Social change isn’t easy. Your organization may have the best of intentions, but unless you can convince others to join you, you’ll never make the impact you’ve been dreaming of. You need volunteers, donors, and advocates—and the only way to get them is an engaging pitch.
So, how do you condense the complexities of your work into a concise and compelling argument? We’ll walk you through it.
As we shared in "Simple Steps to Authentic Brand Strategy," branding is really just a fancy word for personality. A strong brand thinks about, interacts with, and wants to be seen by the world in a certain way. It’s critical to building operational capacity, galvanizing support, and maintaining mission focus. So, before anything else, you’ll want to:
Develop a clear value proposition and brand position to establish reputability.
Once you know the positioning, core beliefs and values of your venture, you can begin creating conversations. The question is, with whom?
If you’re not aware of what a persona is, think of it as a semi-fictional character that represents your ideal customer, donor, or supporter. To create one, simply group your audiences based on:
Common motivations or pain points
Shared goals or outcomes
As you identify these figures, you’ll want to start brainstorming things like:
What will capture this persona’s attention?
What motivates them?
Think compassion, finding community, statistical impact, broad systems change, prestige and status, improve economic opportunity, children/family, better health, political outcomes, strengthen community fabric, stability, etc.
What is their vision for the world, and how can you help them get there?
Lastly, it’s time for a gut check:
How might people of different ethnicities identify with what you’re creating?
Who has historically been under-represented or marginalized?
Are you focusing all of your audiences on donors and funders, or are you thinking about clients and partners as well? Are there people your work may impact indirectly that need to be considered?
Knowing your audiences and messaging to them based on their motivations, wants, and needs, will compel them to engage with you.
Your brand needs a consistent tone. Whether it skews casual or formal is up to you, but either way, you should always be mindful of how you phrase things. You don’t want to unintentionally hurt someone. If this is a new concept, work in a group to check your language and possible biases—like we did in this example:
A few points to focus on:
“Generational health crisis” - How do you create messaging that is not inadvertently criticizing culture?
“In our community” - Are we victimizing?
“Obese” - Are we alienating individuals or treating size as a health crisis? Instead, let’s focus on health issues, i.e. the diabetes-specific statistic.
The differences are subtle but meaningful. We’ve changed the focus from shaming what children eat to leveling the playing field to create opportunity.
Have a compelling and inclusive visual language (photography, fonts, color palette, iconography, etc.)
Like written messaging, visual language conveys a lot about the organization, but how do you develop it? Design is such a complex arena. Logos, icons, photography, fonts, and colors—it’s enough to make your head spin, but don’t worry. We’ve got you.
If you haven’t already, take a look at our “Quick and Dirty Guide to Color Theory,” and then consider the colors that best represent the feeling you want as your first impression. Need help getting creative? Mood boards are an effective way to discuss ideas, share insights, and clarify communication. They help visually explain a feeling and, in turn, develop a more authentic and successful brand.
So, now that you have the framework, how do you turn it into an engaging pitch? Start building.
Below, you’ll see a few example personas we’ve created for clients; for the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on Darren. What would this professional giver/investor want in a pitch?
1. Your ‘Why’
In his TEDx Talk on inspiring action, Simon Sinek shared that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. This is grounded in biology. Decision-making is emotional, so paint your vision in a way that helps people imagine your better world. Skeptics will still want proven results (your cynical majority), but your fellow visionaries will become your brand advocates. This ties in to the second point.
2. The Problem
Clearly articulate the problem you are trying to solve, using simple terminology (no jargon). Why does your organization exist?
Problem statements are important, because often times, they are the lead-in to your messaging and meant to capture your persona’s attention. Think of it this way: If you were stuck in an elevator with Bill Gates, how would you start your pitch for him to support your new venture? You’d probably lead with the wrong you’re trying to right in the world.
Note how the iconography used is gender-inclusive.
3. Your Unique Approach
Why is your organization best suited to tackle this problem?
4. Your Impact
What measurable difference are you making?
5. Your Expertise
Why are you qualified to drive this mission? Are you a cutting edge leader? Break it down for us, and then back it up with headlines of mass scale impacts.
6. Who You Serve
Who’s on the receiving end of this effort?
Of course, all of this leads up to the one thing too many organizations dance around: the ask. We’ve established what WorkIt does, as well as how and why they do it. The only thing left is what kind of help they need to fuel their mission.
If they’ve correctly identified their personas and built upon each point above, chances are, the “Darrens” they’re pitching to will respond favorably. Onward and upward!
We are excited to announce our 2019 brandUP participating organizations.
Atma Connect is an award-winning creator of software products and digital services that connect people to report problems, share solutions, and improve their communities from the ground up. Their free mobile app, AtmaGo, has reached more than 1,200,000 Indonesian users since 2015, delivering real-time, crowd-sourced content. Citizens share everything from traffic updates and job postings to breaking news during national emergencies.
City Surf Project connects underrepresented youth to the ocean—and themselves—through surfing. Their programs support those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience swimming lessons, ocean recreation, stewardship activities, and environmental education. They encourage healthy lifestyles and active global citizenship. (2019 Full Circle Fund Grantee)
The Environmental Volunteers organization inspires people of all ages to learn about the wonders of the natural world. They train volunteers to lead hands-on science and nature programs in schools, community organizations, and at the EcoCenter—their public nature center in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve. They also have a transportation fund to provide affordable and easy-to-schedule transportation for low-income K-12 students in the San Francisco Bay Area who would not otherwise be able to access science and environmental education field trips.
GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. They focus on three initiatives: promoting zero waste, reducing problematic waste streams like plastic, and putting an end to the ineffective and hazardous practice of burning waste.
LitLab creates connected and interactive early learning environments by deploying books, digital content, and blended learning solutions for under-resourced children, their caregivers, and educators. They engage parents and caregivers as a child’s first teacher, mobilize early learning advocates, empower teachers with training, and provide blended learning interventions customized through pre-survey data for each child. Through combined resources and integrated, yet customized programs, they are revolutionizing early learning.
Mobile Pathways’ team consists of immigration attorneys, technology experts, and immigrant advocates. They help undocumented and under-documented immigrants gain access to reliable legal information via mobile phone technology. A proprietary “decision tree” texts users potential paths for legal immigration status. Once they understand their options, they are given a list of qualified immigration advocates who can assist them.
MotherCoders helps women with college degrees and work experience get on a career track in tech that leverages their unique skills, experiences, and passions. Whether it’s acquiring a particular skill-set for career advancement, re-entering the workforce after a pause for motherhood, or accelerating the growth of a startup, their training program enables students to gain enough skills, knowledge, and community support to confidently take the next step (or 2 or 3) toward a career in tech.
New Left Accelerator empowers emerging, progressive organizations and leaders working to strengthen civic engagement and advance a more just and equal society. They accomplish this by running an accelerator program and serving as a resource clearinghouse for these promising, new organizations.
Partnerships for Trauma Recovery (PTR) aims to reduce the mental health gap by addressing the psychosocial impacts of trauma caused by war, torture, forced displacement, human trafficking, and persecution due to identity and beliefs. Their model is built on three complementary components: mental health care for international survivors of human rights abuses, clinical training for globally-minded clinicians, and policy advocacy for efforts aimed at reducing trauma. (2019 Full Circle Fund Grantee)
Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center empowers and increases the entrepreneurial capacities of socially and economically diverse women and men, thereby strengthening communities through the creation of sustainable new businesses, new jobs, and the promotion of financial self-sufficiency. They offer low-cost office space and ongoing business support to emerging and established small businesses at several locations. They also offer free one-on-one financial consultation. (2019 Full Circle Fund Grantee)
Richmond Promise is a community-wide college success initiative to build a college graduating culture in Richmond, CA. Through a college scholarship, collaborative cross-sector partnerships, and supportive programming, they aim to ensure all students in Richmond excel to and through higher education, reach their career goals, and become change-making leaders in the community.
