fundraising

Are You Setting Your Development Department Up to Fail?

There is a bit of a double-standard in the nonprofit community that I often see. On one hand, “marketing” is usually treated like it’s a dirty word. It equates to greedy, and not worthy of their cause. A nonprofit is a nonprofit because it doesn’t have to do any marketing, right?

On the other hand, there usually comes a point when nonprofit leaders realize, for better or for worse, that they do need to take a second look at this whole marketing thing, and it becomes more important—or even a necessary evil.

And that’s when it happens. All of these sudden, the poor development staff who have been told to look at marketing one way, suddenly find themselves in charge of it. No training, no resources, just figure it out and start doing it.

This needs to change. Why? If you don’t change your mindset, as well as provide budget and resources for your fundraising staff, you’re setting them up to fail.

Are You Setting Your Development Department Up to Fail?

Remind Me, What’s Marketing Again?

As I stated on this blog almost two years ago, marketing is simply the process that creates a relationship between creator and consumer. It includes the creation, promotion, selling, and distribution of "your thing," whatever that may be. (ex: product, service, ministry, outreach, etc.)

Obviously, this gets slightly more complex with social impact organizations because you have two audiences, the people who support your work and the people who benefit from your work. For the purposes of this post, we’ll just refer to those who make your work possible. If you’re a nonprofit who is also a social enterprise, the term “customer” may still apply. If you’re a more traditional nonprofit, substitute “donor.”

Essentially, marketing is the way people find out about your mission (ex: word-of-mouth, email, social media, website, etc). That’s not so gross, right?

You already know those things have to happen, or are happening right now, so guess what? You’re a marketer. It’s kinda like being a poet when you didn’t even know it. ;)

Now, if we agree on those things, let’s talk about where the breakdown occurs.

Why Development and Marketing Are Two, Different Areas

“Marketing” and “development” aren’t the same words for good reason. Yes, the absolutely have some overlap, but they often require a different mindset and skill set. That’s where nonprofits can easily run into trouble.

According to Wikipedia, a site which I couldn’t live without, “The role of a development director is to develop and implement a strategic plan to raise vital funds for their organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.” Those last two phrases probably made you cringe, roll your eyes, or nod along—perhaps all three. #nopressure

But, if you’re tracking with me, you probably see that, in reality, marketing and development are actually two sides of the same coin. That’s good news! Both roles have the same result: Bring in money for the organization. However, the way that happens can look different.

The problem here is that, once a nonprofit decides marketing is a curiosity or an even an essential part of growth, they might expect their development person or team to either know how to do it or figure out it out for themselves. It’s like being thrown in the deep end of a pool with no life vest. And, worse still, when the marketing “fails,” there may be a determination that marketing is bad, marketing doesn’t work, or this person can’t do their job.

No, no, no. That’s where I want you to help me change things. And together, we can.

From conversations with friends, clients, and my interns, it still seems that you can graduate with a degree in nonprofit management, or something similar, and receive LITTLE TO NO marketing training. Face palm. I think this is a complete injustice and flaw in the education system, if this is true.

Do you know why? Innovation and longevity.

Nonprofits have the benefit of relying on donations and grants, if they want to. That’s a critical distinction for sure. BUT, they don’t have to rely solely on donations and grants. That’s where good marketing comes in.

By being able to figure out the marketing piece of your organization, you open up more opportunities. You can utilize the aspects of the business world, and apply them to your cause. I think this is why the social enterprise model is so exciting. It’s the perfect intersection of commerce and cause.

And, whether you choose to take the social enterprise path or not, you can still use marketing to your advantage. Many nonprofits to not have a solid content strategy, for example. They have amazing stories to tell but don’t share them well. They only communicate with donors when they need something. They mean to post on social media, send an email, set a meeting, but, but, but….

There are millions of nonprofits in the world, all competing for money and resources. And, all things being equal, I think marketing separates one from the pack. So, remove celebrity spokespeople, millionaire donors, and some of those other wish list items, and marketing is what great nonprofits do well. We’ve talked about Charity:Water on this blog before, and with good reason. Outside of a large personal network, a marketing ad campaign helped put them on the map.

