Seeing as your inbox has recently been flooded with several “top trends for the New Year” and other inspirational posts, we thought you might be feeling overwhelmed. We decided to simplify your main priorities down to five actionable steps.
Despite how personal it can be to partake in a nonprofit’s wonderful work, nonprofit branding and messaging can often feel impersonal. Find some ways to ensure you’re speaking authentically and connecting with your audience.
Nonprofits are inherently personal. The entire purpose of your nonprofit is to serve those in need, which alone draws on peoples’ emotions. Moreover, working to gather support, you have to ask people to give you their time and money, another quite personal issue.
Despite this, many nonprofit brands can feel like any other big company – distant and impersonal. If not involved in your nonprofit already, a potential supporter or user of your services could easily overlook the wonderful people on your staff and the heart behind your organization.
How can a nonprofit brand feel personal and authentic?
1. Know your audience.
The first step we take with virtually everything we do at ArcStone is to understand who our client’s audience is talking to and why. If you can’t answer that question, you won’t be able to write content or design visuals in a way that will appeal to those you need to reach.
Start by walking through the first six steps of this infographic. It will help you answer some crucial questions about each of your audiences. Once you have an audience persona or two assigned to each of your different audience types, walk through the following steps.
2. Put yourself in an outsider’s shoes.
If you look at your nonprofit branding with the eyes of these personas, what do you see? Does your messaging feel like it’s coming from the real people at your organization or does it sound like what everyone else is saying? Do your social channels sound like conversations with followers, or are you just posting like a robot? How clearly does your nonprofit show the people and heart behind it?
3. Speak directly to real people.
Once you know who you’re talking to and how they might view you, you can speak to all of them more effectively. If you did a good job of mapping out your personas, you should be able to think of a real-life example that represents that persona and write as if you’re talking directly to them.
Throughout your website copy and blog, have content for each of these personas. Your donor section should speak to donors, your blog post about a volunteer event should speak to volunteers.
4. React and communicate authentically.
If possible, find people from your nonprofit that can post your blog content and share your nonprofit’s news on their social media accounts. If the content is coming from your team members, your nonprofit can better show your audience that real people care. You’re not just a large organization always asking for money.
It’s true that not every nonprofit team has enough bandwidth to assign a team member to each persona. If this is the case, make sure your main goal is to speak authentically from your nonprofit’s pages. Don’t just post messages about what everyone else is saying, but rather speak with truth and emotion.
Another huge step towards authentic branding is to avoid scheduling out a bunch of dry social media posts. Share your stories and content as if you’re talking to one individual rather than blasting the message out to the social world. If people interact with you in comments or messages, make sure to respond in a timely manner and to be thoughtful with each response. Show them you care and it’s far likelier that they’ll care about your nonprofit in return.
A bonus step would be to cultivate brand ambassadors which we talk about thoroughly in this post. This gives you more authentic voices interacting for you, and in the long run, could save you time.
5. Enjoy it.
Think about it: the brands that make us happy and show personality, are the ones that stand out to us. As Pierre Chandon, a professor of marketing at international business school INSEAD put it ““A brand that creates emotional joy is a rare thing” (Forbes, “The Happiest Brands in the World“).
Attending a social media event at The Social Lights this past month, this message of authentic joy was strong. As we spoke about at the event, if you are happy doing your work, and your main goal is to show that passion, people will gravitate to it. You won’t have to worry about your messaging and branding as it will develop naturally.
Still need some inspiration? I suggest looking through the “10 Nonprofits Employees Love to Work For.” You’ll see some pretty happy nonprofit employees and branding that portrays this. Across their social channels, they post messages as if they are your friend, just trying to keep you updated about the issue. Isn’t that what your should be?
Why do you bother to write a nonprofit newsletter each month? Is it to update your donors and members on the latest happenings? To get people to look at your site? Or is it just so you can cross it off your to-do list?
