Generating a marketing plan for a nonprofit is a daunting task, to say the least. Content strategy is an easy process that will help you figure out who you are marketing to, and how to talk with them in a way that motivates them to take action.
Our 2016/17 brandUP Awardee is Root & Rebound, an amazing organization that helps guide reentry for formerly incarcerated people and their families. They recently launched an online training hub, which needed an effective marketing strategy to build awareness for this incredible new tool.
Since Root & Rebound already has exceptional branding, we focused this project on helping them create a build a strong and holistic content strategy that would serve as a foundation for the marketing communications going forward.
We’ll break the process into simple steps below.
What is content strategy?
Put simply, content strategy is a way that you organize content and messaging across your marketing channels to appeal to specific audiences, supporters or potential supporters. By analyzing your audiences, you can create compelling content that will motivate them to take some kind of action.
I began my career as a teacher and school administrator, so that informs the way we approach content strategy to a large degree.
As a whole, Rootid’s approach to Communications is more about helping our clients authentically educate their stakeholders and constituents, rather than advertise to them.
“ ... a tendency to optimize for reactions, leading to a world of content candy stores, rather than informational organic produce.” - Jon Crowley
Effective content strategy is not just defining your audiences and how you are going to ‘tell them stuff,’ it is thinking more holistically—taking into consideration who they are, what they like to do, what they want from you and then, finally, what you want from them.
A strong content strategy puts the core values of your organization at the center and then pairs them with the needs of your stakeholders and constituents.
So what is the process for developing content strategy? We break it down into steps below.
Identify Your Audiences
When starting a content strategy project with clients, we begin by asking them to identify all of the types of people their organization interacts with. By defining those people and considering their worldviews, personalities and lives (what they like to do in their free time, what they value, etc.) we are then able to group them by similarities.
Build Your Personas
Persona is just a fancy way to say you are grouping your audience members by what motivates them and then creating a ‘faux’ person/profile to represent those wants and needs. Once you know who your personas are, you can start building scenarios of how best to introduce, educate and inspire.
For Root & Rebound, we found the audiences who would be using, talking and supporting their online training hub fell into three categories/personas, which we named: ‘Motivated Second Chancers & Their Loved Ones,’ ‘Community Connectors,’ and ‘Inspired Contributors.’ Each of these groups would approach their Reentry Training Hub in a unique way, so they would need to be addressed accordingly.
Remember, a good content strategy is about connecting the needs of your audience with your core values. Just like establishing a new friendship, it can not be about an agenda, but rather a relationship.
Defining a User Journey
Once you know who your personas are, give them names and personalities so you can interact with them as real people—individuals with hopes, dreams, motivations and needs of their own. The journey is how you guide one such person from unaware of your organization to a loyal brand advocate.
For example, we named Root & Rebound’s ‘Community Connector’ persona Marco and laid out an example journey that a person like him might experience:
Marco is a social worker in Los Angeles at a large anti-poverty nonprofit. His low-income clients (many of whom have records) are looking for access to basic needs, including housing, healthcare, and employment. He is 4 years into his career and is both passionate and excited to help his clients in any way he can. Marco is frustrated/limited by the traditional approach of his work—he sees patterns and cycles in reentry and reincarceration, so he’s is looking for creative ways to support and energize his clients.
Marco is a member of Los Angeles Reentry Regional Partnership and one day through the listserv, he heard that a group called R&R was coming down to deliver a day training on reentry legal barriers to support practitioners and personally impacted people. Marco attends the training, learns about the reentry training hub and begins using it to quickly find specific information for his clients every day. He orders wallet cards and postcards to have in his office so he can easily share them with clients and colleagues. He also follows R&R on social media, sharing posts about various topics to help educate his friends and family.
Write Your Stories
Now that we know who our personas are, what motivates them and how they learn about our organization, we develop content that would interest them at the various stages of their journeys. For example, an article that Marco might want to read when he first learns about Root & Rebound will often be different than what he will share with friends, family and colleagues once he knows R&R is a thought-leader and trusted resource.
Build Your Assets
As mentioned above, Marcos requested wallet cards and postcards from R&R. He also started sharing articles on social media with friends and family. (These assets need to be created, but now we know they are grounded in a thoughtful and authentic strategy rather than a ‘build it and they will come’ approach.)
Building out personas for your donors? Make sure your website is optimized to generate the most donations possible. Download our guide!
Let's face it—writing content for nonprofit websites can be difficult. We all know the feeling of staring at a blank page and trying to develop compelling content.
Unfortunately, research shows that great content for your online marketing efforts is critical to higher conversion rates and engaging user experiences that lead to higher donations, volunteer signups and conversions for the nonprofit.