RYSE creates safe spaces grounded in social justice for young people to love, learn, educate, heal, and transform lives and communities. Their youth center has free programs in education and justice; community health; media, arts, and culture; and youth organizing. Programming at RYSE is anchored in the belief that young people have the lived knowledge and expertise to identify, prioritize, and direct the activities and services necessary to thrive.
Shawl-Anderson Dance Center provides Bay Area dance students of all ages and levels with high caliber training in both contemporary and traditional movement forms in a welcoming, non-competitive environment. The Center is a non-profit organization, committed to nurturing and mentoring the growth of dancers and choreographers; cultivating a healthy and supportive atmosphere for creative expression; sustaining traditions essential to excellence in the field; and fostering the evolution of the art of dance.
Sirum saves lives by connecting organizations with surplus medications to patients in need. in the U.S. there is often a large supply of unexpired drugs that are collected from manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies and health facilities. Sirum helps connect that surplus supply with clinics and pharmacies that serve low-income families. (2019 Full Circle Fund Grantee)
The Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) is an art program that bridges artistic expression with activism and empowers youth to amplify their voice through art that advocates for social justice. By using textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion, SJSA empowers youth to become agents of social change. A unique part of their program intentionally bridges generational, racial, and socioeconomic divides by sending youth art blocks to embroiderers all over the world.
The Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation empowers East Bay families to improve their lives, embrace their heritage, and develop as civic leaders. They provide educational and workforce development services, as well as help navigating immigration and citizenship. They also partner with government and community organizations to assist families and youth in securing programs, services, and resources to enrich their lives.
TalkingPoints drives student success in low-income, diverse areas through building strong partnerships across parents, schools, and communities. Their goal is to impact 3 million students and their parents by 2020. (2019 Full Circle Fund Grantee)
Tandem® engages the community to ensure all families have the resources, skills, and confidence they need to support their children’s kindergarten readiness. StoryCycles®, their school-to-home book-sharing program, provides families with access to high-quality children’s books and support materials. They also offer free, community-based workshops for families, caregivers, and educators to deepen their knowledge of early childhood brain development and share simple, effective strategies for building language and literacy through everyday activities. (2019 Full Circle Fund Grantee)
Tarjimly means “translate for me” and was founded in 2017 in response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the US Refugee & Travel Ban. Their mission is to improve the lives of refugees and the efficiency of humanitarian services by eliminating language barriers. The Tarjimly mobile app allows the world’s 3 billion multilingual speakers to remotely volunteer their language skills as translators and interpreters for the 65 million displaced people. (2019 Full Circle Fund Grantee)
Turn Out maximizes the impact of volunteerism to strengthen LGBTQ+ communities. They accomplish this via three main programs: recruitment, matching, and events. Through their biweekly newsletter, which highlights new opportunities, and their online platform, volunteers can join the projects that are right for them.
Urban Ed Academy leverages community partnerships in education to drive culturally reflective experiences for students of color in schools as a means of closing the opportunity gap. They use hands-on, interactive, and culturally relevant approaches to ensure students gain an understanding of themselves, the world around them, and how it applies to various academic and social settings.
Urban Strategies Council is a regional research and advocacy organization, dedicated to social, economic, and racial equity. Their mission is to eliminate persistent poverty in the Bay Area by working with partners to transform low-income neighborhoods into vibrant, healthy communities. Issue areas include: criminal justice reform, boys and men of color, economic opportunity, pathways to career and college, and violence prevention.
Few great things in the world were created without first planning, then measuring. So, why is your nonprofit any different?
All too often, it's hard to know what should be measured and what should not be. What is really important for your nonprofit to measure?
Tools like Google Analytics and other data sources have so many reports and data fields. How do we know what's meaningful?
The good news is that if you are reading this article, you’re headed in the right direction - you see measurement and data as a valuable tool to make informed decisions and tell your impact story.
This post will walk you through the process of building a measurement plan that’s specific to your nonprofit. It will help you choose the data and reporting that’s important to monitor so you can become a more data-driven nonprofit.
Ignore the Headlines - Kind Of
Many nonprofits get caught up in metrics that aren’t as important as they think. Especially when it comes to their website.
Too often we’ve had clients only monitor the number of page visits and bounce rate of their site to measure success.
These metrics can be important, but only in context of your broader goals.
If you goal is to raise $100,000 through your website, wouldn’t you want to track the money coming in instead of the page visits?
Of course you would!
The same is true if your nonprofit goal is to recruit more volunteers, members or acquire more donors.
I often think that organizations fall in love with these headline metrics because they’re not sure what else to measure. And, they like the big numbers!
Luckily, we’re here to help your team get out of that habit.
Establish Your Nonprofit Outcomes and Work Backwards
The best way to establish a good measurement plan is to start at the end result and work backwards.
Using a nonprofit logic model can be a powerful tool to provide structure to your business goals and define your measurement needs.
To summarize how this works, let’s look at an example from the logic model post that we linked to above.
EXAMPLE ORGANIZATION (We made this up): Clean-up And Restoration Team (CART) is a volunteer-driven environmental clean-up and restoration organization that uses volunteer labor to clean-up locations that have been left polluted by industrial companies. With volunteer crews they clean-up these locations and restore them using native species of plants.
You can see how the outcomes and outputs relate below.
Outputs are what we want to measure. Outputs represent the things that your business needs to generate on your website and other marketing channels to generate the outcomes you want to create.
Write down the outputs you need. These are going to be one set of KPI’s that we want to record.
Don't forget that outcomes should be measured as well. These often tell the best story.
For CART, they could measure the number of acres of restored Habitat. They could also measure the the miles of streams that have been affected by the land clean-up. Sometimes these larger numbers can be more difficult to come by, so make sure that you're recording these project successes somewhere. They tell a great story!
With any business goal, there will be actions that individuals take that relate to your activities and key outputs, and there will be actions that people take that represent a step towards that ultimate outcome.
For instance, with CART one of their key activities is recruiting volunteers.
However, they also know from analyzing their data, that one out of five individuals that signs-up for their enewsletter on their website will eventually become a volunteer.
So, you could see why they want to measure both, right?
These are referred to macro-conversions and micro-conversions.
Macro-conversions have direct impact on your business goals. Micro-conversions may lead to an eventual macro-conversion.
To follow along with our example, CART has 3 macro conversions:
Clean-up sites Available
Active Volunteer Leaders
Here are some potential micro-conversions:
Volunteer Orientation Attendees
Volunteer Leader Application Submissions
Interested Clean-up Location Form Submissions
You can see how these micro-conversions are indicators of opportunities that could turn into macro-conversions. But, these two are necessarily not directly related.
Tips to Measure More Effectively in Google Analytics
Once you have established your micro- and macro-conversions, it’s time to create the conversion goals in Google Analytics.
If you haven’t already, setting up Google Analytics goals in your account is a must. Remember at the beginning when we said that we should ignore the headline metrics? That’s because goals are the bread and butter of your organization’s success. So, we need to set them up.
