Tag: Marketing

At World Wildlife Fund (WWF), we’ve seen an explosion in mobile visitors over the past three years, and I’m betting that you’ve experienced the same.  We want to make sure we can provide these supporters with the content they are seeking, no matter what device they are using.  Thinking “mobile first,” we’ve focused optimizing our marketing efforts in these three key areas:


Nielsen reports that over two-thirds (67%) of mobile subscribers in the U.S. owned smartphones in Q4 2013—and in December they spent 34 hours using apps and the mobile web on those devices. Many of these people are visiting your website on their smartphones!  Make it a top priority for your organization to have a mobile-friendly website in 2014.

How and where do you start?

  1. Check your analytics to determine which devices your supporters most commonly use while visiting your website.  Optimize your page layout—or make sure your site is responsive—to accommodate those screen dimensions.
  2. Also, use your analytics to find which pages these people frequent.  Make sure those pages have a clean-looking layout and load quickly on mobile.  Consider hiding content that may not be relevant to a mobile user (for example: they wouldn’t need to download desktop wallpapers, but mobile-sized wallpapers are appropriate).
  3. Make sure your donation forms (especially the most-used ones, if you can’t get to all) work on smaller screens. Take time to go through the process of giving and figure out how to make it easy for a supporter who wants to donate via a mobile device.  What does that mean? Think large buttons and/or easy to select giving amounts, and integration to other payment methods besides credit cards.


Though the stats vary, approximately half of emails are opened on a mobile device.  In addition, the same subscriber may view your email on their mobile and, later, on their desktop, so you want to ensure that your message renders nicely in both situations.

Where to begin?

  1. Much like your website, make sure the font size is large enough to be read easily on a small screen and include a clear call-to-action with an easy-to-tap button.
  2. Think about optimizing images: Choose photos and graphics that look good both on a large and small screen (nothing with too much detail). And, make sure that when the image scales down to a small screen resolution, it still has the impact you want.
  3. Don’t just assume you know what is best for your subscribers.  Take time to test into your code, especially if you are hiding some content that is visible on a desktop.  You want to make sure that you are showing and hiding the correct items! Use an email preview tool to see how your message renders across various browsers, email service providers (ESPs) and mobile devices.  And allow yourself time to review deployment results to determine what subscribers are (and aren’t) clicking on.


Over 90% of all text messages are read within a few minutes of receipt! This is a sure-fire way to reach your supporters, so if you haven’t starting building your list of mobile phone opt-ins, now is the time.  Compared to a few years ago, connecting with your supporters today via mobile is more acceptable—and will continue to be even more so in the future.

Just how do you grow this list?

  1. Ask your advocates for their mobile phone numbers (as an optional field) on all pledges. We’ve found that including this additional field doesn’t deter constituents from completing the call-to-action.
  2. Give them a reason to connect via mobile: WWF offers mobile wallpapers as an incentive to sign up for SMS. We also promise to remind them of specific events and dates right before they happen, and this has proven to be successful. For example, with our Earth Hour campaign this year, we saw a ~30% increase in mobile sign-ups because we offered an SMS reminder the day of the event.
  3. Have a persona in your communications via SMS (I send messages from “Jess at WWF”) as this helps fit the messaging to the medium.  When you are casual and let your personality show through, it gives your audience the desire to engage.  But don’t just send messages from your organization; respond to inbound SMS, too.  Monitor conversations and reply appropriately when possible (note: you can also automate responses based on keywords!).  Your supporters expect a person is texting them, not a machine, so engage in two-way communications—you’ll keep your subscribers more engaged and less likely to opt out. 

As the Mobile Marketing Association states in their “Mobile Marketing Roadmap”: mobile isn’t a channel, it’s a medium.  It allows your supporters to easily stay engaged, as they are using mobile more and more for their online activities.

So, make it simple for them—and you—by taking the time now to ensure that all components of your marketing campaigns work on a mobile device.  You’ll be grateful you did, especially as you watch that mobile activity increase month over month into the future!

About the author:

Jessica Fraser Sotelo is the Deputy Director of Online Marketing at World Wildlife Fund.  She oversees email marketing campaigns for the organization’s Membership and Marketing Department, heads up SMS and text-to-give efforts, and manages the online Gift Center.  Jessica has nearly 15 years’ worth of experience working for non-profits, with a focus on online marketing for the past 10 years.  She holds a BA in Anthropology and a BA in French from the College of William and Mary.

The metrics that matter most are those that tell you if your strategy is helping you meet your organization’s overall goals. Yet, measuring that impact is complex and complicated with lots of tools, numbers, and moving targets to wrangle. I want organizations to get control of the powerful lightning that is strategic measurement.

While I’ll talk about meaningful strategic measurement in terms of communications strategy, these tips can be adapted to your organizations’ social media, content, program, campaign, and even fundraising strategies.


Which metrics matter?

A meaningful metric is one that you understand and that can be consistently collected. It will inform your approach, helping you understand whether what you’re doing—and how you’re doing it—is working.

Most importantly, what you measure should help you evaluate whether a particular strategy is effective, and how you might improve it. Your communications strategy exists to help audiences discover your organization and your work, participate in your programs and services, learn from the content you offer, and take action on issues.

So first, choose what metrics matter to your strategic goals and mission, and don’t worry about everything else. This focus will help you scale your measurement efforts and allocate your resources.


Meaningful measurement is people-based

If you’re measuring what really matters, you’re measuring results that are people-based. It’s not about the money—it’s about the impact you have on your community. That’s what being mission-based is all about. Therefore, focus on measurements that help you understand the quality of your audience experience.

