From launching a compelling fundraising campaign, to posting engaging social media, effective messaging is key to the success of your nonprofit’s member & donor engagement, and fundraising efforts. 

What is messaging? Messaging is the content your organization uses to explain what you offer to various demographic groups or target markets, and what differentiates your offering from other nonprofits in your industry and region. Without effective messaging that’s clear, concise, engaging and inspires action, an organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts probably won’t hit the mark. Follow these simple steps for developing compelling messaging that works.

#1. Survey your members, donors, constituents and staff. 

An underutilized resource for developing effective messaging is right within your organization: your members, donors, constituents and staff. An excellent way to begin a messaging audit is to develop a simple survey canvassing ‘ambassadors’ of your organization for their feedback about what makes your offering different and compelling, and why they’re involved with your organization. Ask the group you’re soliciting to define in one or two sentences how they’d describe your offering to others, and why they’re passionate about their involvement with your organization. MailChimp www.mailchimp.com has a simple, widely-used survey tool that will help.

#2: Make a bulleted list of your organization’s core offering. 

Make a bulleted list of what your organization offers to your target market(s). As a service oriented nonprofit, for example, you might offer social services to lower income families, including direct financial assistance through loans and grants, mentoring and job coaching, and access to other social services resources. Be as specific as possible, listing the services in order of those you provide most to various types of constituents by category (members, donors, other constituent groups) to those you provide least.

#3: Make a bulleted list of all those qualities about your nonprofit that are unique, differentiating and compelling–based on results of the survey. 

This is one of the most important elements of developing effective messaging. Here, zero in on what makes your organization’s offering stand out from the competition. It might be your desirable location, or your dedicated membership committee that actively helps members connect in with other members. One area nonprofit differentiates itself as an ‘historic’ nonprofit through its affiliation with a local state park. This provides the organization with a large ‘campus’ of venues for their theatre productions that’s not visible from the street–a definite differentiator they should highlight in their messaging.

#4: Make a bulleted list of your target market(s). 

This is who your organization primarily markets your services to.  It might be other businesses, individual consumers, the elderly, families with children, or Millenials. List target audiences in order of priority, beginning with those your organization serves most frequently to those you serve least frequently.

#5: Review the lists above, and highlight those items that best describe what your organization offers, and what your survey identified as unique and differentiating about your nonprofit.

The next step is to highlight those items in each of the lists you feel best describe your organization’s core offering and differentiate your nonprofit from the competition. You’ll begin to see common themes and attributes emerge as you build your core messaging.

#6: Draft clear, concise copy and content from the summary descriptions you’ve identified as common themes and attributes about your organization and offering.

Draft copy that weaves together items from the highlighted summary list as clearly, concisely and engagingly as possible. Less is more when it comes to copy. Review and make edits to ensure the content is as brief as possible, includes images, bullets, bold faced words and phrases, and overall reads well. This is your core messaging.

#7: Use  your core messaging throughout all your organization’s marketing and fundraising communications, and social media and public relations channels. 

After you develop your core messaging, the next essential component of your organization’s messaging audit is to then review your website, all of your existing marketing and fundraising communications, and social media and public relations channels to be sure that your core message is consistent throughout. It’s this consistency that will create a clear and indelible description of your organization and what it offers that will equip and inspire your current members, donors and other constituents to be better ambassadors for your nonprofit. This approach will also engage and inspire new target audiences to take some kind of desired action: become a member or volunteer, work here and most importantly, donate.

At the heart of launching a successful fundraising drive is an effective email campaign. Be sure that your donor solicitation efforts achieve your revenue goals by following these best practices for your next email fundraising campaign.

#1: Be sure those you’re soliciting know what to expect. Donors and others you’re soliciting don’t like to be surprised by more or less emails than they anticipate. Let email recipients know right from the start what information you’ll be sending them, and how often. This goes for your regular monthly eNewsletters, and other email communications, including fundraising emails.

#2: Don’t Over-Promise Then Under-Deliver. In order to increase open rates, sometimes development marketers promise the moon with deceptive subject lines, then fail to deliver on the promise. Remember, open rates are only one criteria for judging the success of your email fundraising campaign. Conversion rates (or how often your recipients take action as a result of your email) are the real test of the effectiveness of your email solicitations. If you don’t deliver on the promise of your subject line, then your donors and prospective donors might decide to give elsewhere.