Here are a few tips for better measurement:
1. Assign a Value to Macro-Conversions: Even if you don’t think your conversion has an explicit dollar value, it’s important to think hard about this.
In the case of CART, you may assume that volunteers have no value. They do!
How many hours is a volunteer shift? Multiply that by the amount you might pay a laborer to do that work. That’s the value of a volunteer sign-up.
Value of Volunteer = Length of Shift x Assumed Wage
Once you start to see this value, you will start to understand that your marketing efforts are generating value for the company.
And, if you are advertising, you’ll be able to establish return on investment (ROI) on your ad spend.
2. Use Campaign Tracking in Your External Marketing Channels: Google has a nifty feature called campaign tracking, or UTM tags. This allows you to add pieces of data into links that you use in social media, emails, or anywhere that give rich insight into where your conversions are coming from.
Why does this matter?
By parsing out your marketing efforts, you will have real visibility into which marketing channel and effort is helping you generate the outputs your company needs.
This allows you to focus your efforts and prioritize your work.
Why is Data Important for Marketing and Communications?
Too often we think of data as being internal facing. It helps us make decisions about the effectiveness of our programs. It influences budgeting and business decisions.
The truth is that data is also critical to your outward facing communications, and telling your impact story.
All nonprofits have a vision for how they will affect the world. That vision is what will initially attract your supporters - it's the "why" that gets them hooked on your mission. But, showing impact is what will keep funders and supporters coming back time after time.
It's great to have an inspirational story, but if you want to scale your impact, you need to show funders and supporters that you're work is making a difference at a larger level. Data tells that story.
Consider the difference between these two impact statements:
In 2018, CART empowered community volunteers to restore abandoned industrial waste sites and helped restore the quality of our drinking water.
This is fine, but relies on the anecdotal. Were there just 10 volunteers? Did they only do one project? If so, that's not really that impressive. There's no expression of real impact here.
Compare that to:
In 2018, CART empowered 20,000 community volunteers to restore more than 1,200 square miles of abandoned industrial waste sites (that’s the size of Rhode Island!) and helped restore the quality of our drinking water to over a million people!
Wow! Now that's scale....
Not only does measurement tell the impact story better, it also shows funders and supporters that your organization is sophisticated enough to be able to measure. It shows them that you're taking a methodical and calculated approach to your mission.
If you can then back-up this measurement with a great story, then you have a winning communications formula.
Develop a Nonprofit Culture of Data
Now that you understand the process of turning business goals into measurable outputs. How do we make this matter on a day-to-day basis?
This is a tough question. Establishing a culture of data is not something that happens overnight. There are key elements to help your organization make this transition.
The role of data should be recognized at every level of your organization. And, the access to data needs to be democratized.
If you have a data analyst at your organization, then you can’t expect them to be the gatekeeper to all data.
Leaders, directors, managers and interns all need to be able to make decisions around data.
Once everyone is onboard, carve out time at your department and staff meetings to talk about what you’re seeing in your data.
Decision Making Process
When everyone has access to the data, decision making processes should follow similar models to what we’ve talked about above.
What are the outcomes we want? What are the outputs needed for that? What are the inputs needed to get there? How do we expect that to show in the data we currently have?
By starting with an outcome and then building a strategy, you can track your efforts more closely.
Don’t be afraid to fail! Rather than putting your head in the sand if the data shows that your efforts didn’t pan out, use the data to figure out why it didn’t turn out.
Refine your approach and try again.
Madness is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Data helps us do things differently.
Build Tools That Provide Access to Data
In order to put the power of data in everyone’s hands, it’s important to build tools that they can use on their own.
Luckily, Google Analytics allows you to build dashboards that anyone on your team can access. It also allows you to automatically email these on a regular basis to the whole team. This gives everyone direct access to the latest information.
The second option is using Google Data Studio.
In addition to pulling in GA data, Google Data Studio will allow you to pull in data from a number of different services like email services providers and social media platforms. It can serve as your central data dashboard.
I get it. There are million things going on at your organization, and this may not be top of your list.
However, it’s important to take the first step in this process. Bring it up at your next meeting, or frame your next conversation with your team based on data that you see taking place on the website.
Framing your conversation in this way may spark a larger conversation around our biases to make decisions based on gut and not proof. That can be a powerful place to start.
How to Increase Donor Retention with Automated Welcome Series
The need to boost donor retention is necessary to keep your nonprofit organization up and running. This is one fact we can’t ignore.
Cultivating a strong and lasting relationship with donors proves valuable for nonprofit organizations in acquiring funds and creating a community of supporters.
There are several ways nonprofits can increase donor retention and one of those is by optimizing the power of email marketing automation. But before we delve deeper into how you can implement automated welcome emails, let’s first run through on the foundational pieces.
Email marketing is critical to the success of nonprofit fundraising.
Given its effectiveness in generating ROI, email marketing is an important channel of communication for nonprofits to connect and engage with donors and supporters. In contrast to other channels, email marketing is inexpensive, and more and more donors are growing comfortable with completing donations online.
Communication is of high importance for nonprofits. Email marketing lets your organization thank donors, entice more volunteers to join, and spread your mission to a wider audience with ease through tailored, auto-generated emails. This way, you can focus more on your goals and less on online engagement.
Another thing to highlight is…
The importance of increasing donor retention in your organization.
Acquiring first-time donors is both time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, cultivating relationships with existing donors is essential in keeping them more involved with and connected to your mission.
A recent study showed that only 46% of donors have given to the same organization two years in a row - a figure that signifies there’s more room to level up your donor retention strategy and bring in more funds down the line.
If you focus more of your efforts on a strong retention program, you spend fewer resources, gain more sustainable funding, and can increase your organizational productivity.
Boost your donor retention with email marketing automation.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: email marketing is one of the most effective methods in generating ROI, as well as connecting and engaging your organization with the right audience.
Email marketing helps you build and nurture genuine, two-way relationships with your donors.
How do you make it work for your organization?
Optimizing email marketing by using automated email series as part of your donor retention strategy holds the key to increasing the number on your donor’s list.
Automated email series can help increase your donor retention.
Suppose you have new supporters who just donated. The first thing you would want to do is to make them feel welcome right away. How do you do this? By sending a series of automated welcome emails.
The first few messages you send to your new contacts are crucial because one, it sets expectations about your organization and two, it paves the way in keeping your donors committed to the cause.
The beauty of automated emails is that you don’t have to do it manually, thus saving precious staff bandwidth. You only have to set the stage once, key in certain user actions (or triggers), and the relevant email will automatically send once a contact has taken action.
Think of it like having a direct dialogue with both your current and prospective donors at the right moments.
By now you might want to start rolling out your automated welcome email series. But first, you should know what to send.
You can start your automated welcome series with…
A welcome and thank you message
You should send the first email immediately - after they sign up or donate - or within 48 hours the latest. It’s clear what this email should be about, which is to welcome and thank the donor for their gift.
This email is also a good way to reinforce the fact that their donation is helping your nonprofit make an impact.
A follow-up email that informs and engages
Give your donors the opportunity to get to know more about your organization, its mission, and current and planned activities. Showcase the impact of their donation on your efforts through interesting information about your work.
It’s important to let your donors know what their gift is making possible. It opens an opportunity to further inform your donors of the kind of work you’re doing and how their donation helps. You can also ask your donors a question or invite them to follow you on social media.
