What Your Donors Won’t Tell You about Your Nonprofit Newsletter

Is this how your newsletter makes your donor feel?
Is this how your newsletter makes your donor feel?

It’s boring them to tears.

Actually, let me rephrase. Not to tears. That would mean they’re feeling an emotional connection. Sadly, they’re not.

Most donor newsletters are boring to the point of numbness.

You’re not making the impact you need to make to keep your donors, let alone get them to give more the next time you ask.

Why?

Let me tell you what I learned from Penelope Burk, Donor-Centered Fundraising author, about 15 years ago. It fundamentally changed the way I communicate with donors. Continue Reading

It’s Blog Action Day: Raise Your Voice Against Injustice!

“RAISE YOUR VOICE”: Blog Action Day 2015 celebrates those who raise their voices to make the world a more just place. Let’s raise our voices to defend their right to raise theirs. In safety.

Did you know today is Blog Action Day? I apologize for two posts in one day. I usually send my curated links on Friday (and I did, because I missed last week), but I just had to let you know about this special day when bloggers all over the world unite, raise our voices and shine a light on one single thing that’s not going right in our world. And we talk about how to make it right.

There are, alas, always wrongs that need righting.

And, gosh, there are so many things. They seem to multiply like rabbits. It can seem hopeless.

But it’s not. We’ve proven that we can pull rabbits out of hats and make magic happen. Life has always been unfair, yet civilization has prevailed.

And lives have been made better. In large part, because of the compassionate work done through  civil society — the social benefit sector and citizens working together to right the ship.

Allow me to share a little story learned in my many years working for Jewish social service organizations:

There’s an old Jewish parable that begins with the notion that at one time everything in the world was perfectly balanced. It was “tzedek” – which happens to not only mean “balanced” but is also the root of  the word “tzedekah” ( justice) and the term for the money that is collected weekly by every Jewish community to take care of its poor. The goal of tzedek/tzedekah, throughout our lives, is to do what we can to get back to that equilibrium. That time when there was no injustice. No unfairness. No fighting. No wars.

In fact, the Torah insists, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.

Here’s to those who speak out against injustice!

This year’s Blog Action Day theme is the mother of all issues:

The right, and the moral imperative, to RAISE YOUR VOICE to speak out about any of the many injustices we see all around us. To shine a light on wrongs that must be righted — without fear of retribution. To look evil in the eye, rather than look away. To bring hope in the darkness, so that there will be light.

 

The case of Malala Yousafzai, the 11-year-old blogger who was shot in the head for chronicling the fears of schoolgirls under the shadow of the Taliban, has become a well-known cause célèbre. She prevailed. But there are thousands like her who are silenced.

This is a fight that must be won battle by battle. And the war is still raging.

Continue Reading

Clairity Click-it: Nonprofit Social Media, Fundraising Ideas + Learning Ops for You

Mouse clicking computer mouse

Click it!

This week’s Click-It is nice and fat, offering a big mix of social media tips I’ve found for you across the web. Some are nonprofit specific; some are ideas you can steal from the for profit world. If your social media plan isn’t working, or you’re working too hard, check these out. Plus, of course, you’ll find some stuff to help you raise more money (we lead off with some really big ideas) — including some great learning opportunities (scroll to the bottom) you won’t want to miss! Continue Reading

9 Tricks to Boost Nonprofit Social Media Traffic and Engagement – Part 2

9 clouds

Ways to acquire and retain donors using social media

In Part 1 of this article we discussed four out of nine tricks to boost your social media traffic and build relationships with your target audiences. They included (1) optimizing your profile; (2) joining different networks; (3) crafting catchy, relevant titles, and (4) creating engaging content. Now it’s time to reveal the rest.

Before I do, it’s worth noting that there’s one dominant strategy underlying all my recommendations: Develop and rock a blog. All of these tricks will work without one, but a blog is the absolute best way to deliver content to your social networks. So make it the hub of your marketing communications strategy. Honest-to-goodness it will make your life easier! If you have numerous excuses holding you back from blogging, read this article to get over them [and see below for some help with implementation]. Got it? Okay. Let’s move on to tricks five through nine. Continue Reading

It’s Blog Action Day: No Blog Needed to Participate; Learn How – and Feel Good!

This year's Blog Action Day issue is growing inequality - how can we make our world more just?

This year’s Blog Action Day issue is growing inequality – how can we make our world more just?

Did you know today is Blog Action Day? It’s a day when bloggers all over the world get together to shine a light on one single thing that’s not going right in our world.

We shine this light on Blog Action Day so that, together, we can fix things.