So, how can you write consistently effective content for your nonprofit website? Start by asking yourself these two questions:
What are the two things we want users to do on this page?
What are the top three things we want users to take away from reading this page?
Once you have those answers down, try incorporating these nine tips into your writing routine:
It’s important to include keywords in your page title and sub-headings.
Don’t use so many keywords that it’s not human-readable. It’s more important to provide users a great experience than cram your page with keywords.
8. Include Easy Ways to Get in Contact with You
Solicit feedback from users in a contact form, blog comments, etc.
9. Use Text Color Formatting Sparingly
Don’t use crazy colors everywhere.
Heed this common design saying: “When everything on the screen screams, nothing is heard.” - Some Smart Designer
And there you have it! Go use your newfound content-writing skills to change the world. No pressure.
In addition to compelling content, there are a lot of important factors that make your website effective. Download our website checklist to find out the critical steps to increase your site traffic, donations, and website leads.
We don’t talk much about food and drink on Rootid’s blog, but when you’re getting ready for a 3 day trip to New Orleans for the NTEN conference, you have to plan accordingly.
If you’ve been to New Orleans, you know that the Crescent City has some of the best music, cuisine and bars in the world. If you haven’t been there before, and you’re planning a trip, then you’re in for a treat!
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit on several occasions for conferences, and have put together this list of amazing local eats, cafes and bars.
If you’re going for a conference, then you’re likely going to be located near the conference center. This list is curated to ensure that you can easily access these spots within a 20-30 minute walk depending on where you are staying.
A Map of Our Favorites
You can’t leave New Orleans without heading over to Cochon Butcher. Butcher, as it’s commonly referred to, is connected to the world renowned Cochon restaurant, run by James Beard award-winning chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski.
The menu is a take on an old world butcher with a cajun flair. Items range from a the muffaletta (my favorite) to the hot boudin. All the meats are smoked or cured in-house. They also have a great selection of beer and wine. I also love their homemade pickles!
Butcher is a perfect place for a quick conference escape since it’s is within a short walk of the convention center.
If there’s no other place you make it to, go here.
Willie Mae's Scotch House
Nothing says soul food like fried chicken. Wilie Mae’s Scotch House holds the Food Network and Travel channels title belt for the best fried chicken, so don’t miss out on this one.
This New Orleans gem is run by 3rd generation Seaton family members, and they still use the original recipes. If you don’t want fried chicken, there are a wide variety of other soul food classics to choose from.
Just make sure you get here early. A line starts to form before the restaurant opens, so if you don’t plan accordingly, you might miss your next conference session (it would be worth it if you did).
Johnny's Po-Boys doesn’t look like much from the outside, but what they’re cooking inside might change your life.
Johnny's is the oldest family-owned restaurant in New Orleans. You can smell the love when you walk in the door. It features classic southern cooking in a red plaid plastic tablecloth setting.
The menu is large, so you can come back over and over if you want to try different features like alligator sausage po-boy, crawfish po-boy, or an oyster po-boy… oh yeah they do have other incredible dishes that aren’t po-boys too.
Nothing says New Orleans quite like a freshly fried beignet with a pile of powdered sugar on top. Hey, I never said eating in New Orleans was healthy!
Although most people are familiar with the world-famous Cafe du Monde, I prefer the more reserved Cafe Beignet located in the French Quarter. It feels more like a neighborhood cafe with a quieter atmosphere, and fewer tourists hawking over you while they wait to steal your table as soon as you take your last bite.
This isn’t that close to the conference center, but it's worth the trip. Plan an early morning planned to make sure you get your fill of this classic. Order your beignet with a cappuccino for the full experience.
The Courtyard Brewery
If you like beer, then don’t miss out on this funky little spot close to the conference center. When you arrive, you might think you’re lost. The brewery looks like a little shipping container plopped down on a vacant lot. It actually might be....
Despite its appearance, The Courtyard Brewery is quickly becoming one of the places for beer geeks to frequent with its wide variety of brews. In addition to serving beers they brew on location, Courtyard has a great list of other breweries from across the country.
Stop by and have a few in their outdoor “courtyard” with friends or soon-to-be-friends.
The Rusty Nail
An urban oasis that was carved out of a rough looking building, the Rusty Nail sports a beautiful outdoor patio that is perfect for those warm New Orleans evenings. It’s located close to the convention center, so you can take the edge off after a day of sitting in seminars.
Their drink list features a number of classic cocktails with a twist, or enjoy one of their several beers on tap. They always have a good line up and can provide something for everyone no matter your preference.
