How to Use Empathy to Make a Social Impact

For a lot of us, when we think of selling, the word “empathy” doesn’t come to mind. In fact, for many in the cause-focused space, particularly nonprofits, selling (just like marketing) is a bit of a bad word. However, it shouldn’t be.

If you have something that someone else needs or wants, isn’t that a good thing? That’s where it all begins.

Today, one of my spring interns, Rima Patel, is going to share how empathy intersects with the sales process, particularly the selling of products. I think this will not only be insightful, but good news for many of you.

You’re already leading a nonprofit, social enterprise, or other for-profit doing good, which means that empathy is at the core of what you do. This post will take it one step further, allowing you to see how empathy can be the glue that holds your triple bottom line together.

How to Use Empathy to Make a Social Impact

No one will deny that the key to creating a successful product is by thinking like the consumer. Putting yourself into their shoes and figuring out what they want can help make your great idea even more desirable. This concept is not unfamiliar to us; in fact, it’s something we aim to practice in our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s individuals trying to build strong relationships or cause-focused organizations trying to connect with consumers, empathy is essential.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy is the difference between feeling for someone and feeling with them. Acknowledging feelings from shared experiences connects us as humans, beyond all the ways in which we separate ourselves—and that’s special. So special that it has the power to change lives and make an impact.

Maybe you’re an entrepreneur and you want your consumers to have an emotional connection to your product. Maybe you’re a nonprofit and you are trying to fix a social issue by inspiring others. Or maybe you’re a social enterprise and you just want to do more good. How can you use empathy to make a social impact?

Empathy can push you to create solutions that help others, but it can also push others to help you and your cause.

Empathy in the design process

A human-centered approach to innovation

Design thinking is a popular process that many social enterprises use today to creatively solve problems and make social impacts. This process takes a human-centered approach and involves five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

This semester, my Intro to Entrepreneurship professor decided to focus her class around the design thinking process, giving us the task of creating a product that would help solve the issue of climate change on campus. After the project was over, in a class with almost 300 students, we all came to the same general consensus: the empathize stage was the most important.

At first, many of us had a lot of great ideas, but the empathize stage made us quickly realize that our ideas could be better.

We all knew the problems associated with climate change and we all knew the different methods to prevent it, but what we didn’t know was how much people were actually willing to do. We found that college students want to help the environment, but don’t want to go out of their way to do it. You’ve probably seen something similar with your audience.

We realized that methods requiring the consumer to take some action like using water refill stations or compost bins don’t go as far as methods that don’t require the consumer to take an action, like putting motion detector lights in dorms. Creating the most value for our consumer requires using empathy to understand the best way to solve the problem.

The empathize stage not only helped us understand the consumer and how they felt about the issue to make the most efficient product, but helped us understand what steps they might actually take. Without empathy, our product might have ended up useless, unrealistic, and ultimately unsuccessful.

So, how do you use empathy in the design process? The first step is to ask questions.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you know about the problem?

  • What do you not know?

  • What are your assumptions?

Then ask others:

  • How do they feel about the problem?

  • How does it impact their life?

  • What are they willing to do about it?

These insights will help you understand the problem, who is involved, and how you might go about solving it in a way that brings others into the process for a more successful solution.

We all have great ideas that we want to see come to life, but if we want to be as successful as we can, it’s necessary that we open our ideas to other perspectives. Using empathy, you can see what would work and what would not, how people react to and feel about your ideas, and how to make them better.

There are many solutions to a problem, but the best solution is the one that begins with empathy.

Consumer empathy

Stop marketing products, start marketing feelings

Today, consumer empathy has become quite popular because companies are starting to realize its impact. If people have an emotional connection to a product, they are far more likely to buy it. If people share the same feelings as an organization, they are far more likely to support it.

Consumer empathy makes people feel less like consumers and more like humans, and that appeal is strong enough to make a positive impact on businesses and on the world.

Consumer empathy involves not only understanding the desires and struggles of the consumer, but also sharing those feelings with them. A great example of consumer empathy is a commercial for Cardstore by American Greetings in 2014. In order to promote their website, American Greetings sparked a common, shared feeling—the love we have for our mothers—and used it to help the audience create an emotional attachment with the brand. With this commercial, American Greetings was marketing a feeling, not a product.

