If you’re frustrated with trying to increase your donor base, strategic partnerships and membership, we have a proven tool that we use with our clients that can help.
It’s called a nonprofit logic model.
Building a nonprofit logic model will help your team target the outcomes that your mission needs to succeed (think donations, volunteers, etc.). It will also help you prioritize your work plan, and understand what you can say “no” to on a day to day basis.
Logic models are commonly thought of as nonprofit operations tools, but that’s not all they should be used for.
We’ll talk more about how logic models can be great communications strategy, help you generate more powerful messaging, and target the right audiences at the right time.
In this post, we’ll take you step-by-step on how to create your nonprofit logic model, and provide you the tools we use to do this with our clients.
What is a Nonprofit Fundraising Logic Model?
At the simplest level, a logic model is a way to map out your organization’s inputs (we’re going to call them activities), outputs and outcomes that are associated with your business.
Great! So what does that even mean?
Simply put, think about what your organization needs to do its work. This could be money, volunteers, supplies, etc. These are inputs/activities.
After you complete you work, you are left with outputs and outcomes. These are the results of your work. There is a really critical difference between these two, even though they sound similar. We’ll get into that later in this post.
Use this template to build your own nonprofit logic model as you go through this guide.
Nonprofit Logic Model Video Tutorial
TL;CR (Too long; Can't read)
Watch the tutorial video below to learn how to build your logic model.
Defining Your Inputs/Activities
For this exercise, I created a fictitious organization that we can use as an example.
I’m calling my fictious organization “Clean-up And Restoration Team” - or CART for short.
EXAMPLE ORGANIZATION: 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.
Inputs or activities are the things that we do everyday to make our mission run.
In the case of CART (our fictitious example nonprofit), here are some example inputs:
Volunteer Recruitment - The organization needs volunteer to participate in the clean-up and restoration process.
Clean-up Site Acquisition & Scouting - These sites aren’t just coming out of nowhere. Someone needs to find the abandoned sites, get permission to work on them, and then setup the logistics to actually do the work
Volunteer Crew Leader Training - CART can’t just rely on a group of volunteers to run themselves. Crew leaders are vital to creating a safe, enjoyable and productive atmosphere for volunteers.
Volunteer - Driven Plant Nursery for Native Plant Species - CART has elected to raise their own native plant species so they can supply their teams with the plants that they need.
Realize that we’ve drastically simplified this for the sake of this post. Every organization is different, so if you have more than this, that’s normal.
Outputs vs. Outcomes
Before we talk about outputs, it’s important to understand how outputs are different from outcomes. This can be a bit confusing, so it’s worth taking time to clarify.
Put simply, outputs tell the story of what your organization produces. Outputs do not address the value or impact of your services.
On the other hand, an outcome is the level of performance or achievement that occurred because of the activity or services your organization provided.
Here’s an example for CART:
Output = The volunteer leader training program generated 5 new volunteer crew leads.
Outcome = CART is expanding its clean-up program to 2 new regions, doubling the number of acres that are being cleaned-up and restored.
Here’s another way to look at it. This is really important to understand:
Outcomes communicate the impact of your organization and how it impacts your clients or those you serve.
Outputs are direct results of your activities.
Logic Model Outputs
Now that we understand the difference between outputs and outcomes, here are the examples we created for CART, examples of outputs can be:
Volunteer Recruitment Outputs Volunteers
Site Scouting Outputs Clean-up Sites - CART has a pipeline of abandoned industrial sites that it can work on with volunteer leaders.
Crew Leader Training outputs Volunteer Crew Leaders - The CART crew leader training program will directly output competent crew leaders that keep volunteers motivated, empowered and efficient at their work.
Native Plant Nursery outputs Native Plants - The nursery program pumps out a lot plants that can be used at the clean-up locations
Is this making sense? From this you can start to see how outputs are directly related to activities.
Digging into Logic Model Outcomes
One thing that’s important to note about outcomes, is that often, multiple outputs can lead to a single outcome. There doesn’t have to be a one-to-one connection.