Thinking through the lens of marketing creates a shift. Communication goes from nice-to-do to need-to-do, and donors take notice. One-time donors can become repeat donors. Tribes increase. Awareness grows. More money can be brought in to help programs and services increase. MORE GOOD CAN BE DONE! Isn’t that worth embracing marketing? I think so.

Let’s talk about how.

DIY Marketing

I’m not naive enough to think that nonprofit leaders will read this post, and immediately begin advertising for a marketing staffer. I know that’s not always an option. In fact, most of my clients only have one or two people dedicated to fundraising. And, for some, the nonprofit leader is also a solopreneur, handling development (and everything else) as well. It takes time and money to grow and scale, but with help, you can get there.

The first step is to actually give your development person a marketing budget. Whether this is $5 or $5,000, it’s important that it exists. This is especially essential if your development staff has no marketing knowledge or experience. You can’t expect them to know what the rest of us took years to learn.

So, DIY resources could include books, blogs (like this one!), courses, events, and the like. It’s a place where they can get the information they need to do their job better. It might even be someone like a mentor.

Also, give them time on your dime to learn. Don’t expect that they learn how to be a great marketer in their evenings or on the weekend.

I would even take this one step further and actually help them find good resources. Take an hour or so of your time to search or ask for recommendations, and then pass them along. Be proactive in making sure they have a quality marketing education, and show them that you’re there to support them.

You work for a cause, after all, so demonstrate that you care and are committed to seeing them succeed. And, if you’re the boss, plan for a bigger marketing budget next year.

Hybrid Marketing

Let’s say you’ve got more than a few bucks in your marketing budget, and you’re willing to bring in some help. Great! You’re in a very good place.

Additional help could look like a one-time, ongoing, or once-in-a-while contractor, coach, or consultant, for example. Evaluate not just your budget, but the return on investment from a person who fits this need. Yes, it could be a sticker shock if you aren’t used to working with these folks, but how will they pay off in the long run? Their expertise may just take your organization or employee to the next level. Plus, you only have so much time on your hands. What if someone else can do a better job faster?

This is obviously where people like me fit in. I started my business to fill a need that I commonly saw as a previous employee of several nonprofits, as well as a long-time volunteer. I was regularly asked marketing and communications questions by friends and staff of nonprofits and social enterprises. They had questions, and I was happy to answer. So, when I was leaving my old job, I asked if the would be willing to pay me for project work so that I could help them grow. Those people, including the organization that I was a long-time volunteer with, all became my first clients. And many of them have become repeat clients.

For you, it might be graphic design help to make your marketing look sharp. It could be a coaching program that teaches your development staff how to also be marketers. It could be a social media manager who takes that responsibility off their plate.

One of the fun things that I love about being a consultant, and why I hire them myself, is that they see everything with fresh eyes. You are in the day-to-day of your work, and sometimes, all it takes is an outside perspective and few tweaks to get you on a better track.

If you’ve got a little more money to work with, give this avenue a shot. If you’re nervous, start with a small project. See how you can make this approach work for you.

Hire a Marketing Person

So, obviously, it takes more of a significant amount of money and commitment to hire a part-time or full-time marketing person. But if you’re determine to make marketing work for your nonprofit, this might be the right choice for you.

If you don’t have it already, I’d encourage you to write out the job description for your development director or staff. Is it more than they can handle? Does it include items they’ve never been trained for, and no resources to equip them? This is often the case. If it is, something needs to change.

I know you don’t intentionally want to set up your development department to fail. But I wouldn’t be addressing it on this blog if this weren’t a common issue. What can you do differently?

Leaders, I cannot tell you how often I see comments about this stuff in Facebook Groups and hear about it in conversations. This kind of thing puts so much pressure and burden on your employees, and will lead to burnout and frustration, which won’t serve you, your organization, or your cause well.