The Spotted Cat
Of course, you can’t have a Best of New Orleans list without mentioning music. There are literally hundreds of places to choose from when it comes to live music in New Orleans. I’ve been to many of them, but for some reason, I always like the Spotted Cat - the quintessential New Orleans Jazz club.
For some reason I have a soft spot in my heart for The Cat. Perhaps it is because it's one of the first places I visited my first time in New Orleans.
Are there better venues? Yes. However, The Spotted Cat always has a great atmosphere, and a small enough space where you’re basically standing right next to the band all night. It just feels good.
Check it out. They have free live music there 7 nights a week.
Email Automation: 3 Ways to Get Your Nonprofit Started
If you are like most nonprofit marketing professionals, you’re overworked and under-resourced.
Email automation is the solution you’ve been waiting for!
Setting up marketing automation systems that trigger emails and autoresponders, drastically reduces the time you and your team spend manually sending emails to court donors, members and volunteers.
A report by DemandGen, a research firm, shows on average a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. Of course this is a statistic on for-profit work, but it doesn’t take much of a leap to assume that nurturing sales is very similar to nurturing donors.
What is Email Marketing Automation?
The concept of email automation is pretty simple: if a prospect or constituent perform an action, an email (or series of emails) is triggered in sequence.
The sequences can include decision trees based on the user’s interaction with any of the emails in the series.
Email automation workflows can be triggered based on a lot of things:
Time: Send an email X days after user does Y
Behavior: If user does X send an email, if they do Y send them a different email
Demographic/Characteristic: Say a user RSVP’s to a volunteer event at a particular volunteer site and you ask them their age. If you store that data in a CRM, you could send an email based on that demographic information.
There are endless pieces of information that could trigger automation workflows, but I’ll try to stay out of that rabbit hole for this blog post.
Now for the good part:
Here are 3 ideas how your organization can get started with email automation.
1. Automated Email Welcome Series
A welcome series is a great way to begin the cultivation of a new constituent to your organization, and ultimately will make them feel more engaged with your mission.
The goal of the welcome series should be to:
Educate the user about your organization
Demonstrate the impact of your organization
Ask the new constituent to take one more step in their engagement with you - usually a small step forward. Don’t go asking them to marry you on the first date!
Here’s a hypothetical scenario we’ve probably all experienced: email newsletter sign-up.
How can we use email marketing to nurture this new relationship?
Below is a quick series of emails that you could send.
Immediately after sign-up: Send a thank you email that demonstrates your appreciation for their interest. In this email, it’s a great time to link them to an overview of the work that you do.
Perhaps you have a blog post about a recent milestone your organization has reached, or you have an online Annual Report for them to look at.
The most important thing: provide context to your organization.
What is your business case?
What are your values?
Where have you come from?
Where are you going?
2 Days after sign-up: Send a testimonial about your work. This should be a powerful story that drives user interest.
Even better, if you have a video testimonial of some kind, send it. Video is a powerful medium that shows real people that have participated or been affected by your mission.
The best stories are personal ones—find a person, animal, place, etc. that you can tell a story around.
The bottom line: it’s important to showcase how your work impacts everyday lives.
5 Days After Sign-up: Note to Self: Establishing trust before you ask someone to do something is extremely important.
Consumers want to trust a company before they buy their product; donors want to trust that an organization is going to steward their donation well.
We all know where this email automation workflow is going, right?
Yes. We’re going to ask the new constituent to do something: make a donation, volunteer, become a member.
It actually doesn’t matter what the ask is, the point is that we’re going to ask. Just this alone means your organization better be trusted if they expect the ask to go well.
There are a few different ways that you might establish trust:
Annual report: Send the new constituent to a page about your organizational fiscal responsibility. Perhaps an annual report.
Showcase a known supporter: If your organization is endorsed by a famous person, ask them to write an endorsement. Or better yet, do a quick video endorsement.
Show a rating: though I’m loathe to fall into the charity rating charade (don’t get me started…), you can link to your Charity Navigator rating, or online reviews, or some other kind of rating way to bring proof of your organization’s virtues.
Bottom line is: There are a lot of ways to establish trust. This is a critical time to do it.
7 Days After Sign-up: Send an email that makes the “ask.”
Now, don’t be scared. We hear all the time that staff are scared to ask a new constituent to do something immediately. My response normally is, they’ve already shown they like you by signing up for something, don’t be scared.
Some people will even be flattered. And, there’s no better time to make an ask while their first commitment (in this case e-newsletter sign-up), is fresh in the user’s mind.
But, it’s also important not to be pushy in how you ask.
My opinion: for someone that just signed up for an e-newsletter, I think it’s better to ask something simple like RSVP to an organization orientation, or perhaps you do tours of a work site that your organization has.