To do this effectively, segment your audience. You can’t go after everyone equally. The general public is not an audience. It’s too large and too nebulous to engage and measure.

Once you’ve defined your audience segments, you can study them to better understand them. With this understanding, you can imagine your audience’s experiences, their emotions, and their end goals, which will help you create strategies and craft messages that will get their attention.


Meaningful measurement prioritizes outcome over outputs

When most of us start out with measurement, we will usually first focus on outputs, which are what you do—your trainings, programs, and content—and who you reach. It’s not wrong to measure outputs, though it’s often misguided to measure only outputs. Outputs are useful when they help you observe if you’re delivering your strategy as intended, and if they help you understand the quantity and quality of your strategy implementation. Outputs essentially serve as a checkpoint.

Ultimately, we most want to measure outcomes, which are the difference you make. This can be the knowledge transferred; the behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, or awareness changed; and the benefits your audiences and community derive. Outcomes are what happen as a result of your outputs.


Meaningful measurement uses analysis to inform strategy

Meaningful measurement is a feedback loop that lets you know how you are both advancing your organization’s overall goals and successfully executing your communications strategy.

Numbers are not the end all. To measure what matters, you have to plan to do something with the numbers, so observe your metrics and how they change over time, and think about what that might indicate your organization should do next. Measure along the way, not just at the end, so that you can make course adjustments to your strategy as measurement leads to insight.


Meaningful measurement leads to impact

The metrics that matter most are those that tell you if your strategy is helping you meet your organization’s mission; that is, those metrics that show you moving toward impact.

To know if your strategy is working, you won’t measure just one indicator. Measure along a continuum: capacity, activity, reach, engagement, and impact. Let’s break them down:

  • Capacity Metrics. These metrics help you know whether you’ve got the resources and ability to implement your strategy. Capacity is what’s known as an input metric—what you are willing and able to put in in order to get the work done. When I work with nonprofit clients, I make sure to “right size” strategies based on what’s doable with the capacity the organization can muster. Capacity metrics might measure how much time and money, and what skills you need to get the strategy done.
  • Activity Metrics. These metrics help you better understand what you’re doing to implement your strategy. With activity metrics you can evaluate whether you’re following through on your work plan and best practices. In a communications strategy, you might measure your internal processes for producing and sharing your messages. LightBox Collaborative’s free nonprofit Editorial Calendar can help you plan and measure your communications activity metrics.
  • Reach Metrics. These metrics help you assess the size and make up of your audience so that you can understand who potentially hears your messages. For reach metrics to have meaning, be sure to assess the quality of these numbers. While these metrics may still matter a lot to executive directors, boards, and funders, you should be careful of putting too much emphasis on reach metrics in your strategy. On their own, reach metrics don’t show a complete picture of your effectiveness and may not incentivize strategic approaches.
  • Engagement Metrics. This is where you really start to see whether your strategy is succeeding or not. These metrics help you understand the effect your communications messages are having on those that hear them. Engagement metrics show when and how others engage with you, therefore audience interaction is required in these metrics. Nonprofits are not alone in their challenge of understanding how to measure engagement. Upworthy is just one of the companies radically revising the way they measure audience engagement.
  • Impact Metrics. Engagement with your organization is all well and good, but what about the change you are trying to achieve? Impact metrics help you measure the behaviors and attitudes you’ve shifted, the wrongs you’ve righted, and the change you’ve inspired. These can be challenging to measure because the impact your organization has is most often on people. You may need to do surveys or field studies, draw inferences from other metrics, use proxy data (characteristics that stand in for direct measurement), measure something small if measuring something large is too daunting or expensive, or use qualitative data.

For keeping track of and reporting on your strategic measurement, I like to start with a fairly simple spreadsheet (you can always add more complexity later if it’s useful and relevant).

I’ve created a strategic measurement worksheet that you can download and customize to align with your organization’s strategy. The worksheet is more than just a place to record your data—it also helps you remember to connect what you’re measuring to the relevant strategy and goal so that your metrics have meaning.


With a thoughtful approach that keeps your goals and strategies in mind, your organization can successfully measure what matters.

About the author:

Lauren Girardin uses her creative chutzpah to help nonprofits and foundations engage their communities and share their stories. She specializes in moving marketing and communications projects from strategy through implementation, applying her planning foresight to right-size the work. As an independent consultant and with the LightBox Collaborative, Lauren has worked with organizations like California Family Health Council and TeenSource, YTH, TechSoup Global, the Center for a New American Dream, and the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. Reach her on Twitter at @girardinl and at lg@laurengirardin.com.


Content marketing” is a buzzword of sorts.

A term that you’re likely hearing more and more about – especially if you pay attention to the B2B or B2C marketing worlds. Though, in reality, content marketing has been around since at least 1895 when John Deere launched a magazine titled The Furrow, providing information to farmers on how to become more profitable. I’m sure we could find even older examples if we tried hard enough, but that’s not the point. The point is that despite content marketing having been in use for over a century, it’s just now becoming a hot topic – one that’s making marketers take notice. A quick glance at the term “content marketing” on Google trends will shed some light on how hot.

With content marketing interest on the rise and nonprofit specific resources lacking, we thought it important to help our sector better understand what content marketing is and how it’s being used by nonprofits to advance their missions. But before we get into the details, a simple definition.

What is Content Marketing?

According to Wikipedia, content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers (or donors, volunteers, etc. – inserted by me). This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc.

Why is Content Marketing Important?

We live in the information age – people have all the info they need at their fingertips and Google has trained us to know that we can find anything we need by doing a simple search. Your potential donors are searching. Your potential volunteers are searching. Funders are searching. Patients are searching. Parents are searching. Those who would benefit from your programs and services are searching.  Everyone is searching.

