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The Future of Nonprofit Marketing: "Hyperlocal, Hyperspecialized, Hyperrelevant"

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It was August, and that meant time to create our dreaded Annual Report. I was working on one of my least favorite projects as a Development Director. I was worried that the content was pretty deadly, with the standard "Letter from the Chair" and pie charts of expenditures. Creating this and the rest of our publications was a painful, lengthy process. I also knew that no one would read it if it were boring. What to say and how to say it? This is the perennial challenge of nonprofit fundraisers. And we usually don't do a very good job in our attempts at "messaging." head-clickme2 This morning I was reading marketing guru Seth Godin's blog and, as usual, he nailed this issue. He said this is where marketing is heading: "Big companies, non-profits and even candidates will discover (the best communications are) hyperlocal, hyperspecialized, hyperrelevant . . . this is where we are going." What he means is that people (donors) want to receive messages from their favorite nonprofits that are "anticipated, personal and relevant." And if the nonprofit marketing communication they are receiving fits these criteria, then they'll read it. If your letters, reports, brochures, invitations are not "anticipated, personal and relevant," then you are not going to be heard or read or paid attention to. How do we make our communications "hyperlocal?" By referring to something that is going on locally. Or that the reader is currently involved in. How about "hyperspecialized" - what does that look like? It means that the folks who attended your auction get special communications about how well the auction did and what you did with the funds raised. How about "hyperrelevant?" It means that donors who gave to help teach prison inmates to read get updates about that particular program. This is a tall order for nonprofit organizations with few fundraising resources. But focusing on your current donors, and sending them relevant information that they are actually interested in, can keep them involved and coming back for more. And that's the basis of our holy grail - a sustainable fundraising program, full of repeat donors who are enthusaistic and passionate advocates for your cause.
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Add a "story platform" to your web site

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I was talking today with my friend and client Cynda Heward of the Saint Mary's Hospital Foundation in Montreal. She was telling me about the Foundation's new web site that is being developed. She used an interesting term that we should all embrace: a "story platform." This means that you tell a story right at the beginning of your web site. Remember that "narrative" or "story-telling" is by far the most effective way of communicating an idea or concept. Just about the most important thing you can do on your home page is to launch a heartfelt story about someone who was helped by your organization. And we all know that one story is more effective than three, right?
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Where's your call to action?

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What are you asking your folks to do? I mean to actually do? In your email communications and on your web site, even in your solicitation letters and your annual report or brochures- are you asking people to take action? I see so very many communications pieces by nonprofits that just seem namby-panby. They beat around the bush. They sorta hint at what help the nonprofit needs. If they are asking for financial support, usually the request is not quite direct enough. ”We’d be pleased if you would consider a gift of $xxx for your annual gift to . . . ” Now I was taught this years ago at Duke University when I was starting out in fundraising – and we were all into being genteel and “nice.” This is the South down here, you know.