Hold up. Your newsletter is your chance to do more than that. You finally have a chance to truly engage with supporters for your organization and perhaps inspire them to do even more to be a part of it. That’s powerful!
Instead of giving each email a dull title like “Winter 2017 Newsletter,” get creative. Give them the first line of a blog post to get them interested in reading the full story. Or, try personalization techniques to make the letter feel more authentic.
2. Set yourself up with a compelling template
It may take a bit more investment initially, but having a nicely laid out design will help readers digest the email and will keep it looking more professional long-term. Gather some inspiration from Canva or find some freebyies.
3. Draw attention to specific highlights
When you finally get around to writing your newsletter, it’s easy to forget all that your nonprofit has done over the course of the month. Keep a running list of what your nonprofit has accomplished, not just as a whole but all your individual staff members. Nancy Shwartz has some good ideas to help you share in an effective way.
4. Give a shout-out to super great people
You can also share the amazing work and progress of your donors, volunteers and those using your services. A bonus is that if you feature someone’s story in your newsletter, they will likely share that newsletter with friends and family, expanding your network.
5. Measure frequency & timing
Rather than just guessing when people read their email, start testing for the best send time and frequency level. This Entrepreneur article can help you start this measuring process. Allow a flexibility here – don’t promise readers you’ll only send out your email once a month as perhaps you’ll find the majority of your audience wants to hear more!
If you need some help from our digital strategy team, please do send us a note. We love to work with nonprofits!
Last night, my coworker Annie (business developer at ArcStone) and I attended the #TrendingNorth event hosted at The Social Lights, sponsored by Ad Fed MN. In a nut shell, we received a fresh zest of social media inspiration that might help your nonprofit as well.
A common tendency of many of us is to log in to our social media accounts, post a few times in hopes our organization will sound awesome, check our follower count and then log out to pursue our lengthy to-do list.
Sadly, even if you take those 15 minutes each day, when you report on these efforts to your Board, you realize your time hasn’t made much of an impact. Your nonprofit’s voice was lost amongst the rest.
Seeing as there were hundreds of people in attendance the #TrendingNorth event last night, I think we can assume you’re not alone in this problem. We were hungry for some social media “umph” – not to mention literally hungry for burgers… shout out to My Burger.
And that’s just what we got – the room collectively rekindled our excitement for social media. With Peter Heidorn of Fair State Brewing Coop facilitating, we listened to six experienced and enthusiastic panelist. The audience was able to pick their brains on all things social media.
The major theme across all their answers was not in time-saving tools or growth hacks – which is what most social media content covers these days. Instead they all honed in on what inspires them and what our strategy should revolve around: authenticity. Read my favorite thoughts of the night from each panelist below…
1. Drew Gneiser, Social Media Strategist at The Social Lights put his advice like this: You don’t need to reach everyone. You need to reach the right people. Think about what they need, and help them out.
*This is a big one for nonprofits especially. Hone in on your audience, and reach out to them specifically rather than trying to reach everyone. Tell them meaningful stories about your nonprofit rather than asking for their money.
2. Spencer Barrett, Founder of Great Lakes Collection, really emphasized authenticity. He explained that as long as you do something you love and stay authentic in your social media strategy, it’ll come through to potential customers and they will want to be a part of it.
*This should be easier for nonprofits – you’re not trying to sell a product, you just have to show your love for your cause and illustrate to your audience why they should take part in it too.
3. “Stay human!” That was Katrina Wollet, Communication Strategist at General Mills, biggest assertion. She pointed out it’s not about getting more likes, but instead, you should focus on engaging.
*If your nonprofit’s goal is increasing your Facebook followers, maybe revisit it and focus on increasing the comments on your posts and the number of real conversations your team has over social. As much as you can show your organization’s people and write from a more personal place.
4. “If you haven’t found your community yet, build it.” Annie D’Souza, Founder of The Midwestival, reminded me that that’s really what social media is about – finding community.