It’s a new year, so it’s a great time to make the shift. Set your development staff up to succeed. And make marketing an intentional part of your communication process. I don’t think you’ll regret it.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

“Marketing” and “development” aren’t the same words for good reason. Yes, the absolutely have some overlap, but they often require a different mindset and skill set. That’s where nonprofits can easily run into trouble.

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.


5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors


Today’s guest post comes from Amy Crowell, a fundraising pro if there ever was one! Her company, Next Stage Advisors, helps nonprofits through event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Amy and I go way back to the days of when I was at a hospitality PR firm and she was at a little ol’ org called Share Our Strength. Yep, that one. During her time there, she raised more than $3 million dollars for their No Kid Hungry campaign, so she definitely knows her stuff.

Below, she’s boiled down donor communications to a few, main points that you should be aware of. If you’re strapped for time and resources when it comes to talking to your donors, make sure you at least cover these five bases.

PS: These same ideas work for social enterprises, too!

5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors

Nonprofits, no matter their mission or size, are always on the lookout for more donors. But some organizations aren't event sure how to start the process of engaging new people into their mission, never mind actually turning them into donors.

Donors come in all shapes and sizes. Your donor may be someone who writes a small or large check, but they could also be a volunteer, committee member, special event attendee, board member, or a donor of products or services that your organization needs.

No matter what type of donor you are talking to, nonprofits need to consistently communicate with donors, while at the same time targeting the specific message that prompted the donor to initially become engaged. Keeping everyone informed may very well graduate them from one level of supporter to another. Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.


Essential 1: Who or What You Help

This is a no brainer, right? Of course you are going to tell your potential donors who or what you help. However, it’s more than that. Yes, donors need to be told specifically who you are helping, but they should also be informed of the numerical statistics for the problem in your community you are helping.

Specific and detailed information about the problem you are working towards solving will show that your nonprofit is one that needs to be supported. For example, if a local organization tells you that the teen pregnancy in your state was triple the national average and then explained how they were helping to solve that problem, a donor would be much more likely to support them than if they were merely told that they help cut the teen pregnancy rate.

Tell your donors the specifics, such as:

  • How many people in your community deal with the issue that your nonprofit is trying to solve? Is it increasing or decreasing? How quickly?

  • What progress have you made so far?

  • What innovative methods are you using to fulfill your mission (especially if they are more successful compared to similar organizations in your community)?

  • When you accomplish things that work toward your mission, what changes?

  • How is your community a better place because of your organization, its mission, and successes?

Essential 2: Real Stories About How Your Organization Has Made a Difference

Showing your passion can go a long way to creating a new donor. Most donors give to an organization because they feel an emotional connection. Help potential donors feel this connection by telling them true stories about the work you are doing. Share success stories about people you have served.

Do you have video testimonies from parents or principals that have firsthand knowledge of how your program changed a child? Stories about how your organization extended the life someone, allowing them to attend a major life event of their child or grandchild? Examples of how someone you helped felt less stigma about a problem they had, which helped them to build their self-esteem and have a more “normal” life? Or perhaps you can take them on a tour of your facility to show your organization at work.

If you are looking for new donors, you should have a set of emotionally-driven stories that demonstrate your work in action and the benefits to those you serve.


Essential 3: Why Your Organization is Different

Many organizations look similar on paper—potentially serving the same type of person, geographical area, or otherwise. It’s important to differentiate yourself from others that may appear similar. Why would I give my money to you when XYZ nonprofit down the road does the same thing?

Donors want to know what your organization does that makes you different and worth investing in. Do you tackle the same problem in a new way? Does your program go a step further in that it follows people for six months after they leave, ensuring they continue their path to success? Are you the only organization serving X in this zip code? Do you address something that other similar organizations don’t? Perhaps your organization has more of a “teach a person to fish” versus a “give them a fish” philosophy? Tell your donors!