Sending follow up emails can go a long way in establishing loyalty and support for your organization.
This email by charity:water is a perfect example of an email that informs and engages with the recipient.
A story with impact
Nothing gets someone’s attention or interest better than a good story. Share compelling stories you’ve encountered along the way, stories of people whose lives were changed, stories of how your team works to achieve your organization’s goal.
Show your supporters your progress and accomplishments made possible with their help. Share your success with them.
An invitation to stay involved
After some weeks of connecting and engaging with your donors, it’s time to present them with other opportunities to engage. You can invite them to your events, inform them of different volunteer work, or open the opportunity to donate again.
Invite them to be more involved and engaged. Doing so makes them feel that they’re part of your mission and your work.
Just don’t spam them with donation appeals. You wouldn’t want to give them the impression that it’s all about getting a donation.
The one thing to keep in mind when doing your automated welcome series is to make it personal. Your welcome emails should be short, sweet and interesting to keep your donors engaged.
Before you start planning your welcome email series, come up with a checklist of the important things to do and consider first.
Below are some key ways to optimize your automated welcome emails to further increase your donor retention.
1. Segment your audience.
Not everyone in your list has the same motive when they give. Their first moment of contact with your organization, as well as their interests and attributes, vary. Use segmentation to send the right email to the right person at the right time. If you segment your nonprofit’s list, you get to deliver relevant content and reach more donors effectively.
2. Understand donor’s motivations.
Aside from using segmentation and creating a compelling subject line to grab your donor’s interest, you can go deeper by understanding their motivations and priorities in joining your cause. This study will help you identify five main reasons people give - also known by the acronym T.A.S.T.E.
Trust. Emphasize the idea among your donors that your nonprofit will make the best use of the resources they gave. You can reinforce this in your subject line emails to start with.
Altruism.An altruistic concern for the wellbeing of others may be the most powerful reason that compels people to donate or volunteer. You can include photos of your nonprofit’s actual work in your welcome email series.
Social. One of the motivating factors for donors to give is when a loved one cares about or is involved in the cause. Use testimonials or stories from your staff, volunteers, or people you’ve helped to emphasize the impact of their donation.
Taxes. Charitable gifts often qualify for tax deductions so consider stressing this point as you approach the end of the year. Create targeted campaigns around the holiday season to generate awareness and drive donations.
Egoism. This refers to the positive feelings that linger on people when they display charitable behavior. Make your donors feel like they’ve done a good deed in your welcome email series.
3. Optimize your welcome email campaigns.
Test and review what works for your emails and then use the results to improve your fundraising campaigns. It’s important to personalize your nonprofit’s message and segment your audiences.
Don’t just ask for donations. Raising funds might be the biggest challenge most charities face, but it’s not ideal when people associate your emails with an ask. You can create and send different types of content that cover a variety of topics - expressing gratitude to donors, telling specific stories with emotions, showing the effects of their donation, inviting them to be involved, and so on.
The Canadian Red Cross informs their audience about the many ways data and tech can make it easier to help those in need. At the same time it also encourages their audience to like, follow and engage with their social channels.
Understanding the value of donor retention and how email marketing can boost it helps you come up with a strong retention strategy that will grow and maintain your list of supporters. Setting up and sending automated welcome emails lets you cultivate and nurture the early stages of your relationship with donors, which will then lead to a strong belief and loyalty in your organization.
Jericho Gonzales is a Content Marketing Specialist at Campaign Monitor. After seven years of being unhappy with his career in the financial industry, he decided to follow his dreams and become a writer. Besides writing, he is also passionate about all kinds of martial arts and practices whenever he can.
How to Improve Your Email Marketing Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
At the same time, our supporters are more bombarded with email than ever before.
As a result email open rates and click through rates (CTR), have dropped dramatically over the last 5 years. According to the MailChimp benchmark report, the average email open rate for nonprofit is only 24.11%.
The same report shows that the average email click through rate is just 2.57%.
This blows my mind!
To put it another way, 97.43% of people on your list will not take action when you send them an email. Ouch!
The good news is there are specific strategies to overcome these problems.
What is a Click Through Rate (CTR)?
Measuring your marketing efforts is the most important thing you can do in order to get better and more efficient.
Click through rate, is one of the most important things to be measuring.
Put simply, if you send an email to 100 people, and 10 people click on a link in that email, you will have a Click Through Rate, or CTR, of 10%.
Why is Click Through Rate so important?
To understand the importance of CTR, let’s look a fictious example.
Let’s say our nonprofit is looking to raise a $10,000 online.
If you send an email to 2,000 supporters and you get a CTR of 5%, 100 people will donate as a result of that email. Let’s assume that everyone that clicks also donates (this is not usually the case and an effective donation page has a huge influence on this, but for the sake of example, we’ll keep it simple...).
For this example, each user donates $50.
This campaign would gross $5,000.
Now, let’s say that same email campaign, was able to achieve a CTR of 10% instead of 5%. This time 200 people donate. Again, or average donation is $50.
This time we met our goals of $10,000.
We doubled our revenue by simply increasing our CTR.
So, you can now see why as marketers and fundraisers we should be so focused on our CTR.
The most powerful lever that you have as a marketer to drive action is your understanding of your audience.
Most nonprofits have several distinct personas that they are speaking to. Each persona, or audience has a motivation, or topic of interest that originally brought them to your organization.
You need to know what that motivation is, and leverage it in your email marketing.
How do you do this?
There are several ways.
First, it’s important to capture their motivation when they initially sign-up for your email list. You can use email marketing automation to capture this information, or use checkboxes on your sign-up form to capture this.
Once you capture this information, use it to segment your email lists based on those motivations or interests.
Most Email Service Providers (ESP's) or CRM’s will allow you to tag your constituents with this information.
Once segmented, use this knowledge to your advantage.
If you know a donor is motivated by your work saving the polar bears, frame your email to them using that motivation.
If you can identify several different areas to segment your donors, then use those segments to develop your email campaigns, your CTR will increase dramatically.
The Secret Sauce to Crafting Better Email Subject Lines
Your first battle in email marketing is to get the user to open the email. If they open your email, then they're one step closer to clicking on your email content.
It sounds simple, but it’s not as simple as you think.
As we said at the beginning, nonprofit industry average for email open rates is just 24.11%.
Here are a few tips to constructing a better subject line to beat that average.
Mystery – Don’t give it all away up front. Leave the user wanting to know more. For example:
“A Special Offer Awaits You!”
“Your Next Opportunity is Here!”
Utility – Email can be an escape or quick win for people as much as it is a necessity. Make the email something that can help the user with their day. For example:
“A Quick Win for You Today!”
“We Can Help You Do More”
Use “You” – Make it personal. Especially in today’s world, making your message personal gets a much better response. As often as possible use “You” in the subject line. For example:
“An Idea for You”
“A Gift For You”
Time – Research has shown that anything that uses time reference is going to inherently increase open rates. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “today” or “tomorrow.” You can also use days of the week. For example:
“This Sunday Things Will Change for You”
“What’s Special About Today?”
Avoid Opportunistic Tone – People don’t like to feel hustled. You may need to test the boundaries on this as it is a fine line, but you want to sound authentic and natural. So, for instance:
“Time is Running Out” (NO)
“It’s Important That We Remember…” (YES!)
There is a fine line here, but it’s important to get this right. You can put supporters off quickly if you sound pushy or like we’re hustling them.