*If your nonprofit is struggling to find an online following/community, you can build it yourself. Follow people and organizations that inspire you, reach out to people individually, and your community will start to grow.
5. Laura Rae Founder of Laura Rae Photography warned that people will know if you posted something just for the sake of posting it. Potential supporters will see when you’re merely trying to keep up with what’s trending rather than bringing your own thoughts to the table. Laura advised us to find a purpose. She brought it back to how everything stems from the simple question, “who are you?” and to use your answer to guide how you interact online.
6. “The more you are yourself, the more you are exactly where you need to be.” This was my favorite quote of the night, which came from Joseph Harris Co-Founder of Bodega Ltd. It goes beyond best practices for social media, however it resonated with me as I thought of how much of a struggle it can be to establish a voice and brand on social channels.
*If you simplify it down to remembering what your organization does and what you represent, your voice will eventually establish itself.
It can be thrilling to click through on all the “2017 predictions” or “what to do this New Year” headlines, but hold off for a minute! Before you do so, did you take a look at what Google has offered your nonprofit? Google just took a step back to recap 3 ways they sought to help nonprofits in 2016, which could show you free tools of which your nonprofit has yet to take advantage.
First, a compliment from Google:
2016 was a year where you continued your work to change the world; to bring the world a little closer to finding common ground amongst peace, progress, and innovation.
Now, to the free tools your nonprofit may have missed –
Google recognizes that though YouTube is an incredibly powerful tool for nonprofits, many nonprofits don’t have the resources to create a high quality video. Now, YouTube for Nonprofits is providing state-of-the-art production spaces all around the world for FREE to qualitifying nonprofits, called YouTube Spaces. Beyond that, they created a community that will help nonprofits learn the necessary skills for using this equipment – YouTube Creator Academy.
4. “Four ways to keep your nonprofit safe & secure online”
In 2016, Google for Nonprofits partnered with Google’s User Advocacy Group to share 4 tips for keeping your nonprofit safe and secure online. Rather than just providing you with a ton of free resources (which is pretty amazing in itself) they tell you how to use them in a secure manner.
There tips in a nutshell?
1. Secure your passwords
2. Take the security checkup
3. Understand privacy settings
4. Switch between personal and business accounts
Now continue on with your work to change the world! Just be sure to get your much-deserved free help from your Google friends.
If you pay any attention to the marketing world these days – which I’m guessing you do as you’re reading this post – you’ve been encouraged time and again to write a blog for your nonprofit. The promise is that if you write, your blog will bring your site traffic and eventually, donors, volunteers and support. However, the truth is you can’t just invest in the writing portion of this process. If you want to see real gains in traffic you need to optimize your blog content and ensure it’s indexed by search engines.
5 simple steps to search engine optimization for your nonprofit blog posts
1. If your nonprofit’s site isn’t yet verified on Google, this is a productive first step. Login here and click “Add Property.” Follow the steps Google provides. While you’re at it, link the property to Google Analytics.
2. Nonprofit site’s using WordPress, you get a leg up: there’s several reputable plugins and one of which, Yoast SEO, we highly recommend for improving your SEO. Through filling in information Yoast SEO requests, you hone in on your long-tail keyword and optimize each post according to that.
3. When using a plugin or SEO tool, keep in mind the keyword phrase about which you are writing. What is the main topic? If it’s “volunteer ideas for young professionals” use this in your SEO title, slug and Meta Description. Always keep in mind that this should sound natural and not forced.
The example below is optimized for the keyword phrase “Promoting Blog Content.”
4. Now that you have a fully optimized, published post, you can go into Google Search Console and click on “Fetch as Google” which you’ll find under “Crawl.” By crawling the blog post, you will almost always get indexed by Google.
I understand it’s not always easy to find time to write a blog post for your nonprofit, but if are putting the effort forth, you should make sure the post is found. You never know what kind of impact this post could have on your readers – they may become your next biggest nonprofit supporter! But they have to find your nonprofit first!