Another great example is TOMS, a shoe company that built its brand on the concept that for every pair of shoes sold, there was also a pair given to a child with no shoes. Growing up, I remember seeing so many TOMS flags hanging up in bedrooms. Why were people so inclined to hang a shoe brand up on their wall?

The flag represented a feeling, an emotional attachment to the product, and a sense of pride for doing something good. TOMS recognized the power of making every person who purchased their shoes feel like they made a significant impact, and were part of a solution to a big problem. Today, TOMS continues to use consumer empathy to discuss other important social issues, like gun violence.

Now, it might seem like empathy is an obvious tool for marketing products. Of course thinking like the consumer is necessary for creating something that is valuable and relevant to them. Unfortunately, many companies still lack this skill.

Pepsi, for example, aired a commercial in 2017 amidst the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The commercial involved Kendall Jenner joining an ambiguous protest and sharing a Pepsi with a police officer, sparking unity and excitement among everyone. Pepsi received severe backlash, taking down the ad several days later, and responses to the commercial gave a clear understanding as to why. A former organizer for BLM said, “No one is finding joy from Pepsi at a protest.” Bernice King, daughter of MLK Jr., tweeted, “If only daddy knew the power of #Pepsi.” To make things worse, the face of the ad was a rich, white supermodel who has no history of being an advocate for BLM, or any other social issue for that matter. Pepsi failed to understand their consumers and how they feel about the issue, which is what made the ad unsuccessful.

So, what did Pepsi do wrong? Pepsi’s commercial was trying to ignore the problem. Its message does not fall far from, “Why can’t we all just get along?” It provides a “solution” without actually acknowledging the existing problem of police brutality that some black people face everyday in America.

Empathy goes beyond just understanding someone's feelings; it requires learning to share them, too. Pepsi attempted to use a current, popular trend in social justice to promote their brand and make more money. Their mistake was leaving out empathy, and it was a mistake they could have avoided had they taken more time to know their consumer.

Using empathy in marketing involves understanding how your consumer feels, but it also involves understanding how your consumer will react. How do they want to feel, and can you make them feel that?

Using empathy to create social change

How feelings can change the world

The beauty of empathy is that it affects all of us.

Whether we are selling or buying the idea, it makes us all feel something. Empathy reminds us that we are all human and that we share experiences and feelings. It has been a tool used around the world to make individual problems feel universal.

Empathy allows consumers to feel like they are being heard and understood, that they are not alone, and that there are people out there trying to solve their problems. It sparks inspiration and motivation for people to work towards the things they care about.

As entrepreneurs and innovators, it is essential that we practice empathy in all aspects and phases of our projects—from idea to design to marketing. So, ask questions and open your ears. Understand who you’re working with and what they’re feeling.

Remember that empathy involves shared experiences, so remind yourself of your feelings and why you got involved with your cause to begin with. Keep in mind that the product or the profit isn’t special, but the feeling it invokes and how those feelings might eventually change the world is.


Rima Patel

I’m Rima Patel, an upcoming senior at North Carolina State University, majoring in Sociology with minors in Business Administration and Nonprofit Studies. My ultimate goal in life is to do good and help people, and right now I’m doing that through marketing for nonprofits.

I hope to make significant impacts on social issues through innovation and social entrepreneurship.

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Empathy can push you to create solutions that help others, but it can also push others to help you and your cause.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Want To Do More Speaking? This Is A Must.

Even with all the newfangled technology at our disposal, public speaking is still one of the best ways to get the word out about your cause. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Plus, with the aid of technology, you now have more options than ever to speak publicly. It could be on a stage, radio, television, podcast, or video interview.

I repeatedly hear from clients and friends how their donations and sales were boosted after a speaking gig. That reason alone makes it a high priority for a lot of social impact organizations. And, if that’s the case for you, I’d like to give you one tip for making every speaking opportunity easier for both you and your host.

What’s the tip? Create a media kit. And it’s so simple to do you’ll wonder why you didn’t create it earlier.

So, let’s discuss what a media kit is, what goes into it, where it lives, and some best practices.

Want To Do More Speaking? This Is A Must.

What Is A Media Kit?

Think of a media kit like your organization in a nutshell. It’s the basics that anyone would need for getting an overview of your nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business. That’s what makes this such a great tool to have on hand. Yes, all of this info can be found on your website, but by building a media kit, you’re going to make it very easy for your host to find everything they need in one place. (And that’s why they’ll love you!)

