Nominations and applications are now open for the 2019 brandUP , a free 2-day intensive marketing and communication workshop co-presented with Full Circle Fund . One of last year's nonprofit participants Frailty Myths has now had some time to...Read more.
Last year, we showed you a great way to save time and money by letting your web team produce a website for your annual report. Online presentations are easy to deliver and easy to track, making them the perfect approach for conscientious...Read more.
Now in its eighth year, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season each November by encouraging global giving via social media. It’s a collaborative effort between nonprofits and civic organizations, small businesses and large corporations—not...Read more.
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.
November 28th will mark #GivingTuesday’s sixth annual day of giving. The holiday—which follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US—kicks off the charitable season. Brands, influencers, and everyday folks come together with a single purpose in...Read more.
We're back with our 2017 favorite examples (in alphabetical order) of what a great non-profit website looks like and what makes it stand out. Our hope is that by emulating these exemplary non-profits, you'll soon be able to provide an even greater...Read more.
Donor retention is a critical part of growing your nonprofit’s mission. Using a drip email welcome series is a great way to start a relationship with new constituents that hopefully lead to a long-term relationship. According to research, donor...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.
Your website visitor's data is at risk. If you haven't heard about the legislation altering Internet privacy protections that recently passed through Congress, and is likely going to be signed by President Trump, now is the time to get up to speed...Read more.
Mood boards are a an effective way to discuss ideas, share insights and clarify communication. They will help you visually explain a feeling and in turn, develop a more authentic and successful brand. What makes a successful mood board process? Here...Read more.
Rootid is very excited to announce the 2016 brandUP winner - Root & Rebound. We're thrilled to be working with this amazing organization to help them build out their marketing strategy and broaden their reach.Read more.
Information architecture and page hierarchy can make or break you. Your interface should be designed with your end goals in mind. Website visitors arrive with many levels of literacy, attention spans and 'will' to figure out how to use your website...Read more.
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...Read more.
It’s hard to make your organization stand out in the crowded nonprofit space. That’s one of the reasons that Rootid started the brandUP awards . Our team saw over and over that there are a lot of great nonprofits that are facing resolvable obstacles...Read more.
A style guide should have a few main components, but often times it gets bogged down in a lot of “descriptive jargon” that is just not that useful for your typical non-profit organization or association. A style guide is needed so that anyone who is...Read more.
Hiring a web development firm to design and build a website can be daunting—time consuming and resource intensive. Finding a development company to work with can feel a like finding a mechanic you can trust to work on your car. Here are six...Read more.
The California Family Health Council is a statewide nonprofit that champions & promotes quality sexual + reproductive health care for all. They are leaders in passing recent legislation that as of 2015, gives those covered under another person's...Read more.
Educating...I mean Engaging Your Community We throw around this idea of using stories to engage your community, audience, and site users a lot. I would say, most people take for granted that this is true and that it works to keep people interested...Read more.
Outrospective Marketing in the 21 st Century Conversion levels, effective mixed-media strategies, integrity of core brand promise, optimization…and synergy, what does all this jargon actually give you? As a company, we talk a lot about starting...Read more.
Oversimplified and Out of Touch, Current Advertising Lacks the ‘Nutritional Value’ Consumers Are Desperate For When I think of “going on a binge” it usually involves mass consumption of something that is not healthy over a short period of time, like...Read more.
Nominations and applications are now open for the 2019 brandUP, a free 2-day intensive marketing and communication workshop co-presented with Full Circle Fund. One of last year's nonprofit participants Frailty Myths has now had some time to reflect on the experience, so we sat down to chat with their Co-founder and Director, Erinn Carter, to provide helpful tips to this year's participants.
1. What is Frailty Myths currently focused on as an organization?
As an organization entering our third year of operation, we’re working to solidify our foundation as an organization, working to share our vision as to how to change the world with an even larger audience, and discovering new donors to expand our impact to more communities. From an institutional perspective, this means streamlining and defining how we speak about our theory of change, our strategy for creating that change, and discovering new ways to partner and collaborate with other organizations to amplify our mission.