These in-person engagements can take that initial relationship to the next level—put a face to the cause.
Other ideas for simple asks are:
Ask them to volunteer at your organization.
Ask them to an upcoming event.
Ask them to follow you on social media
The key is, make them take one step closer to your organization and help them feel a personal connection.
2. Leading Up to an Event
When a supporter has RSVP’d to an event, it is a great time to engage them even further into your organization.
Let’s say for example you’re throwing your annual fundraiser.
Here’s an email marketing automation series that will get your guest pumped to attend and hopefully motivate them to be extra generous with their support this year.
Directly After RSVP: Send a thank you and confirmation that they signed-up for the event. In this same email, it’s a great time to put a quick teaser in about the event theme.
Usually these types of events have themes like an anniversary, support for a strategic organizational goal, or maybe it’s the celebration of a milestone—take on a campaign type feel.
Regardless, this event needs context. How is it contributing to your organization’s success. Perhaps the constituent already knows the context, but it never hurts to reinforce.
The theme or campaign message can be really powerful if delivered by video (starting to see a theme here?).
5 Days after RSVP: It’s time to talk impact!
Again, this is a fundraising event, so establishing your organization’s impact is going to be important before you ask this person to donate.
Good impact pieces can be:
Story of a person, place or thing that benefits from your organization’s work - videos can be very compelling content here.
Testimonial from a person impacted by your work
Historical overview of your organization’s impact
Even better: if individual’s testimonial and speech will be the centerpiece during the event, you can provide a preview of who they are, the challenges they faced and how your organization helped.
Basically, let the person know that your work makes a positive impact in the world.
1 Day Before the Event: This is a great time to remind guests about the event details.
Directions to the location, parking, time table for the event.
Maybe you’re having a silent auction, you can preview the top items to get people excited.
This not only orients the guest, but probably will reduce no-shows as well.
1 Day After the Event: Thanking guests for attending quickly after the event is crucial.
If you have details about the fundraising totals and the results that were achieved, share them...and your gratitude in the attendee’s participation in that success.
Maybe include a video thank you message from your Executive Director, or a personal thank you from one of the speakers at the event.
If you have volunteers at your organization, then you know that it is impressive how much these supporters give of their time and talent.
However, many organizations are shy to ask volunteer to donate. I can respect that, but I also know first hand from my days as a fundraiser, that volunteers can be very generous with their treasures as well, you just need to ask the right way.
Email automation can help you cultivate them into donors at a much higher success rate than simply asking out of the blue.
It’s all about education and cultivation.
Directly after volunteer sign-up:
Obviously, you want to thank them for signing up. It’s important to establish how important volunteers are to your organization and their impact.
If you have a lot of repeat volunteers, this may be a good time to provide an update about an ongoing strategic goal, large campaign, or upcoming event.
Providing fresh content can be a nice touch to an email series like this. Most email automation tools have an easy editing interface that make updates to the email a snap.
4 days before volunteer date: This is a great time to provide context of what the volunteer will be doing.
Let’s say they are doing a river cleanup on the Colorado River. It might be a good time to talk about the importance of the watershed for the health of the ecosystems and cities.
It’s also a good time to talk about the impact that volunteers have already had with your organization for the Colorado.
If the volunteer’s work will effect a human, tell their story. Use a testimonial to drive emotional connections.
The goal: establish your organization’s impact, let the volunteer know the importance of the task that they’re about to do. And always, always thank them!
1 Day before volunteer date: This is a good time to provide logistical support.
Directions to location, meeting instructions, clothing/food/water recommendations or requirements.
Get the volunteer physically ready to perform their task.
1 Day after the volunteer date: Thank the volunteer for their time.
Let them know how much you appreciate their commitment to the organization.
Make an ask while the experience is fresh in the mind.
I see two ways to go about this:
Remember that impact story that you told before the volunteered? Remind them of it: “Your support as a volunteer is vital to this success. Your financial support helps us recruit more volunteers and buy more supplies that help our campaign succeed.”
Appeal to their more practical side: “Supporting our volunteer crews that are doing awesome work requires resources: we need to purchase tools and materials; and we need to pay our employees healthcare and salaries. Can you help us defer those costs by donating $10 to purchase our next shovel?”
You get the idea, right?
Don’t be patronizing, or combative. Just state the honest truth.
I’d also recommend asking for a small sum of money if they haven’t donated before. Get them in the door as a donor.
Once, they’re a donor, you can start a new automated workflow to cultivate and retain their support.
Wait, you can chain email automations together also!?
Yep. See how cool this stuff is!