It’ll also help you look more professional, and you know that’s one thing I love to help people with. By creating a media kit, you’re showing your host that you’re a pro who can be taken seriously. And, by the way, that will make you more appealing as a speaker.

What Goes Into a Media Kit?

Assuming that you’re speaking on behalf of your organization, here are a few essentials that you should include:

  • Bio

  • Short organization overview

  • Headshot

  • Logo

  • Social media links

  • Contact info

If you want to get a little more fancy, here are a few other things you can add:

  • Bios of different lengths

  • Photos and/or videos of your work

  • Previous press mentions

  • Speaker one sheet

  • Statistics for your organization or your cause

  • Annual report

  • Awards

  • Info for taking a tour, reviewing a product, or receiving a free copy of your book

  • Think about things you regularly get asked by event hosts or podcasters and add it here for ease.

At some point in reading this, you may have wondered to yourself what the difference is between a media kit and press kit, so let me address that quickly. A media kit is the foundation. It has all those basic pieces we talked about. A press kit is generally used for launches and more timely information.

With a press kit, you’re going to give journalists and media outlets everything they need to write a story about you, possibly because it’s brand new and there’s not much info to be found online yet. So, a press kit might also include a press release, fact sheet, additional photos or videos, or story angles. Remember, anything included in a press kit is probably going to be more relevant for an upcoming timeframe, such as a launch.

Want an example? Here’s mine. I mostly use it for podcast interviews, so it’s fairly basic. No need to go overboard.

Where Should a Media Kit Live?

Back in ye, ol’ days of public relations, I created a lot of media and press kits when I worked at a boutique hospitality PR firm. And here’s the kicker—we mailed them! Yep, this was the early 2000s, and not everything was available online. I know, shocker. We were mailing paper packets with CDs. Then we got fancy and moved to USBs. But now, you can host everything on your website.

Where your media kit should live on your website depends on your goals. If speaking is a high priority for you, put it in a prominent place like your About page. You can add a blurb and link to an existing page or give it a tab in your website navigation. You may even need to add it in more than one place.

If speaking isn’t a high priority, and you just want to make your host’s job easier, then it can simply be a link sent via email. That’s the way my media kit is setup at the moment. I typically use it for podcast interviews, so you won’t find it in the navigation of my website. However, should things change, it’s a quick and easy fix.

Think about your goals and what makes sense when browsing through your website. Because you’re at a cause-focused organization, it may also make sense to add it to the ways people can support you.

Best Practices

As you can tell from what you’ve read so far, the goal of having a speaker media kit is to not only make your life easier, but your host’s life as well. It’s 2019, and no one wants to be emailed a bunch of attachments.

Plus, if you’re at a nonprofit or social enterprise that annually revises bios or head shots, then you only have one place to make updates. No wondering where the latest version is located.

Think about your media kit. Think about your goals. What should be included, and when should it be used? If it’s fairly basic, it can be used for many different situations.

But if you find yourself wanting to add a bunch of things, hold up a minute. You don’t want it to become a chore to look through. It should be a helpful tool that’s simple to navigate.

So, if your list has gotten a little out-of-control, then consider removing items or creating different kits for different purposes. For example, you may have one that’s tailored just for the book you wrote and another for the organization as a whole.

The beautiful thing about websites and media kits today is that they can be created and edited pretty quickly. In fact, you should be able to build a basic media kit in less than an hour. Finally, something you can add to, and take off, your To Do List in the same day!

Once you have your speaker media kit created, you’ll see how often it comes in handy, and then you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Have one that you love? Include it in the comments, or tell me how having one has helped you.



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Creating a media kit is essential for any speaker. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking on large stages or small podcasts, this tool will make life easier for both you and your host.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


From Paralysis to Print: Write and Publish Your Book

I’ve heard different stats over the years, but it’s staggering that as many as 90% of Americans want to write a book! Now, I’m not entirely sure that I believe the number is that big, but I do think it’s pretty darn high. And with the rise of self-publishing to level the playing field, it’s now easier than ever.

The problem? It’s still really hard to do. Most of us, myself included, may feel like we have a book or two in us, but a much smaller percentage actually gets it done. And then, an even smaller number reaches the publishing process.