We also live in the information overload age – meaning that people have more information being fed to them than ever before and have no chance of actually making sense of it all. This makes us selective. We find the sources of information we like and trust. Then we stick with those sources while we ignore other sources.

Everyone is overloaded with information and at the same time searching for the things they need to know more about. Great content (aka Epic Content according to Joe Pulizzi) is the key to being found and capturing the attention of those you need to reach.

So… how are nonprofits taking to content marketing? Let’s take a look at a few of the key findings from the first ever nonprofit content marketing report – produced by Content Marketing Institute and Blackbaud.

Key Findings from 2014 Nonprofit Content Marketing Report

We are pleased to report that ninety-two percent of the nonprofit professionals we surveyed are using content marketing (check out the nonprofit content marketing infographic). Sixty-nine percent have someone who oversees content marketing strategy, and sixty-five percent are producing more content than they were one year ago. Pretty promising numbers!

On the flip side, only twenty-six percent of our nonprofit respondents rate themselves as effective at content marketing, and only twenty-five percent have a documented content strategy to guide their efforts.

“Forty-five percent of nonprofit professionals are challenged with a lack of knowledge and training about content marketing, compared with twenty-six percent of for-profit marketers,” says Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of the book Epic Content Marketing. “As more nonprofit professionals become better educated on content marketing, we hope to see more of them develop documented content strategies and grow in confidence with their effectiveness.”

As knowledge grows among nonprofit professionals, we expect their confidence in content marketing to grow as well. We look forward to reporting back to you on the trends we uncover over the years to come. Here are a few of our first year benchmarks.

  • 92% of nonprofit professionals use content marketing.
  • Nonprofit professionals use an average of 11 content marketing tactics.
  • 26% of nonprofit professionals believe they are effective at content marketing.
  • 25% of nonprofit professionals have a documented content strategy.
  • 69% of nonprofit organizations have someone in place to oversee content marketing strategy.
  • 65% of nonprofit professionals are producing more content than they did one year ago.
  • 38% of nonprofit professionals plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months.
  • Fundraising is the top organizational goal for nonprofit content marketing.
  • On average, 20% of nonprofit marketing budgets are allocated to content marketing.

Make sure to download the full report and check out the infographic.

Your Turn

What’s your take? Is content important? Are you using content marketing at your nonprofit organization? Show us some examples in the comments or ask any questions you might have. We’ll be sure to find the answer!

By Frank Barry, Director of Digital Marketing at Blackbaud. Find Frank on Twitter @franswaa

It’s certainly true that multi-channel marketing has been around for as long as marketing has been around. Communicating with your audience via print media, radio, television, mail, phone, Internet and email is a regular part of most marketing plans. The challenge for fundraisers is to understand how best to use limited resources to make the most impact on your overall fundraising efforts. And with shrinking cost budgets and conflicting input from internal departments, the challenges can seem quite daunting indeed!

In fact, some of the most common things I hear from nonprofit direct marketers are “I just don’t know what will make the most impact for the least cost”, “We’ve tried multi-channel approaches but the cost isn’t easy to justify when the results are so minimal”, or even more bluntly, “Email fundraising doesn’t work well for us and our board hates telemarketing, what can I do?”.

If you, too, are still struggling to find the right method for integrating your fundraising, my advice is to keep it simple at first: take a common sense approach. What does that mean? Let’s say you are planning a non-fundraising event, like a reunion of a fairly large group of people. The last thing you’d want to do is just plan on sending one invitation and hoping everyone comes. That probably won’t work very well! You really want to do several things:

Step One — Get the Word Out!
This step isn’t designed to get immediate responses, so you need to use a fairly inexpensive option here. Try mass media, particularly if your communication staff can get you media attention for free. Post info on your website, so interested parties will know there’s something important happening. Then, use email and blast everyone you think may be interested. If your budget can support it, DRTV or radio can be an effective option, but be prepared for this step not to generate fast and easy money. It’s really a “Save the Date” type of message and an opportunity to showcase special or exciting opportunities.

Step Two — The Main Ask
Next, mail that invitation. Make sure it contains all critical information. Since this is a mailing, make sure you include a response device and reply envelope. This is the easy part for most of us; it’s what we do every day. Make sure that it relates creatively to what’s posted on the website and sent via email. Because timelines for mail are longer than email, you’ll likely create this piece first. Make sure the elements are appealing for multiple media types.

Step Three — Reinforce
Follow up the invitation with an email to reinforce the invitation. Messages here just need to be simple — “Have you seen our invitation? Have you responded? We are counting on you!”. At this point, your message needs a clear option to participate online, “Would you like to participate now? Click here!” This step is an important one, as it ties back to the mail piece. You may find that few people actually choose to transact online, but you will also find that sending an email reminder will boost mail response rates, sometimes significantly.

Mail reminders work well, too, typically generating response rates between 30-40% of the original invitation mailing, and the costs can be low, because the package can be simple. Just make sure the creative matches the original message!

Step Four — Gather Up the Important Stragglers
At this point, it’s almost time for the event (or the end of your fundraising campaign!) and there are going to be some non-responders. Here’s where a phone call can make good sense. There are some people that your reunion (or campaign) would be incomplete without — people who made an important contribution to the group. Carefully select your target audience and spend the money to gather up the ones who are most likely to want to be involved. (You hear a lot of marketers telling you that phones are best for lapsed donors — it’s true! And, if you’re new to tele-fundraising, selling a lapsed reactivation phone strategy to your board is usually easier than asking permission to call all your current donors.)

Step Five — Thank People
Once the event is over (or your campaign is finished), use your website and email to thank your participants, and talk about what a difference their participation made. Make sure that you also send a thank you letter, too. It’s just good manners!

