We quadrupled our blog traffic, can you? Simple guide to content marketing for nonprofits

With each nonprofit client that comes through ArcStone’s doors, we encourage them to either start a blog or give their existing blog more attention. Now, we wouldn’t risk wasting nonprofit’s already slim budget and tight schedule if we didn’t truly believe in the value of content marketing. But at points, it’s hard to convince clients that this effort is really worth it.

That’s why today, we are going to tell you a story: the story of how we implemented the strategy we encourage others to and as a result, saw an increase of 4x the traffic to our blog in just two years. Our story can serve as a general guide to content marketing for nonprofits.

Where we were with our content marketing strategy

Before we dive into the glory of the here and now, let’s rewind and be real with where we were at. Like many of you, we were posting at most 2 to 3 times per week, whenever someone felt inspired to do so or had the bandwidth. In addition to this lack of posting frequency, we weren’t monitoring engagement.

We knew we should do more, but we just weren’t allocating time or attention to it when there were other, more immediate business goals to which to attend.

For the total month of May 2015, we saw about 600 blog views.

2 years later we’re seeing over 2,800.

The simple content marketing strategy we implemented that your nonprofit can, too!

Many of you have likely thought, “we should blog more” and encouraged your team to help write when they can. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually do much to help your nonprofit. You need a nonprofit content marketing strategy that will keep you focused and consistent.

Here are 11 essential + manageable tasks to add to your content strategy that will take you to that next level.

1. Set goals:

Rather than risk finding ourselves right where we started in a couple months, we decided to set some lofty, yet manageable, goals. One of ArcStone’s digital strategists, Jenna, and I sat down and decided we’d post five blogs a week and then come review the results after six months. We also determined we’d spend more time on designing images for this content, promoting it and then checking in on our Google Analytics each week.

2. Create audience personas:

As a team, we took the time to map out distinct audience types. For your nonprofit, this likely includes a few different types of donors, volunteers, community members and other users. Once we had each audience member in mind, we were able to brainstorm content that could speak to each of them. Get going on this aspect by using our Nonprofit Audience Persona Ebook »

content-marketing-audience-personas

3. Designate blog ownership to a leader/editor:

One way many content strategies collapse is a lack of consistent execution. To avoid this, we assigned one final editor/project lead. Though we would be pulling content written by several team members, I was given the role of ensuring the content was ready to go and implement correctly into our CRM. This also helped us ensure our brand voice was prevalent across all posts and the formatting looked right.

If you have any trouble structuring your team or your content development workflow, take a look at Lisa’s, VP of Marketing at ArcStone, post on Content Team Roles »

content-strategy-roles

4. Utilize a (free!) content management tool:

We recognize that it can be hard to get the whole team on board with yet another tool, but we promise this one is worth it! We use Trello to implement and track all our content marketing efforts. You can read the full review here but we’ll also show you some snippets on how to make it work for your nonprofit below.

free-content-marketing-tool-for-nonprofits

5. Organize content by strategic categories:

A blog with just a list of all posts can be overwhelming to users. If you’re a donor, you may want the latest report on where their money went whereas a volunteer wants to hear about the next volunteer opportunity. Make sure these users can get the content they want when they land on your blog. Better yet, make sure that when they click on their blog category, that section is filled with good content for them to look through.

Trello makes it easy to label all your content. Here’s an example of how we segment ours within the tool. Each month we try to have each color represented across the calendar at least a couple of times:

6.  Assign due dates:

Without a due date, it’s easy to push things off for a later date. We used the calendar “power-up” tool in Trello to track these.

content-strategy-calendar

7. Focus on collaboration:

Through the communication capabilities in Trello, we were able to tag each other on cards and have conversations about posts when necessary. Being able to keep these conversations organized in one place is helpful as it allows you to stay organized and if need be, look back at the conversations later.

trello-free-content-management-tool

8. Promote:

Though we’d like to believe, “if you build it, they will come” it’s not entirely true with content marketing. In fact, Lisa wrote a whole post on why this is and how you can make up for it with promotional and SEO work.

This being said, couple your awesome new production strategy with a content promotion strategy.

Across social networks, we posted not only on ArcStone’s account, but also some of our team members’. This not only reached a larger audience but showed the personality behind our team.

When it came to Twitter, we posted 3-4 times a day, often tagging relevant accounts. This created some major upticks in traffic to our blog. social-media-strategy

3 times a week, we’d also post on Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn. For LinkedIn we focus on more professional-oriented content and thought leadership, whereas Facebook we try to post more on office culture and community.