For CART, examples of outcomes might be:
restored native habitat and ecosystems leads to clean drinking water sources for nearby population centers
Community members feel empowered to take a leading role in cleaning up and advocating for their local ecosystems.
Outcomes focus on impact to your clients or communities
This is a really important distinction.
There are two other important elements to outcomes:
First, logic model outcomes are closely related to generating marketing messaging, which produces better marketing campaigns. We’ll dig into this shortly, but we’re starting to get closer to connecting the model with our marketing.
Secondly, logic model outcomes should always, always, always be measured so you can use those measurements in your marketing messaging.
Here’s an example of using outcomes to create better marketing messaging.
Consider two impact statements that you might find in a fundraising letter, or impact report:
“In 2018, CART empowered community volunteers to restore abandoned industrial waste sites and helped restore the quality of our drinking water.”
“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!”
Using a Logic Model For Nonprofit Communications Strategies
One of the things that makes Rootid’s logic model unique is the focus on strategies.
This is important because it takes the logic model, which is often thought to be a nonprofit operations tool, and makes it a powerful communications tool.
Now that we know our inputs, we can build communications strategies around them, and most importantly prioritize them.
When building strategies, it’s important to think about the audiences that you’re talking to and define as nonprofit personas.
Who are they? What messages work for them? Where can we find them?
For example, the way CART recruits volunteers may be very different than the way you scout and acquire clean-up sites.
When acquiring clean-up sites CART may be interfacing with local governments officials or industrial business leaders to get permission to clean-up the site.
On the other hand, volunteer recruitment may target college kids at nearby schools.
Not only are these very different audiences requiring very different messaging, but the way that you find and communicate with these audiences require very different communications strategies.
Let’s continue with our audience assumptions for a second. What would be a strategy for volunteer recruitment, knowing that you’re main demographic is college kids?
What about something like utilizing social media advertising targeting younger adults. So, a strategy may be digital advertising and online sign-ups.
In contrast, let’s talk about the strategy for industrial site scouting. Local government officials would require a one-to-one outreach and presentation. This could be at a local town hall meeting, or concerted lobbying to individual members, or perhaps using your network to make connections with these leaders.
You can see how these strategies differ drastically based on the activity, right?
Formulating a Blue Sky Statement To Connect the “Why”
How does this model make us better at nonprofit communications?
Remember, Outcomes help us formulate impact statements and messaging. Impact statements can help us communicate big ideas to our audiences.
We can continue to build on those impact statements by building what we call our blue sky statement. The blue sky statement sets out the vision for the organization.
As communication professionals you know how important vision statements can be. They help connect audiences to the “why.”
Answering “why” is actually one of the most important things that you can do as a nonprofit communications professional. If individuals can connect with why you exist as an organization, they are far more likely to get behind the “how you operate” part of the organization.
Our blue sky statement is a critical part of our elevator pitch as an organization, and a key to connecting with our audiences.
How Do Logic Models Help Prioritize Communications Work?
I said at the beginning this model will allow you to prioritize your work, and stop running around with your hair on fire, right?
Because we know the relationship between inputs and outcomes, we know what strategies and inputs are priority based on the organization's strategic goals.
OK - there’s a lot going on there….
Imagine a situation where our fictitious organization, CART, has a goal to increase the number of acres cleaned up in 2 years. To do this, they need to double the number of clean-up sites in their pipeline.
Now that we understand our organizational logic model, we know that we need to ramp up the outreach work with local government officials. We also know that we need to implement campaign strategies and generate communications tools that our site recruitment team can use during their big push to acquire more sites.
We can do this with confidence based on our logic model.
We saw earlier how measuring outcomes creates more effective marketing messaging.
Knowing that, commiting to measuring outputs and outcomes is critical at an organizational level. Not only will they help in your marketing process, but they will also help generate better impact messaging.
So how do we do that?
Here are some steps to help you measure impact better:
Describe the outcomes you want to achieve (why do you perform the process or service in the first place?).
Turn the identified outcomes into a quantitative measure (i.e. % of clients demonstrating new behavior, % of clients coming back into treatment, etc.).