But that’s a great post for next time….
Email marketing automation is changing everything.
If you’re already a pro, I hope these 3 ideas helped spark some new ways that automation tools can help you.
If you’re a newby to email marketing automation, I recommend you get started!
Over and over again we see that marketing automation has brought success for our clients, and we know that it will for you as well.
5 Ideas for the Rootid brandUP Award for Your Nonprofit
Our team saw over and over that there are a lot of great nonprofits that are facing resolvable obstacles, but just didn’t have the resources or expertise to break through.
Here are few ideas on how we think organizations could use the brandUP award to better their organization.
This doesn't mean that you can't use the award for something else. Remember you know what will take your mission to the next level! But, we thought these were cool ideas as project, or even part of projects.
1. Brand Strategy and Development
Many in the nonprofit world believe that branding something that the for-profit sector should deal with, and has no use in the nonprofit world.
This is dead wrong.
In fact, branding is just as important for nonprofits as it is for profit-seeking companies, and perhaps more so.
In the world of nonprofit work, isn’t shared values one of the biggest things you hang your hat on to generate loyal supporters? Of course it is!
Rootid works with clients to generate brands that speak to their supporters.
Most people think about brand and they think about logos. This is certainly part of a brand, but a logo isn’t generated out of thin air!
Our brand development process starts way before the production of artwork. We start by interviewing internal and external stakeholders extensively.
From these interviews we have a clear understanding of a brand's core values, who your target audiences are, what motivates those audiences, and the channels through which we can speak to them best.
Do you know what your brand stands for? The brandUP awards could be a great time to do some deep soul searching about how your brand is positioned and if it is effectively reaching your audience, and expressing shared values.
2. Content Marketing Strategy
It’s hard to get your marketing message out to your supporters in the age of cell phone alerts, social media, and streaming TV.
Having a rock solid content marketing strategy will help you engage more constituents and keep them engaged.
According to a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute, 79% of nonprofit professionals said that fundraising is the number-one goal of their content marketing, with brand awareness coming in second and engagement third. Yet, only 25% of respondents have a content marketing strategy in place.
Relying on content marketing as a primary driver for fundraising, but having no plan is not going to be successful.
Rootid works with clients to build content marketing strategies built around a better understanding of your audience and the end goals.
The bottom line: who are the people that come to your site, and what do you want them to do?
We will generate user personas through focus groups and user interviews.
Then, we build an actionable content marketing strategy that identifies communication channels that will reach the most users, messaging that motivates them, and website design that will drive them to take action.
Content marketing is a vital piece to build brand awareness, boost donations, and widen your inner circle of supporters.
3. User Generated Content Campaign
Website users no longer expect their online experience to be a one-way street. They want to hold a conversation with a brand.
User Generated Content (UGC) is quickly becoming a vital piece of a brand’s story. Content like, images, Tweets and video that are posted about your brand by your supporters an have become more valuable than anything that your marketing team can themselves.
In fact, according to comScore, and online research firm, 70% of consumers report that they are more likely to trust a peer recommendation over content professionally written one.
What does this mean?
Basically, it means content that your supporters create and share about your nonprofit speaks volumes more than anything you produce in-house.
So, let's capture the power of UGC!
UGC campaigns or features on your website can be power ways to tell a story.
There are several ways to do this type of work:
Hashtag campaigns - use a tool like Juicer.io to curate content posted on social media to build a campaign story.
User-submitted stories on your website - allow users to submit videos, images and text to your website. After an approval process the story is posted.
Gamification of a pledge - challenge one group of supporters to “out pledge” another group of supporters. The pledge can be fundraiser driven, or volunteer hours driven, or something else. Ask the groups to post about the experience through social media.
There are still more ways, but for the sake of space, we left it at three.
Ever stared at a bunch of text with stats in it?
Yeah, it’s really boring and usually you miss the story that someone is trying to tell.
Interactive data is a powerful way to tell a story, or compare information.
There are a lot different ways that you can accomplish this.
If you organization does a lot of research, interactive data can be a really powerful way to display your work.
Interactive data not only tells a richer story, but it positions your organization as a leader in the field and boosts online engagement.
Would you like to increase donations, volunteers and memberships at your organization?
Of course you would. Who wouldn’t?
Marketing automation nurtures your supporters, or new supporters, by bringing them closer to your organization without the need of staff time to do it.
According to HubSpot, a marketing automation company, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
I realize that your nonprofit isn’t selling anything, but it doesn’t take much to make the leap that nurtured leads, or nurtured supporters make larger donations, volunteer more and remain members longer.