We’ve partnered with a number of organization, community groups, and leaders to create dynamic spaces for inspiring our participants to challenge inequality, patriarchy and what exactly a leader “looks like.” From our three part series with community garden Pollinate Farms in the heart of the Fruitvale community in Oakland, CA to our “Lift As We Climb” aerial ballet workshop with internationally renowned Bandaloop performers, Frailty Myths has looked to expand our voice while maintaining a strong connection to our core mission, which is inspiring a new generation of women, trans, and gender nonconforming folks to embrace leadership and smash the myth of frailty.
2. Through a communications lens, what have you been focused on over the last year and how is that supporting your overall organizational goals?
We’ve worked hard to share the story of Frailty Myths, both our founding and our theory of change that we accomplish through our work. We’ve worked on this from a number of fronts:
1. Establishing a voice online in our social media accounts and how we interact with our audience. This includes creating original content, engaging questions from our audience, and engaging with organizations and groups that share our overall mission of empowering marginalized communities around the world.
2. Participating in media opportunities, including podcasts and local media to share our message in new audiences. We worked to create a press release regarding our work and developed a database of outlets that overlap with our mission and began to reach out to them.
3. Streamlining our visitors experience on our website. This meant doing a lot of editing to summarize our mission and also working to envision what the journey that each website visitor may go on, depending on their entry point to our website.
4. We’re celebrating March and “Women’s History Month” by going on a nationwide tour, bringing Frailty Myths workshops to the community in five cities across the United States. We’ve worked over the past few month and leading up to the tour amplifying our mission to new audiences across the country and connecting with allied organizations in different cities.
3. How did your experience with Rootid and our BrandUP Award inform your communications strategy?
As a new and growing organization, getting an opportunity to get new eyes on our work and our vision was invaluable. We spent so much time as an organization essentially speaking to ourselves; getting an opportunity to get educated and passionate eyes on our product and getting feedback as to how we could make it clearer and more effective was amazing. We changed a number of things after the workshop. We think a lot more now from the perspective of what our participants or outsiders journey may be in experiencing us for the first time. Can we make understanding what we do at Frailty Myths clear, concise, and to the point? What is our theory of change and how can we share that vision with our audience? After the workshop, we made those questions central to our communications mission.
4. Did anything change in your communications and processes from before to after your brandUP experience? How have you integrated the work into your marketing materials and planning?
We’ve mentioned some of the specific ways in which we’ve incorporated this work into our marketing materials online with our social media profiles. We’ve also streamlined and focused our filmed marketing materials, including a new commercial advertising our mission and impact.
5. Was there anything that was unexpected or surprised you that came out of the work we did together?
I think the continued communication that I’ve had with so many of the people from Rootid and Full Circle Fund after the workshop. The fact that I’ve been able to email and ask questions impressed me so much. There’s a real sense that the folks that have created this program believed in the projects that were selected to be a part of BrandUP, even beyond the few days that we spent together at the workshop.
6. In what ways do you think we can use this process to help organizations like yours further their missions?
As a new organization, we’re primarily focused on what we need to improve, how we can streamline established processes and make our own that fit with our goal and how we operate as an organization. As such, we’re pretty focused on what we’re doing wrong. Having this process, which not only helped to highlight what we could do better, but also showed us spaces where we were succeeding, was really inspiring for me.
I’d also say that the process of being able to pull back from the day to day grind of operating a new nonprofit to be able to refocus on what we’re doing and why we’re doing was so valuable. Prioritizing the bigger picture of “Why” and what are the larger steps to successfully manifesting our “Why” was really helpful in reminding us of what our process is and why were have dedicated our lives to creating a new space for change to blossom.
When I think about BrandUP in terms of the return on the invested time, it’s an impressive experience. Almost more than a year later, we’ve implemented ideas from the workshop into our day to day practice, we’re continuing our relationship with many of the organizations and leaders we met in the workshop, and we’re thinking about ways to use this work in the future. If people are willing to invest the time and effort, the BrandUP experience is definitely worth it.
7. 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?
