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: 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!