Tips to Write Compelling Email Content to Improve CTR
Once you've got your audience to open the email, how do we improve the clicks? Here are a few tactics.
Leave a Little Mystery - Don't tell the user the entire story. Leave something that they need to click through to find out more.
If you're showcasing how one of your programs changed a client's life, setup the problem they face, but don't reveal the struggle to victory. Use the copy, or better yet video, on your website to tell the rest of the story.
Users are more likely to click through if they don't have all of the information yet. Make them want to click through!
Keep Your Copy Focused - Don't write a novel. People today are distracted (squirrel!), and they don't have a lot of time. Keep the email copy to no more than 3 paragraphs. And, a paragraph should be 2-3 short sentences max.
Focus on Audience Motivations - We mentioned that segmentation is a powerful tool. Make sure you're using your understanding of users to craft copy that specific to them. Don't send the same email to your entire list. Segment your list by motivation, and craft your copy based around this.
For instance, if you have a program that saves the polar bears, and you have a donor segment that love polar bears, send them an email with copy specific to your polar bear program, not your marsh restoration program.
Makes sense, right?
Use Buttons for Call To Actions - Most ESP's provide an option in their editing interface to add call to action buttons in your copy. There's a reason for this. They're WAY more effective in driving action.
Now in its eighth year, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season each November by encouraging global giving via social media. It’s a collaborative effort between nonprofits and civic organizations, small businesses and large corporations—not to mention the driving generosity of families and individuals. (Over $380 million was raised online, this year alone!)
Want to be a part of that magic? We’ve revisited some of this year’s most memorable campaigns and taken note of five elements they all had in common:
5. They were strategic.
Example: Facebook, in partnership with Paypal, matched donations to US-based nonprofits (up to $7 million) on #GivingTuesday. Organizations using Facebook’s ‘Charitable Giving Tools’ paid no fees and were treated to new features, such as recurring donations and updated reporting. By leveraging the social media giant’s offer, nonprofits raised over $125 million.
4. They showed passion.
Example: BarkBox, a canine-centric subscription service, made their followers a simple but powerful offer on #GivingTuesday: For every new subscription, they would donate a BarkBox to a rescue/shelter pup in need. To emphasize this opportunity, they added a video of homeless dogs receiving new treats and toys.
Needless to say, hearts melted and wallets opened.
3. They joined forces with likeminded partners.
Example: Normally, a dollar donated to Feeding America provides at least 10 meals to families in need—but on #GivingTuesday? The Kroger Co. Foundation stepped in to double the impact in support of their Zero Hunger | Zero Waste program. That makes at least 20 meals provided for every dollar raised!
2. They teamed up with influencers.
Example: HGTV superstars Drew and Jonathan Scott—in partnership with Lyft and Nissan—marked #GivingTuesday by taking their celebrity friends for a spin in Habitat for Humanity’s cleverly branded vehicle. The ‘Give Habitat a Lift’ campaign tapped into the popularity of in-car videos as celebs discussed what home means to them and the importance of Habitat’s mission.
1. They were creative.
Example: Just in time for #GivingTuesday, World Vision introduced a new, interactive pop-up shop in New York's Bryant Park. Activities like pictures with a goat, a working water pump, and an African virtual reality experience allowed families to see and feel the mission firsthand. They were then invited to shop for gifts that give back, with all proceeds going to benefit people served by World Vision around the world.
#GivingTuesday is all about finding fun ways to collaborate for the greater good. If you can harness that spirit of giving, you can meet (and surpass!) any fundraising goal.
If you haven’t built your nonprofit personas yet, start there.
Once you have defined your personas, you know what they are seeking from you, and how you communicate that value to them.
Common motivations can be:
Seeking thought leadership or industry information
Seeking to participate in a community of like-minded people
Seeking to be a part of a larger impact
Seeking to be a connector or influencer in their community
Ask yourself, "is there a particular topic that motivates them?"
Like Captain Planet, these elements combined are more powerful than they are on their own.
Use this knowledge to deliver content and make an ask in context of their interests.
Create Great Content
After you understand your audience, start to produce content you know they will value.
What do we mean by content?
Most people immediately think about blog posts and stories. That can be a good start, but think about other options.
What about reports, trainings, videos, access to information, communities or individuals? All of this “content” can provide value to your users.
Stories are great, but mix it up a bit!
Building a Pop-up the Right Way…
It’s almost impossible to go to a website anymore without immediately being bombarded with pop-ups.
When’s the last time you went to a website for the first time and immediately put in your email to a form to receive “updates.”
My guess is not recently.
That’s because this is not the right way to build an effective pop-up.
Here’s the right way:
Make the ask contextual – This means, if a user is on a page about your programs with global warming, a pop-up should acknowledge that. “Receive our latest research paper on the impacts of Global Warming in the United States.” Doesn’t that sound a lot more interesting than signing up for general updates.
Don’t ask too early, or too often – There are lots of ways to control the appearance of pop-ups. Use it! You can dramatically increase success rate when you show pop-ups later in a users time on page. Research has even suggested that you shouldn’t show a pop-up until the second time an user has visited your site.
Use Humor – Every organization has their own voice, but research has shown that using humor can be a great way to stop users from the knee-jerk that we all have from being overwhelmed by pop-ups every time we go to a new site. Make people pause, and you will be surprised at the results.
Use Yes/No Language – One way that marketers have started to catch users’ eyes in this process is to have a “yes” button and a “no” button on pop-ups. Research has shown that individuals are hardwired to want to click “yes” with statements that they agree with. Many people have used the “no” button to instill some humor, but also some gravity to the decision.
Here’s a great example:
Use Landing Pages
In addition to using pop-ups, the use of landing pages has been shown to increase conversion rates drastically when using best practices.
Landing pages are great for content offerings, event sign-ups, volunteer experiences, membership sign-ups and so much more.
If you don’t have a landing page template that you can leverage on your site, you should consider taking the time to add one. They are powerful!
Landing pages allow users to focus in specifically on the offer at hand, and remove distractions from their experience, which helps drive conversion rates.
Homepage Sign-up Box
Most sites see upwards of 20-40% of traffic come through their homepage.
This is not just new traffic. A lot of returning traffic will come through your homepage as well.
This is a great location to ask, but again, it’s important to have a value proposition here.
If you for instance have a report that you put out each year, have the download call to action on your homepage. Give it some visual weight so it’s easy for users to find.
Ask On Your Donation Confirmation Page
An commonly undervalued place to ask for a sign-up is a confirmation page.
This could be the confirmation page when someone submits a contact message, or a question or any other action on your site.
Once a user takes one action, they are more likely to engage with your nonprofit in another way.
Don’t miss an opportunity to capture their attention on a confirmation page. Make an ask on your confirmation page!
9 More Nonprofit List Building Ideas
Email only access to content – gate off an important page on your site and only allow users to view that content by submitting their email.
Webinars or trainings – Do you have knowledge that others want? Do a webinar or training and collect their information. Follow-up with an automated email series on the topic to engage them further and gain permission to continue communications with them.
Offline events – are you holding a fundraiser or outing? This is a great time to open up communications by email.
Petitions – If you’re an advocacy organization, use petitions as a way to build your nonprofit email list.
Peer to peer fundraising – Use this opportunity to capture users’ hearts and minds. Never miss a chance for a good friend-raiser.