The “homework” for the workshop is really important. I know that many organizations like mine are just a few people doing a incredible number of jobs at the same time. But taking the time before the workshop to think about different donors and their specific donor journey, solidifying your theory of change, and connecting with each staff member that will participate at the workshop beforehand feels paramount to getting the most out of the workshop. With so little time to think about really dynamic questions, you’ll want to spend as much time being able to think about new ideas and new strategies, not questions about the direction of your work or your foundation vision.
Want to learn more? Read about our 2017 BrandUP Awardee Root & Rebound.
November 28th will mark #GivingTuesday’s sixth annual day of giving. The holiday—which follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US—kicks off the charitable season.
Brands, influencers, and everyday folks come together with a single purpose in mind: to celebrate and encourage giving.
In 2016, that sentiment led to $177 million in global donations to nonprofits through this concentrated effort across social media.
To garner such a massive response, organizations have showed off their benevolent brilliance in a variety of ways.
Here are ten of our favorites:
By combining their efforts, nonprofit Twist Out Cancer and deodorant start-up PiperWai hosted a Sock Hop fundraising event that raised nearly $50,000 from donors and matching grants.
Heifer International offered a goat mask printout and encouraged donors to take selfies or goat-o-bomb (photobomb) others. The photos were then posted on Giving Tuesday, using #GoatSquadGoals, accompanied by a quick line underlining their philanthropic efforts. Not only did this effort entertain and validate Heifer’s mission, it also highlighted the key role goats play in ending poverty around the world.
TomTod celebrated Giving Tuesday with a twist, using the day to thank their supporters. The nonprofit spent the day delivering balloons, food trays, and swag bags to local donors—strengthening their relationships and earning media attention for their programs.
Baker Industries launched a social media campaign (#500Lunches) to provide non-perishable lunches for those in their work rehabilitation program—people with disabilities, recovering substance abusers, individuals on parole, and the homeless.
Employees at the Wendy’s Restaurant Support Center wrote holiday card messages that were donated to the Ohio State University Star House, a local drop-in shelter for homeless youth. Each holiday card contained a Wendy’s gift card.
Camp K, a charity camp for children and adults with disabilities, celebrated their 50th anniversary with a boxing gala on Giving Tuesday. Using the hashtag #KO4CAMPK (Knockout for Camp K), they received sponsorship from local businesses, sold tickets to their supporters, and asked for donations from those who could not attend.
The Pratt Library of Baltimore knows nothing gets attention like a little friendly competition. Following an NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, Pratt challenged the Cincinnati Public Library to see which library could raise more on Giving Tuesday (#BookBowl). The executive director of the “losing” library agreed to dress up and perform a reading from a book written by a local author from the winning city.
With a little creative marketing, these groups rocked Giving Tuesday and promoted some great causes! If you need help with your next campaign, be sure to drop us a line.
A style guide should have a few main components, but often times it gets bogged down in a lot of “descriptive jargon” that is just not that useful for your typical non-profit organization or association. A style guide is needed so that anyone who is creating marketing materials for you will have the basic components and rules to maintain brand consistency and cohesion, but this does not need to be the next Iliad.
Your basic style guide needs to have some examples of your brand’s personality, how it talks about itself in different circumstances and then examples of the visuals that support this messaging. I have seen a lot of style guides during my tenure as a graphic designer and brand strategist, and more often than not I come away thinking, “Half of that was not necessary and only would confuse people who are not used to looking at or using this type of thing.” Keep it short and sweet, less is more.
Here are the basics:
1. Come up with a concise list of frequently asked questions about your organization and then answer them clearly with the tone and feel that you want others to use. This gives your brand champions/staff members/volunteers easy talking points without bogging them down in concept and explanations. Show don't tell.
2. Provide examples of how your logo can and should be used across your various marketing channels and materials so that people using your logo do not stretch or deform it. Remember to show black, white and colored backgrounds as well as in print and for the web.
3. Identify primary and secondary color palettes. If you really only want neutral tones with one pop of color used, show that, but make sure you have a enough secondary colors that your brand will feel consistent and unified without feeling dull and flat. Many organizations/associations have silos to their programs, so being able to color code these different areas is often useful.
