché, but AdWords is easy to get started with and difficult to master. By working in your account on a regular basis, these routine tasks will take less time and become easier for you to complete.

Knowing who you are as an organization and how you are perceived is a critical part of the branding process. Once you’ve got a handle on your mission, vision, values, and messages (congrats!), you’ll want to start disseminating your brand identity to the world. But do you really know who you’re trying to reach?

A critical step in branding is becoming crystal clear about who your audiences are. But the playing field needs to be narrowed so you can tailor how and what you want to communicate with them (and where).

Note: Instead of using phrases such as“key audiences” or “target audiences,” I’ll use those words interchangeably with PSIs (Participants, Supporters and Influencers), Kivi Leroux-Miller’s alternative term from The End of the Target Audience at Nonprofit Marketing Guide.

Why Can There Be Only One?

There are several schools of thought about how to determine an ideal PSI, but the one I like is the simplest. It involves choosing one person, one individual, to represent your whole audience group, and all marketing messages are directed at that person. I know this is tricky, since nonprofits often have a highly diverse constituent base. But hang in there with me, because there are three really good reasons why choosing one individual to represent all PSIs works well:

1) If you can narrow communications so that you’re just communicating to one person, it’s much easier to communicate on a personal level, and your authentic brand identity—your character and personality—will shine through. You’ll avoid sounding too vanilla or corporate-y, and instead create engaging copy and design.

2) Personal and engaging communication has a better chance of resonating with an individual participant, supporter, or influencer than with the masses, so if you can gain him/her as a fan, s/he may influence others to follow suit with word of mouth, social media mentions, etc.

3) When your nonprofit gets used to communicating to your ideal PSI, it makes it easier for you to recognize your best audiences and focus on them. As communication naturally becomes more targeted, it also makes it easier for your most loyal fans and followers to recognize you as being the best choice for them in terms of donations, volunteering, and other types of support.

Do This!

Try this exercise with your colleagues to figure out that one type of person you’re trying to reach. If it’s impossible to limit it to just one, two to three personas will work. You’ll need my Ideal Audience Persona worksheet.

  1. Work as a group, or break into smaller groups if you have a larger team. This exercise is great to do in groups of 2 to 4 people
  2. Allow 10 to 15 minutes to complete this exercise
  3. The questions in the worksheet focus on goals, attitudes, and behaviors. You do not need to answer every question or fill in every line—pick the ones that seem most relevant in describing this person as a member of the larger group you are trying to reach
  4. Remind the group that a) the attributes you’re listing are fictitious, based on the best of your knowledge about each audience segment; and b) YOU/YOUR organization, by definition, are NOT the same as your audience
  5. Have a variety of magazines or catalogs available, plus tape and scissors, to clip and add a believable headshot for this person and make it more real (optional)
  6. Have a representative from each group present their Ideal Audience Persona. Compare the results and decide on one of the profiles or a combination of profiles as the Ideal Audience Persona for the organization
  7. Discuss the exercise as a group:
    1. Did any light bulbs go off?
    2. Does the group find that they feel closer to their Ideal PSI?
    3. Did a real understanding of the needs of your audience members sneak into the conversation?
    4. Does the group feel more focused about how to reach him/her, about how to assist him/her?
    5. What else did the group learn?

Marketing to Everyone = Marketing to No One

An Ideal Audience Persona represents the kind of person you want to communicate with. This can help you make marketing decisions that attract, inform, and engage—everything from which communications channels to use, to which words and graphics to choose, to how to set up your web pages—with that person in mind.

Learn More!

For more on audience personas: Marketing persona templates: 10 options for nonprofit communicators.

Allison Jones is our newest team member. As NTEN’s Marketing and Publications Director, Allison will be diving into stewarding our research, communicating with our great Community, and guiding branding and messaging for NTEN’s myriad programs. Learn about Allison in the following interview!

Allison JonesDescribe yourself in three words.
Optimistic, driven, deliberate.

How did you first become involved with the NTEN Community?
Through the local 501 Tech club in NYC! While I was at Idealist, we hosted them in our office, and I was instantly impressed and amazed with the Community—a group of passionate, committed, and enthusiastic people!