Keep it Simple, Keep it Consistent
Making sure that you are contacting your audience with the right channel at the right time with coordinated messaging and creative will boost your overall responses. And it doesn’t have to be complicated — just ask yourself what approach makes sense at each step of the way.

And Lastly – Don’t Forget to Test!
And of course, take the opportunity to test each of the approaches across the entire campaign. If you are adding an email announcement or reminder, separate out a test and control audience and follow them through the entire campaign. You can’t just measure one touch at a time, as the effect of all these touches is cumulative.

This article was originally published at http://www.imabgroup.net/posts/2012/september/take-a-common-sense-approach-to-multichannel-marketing.html and is reprinted with permission.

If you’ve decided to shake up your events this year and strive for a “new normal“, be sure you also raise the bar for event promotion as well. After all, you need to get your message out in order to fill seats, promote your cause, and engage your members or supporters.

Try a “multi-touch” approach

Unfortunately, there isn’t one sure-fire event promotion vehicle or channel – it’s about finding the winning mix of communications for your audience. So if your organization has traditionally focused solely on a printed program sent by mail, maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit. Try a multi-touch approach by adding some new communications tools to your event promotion toolbox. There’s a wide range of online and offline event promotion channels you can consider, including: direct mail; email; social media; websites; PR; event calendars; paid promotions and so on.

Here are 5 tips to help you get your event’s message out this year:

1. Start with a fresh idea

Since promotion is pivotal to an event’s success, the volunteers or staff responsible for event publicity need to play an active role during the initial event planning stages. If you want to take this year’s event beyond the status quo, you need to start with a fresh idea or approach. Those tasked with event promotion should help develop the entire event experience – from the theme through to exploring methods of promoting audience participation. Experts, such as Jeff Hurt suggest that the trends for this year include moving from “passive information consumption to actively contributing, discussing, creating and participating.” Event participants “want to engage with others about the content that is being shared or about the needs they face.”

So whether you are planning a conference, workshop or a fundraising event, start with an inspirational theme or format to engage your audience from the very first teaser or save-the-date message, and throughout the event.

2. Plan it and share it

If you are going to create a multi-touch or multi-channel promotion campaign, you need to start with a plan. This means identifying clear objectives; understanding your audience and how to best reach them; and developing key messaging for consistency across all communications. If you build in enough lead time, with effective planning, and willing publicity volunteers or staff, you can promote your event effectively with little or no cost.

And while one individual should take charge of coordinating this plan, you might consider delegating tasks across the communications channels. For example, a social media savvy volunteer might want to take charge of your Twitter and/or Facebook messaging. Alternately, you might ask the newsletter editor or forum manager to develop and publish a series of posts.

Once you develop the promotion plan, be sure to share it with the rest of the event volunteers and staff, who can get the message out via their networks.You should also involve your speakers, partners and sponsors in your promotion plans. They will likely be happy to promote the event to their networks. But make it easy for them to share by offering:

  • guest posts for their blog or forums;
  • a list of suggested tweets;
  • draft text, visuals and links to event information

3. Move it online

If you’ve traditionally focused mainly on offline event promotion, maybe it’s time to try moving things online!

Focus on your website:

Your website is the first place folks can and should go for details on your event. Once on your website, participants should be able to find the information they need and register online. There are many opportunities for event publicity through your website – here are a few examples you can consider:

  • Include a message about the event on your homepage — in the “news” or “upcoming events” sections;
  • Include an event listing in your online events calendar;
  • Create a dedicated web page for your event— that can include photos, details, maps and a link to online registration;
  • Include information about the event in your Members-only Forum and create new discussion threads that your supporters or members can follow;
  • Promote the event through a series of posts on your blog

Online tools can help you get your message out

Moving things online can also help streamline your outbound communication. If you are using association or membership management software with events capabilities, you can automate both your promotion and registration, making it easier on yourself and your registrants. For example, at a minimum you want to:

  • Create automatic email event notices to all or select groups of contacts in your database (e.g., members, supporters, past event guests, etc.)
  • Send automated email reminders few weeks or a few days in advance of the event
  • Enable online registration and auto confirmations

4. Try getting more social

This year, why not try mixing it up – blend your traditional offline or email approach with some social media. But bear in mind that whichever social media you choose and regardless of who is initiating the message, you need to create consistent messaging across all networks. If you are new to social media, here are a few ideas for starting to get your events message out via social media networks:

  • Enable social sharing. Make it easy for folks to share! If you haven’t already, be sure you enable social media sharing on your website. The process of embedding sharing buttons or widgets (for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) will depend on your web platform. Most system providers offer simple instructions for embedding code for these widgets.
  • Twitter: Be sure to create a Twitter hashtag for the event and ask folks to use it when they tweet about key event information and updates. And be sure to include your hashtag on all event web pages, emails, blogs, etc. to build buzz.
  • Facebook: If you don’t already have one, consider creating a Facebook page – so you can post information regularly about your event (share photos, blog posts, etc.) and folks can “Like” and share this with their Facebook friends. You can also “promote posts” on Facebook to get your message out to a broader audience. If you don’t have access to online events management software, you might consider creating a Facebook Event
    • YouTube: Create and/or edit an existing video promoting your event and/or your organization and upload this to YouTube or Flickr.
  • LinkedIn: You can promote your event to your own LinkedIn network by “sharing” an update with a link to your event page; Facebook event, etc. You can also use the LinkedIn Events Application to automatically promote the event to your network (the people you are connected to in the first level on LinkedIn).

5. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth

How can you harness the power of word-of-mouth to get your message out? Well, it might sound silly, but sometimes all you have to do is ask! It’s amazing how much sharing you can encourage just by asking all of your networks to “please RT”, please “Like” this post or simply, “kindly share.” Ask your board, your partners, your speakers and sponsors to help get the message out via their social networks. And as noted above, be sure to make it easy for folks to share by providing sharing tools and buttons in all of your event promotions.

Of course, having an innovative concept will help encourage viral sharing. As discussed in #1 having an exciting, fresh and inventive event concept will make it easier to build excitement and motivate folks to help get your events message out.

This article was originally published at http://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/2013/02/13/5-tips-for-getting-your-event-message-out and is reprinted with permission.

Budgets are barely budging, staffing is scarce, and there’s a growing arsenal of tools & techniques to be tinkered with. I surveyed the nonprofit marketing communications scene to find out which strategies, tactics, and activities worked—and which didn’t—this past year. How did your efforts stack up?



Facebook’s value as a communication tool is hard to deny, with many NPOs utilizing this free social media tool with success.

We have more people not just liking us, but engaging with our posts. It has been wonderful to publicize events as they occur in real time and we have gained the attention of new people.

We’re pleased with Facebook…it’s helping raise our profile among other organizations we’ve “liked”, and gives us an opportunity to share some great nature photography (and gain more likes) so we’ll definitely continue using it.

But others are moving beyond pages & posts to engage audiences in other ways, such as using Facebook’s paid advertising services.

We were able to do some simple advertising that takes advantage of existing personal relationships and triple our number of fans pretty quickly… So-and-so likes us, and when we see popular posts, we opt for spending the $5-$10 to promote the post.

(Want to learn more about how nonprofits can use Facebook ads? Check out this slide deck by John Hayden)


Electronic communication in the form of email remains one of the most popular tools at an organization’s disposal, allowing for frequent and consistent contact with clients and other stakeholders.

Even though they can use some work, I still think e-news gets our message to the most people.

Email continues to be the top driver of website traffic and event ticket sales.

Our email newsletter is great to get out a mix of time-sensitive info and some interesting links and resources.

Email campaigns—published & distributed via professional email marketing tools like EmailNow, Constant Contact, and MailChimp— can take several forms, from e-newsletters – which inform and educate – to more singular topics, such as those focusing on fundraising, advocacy, and events.

Having proven their worth, NPOs also spent time this past year improving their email lists by building and segmenting them.


Despite the high cost of production and postage, printed forms of communications remain the best way for many nonprofits to reach their constituents— in the form of newsletters, annual reports, postcards, one-pagers, brochures, direct mail, and more.

We get a lot of anecdotal feedback on our newsletter: “I read the newsletter cover to cover” – which tells us our strongest supporters appreciate the effort we make to communicate in print.

This year is our 25th Anniversary, and we went way above and beyond our usual Annual Report format. The end result is that we have a commemorative piece, which is a good tool for promoting ourselves to new partners/donors/funders.

Direct mail is hands-down the best communications tool for us. We are able to tell our story to our stakeholders in a way that they respond to— getting a nice letter in the mail is the channel these people know.


Nearly every organization has one, and in 2012, not surprisingly, most considered it their most important important communication tool. Feeding your website frequently with fresh content—with blogging and video uploads—is an ongoing, year-round activity, enjoyed by almost all.

2012 was also a time to modernize websites, with many organizations performing much-needed updates. One of the most popular tweaks included social media integration.

Our site has a new section called Tomorrow Lab for Humanity which uses personal video dedications to encourage online giving, and is closely linked to Facebook and Twitter.

This past year, some groups started planning for—or completed—a site overhaul.

We’re redeveloping our website (after 12 years!) with a focus on mobile-first design and web-enabled mapping— – since our mission is historic preservation and we want people to go out and see historic places firsthand.

We won a new website through The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge. Key features: WordPress based, incorporates event registration (Eventbrite API) and our Twitter feed, is nicely organized, and beautiful.

Twitter & Pinterest

While certainly not new, many organizations used 2012 as a time to give these social media platforms a spin. The result? Cautious optimism.

We’re using Twitter to join conversations we otherwise wouldn’t have been a part of. We’re still refining its use but have gotten a good deal out of it.


I’ll continue to use [our Pinterest board] as an easy place to curate content. My most successful uses were displaying silent auction donations (linking to donor websites) and curating costume ideas for a Halloween-themed 5K our organization sponsors.

Sascha D. Freudenheim is a Senior Vice President at Resnicow Schroeder Associates, where he works with many non-profits in the arts and culture sector to help them develop and implement communications and audience engagement strategies. About Twitter, he observes,

“Some organizations like Twitter and use it well. These orgs are able to engage external audiences effectively; that is clearly the goal. Other organizations seem to do it because they feel they are supposed to—so they Tweet periodically and they share info about themselves. But that’s just broadcasting your info via Twitter, which isn’t particularly “social.” If you’re missing the “social” part of social media, you kinda have to ask yourself why you even bother. Better to do something else, and do it well.”

Public Relations

We use press releases to announce milestones and great successes.

With some organizations pulling back on the traditional press release to focus on social media and blogging, others have found that the strategic use of issuing well-written announcements to the media and other outlets—including aggregator sites — can still be a very effective tool. “Remarkably, a well-written press release still works as a means to share information,“ Freudenheim notes. “Use them to create a narrative around some piece of news and tie it to institutional goals.”

Web Tools

Here’s a brief run-down on some favorite tools NPOs used in 2012 to help make their marketing communications more efficient & effective:

  • Animoto—create videos from photos, video clips, words and music
  • Bitly—shorten, save, search, and organize web links
  • Square—a mobile credit card payment system

We use Square to electronically accept donations at events.