#3: Personalize Your Emails, But Vet the Information First. Personalizing emails is an effective strategy; however, it’s counterproductive if the name on the email isn’t right. Be sure to vet the information for accuracy, before doing a blanket SEND to your email marketing list.

#4: Segment Your Mailing List: Email segmenting can be very effective for target marketing to various demographic groups. You can segment your list by age, marital status, income level, when a donor is in the giving cycle, etc., and send content and messages that appeal directly to each specific segment.

#5: Test The Effectiveness of Your Emails Before You Send Them. In addition to testing personalization, you can also test the effectiveness of your emails by testing which pieces of content, calls to action and subject lines have the highest click-through rates. Divide your email list into two equal groups and send an A/B split test of your email to see which performs best.

#6: Focus on Content Versus Donations. When the main topic of your email is ‘Donate Now’ versus content that’s of interest to your supporters, your email fundraising campaign could come up short. Focus the content of your emails on what’s of interest to your supporters from their point of view. Establish trust and make an emotional connection before you close for greater impact and results.

#7: Include a Call to Action (CTA). The key to any effective solicitation is having one or multiple calls to action in your email. A call to action is some actionable, concrete next step for your donor or prospective donor to take that brings them into the fold of your organization, and ultimately, closer to writing a check, or making a donation online. Some examples of calls to action include:

  • Learn How You Can Help
  • Click to Volunteer
  • Sign Up for Our Monthly Newsletter
  • Volunteer Today
  • Donate Now.

#8: Proof and Reproof for Spelling and Grammar Errors. Donors often judge an organization by what’s in the details, i.e., whether or not your marketing and fundraising communications are error-free. If you’re the author of an email or eNewsletter, be sure to proofread your draft multiple times for spelling and grammar errors. Then, ask a colleague that has a keen eye for detail to proofread the copy again, and again.  Online tools such as grammarly.com can also help.

 

Creating great content is the first step toward getting your organization or brand recognized. The next step is making sure that you’re leveraging this content through as many marketing channels as possible. Here are the best, most cost-effective ways to get your content out there for maximum marketing impact.

  • Update your website’s blog at least quarterly. According to web and digital marketing expert, Dale Shadbegian of 118Group, it’s important to update your website blog at least quarterly. According to Shadbegian, updating your business or nonprofit’s blog quarterly, or even monthly will help to increase your search engine (SEO) ratings when included as a part of a larger SEO campaign.
  • Post on a variety of social media channels regularly. Once you’ve developed good core content that reinforces what your organization offers, post this regularly on a variety of social media outlets that are appropriate for your type of business or nonprofit. These may include: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and others. It’s okay to use the same content in a variety of places, concurrently. Repetition of your organization’s messaging is how to build awareness for your offering.
  • Reach your target audience bi-monthly through email marketing. Email marketing is still an effective and affordable tool for reaching your current and prospective customers/constituents if done correctly. That means sending emails with relevant content that’s of interest to your target audience, using as few words as possible to convey your message, and adding photos, graphs, charts and other engaging visuals. It also means not bombarding your readers with too many emails. How many is too many? Email marketing experts say that no less than monthly, no more than bi-monthly is preferred. It’s also okay to send an additional email ‘alert’ once in a while if you have something that’s time sensitive and needs to reach your readers now.
  • Guest author articles for local organizations that reach your target audience. There are a number of ways to leverage local organizations’ publications to get the word out about your business or nonprofit–free of charge. One way to do this is to guest author articles for your local Chamber of Commerce or SCORE chapter. Other organizations that offer business services such as office incubators, regional or local membership organizations such as the Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE), American Womens Business Association (ABWA), and others, will often encourage members to submit content for their periodic emails, E-newsletters or social media posts.
  • Write for the business section of your local media. The local media is always looking for online content that’s of interest to the business community. Pitch a regular column idea to your local newspapers or regional business magazine publications for their periodic publications or social media to gain visibility as an expert in your field. Organizations such as SCORE may also write regularly for the local media and welcome guest authors who have subject matter expertise.

At one time or another, most of us have invested time and money attending trade shows and conferences for either an employer, or for our own organizations. Yet, a lot of potential business and momentum is often lost following these events. Here’s how to maximize your return from this important business development activity:

Plan Before You Go.