Confirm that your desired outcomes are actually linked to your outputs or activities. In other words, ensure that it is reasonable to expect your desired outcomes to be achieved based on your activities.
Implement these measures and track them over time.
Demonstrate and increase your success because you have the data to confidently and appropriately communicate your impact and value.
How does the logic model make us a better nonprofit communications professional?
By now you should see how the logic model helps make you a better nonprofit communications professional.
At a basic level, it creates clarity for you, and for your marketing strategy.mca
Prioritizing our marketing campaigns to generate the inputs inline with our organizational goals - we talked about prioritizing and focusing campaign based on the order of inputs you need to succeed. We also talked about focusing on specific tools and strategies based on the audiences we need to generate the inputs that we need.
Outcomes generate better messaging - we talked about how outcomes should be measured to generate better messaging. We also talked about how outcomes focus on impact, and impact is going to be what gets audiences excited about supporting your work.
Blue sky statements acquire & build a loyal supporters - we talked about how blue sky statements answer the question “why.” Why do you exist? Why should people care? Once an individual gets behind the vision, they can become a loyal advocate.
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: 10 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
Is routine mutiny holding you back? 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. Here are a hints on how to get everyone onboard:
Listen! Take time to speak with other teams and listen to their frustrations before you tell them what to do. Many have knee jerk reactions to being told what to do, especially if you’re not their direct manager.
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
Are you hoping your communications challenges will solve themselves but surprised when you don’t see results?
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
Am I speaking with passion? Are you answering the question "Why does this matter to the audience?"
Have you made a compelling case for why your organization exists and how it solves problems in an innovative way?
Are you using jargon in your messaging?
Is my team speaking with one voice?
Review your engagement strategy:
Think about acquisition and how to move your personas through an engagement pipeline. Ask questions like:
How do we build our audience?
Where do we find new supporters (social, events, conferences)?
What would excite them about our work?
How do I want them to be engaged?
Get a fresh perspective
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. Define Your Audience, Then Review Your Personas
Is your best messaging falling flat? Once you have a list of target audience members, build their personas with questions like these:
What do they do in their free time?
What do they care about?
Why should they care about our organization?
Maybe there is just one persona that’s a puzzle to you. Ask a representative audience member for an informational interview or send out surveys.
Tap into the experiences of your programs team to get insights on the individuals they interact with regularly. Don’t be surprised if you first get some resistance. Your programs team may already be maxed out. Build trust by showing them how improved messaging will make their lives easier.
If you’re getting push back from your programs team, try asking some questions:
Where are your pain points with clients or partners?
What do you feel people don’t understand about our organization?
What tools or materials would help you mitigate these common questions in your work with your target personas?
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. Stick the Landing
Ever wonder why your communications tools don’t get used or shared? That’s because you’ve focused on delivery over strategy.
Here are some tips to avoid this habit:
Make a list of your personas
Think about how each one digests news and updates. What will make them stop and think? What will they share with their networks?
Then brainstorm platforms, tools, and content: media, infographics, video distribution, community meetings, webinars, and testimonials to reach people where they are at in their busy lives.
7. Facts Tell, Stories Sell.
More text than stories? Voices, experiences, and feelings change hearts and minds. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask that trusted partner or client for their story.
Reflect on the high level words and phrases people use in describing the challenges they face, the work you do, and the impact you have.
Leverage this knowledge to filter out the jargon in your materials going forward.
8. Be Realistic
Worried you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? It’s a common problem. Be practical when defining your project scope and timeline. The key is to make your communications work for you, not the other way round.
Which persona(s) is/are most important to my organization? Prioritizing the focus of your work based on your organizational goals can help focus the project in the most important areas.
Who is in my core project team? Ask them what their bandwidth is, and how much of the project they can realistically help with.
What’s a realistic timeframe? You know your workload best. Do your best to project an end date, then provide a 20% buffer.
9. Measure Your Success
Are you learning the right lessons or making the same mistakes?
Set clear goals and metrics for each intended outcome. Survey your target audience before and after your project to learn what worked and what can be improved. This isn’t just a one-time process; keep it going.