  • Formstack—a drag-and-drop online form builder that allows you to collect and manage data.

We’ve seen great results with the Formstack tools. People seem to be more likely to volunteer or come by [the facility] when they can request a tour online.

  • HootSuite—manage social networks with a dashboard


All these tools, tactics and techniques can be eye-opening, yet paralyzing. Can you relate?

It’s becoming rather overwhelming to manage!

A growing realization within the nonprofit community is that no single organization or marketing team can successfully play with every conceivable tool out there. “There are way too many options and channels. People are thinking strategically about which are the right ones for them, and not feeling as guilty if they can’t do it all,” observes Kivi Leroux-Miller, president of Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com and the author of “The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause”.

Freudenheim concurs. “Like most things, without a clear strategy, different tactics and tools don’t do much… they can be complimentary, but you still need to know how to use them, and revisit your strategy each time, not just the first time.”

Before we even start writing content or think about communication channels we need to make a list of keywords that put us in the shoes of our customers—make a list of words that summarize what we want them to DO, THINK and FEEL about our organization. Then we build everything around that, measuring and adjusting as we go.

Finally, at the same time, nonprofits communicators report that their best forms of communication rely on high-tech tools and apps only as used in conjunction with these decidedly low-tech approaches: in-person meetings, individual phone calls, and word-of-mouth.

Nothing replaces face to face. Our best partners are developed in personal conversations.

Did you have similar results this past year? How did your efforts compare? Please share your favorite trends and anecdotes.


Many thanks to the nonprofit marketers who took my survey on 2012 nonprofit marketing communications trends.

I also greatly appreciate input from the following consultants:
Kivi Leroux-Miller, President

Sascha D. Freudenheim, Senior Vice President
Resnicow Schroeder Associates

It’s already the last week of Member Appreciation Month in the NTEN community! Our goal this month is to create a platform to recognize all the sharing and generosity in the NTEN community – and say thank you! Or, rather,#NTENThanks. There are plenty of ways you can still get involved in the celebrations before the month is over, and this week we are focused on community and communications.

Celebrate Member Appreciation Month

This is your time to meet your peers in the community and celebrate, so have lots of fun (and free) things to offer!

beaconfire.img_assist_custom-161x37.jpgPrizes: Who doesn’t love a fun NTEN prize? We will offer a daily prize to a member drawn at random from the database. There are also three prizes each week: one each for a members that has renewed for 2013, participated in #NTENThanks, and participated in a program during the week. This week’s sponsor is Beaconfire!

THANKS: Member Appreciation Month wouldn’t be the same without a whole lot of “thank you” going around. Join us in sharing your appreciation of other members or anything/anyone else using #NTENthanks.

Programs: We’ve stacked the calendar with free programs this month – just to say thanks! Sign up for this week’s community and communications focused webinars:

Member Appreciation Month wouldn’t be the same without the contributions of content and prizes from our partners!

 nten_sponsor_org.gif       fc_logo.gif       microsoft.gif

event360_0.img_assist_custom-127x67.jpg       beaconfire.img_assist_custom-161x37.jpg       tech_soup.img_assist_custom-166x48.jpg

Determined to embrace integrated, multichannel marketing, the nonprofit sector is increasingly shifting direct marketing budget to emerging channels of consumer solicitation, most notably mobile, social media, and online advertising. Nonprofit marketers, however, are steeped in mono-channel direct marketing (primarily postal-based direct mail or outbound telemarketing) and often find themselves unable to rationalize these new, dynamic channels of consumer contact with an acceptable return on investment (ROI).

Perhaps the most blindly engaged channel used by nonprofits is online advertising.

Low-cost, capable of handling high-volume campaigns, and readily available from many turnkey network providers, online advertising is increasingly becoming a staple area of marketing spend for major nonprofit direct marketers. Yet, despite the increasing frequency of use, nonprofits are generally unable to demonstrate acceptable ROI for online advertising, often the result of:

  • The inability to effectively measure the cross-channel impact of impressions served with offline consumer behavior (e.g., the impact of online advertising on direct mail response)
  • The misclassification of online advertising as a “direct response” channel, when in fact this channel – although capable of eliciting consumer interaction – is more often more appropriately categorized and leveraged as “advertising” – more apt to reinforce the nonprofit brand and support improved response with other direct response channels such as mail, telephone, and DRTV
  • The mistreatment of online advertising as a stand-alone channel, with inconsistent messaging and appeals relative to other channels, the frequent result of fragmented marketing organizations and unique marketing budgets

Fortunately, online advertising has evolved. Legacy paradigms of contextual targeting, re-targeting, geo-targeting, and other demographic or online behavioral targeting have given way to more precise household-level targeting.

How Online Advertising Has Evolved over the Past 24 Months

Legacy models of online advertising largely target anonymous prospects based on loose inferences of affinity, interest, and capacity, not previous philanthropic behavior (the most predictive indicator of future donor behavior) or demonstrated organizational affinity (e.g., event participation, petition signing, etc.). For example, an Internet user reading an article on the rainforests may be targeted with advertising requesting a donation for an environmental cause.

In such an instance, advertising is delivered to an unknown recipient with no true understanding of that recipient’s philanthropic behavior or passion. Moreover, as a result of the recipient’s anonymity, the return-on-ad-spend calculation is limited to their conversion at the point of impression, limiting the ability to measure the advertising’s effectiveness on other one-to-one online or offline marketing channels.