4. Provide font families for print and web. If you are not providing people with fonts that you have purchased, make sure that you choose some strong, free web fonts. Always using Arial can get pretty boring, so look into widely used Google Fonts. Their library has gotten pretty extensive now and you can find some good stuff. In this section of your guide, you also want to show people how to layout text. Show a few samples of headlines, headings, sub-headings, body text, quotes, bulleted lists and provide line-heights and letter-spacing notes.
5. Include photography and iconography examples. Your look and feel is important as well as any sensitivities you want to make sure brand messengers are aware of. Showing samples of good photography (even if it is stock) that illustrate the correct tone as well as any color or texture treatments is important to make available.
Final Note: It is important to provide guidance to those who are going to create print and/or digital assets that support your brand. It is also important to have your brand messaging and visual identity clear, consistent and cohesive. However, this can be easily accomplished in under 20 pages. Keep it simple.
Need help with your branding or building a style guide? We can help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Development Company
Hiring a web development firm to design and build a website can be daunting—time consuming and resource intensive.
Finding a development company to work with can feel a like finding a mechanic you can trust to work on your car. Here are six questions that will give you confidence to start the process today.
1. Where is the site going to be hosted?
Your site has to live somewhere, some organizations handle hosting themselves, but most don’t. I would argue that virtually none should. Hosting a website sounds trivial at first, but it can have a lot of hidden complexities.
You don’t need to have a host lined up before hiring a firm, but you should ask teams you’re interviewing for a web development project which host they recommend. Experienced teams will have one or more that they enjoy working with, and will steer you away from places they’ve had problems with in the past.
Some questions to consider when choosing a host are:
How are backups handled? Start with the assumption that worst case scenarios will happen frequently. If your whole site were to be erased, how much data loss is acceptable, and what is the minimum you need for a satisfactory recovery?
Do you want to be able to review changes privately before making them live on your site? Some hosts have a built in workflow that includes testing and development sites that are automatically configured. This makes it easy to review a site in a place that isn’t as public as your main domain name. Any development shop worth anything will set this up on their end to show you the site before making it live, but having this built into your hosting means you can try out changes yourself before making them live and/or your development site can survive past a shop moving on to other jobs.
How much traffic do you expect your site to get and can the web host handle it? Some organizations will get a handful of hits per month and virtually any web host will be adequate for their site, others will get a constant stream of hits and will need a robust web server that is configured to handle that volume of traffic. Generally speaking, if you’re getting more than a couple hundred hits a month, a shared server (GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator…) is off the table and should not be considered.
Hosting Cost Often we see clients looking for the cheapest hosting option, but we tend to warn them away from the cheapest. Cheap often comes with downsides: security vulnerabilities, performance issues and the additional costs associated with lack of developer tools. Usually paying a little extra for a better server and better tool sets will actually save you in the long-run. Think strategically. Cheap has its costs.
2. How are website software updates handled?
A content management system (CMS) is a software package. Just like your phone, or computer, it needs to be updated. These updates can have implications for ongoing costs to the site.
Security vulnerabilities will be found and your site can be hacked into if they aren’t fixed. If you’re thinking “That doesn’t matter to me, there’s nothing mission-critical on my website” then you’re wrong. Your website forms a part of your official identity, a hacker could alter the content of your site, or cause your site to redirect to material that could hurt your reputation.
If you have a technical person on staff you may be able to handle these updates internally, if not, then you need to have a plan for site updates. Some firms will offer maintenance contracts to handle site updates, some will tell you that you’re on your own. Either way, before you commit to working with a shop, make sure you know how you’re going to handle your site updates.
3. Who is responsible for writing your website’s content - internal or contractor?
Web projects can take a lot of time. Depending on the size that means weeks to months, maybe much longer.
While your developers are working on the designs and code for your site you should be working on the content. We advise clients to start writing content as soon as the sitemap is in place.
Other time sinks in the content process are:
Finding good photography. Sometimes you need to generate more.
Passing content to management and higher-ups to approve writing.
Bottom line: Do not leave this until the last minute.