It also seems like a complicated industry, doesn’t it? From actually sitting down to write, to the editing process, to finding a publisher (if you want one), to seeing your little labor of love on a shelf—there’s a LOT to do. In fact, you probably have a lot of questions.

So, what’s a girl or guy to do? You can ask my friend, Sara Shelton, who has a few books under her belt as a ghostwriter, editor, and coach. If the process seems intriguing but daunting, Sara will take you from paralysis to print by answering five of your most asked questions about writing and publishing a book.

From Paralysis to Print: 5 Common Questions About Writing and Publishing Your Book

So, you want to write a book? That’s amazing!

As an avid reader myself, let me just go ahead and thank you in advance for sharing another story that I can read and recommend to my friends.

And as a fellow writer, let me stop here and encourage that you no matter how difficult, frustrating, and completely unglamorous the writing process actually is, you can do it. You do, in fact, have a story to share!

The truth is a lot of people do! But standing at the beginning of the writing process, so many writers feel paralyzed by the thought of actually trying to get their stories out on paper and into print.

That’s usually where I come in!

I’ve been working as a freelance writer and editor for five years now, and in that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to come alongside and work with several authors during the writing, editing, and eventual publishing of their books. No matter which hat I’m wearing in the writing process, I love helping my clients cross the finish line to see their words of wisdom, stories, and advice finally on the page in print.

But like I said, the process of moving beyond fear-induced paralysis at the thought of writing a book to actually holding your final printed copy in your hand isn’t an easy one. So to help you move from paralysis to print, here are answers to five of my most frequently asked questions about writing a book.

1)   Where do I start?

There’s no “right” answer to this question. My best advice? Just start! If you have an idea, a vision, a story you think is worth sharing in print, then decide right now that you’re going to share it.

Then, get organized. I can’t stress this enough! Spending time on the front end of the writing process thinking through and organizing your thoughts will save you a lot of time (and maybe even money!) on the back end.

Once you’ve got a clear idea for your book, sit down and create an outline. Think through each main point you hope to hit—the takeaways you want readers to leave with—and organize them into chapters.

Next, write down the details under each chapter that you’re going to use to support those main points or takeaways—the stories, research, anecdotes, history, and more that will reinforce your point. (Pro tip: Index cards spread out on the floor are a great way to see your outline come to life!)

You can dive as deep into the outline as you’d like, but at the very least, start with getting your thoughts into some kind of organized format. Trust me, you’ll be so thankful you did this when you finally sit down to write!

2)   What DOES the writing process like?

Everyone’s writing process is going to look different, but I can almost assure you it won’t be seamless and smooth. Sometimes your writing is done in the back of a crowded coffee shop. Sometimes it’s done in the early morning hours in your bedroom before the sun rises. Sometimes it’s done in the car pickup line, or the benches of basketball practice, or the middle of the night hours when you just can’t sleep.

My best advice for diving into the writing process is to do your best to give it a good mix of structure and grace. Wake up early or stay up late for some uninterrupted hours of writing. You know how much time you have to offer, so offer that to your process.

Don’t look at your phone, don’t answer your email, don’t scroll through social media. Just write.

Maybe even give yourself a word count goal to hit each day. And then, aim for it. Some days you’ll go above and beyond. Other days, you’ll barely get there (which is where the grace comes in). Whatever the writing process looks like for you, go into it with as much structure and dedication to it as you can and give yourself a break on the days it just doesn’t work.

3)   What do I do to get published?

For the most part, publishing still falls into one of two major groups: traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Traditional publishing means your book goes to a professional publishing house and it is printed and distributed under their umbrella. The pros? You’ve got an entire group of people whose time, energy, and resources are devoted to your book. They take care of editing, design, promotion, and more. And depending on your deal, you typically get paid up front for your manuscript as well as in royalties from sales.

The cons? It’s very difficult to get in the door of a traditional publishing house. It requires a lot of work—the research to find the right potential publishing houses or agents for your book, the writing of a query letter to get the editor’s interest, the compiling of a book proposal to pitch your book, and more. Agents and publishers will want to know things like how big your social media following or potential audience is. They want to see how they might be able to sell your book to that audience. And they often get the final say in how your book takes shape and is edited. In a lot of ways, you lose control.

But in self-publishing, the control stays in your hands. You get to decide how you want to edit, promote, and even sell your book. You get the freedom to write the book you want to write! And with programs like Create Space, IngramSpark, and Kindle Direct Publishing, the process is easy for even the most beginner of writers.