If you’re unsure of what social media platform is right for you, listen to co-owners of ArcStone talk through how you can determine this with The Nerdy Nonprofit Podcast.

Lastly, we sent out our newsletter once-monthly with the top-performing posts from that month. We found we were faster at getting these sent out since we already knew what content to use.

9. Analyze:

All this effort doesn’t get you very far if you’re not monitoring it. You may see a bit more traffic but it’s going to come and go at an unpredictable rate if you’re not making changes to your strategy based on it.

Learn some of the basics in Google Analytics with this post “Nonprofits Using Google Analytics—Get tracking the Right Metrics.”

10. Redesign (when the budget allows):

Once you have some significant insight on aspects like what type of content your audience likes and what areas of the site they go to after the blog, you can consider making design changes. We used heat-mapping tool CrazyEgg to see what parts of the blog users clicked on and paired that with our user behavior insight in Analytics to make strategic design enhancements.

nonprofit-blog-design

11. Keep trying new things:

Once you get started for a few months, the above tips will get you to a great place. However, in a year or so you’ll want to round up your team and come up with fresh ways to approach your nonprofit’s blog strategy. This will help you get your most creative juices flowing and aid your nonprofit in standing out amongst the crowd.


As proof that the above really can work, here’s a snapshot of before and after:

MAY 2015
MAY 2017
Blog Views /Month: 641 2,298
Pageviews /Month: 4,289 8,941
Sessions /Month: 1,831 4,985
% New Sesssions: 70.6% 85%
Organic Traffic: –––> Up 155%
Traffic from Social: –––> Up 74%
Newsletter Subscribers: ~250 ~1030

You can see that the increase in blog views also contributed to an increase in overall website sessions and pageviews, as well as traffic from organic searches and social media. What’s more, all this traffic also lead to 4x as many newsletter subscribers. It’s a lovely trickle down effect!

We hope your nonprofit sees the value in a well-executed content marketing plan. More importantly, we hope you are encouraged by the fact that we, too have a small team. This strategy is crafted around keeping things manageable and simple. Successful content marketing for nonprofits is possible as long as you stick to your strategy, monitor it and continually work to improve it.

Get help with your nonprofit’s content strategy from our team by reaching out here »

Nonprofit blogging mistakes you might be making (+ how to stop)

Besides ensuring you have user-friendly forms for donors and volunteers, the digital strategists at ArcStone would argue that having a well-executed blog is the best thing your nonprofit can do in terms of your website. Unfortunately, nonprofit marketers get so busy that blog posts get written hastily, whenever there’s a spare second. That’s understandable, and we don’t want that predicament to prevent you from writing as it’s better than not writing. However, there are a few negative trends we’d like to point out that, when avoided, could help make the little blog development time you have more worth your while.

1. Not scheduling your posts in advance (and not publishing consistently)

Given that you have many other spinning plates, it makes sense that you wouldn’t have time to plan out your content calendar. But time and again, marketing experts state that scheduling out posts and executing them consistently can create huge gains for your blog. What’s more, studies show readers see inconsistent publishing as a sign that a brand is “out of touch or not up to date” with their habits and needs.

There are so many FREE tools out there to help you stay on top of publishing. We tested and reviewed 3 popular content management tools and wrote a recent post on why we recommend Trello.

free-tools-for-nonprofits
Image Source: CoSchedule

2. Forgetting the importance of authenticity & your brand voice

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your blog. You post about your upcoming event or you comment on a recent occurrence in your field of work, however there’s so much more to write about than that. When people come to your site, they are trying to learn about you and your cause. They want to hear your unique voice otherwise, you’ll blend with the crowd and they won’t know why they should pay attention to you specifically.

Be sure you hone in on what your brand voice is and you consistently write with that in mind. For inspiration on topics, take a look at our go-to sources for when ArcStonian’s get writer’s block. You can derive inspiration from what other successful nonprofits are writing about; charity:water, Save the Children, St. Jude and Kiva all post a wide array of topics that speak to who they are and who they serve.

nonprofit-blogging
Image source: Save the Children

3. Trying too hard with your headline

Though it’s important you stand out and readers feel excited by your headlines, it’s more important your headlines do their job. A title’s main role is to tell readers what your post is about. Don’t get too caught up in being clever or humorous as that’s not the point.

ArcStone wrote a helpful post on how you can craft a title that is primarily descriptive, secondarily SEO-friendly and then if there’s room for it, clever: “Optimize your blog post titles for search, but don’t be boring.”