There’s an old Jewish parable that begins with the notion that at one time everything in the world was perfectly balanced. It was “tzedek” (balanced) – which happens to be the root of  the word “tzedekah” ( justice) and the term for the money that is collected by every Jewish community to take care of its poor. Our goal, throughout our lives, is to do what we can to get back to that equilibrium. That time when there was no injustice. No unfairness. No fighting. No wars.Continue Reading

A Baker’s Dozen of Nonprofit Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – Pt.2

I've baked up 7 more nonprofit blogging  tips for you -- so now you've got a full Baker's Dozen!

I’ve baked up 7 more nonprofit blogging tips for you — so now you’ve got a full Baker’s Dozen!

Last week, in part 1 of this post, I encouraged you to begin blogging if you’re not doing so already. And, if you are, to do so more effectively. Make your blog the hub of your content marketing. It will simplify your life in so many ways, and become the anchor for your marketing communications and organizational branding.

Today, let’s continue with seven more “do’s and don’ts” to round out our baker’s dozen of nonprofit blogging tips:

Don’t 7: You don’t give credit where it is due.

It’s fine to derive inspiration from another source, but don’t claim the prose as your own.

Do 7:  When you cite other sources, attribute them.

If you quote someone, put quotation marks around their prose and state their name. If you want to be extra nice, include a hyperlink to their website or suggest to folks that they follow this person on one or more social media sites. I derived inspiration for this post from two articles on Hubspot by Nathan Yerian and Ginny Sosky. You can see them here and here.

Don’t 8: You don’t take time to edit your post.

This is one of my pet peeves, and it’s a real rookie mistake. Why put all that time into creating a great useful post that will draw readers to you, when you then repel them by including a bunch of typos and run-on sentences? It’s sloppy and stupid.

Do 8: Come back to your post the next day and edit it.

Remove redundancies. Eliminate jargon. Take out excess adverbs and adjectives. Run spell check. Break up big chunks of text. Use sub-heads, bold-face, color and images to draw the reader’s eye to your main points and make it easier to scan. Do it the next day, when you’re fresh and can look at your post from a different perspective.

Don’t 9: You let great get in the way of good.

This used to be a big problem for me. I’m a perfectionist by nature. It was hard for me to hit the “publish” button. Please learn from my mistakes and don’t obsess! If you’ve followed all of the “Do’s” outlined above, your post will be ready for prime time.

Do 9: Hit the “publish” button once you’ve done your due diligence.

Make yourself a checklist and post it next to your computer. Go through it after you’ve finished writing. Once you’re done, publish your post!

Don’t 10: You publish erratically.

Consistency is key if you want to build a following for your blog.

Do 10: Develop a content editorial calendar and stick to your publishing schedule.

It’s been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. A content editorial calendar keeps you organized and on track. You commit to your blog having a consistent presence, so your audience can commit to looking for you and reading you.  You don’t become one of those TV shows we all stopped watching because their schedule became so erratic we couldn’t remember when/where to find them. By planning ahead, you drive perseverance.

Don’t 11: You fail to include an image.

It’s often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. When it comes to blog articles this is true in spades! Our culture is increasingly visual to the point where articles with images get 94% more views! Marketers who are embracing visual content are seeing huge returns in terms of more readers, leads, customers and revenue.

Do 11: Include at least one image in your blog post.

This should be a no-brainer based on the research cited above (and all over the internet). Your blog posts have a purpose. You want them to engage folks. Visual content is a huge driver of engagement. You can afford it, because there are plenty of online sites offering free image downloads today. Just search for them and pick one.  And check out Jeff Bullas’ The Ultimate Guide to Using Images in Social Media. He’ll give you all sorts of tips and tricks for using images to their greatest effect. Enough said.

Don’t 12: You fail to include a call to action as a next step.

Once you’ve published your post you want folks who read it to do something.   What is that? How will your readers know what you want them to do? Too often blog posts end with a whimper. The reader gets all the way to the end, only to be left with that lead balloon feeling of “so what?

Do 12: Include a clear call to action.

This will increase your conversion rate (i.e., turning first-time readers into subscribers; turning ongoing readers into donors) and improve the return on investment for the time you put into crafting and publishing your post. Simple calls to action include:

  • Subscribe to our blog.
  • Comment on this post.
  • Share this post.
  • Please donate.

For more on creating effective calls to action, read this free guide from Hubspot.

Don’t 13: You fail to build relationships.

When you ignore people who do as you’ve asked, it’s just plain rude. It discourages them. It can even anger them. Conversely, when you interact with folks it can encourage others to interact as well. Creating a dialogue is one of the primary benefits of a blog, enabling you to get to know your constituents in ways that were previously cost-prohibitive. Don’t waste your opportunities.

Do 13: Respond to folks who take the time to interact with you through your blog.