Additionally, marketing automation frees up one of the best resources that nonprofits have: their employees. By not making your team do all the mundane day to day of sending emails over and over with the same information.
Marketing automation is behavior driven, which means if a user opens email A and takes action B, your automation platform will "automate" the next step in the process. Maybe it's sending another email, or inviting them to an event, or asking for a donation.
It bases nurturing on action, not guessing.
The applications of marketing automation are wide and varied, but Rootid has worked with clients (and we use marketing automation internally at our firm), to widen the reach of their mission, and deepen the relationships with their current supporters.
Sound awesome? It is.
Successful Website Projects: 4 Things to Discuss BEFORE You Start
In the age of content marketing, control of your website is a must. Your visitors expect fresh content constantly.
Make sure you you get trained on how to manage your website.
Great, I have my obstacles, now what?
It’s important to provide context to the obstacles. Once identified, it’s important to better understand how they contribute to your goals not getting met.
For example: “I spend so much time downloading and uploading CSV’s to our CRM, that I can’t follow-up to thank our donors.”
Know Your Audience
I can’t stress how important this element is:
It’s hard to engage an audience that you don’t fully understand. Take the time to get to know and understand them. Your success counts on it.
Your organization should have a clear description for each audience group your work with and the top 3 things that you want them to do.
Do you know what they do on your site currently?
Do you know what you WANT them to do on your site?
Notice: there is a big difference between what they do, and what you’d like them to do. This is an important distinction.
How do you measure success on our website?
It’s hard to measure if you never set goals.
We find that many people don’t set goals because they don’t want to know if they’re not meeting them. Failure is not celebrated enough.
Failure to meet a goal can be as bad as blowing a goal out of the water because maybe you set your expectations too low.
At the end of the day, you need establish what you’re going to measure and how you’re going to measure it.
How to get started
Getting this conversation started can be difficult, especially in an organization that has a lot of voices to be heard. Here are some keys:
Set expectations that you would like to hear all staff thoughts on these matters, but not all suggestions provided will be implemented on the new website. It’s important to establish this early and often.
Internal surveys can be helpful to facilitate this process.
Make sure to engage senior staff early in the planning process. Getting their buy-in on the project is extremely important.
Download our comprehensive guide that breaks down the technology and strategies into easy to follow steps. The solutions are simpler than you think.
To write an effective story, there has to be a clear message that you are delivering. Once your audience has been established, you should know their concerns and pain-points. Use that knowledge to generate a powerful message.
The now-famous Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, talks about focusing on the “why” to connect with your audience. Why is the struggle that you have introduced important? Why does that struggle matter to the world, and more importantly to your readers?
As Simon Sinek has what he calls the Golden Circle. At the center of this circle is "why."
The “why” is linked to the primal center of our brains, so use it to your advantage as the storyteller. If you can connect readers with the “why” then they will continue to read, and engage with your content and in the long-term your mission.
Go through this exercise in two simple questions to develop a clear message:
1) “What is my audience and what are their concerns?”
2) “How do I distill my message into one simple sentence.”
How to Write a Great Story Introduction
In today’s distracted world, there are million things tugging at your reader’s attention at all times. If you don’t capture their attention in the first two sentences, they are lost. That’s why writing a great story starts with writing a great introduction.
Here are few tips on how to write a great introduction:
Introduce the main character (it should never be your organization)
Introduce the challenge or struggle
Set the mood or environment, focus on emotion
What is the Struggle in Your Story
A story without a struggle is not a story.
This writing mechanism is commonly referred to as the Hero's Journey.
When writing your story, be sure to introduce the struggle early. At this point, since you have done your audience research, you should be writing about a struggle that speaks to your target audience. Introducing this struggle early in the story will capture their attention.
The struggle in your story should serve as the rallying cry for readers. It should be the tool that motivates them.
The struggle also sets up your main character to be a hero when they eventually overcome the struggle.
Lastly, it is important to connect your character’s struggle to a larger universal struggle or truth. If you can connect this one person’s struggle to a larger problem, then your mission, and the reader’s engagement in it, become vital to empowering more heros like your main character.
Keep Your Storytelling Simple
Keep it simple for your audience. Remember, you are competing with a million other tasks that your reader is thinking about. They should not have to think too hard about the narrative of your story. Here are a few rules you should follow:
Don’t use jargon or internal organizational terminology.
Use short paragraphs that contain only one idea per paragraph.
The first sentence in each paragraph should clearly state the idea that will be in that paragraph.
Simple stories can be the most memorable.
Expand story details like emotion (happy, sad, frustration, a look on a face), not on mundane facts (time of day, date, weather, etc.)