Online community – Do your supporters seek community or want to get regular updates about an online community? Capture users’ information through sign-ups and deliver highlights from the community to them.
QR codes at tabling events or outdoor ads – use QR codes on traditional marketing materials to send users to a landing page where they can sign-up for more information or a special offer.
Contests for SWAG or other give away – Give aways are a great way to build your email list. Note that people may provide fake emails, so be sure that there is some way to make sure they send you their real email.
Social media – Put a sign-up form on social media and promote it through your posts. Include some incentive like exclusive content access, giveaways or exclusive access to something you know they’d value.
A Note on List Hygiene
I get it. It’s painful to lose people off of your list. But, list hygiene is a really important part of having success with email marketing.
What is list hygiene?
To summarize, email providers (example gmail) will flag your emails as spam if their users consistently flag or ignore your emails arriving in their inboxes.
How do you keep your list clean to improve deliverability?
If an email bounces, remove it immediately.
Once a year, we also recommend pulling a report of anyone that has not opened one of your emails in a year or 18 month period.
Send them an email that addresses it directly. Do you want to still hear from us?
If they do, great! If not, then I’d recommend removing them from your list.
First, you may be paying for sending these individuals emails that they aren't opening. Many email service providers charge on a per-email-sent basis. So, why are you paying to send emails to users that aren't opening them?
Secondly, these users may have marked you as spam, or their email service provider may be automatically marking your messages as spam. Either way, you don’t want your email account rated poorly by these providers. It will cause problems getting messages to users that are actually engaged with you.
You’ve Built Your List… How do You Keep People Engaged?
One of the best ways to keep your users engaged is to use a drip email campaign that starts as soon as they sign-up. This is also often referred to as a nonprofit email welcome series.
Email automation, when done right will help you retain your users longer by reinforcing the choice they made to engage with you.
If done right, a welcome series will also arm you with information about what the user is interested in, so you can continue to deliver valuable content that is customized to their interests.
That's where data from Google Analytics and Facebook play an important role.
In addition to filling in the gaps, data can also confirm findings from other research methods. You may even be surprised by some of the trends and behaviors that pop-up in your data.
If you’re only looking at pageviews, traffic growth, and Facebook Page Likes, you’re missing the full story.
We've all been there... looking at Google Analytics and Facebook reports can be overwhelming.
So much data! How do you know what matters?
This guide is here to help you get started sorting through what matters and how to use the data effectively.
By setting up just a few simple reports we can dig deep into data that will help you learn more about your donors, volunteers, members and other target audiences, so that your communications efforts can be more effective.
Use Segments To Compare Behavior and Find Trends
Google Analytics segments are a way to look at discrete user groups based on demographics, type of device, location, behavior and a lot more.
Why is this important?
Take a look at this example of our client’s data.
This data shows that over 865 conversions took place on their site from traffic that originated on Facebook.
In comparison, traffic that originated on Twitter converted just 12 times!
Clearly, their ideal audience is spending time on Facebook, not Twitter. This is critical information when making campaign decisions, right?
How do you use segments?
At the top of almost every report, you’ll see an area where you can add segments. Choose the ones you want to compare, then click apply.
Segments may be one of the most important features that you can use when doing research.
It's important to realize that this process is about looking for trends and anomalies. Not all reports are going to give you a nugget of information. But, keep digging and you can find incredible insights.
Take some time to explore the different segments that are available. You can also make custom segments.
Some other popular segments that Google Analytics provides out of the box are:
Pro Tip: Segment Traffic By Conversions
When researching your target users, you should be looking for users that have completed a transaction or taken an action on your website to engage with you.
This could be a donation, volunteer sign-up, newsletter sign-up, or any other action you want users to take on your site.
These are the people you want to target, right?
In Google Analytics these are referred to as "conversions."
When performing research, we use segment to learn trends and behaviors that are specific to your audience.
After segmenting by converting traffic, think about the following questions:
What external marketing channels do they come from?
How often do they come back to the website?
What pages do they land on?
What topics are they interested in?
What actions do they take before they convert?
Hacks to Find Donor and Volunteer Demographics
Now that you understand how to use segments, you can segment to learn a lot about your target audience.
Demographics are critical to getting your messaging and campaigns strategy correctly.
Compare the campaign strategy for communicating with a 60+ year old versus a 30 year old. Different channels. Different messages. Different asks.
Demographic information lays the bedrock for much of what we do in communications.
You may already have a pretty good grasp on your donor and volunteer demographics based on other research that you’ve done. But are you getting the full picture?
How do you know your intuition is accurate?
Use Facebook Audience Insights to Perform Donor Research
Facebook Insights is a little-known tool in Facebook that will provide all kinds of amazing information about people that like your Facebook page or have interests in your mission.
In addition to demographic information like age, marital status, and education, Facebook Audience Insights will tell you about their additional interests so you can start to put together a full picture of your personas.
It can also help you identify potential strategic partnerships.
Go to your Facebook Ads Manager. You can find the Audience Insights in the main menu under Plan.
Once on the page, add your page name into field “People Connected to” field.
This will bring up your audience information. In addition to age, gender, marital status and education level, you can find out location information and additional page likes.
We like to focus on additional Page Likes, as this can tell you a lot of additional information about their interests.
Use Google Analytics Demographics Information
Google Analytics has also developed an interface for analyzing demographic information of users visiting your website.
Some information, like location, has always been available.
However, more recently, Google has given us information on things like age, gender and interests.
Google does not have access to this data on all users, so it is not nearly as accurate as Facebook. Regardless, Google Analytics can be a nice compliment to that information.
Find this information under Audiences -> Overview.
How Should You Use Google Analytics Demographic Data?
Demographics are one of the foundations for understanding your users.
If you don’t understand your nonprofit “customer” (meaning donor, members, clients, etc.) then your marketing campaigns aren’t going to be successful.
Here are a few ways we’ve used this information to develop personas with clients:
Demographic data will help you create your almighty donor and client personas that underpin your marketing efforts.
Location data focuses your campaign approach. One of the advantages of digital marketing is that you can fish in a targeted area of the ocean, rather than casting a wide net to see where you might find fish.
Location data allows you to identify new locations where you might expand your marketing efforts and find new constituents. It also allows you to see how campaigns in particular locations might be lifting your overall performance (think radio PSA, billboard, newspaper ad or article).
Don't forget that all of this is in context of your work.
Perhaps you're wondering if your target audience is urban or rural.
Perhaps you're interested in knowing what regions you need to target for an acquisition campaign.
What are some creative ways you can use this data in your marketing efforts?
Using Event Tracking To Understand Behavior
Google Analytics events are ways to track behavior on your site that may not be business critical, but do show user engagement or behavior trends.
In particular, it can help you understand how users are engaging with content topics and how users are using your user interface.
Here are some common events that we setup on client sites:
Page Scroll Tracking. Using a tool like Google Tag Manager you can setup events to fire based on how far down the page users scroll.
This can help you learn more about how users are navigating your landing page, or you can use this to find out which blog posts are getting the most engagement. This could help you adjust content strategy and the topics of your content.
Video Watching. Events can also be fired when users what a video. This would give you insights into which videos are most popular, and the topics that resonate most with your users.
Track UI calls to action. For example, let’s say that you have a banner image on your homepage with a button that has a main call to action.
You can track the number of times that users click on that button versus using the main navigation to get to a location on your site. You could do the same thing for sidebar call to action buttons, etc. Again, these are not main conversions, but it would inform you how users are navigating your site.