If they comment on your post, reply back to them. If they share your post on social media or via email, thank them. If one of your active constituents has their own blog, go to their site and make a comment or share their post. If you see they have a large following, ask them nicely if they would consider sharing your post with their network. And so forth.

Discover How a Blog Can Drive Donor Acquisition, Retention and Support

Discover How a Blog Can Drive Donor Acquisition, Retention and Support

If you found this post useful, you may be interested in my brand new  Nonprofit Blogging Playbook.

Get as many Guides as you want or need (if you buy all four, I offer a “Bundle Bargain” discount). A great blog is one of the best investments you can make in acquiring and retaining more donors. Learn how with this 4-volume set that will teach you (1) blog fundamentals; (2) content folks will want to read; (3) how to use your content to engage folks, and (4) how to promote your blog so it builds momentum and drives more potential supporters to your website. Plus, I stand by all my Clairification products.  If you’re not happy, there’s a no questions asked full refund policy. The only way to lose is by doing nothing. Don’t be a loser! 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

A Baker’s Dozen of Nonprofit Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – Pt.1

Warm up with a baker's dozen of nonprofit blogging tips.

Warm up with a baker’s dozen of nonprofit blogging tips.

If you’ve been reading Clairification you know by now that I’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits.  If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get one. Pronto! Yup, I think they’re that important.

And don’t tell me you don’t have the bandwidth. You absolutely do. You just have to rethink your modus operandi. You know you have to communicate with folks, right? Well, do it by blogging rather than what you’re doing now.

I’ll wager your blog will outperform every other communication strategy you have in terms of driving folks to your site, informing them about your cause and getting them actively engaged in what you do.

But…don’t just slap crap up there. If that’s what you do (or have done) it won’t work. You’ll have wasted your precious time.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid wasting your resources if you know what to look out for.   So let’s take a look at some key blogging mistakes (don’ts) and tips (do’s) on how to avoid them. I’ve got a baker’s dozen for you for good luck; today we’ll begin with the first six:

Don’t 1: You think of topics with no thought to the value to your reader. 

Perhaps the most common problem bloggers must address is valuable content. A study by Sirius Decisions shows that around two-thirds of B2B content doesn’t get used. What a colossal waste of these businesses resources!

If you want content that will “go viral” it’s got to have practical value to your constituents. They must find it meaningful and they must be able to act upon it immediately, without too much effort. When people care they share. If folks don’t see the need to open or share your content, you’ve wasted your time writing your post.

Do 1: Think from the perspective of your reader: Will this post be useful to them?

You’ve got to be honest here. The fact that your organization won an award is not useful to your donor. The fact that they can win an award by engaging with you (e.g., playing a game, entering a contest, responding with a comment, etc.) is. The fact that you added new caseworkers to your staff is not useful. A list of “Top 10 Tips to Keep Seniors Safe” is.

Don’t’ 2: You think of topics randomly, rather than according to a plan.

Just as there are many fish in the sea, there are many good ideas for blog posts. But if they don’t serve your current strategic goals, they’re not a good idea for you at this particular point in time.

Do 2: Think of topics that serve your strategic goals.

Never forget to answer the “why” question. Always begin by jotting down the key take-aways you want your reader to leave with. Why are you blogging? The most likely reason is to increase awareness of your cause (and the urgent need for what you do) and grow your base of support. Does a blog post that narrates the biography of your Founder do this? Nope. What does? Generally posts that align with reader concerns are those that are most read. Ask your receptionist what questions s/he is most frequently asked. Answering these questions in your blog has the side benefit of not having to answer them over and over again. Piggyback on news stories that are likely top-of-mind for readers and also relate to your work. This has the side benefit of establishing you as an authority on a topic of relevance to many of your readers.

Don’t’ 3: You write like a professor, lawyer, engineer or robot.

People won’t read stuff online that’s above a 6th or 7th grade reading level. They won’t understand jargon. And they want to have a little fun; not read a term paper.

Do 3: Write like you talk.

Make your content conversational if you want it to engage folks. Read it out loud before you publish it. Feel free to break the rules of grammar you learned in middle school, and begin sentences with prepositions. Use contractions. Play with one word sentences. Loosen up and be real.

Don’t 4: You think people care about your perspective on yourself.

You may think folks will swoon when you tell them you’re the “biggest,” “first,” or most “world class” organization doing what you do. Get rid of superlatives that make you sound full of yourself.

Do 4: Show your best attributes; don’t tell them.

Make it about the reader and the benefits they care about. Put your personality into your writing. If you’re cutting edge and hip, show folks; don’t tell them (maybe tell a joke or make a cultural reference). Use donor-centric language rather than organization-centric language. Lose the words “we,” “our” and “I” in place of “you.”

Don’t 5: You write in generalities rather than specifics.

