Your non-profit has a terrific mission, a wonderful staff, and fabulous resources to offer. Unfortunately, no one knows much about who you are or what you do. And that’s a problem. In order for your organization to reach out to its audience, spread its message, attract donors, and do its important work, it needs to reach out and connect with the wide world. That means writing press releases, running events, and using social media – but it also means following some basic guidelines for effective marketing.
Know your media outlets
If you’re a liberal social action group, you really don’t need to send your press release to the local conservative radio station. If you’re trying to reach a younger audience, you’ll want to reach out through publications that specifically target younger readers. You’ll also be far more likely to get a story published or an event covered if you actually know the media people involved in making decisions about which stories matter. Personal calls, appropriate press releases, photographs and videos can all encourage the media to pay attention to you.
Don’t preach to the choir
Your organization is pushing hard for a change in public policy relative to job access for people with disabilities. Your supporters are likely to be people with disabilities, their friends, and their family. They already agree with you. If you want to have your message heard, you need to tell people outside your immediate support group – people who disagree, or haven’t yet heard what you have to say. Of course, there are many ways to reach new listeners, but you can be pretty sure that they’re not already on your mailing list.
Use Social Media Effectively
All too often, non-profits start up a blog, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts – and then ignore them. That is about as effective as writing and publishing a brochure, and then shoving it into your desk drawer. The purpose of social media is to engage – socially – with other people, and if you don’t have the time or expertise to really use social media, you’re better off sticking with traditional media. If you do intend to use social media, though, make sure you assign someone the job of writing the blog, Facebooking, and tweeting on a regular basis, answer questions, engage in conversation, and generally make the most of the tools at hand. Social media is useful when it’s used correctly – but when someone connects with your organization through social media and is then ignored, they won’t be coming back through another, more traditional door.
Make your message actionable
Whether your call to action involves donating money, calling a policymaker, coming to an event, or quitting smoking, the bottom line is that you want someone to do something. The best way to make that happen is to make action very easy. Some organizations do this by providing e-postcards that can be sent to politicians with a couple of mouse clicks. Others provide quick and easy access to online or telephone registration, donation, or publications. Whatever your approach, be sure that the person you’re connecting with finds it quick and easy to take the action you have in mind.
Know your audience
Who are the people who engage with your programs, services, or projects? Why do they need you, agree with you, or care about you? How old are they? Where do they live? Are they men or women, gay or straight? What’s their ethnic and demographic status? All of these bits of information will help you to communicate effectively with the people you care about most.
Have a voice
Every organization has a unique voice. Universities tend to speak in a scholarly but positive tone about their offerings and the opportunities they provide to young people. Social service groups tend to be folksier in their tone, and more personal in the stories they tell. Political groups use a lot of action words, and present themselves as serious, engaged, and energetic. What is your voice like? Not only should you know the answer to that question, but the same answer should be shared by everyone in your organization.
Collect names and contact information where and whenever you can
You run a fabulously successful event, and hundreds of people attend. They all seem to be having a terrific time. Then they all go home. Who were they? If you didn’t collect their names, contact information, and basic personal details, you’ve missed a golden opportunity. The people who take the time to get in their cars and show up are your “family” – the folks who will support you financially, morally, and politically. Take the time to know their names!
Offer human contact
When communicating with your audience, be sure to include information about how to reach a real person to get further information, sign up for events or programs, or otherwise take part in your organization’s activities. While some people are quite comfortable communicating with an answering system or website, others are put off by impersonal treatment. And even those folks who would be happy to interact with your website are likely to be more fully engaged with your work after they get off the phone with a real person who answers their questions and provides helpful, positive support and information.
Sumac is an outstanding tool for gathering and managing information about your constituents, then directing appropriate targeted communication to them.
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