Essential 4: What Their Donation Can Accomplish

Whatever donors are giving—time, money, services, or products—they want to know how it is helping your nonprfoti fulfill its mission. Even though every organization needs non-restricted funds to pay for expenses like rent, utilities, and supplies, most donors would prefer that their donation be connected more directly to the mission they are supporting.

This is where equivalencies come in. Being able to tell donors that $1 connects a child to 10 healthy meals, $500 pays for a month of diapers for a previously homeless child, or something similar, goes a long way to help visualize what a donation can accomplish and how it helps those you serve.

These equivalencies can be used in multiple places, including online donations, special events (ex: live or silent auction, fund the need campaigns), or challenge/matching grants. Being able to show specifically what dollars can provide is important and will bring more donors to the check writing stage.


Essential 5: Share Your Organizational Goals

No different than deciding which mutual fund you want to invest your retirement savings in, donors want to see long-term goals and a healthy organization working toward them. They want to see an ROI on their investment, such as increased growth towards the overall mission.

Share with donors where you want your nonprofit to be and when. Do you want to reach 85% of your target market by the year 2020? Increase the hours you are open by 10% this year? Hire a new staff member?

Talk about both short- and long-term goals so that donors feel like they are part of your progress and that their money is actually an investment not only in your organization, but to the people or problem you are trying to help. Communicating a high-level vision and what it takes financially to get there will make donors more invested overall, potentially moving them from a one-time donor to a reoccurring one.

These “5 Essentials” can go a long way towards building a pipeline of supporters that can help you not only have increased donations, but also fill other important roles your nonprofit needs such as board members, volunteers, special event attendees, and more.

Be sure each essential is documented so you can share them with all the key stakeholders in your organization—especially staff and board members. Once you have them, you’ll likely find that not only are they helpful when speaking to supporters, they can also be used in other communications such as your website, newsletter, grant applications, and more.

Don’t have all five in place? Add the missing pieces to your priority list to increase success in the future.


Amy Crowell, Next Stage Advantage

Amy Crowell, founder of Next Stage Advisors, has more than two decades of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, event management, and strategic and financial planning. She has overseen numerous nonprofit fundraisers, including grassroots campaigns, events of all sizes, and national multimillion-dollar corporate-sponsored programs.

Amy helps nonprofits meet and beat their fundraising goals via event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your nonprofit’s reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


The Key to Maximizing Your Year-End Fundraising Efforts

Today's guest post comes from Cindy Wagman, President of The Good Partnership, which is on a mission to make great fundraising achievable for small nonprofits. Since we are entering prime fundraising season, I wanted Cindy's perspective on how to make the most of year-end efforts. And she's got some great advice for you!

The Key to Maximizing Your Year-End Fundraising Efforts

Oh, hi!

If you’re like most of my clients, you’re the Executive Director for a small nonprofit and you’re juggling a million balls, trying to keep up with the increased holiday workload. On top of that, you need to take advantage of year-end fundraising. You’ve probably seen the infographics on Pinterest that show how much money comes in through donations to charities at year-end. Feel like you’re missing out, or behind the 8-ball?

Take a deep breath and grab a coffee or tea, and I’ll give you a few pointers on how to focus your year-end fundraising to maximize results with the least amount of effort.

 

Campaign vs. Appeal

First thing’s first. You need to think of year-end fundraising as a campaign, or mini campaign. It’s not just one direct mail package or one email asking for support. It’s also not a bunch of random asks that don’t have anything to do with each other. A campaign is cohesive and multi-channel, multi-touch. But, that doesn’t mean overwhelm. In fact, a campaign can help eliminate some of the overwhelm because it gives you a clear plan with a lot of messages that can be repeated, over and over.

At minimum, I want you to do a three-part email series with an ask in EACH one, some social media posts and, if you do traditional direct mail, at least one letter. If someone makes a donation, you can remove them from the subsequent communications.

Your Theme

Now that you have an outline of what you’re sending, you need to know what messaging to include. Pick one theme for your campaign and then have that theme run throughout all of your materials. Build on the story through your emails and social media posts, and keep in mind that it takes someone 8-10 times of seeing the SAME message to really internalize it. Don’t worry about repetition. Seriously, don’t worry about repetition.