The Call to Action
Don’t forget that your story should end with a call to action, or a logical next step for your user. Once you have captured their attention, set-up the struggle, and inspired them, it’s time to get them to act!
Relate your call to action back to your story and include an obvious way for users to take action. Use active language, and set a time limit on the action if possible.
Use calls to action that empower your reader. For example, “You can make a difference, act now!”
Lastly, it is important that if the user takes action, you capture their information. The user has already shown an interest in supporting what you do, if you capture their information, you can continue to engage them further in your mission.
Stakeholder interviews are an extremely useful process for your nonprofit and can be used in a variety of situations.
Whether you're rebranding your organization, adjusting marketing strategies, developing donor personas, creating key messaging or simply gathering data to ensure you're serving your supporters, we advise you carry out stakeholder interviews frequently.
As a general rule, it is good to run stakeholder interviews at least once per year to gauge the effectiveness of your mission, outreach and short/long-term goals. The purpose of stakeholder interviews is to be an assessment. You can assess experiences, brand language, brand visuals messaging and much more.
Who to Interview During Stakeholder Interviews
It is good to cast a wide net and interview at least one person from each role that interacts with your organization.
Typical role types include board members, senior staff, junior staff, community partners, and a sampling directly from people you serve (customers, clients, etc...ie. if you serve youth, talk to 1 or 2 youth, if you serve veterans, talk to 1 or 2 of them, etc.)
Questions to Ask in a Stakeholder Interview
Below is a sample list of questions to ask during a stakeholder interview.
I would suggest setting this up as a spreadsheet with the questions along the vertical column and the type of stakeholder across the top. That way you can easily compare the answers to see where there are similarities and differences.
Also, not all questions will be directly applicable to each person you interview, so make sure to add, subtract and adjust the language of the questions as needed.
Introductory Stakeholder Interview Questions
What is your role with or within this organization?
How did you become interested in this organization?
How long have you been involved?
Consituent and Donor Stakeholder Interview Questions
Who are the primary constituents/customers/donors of your organization today? (target audience demographics)
What do you think each audience cares about most?
How do you want them to be the same or different in 1, 3, 5 years?
What do you want each of these groups to think/feel about your organization? (list 3-4 qualities).
Branding and Marketing Stakeholder Interview Questions
Using a few key words, how do you want people to see your brand?
Do you think your current branding is successful in illustrating your mission both in writing and visually?
What is unique about your organization?
What factors do you or do you think constituents/donors consider when deciding between involvement/giving with this vs. other organizations?
Using Surveys to Take Your Interviews Further
First, find the most important questions from the interviews you've already performed, and build an online survey.
Deciding which marketing channels you want to focus on and what you want to present on those channels can be challenging. Many organizations and companies try to "do it all" and find that they are not getting the results they had hoped for.
If you're feeling overwelmed with all the information out there about multi-channel marketing and how to drive more traffic, you're not alone. Here are a few steps to help you make sense of it all.
What are Marketing Channels?
It sounds fancy, but marketing channels are simply the different ways you can communicate with customers, clients, donors, volunteers, etc. Here is a quick list of marketing channels that might be on your mind:
Website: Clearly you need a website, but depending on your size, this can be anything from an interactive "brochure" with a few clear calls to action to a fully integrated social hub. Make sure you are keeping your content fresh and that visitors will get a clear sense of what you do in the first 3 seconds they land on your home page. See attached picture for more info.
Blog: Though always important, your content strategy is becoming more and more important not only so you can communicate what you do, but also for your Search Engine Optimization. Key words are important to include in what you are writing about, showing in infographics or creative artwork, but meta-tagging and all that other "behind-the-scenes" magic is just not as useful as it once was.
Print/Direct Mail: Yes, people do still do these and if created and used sparingly can be really effective. Just make sure you are creating something useful that people will want to keep for some reason. Maybe it is sharing information about something your company/organization knows a lot about...then the fact that it also has your branding and is a reminder of where they got this great tool is just a bonus.
Email Newsletters/Flyers: A strategic email campaign schedule can go far as long as you are thoughtful about the information you are sharing and are not sending out "junk mail" too often. 1-2x month or less, keeps people engaged and not annoyed with the amount of emails they are recieving from you. Also, keep your message short, sweet and more about then rather than just broadcasting your latest good news. Give them something they will want to share with the people they know. As in all marketing, 80% of what you send should be sharing information for the greater good, 20% can be broadcasting why you are great.