The bad news? The expense is all your own. You have to front the money for things like edits, design, promotion, and more. If you want your book to sell, it’s typically up to you. While it is most definitely a great option, writers who choose to self-publish need to know the hustle is real!

KP note: Even with most traditional publishers now, you will still be expected to do a little or a lot of the marketing and promotion. It depends on your existing audience, the publisher, and more. So, don’t just expect to get out of it with a traditional publisher! If you have a particular publishing house in mind, see if one of their existing authors will answer a few questions for you.

4)   Where is it important to invest my money in the process?

A lot of this depends on the publishing route you end up taking with your book. If you’re in a traditional space, those publishing houses and agents will likely have agents, designers, marketing teams, and more already lined up to help you. But if you’re not (or if you just want to turn in the most well-rounded and polished copy of your manuscript), your first expense needs to be a good editor.

By the time you’ve finished your book, it’s become a real labor of love. And that makes seeing it through fresh and unattached eyes a difficult thing to do.

If you’re working with a rough draft and unsure of the direction of your book, a developmental editor is a great investment to help craft a better structure and clearer overall picture for your book. They may do everything from telling you to reorganize your chapters to suggesting you cut some of your content altogether—and that’s okay! They’re reading the book with eyes to make it better!

A copy editor is key for any writer because they’ll read your book with a fine-tooth comb, checking and correcting every single grammatical and mechanical error. Though both types of editors are going to be an investment to your project, it’s one you most definitely want to make so that you walk away with the best possible product ready to print.

Beyond editorial costs, many authors need to look specifically into designers to help them layout their book and even create a professional, eye-catching cover. Others choose to set aside funds to hire a team to help them market the book.

My advice to writers who will have to make any kind of financial investment to get their book published is to choose where you spend your money wisely. What matters most to you in the process? Start there and then see what funds you have left to go elsewhere.

5)   How will people know I wrote a book?

How do people know anything about what’s going on in your life? Because you talk about it!

If you’re going to do the incredibly hard and amazing work of writing a book (something most people only ever dream about doing), then you have officially earned the right to shout this accomplishment from the rooftops! Or at the very least, from your social media, email, blog, website, and any other form of connection you have to your people. You, your family, your friends, the people in your office or on your team—those are the best ways to promote your book from the get go.

If you have the funds, you can of course hire a marketing team or booking agent to help get the word out. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t. Instead, be proud of the work you’ve done and find ways to share that work with the people in your networks through promotion on channels like social media, email, podcasts, and more.

Interested in writing a book? Have a few more questions about how to make the publishing process happen for yourself? Find me online at www.saralshelton.com and let’s get connected!


Sara Shelton

Sara Shelton is a full-time writer and editor working with clients to bring their stories and words to life. When she’s not working on manuscripts, curriculum, website content, magazine articles, and more, you can find Sara sharing a bit of her own work at www.sara-laurence.com.

Connect with on Instagram and Twitter at @saralaurence.  



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

The process of moving beyond fear-induced paralysis at the thought of writing a book to actually holding your final printed copy in your hand isn’t an easy one. So to help you move from paralysis to print in your writing, here are my answers to five of my most frequently asked questions about writing a book.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Why Nonprofits Need Influencers To Grow (And How To Do It Right)

Have you heard the buzzword “influencer” and wondered what the heck it was? Or if it’s a familiar term, have you struggled with how to find one of these elusive creatures to work with your nonprofit? Well, never fear—today’s post is for you.

While influencers have always existed, the Internet Age has given them new meaning, as well as new ways to capitalize on their popularity. (Cue the Wicked soundtrack!) Social media brought with it a whole host of new job possibilities. I mean, 15 years ago, we all would’ve laughed someone out of the room who said people would pay to watch another person play video games. But, here we are…

So, if getting an influencer to spread the word about your cause is on your To Do List, Kayleigh Alexandra of Micro Startups is going to break it down for you. I’ve seen social impact organizations have great success with this tactic, so I’d encourage you to give it a try and see what happens!

Why Nonprofits Need Influencers To Grow (And How To Do It Right)

Growing your nonprofit can be tough. Aside from competing for attention against so many other worthwhile nonprofits, making donors care about a cause is a big task. Thankfully, influencers are here to make all of that a breeze.