Using Traffic Channel Analysis to Research Your Target Audience
How is traffic coming to your website? More importantly, which traffic is most engaged and converting on your website?
You can see an overview of traffic by channel under Acquisition -> Overview in Google Analytics.
Use Traffic Channel Segments to Dig Deeper
Instead of using the overview report, I prefer to use segments and compare behaviors.
Some questions that are helpful to ask yourself:
Which channels drive the most conversions?
Which channels drive the most engagement with content?
Does a particular channel drive most of the conversions for one goal? Meaning do volunteer sign-ups come from Twitter, but donations come from Facebook? If so, this can lead to two distinct personas.
Are there clear demographic patterns based on channel?
Use Organic Search and CPC Campaigns to Learn More
When you connect Search Console and your Google Grants account, Google Analytics will provide really powerful information about what users were searching before they landed on your site.
Why does this matter?
Search queries can provide a really clear view into a user’s motivations and concerns.
If you can connect traffic to search queries and behaviors, then this can help you model your target audience's motivations and concerns.
If you have connected these services to your Google Analytics account, go to Acquisition -> Search Console -> Queries to see organic search queries.
You can see your Google Grants data by going to Acquisitions -> Google Ads -> Search Queries
Create your personas with a group of colleagues. Each individual in your organization has a unique experience with your personas, therefore a unique perspective. Bring those experiences together to build a 360 degree view of who your persona is.
Spend a minimum of 20-30 minutes per persona. It’s worth taking time to get the details right. Don’t assume anything, and make sure your assumptions are backed up by data and survey results.
Think outside the box. Don’t just hone in on donors. Think about strategic partners, press, clients, board members and others.
How to Create Donor Personas Using Stakeholder Interviews and Surveys
Building donor personas can be challenging if you don’t clearly understand your audience motivations.
We hear from our clients all the time: “I don’t know all of our donors in a one-on-one capacity, so how can I figure out their motivations?” This is a legitimate question.
This is where using both stakeholder interviews and surveys can help.
The benefit of these strategies is that they give you data directly from the source that can help you build out your marketing personas in order to build better messaging and campaigns.
How Stakeholder Interview Help Build Donor Personas
Stakeholder interviews can be with any type of constituent - donors, board members, strategic partners, and all types of audiences. The goal of stakeholder interviews can vary a lot.
In addition to gathering information about the individual and their relationship to the organization, interviews can be a great time to get feedback on messaging and brand ideas.
When you’re using stakeholder interviews to build a persona, you want to get at the heart of their motivations. Remember you are going to use that motivational information to build the persona, and eventually your marketing messaging.
Some examples of questions that can help get to the bottom of motivations are:
How did you originally find our organization?
What attracted you to our work, and why have you stuck around?
What do you think the most critical element of our work is?
Where do you see us making the biggest impact over the next 5 years? Why is that important to you?
There are a lot of different types of questions that you can ask based on what the goals of this interview are.
One huge benefit to interviews, is that they are a powerful engagement tactic with donors, partners or anyone else you want to build a relationship with.
Think about it...
First, asking to interview someone shows that you care about what they think.
This gives them a bit of prestige. They are a special person in the mind of your organization. That makes them feel good.
Second, it’s in our human nature to like to talk about our opinions.
Rather than sharing their opinions or gripes at the family dinner table, this stakeholder has special access to you! What they share with you may change the course of the organization, its brand or its work. Who knows!
Lastly, it gives you a chance to share the organization’s vision with a constituent. If you’ve ever seen Simon Sinek’s TedTalk on the importance of “why” then you know that donors that share your organizational vision will become loyal supporters.
Using Surveys to Build Personas
Not everyone has time to do a one-on-one interview with your organization.
Surveys are a great way to collect a large amount of data from people across your organizational ecosystem without a lot of staff bandwidth.
Remember surveys don’t have to be a million questions long.
In fact, I recommend you keep the number of questions between 5 - 10. This allows users to feel helpful by taking the survey without taking up their entire day. Most users are not going to be able to take more than 2-3 minutes to take a survey.
Note that this example has all freeform responses. We tried to keep it general for the example, but for your organization, you may want to use multiple choice to get data that is easily analyzed.
However, if you want to provide more freedom for donors, you can stick with freeform responses.
A good way to analyze freeform responses is copy all of the responses and drop them into a word cloud provider like WordClouds.com. This will help visualize the results of freeform text.
Here's one we did with BaconIpsum text.
If you survey frequently, as you should, you don’t need to make them long, because you may be focused on just one topic for each survey.
Where to Use Surveys in Your Marketing
Surveys are powerful because you can use them for so many different purposes.
They can help you assess brand messaging, the effectiveness of events, the effectiveness of your website, and much more.
For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on why surveys are critical to building personas.
Additionally, a survey, as you’ll see below, can be used to segment your supporters as an onboarding engagement tactic so you can deliver a customized experience.
If you’re starting out with no personas for your organization try to think about how to phrase surveys in a way that will bring motivation to light. You can ask questions like:
What is the biggest problem that our community faces today is: [freeform response]
What is the biggest impact that [your org name] provides in our community: [freeform response]
In addition to motivation, it is important to ask questions that will help with your campaign tactics. By this I mean, where can you find more of these same types of supporters.
So, questions like this can be helpful:
How did you first hear about our organization?
Why did you want to get involved in our work?
When you’re planning acquisition campaigns, questions like these will help you identify what channels will be most effective in acquiring more supporters, and what type of messaging to use in the campaigns.
You may be thinking: “Where should we deploy surveys to get the best results?”
Here are a few ideas:
Have a stand alone survey that you send to donors by email once a year
Include a survey on your donation thank you page
Use website pop-ups for engaged users to answer 1-2 questions about the content their consuming
Use the Facebook polling tool to get information and engage your social followers
Recommended Tools for Surveys
There are a lot of different tools out there that can get you started with surveys. Here are a few ideas:
SurveyMonkey - You may have heard of this service before. It’s probably the most popular and well known survey provider. SurveyMonkey allows you to build free surveys up to 10 questions, and you can embed them on your website. They also have great reporting!
TypeForm - This is another popular survey provider that has similar features to Survey Monkey, and provides a Freemium model. You can build free surveys up to 10 questions and 100 responses per month. TypeForm integrates well with services like Google Sheets and MailChimp, so you could use these surveys to build reports or automated marketing campaigns.
Google Survey - As with everything Google, this is a simple and useful product. They do charge 10 cents per survey completed. So, be aware that there is a cost. But, the surveys are easy to create and really simple to embed on your website.
Your CRM (Warning: can be POWERFUL!) - Many CRM’s have a way to create web-to-lead forms which can be used to take surveys or add data to a CRM user profile. This means that if you were surveying someone that already exists in your CRM, the survey answers would be stored in your CRM.
Why is the CRM method so powerful?
Imagine using your survey in a welcome series to new donors. If you were able to use surveys to find their biggest motivations, than you could tailor content to that individual.
Let’s say through surveys you find a donor is more interested in your program X than in your program Y. Then next time you ask for a donation, tailor the ask to support program X.
Talk about improving response rate!
What to do next…
First, make sure you avoid implementation paralysis. We recommend getting your team together and start to think about what personas are priority based on your organization’s goals.
Meaning, if you’re ramping up a partnership program this year, prioritize doing some surveys and stakeholder interviews with partners and potential partners. This will give you a strong foundation of understanding before you do your big marketing push.