4. Assuming your readers have all day

This isn’t true for everyone or every post, but for the most part, people like when you get to the point efficiently. Sometimes, you can tell that in-depth full story. But when you’re writing a post on donations or volunteering, explain your point concisely and point your audience towards action quickly. When it comes to these posts directed towards taking action, always keep the goal of your post in mind and include a call to action.

5.  Neglecting to implement the SEO and user-friendly details

Writing the post is work enough, we know, but a blog won’t get far if you neglect some important additional steps. Each post should have alt tags, metadata and titles on its photos and in other areas. You can do so with some of the strongest, free SEO tools for nonprofits out there. Here’s a solid review of SEO tools done by Search Engine Land.

6. Ignoring dialogue

For many in the nonprofit space, community engagement is super important to the very mission of an organization. Community takes hold in many forums and your blog can totally become a catalyst for that. If you have a comment section, pay attention to it. If people comment on your posts on social, always respond. If they don’t participate in either of these, consider prioritizing this. There are tools that can help like Hootsuite and Disqus. We also have a post that reviews the best ways and tools to encourage conversations.

free-community-forum-tools
Image source: Lithium

7. Overlooking Google Analytics

If you take away anything from this article, we hope it’s this last point. Pay attention to your Google Analytics data! We see so many clients post content and then let it sit there. They don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. They don’t base their strategy off of this data. As our digital strategist, Jerod put it,

“Only you know your story well enough to tell it, but on the flip side, only your visitors know what they want.”

If you don’t look at what posts are getting the most attention, how long users are reading them and where they go next, you are not listening to them.

Need help getting started with Google Analytics?


We hope we didn’t overwhelm you with corrections. Instead, this is supposed to serve as a way to make the time you do have more effective. We want to highlight areas that are often neglected so that you know where you can make simple gains.

If you’re struggling to implement any of these aspects but you recognize their importance, ArcStone would love to work with you to come up with a more manageable content marketing strategy and set you up with the tools that will help. Contact our team »

Net neutrality. What this means for you as a nonprofit (and a general internet user)

Net neutrality is a topic many of us have overlooked. This needs to end now. We’ll explain what this hot button issue is all about and what you can do to prevent the negative impact some big companies are attempting to have on the internet.

If you already understand the impact and are ready to act, join the fight here »

First, what is net neutrality?

Net Neutrality:  the idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination – Merriam Webster

Basically, net neutrality ensures that all the content on the internet is available to you on an equal basis. This means that some pieces content won’t be prioritized over others just because bigger companies are paying more. This regulation is what has allowed the Internet to function as it currently does—providing us all with equal opportunity to publish and promote what we want as well as to find it.

Now, what’s happening with net neutrality?

With a new chief at the FCC as well as the ongoing lobbying by big companies like Verizon and Comcast, this regulation is threatened. They want companies to have the ability to pay for higher priorities. They want the chance to make money. And it’s getting close to actually happening.

How does this impact your nonprofit?

Imagine a world where other websites could pay internet service providers so that their site works faster than yours. As TechCrunch put it, removing net neutrality regulations means, “any organization without deep enough pockets to pay an ISP’s ransom will load much slower than those with ties to ISPs” (full article).  It would create yet another space where it’s too expensive for the little man to keep up and money gets you much further ahead.

What can you do?

First, send your note to the FCC, saying you’d like to preserve net neutrality and Title 2. Then spread this message. Make sure your nonprofit knows the impact removing this regulation could have on all of you, your communities and the world at large.

Here are some additional resources to help you understand and share the gravity of this situation:

Join the Battle for the Net

Join the Speak up & sign your name »

3 Website performance metrics your nonprofit may be misunderstanding

As someone trying to get traffic to a nonprofit website, you have to admit it can be thrilling to quickly log in to Google Analytics, look for nice stats and then peace out. On the flip side, you might notice some dips in traffic or high bounce rates and panic, wondering if you need a drastic change in strategy. Either way, the data you’re taking in isn’t telling the full story. In fact, it might be telling you the wrong story.

Before we get into that, if you’re not even checking your website metrics, we need to talk. I know you don’t have a lot of spare time, but numbers matter. If you can understand your site data, you can understand what website content interests users or why they don’t convert on your donate now form. To fully understand how vital these numbers are, read why and how to do more with Google Analytics for nonprofits.

Now, let’s reassess how you’re viewing and interpreting your website performance metrics and how you can ensure you’re taking the right action based on these numbers.

