When to Think Inside the Box: Choosing the Best Nonprofit Content Marketing Platform

Inside the box When to Think Inside the Box: Choosing the Best Nonprofit Content Marketing Platform

If the cat doesn’t fit…

You’ve no doubt heard folks bandying about the latest buzzword: “content marketing.” There’s a reason it’s buzz-worthy. Without content, you’ve got nothing. You’re just a box with nothing inside. Kids like to play with boxes; most folks — when they grow up — are looking for something of value inside the box. At the same time…Continue Reading

Warning: If Your Nonprofit’s Not on Pinterest You’re Outdated

Pinterest board nonprofit 200x300 Warning: If Your Nonprofit’s Not on Pinterest You’re Outdated

Mission-related candy sushi — clever idea for ocean-themed treats from Monterey Bay Aquarium

Wouldn’t you know I’d leave the trenches just when things got Pinteresting? I missed out, but I’m here to tell you… YOU don’t have to!

If we know anything about human beings, we know these two things: (1) they love a story, and (2) a picture is worth 1,000 words.  A new guide to visual storytelling practices reveals that when information is presented orally, people tested 72 hours later remember only about 10%. That jumps to 65% when pictures are added! Pinterest is a dream come true for nonprofits wanting to engage constituents with their mission.Continue Reading

Top 10 Checklist to Simplify Nonprofit Blogging

blogging 300x223  Top 10 Checklist to Simplify Nonprofit Blogging

A blog can do wonders for your nonprofit brand.

I really want you to blog. Did you know that Social Media Examiner’s 2013 State of Social Media Report puts blogging #1 at the list of the top 14 social media channels you should be exploring? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Your blog is the hub of your content strategy (or it should be).  Build a blog and rock it. You’ll simultaneously put in place a content  strategy that will enable you to easily share relevant content across every communication channel you use.  Online and offline. There’s no better way to offer your constituents meaningful engagement.  So… what are you waiting for?

BTW: You can learn a lot more if you download my free webinar,The Keys to Nonprofit Blogging that Drives EngagementDid I mention it’s free?
Here are 10 tips to get you started, or to help you simplify the process so you can focus and deliver.Continue Reading

What App Developers Can Teach Content Marketers: 5 Tips to Energize Your Brand

Apps What App Developers Can Teach Content Marketers: 5 Tips to Energize Your Brand

Apps developers think about what folks need. So should you!

Find a need and fill it. That’s Marketing 101.   Well, today some of the folks most clued in to what people want are the apps developers. Why not piggyback on their insight and research to enrich your content marketing strategy?  The key is to tie it to your brand promise (i.e., why you’re on this planet and what folks perceive your value to be to them). Find an angle that makes the trend relevant to your business.

End your constituents’ pain.  This is simply another way to think of taking the consumer-oriented approach that means the difference between failure and success. What’s bothering your community?  What keeps them up at night? How can you help? This is how app developers – and inventors, and successful business start-ups – think.  Continue Reading

How Google Works for Your Nonprofit Blog -Easy SEO and Search – S.S.T.S. Series Part IV

Search e1362685226251 How Google Works for Your Nonprofit Blog  Easy SEO and Search   S.S.T.S. Series Part IVIn Part I: Share, Part II: Shareable  and Part III: Talk of this S.S.S.T. Series we covered the importance of sharing your blog, making it shareable by others and getting folks to talk about you with their online networks.  But there’s one important component of your super-sonic blog promotion strategy that we’ve missed.  Here it is:


Let’s begin with why it’s important to talk about search. Because you want more readers for your blog, right? Well, the people who are your friends, plus the people who are their friends, are not all the people in the world.  They’re not even all the people who may be interested in what you do!  Search is how most people find you.  Search is the most common online activity after email, and that fact cuts across generations.Continue Reading

3 Ways to Build a Nonprofit Blog Worth Sharing – RCA Series Part I


RCA victrola 3 Ways to Build a Nonprofit Blog Worth Sharing   RCA Series Part I

Let’s share our music

R.C.A.  That’s the three things.  Yup.  When building a blog that’s not only worth reading but also worth sharing, you’ve got to think like an RCA Victrola and record.  A great recording captures our attention.  It transports us.  It carries us away.  It brings us into the music/story in an easy flow.  It gets us tapping our toes and up on our feet dancing. Woo-hoo… it’s a party!