What are some of the lessons you learned from your work at Idealist.org?
Gosh, so many! I learned the importance of collaboration across teams, of assuming the best in everyone you meet, of getting grounded and knowing yourself, of not being afraid to stick to your guns, and, most importantly, of asking for what you need/want. That last one isn’t specific to my time at Idealist, but it’s a life lesson I am recommitting myself to every day. As they say, “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed,” so you have to speak up for yourself and be your best advocate.

What are you most excited about as you transition into your new role on staff?
All of the learning I am doing! Really, I am excited about the new things on my plate: working remotely, working in tech, working on a major conference, working with new people! New things are both terrifying and exciting for me. I put a premium on learning and meaningful transitions, so this is a period of time where I feel like I’m growing and stretching.

Why do you care about marketing?
It feels very holistic to me. You have to be strategic (Why are we doing this? What does success look like?). You have to be creative (What kind of campaigns are we crafting? What can we try that we haven’t before?). You have to be collaborative (Who is the graphic designer? Who owns this aspect of the project?). And you have to LOVE the community you serve. You cannot take on an external-facing role and not love the people for whom you’re advocating/representing. I get to access all parts of my brain and personality.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
When I was younger I wanted to be Alex Mack. Still do.

What is your favorite Halloween costume of all time (yours or someone else’s)?
Someone dressed up as a CVS coupon this year. You know, those ridiculously long coupons you get even when you buy, like, a pack of gum? I think that’s clever and hilarious.

Her email address is allison@nten.org. Feel free and encouraged to drop her a note of welcome!

New York Nonprofit Conference

Mark your calendars! The DMANF semi-annual Nonprofit Conference is coming up on August 4-5, at the New York Hilton Midtown, NYC. Join NTEN and hundreds of fundraising veterans and fellow marketing professionals at the 2015 New York Nonprofit Conference. You’ll get two days of nonstop, fast-moving sessions, packed with strategies, tips, and real solutions designed to fast-track your fundraising.

NTEN is excited to be a partner and collaborator for the conference! Look for the the following sessions featuring NTEN staff, Joleen Ong and Megan Keane, and community members on Wednesday, August 5:

  • Benchmarks 2015
  • Pay to Play: Using Digital Media to Stack the Odds in Your Favor
  • Go Fund Yourself: How Crowdfunding & Peer to Peer is Dangerously Changing Fundraising

Special discount for NTEN Community Members: Use discount code NTEN150 when you register before July 6 & SAVE $150 off early bird pricing!

Learn more about New York Nonprofit Conference, check out the program, and register today!

Are you attending the New York Nonprofit Conference? Let us know and we’ll look for you there.

2014 What does digital strategy look like in your organization?

What does “digital strategy” look like in your organization?

For many nonprofits, digital strategy teams can incorporate staff from a range of departments. What are these teams investing in for 2015? How are these efforts funded? How many people are on the team, and who’s in charge of it?

We’ve teamed up with hjc and Care2 to gather feedback from community members like you to create the 2015 Digital Strategy Outlook Survey. Your answers will help provide an outlook on digital strategy in 2015.

>> Share your feedback, and get entered to win one of two incredible prizes (including a waterproof GoPro action camera to capture your 2015 impact!)

The survey will take between 10-15 minutes. Responses will be reported anonymously in aggregate in a final report, and you will be notified when it is published in late January. These findings will provide nonprofit staff members with an understanding of strategies, priorities, and tactics that their peers are prioritizing, in order to help shape their plans for the following year.

The deadline for responses is December 31.

Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc

is2014_newmedialandscape.jpgIn 2009, Clay Shirkey predicted, “For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases.” Meaning, as print news becomes obsolete, nuanced approaches to information-sharing will emerge that will meet the intended goals of journalism; consumption of information will change; and reporters will no longer be the only ones who are breaking news. Shirkey also said, “Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments.”

Fast forward to 2014, and this prediction still holds true. There are ample opportunities for nonprofits to help inform, shape, and create stories for the media.

At the 2014 Independent Sector Conference in Seattle, I attended the session, “Navigating the New Media Landscape,” which brought together expert panelists: Andrew Sherry, VP of Communications for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Sharon Pian Chan, Director of Journalist Initiatives, the Seattle Times; and Joe Neel, Deputy Supervising Editor, NPR. The session was facilitated by Susan Feeney, Partner at GMMB, and explored the range of new media models and venture journalism experiments.