 

Your Writing

So, there are some best practices when it comes to fundraising writing. Effective fundraising writing is not necessarily “good writing” and usually isn’t what we personally “like." But it works. It should be casual and friendly, with a specific and personal call to action. I’ve actually written a whole blog about just that, which you can read here.

 

Your Thank You

Your thank you is as important (or more important) than your ask.

Your campaign doesn’t end with a gift. In fact, what you send after someone donates is as important or more important than what you send in asking for it.

Create a thank you letter that directly reflects the ask. It should build on the same story as the rest of your campaign and give donors a sense of meaning for their contribution.

Also write a thank you call “script” (something short, sweet, and informal) and have your staff or board call to thank donors when they give.

Somewhere between three and six months after your campaign, create a short but meaningful donor update building on the same messaging as your campaign, to let your donors know what progress you’ve made thanks to their support.

 

Focus

It may seem like this is a lot to do, but if you focus it on one campaign with consistent messaging (and understanding that people need to see repeat messages for it to sink in), you can actually minimize your work and maximize your impact.

Here’s a quick checklist for your year-end campaign:

  • One theme/story to use throughout your campaign

  • 1 letter (if you usually do letters), 3 emails, and a handful of social media to support the campaign

  • A thank you letter and phone call script

  • A 3-6 month update

You’ve got this! One final tip is to turn off your cell phone and notifications, sit down for a couple hours, and get this all written and drafted in one sitting. Batching work can often save many hours of switching back and forth.


Cindy Wagman of The Good Partnership

Cindy Wagman is President of The Good Partnership, which wants to make great fundraising achievable for small nonprofits. She loves fundraising because she gets to see the most generous side of people, and helps match their passions with real action.

After 15 years as an in-house fundraiser, she left her 9 to 5 and created The Good Partnership to help the organizations that were closest to her heart. These were organizations that were driving change, and aligned with her priorities for her community, our society, and the world. She wants to help you be your authentic fundraiser and lead the change you want to see in the world.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Today's guest post comes from Cindy Wagman, President of  The Good Partnership , which is on a mission to make great fundraising achievable for small nonprofits.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


12 Unique Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

Everyone wants to grab their piece of the pie when it comes to market share. No matter the business model, we all need money to keep the doors open and the lights on. But the competition is fierce . . .

In 2015, the United States Small Business Association noted that 400,000 small businesses opened that year—and about the same number closed. (This number includes nonprofits.)

And launches present their own opportunities and challenges in the life of a small business. On one hand, they're often exciting, and a great chance to build buzz and get people's attention. On the other hand, they're usually short-lived, so you have to make them count because they may only happen once, annually, or at most, a couple times per year.  So, if you have an event, product, fundraising or awareness campaign, book, or course launch on the horizon, pay close attention.

There are definite trends you want to ride when it comes to launches (ex: email sequences and social media blitzes), but you'll also need to be creative. Innovative ideas are more likely to make people take notice—and bring in the sales or donations. 

Below you'll find 12 unique launches ideas worth copying. But, here's my caveat: don't just copy and paste. Put your own spin on them. They'll only be successful if they align with your own social enterprise or nonprofit.

(PSST: This post is part of a series about launches. Read Part 1 and Part 2. Or take it to the next level with my launch strategy guide.)

12 Unique Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Launch Ideas You'll Want to Copy

Event Launch

Idea 1: Meet Ups

I was the Event Marketing Director for The Orange Conference for almost six years. And for several of those years, one of the ways we helped people get excited about it was to host local meet-ups all over the country. The catch: we didn't have staff all over the country. So, we let people in our tribe host them for us.