Using the “legacy” model of online advertising effectiveness, current click-through rates for top performing nonprofit online advertising programs average 0.04% (4 clicks per 10,000 impressions served), with daily results typically ranging from 0.03% to 0.07%. Conversion rates (donation per ad served) range from 0.001% to 0.009% (1 to 2 conversions per 100,000 ads served). Return-on-ad-spend for such a campaign would typically yield 0.25:1 to 0.45:1 at best, depending on media consumption and request amounts. Clearly, this is a losing proposition in terms of pure marketing ROI.

New online household-level targeting, however, enables nonprofits to specifically target audience segments consisting of active donors, lapsed donors, or prospects generated by their previous philanthropic characteristics. This strategy moves the advertising paradigm away from low-value, inference-based profiling to more effective strategies involving actual donor behavior. Essentially, the paradigm changes targeting strategy from “where” (e.g., what sites likely donors may visit) to “who” (e.g., targeting specific households on any website they visit).

Beyond the benefit of improved conversions, moving to household-level targeting enables closed-loop reporting – the ability to calculate the effect of impressions not only for online conversions, but also increased response across direct mail, telemarketing, email, and other one-to-one solicitation channels – more accurately.

For example, with new household-level targeting, a nonprofit can exclusively target their lapsed donor file with an appeal to reactivate as part of a sustainer campaign. Not only can the appeal be specifically tailored to this audience segment, improving online conversions, but such a campaign can also be run in conjunction with a postal direct mail campaign. As a result of the household targeting, the online advertising can be measured in terms of improved conversion, and the closed-loop report will forensically measure the impact of brand reinforcement on improving the postal direct mail response.

Via this new model, and the ability to understand cross-channel impact of brand impressions on all one-to-one solicitation channels, nonprofits are seeing return-on-ad-spend of 3:1 to 5:1 on campaigns targeting active and inactive donor populations, and 0.25:1 to 1:1 on campaigns targeting prospects – a substantial lift relative to legacy online advertising techniques and measurement.

In Practice: Improved Results with Household-Level Targeting

In a recent campaign conducted by a major U.S.-based relief organization, 183,160 households, comprised of active and inactive donors, were targeted with an online request for donation.

Ads were delivered over a three-month campaign period, with the goal of delivering 10 ads per household per month. (Best practices indicate that 8-15 impressions per household per month optimizes media spend relative to desired consumer behavior).

Brand Exposure During Campaign Period
Total Number of Households Served During Three-Month Campaign Period 183,160
Total Number of Ads Served 5,229,916
Average Number of Ad Impressions Per Household 28.6
Average Number of Ad Impressions Per Household Per Month 9.5

During the three-month campaign period, 2,003 unique households clicked on the ads, a 1.09% click-through rate per household. Online conversions were a strong 0.00126%, resulting in $94,355 in online donations.

Online Donation Activity Associated with Campaign
Online Conversions 660
Conversion Rate Per Ad Impression Delivered 0.00126%
Conversion Rate Per Household 3.6%
Conversion Revenue (Online Donations) $94,335
Average Online Donation $142.93

While conversion rates per ad impression delivered were in line with legacy online advertising models, the conversion rate per household was an astounding 3.6%. Compare this metric to traditional 1:1 marketing channels such as direct mail. By effectively targeting active and inactive donors (an audience with a demonstrated passion for the organization), as opposed to unqualified anonymous users, a remarkable average gift of $142.93 was achieved, nearly triple the expected average for online donation.

At this point, the return-on-ad-spend for the campaign was nearly 2X.

The effect of online advertising, however, extends beyond online donations. By targeting at a household level, the impact of online brand reinforcement can be measured against a direct mail piece that was delivered during the online campaign period.

For this forensic analysis, a control population was created from 335,242 households: active and inactive households from the nonprofit’s database that had not been served (but were capable of being served) online advertising during the campaign period and did receive offline postal mail based solicitations during the campaign period, at the same frequency as the test group. Using the control population, 200 random samples were created, with the median in revenue used as the control group.

Examining the impact of online advertising across all online and offline channels during the campaign period, the forensic analysis demonstrates that online brand reinforcement drives substantial lift in overall campaign performance. Notably, postal mail direct response was substantially lifted as a result of online impressions delivered throughout the integrated marketing campaign period.

Incremental Lift in Campaign Response and Donations
When Online Advertising Is Used to Reinforce the Brand During a Campaign

Control Group

Ads Served = N

Direct Mail = Y

Test Group

Ads Served = Y

Direct Mail = Y

Unique Households 183,600 183,600
Total Conversions 12,999 16,642 3,643
Total Revenue $906,729 $1,165,136 $258.407
Total Conversion Rate 7.10% 9.09% 28.0%
Average Gift Per Donor $69.75 $70.01 0.4%
Amount Per Household $4.95 $6.36 28.5%

As demonstrated, a 28% increase in response rate occurred across all solicitation channels when online advertising was used to influence the target audience, resulting in a 28.5% increase in amount per household.

Overall, the return-on-ad-spend yielded a 5:1 return on investment.

By most any point of comparison, these results demonstrate the necessity of online brand reinforcement, the power of household-level targeted online advertising, and the absolute need to measure holistic performance within an integrated, multichannel marketing campaign.


True integrated, multichannel marketing programs are sequence-optimized, brand consistent, and programmatically measured.

The failure of too many organizations is the insufficient integration of online advertising with their multichannel marketing program and, most importantly, the failure to leverage forensic measurement techniques to confirm a complete calculation of return-on-ad-spend.

Savvy marketers in all nonprofit micro-segments, including advocacy, international relief, health and wellness, and higher education are embracing the new online advertising model – household targeting – to strengthen their overall campaign results.