And don’t you just want to share a party?  To get your readers to share your party you’ve got to make sure your blog posts are Relatable (they find common ground with your readers); Conversational (you speak directly to your readers), and Actionable(you achieve your blog post’s purpose).

Once you understand the three principles of R.C.A. you’ll be well on your way towards having a blog your readers will share with their networks. Today, let’s begin with the first principle:  how to put the ‘R’ in R.C.A.Continue Reading

6 Ways to a Kick-Ass Content Plan for Your Nonprofit Blog: Part II of the C.P.A. series


Kick Ass Content 300x179 6 Ways to a Kick Ass Content Plan for Your Nonprofit Blog: Part II of the C.P.A. series

Begin your kick-ass content plan with great research

C.P.A.? Yup. In my last post I introduced you to the ‘accountant’ theory of an effective blog content strategy.  C for constituent-centered. P for plan. A for accessible. You can review the C post here.  Today we’re going to talk about the P.’

For starters, you’ve done your market research and you know what your constituents care about (if you haven’t done this, look at the 6 actionable tips in the previous post). Now, take all the great topics you’ve researched and brainstormed – all the questions you’ve been collecting from your constituents – and build an editorial calendar for your blog. I’m going to give you some tips and tools that will make this really simple. Promise.Continue Reading

3 Little Understood Factors Affecting Your Nonprofit Blog Readership – and How to Quickly Fix Things – Part I

2750890246 c4eb32e3e7 m 3 Little Understood Factors Affecting Your Nonprofit Blog Readership – and How to Quickly Fix Things – Part I

Why your blog’s content must be like a C.P.A.

C.P.A.  That’s the three things.  Huh? Your accountant?  Well…. sort of.  What do you want from an accountant?  My guess is that you want someone who is:

  • Passionate about helping you.
  • An authority on their subject.
  •  Focused on you and your situation.
  • Working from a plan; knows how to help you.
  •  Accessible to you; easy to understand; there when you need them.

Gosh, golly… that’s exactly what your blog readers want from you! So if you’ve got passion and authority (and I certainly hope you have that about your mission and the work of your organization) then you’re already ahead of the game. Woo-hoo! Now you just need to package everything, and make sure you’re Constituent-centered (focused on your readers); Planful (you know what your blog’s goals and objectives are and how you can use your blog to be of value to your constituents), and Accessible (folks can easily connect with you and understand what you’re sharing with them).

Once you understand the principles of C.P.A. you’ll be well on your way towards having a blog with content that knocks the socks off your readers. Today, let’s begin with how to put the ‘C’ in C.P.A.Continue Reading

8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars

1095355 eat it 8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars
Your money can become my sandwich

What I learned from a street beggar* (see “Note” below).

Last week a street beggaraka panhandler asked me for money and I gave it to her.  I don’t usually do this because I wonder how the money may be used and tend to give, instead, to philanthropic organizations that help the homeless and marginally employed population.  This time was different, and I want to share with you the lessons learned.  Here’s her pitch:
Can you please give me $2.00 so I can buy a sandwich? Maybe a little later for lunch?
This amazingly simple request – and everything about her approach and follow-up –works on multiple levels.  And the principles apply not just to street beggars but also to nonprofit fundraising:
  1. Specific ask
  2. Reasonable amount
  3. Clear compelling purpose I can visualize
  4. Humble and honest approach
  5. Different than competition
  6. Offer has value
  7. Good location
  8. Everybody gets thanked
1. SPECIFIC:  Tell me precisely what size gift you’d like me to consider.
 8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars
Vague requests > token gifts  Image by Gamma Man

A person is more likely to give if they know how much is expected of them. Ask for a specific dollar amount. Don’t be vague, as in “any amount helps.” Don’t be passive. This beggar didn’t just sit on the sidewalk with a cup in front of her. I didn’t have to decide how much money she might appreciate. She told me specifically.  She wasn’t aggressive.  I didn’t feel “hit up”.  And I didn’t feel apprehensive that the amount I gave would be too little or too much. I knew exactly what was being asked of me.