4. Who is your point of contact with the web development shop? Who is their point of contact in your organization?
Things will work easier if both parties have one person to serve as a point of contact for the other. If possible, these two people should be passing most of the communications to each other. This is not to say that this is the only direct contact happening, and it shouldn’t be. There will be times that an in-house designer will need to pass on design notes to the designer working on the project, or people in your organization testing the site will need to pass on bug reports to the developer.
But what you want to avoid is having people on your end communicating directly with the developer asking for changes to features, or even entirely new features. That can lead to absolute chaos, as people in your organization may not know what the scope of your contract with the developer is, and now could be asking them to change or build something costly.
I personally have gotten requests from people working for our clients that would have added thousands of dollars to the budget of a project. Anytime I get requests for alterations or additions from someone who isn’t the point person, I make sure to ask the point person about it and make sure it’s ok, but not everyone is going to be so careful.
5. What tools does this shop use to facilitate communications?
Big projects, no matter what kind, can be messy. They take a lot of time, involve a lot of people, and iterations of design, development, and testing.
Keeping your communications organized will be critical. Working with a firm that has addressed this problem and can tell you what tools they use is very important. If you ask about tools they use to facilitate communications and you hear, "Email" in the response, that’s a red flag.
At the very least you should have access to a task management system, hopefully one that can double as an issue tracker. Ideally, some kind of project-centric instant messaging service should be in there as well, but that isn’t as essential.
Generally, you want to avoid situations where communications can be lost, or multiple threads of conversations can happen about the same topic.
If I email the designer about a header image, and the designer emails you about it, that’s now two threads of communication about a single topic. The designer isn’t a super-human, that person needs to remember which decisions have been made about that header image. They may remember something got said in 'some email,' but can’t remember to who or when.
With a task management system you have a Header Image task, and everyone just comments there about the header image. Everyone sees everything being said about it, so you all remain on the same page.
6. What are you trying to accomplish with your website?
You need a website, but why?
What do you want out of it? A good web development shop will ask you this question, a great one will help you answer it by interviewing stakeholders, customers/constituents, and board members. But in all reality, you should have a handle on this before you even sit down with a third party.
A good place to start is by finishing this sentence: “When someone visits our website I want them to _____”.
We often suggest to clients to think about the top 3 things you want site visitors to see and do and focus on those. A lot of organizations can end up with unfocused sites—huge things that try to be and do everything. Or they end up with iceberg sites, where there’s a vast amount of content hidden beneath a deceptively sparse homepage. Think about it this way: Do you want people to be signing up for your email list? Then highlight the signup form so you see it immediately when the page loads.
Do you have a large media library you’re trying to have accessed? Don’t hide the only link to it in a dropdown menu, highlight it multiple times on the homepage with some kind of featured item area, and maybe a slider that highlights categories. Looking for donations? Make it impossible to miss the donate button and highlight what donations are being used for with your site.
A good firm will help you think strategically about your web development goals and flesh out a strong plan of action. Ultimately, you should have a handle on your goals before talking to anyone. No one knows your organization like you do, so getting this legwork done before hiring someone else will mean that you’re going to get more for your money in the long run.
Need Help? Contact Rootid.
Of course, if you need additional help, or have more questions. Contact us!
Last year, we showed you a great way to save time and money by letting your web team produce a website for your annual report. Online presentations are easy to deliver and easy to track, making them the perfect approach for conscientious organizations.
This year, we wanted to revisit that notion with a fresh dose of inspiration. From standout styles to user-friendly features, these annual reports are raising the bar for everyone:
Scroll through this vibrant report and you’ll find a clever way to display a lot of (pertinent) information. Donor lists are accessed by selecting a contribution level and navigating side-to-side, rather than appearing as one giant wall of text.
According to the text, “Visitors to the Museum are encouraged to leave a message on digital screens near a piece of World Trade Center steel.” Here, some of those impressions have been incorporated into the design and are displayed on a loop.
This organization provides a print (.pdf) option at the end of its digital report.
Websites may be the future of annual reporting, but for these impressive organizations, that future is here. If you’re ready to join them, shoot us a quick message. We’d love to help you show off your work to the world!