3 website performance metrics to reexamine

Pages per visit

*What is "pages per visit?" The number of pieces of content—or web pages—on your site a user views before exiting the site
website-performance-data-pages_per_session
To find this stat, go to the Audience or Behavior tabs

This stat gets marketers excited as it can highlight information regarding the user experience on your site. Some marketers interpret it as users enjoying your content and site flow enough to look at more than one page.

However, it’s not that simple. This could also indicate that people are landing on your site and not finding what they want. They have to click through several pages to get to the volunteer information for which they originally came to the site.

To understand if people are finding and enjoying your content, first come up with a hypothesis. Then use a combination of metrics and tools—such as the User Explorer Report—to see if this hypothesis is supported.

Time on page

*What is "time on page?" The length of time—in minutes—a user spends on a web page before moving to another page on your site or exiting completely.
website-performance-metrics
To find this stat, go to the Behavior tab

Similar to pages per session, a higher time on site can indicate that people aren’t finding the content they want fast enough.

To better understand this metric, combine it with other stats. For example, bounce rate: if your time on page is high and so is your bounce rate, it could indicate people searched all over the page but left when their search didn’t bring up what they wanted.

Besides that, you can consider the page you’re looking at. You should be able to tell if it’s clean vs. cluttered. If it’s clean and strategically laid out, a corresponding high time on page could very well mean success.

Bounce rate

*What is "bounce rate?" The percentage of visitors that after landing on the web page from an outside source, leave the web page without visiting other site pages. 
website-performance-metrics
To find this stat, look under the Audience or Behavior tabs

A high bounce rate often freaks us out. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t like your content.

For one, it could be Google’s fault. Or rather, the user typed in a search, Google brought up your nonprofit’s content in search results, but when the user came to your site the content wasn’t a fit. Not your fault, just a mismatch between query and result. To help Google avoid this, be picky with the content you put on your site.

A high bounce rate could also indicate that your blog post was what the user wanted, but it didn’t lead them to take action. This isn’t necessarily bad, as they would appreciate you delivered an answer and then return for more later. However, if you want to take advantage of that content, include calls to action or other related content.


In the end, we want to point out that these high and low metrics are not equivalent to failure. Be weary of looking at just one metric at a time and always pay attention to context.

For help on setting up your Google Analytics, receiving a monthly report or simply understanding what you see, contact our team of experts at ArcStone.

Visuals matter. Learn the basics of design for nonprofits.

You are already balancing quite a few job roles. Whether it be in nonprofit communications, development, website management, digital strategy—the list goes on. We get it, you’re not exactly excited about adding “designer” to those responsibilities. But let’s face it, especially if you work for a smaller nonprofit, you’ll likely be in charge of putting together branded materials. Beyond that, design is integral to everything you’re doing. Whether it be to get donors, volunteers or grow general awareness, aesthetics go hand in hand with all your work you do.

We’re not telling you to go back to design school, but we are going to point out a few web design basics that could help you take your nonprofit work to the next level.

These come from Mark Hemeon, the CEO & Founder of Design Inc. His post goes into more depth, but this is what we think you should know.

4 basic rules of graphic design for nonprofits to know

1. Prioritize your message.

Well duh. This seems like a no-brainer. But we sometimes forget it.  As we build out web pages or communications materials, we try to fit so much on the page (as we have a lot to say) that we sometimes forget our overall goals. Once you’ve finished building out content, always take a step back and look at it as if you’ve never seen it before. What’s the first thing you notice? Is the message what you want it to be?

Acumen immediately pulls out their mission statement in a creative way. They also draw your attention to their primary goal with the “donate” CTA. This prioritization carries through the rest of the homepage as your eyes flow to the most important pieces.

design-for-nonprofits
Image source: Top Nonprofits

2. Alignment matters.

If something looks off about a piece you’ve created, it may be as simple as checking the alignment. Be sure to keep it left, right or centrally aligned. Take a look below to understand how much this can impact how you process text:

nonprofit-design-basics
Image Source: Slideshare.net

3. Text needs space.

One of the worst moves you can make when laying out type is cramming it all together. Readers will not want to know your nonprofit’s mission statement if it hurts their eyes to take in. If you’re unsure, leave more space than you think you need.

design-for-nonprofits-basics
Image source: Developer.Apple.com

 

4. Color communicates.

A few important notes about color: stick to your brand and don’t forget about legibility.

It’s tempting to go crazy with color, but most of the time, you should stick to your brand guidelines for consistency’s sake. You should also be wary of using it with text. It can get hard to read and look unprofessional.

design-for-nonprofits-basics
Image source: sitepoint

 

Ready to design like a pro? Well, luckily you don’t have to be. Use tools like Canva or get in touch with an agency to either get feedback or purchase a few templates that could be recycled.