We hosted several here in Atlanta, as well as in locations across the US where we did have staff. But there were a lot of places we obviously couldn't reach on our own, and our fans were more than happy to jump in. They wanted to meet others like them in their hometowns, and we were thrilled they wanted to connect with each other. So, we provided downloadable flyers, social media images, guidance, and even allowed each gathering to give away a ticket to the upcoming event. So, whether people came to win a free ticket or to network with peers, we still got to build community and talk about our event. It was a really fun way to get our fans involved.

Idea 2: Membership

It can be very difficult to get and sustain momentum for your launch when your entire business model rests on one, big event. Yellow Conference is one of those. Yes, they have a regularly-updated blog, social media, and things like that, but in a sea of events, blogs, and social media accounts, your message can get lost or forgotten, even by your fans.

One of the ways they fight through the noise is the Yellow Collective. It originally began as a subscription box, which I thought was very clever for their business model. In its second year, it has evolved into a membership group that includes many of the original elements: in-person, at home, and online resources. And it also includes discounted tickets to their annual conference. They've done a really great job at keeping their community connected throughout the year so that, when it's event launch time, their fans are already primed and waiting.

Fundraising Launch

Idea 1: Get Out of the Office

Sometimes all you need to do is change the scenery. For Atlanta Dream Center's "48 in 48" Campaign, the founder of the nonprofit lived on the streets for two days. One of their three primary ministries is focused on homelessness, so it made perfect sense with their mission.

And because the founder had the past experience of being homeless himself, it magnified the story. He made the issue relatable and gave first-hand insight. Leading up to the event, a lot of buzz was generated among their supporters because it was not something you expected to see from the founder of an nonprofit. During the 48 hours, he also did a lot of Facebook Live videos so people could follow his experience, and that generated additional donations once people saw it in action. He talked about his life, what he was seeing, and interviewed others on the streets with him. It was a brilliant way to shed light on their cause.

Idea 2: Shared, Uncommon Experiences

Similarly, Nicholas House has an annual fundraiser where their supporters can sleep outside in an effort to raise awareness about homelessness. Each participant is asked to raise $2,500, taking some of the annual fundraising responsibilities off of the organization itself.

What I liked about this event, in particular, is that my friend who participated is a board member. Often, events like these attract more adventurous high school and college kids. But seeing adults with their own families involved was special. Yes, the environment is more controlled in this case than compared to above, but unless you're big on camping, sleeping outside on the ground without all the luxuries just isn't much fun. (At least in this girl's opinion.) And because of the individuals raising support, that provides more "social proof" for the organization because someone else is doing the talking, and her fundraising letter conveyed her heart and excitement for their work. That's not something you can force or buy.

 

Book Launch

Idea 1: Blog "Book Tour"

Unless you have the full might of a traditional publisher behind you, it can be difficult to get the word out about your book. And, even so, today's publishers want authors to take an active role in their own marketing. Enter the blog "book tour."

My friend Katrell, who owns Dr. Bombay's tea shop here in Atlanta, participated in one of these for her book. Even though it was set up by her publisher, it would be relatively easy to pull off for just about anyone. She didn't have a big name or a big audience, so this was a fantastic way to spread the word without a big budget to travel around the country to book signings and interviews. Instead, you'd just set up a series of book reviews or guest posts during a defined time period leading up to the book release, such as two or three months. This strategy definitely helped her sell books.

Idea 2: Galley Copies

If your social enterprise or nonprofit has one or more large events each year, you probably already know that it's best to release new products there, while you have a captive and engaged audience. But once-in-a-while, the timing just doesn't quite work out.

This was the case for the latest book by Growing Leaders about inspiring and mentoring today's students. So, what they decided to do was to give all 200+ attendees at their annual conference a galley copy of the book. This opportunity allowed them to talk about and promote the book, and build interest for it's release the following month. They also had a special pre-launch price with bonuses. Nothing replaces a face-to-face pitch, and by giving out galley copies, they were still able to capitalize on a live audience for future sales.

Awareness or Community-Building Campaign Launch

Idea 1: Recreate an Experience

Many of the causes that you all work on require you to protect those you help. Some of those include victims of sex trafficking, domestic violence, or homelessness. Not only do you want to avoid capitalizing on someone else's tragedy, but you want to keep them safe.