It’s tempting when you begin blogging to write about the broad topics your organization addresses like:

  • Assuring justice for the disenfranchised.
  • Sending underprivileged youth to college.
  • Saving our green spaces.

People can’t relate when problems are too big. They want to see a specific problem to which they understand you are offering a specific solution.

Do 5: Create posts on specific subjects with specifics worked into the titles.

Review “Do 1.” Once you’ve identified a topic of value to your readers, create a specific working title to focus your writing. For example:

  • How to prevent seniors from illegal evictions.
  • A complete guide to saving for college.
  • Top 5 environmental benefits of green spaces.

A working title doesn’t have to be your final title. It just makes writing your post easier because it prevents you from taking detours that distract the reader from what you hope will be their main take-away. You can make your title catchier later on.

Don’t 5: You write stream of consciousness.

Sure, a few brilliant writers can do this effectively. Most of us, however, just create verbal diarrhea. It’s a mess. And, as you probably already know, today’s readers mostly scan rather than read. If you’ve given them a mess, they have no framework for scanning.

Do 5: Start with an outline.

Putting in the time up front to assure you’re making the points you want to make (but not too many) will save you oodles of time later on trying to edit and pare down your article. Plus, your headers and sub-headers will become your reader’s scanning triggers. Similarly, use bold-face and underlining to draw your readers’ eyes to your most important points.

You can download free blog post templates from Hubspot here.

Don’t 6: You make unsubstantiated claims.

It’s super annoying when someone makes a claim like “1 in 4 children in our community are hungry”, without letting you know where they found that research.

Do 6: Go through your post and link to articles or research that support your claims.

This has the added benefit of saving you time and space. The folks who want to know more specifics can easily do so; those who don’t will not have to wade through all the data.

Keep your eyes peeled for seven more “do’s and don’ts” to round out our baker’s dozen next week. Meanwhile…

Discover How a Blog Can Drive Donor Support

Discover How a Blog Can Drive Donor Support

If you found this post useful, you may be interested in my brand new Nonprofit Blogging Playbook.

The Playbook includes 4 separate Guides; get as many as you want or need (if you buy all four, I offer a “Bundle Bargain” discount). A great blog is one of the best investments you can make in acquiring and retaining more donors. Learn how with this 4-volume set that will teach you (1) blog fundamentals; (2) content folks will want to read; (3) how to use your content to engage folks, and (4) how to promote your blog so it builds momentum and drives more potential supporters to your website. Plus, I stand by all my Clairification products.  If you’re not happy, there’s a no questions asked full refund policy. The only way to lose is by doing nothing. Don’t be a loser! 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

To Blog, or Not to Blog? Only if You Do it Right. Do You?

Is this what your readers get from your blog posts? A big sucking sound? You may think it's cute, but... think again. You really don't want your blog to SUCK!

Is this what your readers get from your blog posts? A big sucking sound? You may think it’s cute, but… think again. You really don’t want your blog to SUCK!

Do you have a mature social media operation, or are you just a baby? Or a teen? Babies babble. Teens make it all about themselves. Are you simply using Twitter to babble? Facebook to say “look at me?”  Or have you embraced a more full-grown strategy?  The best place to start, and the fastest way to get there, is with a blog.

Next to email, blogs are the most mature form of social media.

 

They’ve been around the longest, and they’re pretty tried-and-true. Continue Reading

Top 5 Reasons Your Nonprofit Will Fail Absent Inbound Marketing

Ricky Ricardo and Lucille Ball

I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!

Earlier this year I posted on the ONE big thing nonprofits absolutely must do in 2014: Adopt an integrated (fundraising combined with communications – no more silos, please!) inbound marketing strategy.

Well… it seems like a lot of folks didn’t know what I meant.  Or if they did know, they had a whole bunch of reasons why they thought they couldn’t or shouldn’t do it.

Apparently I have some ‘splainin’ to do!Continue Reading

Which of Top 10 Excuses Keeps Your Nonprofit from Blogging? Hope it’s Not #5

Computer Monitor with "excuses"

There’s no good excuse not to create awareness about your cause. How the heck are you going to fundraise otherwise?

What’s a blog, really? A blog is  just a super-charged, dynamic website that will bring you many more visitors – and a lot more engagement — than your website does now. Doesn’t that sound like a tool that might help your fundraising?

Did you know that 70% of visitors to the average website never visit again? Done well, a blog drives traffic to you naturally… brings folks back for more… and even gets folks to share stuff you post on your blog with their own networks. It’s a hugely powerful tool for finding and engaging with people – your donors and potential supporters – and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Of all the killer social engagement tools out there, none beats the blog. Still… some of you are dubious.  Or your leaders are dubious.  So if one of these 10 excuses is stopping you, read on to see how to overcome them.

Continue Reading