It’s important to make time for your nonprofit marketing, and using influencers doesn’t just save you time—it’s also highly effective. Keep reading to find out how your nonprofit can benefit from an influencer collaboration in 2019.

What are influencers?

While you might not know exactly what influencers are, you’ve probably already encountered them without realizing it. Influencers are social media stars, tastemakers who command significant influence over their followings online.

There are countless examples of online influencers: Kim Kardashian, Marie Kondo, Jake Paul, Huda Kattan, Andrew Bachelor, Gary Vaynerchuk, Joanna Gaines—the list goes on. And for every influencer, there are ten more examples of brands partnering with them for a marketing campaign.

Influencers can be divided into two, broad categories: macro and micro.

Macro-influencers are the A-listers of the influencer world. With social followings in the high hundred-thousands or millions, these individuals are renowned the world over. Consequently, any brand looking to collaborate with them can expect to pay correspondingly high prices.

At the other end of the scale, however, are micro-influencers. These social stars typically have a follower count of around 10-100K.

While they are less well-known than their macro counterparts, micro-influencers enjoy a closer relationship with their followers. They occupy niche areas such as specific beauty subsets (think makeup tips for women with vitiligo), eating gluten-free, or mental health. Their community is intimate and closely-knit, and they’re more affordable as a result of a smaller follower count (though still substantial).

Why do nonprofits need influencers?

We’ve established the difference between macro- and micro-influencers. The former has a large following, so partnering with a macro-influencer for a marketing campaign gets your nonprofit seen by the masses.

But this isn’t the goldmine it first seems. The fact is, while macro-influencers generate more awareness, their campaigns lack engagement.

Research shows that when an influencer’s follower count reaches 1K, the ratio of likes to comments peaks. And when an influencer’s followers exceeds 100K, engagement starts to level out.

Micro-influencers, on the other hand, reach a far smaller audience but with much higher engagement. Their close bond with their followers means their content is received on a deeper, more meaningful level.

And for nonprofits, engagement is crucial. You could create a macro-influencer campaign that reaches 10,000 people. But if those people don’t care about the campaign—if they don’t engage with it—then it will fall flat.

Nonprofits need micro-influencers because the success of their initiative hinges on making people care, and influencers can make that happen.

How do I choose the right micro-influencer?

The key to a successful nonprofit-influencer campaign lies in choosing a micro-influencer who aligns with your nonprofit’s values.

Start with what your nonprofit stands for and the work you do, and go from there. For example, if you work with sufferers of anxiety and depression, a mental health influencer would be an ideal choice for your nonprofit.

You can find micro-influencers in a number of ways. There are plenty of influencer marketplaces that let you easily find influencers, sorted by industry, follower count, social profiles, and more.

But for a quick fix, simply scope out other nonprofits operating within your niche and see who they’ve partnered with. Take a look at their blogs and social media accounts to identify any influencer campaigns, and contact the influencer in question to request a collaboration.

Alternatively, you can search hashtags on social media to see what influencers are already talking about, and what causes might be of interest.

How to launch an influencer campaign for your nonprofit

You know the what and the why. Read on to discover some great influencer collaboration ideas that will grow your nonprofit.

Get your micro-influencer to tell your nonprofit story.

Micro-influencers are characterized by their special relationship with their followers. The interactions influencers have with them are genuine and meaningful—they are real. As a result, they enjoy an honest, trusting follower relationship.

This is a boon for nonprofits. The general public is numb to marketing, either switching over when an ad comes on TV, or switching off when they see one online. But when micro-influencers extoll the benefits of a nonprofit, their followers pay attention.

Use this special relationship to your own advantage and get your chosen influencer to discuss in depth why they partnered with you. They should outline your various initiatives, highlight the work you do, and even meet and interview someone your nonprofit has helped in the past.

Launch a UGC donation matching campaign.

Most brand-influencer partnerships use a contest, competition, or giveaway to grow their business. And while some nonprofits might benefit from this, an even better, albeit similar, idea is to launch an influencer-led user-generated content (UGC) donation matching campaign.

Donation matching is simple, but effective.

Your chosen influencer gets their followers to share an Instagram photo centered around a theme (e.g. if you’re an animal rights nonprofit, they might share a photo of their favorite animal) with a branded hashtag, following and tagging your account. For every photo shared, your micro-influencer donates $1 (up to a given value).