Street Grace launched Suburban Horror Story as a way to accurately portray the issue of sex trafficking for the community. You can watch videos online that are recreations of actual events, and also learn more about the issue. They also had "tours" to houses where arrests had been made and to show them what traffickers, victims, and warning signs look like, and what actually happens. This gave those in attendance (donors, potential donors, and media) an up-close look at the problem, and showed them how they could be involved in the solution. It is a very effective way to talk about the people behind the issues without actually involving victims.

But just the quality (and frankly, scariness) of the website did a lot to stir up interest for people to take a tour, learn more, and get involved in the work of Street Grace, or even donate to their cause. So, make sure that even when you're actually promoting an in-person event, that the promotional materials, like the website, do a good job in drawing people into your cause, and make them want to get involved. This site did a fantastic job. They could've just splashed up a single page with with stats and a description, but they definitely took it further to great results.

Idea 2: Take Advantage of (or Declare) a Holiday

I've talked about the idea of taking advantage of holidays—both official and unofficial—on this blog and my newsletter before, but it's always important to bring it up again. Because there are so many to choose from! People love celebrating special occasions, so take note of any that you can work into your launch plan. It often gives you a new way to talk about what you're doing.

There are, of course, plenty of legit options like Christmas, Halloween, and Fourth of July that might play nicely with your launch. #GivingTuesday to kick off your year-end giving campaign, anyone? Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Black History Month, and White Ribbon Against Pornography are a few others. However, there are plenty of wacky observances as well. For example, you can try World Kindness Day, Adopt a Rescue Pet Day, Digital Detox Day, or Read a Book Day. (There is literally a day for just about anything you can think of.)

And there may be even times when you need to create your own holiday. When I worked at Captain Planet Foundation, we created a Captain Planet Day. We had a formal ceremony down at Atlanta's City Hall, received a proclamation, and the whole nine yards. It was to celebrate a milestone in the foundation's history, but also garnered attention for the organization as we kicked off promotions for the annual fundraiser.

 

Product Launch

Idea 1: Giveaways and Contests

My friend, Jen, just wrapped her first successful Kickstarter for her physical product called the Hope Deck. One of the strategies she used to get attention for her campaign was by doing free giveaways on influencer social media accounts.

For example, she used both existing relationships and good ol' fashioned research to locate a handful Instagram accounts that fit her target market and were interested in doing a giveaway. She allowed them to give away a couple Hope Decks in exchange for pointing them to her account or campaign page. This allowed her to easily expand her audience, and when she was directly promoting that people fund the campaign, she had more eyes on what she was doing. It made a difference! 

Idea 2: Giveaways for Reviews

This isn't really a new trick, but I'm surprised at how little it's used, so I thought I'd bring it back up. I think most of us feel we need to bootstrap everything and get by on our own, but why? Getting help is often way better. Now, I do know that people often launch in a rush and that may be a factor. (That is definitely one way to sabotage your launch!) 

But when you can get someone else to talk about your launch—you should! Yes, sometimes you may have to pay people to review your product, but again, using existing relationships and research should also turn up plenty of free opportunities. There are so many blogs, magazines, newspapers, YouTube Channels, etc. A few of those leads are likely to respond and participate.

A client and I recently talked about this because she's launching soon. (Can't divulge yet, but it's gonna be cool!) She thought she would have to pay for people to review or talk about her product, but I named a handful of people in just a few minutes who would do it for free. Just put your thinking cap on, and I bet you'll come up with your own list too.

Tip: We often want to target the Oprah's of the world so we can make it to the top faster, but these folks are just plain hard to reach. Find people with a few thousand followers, or depending on your product, up to 100K followers. Sometimes those with bigger reputations get contacted very little so they're happy to participate. But often the "littler guys" rarely get contacted, would love to participate, and have a few thousand have very engaged fans who would love to hear about your product.