(At the beginning of the year)

  • Register for the conference early to ensure you have an optimal location (i.e., near beverage/snack/food areas, at the end of an aisle, at the corners of the trade show, or near competitors that are attracting those in your target market).
  • Determine your level of sponsorship/visibility at the conference (i.e., table/booth, hospitality suite, speaker at a workshop, etc.)
  • Determine who should represent the organization at the conference. (This may change, but it’s good to have a game plan about resource/staff allocation ahead of time).
  • Review table/booth and collateral materials, etc., needed for the conference and be sure that there are enough ordered in advance and in stock.
  • Plan any ‘give aways’ that will attract people to the table/booth or workshop. Popular items that participants tend to keep and use are: More expensive: USB drives, portable battery chargers, Bluetooth speakers, phone cases, screen cleaners, headphones, activity trackers. We would choose something that is relevant to RMC’s brand. Less expensive: Reusable bags, T-shirts, baseball caps, sunglasses, mugs, cups, water bottles, stress balls. (with a discreet logo)

(One to two months before)

  • Find out who is attending the conference/event. This registrant list is often available ahead of time.
  • Review the list of attenders and note whom you want to engage, and how (i.e., invitation to hospitality suite hosted by your organization, one-on-one breakfast, lunch, dinner, introduction to a partner, etc. Be as specific as possible in your strategy re: what you hope to get out of the meeting.). Prioritize the list to be sure your organization makes contact with top priority clients, prospects, referral sources, etc.
  • Review the list of competitors who will be attending, and note those booths that you want to visit. (This will be useful for your organization’s marketing/PR team.)
  • Promote your organization’s participation/attendance at the conference/event on LinkedIn, the company’s website, regular e-blasts, etc.
  • Choose a raffle item(s) at your organization’s table/booth and use this to collect email addresses that can be added to the database after the event.
  • Follow any hash tags for the event on social media to do some pre-show networking.

(One-two weeks before)

  • Discuss at your staff meeting who will be assigned to each client, prospect, and referral source attending the conference/event, and come up with a general strategy for what your organization plans to accomplish through each staff member at the conference/event.

Use Your Time Well While There.

  • Set up a charging station at your organization’s table/booth where visitors can charge their phones and other devices while talking to your team.
  • Collect business cards and note key topics discussed, and any anecdotal personal information shared on the back of the business card. Have a system to note highest priority contacts, i.e., ***=Top priority, **=Mid-Level Priority, *=Low Priority. Cards work well, because you can discreetly jot down notes as you’re talking or immediately following the conversation.
  • Host prospects, referral sources at breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings, and/or hospitality suite(s), and make detailed notes immediately following the get together about next steps with each contact. Be as specific as possible in your notes at the time as this will help enormously during follow up. It’s all in the details.
  • Collect any competitor literature, or other industry intel that you think will be helpful in understanding market trends, and how top competitors are positioning themselves.
  • Collect and comment on any ideas about give aways, booth displays, materials or approaches that you think are noteworthy. Share these with your marketing/PR team.
  • Attend competitors’ hospitality suites, workshops and other events if possible to ‘respectfully’ gather intel, and mingle with their clients and prospective clients.

Maintain Event Momentum Back at the Office.

  • Begin outreach by email to highest priority targets, first, then work your way down the list in order of priority. Do this within a few days of the conference/event.
  • Follow up any emails sent with a phone call to those who haven’t responded within a week of the email to move the contact along to a next step. In some cases, you might want to send a hardcopy mailing to someone who is difficult to reach as another touch point following the conference/event, or who wants more detailed information or a proposal.
  • Have an upcoming event your organization will be hosting or attending in mind so you can mention this to contacts/prospects and invite them to the event.
  • Add prospect emails in order of priority (noting the Tier level, and priority, i.e., high, medium, low) to the sales database, and enter in any information about each gathered at the conference/event. Note any next steps to be taken with a due date.
  • Enter in any intel about competitors of the marketplace gathered at the conference/event. Have a separate place in the sales database for this.
  • Discuss how effective you thought the conference/event was at your next  staff meeting and determine if it’s worthwhile going in the future. Share any ideas, intel learned at the conference/event that would be helpful to your organization’s conference strategy in the future. Share this info with the marketing/PR team to keep track of.