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...Read more.
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...Read more.
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marketing has stolen the spotlight in recent years, thanks to its accessibility and reach, but does that mean print is obsolete?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...Read more.
If you're still putting out annual reports the old fashioned way—pulling stacks of statistics, rounding up designers, blowing your budget on print copies, etc.—this post might be an eye-opener for you. Not only are annual report websites generally...Read more.
You've spent time crafting your website— planning , designing , and writing —and now traffic is really starting to pick up. So, what's next? You may be getting a lot of new site visitors, but are they signing up for your newsletter, an upcoming...Read more.
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...Read more.
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...Read more.
Even in a debate-driven world, there’s one thing most professionals agree on: Word-of-mouth is king. Think about it. Would you be more likely to trust the intentions of a banner ad or the person sitting across from you at brunch? A recommendation...Read more.
Every organization has a story. Somewhere along the line, a spark inspired someone to challenge the status quo, and that idea was tempered by milestones to forge the business we see today. What better way to celebrate that history than to put it on...Read more.
"Being a human-centered designer is about believing that as long as you stay grounded in what you’ve learned from people, your team can arrive at new solutions that the world needs." -IDEO Field Guide to Human-Centered Design What is Human-Centered...Read more.
Designing a new website, or redesigning your old website, is a large project to undertake. Larger than most people think. According to SME Website Statistic , 48% of people cited a website’s design as the number one factor in deciding the...Read more.
Keeping your audiences attention in this time of phone alerts, sound bites, social media and noise is hard. But, a powerful story is one of the most powerful ways to capture someone's attention. Relating to stories is hard wired into the human...Read more.
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'...Read more.
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.
Even nonprofits with established identities need to reevaluate from time to time in order to stay relevant. In many cases, a brand refresh may be necessary.
What is a Brand Refresh?
Simply put, a brand refresh is a makeover. The goal is to enhance your organization’s image, while staying recognizable—but how do we go about that?
Steps for a Brand Refresh:
Review your core values. Go back to the beginning. Remember all of those questions you sat down and asked yourself the first time around? It’s time to revisit them to see where your answers now differ.
Conduct stakeholder interviews. As a general rule, it’s good to do these once a year, as a tool to gauge the effectiveness of your mission, outreach, and short/long-term goals. Getting feedback from stakeholders (internal staff, your board of directors, community members, etc.) will help you determine which aspects of your brand need addressed.
Example question: Using a few keywords, how do you want people to see your brand?
Redefine your target audiences and personas. Determining your target audience was tough the first time around. Thankfully, you should have a better idea of who is most receptive to your message now. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start grouping common characteristics to create personas—or profiles of imaginary people.
Consider what they want from you and what you want from them in return. How can you guide them from being unaware of your organization to a loyal brand advocate? Keep fleshing them out.
Develop content that will interest them at various stages in their journeys.
Update your visual language. Mood boards are an effective way to discuss ideas, share insights, and clarify communication. They help visually explain a feeling and, in turn, develop a more authentic and successful brand. They’re where your brand refresh will be most evident, especially if your organization adopts a new logo.
Tweak your messaging. Great content is critical to achieving higher conversion rates and engaging user experiences. Based on your profiles’ points of view, consider what tone of organizational “voice” would best reach, engage, and compel community members and donors.
Audit your marketing materials. You’re almost there! It’s time to look at your print materials, event collateral, social media channels, newsletter templates, website, etc. Are they achieving measurable results? Do they need to be updated to reflect any of the aforementioned steps?
Update your assets. Your assets are your brand messengers. As such, it’s important to maintain cohesive marketing materials in print and online. Doing so will lead to more donations and more volunteer signups, so be sure to keep them up-to-date.
For a successful brand refresh, you’ll need a look at where you came from, where you are now, and where you want to go from here. The adjustments will take work, but the end results should be well worth it!
Digital marketing has stolen the spotlight in recent years, thanks to its accessibility and reach, but does that mean print is obsolete? Not according to a Two Sides survey:
“88% of respondents indicated that they understood, retained or used information better when they read print on paper compared to lower percentages (64% and less) when reading on electronic devices.”