Facebook/Google+: These two platforms are more about awareness than anything else. Posting fresh content with attached images 4 or so times/week, liking and commenting on other people's posts will keep you engaged in your community and also give you the social credability you want. That being said, posting too often can hurt you so think about what you are sharing and why as well as how others are engaging with your posts. It may seem obvious, but if a lot of people are liking and sharing something, you are on the right track, if it is always just the same people, rethink what might be more successful. Asking questions and again making about them
Twitter: Great for sharing articles, artwork and information with your community. Keep in mind this is something that takes constant engagement on your part. You can not build a following if you are not spending min. 30 minutes a day/5 days per week reading, retweeting, favoriting and posting.
Instagram/Pinterest: Choosing one of these as a channel you focus on can be great if you generate a lot of photos and/or short video clips on a regular basis. Posting images at least 3x/week from your last function, fundraiser, meeting, or just pictures from around the office, with a quick caption can go far in communicating your brand and getting people interested in following you.
Be Strategic About Selecting a Marketing Channel
If you are reading this, you probably already know that spreading yourself too thin will actually get you no where. Being thoughtful about your approach will not only save you valuable time, but come across to your audience as more authentic and grounded. There is plenty of noise out there so be more focused and directe
Interview Your Audience Members to Learn What Marketing Channels Work Best for Them
To use the correct marketing channels, you have to know how to communicate with your audience. For instance, if you're customers are 40-60 years old, you probably don't want to use SnapChat as a major marketing channel - you won't reach them there. However, you might want to look at growing your email list, or use Facebook, since older populations tend to be in those spaces.
Stakeholder interviews and surveys are an extremely effective way to learn more about your audience. At Rootid we perfer interviews, since you can "read between the lines" when chatting with people. But, what should you ask? Download our interview guide to make sure you're asking the right questions.
Take Multi-Channel Marketing One-Step at a Time
There is no need to jump in all at once. Be strategic about how you start marketing through the channels that you use. Pick a channel to focus on, build out your program, then move to the next. You'll also see that once you have one channel built, you can use that to build more. For instance, if you have a large email list, you can use that to promote your Facebook page.
Do Work in Bursts: Automate Your Marketing Channels as Much as Possible
As a marketer, it is really important to manage your time. Rather than spending time each day managing your marketing channels, use tools that allow you to do work in focused bursts, and schedule content. Note that it is really important with social channels that you continue to "listen" and respond in real time. But, planned content can be written and scheduled easily.
Here are some ideas for how to do work in bursts and some useful tools to help you get this done.
1) Write all your blog posts for a month in at one time. Use native functionality Wordpress or Drupal scheduling to publish them over time.
2) Once you have the content for your website you can write and schedule 2 weeks of social posts in one sitting. Tool: buffer, hootsuite
3) Once you have your website content written, you can also write and schedule all of your email newsletters. Tool: MailChimp, VerticalResponse
In today's world, multi-channel marketing is extremely important. If you haven't had a chance to start, today is the day and Rootid can help. We provide a free marketing channel assessment to anyone that mentions this blog post!
Selecting the Right Channel for Online Fundraising
Multi-channel marketing is even more important in fundraising. Donors that receive asks through multiple channels are far more likely to donate than those that receive an ask through just one channel.
If you're raising money online (which you definitely should be!), then your website is critical to your success. Download our Ultimate Guide to Online Donations to ensure that your website is doing all that it can to help you raise money online.
How to Figure Out Your Target Market: Simple Steps to Getting it Right
Not everyone is in your target market and that is ok...actually, that is good.
How are you supposed to create authentic messaging (written or visual) if you are trying to talk to everyone at once?
Often times when new clients are responding to our"Start a Project Questionnaire" we will get responses about demographics or target markets that say things like, "Anyone who cares about 'X' or is willing to take the time to invest in 'Y'" or the real killer is, "Well, everyone is my target market!"
No they are not. From this day forward you are not allowed to say "everyone is my target market," you must be more specific.
How to Figure Out Who is ACTUALLY in Your Target Market
Step 1 Take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:
Who do you actually serve right now and/or who do you want to serve in the future? (who are your stakeholders, constituents, clients, customers, etc.)
Who have you served in the past?
Has this changed over time? Why do you think that is?
Break them into groups or "themes" (age, location, socio-economic...really anything that will help you group similar characteristics and then separate things that make each group different.
Try making little profiles of imaginary people using the characteristics you discovered above. Describe their age, what about their current place in life attracts them to your organization/company?
Where do they like to shop or read or hang out with friends/family? What other organizations are these people a part of?
Step 3 Now you have created some target markets and you can take action. Think about ways you can insert yourself/your organization into these people's "normal lives." The idea is to raise awareness through the right marketing channels with an authentic message.
The goal is to think more deeply about the real people you are trying to reach— be thoughtful...and if you find you do not have a target market, make one up.