Marketing at a nonprofit organization is not just about increasing awareness. If your foundation relies on fundraising to develop and distribute programs and services, then you need to keep your development colleagues in mind all year long, not just when they start planning their appeals.
Put your best foot forward
Know and live your organization’s brand, train your colleagues and your volunteers, and communicate it in everything you do in person and online. And I’m not only talking about your name, your tagline, and your logo. Consider your mission, your key messages, your personality, and your values. If you have not articulated these, then it’s a valuable place to start and will pay dividends in the future. And if you’re a small nonprofit and think branding doesn’t matter, read this Fast Company article and reconsider.
Provide value-added content on all your social media platforms, on your organization’s website, and on your blog throughout the year. Don’t forget the 80-20 rule; people want to read content that is valuable to them 80% of the time and about the organization 20% of the time. It is critical to your fundraising team that you abide by this rule because people who benefit from January to November, are more apt to give when asked in December.
Demonstrate quickly and creatively why it matters
Above all, people need to know that their contribution matters. And you need to tell them and show them quickly. Why is this important? Just one look at Brandon Gaille’s blog post on average attention span statistics and trends shows why you must be creative and succinct when you convey your messages to achieve the desired impact.
Fill your content strategy with stories of people who are helped by your organization. Their profiles convey the value of your organization without you stating it overtly. Share these stories as appropriate in the platforms that you use: website, blog, electronic newsletter, Facebook, YouTube, or other social platform. These stories are the fuel for your development colleagues and can even be included in appeal letters (emails). They demonstrate to donors and potential donors why their gifts matter.
Use fewer words and more visuals. It may take two pages or extensive online copy to explain how a child has struggled with, and overcome, a debilitating illness. How likely is it that anyone will get to the end of the story? A short video is easily more compelling. It can convey emotion and impact in a minute or less.
Build your communities
Create and grow your online communities. Focus on the platforms that reach your target audiences and engage with them regularly. Use storytelling, visuals, and value-added content to spur conversation and increase interactions. Tend to your platforms regularly so that people feel connected. Then, when your development colleagues want to use your platforms as distribution channels for their appeal, it will be a no-brainer for people to support the foundation that has done so much for them throughout the year.
A strong partnership between the communications team and development team is critical for nonprofits, large and small. Together, the more awareness you raise and the more money you raise, the more people you can help in your community.
Eileen Masciale is the President of EJM Publication Relations. In addition, she serves as Consulting Director of Communications for The Marfan Foundation. In 2012-2013, Eileen was co-project manager for the Foundation’s re-branding initiative and website re-launch. Her partnership with the Foundation’s senior director of development was the inspiration for this post. Eileen blogs at VirtualHealthNeighborhoods.com. Follow her @Eileen Masciale.