“As a civil society, we need more quality information,” explained Feeney. “New venture journalism has been incubated thanks to nonprofit and foundation support.”

According to the 2013 Foundation Center report, U.S. foundation support for media has increased by 21%, rising from $568.2 million in 2009 to $687.6 in 2011. The activities funded range from media platforms (55%) to journalism, news, and information (28%), to media applications and tools (6%), and more.

“How will citizens inform themselves and become engaged in the future, beyond the way that daily newspapers have dominated in the past?” Sherry questioned. “The Knight Foundation pushes experimentation [by funding] the tools and techniques.” He shared an example of an initiative that demonstrates their approach to funding — the NPR One app — which personalizes the listener’s experience by curating content suited to their interests.

Experimentation through initiatives such as these apps has synchronously impacted the work of legacy media. Readers experience the media through a more customized lens, underscoring the possibility of vertical news coverage and deeper storytelling.

“The news cycle is really short,” explained Chan. “Shining a spotlight on a problem worked when you were the only show in town. Now, with so many audiences receiving information from different places, newspapers need to think about how they light other people’s candles, and how to get to illumination.”

While newspapers previously focused on creating stories and moving on to the next one, a priority that has emerged is facilitating deeper conversations with readers and showcasing their feedback. “The story is the starting point to create the conversations,” Chan added.

When asked what nonprofit organizations can do to build relationships with media, the panelists provided sage advice. Below are five opportunities for nonprofits:

#1 Be a connector

Reporters are always on a deadline, and they are always looking for relevant people to quote that can offer a unique perspective. As it can be daunting for individuals to jump into an on-the-record experience, nonprofits that have established relationships with their constituents and experts in the field can be a great intermediary. “Nonprofits have connections to individual stories that journalists need,” Chan explained. “For example, if we’re doing a story on the Affordable Care Act, nonprofits have the relationships and can connect us to people on deadline.”

#2 Demonstrate your expertise

“Market through generosity,” urged Sherry. “Contribute something to the field. If you’ve produced something that’s data-driven, you can use that to pitch as an op-ed or to a journalist, or you can Tweet out your information.” He later suggested, “Create an interactive experience [with data]; data can change the conversation.” Neel also suggested, “Use data that comes out of a poll and use it to build a series on a subject, such as the social determinants of health.” For more advice no this, also consider these newsjacking tips from Media Cause.

#3 Know the publication

“Be a dogged researcher,” Feeney recommended. “[Ask yourself:] Have they done a piece on it already?” It is unlikely that reporters will cover the same story twice, so it’s important to craft your pitch in a way that tells a different angle or fills the gaps in coverage. Research the reporters that are covering the beat that is most relevant to your issues, and build those relationships early. Neel shared that he receives about “1,100 PR-generated emails a day.” Your nonprofit can stand out and cultivate relationships needed to cut through the noise by follow tips 1 and 2.

#4 Think global, write local

Don’t forget op-eds and letters to the editor! “While topics might be global, news is local,” explained Chan. “Write an op-ed that talks about the issue from the local context.” For example, during the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, an example of a good op-ed could discuss this issue from a local’s point of view. While both these submissions do not require many words, there is an art to creating successful submissions. To learn more about this art, check out these helpful guides that Chan has created: http://slnwww.slideshare.net/sharonpianchan/presentations.

#5 Know the rules

While the media continues to transform itself, journalist ethics and standards remain the same. It’s important for nonprofits to remember the standards: names and credits on images and quotes matter; you also cannot take back information that you’ve given to reporters on the record. Also, don’t expect reporters to take in anonymous sources: they are mandated to back up their stories to ensure the integrity of their work. Of course, this varies depending on the sensitivity of the topic.

Also, with the rise of social newsgathering, nonprofits should consider these ethical challenges if your nonprofit seeks to gain more media visibility. Remember: Everything you Tweet is on the record. If they’re looking for a quote from your organization and you don’t provide it, what you Tweet or post on Facebook is fair game.