This strategy doesn’t just give you a quick donation boost. It also invites interaction with your social media followers. It creates a conversation with your followers, involving them with your nonprofit work and making them care.

A UGC donation matching campaign also gives your nonprofit a valuable publicity boost, netting you new followers and growing your Instagram account. Combine this with National Giving Day for an added promotional boost.

Involve your influencer to reach unengaged individuals.

Many nonprofits struggle to make their work seem real to donors. For example, let’s say you’re a nonprofit working with individuals suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. You might find it difficult to make people with no experience of the disease connect with your cause on a meaningful level, simply because it feels too distant.

Micro-influencers are the perfect conduit for breaching that distance. Invite your influencer to see first-hand the vital work you do, and encourage them to share their experience on social media.

Of course, sensitivity and confidentiality is crucial here. But when you and your micro-influencer work together to create a nuanced, insightful social campaign, you turn otherwise indifferent individuals into engaged, committed donors.

Influencer collaborations are an effective and affordable marketing strategy for nonprofits. They drive engagement and get your organization seen, helping you reach a whole new audience of potential donors who might otherwise not know your nonprofit. Use the tips above to create an influencer partnership that grows your nonprofit now and well into the future.


Kayleigh Alexandra of Micro Startups

Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer at Micro Startups, your go-to place for charity news and insight. She loves writing about all the great nonprofits, startups, and entrepreneurs that make waves in their industry. For more of her work, check out the blog today @getmicrostarted.

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Growing your nonprofit can be tough. Aside from competing for attention against so many other worthwhile nonprofits, making  donors   care  about a cause is a big task. Thankfully, influencers are here to make all of that a breeze.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Your Budget: Go From Cursing to Championing

One of the reasons I love inviting guests to post on this blog is so that they can talk about topics that I probably wouldn’t address myself. And right at the top of that list is budgets! Numbers are something I always struggled with in school (while I excelled in English), so it’s better for both of us that I stick to what I’m good at.

Enter Steve Fredlund. He and I met several months ago in a Facebook Group, and when I saw that one of his areas of focus was budgeting and money management for nonprofits and small businesses, I jumped at the chance to feature his expertise.

I really loved the way Steve talks about “transformational” budgeting in this post, and think it will not only shed some light, but challenge your social impact organization to value money differently in the process.

Your Budget: Go From Cursing to Championing

BUDGET. A 6-letter swear word to many nonprofit leaders and small business owners. It’s about penny-pinching and the restricting of ability to get things done. It’s the mechanism by which a number-crunching, introverted analytic hinders team creativity. Right? 

Yes. Because most of us see it this way, this is precisely what it becomes. Consider how budget discussions and approval are communicated in your organization. For many, it sounds something like, “Well, it’s that exciting time to set the budget again,” or “Sorry, guys and gals, we have to work on the budget,” or “Let’s get the budget stuff done so we can get on to the real stuff we need to talk about.” 

Why You Need to Rethink Budgets

Budget communication both reflects AND creates culture. It gives insight into leadership perspectives on budget, which gives insight into how leaders think about budgeting as a potential tool to move the organization forward. And usually, budget communication is extremely negative or, at minimum, apathetic. But your cash flow is an asset and it is your responsibility to leverage that asset as effectively as possible in support of the overall mission and strategic priorities of your organization. Anything short of that is a suboptimal use of one of your biggest assets, and is a gap in your overall leadership. 

Your finances carry vast amounts of potential energy, just waiting to get released. Your job as a leader is to recognize the full potential energy and release it to maximize achievement of the vision and strategic priorities. I want to encourage you to shift your paradigm about finances—to recognize that great organizations are able to fully release their power and leverage it for success.


3 Budgeting Exercises for Social Impact Organizations

Here are three things you can do to increase the value of your budgeting process, while also changing your perspective about the role of finances in your nonprofit or social enterprise:

  1. Strategy-based budget.  List out all of your major strategies, goals, or initiatives. Then assign each a percentage (totaling 100%) indicating how you WISH all of your available funds were allocated. Do this without regard to your knowledge of the current budget and only consider non-fixed costs. Basically, you are saying, “This is how I wish all of our discretionary spending was allocated.” Then, take this to your finance team and ask them to complete this exercise with the actual spending; have them include a bucket somewhere for the “fixed costs,” and with all remaining expenses, have them allocate out to the same categories you defined. Compare what you find. Eventually, I encourage organizations to create budgets starting first with developing a desired allocation of resources and then building the budget; but for now, this exercise will provide insight into any major disjoints in spending. It will also help you realize how many of your expenses are fixed, to see if there is any way to move spending into discretionary.

