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.
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.
Successful Website Projects: 4 Things to Discuss BEFORE You Start
In the age of content marketing, control of your website is a must. Your visitors expect fresh content constantly.
Make sure you you get trained on how to manage your website.
Great, I have my obstacles, now what?
It’s important to provide context to the obstacles. Once identified, it’s important to better understand how they contribute to your goals not getting met.
For example: “I spend so much time downloading and uploading CSV’s to our CRM, that I can’t follow-up to thank our donors.”
Know Your Audience
I can’t stress how important this element is:
It’s hard to engage an audience that you don’t fully understand. Take the time to get to know and understand them. Your success counts on it.
Your organization should have a clear description for each audience group your work with and the top 3 things that you want them to do.
Do you know what they do on your site currently?
Do you know what you WANT them to do on your site?
Notice: there is a big difference between what they do, and what you’d like them to do. This is an important distinction.
How do you measure success on our website?
It’s hard to measure if you never set goals.
We find that many people don’t set goals because they don’t want to know if they’re not meeting them. Failure is not celebrated enough.
Failure to meet a goal can be as bad as blowing a goal out of the water because maybe you set your expectations too low.
At the end of the day, you need establish what you’re going to measure and how you’re going to measure it.
How to get started
Getting this conversation started can be difficult, especially in an organization that has a lot of voices to be heard. Here are some keys:
Set expectations that you would like to hear all staff thoughts on these matters, but not all suggestions provided will be implemented on the new website. It’s important to establish this early and often.
Internal surveys can be helpful to facilitate this process.
Make sure to engage senior staff early in the planning process. Getting their buy-in on the project is extremely important.
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 capacity.
We'll show you how to leverage that.
Using stories to motivate supporters is as old as campfires in caves, but the art of storytelling is a skill that you have to hone through practice and repetition.
The good news is: powerful stories have components that you can learn to include in all of your stories, and drive more support for your mission. Here are some tips on how to write a powerful story.
Know Your Audience
When writing or telling a story, you have to know to whom you are delivering the message. What does your audience care about? What motivates them?
If you don’t already know your audience or constituents, then it’s time to do some work. There are a few ways your can do this.
Run an online survey to find out what attracts them to your mission.
Do one-on-one surveys with a wide variety of stakeholders - board members, long-time donors, volunteers, people that just started engaging with your organization, people that have never heard of your organization.
Research your competitors, or organizations that are similar. What type of storytelling are they using?
Pull your website’s analytics and see what stories have been successful in the past. Look at social media posts and see which posts have performed the best.
To write an effective story, there has to be a clear message that you are delivering. Once your audience has been established, you should know their concerns and pain-points. Use that knowledge to generate a powerful message.
The now-famous Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, talks about focusing on the “why” to connect with your audience. Why is the struggle that you have introduced important? Why does that struggle matter to the world, and more importantly to your readers?
As Simon Sinek points out, the “why” is linked to the primal center of our brains, so use it to your advantage as the storyteller. If you can connect readers with the “why” then they will continue to read, and engage with your content and in the long-term your mission.
Go through this exercise in two simple questions to develop a clear message:
1) “What is my audience and what are their concerns?”
2) “How do I distill my message into one simple sentence.”
How to Write a Great Story Introduction
In today’s distracted world, there are million things tugging at your reader’s attention at all times. If you don’t capture their attention in the first two sentences, they are lost. That’s why writing a great story starts with writing a great introduction.
Here are few tips on how to write a great introduction:
Introduce the main character (it should never be your organization)
Introduce the challenge or struggle
Set the mood or environment, focus on emotion
What is the Struggle in Your Story
A story without a struggle is not a story. When writing your story, be sure to introduce the struggle early. At this point, since you have done your audience research, you should be writing about a struggle that speaks to your target audience. Introducing this struggle early in the story will capture their attention.
The struggle in your story should serve as the rallying cry for readers. It should be the tool that motivates them.
The struggle also sets up your main character to be a hero when they eventually overcome the struggle.
Lastly, it is important to connect your character’s struggle to a larger universal struggle or truth. If you can connect this one person’s struggle to a larger problem, then your mission, and the reader’s engagement in it, become vital to empowering more heros like your main character.
Keep Your Storytelling it Simple
Keep it simple for your audience. Remember, you are competing with a million other tasks that your reader is thinking about. They should not have to think too hard about the narrative of your story. Here are a few rules you should follow:
Don’t use jargon or internal organizational terminology.
Use short paragraphs that contain only one idea per paragraph.
The first sentence in each paragraph should clearly state the idea that will be in that paragraph.
Simple stories can be the most memorable.
Expand story details like emotion (happy, sad, frustration, a look on a face), not on mundane facts (time of day, date, weather, etc.)
The Call to Action
Don’t forget that your story should end with a call to action, or a logical next step for your user. Once you have captured their attention, set-up the struggle, and inspired them, it’s time to get them to act!
Relate your call to action back to your story and include an obvious way for users to take action. Use active language, and set a time limit on the action if possible.
Use calls to action that empower your reader. For example, “You can make a difference, act now!”
Lastly, it is important that if the user takes action, you capture their information. The user has already shown an interest in supporting what you do, if you capture their information, you can continue to engage them further in your mission.