Ultimately, marketers must ensure they intelligently embrace emerging channels of donor solicitation and outreach. While the rate of technology moves quickly, offering new ways to boost performance, marketers must not lose sight of the basics:

  • Effective multichannel marketing must be integrated.
  • Only use marketing channels with clear performance measurements.
  • Prior philanthropic behavior is the best indicator of future philanthropic behavior.

Adherence to these cardinal rules, along with awareness of superior marketing models such as household-level targeting for online advertising campaigns, will significantly improve marketing return on investment.

Will you make me a promise before you read this? Don’t make blog planning a six-month process. A little planning will go a long way towards making your blog more successful. A lot of planning will just slow you down. Use these steps as a guideline. Jot down some notes, have a couple meetings, and start blogging!


OK. Here we go.

1. Listen

Research what blogs are writing about your cause, and where yours could fit in the conversation. Use Google Blog Search, Alltop.com, blog rolls, and Twitter Search to find blogs about your issue. Add related blogs to a feed reader like Google Reader to make it easy for you to read and comment regularly.

2. Find your blog’s purpose

Knowing why your organization wants to blog will help you determine how often to post, what to post about, and who should write for your blog. Questions to ask:

  • Why does our organization want to blog?
  • What goal(s) will a blog help us achieve?
  • What would a successful blog look like

3. Describe your ideal audience

Your blog may not be the right tool to reach everyone (e.g. donors, volunteers, constituents, funders, and press), nor does it need to be. Questions to ask:

  • Who are three people who represent our ideal readers?
  • What topics interest them?
  • What would make them read every post?

4. Brainstorm juicy blog post topics

This is a great activity to do with a group. Ask folks to brainstorm blog post topics that will fulfill your blog’s purpose and reach your ideal audience. Below is a list of types of blog posts to spark your imagination:

  • answer readers’ questions
  • ask for help
  • “best of” list
  • challenges (e.g. GOOD’s 30 Days of Good)
  • comment on current events
  • click list of other blogs’ posts
  • guest post
  • how to
  • interview
  • notes “from the field”
  • numbered list
  • opinion
  • personal story
  • photos
  • podcast
  • regular column
  • reviews (e.g. books, films, products)
  • round-up of news about your issue
  • series
  • video
  • your organization’s news (e.g. events, campaigns, press)

5. Select your staff

You’re going to need a blogger(s), a managing editor (if you have more than one blogger), a community builder, a web designer, and tech support. All these roles could be filled by one person, or by multiple people. A word about making your Executive Director your main blogger: unless they LOVE to write, don’t do it. They don’t have the time. If you’re thinking about depending entirely on guest bloggers keep in mind: 1. your readers probably don’t care as much about who these people are as you do, 2. wrangling people who don’t work for you to write posts won’t necessarily save you time. If you want to have interns run your blog, be sure to have a plan in place for who will write for it when they leave.

So, who should write for your organization’s blog? Someone who:

  • loves to write
  • is able to write short, engaging pieces
  • understands how to draw readers in with words and images
  • enjoys being social online

6. Decide how often to post

Here’s the deal, the more you post, the more likely you’ll be read. On the other hand, regular subscribers might not want to hear from you everyday; plus, you might not have the staff to invest in daily posting. The answer: post regularly, at least once a week. Two to three times a week would be great, but once a week is better than not at all. Also, when you’re mapping out your blogging time for the month, remember that “blogging” encompasses reading, writing, commenting, and sharing posts on social networks.

7. Choose your features

Some basic features all blogs should have are:

  • prompts to subscribe by rss and email
  • commenting
  • a short “about” paragraph
  • sharing buttons on the bottom of every post (e.g. tweet this)
  • the name of the blogger who wrote the post on each post
  • a link back to your site’s home page, if the blog has a separate URL
  • archives

Some features you’ll have to decide about are, do you want:

  • the blog to be integrated into your site, or separate?
  • a custom design, or template?
  • categories?
  • a blog roll (a list of related blogs) in the sidebar?
  • a donate button in the sidebar?
  • anything else in the sidebar?

You’ll also need to decide which blogging platform to use (e.g. WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Blogger, Tumblr.

8. Create an editorial calendar

When you have small windows of writing time, knowing what you’re going to write about can save time, especially if you’ve been collecting ideas and resources somewhere (e.g. your Twitter feed, a notepad, Pinterest). Some questions to ask:

  • How often are we able to post each week?
  • What’s going on in the world this month (e.g. holidays)?
  • What’s going on in our org’s world this month (e.g. conferences, campaigns, events)?
  • Which posts were the most popular last month? How can we write more like them?

9. Create a plan to build traffic and engagement

Even the most amazing posts in the world will go unread, unless you let folks know about them. At a minimum, you should be:

  • sharing all of your posts with your social networks
  • linking to the month’s most popular posts in your e-newsletter
  • putting a link to your blog in your email signature and on your business card
  • commenting on other blogs
  • writing great titles with keywords people are searching for, and that draw them in. For title inspiration, peruse The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com)

If folks aren’t commenting on many of your posts try:

  • sharing a strong opinion in the post and title
  • asking a question in the post and title
  • asking for help, opinions, or advice. If you sound like you know everything, what is there to comment on?

10. Decide how you will measure impact

Look back at your blog’s purpose, and how you defined success to determine what metrics are appropriate. Some possible ways to measure impact are by noting:

  • subscribers
  • page views
  • comments
  • popular posts
  • Facebook likes, shares and comments
  • tweets, retweets and favorites
  • press that came as a result of your blog
  • donations that happened as a result of your blog
  • volunteers who found you through your blog

OK That’s it. Ten steps. Remember your promise: a little planning and a lot of blogging.

Oh, and here’s my biggest blogging tip:

Don’t be boring.

Do be creative, visual, engaging, educational, entertaining, resourceful, inspirational and fun!