If you need help with your designs, contact us at ArcStone. We do a lot of web design and graphic design work with nonprofits and love to make an impact.

How to conduct a nonprofit survey & finally understand your mysterious audience

Let’s face it: your nonprofit’s audience can be very mysterious. Sometimes they donate, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re excited to be a part of your work and other times you can’t get their attention. Instead of letting yourself become discouraged, we want to encourage you to talk to your audience. Granted, you can’t sit down with each of them to uncover answers to all your questions, but you can conduct a nonprofit survey.

First, why a nonprofit survey?

Maybe you already believe in the power of this type of interaction, but if you don’t, boy do we have a case for you!

Marketing guru, Kissmetrics, points out how it may be true that you can learn a lot by studying data about users out there, but at the end of the day, you don’t get the answers to one very important piece of the puzzle: the why. Why did or didn’t your donor finish filling out the donation form? Why does or doesn’t your volunteer read your email newsletter?

If you can get the answer to these questions, from real users, you’ll have the information you need to start removing any of the obstacles between your audience and the action they take with your nonprofit. You can edit your website forms, tweak your content strategy and rephrase your copy in ways that resonate with your audience.

What’s just as notable about nonprofit surveys is that by taking the time to ask your audience questions, you go from constantly talking at them to opening up the conversation. In doing so, you demonstrate you care how they feel and what they have to say.

How to conduct a nonprofit survey & get the answers that count

1. Select a tool.

First, check the software you currently use to see if they have an option. You may be surprised that the tool was available to you this whole time. Otherwise, ArcStone has used and been satisfied with Survey Monkey and Google Survey. Capterra wrote up a post on five free survey tools for nonprofits to help uncover additional options.

2. Determine where you’d like to place the survey

We recently had a client come to us to check on the best practices for a short survey they wanted to send out. Note that the answer to this largely depends on context—how long the survey is and to whom you’re asking questions.

For this client, they originally thought sending it out in their newsletter would be best, but we advised against it. Instead, we suggested creating a distinct, simple landing page. This way, the survey would be void of distractions and they could lead to it from other sources besides email.

3. Think about how you will use this data

You don’t want to blindly ask questions before knowing where this data will be used.

For example, if you’re using this data for your yearly nonprofit report, you want to ask questions that will get you concrete numbers rather than open-ended responses. If it’s merely an opportunity to receive feedback on your most recent fundraiser, you can ask questions that give your audience space to reflect. With this, it’s likely you’ll get some unexpected ideas as they answer questions you didn’t even think to ask. Be open to these ideas as they could help expand your nonprofit’s creativity.

Similarly, you’ll want to think about who needs this data. If it’s for your Board of Directors, the language used might look different than if it’s for your web team. With each stakeholder, bring them into the survey development stage so you can ensure you’re asking useful questions in an appropriate way.

5. Choose optimal questions to get you honest, useful responses

Surveys rely on a lot of strategy to get answers you need. You don’t have much time before your audience gets bored or busy so your questions need to count. You’ll want to ask specific ones so that your audience understands what you’re looking to know. SurveyMonkey provides templates with tried-and-true survey questions for donors, volunteers and general organization feedback.

You also should avoid asking leading questions like, “why did you like coming to our gala?” Questions like these assume something about your audience which can both turn them away and provide incorrect data.


In the end, you’ll want to ensure your survey sounds like it’s coming from you. Ask questions you would ask if you were sitting down with each and every survey recipient. As you develop the survey, be patient, ensuring each question will get you the information you need to better serve your nonprofit audience. Need assistance setting your survey up? ArcStone’s happy to help! 

Prepping for your new nonprofit website launch? How to get the word out.

nonprofit-website-launch-promotion

You’ve been stressing about this nonprofit website launch for months. There was so much time, money and energy spent, all in hopes that this website could have a major impact on your nonprofit. But you launched and nothing really seemed to change. In fact, your traffic has gone down!

First off, read about how this dip in traffic is totally normal and there are ways to help you minimize this tendency.

Secondly, it’s likely your frequent visitors have seen your redesign but didn’t have a way to tell you, so take comfort in that.

For the rest of the world, they need to be told about your nonprofit website redesign to take the time to come review it. How do you do this in a tasteful, effective manner?

8 ideas for getting your nonprofit website launch noticed

1. Tell the full story (well, at least most of it)

Launching a website is exciting from your perspective, but that’s because you’ve been part of the story behind why you needed a new site. If you could include your audience in on that narrative, they’ll likely feel more of an emotional pull towards the project. They could sympathize with your prior pains and be relieved to see them alleviated. As they navigate the site, they’ll be more curious about the various features as they see how problems were solved. You can explain this story via an email, blog post, infographic, video or a combination of the above.