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.
10. 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.
BrandUP Award Winner Root & Rebound - 1 Year Later
Nominations and applications are now open for the 2018 brandUP, a free 2-day intensive marketing and communication workshop co-presented with Full Circle Fund. Last year's Awardee Root & Rebound has now had some time to reflect on the experience, so we sat down to chat with them to provide helpful tips to this year's participants.
1. What is Root & Rebound currently focused on as an organization?
Founded in 2013, Root & Rebound (R&R) is a California-based reentry advocacy center that creates leading-edge solutions to one of the most pressing challenges of our time - mass incarceration - working to help people break out of poverty into freedom and economic opportunity, and alleviating the heavy personal and societal costs of our bloated and broken justice system.
Leveraging lessons learned from our California long-term work & our growing national collaborations & projects, our core initiatives have grown over the last year to include expanding to 2 additional sites with California; deepening our direct services work, expanding our legal clinics & hotline services; running employment clinics & educating employers, pushing for occupational licensing reform, & building a statewide prison/jail based curriculum.
Nationally, we are growing our footprint and initiatives, with 7 state-specific toolkits & beginning a national expansion strategy that will bring our model to key, high-need states in the coming years.
2. Through a communications lens, what have you been focused on over the last year and how is that supporting your overall organizational goals?
R&R has invested heavily in our PR and Communications strategy on both national and community levels to raise awareness about second chance opportunities through partnership and coalition building, educating employers, policy makers and journalists, and engaging corporations like Facebook to support this work as we explore our model for scale.
We are also in the process of building the first ever reentry legal wiki and sharing it across the country.
3. How did your experience with Rootid and our BrandUP Award inform your communications strategy?
Our experience with Rootid allowed us to think critically and holistically about the ways in which we communicate with our key stakeholders - donors, partners, and people directly impacted by incarceration. It allowed us to strip back our assumptions and dive into the way these people live their lives and how we could engage with them on a journey of discovery about Root & Rebound.
Now, we go much deeper and we have concrete engagement strategies for our key stakeholders whereas before we would keep a more broad and sporadic approach to our communications and PR and community connection.
4. Did anything change in your communications and processes from before to after your brandUP experience?
Our communications strategy has definitely expanded to include larger views of our audience and the ways we can help them to understand and see the value our work. Additionally, having realized the importance and potential in our communications, we have now made it a priority to align both the programs and development team in our communications strategy. Now our communications strategies are wider-spanning and effective for both teams.
We have also more deeply understood the impact of storytelling by launching a 48,000 barriers campaign in conjunction with Valerie at Rootid at our first ever Empowerment Summit in Spring 2017, which allowed us to gather quotes and stories that we can use going forward. This has deeply informed our social media communications on an ongoing basis
5. How have you integrated the work into your marketing materials and planning?
On the programs side, we have:
Leveraged Rootid’s design support to streamline our programs materials with new hotline cards, updated program flyers, and the ongoing creation of partnerships packets. With the hotline cards, we can easily pass out digestible information to the people we serve, at clinics, trainings, etc. As we ramp up our direct services across the state, this level of synthesised information is more critical than ever.
We are also re-creating the R&R website to more strongly reflect our growing programs and make sure that information is easy to read, digestible, and clear in how users can engage with our services.
We have also heavily leveraged Rootid’s consulting advice to promote our paid services to partnerships across the Bay Area and have secured three new long term contracts to date.
On the fundraising side, we have:
Committed to engaging more deeply with our existing individual donors and increasing our network even further, by creating a Circle of Friends to support R&R either through donations, leveraging their platform, or their skills. Over time, we hope to build a key initiative that draws people into the organization and creates long-term ambassadors for our work.
More heavily focused on sharing our stories of success to our wider audience via newsletters and social media to show the work we are doing and the impact it is having.
Finally, we have streamlined our communications strategy between the programs and the development team so there is a cohesive calendar and content strategy between them. We have also hired two Americorps VISTAs - one Development and Communications VISTA and one Community Partnerships VISTA to execute on this strategy and build our communications content.