Now in its eighth year, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season each November by encouraging global giving via social media. It’s a collaborative effort between nonprofits and civic organizations, small businesses and large corporations—not to mention the driving generosity of families and individuals. (Over $380 million was raised online, this year alone!)
Want to be a part of that magic? We’ve revisited some of this year’s most memorable campaigns and taken note of five elements they all had in common:
5. They were strategic.
Example: Facebook, in partnership with Paypal, matched donations to US-based nonprofits (up to $7 million) on #GivingTuesday. Organizations using Facebook’s ‘Charitable Giving Tools’ paid no fees and were treated to new features, such as recurring donations and updated reporting. By leveraging the social media giant’s offer, nonprofits raised over $125 million.
4. They showed passion.
Example: BarkBox, a canine-centric subscription service, made their followers a simple but powerful offer on #GivingTuesday: For every new subscription, they would donate a BarkBox to a rescue/shelter pup in need. To emphasize this opportunity, they added a video of homeless dogs receiving new treats and toys.
Needless to say, hearts melted and wallets opened.
3. They joined forces with likeminded partners.
Example: Normally, a dollar donated to Feeding America provides at least 10 meals to families in need—but on #GivingTuesday? The Kroger Co. Foundation stepped in to double the impact in support of their Zero Hunger | Zero Waste program. That makes at least 20 meals provided for every dollar raised!
2. They teamed up with influencers.
Example: HGTV superstars Drew and Jonathan Scott—in partnership with Lyft and Nissan—marked #GivingTuesday by taking their celebrity friends for a spin in Habitat for Humanity’s cleverly branded vehicle. The ‘Give Habitat a Lift’ campaign tapped into the popularity of in-car videos as celebs discussed what home means to them and the importance of Habitat’s mission.
1. They were creative.
Example: Just in time for #GivingTuesday, World Vision introduced a new, interactive pop-up shop in New York's Bryant Park. Activities like pictures with a goat, a working water pump, and an African virtual reality experience allowed families to see and feel the mission firsthand. They were then invited to shop for gifts that give back, with all proceeds going to benefit people served by World Vision around the world.
#GivingTuesday is all about finding fun ways to collaborate for the greater good. If you can harness that spirit of giving, you can meet (and surpass!) any fundraising goal.
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.
We're back with our 2017 favorite examples (in alphabetical order) of what a great non-profit website looks like and what makes it stand out. Our hope is that by emulating these exemplary non-profits, you'll soon be able to provide an even greater user experience for your own site visitors—generating all the support you need!
acumen.org: Acumen’s color palette is energetic and modern. Their use of angled boxes gives a flare of visual interest, further making them seem like a forward-thinking, innovative and compelling organization. Acumen also does of a good job of showing both the qualitative and quantitative nature of their impact through engaging story-telling and simple, yet bold infographics. Their incredibly strong and authentic photography is the final piece that really sets this website apart.
amnesty.org: Amnesty International's website combines news site-like feel with clear nonprofit impact. Their home page uses large, compelling photography with an action-oriented visual language. Their newsfeed allows visitors to filter by topic, region/country, and resource type. Combined with directive and clear iconography, this website takes bold and engaging to a new level.
care.org: Care’s website does a great job of showing visitors the various ways they can take action, get involved and share content. Their site illustrates a campaign focused, impactful layout through the use of engaging infographics with clear calls to action. Care’s bold use of iconography and mapping, takes their visual language to the next level.
charitywater.org: Charity Water's website is well-organized and illustrates ‘hope’ in its truest form. Clear water, happy faces and bright photography are used in perfect balance with simple iconography, impact numbers and well composed calls to action. Lastly, their color palette and typography are both welcoming and approachable and once navigated to, their donate page is simple and unintimidating, making it easy for visitors to support their work.
farmland.org: The American Farmland Trust uses a vibrant, earth-tone focused color palette that feels warm, engaging and modern. They display information in some unique ways such as their navigation dropdown taking the form of a full-page color overlay, their challenge statement is displayed through interactive statements paired with colorful infographics and impact numbers paired with compelling photography. Their internal pages display layers of information on a single page through clear hierarchies and language.