2. Start with a soft launch

Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something exclusive. Your nonprofit is the same; gather a list of your biggest donors, most active volunteers and community members. Send out a note introducing your new site, stating that you’d like them to be the first to try it out. Walk them through why you made the strategic changes you did so they can feel like they’re included in they have insider information.

This will get you a good amount of visits right from the start and could make these supporters feel excited to share your site with friends and visit it more frequently.

Images source: Warren Camp Design

3. Get the whole nonprofit involved

It’s not just your communications team’s job to get this site out there. It affects your entire nonprofit, so everyone should take part. To make it easier for them, give them ideas. Encourage them to share it on their social networks, via their emails, during their phone calls with donors / volunteers / the community, and in their email signatures. The last idea could look something like this:

Chloe Mark
Digital Marketing Strategist
ArcStone
P.S. Our website is launched!! We can’t wait to see its impact on our cause. Take a look at the transformation [link to website here]

4. Give something away

So all these ideas are great, but sometimes people need a little extra incentive. This could include tickets to an upcoming event, a free item donated by a local business, free nonprofit merchandise or a free resource like a webinar. In order to win, have them come to a landing page on your new site and fill out their contact info. Here’s some advice on how to request donations for nonprofit giveaways »

5. Never neglect the opportunity to talk about your nonprofit website launch

It may get tiring to constantly bring up your new website launch at all your meetings and during phone calls, but in doing so, we promise it makes a difference. When people hear someone talk about a project that has tangible results, they are more likely to check it out. People like to see others excited about their work.


Best of luck with your redesign! We hope these ideas help you to see an increase in traffic right after your launch. If you need help with post-website launch SEO, social media strategy, Google Analytics setup or the like, contact ArcStone »

Nonprofit branding: 5 pieces to make your nonprofit brand work for you

nonprofit-branding

Branding is not the hottest topic in the nonprofit sector. According to Standford Social Innovation Review, skeptics tend to see it as a “commercial pursuit of monetary gain” or they fear the pursuit of a strong brand will overshadow the pursuit of the greater good. In some ways, such opinions are admirable; no one wants to see the nonprofit realm become commercialized.

However, there are ways to make your nonprofit branding efforts work for you that go beyond monetary gain. If your nonprofit brand had a strong presence – as in public recognition without promotional work – you could advance your cause without as much time and money. If the focus is on creating a brand that pulls on your audiences’ emotions, inspires them to act and, as a result, makes a positive change in the world, it’s a worthy endeavor. In this post, we’ll talk through how you can make your nonprofit brand speak for itself.

nonprofit-branding
Stanford Social Innovation Review

How to build your nonprofit brand

1. Know your objectives

You can be the smartest and most clever branding guru out there, but all the work in the world won’t get you very far if you haven’t honed in on what your nonprofit stands for. A brand is an identity, so when it comes to your nonprofit, your cause is what makes you uniquely you.

This being said, once you determine that, you have to stick to it. If you’re claiming you bring clean water to people in developing countries, you should show that through all your branding and messaging efforts. This might also mean you don’t post images or messages that go off topic – as in a photo of your nonprofit helping at a local food drive.

When your nonprofit is clear about its passion, others can see that and put their passion towards your cause. If your mission is muddled, it’s more likely they won’t identify their commonalities with you.

It helps to write it out. Take time revisiting your mission statement to ensure it’s concise and still represents the actual work your nonprofit does. This post from Nonprofit Hub walks through strong and weak mission statements, what best practices to keep in mind and how to evaluate your own.

2. Master your audience

At the core, your audience is the people who care about your cause. But in reality, your audience is full of various types of people who play multiple roles.

Break down your audience into types – donors, volunteers, Board of Directors, the community, people who need your services. Then study what would bring them to your nonprofit, how they would like to be communicated with, what they want to see and most importantly, how they feel about it all.

Your brand is made up of your nonprofit and your audience’s reaction to it; more specifically, it’s your cause and how your audience feels about how well you’re serving it. If you understand their feelings, your brand can speak directly to those.

Study your audience with our free audience persona ebook »

3. Have a mascot

Ideally, your nonprofit has a CEO or spokesperson who’s charismatic and respected. People love putting a face to a name. They don’t relate to just words on a page.