Deciding which marketing channels you want to focus on and what you want to present on those channels can be challenging. Many organizations and companies try to "do it all" and find that they are not getting the results they had hoped for.
If you're feeling overwelmed with all the information out there about multi-channel marketing and how to drive more traffic, you're not alone. Here are a few steps to help you make sense of it all.
What are Marketing Channels?
It sounds fancy, but marketing channels are simply the different ways you can communicate with customers, clients, donors, volunteers, etc. Here is a quick list of marketing channels that might be on your mind:
Website: Clearly you need a website, but depending on your size, this can be anything from an interactive "brochure" with a few clear calls to action to a fully integrated social hub. Make sure you are keeping your content fresh and that visitors will get a clear sense of what you do in the first 3 seconds they land on your home page. See attached picture for more info.
Blog: Though always important, your content strategy is becoming more and more important not only so you can communicate what you do, but also for your Search Engine Optimization. Key words are important to include in what you are writing about, showing in infographics or creative artwork, but meta-tagging and all that other "behind-the-scenes" magic is just not as useful as it once was.
Print/Direct Mail: Yes, people do still do these and if created and used sparingly can be really effective. Just make sure you are creating something useful that people will want to keep for some reason. Maybe it is sharing information about something your company/organization knows a lot about...then the fact that it also has your branding and is a reminder of where they got this great tool is just a bonus.
Email Newsletters/Flyers: A strategic email campaign schedule can go far as long as you are thoughtful about the information you are sharing and are not sending out "junk mail" too often. 1-2x month or less, keeps people engaged and not annoyed with the amount of emails they are recieving from you. Also, keep your message short, sweet and more about then rather than just broadcasting your latest good news. Give them something they will want to share with the people they know. As in all marketing, 80% of what you send should be sharing information for the greater good, 20% can be broadcasting why you are great.
Facebook/Google+: These two platforms are more about awareness than anything else. Posting fresh content with attached images 4 or so times/week, liking and commenting on other people's posts will keep you engaged in your community and also give you the social credability you want. That being said, posting too often can hurt you so think about what you are sharing and why as well as how others are engaging with your posts. It may seem obvious, but if a lot of people are liking and sharing something, you are on the right track, if it is always just the same people, rethink what might be more successful. Asking questions and again making about them
Twitter: Great for sharing articles, artwork and information with your community. Keep in mind this is something that takes constant engagement on your part. You can not build a following if you are not spending min. 30 minutes a day/5 days per week reading, retweeting, favoriting and posting.
Instagram/Pinterest: Choosing one of these as a channel you focus on can be great if you generate a lot of photos and/or short video clips on a regular basis. Posting images at least 3x/week from your last function, fundraiser, meeting, or just pictures from around the office, with a quick caption can go far in communicating your brand and getting people interested in following you.
Be Strategic About Selecting a Marketing Channel
If you are reading this, you probably already know that spreading yourself too thin will actually get you no where. Being thoughtful about your approach will not only save you valuable time, but come across to your audience as more authentic and grounded. There is plenty of noise out there so be more focused and directed.
Interview Your Audience Members to Learn What Marketing Channels Work Best for Them
To use the correct marketing channels, you have to know how to communicate with your audience. For instance, if you're customers are 40-60 years old, you probably don't want to use SnapChat as a major marketing channel - you won't reach them there. However, you might want to look at growing your email list, or use Facebook, since older populations tend to be in those spaces.
Stakeholder interviews and surveys are an extremely effective way to learn more about your audience. At Rootid we perfer interviews, since you can "read between the lines" when chatting with people. But, what should you ask? Download our interview guide to make sure you're asking the right questions.
Take Multi-Channel Marketing One-Step at a Time
There is no need to jump in all at once. Be strategic about how you start marketing through the channels that you use. Pick a channel to focus on, build out your program, then move to the next. You'll also see that once you have one channel built, you can use that to build more. For instance, if you have a large email list, you can use that to promote your Facebook page.
Do Work in Bursts: Automate Your Marketing Channels as Much as Possible
As a marketer, it is really important to manage your time. Rather than spending time each day managing your marketing channels, use tools that allow you to do work in focused bursts, and schedule content. Note that it is really important with social channels that you continue to "listen" and respond in real time. But, planned content can be written and scheduled easily.
Here are some ideas for how to do work in bursts and some useful tools to help you get this done.
1) Write all your blog posts for a month in at one time. Use native functionality Wordpress or Drupal scheduling to publish them over time.
2) Once you have the content for your website you can write and schedule 2 weeks of social posts in one sitting. Tool: buffer, hootsuite
3) Once you have your website content written, you can also write and schedule all of your email newsletters. Tool: MailChimp, VerticalResponse
In today's world, multi-channel marketing is extremely important. If you haven't had a chance to start, today is the day and Rootid can help. We provide a free marketing channel assessment to anyone that mentions this blog post!
Selecting the Right Channel for Online Fundraising
Multi-channel marketing is even more important in fundraising. Donors that receive asks through multiple channels are far more likely to donate than those that receive an ask through just one channel.
If you're raising money online (which you definitely should be!), then your website is critical to your success. Download our Ultimate Guide to Online Donations to ensure that your website is doing all that it can to help you raise money online.