6. Was there anything that was unexpected or surprised you that came out of the work we did together?
I think it’s easy to come into a consulting project saying you have an urgent need for concrete materials and plans and you need your online website hits to increase by X%, but the biggest value add for us was the thought partnership and the focus on approach of listening, hearing, and sharing of experiences. Rootid showed us ways to go beyond a communications strategy, printed or web content, and instead get to the heart of our mission and impact which lies directly in human experiences of reentry and the daily barriers they face.
By focusing squarely on elevating those experiences, we were able to come up with a thoughtful and strategic communications strategy that aligned with our mission and that brought the organization’s development and programs team together to streamline our work, elevate the voices of those we serve, and really demonstrate what really matters to the wider public - which is breaking down barriers to opportunity for all Americans with criminal records.
7. In what ways do you think we can use this process to help organizations like yours further their missions?
I think the most valuable piece for our team was having strategic thought partners that could dig into our model and where we were and where we were trying to go and help figure out simple steps and best practices to achieving those goals. E.g. focus on your stakeholders journey before thinking about creating materials tailored to them.
A helpful way to approach it might be to focus on some big questions upfront that might be even higher level than communications strategies necessarily and then spend time digging into ideas and resources on a macro level. A lot of Rootid’s value add can be the ability to see above the micro day-to-day of a nonprofit professional’s workload and allow them the space and support to engage critically and thoughtfully with the challenges they are facing and how they can get to the end result in new ways.
8. Since we are changing the format of BrandUP to now be a 2-day intensive covering the material we did but with 12 nonprofits, what advice would you give to this next co-hort so that they can be prepared for and get the most out of their experience?
Ask as many questions as possible! Don’t be afraid to share the small and big questions and the real challenges, time and capacity constraints you face in communicating with your stakeholders. Chances are Rootid will be able to draw on experiences with other nonprofits that have wrestled with the same challenges and draw on their own expertise and experiences to bring solutions to life.
Be ambitious! Talk about where you want to be as an organization and what you’re trying to achieve in the next 5 -10 years, every step you take now with your communications is a step further to making that impact a reality.
How To Save Your Google Ad Grants Account From Being Deactivated
As of January 1st, 2018, Google Grant Ad accounts that do not meet updated requirements could end up being suspended or cancelled!
Assuming they are strictly enforcing the new AdWords Grant policies, you have until the end of February to get things straightened out.
There are a lot of conversations online about the purpose of these changes. Regardless of why Google put these into place, it is worth taking the time to make adjustments to save your $10,000 per month grant.
If you are already actively managing your nonprofit AdWords account, there might not be much you need to do.
But, if you are like many nonprofits that have not looked at their account in a long time, there may be significant work to be done.
This blog post will break down the new policies so you can understand them better, and provide you with some ideas on how to protect your account from being suspended.
AdWords Account Structure
Google’s main concerns have always been that their search engine users have a good experience and that ads are actually relevant to their search. The updated account structure policies make their best practices mandatory.
Ad Grants accounts must have specific geo-targeting that is specific to your nonprofit. No advertising in New York, if you’re an nonprofit serving Los Angeles, CA.
Ad Grants AdWords accounts must have at least 2 active ad groups per campaign, each containing a set of closely related keywords and 2 active text ads. This is actually a standard best practice. You should have 10-15 keywords per ad group, and we recommend 3 ads per group.
In the past, bidding strategies were restricted to Manual CPC and Google forced nonprofits to have a max cost-per-click (CPC) of $2. Now, they have removed the max CPC requirement. Instead your bidding strategy must be set to Maximize Conversions. In order to achieve this, you must setup goals in your AdWords account.
Ad Grants AdWords accounts must have at least 2 sitelink ad extensions. Again, this is just best practice. Sitelink extensions, and other extensions, are a great way to have your ads take up more of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). We recommend our clients use all of the available AdWords extensions that are pertinent to their organization, and many of them are.
The skinny: Nothing here is really hard to achieve, and you should be following these best practices already. If you are able to meet these requirements, it will help with the following requirements that are based on account performance.