2. REASONABLE:  Make the amount something within my ability to give.
A person is more likely to give if the amount asked is related to a tangible goal and is an amount they can reasonably consider.  Two bucks might be more than I’d give if there was just a cup sitting on the street, so in this regard it could be considered a “stretch” gift.  It’s still completely within my ability to consider however, so it’s reasonable.  And I’ll end up feeling really good if I do it, because I know it’s enough to get the job accomplished.  So it’s not just “a drop in the bucket.”
3.  CLEAR:  Use words, stories or images that help me visualize the need and/or solution.
935 8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars
Picture tells a story

A person is more likely to help someone if they feel their contribution will make a significant difference in that person’s situation.When you ask, help me picture what the money will be used for. Ideally, it should be something I can visualize. Use words that immediately bring a picture to mind – like you, or the people helped by your organization, eating a sandwich. Or tell me a story – like a beggar’s sign informing me you’ve served your country. And don’t despair if you’re not a direct service organization. Show me a picture – like a cross burning on someone’s lawn (advocacy organization)… wide-eyed children being inspired at a museum (arts organization)… that helps me feel what the people you’re trying to help might be feeling.  I’ve got to be able to perceive the unfolding drama – and the happy ending – that will come about as a result of my contribution. See ONE Incredibly Dramatic Way to Create Winning Content.

4.  HUMBLE:  Take an honest approach so I don’t feel manipulated.
A person is more likely to help someone if they can identify with the person being helped. I could imagine being in her situation. And she wasn’t asking for money just for the sake of money.  She wanted – and needed – some nourishing food. And that’s all she was asking for.  Just two bucks for a sandwich. And she asked politely. The impression I got from this panhandler was that she was not apologetic, just down on her luck and hungry. It pays to be humble, honest and respectful. An old Japanese proverb holds: It is a beggar’s pride that he is not a thief. We are not asking for ourselves.  We’re not asking so we can buy Mazzeratis.  We’re asking because there are needs to be filled and people to be helped. See The Secret of Donor-Centered Fundraising: No Money Involved .
5.  DIFFERENT: Stand out from the competition. 
 8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars
Fresh, direct approach

A person is more likely to pay attention if your approach is fresh and different from everyone else.  This beggar was neither passive nor aggressive.  There was nothing slick, sleazy or manipulative about her (at least from my perspective).  Sometimes it pays to look at what others are doing; then do the opposite. Of course, this isn’t always the case.  There’s a reason the tried-and-true is tried-and-true.  But it bears consideration. Could you stand out more? Could you fix something that isn’t exactly broken, but that could function more effectively? There may be a different way you can ask, or a different place you can use as a platform for your message. SeeWhy If It’s Not Broke Don’t Fix It No Longer Applies.  

6.  OFFER:  Know what I may value. 
A person is more likely to give when they get something of value in return. And it doesn’t need to be tangible. This beggar understood an essential truth underlying most charity:  giving makes people feel good. Underlying motivations may vary – religious obligations; guilt at having so much more than others; desire to give back or pay it forward, etc. – but the bottom line is that there’s a value-for-value exchange that occurs.  The asker has an “offer” and the giver “accepts” that offer by giving.  The more we understand the reasons people give, the more likely we are to be recipients of their philanthropy. See Psychology of Giving: Influence Your Affluence by Using the Science of Persuasion.
7.  LOCATION:  Position yourself for success by choosing a media channel frequented by your prospective supporters. 
A person is more likely to give when you find them where they are. This beggar was at an ATM located in a laid-back, uptown neighborhood shopping area with a fair amount of foot traffic. Everyone going there was getting money. And they were likely already in a bit of a spending mood. They weren’t downtown, stressed, and likely to be in too much of a hurry to even consider the offer. Where do your donors hang out?  See Lost in Translation: When Email Hits Mobile, Then What?  Are you fishing where the fish are apt to be biting? See What Fishing Can Teach Us About Fundraising. If your constituents hang out on social media, you’ve got to be there. See Social Media for Small Organizations: Why a little dab won’t do ya .   If they read your communications on a cell phone, you’ve got to be optimized for mobile. If they give primarily online, you need a user-friendly donation landing page and a big “donate” button. See Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button? One Huge Year-End Tip to Increase Donations
8.  THANK EVERYBODY:  Always thank people for their time and attention, even if they don’t give today.
Most panhandlers know to show appreciation if someone gives them money. Truly successful panhandlers know to show appreciation even when people don’t give them money. They say thank you, and wish folks a good day.  My panhandler thanked everyone and said “God bless”. Why? Doing so may make folks think twice about refusing their request the next time they pass by.  When someone says “no” to your request for a contribution, remember that’s not the end of the story.  You want to build relationships with folks over time.  So… thank non-donors too. See It’s the Relationships, Stupid: Making Friends of our Donors.
*NOTE: I want to apologize up front for use of the term beggar, which may be jarring to some.  Whenever I talk to volunteers about fundraising I exhort folks to retire the tin cup.  We aren’t beggars, I say.  But real beggars can’t be choosers.  And we can learn something from them about how to raise money when your very life depends on it.  Because for most nonprofits, that’s actually the case. If your prospects think you don’t really need their support – perhaps they believe you get plenty from other funders… you have a big endowment… you earn your own through fees or sales… you won’t spend their contribution wisely – then they won’t feel your case is particularly compelling.  Maybe they’ll make a token gift, but… a quarter isn’t enough to buy a sandwich. Which is why, in this regard, having a bit of a beggar mindset is not such a bad thing.

