We ❤ nonprofits. It’s our pleasure to work with many nonprofit clients every day. We hear their peeves: Money is tight. Donors are busy. The Mission is imperative.
The good news is, the right mix of marketing communications (marcom) tactics can help turn these peeves into pleasures, helping nonprofits increase positive exposure, raise more money, and reach organizational goals. Your brand truly lives in the minds of your stakeholders, so employing exceptional marcom practices can improve both your brand’s reputation and the emotional response your target audience has towards your brand. And that advances the Mission.
The many opportunities that exist for your organization to better execute marcom tactics is its own pleasure. So we’ve put together a few tactical tips to help nonprofits define audiences, express values, and communicate unique brand promises as well as brand differences. Because bringing the brand to life through messaging, website, newsletter, logo, color palette and more—as well as making good use of engaging content such as video, infographics, and ebooks—will help nonprofits achieve their goals and objectives.
Make Your Appeal Actually Appealing
Sounds trite and obvious? Okay, but are you really doing that? One powerful way to make your appeals more appealing, is to tell your donors clearly and specifically where their money is going. Every nonprofit we’ve ever worked with has a story to tell about the people/animals/organizations they help, and many of them are getting better and better at telling those stories. But do your stakeholders really understand what role their dollars play in these stories?
Consider getting more explicit about the benefits of donated dollars by creating a video, or series of animated infographics, that tell donors how many pencils, how much dog food, or how many hours of childcare their donations enable. It’s a great way to drive home the fact that donors truly do change lives. And that makes donors feel as special as they truly are.
Brand Your Brand
Successful companies know that brands are personalities. They use logos, color palettes, fonts, tag lines, graphic initiatives and other brand guidelines to create a coherent and consistent mental image and understanding of who they are in the minds of their many stakeholders. In other words, they want their personalities to be comprehensible and likable. Does your nonprofit advance its Mission with an unswerving brand identity?
Revisit your branding guidelines and make sure every member of your organization follows them. Don’t have branding guidelines? Get some. But find a design partner who won’t waste valuable resources on them. (Some folks charge an arm and a leg for that work!) For external communications especially, make sure you have a single voice so your Annual Report, website, brochure and e-newsletters share the same personae. No one wins when your brand has a transparent split personality! And remember, your website is not a peeve. It’s your most valuable communications tool and often your first impression, a true pleasure. Make sure it truly reflects your branding, communicates your Mission, and tells your stories in a highly professional way.
Share Your (Visual) Story
Nonprofits have a real advantage when it comes to storytelling. Why? Because people love stories about people. And most nonprofits truly help people improve their lives in one way or another. In fact, for-profit organizations are struggling to find ways to create the same kinds of emotional connections that come so easily to many nonprofits. People are incredibly visual (yes, your clients) and visual stories are powerful—that’s why marketing professionals are so crazy about visual storytelling. But is your nonprofit making the most of this advantage?
Building coherent, and visually appealing, narratives about the many people your Mission impacts can help you achieve fund raising and organizational goals. In addition to having an authentic and consistent voice, your stories should be visual and interactive. Great e-newsletters are a terrific place to feature the people you help, include surveys to invite more participation, and share images, slideshows, flipbooks and videos featuring your clients. And these same stories, and associated assets, are very social-media friendly. So share away and make sure every asset you create is transferable, so others can share them as well.
Upgrade Your Annual Reports
Sick of boring Annual Reports that you spend valuable resources creating but no one actually cares about? If you feel that way about your Annual Report, chances are your stakeholders do too. Sure they have to be done, but do they have to be dull? The fact is, expectations of Annual Reports are pretty low, and over delivering on expectations is a great way to stand out from the crowd and make your brand shine. Your brand is not boring, your Mission is not lame… there’s no reason your Annual Report should be!
Turn your peeve into a pleasure by thinking of your Annual Report as another storytelling vehicle. Figure out what stories and elements sing and beef them up. Create a digital version of your Annual Report with animated elements, such as good-news charts with bars that grow, a video background, or animated images that move to show a single client’s life improve with your help. If you have the flexibility, consider presenting your Annual Report in story form as a simple video with captions moving to a good audio track.
Call Out Your Key Calls-to-Action
Advancing your Mission requires stakeholders to take a variety of actions: donate time and money, buy event tickets, share assets across social platforms, vote on board members, etc., etc., etc. You communicate about these needs on your website, in your e-newsletters, on your Facebook page and in virtually every asset you create. But every member of your audience should know exactly what you want them to do with every single asset you create and share. Are your calls-to-action clear, concise and actionable?
Assemble all your assets. Literally. Stick them all on a long conference table or something. The branding and voice is consistent across them all, right? Great, now consider each one and think about who its audience truly is. Which internal teams use that asset and how? What does that team want the audience to do? Is that message really clear? Chances are, calls-to-action on your e-newsletters, website, brochures, and elsewhere could benefit from clarity, focus and better visuals. (There really is no reason all calls-to-action have to be text in a button). And keep in mind, if you’re using jargon, unfamiliar symbols, acronyms, or buzzwords your assets might not be communicating as well as you think they are.
You’re every bit as fabulous as your mission…your marketing can be too!