How can we meet these criteria? Follow the links above to the Google documentation, and they will demonstrate the process of setting these things up. If you need help, our team is happy to walk you through it.
Stick to Mission Based AdWords Campaigns
New Policies About Keywords You CANNOT Use:
Branded words that you don’t own, like “YouTube” or “Google” or names of newspapers or other organizations
The skinny: Using brand terms that are not yours, or using overly general single keywords, like “tree,” are now being removed from acceptable advertising. Not only do these practices go against the spirit of the grant, they’re also ineffective. They weren’t doing your organization’s acquisition and engagement strategies any favors anyway. So, just pause them. No major loss!
The new quality score policy is a very important change, but it can be dealt with using best practices we will talk about below.
How to make adjustments:
First, remove any single keywords or generic keywords you are advertising on. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but as I mentioned above, you are not going to lose a ton of valuable traffic to these terms.
Second, quality score is really important. If you had a successful AdWords account before, you likely had quality score in the 6-8 range, or perhaps higher.
If that is not the case, then there is some work to be done. A few hints:
a) Make sure you have very targeted Ad Groups that include ad copy with the keywords in title of the ads. Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is one of the main contributing factors to Quality Score, so if you have ad copy that closely reflects the search queries, you ads are going to have better CTR.
b) Make sure your ads are linking to relevant landing pages. Do not just link to your homepage. For example, if you have an ad about volunteering, link to your Get Involved page. The landing page copy should focus on a similar topic to your ad copy. For the best outcome, I would recommend building adgroup-specific landing pages to be really efficient with this.
Click-Through-Rate & AdWords Account Performance
Accounts must maintain a 5% Click-Through Rate (CTR).
Your account will be cancelled if your CTR is below 5% for 2 consecutive months.
You may request your account to be reinstated after you’ve adjusted your keywords to bring your account into compliance.
If you can't meet the requirements above, you may pause your AdWords campaigns and use AdWords Express, which automatically structures your account.
The skinny: This policy may be the most difficult new policy to meet.
If you follow best practices and stick to advertising smartly, then you can do it—just note that the average CTR throughout all of AdWords is 1.90%, so you need to make sure that you or someone else is being an active manager of the account.
How to make adjustments:
First, check your keyword quality scores. This is a good indication on the health of your account. Keyword quality scores are based on a formula that Google won’t share. However, most experts say it is composed mostly of keyword CTR and the relevance of your landing page content to the keyword.
If you have a high quality score on keywords and your ad groups are setup to be very targeted, that’s going to get you a long way towards this 5% account CTR requirement.
If your account has grown a little wild and is advertising in too many areas, your CTR may have dropped a little. Prune it back for now by pausing some of the less successful campaigns, and then make a strategy on how to move forward after you meet this policy.
Second, one trick to help with this is to make sure you have a “brand” campaign. This is where you advertise on your organization’s name or derivatives of it. These types of campaigns get really high CTRs and can help bring up your account average.
Some Rootid clients reach 75%+ CTR on brand-based ad groups
Third, always be testing.
As we mentioned before, each ad group should have at least 3 ads running at all times. After about 100 impressions, see how these ads compare. Pause the ones that are not performing less well and copy/edit the best performing ads to test more.
Do the same with keywords. If you have 10-15 keywords in an ad group, keep the winners activated and remove the keywords that are not performing well.
Lastly, follow the best practice of organizing your ad groups and using common keywords in your ad copy headlines. This will make sure that your ads are performing well.
Ad Grants Website Policy
Your organization must own the domain that users land on when they click your ad.
Your site must have a robust and clear description of your organization and mission. Each web page must have sufficient information for visitors to understand your organization’s purpose.
Your website must function well and not contain broken links.
Your ads, keywords, and website may not make claims that promise results after a consultation, service, or purchase. Claims on your website must cite verifiable references to provide transparency to users.
Commercial activity must not be the main purpose of your website. This includes sales of products and services, consultations, lead generation, and providing referrals.
Any limited commercial activities must support your non-monetary mission.