feedingamerica.org: Feeding America's use of bold colors, large photography and unobtrusive text overlays is simple, direct and to-the-point. Their content strategy is excellent—they know their audience(s)— headlines like, “No one can thrive on an empty stomach,” are extremely compelling and give site visitors an engaging introduction to the importance of their work.
gatesfoundation.org: The Gates Foundation website stands out with an extremely clear and well organized site navigation. Though they utilize a more minimalist approach with a mobile-focused, pop-out menu, site visitors are able to quickly and easily expand sub-menus to see the full depth and breadth of this organization. Their typography is also an excellent example of classic and modern, serif and sans-serif well combined for a sophisticated legibility.
girleffect.org: Girl Effect's about page guides you through a carefully crafted narrative. They clearly and directly explain why they exist, what the issue is that they solve and the impact statistics that support their work. Girl Effect’s writing is engaging and easily digestible, inspiring site visitors with their energy, optimism and ambition.
globalfundforwomen.org: Global Fund for Women combines striking visuals with bold color and modern typography, creating an engaging and sophisticated home page. Their ‘grant-making’ ‘voice’ and ‘join’ triad illustrates an ideal content strategy and information architecture—guiding site visitors from understanding their work to a clear call to action. Internally, in addition to traditional monetary gifts, the Global Fund for Women's donate page encourages support in a variety of forms, i.e. cause marketing, corporate matching, etc.
KIPP.org: KIPP’s website utilizes a vertically oriented, color block layout that offers succinct information about their work. Small animations are included to give a sense of light-hearted professionalism. Color overlays, tabbed interfaces and a variety of sliders are used to conserve space while allowing site visitors to smoothly peruse content more deeply.
namesforchange.org: Names for Change has a visually appealing, masonry layout with a unique and compelling interactivity—it truly makes you want to ‘play.’ Their color palette is vibrant, warm and accessible with clear contrast. The site’s simple language and modern typography gives a sense of innovative social change. Furthermore, Names for Change’s use of page overlays rather than click away pages allows users to quickly and effectively absorb information before returning to the main landing page.
nature.org: The Nature Conservancy’s home page is an excellent example of large, beautiful photography, sophisticated typography and a modern layout that is approachable, engaging and has an excellent page hierarchy. Their minimalist use of iconography, combined with a back and forth grid format, ads visual interest without over-crowding the white space. Finally, The Nature Conservancy hosts a carbon footprint calculator as a content offering to drive traffic that may not be as familiar with their work or website.
onedrop.org: One Drop’s website has a sophisticated modernity illustrated through its blue-centric yet warm color palette, action-oriented typography and compelling photography. The site makes good but sparing use of animations, clean and directive information architecture and bold infographics to help site visitors move smoothly throughout the site and engage more deeply.
oxfamamerica.org: Oxfam Foundation’s visual language has a youthful vibrancy all its own. Taking a different approach than similar organizations, their color palette is bright and endearing, using a chunky paper cut-out motif for iconography and typography.
pawschicago.org: Paws Chicago’s home page illustrates well-crafted, meaningful information sharing. Their header bolsters their impact numbers by tying them to navigation right off the bat. Rather than using a slideshow, they have a nice News & Features carousel that highlights import information directly below the first ‘fold’—giving it weight and allowing site visits to jump into what’s new. Continuing down the page, site visitors are given a clear understanding of Paws Chicago’s work is important, what they do and ample opportunities to engage, learn more and donate.
possiblehealth.org: The Possible Healthcare website is a very simple brochure. It does a very good job of staying extremely lean and making good use of 3rd party softwares rather than trying to have the website do its own heavy lifting (Classy for donations, BambooHR for job postings, and clever use of Medium for blog posts and the spreading of their work on a more international platform). A newsletter popup with a compelling photo and tagline captures visitors' attention on Possible Healthcare's site
wcs.org: The Wildlife Conservation Society’s home page is full of bright images of animals, yet still finds a way to give your eyes space to rest along the way. Their left-hand menu is stationary throughout and though it takes up slightly more real estate than a top, horizontal menu, its ‘stillness’ and color palette are welcoming and calm in contrast to the activity of the page content. Internal pages again have bold photography and modern typography with the navigation tucked away into a mobile menu.