Are there other tips you would add?

WARNING: Jargon Redux. Why Your Writing is Boring

No Jargon WARNING: Jargon Redux. Why Your Writing is Boring

Last week I wrote about the evils of using jargon.  I got lots of responses. It’s clearly hard for people to get outside of their ‘insider’ mindset. When we use words at work daily, they begin to seem normal (even though we may’ve never used those words before).  Before working at a social service agency, I never regularly used the words “client,” “youth,” “senior,” “programs,” “services,” “underserved,”  or “managed care.”  If you think these words are okay to use in your external communications, they’re really not.  Later in this post I’ll point you to an article by Gail Perry that explains why. These are modern jargon; words that don’t cut it if you want to differentiate yourself, demonstrate impact and inspire investment.

Thanks to all of you who sent me your favorite jargon culprits. For those of you who may wish to avoid these words in your future marketing and fundraising materials, you’ll find a list of these offenders later in this post.

What it all seems to boil down to is communicating for understanding.  Words you can use internally (or with funders, as per their requirements) should perhaps not be used externally.  It takes a lot of awareness — and practice — to avoid falling into the jargon pit. I always ask myself:
1. Is there a more simple word?
2. Is there a word that has more impact?
3. Is there a word that’s more specific?
4. If I took this word out, would the meaning be just as clear? More clear?
5. Does this word unnecessarily (or stereotypically) categorize someone?
Words that bug folks:
attriting  account-managed       actioned   back-end      back of the envelope
bandwidth        benchmark       best practices   capacity building           change agent
community-based         critical         CRM   cultivation         dashboard        development
disseminate       distance travelled          empower          evidence-based            front-end
going forward     groundbreaking     hard outcome       impactful           implement
innovative         leverage            pipeline   proactive          prospect           regular giving   
scoping     soft outcomes     state of-the-art              stewardship      successful
transparent          unique          utilize            vital           values-based          volunteer


For another super list of jargon, check out this nifty Philanthropy Jargon Generator. Besides being a lot of fun, it’s eye opening. It quickly becomes clear that when you use jargon – and it’s worse when you string jargon words together – you leave a lot of folks scratching their heads. If head scratching is the emotional call-to-action you’re going for, then be my guest.
Jargon is not just acronyms and scientific language.  I recommend reading The 3 Most Boring Words in Fundraising Appeals by Gail Perry. She explains why these words (which most of us have used all too often) – underserved; programs, and services — have little or no emotional impact. Modern jargon is anything that is so overused and obtuse as to have become essentially meaningless.
Jargon puts people to sleep.  And, surely, this is not your goal! For some other examples of slumber-inducing prose see Jargon, Jargon We Got Jargon by Kristina LeRoux, which also includes a link to another list of commonly used clichés and jargon. Try to avoid anything that makes people hear/see “blah, blah, blah.
THIS ABOVE ALL: Look for bang for the buck. Can the word stand on its own? Does the word scream for a response? Does the word make the reader feel something? Jargon is not compelling. Good writing should be compelling. Channel Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well. Be brief, succinct and vigorous. Don’t use a word that makes the reader want to ask:  “What do you mean by that?” Avoiding jargon is really another way of saying: Be a good writer.

How do you avoid using jargon? Do you have a system that works? Please share!