Advertising on your organization’s website must be relevant to your mission and not be obtrusive to users.
Your website may not host Google AdSense
The skinny: In other words, do not sell stuff that does not go to help your mission, and make sure that your website is being managed reasonably well.
Note that Google really hates broken links (404 Errors) on your website. It makes for a bad user experience, and if you have a lot of broken links, your website is probably not performing well in organic search. So, it is in your own interest to get those fixed.
Both Drupal and Wordpress have plugins that can monitor these 404 Errors and help you fix them. If you are on a different platform, use Google Search Console to monitor broken links.
How to make adjustments: There are a lot of automated tools that will give your site a technical review. If you do not feel confident, then hire a technical expert to review your site for you.
I Don't Have Time to Manage My Google Ad Grants Account!
Nonprofits are constantly strapped for staff resources. Fortunately, there are two options if you do not have the time to manage your grant in house:
Hire an agency, like Rootid, to help you. It may sound like an added expense, but a good agency can increase online traffic by 5,000 visits a month, and raise over $10,000 a year from their services. An agency with expertise in this area can provide more return on your investment than most in-house staff can.
If you just want to automate the account, Google will allow you to use an AdWords Express account. This type of account requires fewer man hours because Google controls your account structure and the ad campaigns. The only thing that you need to do is write the ad copy, and indicate the landing page. Google's smart machines do the rest!
Need help getting a strategy together? Contact Rootid. We'll review your account for free.
Happy New Year From Rootid & Exciting Announcements!
Though it began with a sense of confusion and uncertainty, we can’t help but feel inspired by how our clients, friends, and partners have joined together to make a difference around the world.
In 2018, we continue forward with the momentum of our collective beliefs toward more equitable and healthy communities that celebrate diversity.
Growing Beyond Just Websites & Print Materials
Last year, Rootid continued to grow our rockstar team as we expanded our service offerings to nonprofits.
Our team now spans 3 time zones and offers more than just print, web design and custom development services.
Our continued expansion provides a more holistic approach to nonprofit marketing and communications that helps our clients engage their communities through authentic and strategic brand development, more thoughtful and effective messaging, and multi-channel marketing management.
We also formed a major strategic partnership with Full Circle Fund, where we helped launch the Nimble Nonprofit Series, capacity building workshops that serve Bay Area nonprofits and community members. Valerie Neumark Mickela, Rootid Co-Founder, also joined their Board of Directors this past fall.
We Love Our Clients!
We're still fueled by our inspiring clients.
Their impact around the world is literally changing lives inc communities, influencing policies that shape our future, and building a more equitable society where everyone can thrive.
In 2017, we refreshed some inspiring brands, including:
We’re determined to serve more nonprofits, both established organizations and 'nimble' newcomers.
In addition to continuing to grow our 360-degree approach to customized marketing services, Rootid is excited about a new product to be released in 2018 that will help smaller nonprofits get started with a powerful online marketing tool set at an affordable price. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements!
Our team is also committed to giving back to the nonprofit community through in-kind services. Last year, we completed the 3rd Annual brandUP campaign, by providing $10,000 in marketing services to Root & Rebound. Our team is determined to continue to be a catalyst for big ideas and great nonprofits.
This year, we will expand the scope of brandUP to impact even more nonprofits. Stay tuned for our 2018 announcement!
Even nonprofits with established identities need to reevaluate from time to time in order to stay relevant. In many cases, a brand refresh may be necessary.
What is a Brand Refresh?
Simply put, a brand refresh is a makeover. The goal is to enhance your organization’s image, while staying recognizable—but how do we go about that?
Steps for a Brand Refresh:
Review your core values. Go back to the beginning. Remember all of those questions you sat down and asked yourself the first time around? It’s time to revisit them to see where your answers now differ.
Conduct stakeholder interviews. As a general rule, it’s good to do these once a year, as a tool to gauge the effectiveness of your mission, outreach, and short/long-term goals. Getting feedback from stakeholders (internal staff, your board of directors, community members, etc.) will help you determine which aspects of your brand need addressed.
Example question: Using a few keywords, how do you want people to see your brand?