While much of Shirkey’s prediction has come true, one thing is for certain: the playing field for news contributors has widened substantially. Nonprofits are in the right position to operate with journalistic integrity and play an active role in creating or contributing to the news. The shifting new media landscape requires recognition from nonprofits to identify their unique position to pitch the story as the starting point, and to continue the conversation.

[Image above: Speakers from the “Navigating the New Media Landscape” session at the 2014 Independent Sector Conference in Seattle. From left: Susan Feeney, GMMB; Andrew Sherry, Knight Foundation; Sharon Pien Chan, Seattle Times; Joe Neel, NPR.]

Change, September 2014The 15th issue of the NTEN: Change journal is out, focusing on Advocacy and Visual Communications: How to Rise Above the Noise.

This issue is packed with actionable ideas, intriguing interviews, and impactful case examples that’ll help you show what your mission means, and why it’s important.

>>Read the September 2014 issue! (read it on your desktop, mobile device, or Issuu app)

Articles and interviews in this issue examines visual communications and advocacy across a range of angles. Features include:

We also go behind the scenes with the Ad Council, Global Voices, Forward Together, and Free Geek, and both Coalition for a Livable Future and the Westchester Children’s Association demonstrate how they transformed heaps of data to put their mission priorities on the map. Also, meet Omar Vulpinari, the man behind some of the most provocative visual campaigns.

Plus, learn how to use Storify to capture insights at your next event, discover low-cost tools for visual communications, and tips on how to build a compelling visual library.

>>Enjoy, and subscribe! Get this journal for free every quarter in your inbox by subscribing today.

Your design needs to be persuasive, informative, useful, credible, and above all, user-friendly. Everything must come together in a nice little package to deliver the returns you are looking for.

So how do you make sure your website is a lean, mean conversion machine?

1. Information is supreme
Image Source: https://www.causes.com/The most important facet of a conversion-friendly website is information. Design must revolve around the information you are offering on the site to make a case for your organization, and not the other way around. Information should take center-stage. Nowhere is this fact illustrated best than in nonprofit donor portals.

The design of Causes revolves around its content and its mission. The embedded video in the hero area explains the purpose of the site and also enhances its engagement quotient.

2. Clarity of Purpose

Image Source: http://www.charitywater.org/Why has the designer used this image? Is there a reason why this illustration has been used on the home page? These are the kind of questions that should never be asked by visitors when they land on your site. The design and its visual elements must be self-explanatory. Your website gets a very limited amount of time to make an impression on its visitors. You can’t afford a design that doesn’t lay out the website’s purpose in very clear terms.

Charity: Water is a prime example of what clarity of purpose is all about. The large photo background on the home page, which forms the centerpiece of the design, leaves no doubts in the minds of the visitors about the website’s purpose.

3. Offer Above-the Fold Experiences

Image Source: http://unbounce.com/Make sure all the important content on your site is placed “above the fold.” Website visitors are impatient.

Here is more from Unbounce on How to Design Above-The-Fold Landing Page Experiences. The website itself is a textbook example of a great above the fold experience.

4. Visual Movement

Image Source: http://www.andreamann.com/Whenever you are using images, especially of people, remember that your web users are following their eyes. You can use this visual movement to direct their attention to the important parts of your page.

If you are going to use images, why not use them to direct attention? This is yet another way of making sure that the attention of visitors doesn’t divert from the website’s purpose. You could use this to focus attention on your call-to-action buttons.


The 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference is coming this July 9-11 to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. We’re proud to partner with the Bridge Conference, and encourage you to take advantage of special registration rates for NTEN community members. Here are the details:

Do you want the power to succeed?

Gain the skills you need to succeed and achieve the results you want at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference, coming this July 9-11, 2014 at the Gaylord National Hotel & Conference Center.

The power to succeed comes through knowledge! At Bridge, you will network with the best minds in direct marketing and fundraising, and be inspired by amazing speakers and innovative ideas. With over 70 sessions, 3 pre-conference workshops, and 3 inspiring and motivating keynotes — you will walk away with the techniques and tools you need to succeed.

As NTEN is a Bridge Conference Program Partner, NTEN community members are eligible to receive the member rate! Early bird registration ends May 18, so take advantage of the Early Bird Member RateAlso available is a great hotel and registration package — take the package and you save another $100 on the registration fee! Don’t miss out – last year’s Bridge Conference sold out!