  2. Gain outsider perspectives.  An interesting exercise is to give your current budget (or actual spending) to several people unfamiliar with your organization and ask them what they think your vision and priorities based on your budget. You can get tremendous insight from this exercise. This is similar to having new people to come into your building or office and ask what they think your priorities are based on your environment; it creates fascinating discussions.

  3. External research. It’s amazing to me that very few nonprofits and social enterprises have an understanding of how similar organizations are allocating their budgets. I ask, “How does this compare to your competitors?” or “How does this compare to similar nonprofits?” and rarely do they know. Comparing to others can provide great insights, not only for competitive advantage, but to start the conversations about how you could become more effective in your spending.

 There are many more considerations in maximizing your financial investments, and improving the perception of the role of budgeting, but these three are a good start. How you spend your money is more than just a necessary evil. It is as important as the staff you hire, connections you make, and products or services you provide. Every dollar of your revenue is an asset; are you investing it in a way that maximizes your impact or helps you best reach your goals?

Avoid the 5% Rule

When the next budget cycle comes up, consider avoiding the typical process that simply adds 5% to every budget item from last year. This is the central mistake in budgeting for impact; to start with what has been done in the past and making minor tweaks. Using the prior budget to determine the next budget is akin to starting with current policies and procedures to set next year’s strategies.

If you want a transformational budget, then realize that the budget is an “output” and not an “input.”  The budget process starts with what you are ultimately trying to do (your vision, mission, or purpose). From there, you determine your key focus areas for the next one to three years, which leads to your key strategies and, ultimately, to the execution of those strategies. It is from these decisions that the transformational budget emerges. 

Imagine running a nonprofit helping to alleviate the issue of clean water in which 20% of last year’s budget supported efforts in Rwanda and 10% supported Nepal. There are some significant political and world relief changes resulting in far less need for the organization to continue working in Rwanda. Strategically, the organization decides it needs to move staff and facilities to Nepal, but the budget setting is based on last year and the funding to both Rwanda and Nepal is increased slightly, creating a huge disjoint in strategy and funding.

This may be a ridiculous example that would not actually happen in practice, but it’s only ridiculous because of the dramatic nature of the shift. How many smaller shifts are happening every year without the budget reallocation to support it? Many cause-focused organizations know the areas they need to move focus toward, but most use a “last year plus” method for budgeting. The end result will always be a disjoint between impact and financial support.

As a social impact organization, take time to celebrate every dollar coming in. These funds are more than just “money;” they represent the opportunity to have impact. But the ball is now in your court. What are you going to do with that opportunity? The more impact you can have, the more opportunity you will attract; and conversely, the poorer you manage your opportunity, the less opportunity you will have. 


Get Excited About Budgeting

Get excited about strategizing how those funds can be used to maximize impact or profitability. Have leadership discussions that start first with your vision, mission, priorities, and strategies, considering how to optimize movement toward their achievement using your finances. Think less about budget constraints and think more about budget opportunities.

When you have a budget that is lined up with your overall strategies, it generates creativity among each budget manager to truly optimize those funds to carry out their strategies. Further, having a budget aligned with strategies creates peace of mind for leadership (and all stakeholders), knowing that all assets are working together to carry out the desired impact of the organization.

Start seeing budget and finances differently, and you will be on your way to leveraging it most effectively—to maximizing your impact; to achieving your vision.

If I can be of any assistance, feel free to give me a shout at steve@stevefredlund.com or 651.587.5435. You can find out more about me at stevefredlund.com. 


Steve Fredlund

Steve Fredlund, FSA, MBA, SWP has 30 years of experience in Fortune 500 companies in primarily financial and analytical roles, with another 10 years in nonprofit roles including staff, board, founder, executive, and volunteer. He currently does independent consulting, coaching, and speaking focusing on small businesses and nonprofits. Steve helps individuals and organizations clearly define what success means to them, and then figure out how to get there. More information is available at stevefredlund.com.

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Here are three exercises to increase the value of your budgeting process, while also changing your perspective about the role of finances in your nonprofit or social enterprise.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.