If possible, sign your email newsletters and messages from this person. Have them write for your nonprofit blog or at least contribute a quote here and there. Include images and video of them partaking in your nonprofit’s work.

nonprofit-brand-spokespersonBill & Melinda Gates

If you don’t have this one leader – not all of us can have Bill Gates – use your people. Your nonprofit has real workers with stories for as to why they care about your cause.

Either way, when your audience sees someone fighting for the rights of others, they may feel the desire to help and fight, too.

4. Highlight your supporters

Similar to needing a “mascot,” your brand needs to show it has fans. If you can highlight people who support your nonprofit, it’s more likely people will be able to identify with you and see themselves as potential supporters and advocates of your cause.

This shows your audience you’re not just talking about your cause. You’re in the community, getting people organized and making an impact beyond your four walls.

nonprofit-branding
Susan G. Komen, Orange County

5. Show your brand consistently

Peter Frumkin at NPQ says one of the best things you can do for your nonprofit brand is to,

“invest serious time and money in a website and collateral materials that truly communicate what you want people to understand your organization does, why it is different from other organizations in the field, and why people should care about the impact you are pursuing.”

Take Amnesty International for instance. They use their black and yellow colors and bold, capitalized font across each of their branded materials. Sure they have a bigger budget than many nonprofits, but it doesn’t take a lot of money to be consistent. In highlighting their brand, every time people see the combo of black and yellow and this font, they think human rights and standing up for others. By putting their brand across these causes, people feel an emotional pull, and hopefully a call to get involved.

nonprofit-branding
Amnesty International USA Homepage

 

nonprofit-branding
Amnesty International Instagram

 

Your challenge:

Instead of putting all your focus on adding more content and features to your site, posting more on social media and getting your name out there more frequently, take a step back. Reassess how consistent your brand is, how much you pull on it for inspiration and whether or not your audience has an emotional feeling from it. If you can bring it all back to a strong brand, the brand will start to do the work for you.

Is your nonprofit newsletter getting flagged as spam? How to avoid the spam folder.

nonprofit-newsletter

There’s something liberating in flagging an annoying marketing email as spam—that act gives you the power to ignore such messages in the future. However, on the flip side when you’re sending out your nonprofit newsletters, you cross your fingers that no one marks your emails as spam. Not only does this mean the recipient won’t receive your future messages, but it can also hurt your nonprofit’s ability to send email newsletters in general.

Despite the problems with spam, email marketing is still one of your nonprofit’s best bets for reaching your volunteers, donors and prospects. In fact, according to Econsultancy, three-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent to good” ROI.

So how do you avoid having your nonprofit newsletters being flagged as spam?

Lisa, VP of Marketing at ArcStone, offers some best practices to avoid being put in the Promotions tab or marked as spam. If you avoid spammy email tactics and come from a more personal place, your nonprofit newsletter should be in the safe.

Be authentic: Write to donors and volunteers as you would a friend.

Instead of getting so caught up in your “audience” and sending your email out to so many people, write it as if you’re talking to a friend or supporter. If you look at your email as an outsider, does it feel salesy or conversational? If it doesn’t sound authentic, it’s likely it’ll come across that way to your email list and they’ll avoid your emails in the future.

Be clear: Tell them what you’re writing about in your subject line.

If you pull the “bait and switch” trick, you risk losing reader’s trust. Don’t rely on deception to get people to click on your email.

Be clever: Compel them to open your email.

Instead, take time to craft an email subject line that’s accurate AND clever. Here are some fun tools for generating a better subject line.

Be real: Find a real human from whom to send and sign your emails.

Even if people know your nonprofit’s email was sent out in bulk, they don’t want it to feel like it’s coming from a robot. Try to have someone from your nonprofit sign it or include your contact info in the email. If possible, give them someone to contact for questions and comments.

Don’t go crazy: Too many images or links can hurt your emails

Many email marketers attempt to make things stand out with several types of fonts and funky formatting, Not only will too many links and images cause each feature to lose power, emails full of these can come across as spam. Plus, with so many email servers out there, you can’t be quite sure if your formatting will register correctly.

Make it pretty: Use a well-designed email template

Similarly, switching up your formatting and not sticking to a template can cause your nonprofit to look inconsistent. It can be hard for your reader to navigate and process your email. To help them get the information they want as well as to align with your brand, have a professional design your email template and stick to it.

Avoid trigger keywords: Don’t rely on old tactics

When you think through how you process your own inbox, it’s likely there are certain words that immediately sound like sales to you. Make sure you avoid these overused phrases and are being original.