By focusing on certain website elements (i.e. navigation, layout, forms, opt-ins, calls-to-action, content offerings, etc.), nonprofits like these have been able to generate swells of interest and support online. If you haven't already, you might consider giving some of their techniques a try!
Donor retention is a critical part of growing your nonprofit’s mission. Using a drip email welcome series is a great way to start a relationship with new constituents that hopefully lead to a long-term relationship.
According to research, donor retention is declining across the nonprofit sector. So, starting off on the right foot with new donors is critical to building that long-term engagement.
New donor welcome series have also become easier with the advent of drip email marketing, also known as marketing automation. Email providers like MailChimp, ConstantContact, ActiveCampaign, Pardot and more are readily available to nonprofits, and make setting up a welcome series quick and easy.
What is a Drip Email Campaign?
Drip email campaigns are an automated way to send out emails to a user based on around a schedule and a behavior that triggers the series.
For the purpose of this post, the example is a new donor to your organization. When they first give a gift it would trigger the email welcome series.
An email welcome series is typically 3 to 4 emails sent about a week apart. The goal is to reinforce the decision that the donor made to support your mission. Then lead them down a pathway towards further engagement.
Do NOT ask them for more money. This will give the impression that’s all you care about.
Why is Marketing Automation Critical to Your Drip Email Campaign?
As we all know, nonprofit staff are constantly wearing a million different hats. Because marketing automation is automated, it reduces the staff time needed to manually engage constituents.
Simply put, it builds capacity at your organization, while also building relationships.
Sounds good, right?
Example Welcome Series
Your email drip campaign should always be personalized. So, make sure that you are using merged data to address the new donor personally.
As we mentioned above, the campaign should be 3 to 4 emails long, and you can send each email about a week a part.
Email #1: Thank You There’s no better way to start a relationship than thanking someone. Immediately after a donation is made, send a thank you note to the donor.
The note should reinforce their decision to donate to your organization. Talk about the values or your organization, and how you are making an impact.
This is also a good time to talk about your organizational goals. Demonstrate that you have a big vision and a plan to get there.
Think about more than just a written email. Try a video message from your executive director, or a video that captures your organization’s mission and vision.
Email #2: Impact Story Storytelling is a great way to show organizational impact.
This email could include a compelling image from the impact story, a teaser about the story, and a quote.
Use video to tell a story
Use infographics to illustrate the problem your mission solves and the impact your work has on it
Email #3: Small Engagement Ask
At this point, the new donor should feel connected to your mission and values.
It’s time to make the first ask. Not money, but offer them a way to engage with you further. For example:
Sign-up for your newsletter
Follow you on social
Listen to a podcast or recorded webinar
Read a publication or resource
Don’t forget to be specific about the value this step will bring to them. Why is the newsletter valuable to them. For example, first to receive volunteer opportunities, or access to publications/resources.
Email #4: Add Value Relationships should be a two-way street. This is no different with constituents.
Send an email about resources or publications that could be helpful to the donor. Perhaps offer special access to a volunteer opportunity.
The bottom line is, help the donor realize that your organization can add value to their lives and experience. Do something nice for them.
Email #5: Larger Engagement Ask (Not Money!)
Take the next step and ask the donor to enage in a larger capacity. Some ideas:
Site tour - give them a guided tour
Volunteer opportunity - ask them to volunteer at a certain date
Join an event
Take Your Drip Campaign Further
Here are some tips to help to improve your drip campaigns:
A/B test your email content - testing your emails will allow you to tweak the content to get better and better over time. Compare email subject lines, deliver dates/times, actual email content, imagery, etc.
Use Landing Pages - landing pages help increase conversion rates when you are asking users to take an action. Services like Unbounce, LeadPages and Instapage make this process extremely easy.
Segment Users by Action/Interest - many marketing automation systems will allow you to track user interests by the types of links they click on. Use this information to further engage the donor based on their interests.
Link Drip Campaigns - when a donor finishes one drip campaign, start them through another automation sequence based on the behaviors that the donor has taken during the welcome series.
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!