The key is understanding when and how to leverage that preference. Print collateral is best used in strategic settings, where you’re in a position to provide something tangible—something that either lends credibility (banners, signs, swag, etc.) or encourages engagement (programs, forms, business cards, etc.) Take Full Circle Fund’s yearly UNITE event, for example.
By utilizing print, we were able to set a festive and informative tone at SF Jazz. Everything was branded and strategically placed—from the stickers on the mini-wine bottles to the programs highlighting Full Circle Fund’s grant cycle.
Even our new foldout business cards had to pull their weight, that night. In addition to providing basic contact information, they also listed our services, featured a client testimonial, and encouraged follow-up with a tear-off ticket (redeemable for a drink with a Rootid founder).
That’s not to say digital didn’t play a role, of course. No one can dispute social media’s role in creating awareness.
The point is, by recognizing print and digital’s individual advantages, we were able to help Bay Area guests discover and celebrate social change in their community. That, in and of itself, is a huge success!
If you're still putting out annual reports the old fashioned way—pulling stacks of statistics, rounding up designers, blowing your budget on print copies, etc.—this post might be an eye-opener for you. Not only are annual report websites generally less expensive, they're also easy to fill with impactful media, easy to deliver, and easy to track. Plus, they're much more conscientious of the planet.
Letting your web team produce a professional site for this year's accomplishments could be a great step into the future for your non-profit—but don't take our word for it. Check out these reports from businesses and organizations who've already adopted the process to impressive results:
gridalternatives.org/annual-report-15 GRID Alternatives' adopted an online annual report format a few years ago and now simply updates the stats, graphics and stories each year with new information...saving time and money. Their annual report is styled in a familiar, almost print-like layout.
echoinggreen.org/2014 Echoing Green's 2014 report used floating side navigation to make it easy for visitors to jump to the information they were most interested in.
shopify.com/2013 Shopify's 2013 report summarized their news with an interactive timeline.
mailchimp.com/2012/ MailChimp's 2012 report featured an interactive element that allowed visitors to browse user statistics by demographic.
lemonly.com/2016report Lemonly encouraged visitors to interact with their 2016 report, using a circular beam of "light" to reveal facts.
2016.flama.is/ Flama laid out their 2016 report as a click-through slideshow.
one.org/annualreport/ One's bold use of color and typography combined with compelling photography and language really makes their annual report shine.
Styles may vary, but all successful annual report websites have two things in common: professional presentation and convenience. Sounds like a win, win! Need help with your next Annual Report? Drop us a line!
You may be getting a lot of new site visitors, but are they signing up for your newsletter, an upcoming event or even donating to your latest campaign?
Creating an effective and directive call-to-action is the key to converting site visitors to more engaged community members.
Lead visitors to take the next step with your organization through a high-value offer. Think about each of your target audiences and what would really spur them to action. Appeal to what brought them to your website in the first place.
As a nonprofit, you're offering to help people make a difference alongside you. That's a big deal! Whether you want to direct visitors toward a donation page or a volunteer form, toward a newsletter signup or an event RSVP, you're going to leverage the same key elements each time:
An attention-grabbing header (sometimes accompanied by a brief, straightforward explanation)
A visually striking call-to-action (CTA)
Take Habitat for Humanity, for example. Their homepage leads with an emotional appeal, asking visitors to donate to hurricane recovery. The use of imagery reinforces the need, and its offset by a bold, contrasting box. The verbiage is action-oriented and straightforward.
Another great example is the ACLU. Midway through their "DACA Is Ending. But the Movement Is Not." blog post, a bright red box links the content (legislation affecting immigrants) with the offer (fighting for immigrants' rights). This tailored approach is seen throughout their site and is an effective means of targeting.
Did you notice something else these two had in common? An implied urgency. They don't ask you to consider making a donation; they urge you to donate now! The need is real, the world is turning. If you don't help, who will?
A few more examples of effective, verb-laden CTAs:
Join the fight!
Make a difference in 2017!
Remember, the most important thing is that you cater to your audience and what will help them take the next step—whatever that may be. If you know a page will attract people at two different stages in the decision-making process, it's okay to tier your offers.