Keep unsubscribe available

It’s sad to lose those email addresses you fought so hard for, but removing the unsubscribe capabilities from your email will only hurt you. It should be up to the reader whether or not they are contacted. Some email marketing software, like MailChimp, will even remove your ability to send emails if you do so.

In the end, like many pieces of your nonprofit marketing puzzle, it comes back to being authentic. If your readers identify with your nonprofit and feel as though your email communications are coming right from you, they won’t feel the need to flag your newsletter as spam.

Get help with your email marketing strategy from the team at ArcStone. Learn more »

How to manage your Board of Directors during a nonprofit website design project

nonprofit-site-design

Your Board of Directors deserves a whole lot of credit for keeping your nonprofit alive. However, during a nonprofit website design project, we hear they tend to cause some issues. It’s likely your Board is full of wonderful, yet opinionated people, all of whom care deeply regarding where your nonprofit’s precious funds are being allocated. If all of these Board Members are interjecting their opinion throughout each phase of your website design, you’re going to experience frustration.

This becomes especially problematic when these discussions start to slow down the redesign, causing missed deadlines, unmet expectations and unexpected budget changes. Moreover, if you don’t have one person who has the final say, arguments arise. So how can you manage your Board of Directors throughout your design project?

Pre-project

The more planning that gets done prior to your project launch, the better. This will help you determine your project’s needs, choose your vendor and set up a strong team structure before things get crazy. If you and your team set this up and agree upon things early on, when conflicts arise, you’ll have these decisions to point back to.

Assign roles

1. Who will choose the vendor?

2. Who all needs to be updated on the overall project status? Who needs to be involved on a day-to-day level?

3. Who will make the final calls on all project decisions? Who is responsible for project success?

Explain this to the rest of your organization as well, talking through why a smaller team will lead to greater efficiency. That way, if Board Members or otherwise get overly involved, you don’t have to immediately shut their opinions down, but can point back to how you mutually agreed upon the the ultimate decision maker.

Hire a project manager

If you can afford one, a project manager can be a huge asset to the success of your nonprofit website redesign. They become worth their weight in gold as they keep you on time and on budget. If this project manager is from a 3rd party, they also step in with their unbiased perspective to resolve any conflicts between your Board and team members.

Interview or survey your staff and Board

Everyone likes to be heard—especially when you’re designing a site that will work as the new face of your organization. By asking for their opinions before the project, you establish that you care what they have to say and give them a chance to say it. This is a more regulated way to get them involved but also helps to alleviate their interjections when they are not being asked for down the road. Best of all, people have amazing ideas and you’ll have plenty from which to choose.

During the project

Provide status updates

We all know communication is key and no one likes surprises when it comes to budgets and projects. However, that doesn’t have to mean a daily or even weekly meeting with your staff or Board. Instead, set up a structure for status updates or memos.

When you send these out, update everyone on where you are with the project overall. This is also an opportunity to ask any questions to the appropriate team members if an opinion is needed.

Project status updates will make people feel more involved, help remove constant questioning from those that are less involved and keep enthusiasm up for your nonprofit as a whole.

Focus on donors, volunteers and other site users

It’s easy to get caught up in what you and your project committee think is right and what you want to see. Instead, keep coming back to the end-user: your site is mainly made for donors, volunteers, community members and those in need. When you come to a difficult decision, keep these audience members at the forefront of your thoughts.

Listen to the professionals

Again, it’s easy to get caught up in what you think is best, but you hired the professionals for a reason. They know what they’re doing! Encourage them to keep presenting ideas to you. For more complex decisions, you can even have them come into the office and show their ideas to your team. Odds are they will be better at communicating their ideas and this collaborative effort will result in a better website.

Wrapping up the project

Present the site

Rather than sending the new site link in an email, it’s beneficial to sit down with everyone at once and talk through the site. This way, you’ll have a chance to explain the decisions you’ve made and they can understand how you hope the site will be used.

You can even use this time to train the staff in on how to enter blog posts or make updates if they will be involved with that. Lastly be sure to set up a system for how team members can report any bugs or errors they come across, as it’s inevitable that one or ten will exist.

Discuss next steps

The worst thing you can do post site launch is to let your site just sit there. It needs to be optimized and updated. This launch meeting provides a place for talking about what the goals are for fully utilizing your site day-to-day. If there are phase 2 projects, you can discuss what the priorities are and what these costs look like. If you do a good job at presenting these initiatives, the Board can fight for them, helping to make them happen.


If you’re thinking about a redesign, here are our favorite resources for starters:

10 Step Blueprint for a Nonprofit Website Redesign

25+ Website Redesign Resources