All About the Donor

I was on the L in Chicago when this marketing piece caught my eye. Oxfam has really outdone themselves with this one. Oxfam could have used this precious real estate for many messages ... the injustice of poverty, the humanitarian crisis in Syria or any number of other topics that are central to their mission. But they didn't. They made the focus about one thing: the donor. More specifically, how wonderful the donor will see themselves when giving to Oxfam. Brilliant!

Inverted Pyramid for Nonprofits

I took Journalism in college. Truth be told, it wasn't my favorite class. Yes, I love to write, but all those rules and structure! The AP Style Guide!

Over the years, I've learned to appreciate the learnings from the class and bend (and break) the rules for the type of writing I do.

At the core of the study Journalism is the Inverted Pyramid... which basically directs the writer to place the most important information at the beginning of a story.

Appeal writing for nonprofits has many similarities. There are important pieces of information that must be expressed ... and quickly!

Here is an inverted pyramid I developed specifically for nonprofits ... a flow we've found works well in organizing direct mail letters (and other communications). It's oversimplified, of course. But underperforming appeals usually lack one or more of the essential ingredients below.

What Is Social Media Doing for You?

"It’s hard to replace paper dollars with digital dimes."

A publisher friend was actually talking about the difference between online and print advertising revenue.

But I suspect many development directors feel the same.

Sure ... online revenue is growing. And direct mail is falling (especially for those organizations that decided to save money the past two years by cutting back on their mailings!)

But the bulk of donations are still being generated through direct mail.

I was asked to be a part of a workshop last week. The topic was “Communications and Social Media Strategy for Your Nonprofit.”

But I wasn’t asked to talk about social media; I was asked to focus on segmentation ... and how to develop messaging strategies to address different segments differently.

I opened by admitting I'd feel like it was a bait-and-switch tactic if I was sitting in the audience. This was old hat. Boring stuff. Research. Data. You know, the kind of learnings you get from direct mail.

Or from tracking online interactions. If you have the ability (and discipline) to do that, of course.

But the fact is, no matter what the medium, you’re only going to be as successful as your messaging strategy. Knowing what you want – or need – to say.

And to whom. Knowing where your constituent is in terms of their understanding of - and commitment to - your mission.

Knowing what the next step on their path to advocacy could be.

Success stories on blogs. Facebook groups for events. Tweets about volunteer needs. It’s all good (as they say).

But, is it as good as it could be?

I’d say that depends on your messaging strategy.