Redefine your target audiences and personas. Determining your target audience was tough the first time around. Thankfully, you should have a better idea of who is most receptive to your message now. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start grouping common characteristics to create personas—or profiles of imaginary people.
Consider what they want from you and what you want from them in return. How can you guide them from being unaware of your organization to a loyal brand advocate? Keep fleshing them out.
Develop content that will interest them at various stages in their journeys.
Update your visual language. 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. They’re where your brand refresh will be most evident, especially if your organization adopts a new logo.
Tweak your messaging. Great content is critical to achieving higher conversion rates and engaging user experiences. Based on your profiles’ points of view, consider what tone of organizational “voice” would best reach, engage, and compel community members and donors.
Audit your marketing materials. You’re almost there! It’s time to look at your print materials, event collateral, social media channels, newsletter templates, website, etc. Are they achieving measurable results? Do they need to be updated to reflect any of the aforementioned steps?
Update your assets. Your assets are your brand messengers. As such, it’s important to maintain cohesive marketing materials in print and online. Doing so will lead to more donations and more volunteer signups, so be sure to keep them up-to-date.
For a successful brand refresh, you’ll need a look at where you came from, where you are now, and where you want to go from here. The adjustments will take work, but the end results should be well worth it!
Digital marketing has stolen the spotlight in recent years, thanks to its accessibility and reach, but does that mean print is obsolete? Not according to a Two Sides survey:
“88% of respondents indicated that they understood, retained or used information better when they read print on paper compared to lower percentages (64% and less) when reading on electronic devices.”
The key is understanding when and how to leverage that preference. Print collateral is best used in strategic settings, where you’re in a position to provide something tangible—something that either lends credibility (banners, signs, swag, etc.) or encourages engagement (programs, forms, business cards, etc.) Take Full Circle Fund’s yearly UNITE event, for example.
By utilizing print, we were able to set a festive and informative tone at SF Jazz. Everything was branded and strategically placed—from the stickers on the mini-wine bottles to the programs highlighting Full Circle Fund’s grant cycle.
Even our new foldout business cards had to pull their weight, that night. In addition to providing basic contact information, they also listed our services, featured a client testimonial, and encouraged follow-up with a tear-off ticket (redeemable for a drink with a Rootid founder).
That’s not to say digital didn’t play a role, of course. No one can dispute social media’s role in creating awareness.
The point is, by recognizing print and digital’s individual advantages, we were able to help Bay Area guests discover and celebrate social change in their community. That, in and of itself, is a huge success!
If you're still putting out annual reports the old fashioned way—pulling stacks of statistics, rounding up designers, blowing your budget on print copies, etc.—this post might be an eye-opener for you. Not only are annual report websites generally less expensive, they're also easy to fill with impactful media, easy to deliver, and easy to track. Plus, they're much more conscientious of the planet.
Letting your web team produce a professional site for this year's accomplishments could be a great step into the future for your non-profit—but don't take our word for it. Check out these reports from businesses and organizations who've already adopted the process to impressive results:
gridalternatives.org/annual-report-15 GRID Alternatives' adopted an online annual report format a few years ago and now simply updates the stats, graphics and stories each year with new information...saving time and money. Their annual report is styled in a familiar, almost print-like layout.
echoinggreen.org/2014 Echoing Green's 2014 report used floating side navigation to make it easy for visitors to jump to the information they were most interested in.
shopify.com/2013 Shopify's 2013 report summarized their news with an interactive timeline.
mailchimp.com/2012/ MailChimp's 2012 report featured an interactive element that allowed visitors to browse user statistics by demographic.
lemonly.com/2016report Lemonly encouraged visitors to interact with their 2016 report, using a circular beam of "light" to reveal facts.
2016.flama.is/ Flama laid out their 2016 report as a click-through slideshow.
one.org/annualreport/ One's bold use of color and typography combined with compelling photography and language really makes their annual report shine.
Styles may vary, but all successful annual report websites have two things in common: professional presentation and convenience. Sounds like a win, win! Need help with your next Annual Report? Drop us a line!