Look at Contra Costa College:
Some prospective students may be ready to apply, but others may just be starting their research. By incorporating two CTAs, the college accommodates both audiences at once.
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.
Even in a debate-driven world, there’s one thing most professionals agree on: Word-of-mouth is king.
Think about it. Would you be more likely to trust the intentions of a banner ad or the person sitting across from you at brunch? A recommendation between friends is always going to carry more weight than an organization-sponsored advertisement. There’s just one problem...
We can’t control it.
Sure, we may do our best to create advocates, but we’re not working with puppet strings here (and we wouldn’t want to be). Something has to incite readers to action. Fortunately, we live in a day and age where word-of-mouth has given rise to a more amplified version of itself: word-of-text. Even the most well executed campaigns can’t hold a candle to sincere advocates taking to social media. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of eight organizations with exemplary integrations. Take a look:
Pacific Environment introduces one of our favorite integrations to the list: click-to-tweet messages. Not only do they enable visitors to spread the word to their own followers, they take the pressure off by providing a visible social script.
Do Something has a unique approach to social integration—and advocacy itself, for that matter. They help visitors find ways to participate based on their interests and how much time they’re willing to spend. Example: A few quick, exploratory clicks brought up a selfie campaign using social media.
Note that each of these examples made the experience simple and painless for visitors. Remember, people are busy. We have a small window of time to catch their interest and an even smaller window to convert that interest into action. Use both wisely.
Every organization has a story. Somewhere along the line, a spark inspired someone to challenge the status quo, and that idea was tempered by milestones to forge the business we see today. What better way to celebrate that history than to put it on display?
Your audience wants to connect with you. They want to relate and invest in your success. But to do so, you have to let them in on the narrative. That’s why timelines are so popular in web design right now. With a few clicks, audiences are able to see an organization’s impact through solid, qualitative facts that stick with them. When executed properly, they might even encourage your visitors to become part of your future—but how?
Don’t worry. We’ve searched far and wide for seven of the best tips and examples to inspire you.
"Being a human-centered designer is about believing that as long as you stay grounded in what you’ve learned from people, your team can arrive at new solutions that the world needs." -IDEO Field Guide to Human-Centered Design
What is Human-Centered Design Thinking?
Really all it means is putting the people you are serving front and center—learning from them and working in collaboration to develop the most authentic and powerful results. In the case of IDEO and IDEO.org, they are working with people and organizations to solve poverty, hunger, and other large-scale world problems. But these same techniques and processes can be used to guide communications strategy for non-profit organizations.
Human-centered design thinking frames the process Rootid facilitates with clients at the start of new projects, during what we call "the discovery phase." Sometimes, we refer to what we are doing as 'strategic art therapy' but ultimately, it is using art, design and the creative process to develop stronger, cohesive and more thoughtful communications strategies grounded in the core values of our clients' missions.
We also refer to the discovery process as our 'sponge phase' because it is our opportunity to absorb as much information about our clients, their work, and their communities as we can. As a collaborative communications firm, Rootid our goal is to become the expert facilitator and guide rather than 'tell' clients what they need to do.
By working together and helping our clients tap into their own creativity, inspiration and passion, we are able to develop brand and communications strategies that are more powerful, authentic and ultimately engaging to constituents.
Tips & Resources for Applying Human-Centered Design Thinking to Communication Strategy
Understanding the core values of the organization & defining what success looks and feels like. This can often be more complicated than you would think. Maybe programs are changing or a shift in organizational culture... Using design thinking to revitalize your brand and then moodboarding your vision (individuallly or as a group) can be a really effect way to regain concensus amongst key stakeholders.
Establish the paths/workflows/journeys your organization wants community members to take toward specified end-goals. Think through the transformation of each persona. (see Tab 3: Persona Journeys from the spreadsheet above.
Download our free resources to help you get started on this project internally!
"Creative confidence is the belief that everyone is creative, and that creativity isn’t the capacity to draw or compose or sculpt, but a way of understanding the world." -IDEO Field Guide to Human-Centered Design
Our clients are the experts in their fields, our job is to help them communicate what they do more effectively.