Second, take your survey and interview findings and build personas.
Why is this important?
Not only will writing this out clarify your thinking, but it will also serve as an internal document that your whole organization can work from. If program managers are working with a particular persona, this document will help them build better relationships with their target personas.
Finally, after you’ve built a persona, start to work on your messaging.
Think about content tone, and start to put together your elevator pitch using, what we call the problem and solution statement formula.
Once you have some really good messaging, start to test it. You can use stakeholder interviews or surveys to test messaging as well! Or use a/b testing in emails, on your website or through advertising to test the effectiveness of your messages.
Avoid Implementation Paralysis: 8 Steps to Turning Nonprofit Strategy Into Campaign Success
If you've done any strategic communications work, the implementation phase that follows can be challenging.
You’ve spent weeks, sometimes months, creating a comprehensive communications plan only to freeze during the campaign execution. So often, we see nonprofits create amazing marketing strategies that die in the execution phase.
The team sticks to old habits. Reacting to gut instincts instead of strategizing and relying on data. By the end of the year, you’re wondering why donations are flatlining and your campaign never took off.
We know it’s hard and there are a lot of ways things can go wrong.
So, we've created a guide to break the paralysis and build effective and lasting campaigns that meet your organizational goals.
1: Take the lead
Why do great communications plans die? Most often, it's from lack of leadership.
I'm not calling out the directors and CEO's of the nonprofit world. We're saying someone, anyone, needs be captaining the ship and taking the lead on the project.
The team lead needs to define goals and activities and make sure deadlines are met. Always ask, “who’s in charge here?”
2. Huddle Up with Other Organizational Teams
You might be captain but to deliver you need to get everyone on board. It’ll save you time and energy in the long run.
Buy in from different teams in your organization is hard, but it’s a critical element to success.
We find the best approach is asking teams about their pain points, instead of coming in trying to change things immediately.
Ask them about what their goals are, and where they are getting stuck. What audiences and personas are they trying to work with.
Additional hints on how to get everyone onboard:
Share what you've learned during your planning phase to teach them underlying communications strategy and messaging concepts. This helps open minds.
Talk through the strategy and its direction. Frame as a solution to their frustrations.
Bring together operations, development, programs, and comms teams for their big picture thoughts.
Be open to feedback and follow up with steps you’ve taken to address their ideas.
3. Do a 360° Communications Review
If you recently updated your personas or messaging, take stock of the materials and engagement strategies that you are currently using.
To see lasting change, you need to know your weaknesses. Start by doing a honest audit of your current communications materials and messaging. Here are some tips to start your review:
Review your messaging
Are we clearly stating the problem using the persona's "why"?
Does my solution statement include a compelling impact message?
Are you using jargon in your messaging?
Is my team speaking with one voice?
Review your engagement strategy
Think about acquisition and engagement. How to move your personas through an engagement pipeline. Ask questions like:
Do our materials have a compelling call to action?
Where do we find new supporters (social, events, conferences)?
What is their "why" and is it integrated into our messaging?
Get a fresh perspective
If you have worked on your messaging for too long, sometimes it's hard to spot where the gaps are. Think about bringing in a pair of fresh eyes!
Bring in a supportive, curious, and creative outsider to review your communications. You want them to make things better not just point out the gaps.
Ask your supporters (new and existing) what they think using surveys and stakeholder interviews. What excites them and what is falling flat?
4. Test your messaging
Is your best messaging falling flat?
There are a lot of ways that you can start to test new messaging to get quick feedback on your updated communications strategy. This can be even more effective if you can segment your testing based on persona. Here are a few tools to start testing.
Google Grants provides $10,000 a month in free pay per click advertising on their search interface. Start to test your messaging in your ad copy. You'll quickly start to see the winner.
We particularly like to test messaging on high-volume campaigns because that will allow you to see meaningful results quickly. Review your account and try to connect your campaigns to your personas, and start testing.
If you have some budget to pay, social ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn can also be a great way to test ads.
We recommend using an engagement campaign with content to test this messaging to cold audiences. If you have a remarketing list, or custom audience that you can target these can also be extremely effective in driving results.
Email A/B Testing
Testing email subject lines and internal copy is also an effective way to test messaging. It's even more effective when you have really great segmentation in your email lists.
When testing, compare your open rates on based on your subject line, and your click through rates for your email copy.
IMPORTANT: To get results that are significant, you should only test element at a time - subject line or email copy. Do not test both email copy and subject lines together. Then you will never know if it was the subject line or the copy that drove the results.
Website A/B Testing
Your website is also a great place to test messaging. Using tools like Google Optimize or Crazy Egg, it's really easy to test the copy on your website without spending a fortune.
When testing, try to pick pages that are critical to getting individuals to take the next step in your engagement process. This could be a campaign landing page, a program page or your homepage. To get results quickly, you need to find a page that has a lot of traffic.
5. Hold Yourself Accountable
Facing a constant concern of project drift? Even the best laid plans can drift off course. Keep yourself in check by keeping your board, funders, and constituents in the loop. They’ll trust you more if you keep them involved at every stage. Remember they care about the big picture of where you’re heading, not your task list.
Watch my Facebook interview with Rootid about how Root & Rebound successfully navigated implementation paralysis and held our teams accountable.
6. Be Realistic
After a learning experience or strategic planning experience, it's natural to feel like this is a priority to start NOW!
Then reality sets in and we realize that there are million other things going on inside of our organization.
Be practical when defining your project scope and timeline. Here are some tips on how to succeed:
Create your project team - put together a group that's no larger than 4 people together to work on the implementation. Assign roles to that team based on everyone's strengths.
One Step at a time - There's no need to change everything at once. Pick one campaign or one segment of your work, and map out a process to change the collateral, messaging and design as needed. All to often we get overwhelmed if we try to do it all at once.
Assign a project lead - The most important role in keeping things on time and moving forward is a project lead. Be clear that being a project lead doesn't mean they do all the work, they just keep tabs on what needs to be done, and who is responsible for what.
Use the right interal project tools to communicate - Email is a tough way to keep track of tasks and project progress. There are a ton of great free project management tools out there (we love Asana) that help keep communications and responsibilities clear. Find a tool that works well for you, but ditch the email!
Realistic project schedule - You know your workload best. Do your best to project an end date, then add 20% for a buffer.
7. Measure Your Success
Are you learning the right lessons or making the same mistakes?
Not only does it give us insights about where we should be spending our time and what works, it will also help us communicate our impact better.
A few things to consider:
Get Google Analytics Goals Set up - Almost everyone has Google Analytics setup, but few people have setup goals. Goals help you see when users on your website take the action you want them to (think make a donation, sign-up for email alerts, read an article, etc.). Setting up goals is critical to understanding which marketing channels and campaigns are performing best.
Google UTM Tags - These are not that well known, but Google UTM tags help us get more granular about which marketing channels are performing best during a campaign. You can then look at your data dashboard to see if your Facebook campaign, email or SEO are driving the most results. Then you can devote more resources to those channels!
Sometimes people are scared to measure because they think it will point out failure. Be realistic with your team that failure is not always bad. It merely shows that you need to make changes to what you’re doing. It’s not a disaster.
8. Maintain Engagement with Surveys & Stakeholder Interviews
Worried your audience will drop off? Make sure your content continues to resonate with your audience motivations by running surveys and stakeholder interviews. It’s a great way to keep the conversation going.