I was just reading Nancy Schwartz’ post A Nonprofit Marketing Don’t – “Our Organization Needs Your Input”what really struck a chord with me is her statement “it isn’t about you and your organization.”
referring to nonprofits that don’t specifically address the needs of their target audiences in their marketing materials but focus on the needs of the organization instead. And let me tell you, nonprofits can be a very needy bunch. It’s easy to get sidetracked into “me, me, me” when you spend a significant portion of your time trying (and hopefully succeeding) to raise funds; it almost creates a “welfare” mentality amongst some groups, especially when you are struggling to grow. In the for-profit world it seems easier to focus on selling products or services (and their benefits and features) and to see the direct benefits of great customer service. No one is going to buy a product or service just because they feel sorry for the company or because the company NEEDS something. Maybe sales training for nonprofits would be hugely beneficial to see how sales tactics translate over to donor procurement! Either way I think it helps to think more “outwardly”.
Outward Thinking Includes:
1. Letting go of total control. A logo, for instance, should mean something to your target audiences rather than something personal to the founder that only the founder understands. You can also involve your constituents in the logo design process so you KNOW it’s something they will relate well to. I did this with my nonprofit when it came time to update our logo; I have to tell you it was challenging to let it go and we actually ended up with a logo that was my least favorite of the top 5 once it went out to vote by the staff, board and a client advisory committee. But, it’s not about you anymore; as with any business, it’s about your clients / constituents and what they want.
PDF Article: Embrace Growth – Update Your Logo
2. Involving your constituents in the web development process. I’m not talking about 50 people; that would just drive everyone insane when it came to decision-making time, but a representative group that will work with your marketing and IT team when putting together the site. We just had a nonprofit that had done 2 expensive reworks of their site only to continue to receive numerous complaints from constituents about the organization of the site – something they had focused on in previous renditions but clearly didn’t solve the problem. Their site was fairly complex and really needed a focus group of constituents to have input throughout the process.
PDF Article: Need a Website Superhero? Getting the best bids for your next website project.
3. Really saying thank you to everyone. People are not required to give to you or volunteer or go above and beyond the call of duty just because you are a nonprofit. There is a lot of focus on thanking and recognizing donors but don’t forget that donors and potential donors come in a variety of packages. As an ED my biggest challenge was to remember to thank and appreciate employees and volunteers – cash donors were always on the forefront of my mind, but not necessarily everyone else! As a consultant, I am constantly surprised at how often a thank you is completely overlooked when I do something “extra” or donate my time to a prospect or client.
4. Put yourself in your constituent’s shoes when you do anything. With website development and other creative projects, the buzzword is “creating personalities” – actual characters that represent a specific group of constituents and then you would make sure you address the needs of that specific character. Really it’s just a fancy word for putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Walk through your website and pretend it’s a new site you’ve never seen before and you are interested in donating. Is everything there that you would want to see before you donated? If you are too close to your own site, go through someone else’s and note whether you would make a donation and why or why not – then see what is missing or needed from your site. Or, if you were a client, would you understand what was being offered and know exactly how it worked and how to get started as a participant?
5. Getting feedback from your constituents regularly. Doing a regular poll or survey is so easy now when you use programs like Survey Monkey or Constant Contact. It’s a great way to get people involved, especially if you keep it short and sweet (and not TOO often – seriously if you were in their shoes would you want to get daily reminders to vote on some grant contest you are in?). Surveys seem to scare people , both in the nonprofit and for-profit world. Getting new entrepreneurs to conduct customer surveys is like pulling teeth – but you really just need to face the music, get the feedback, good or bad, and use everything you can to move your nonprofit forward. Just make sure you tell them what’s in it for them and don’t say you NEED THEIR INPUT!
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