Course Launch

Idea 1: Facebook Groups

Facebook groups have become ALL. THE. RAGE. over the past couple of years. I even have one. But course creators are cleverly using them to their advantage now as well. Typically, they are meant to accompany an online course, or at least that's how I see a lot of those playing out. Especially when the courses are written or video-based, this allows the creator to interact with the students, and students to interact with each other. I am a member of a couple of these, and they're really fun.

But there are other ways to use them as well. Take the Myth of Balance, for example. Originally, it was released as a book. It's a very short, but actionable book. And, like most things, the information isn't the transformation—it's the action. So, the author created a Facebook Group to serve as the outlet for the course, which he refers to as a workshop series. Sample principles that I mentioned in the first paragraph, but much easier. He can release worksheets, weekly videos, polls and questions, etc, created right there to the group rather than having to build an online platform for the course. Much easier and more DIY.

In the Myth of Balance launch, we used a lot of traditional marketing techniques to get the word out initially. Most of the other course creators do the same. But the difference in having a Facebook Group is that you don't have people just sitting at home, having a great experience, and then moving on with their lives. You have people who've been interacting with the course creators and other students for a period of time, getting great results because they've had community and accountability built-in, and now you literally have a group of evangelists who will help you promote when you're ready to relaunch!

Idea 2: Involve Others and Let Them Promote

Putting a course or curriculum together is no joke. I plan to do it in the future, but find it overwhelming to think about. And then, when you have your shiny, new curriculum, you still have to get the word out! It's a long process.

But the folks at Plywood were really smart. They have a lot of knowledge and know-how on their staff. However, they also know one of their strengths relies in their ability to connect people and showcase others. So, for their video-based curriculum course, they featured not only the founder, but individuals from their Plywood People Community. Each module features different social entrepreneur interviews talking about that week's lesson and showing it in action.

Besides making it easier on themselves as far as content creation, Plywood now also has a group of people willing to help promote it because they are featured. This was especially helpful for the first launch when it was brand new. The people in the video are founders that are known in the Atlanta-area, with their own distinct audiences, so it helped get the word out quickly about this course.

By now you'll definitely notice a common theme in recruiting others to help you spread the word. It's just one of those techniques that can look so different each time, but is always effective.

 

What about you? What unique launch ideas have you come across? I'd love to hear them!

(PSST: This post is part of a series about launches. Read Part 1 and Part 2. Of if you’re ready to take it to the next level, check out my launch strategy guide, Promote With Purpose.)



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Have an event, product, fundraising or awareness campaign, book, or course launch on the horizon?There are definite trends you want to ride when it comes to launches, but you'll also need to be creative. Innovative ideas are more likely to make people take notice—and bring in the sales or donations.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


What do successful launches have in common?

Do you watch other nonprofits and social enterprises launch their campaigns, products, or events to great success, and then wonder what it took to make that happen? Do you assume it's beyond your capability?

While it is incredibly helpful to have more money and manpower behind your launch, the truth is that many of them share a lot of commonalities. And there are a number of tactics that you can use whether you're a solopreneur or a team to make your next launch your best yet.

This is really good news, people! There's hope for all us little guys! So, allow me to give you a shortcut to what works for some of the big dogs.

(By the way, before we get started, this post is based on the assumption that your product, service, campaign, event, etc. has already been "vetted." Meaning, we're assuming that it's something people want.)

Let's continue . . .

(PSST—This is part two of a series. Read Part 1 and Part 3.)

While it is incredibly helpful to have more money and manpower behind your launch, the truth is that many of successful launches share a lot of commonalities. And there are a number of tactics that you can use whether you're a  solopreneur  or a team to make your next launch your best yet.

A Plan

This is the not-so-dead horse that I will continually beat on this blog, and in any conversation that you and I ever have. You'll also see it woven into a lot of the items below too for good reason. Successful launches don't just happen unless you have an enormous audience or tremendous amount of influence. And how many of us do? Planning includes the details, tasks, and, yes, even the right headspace. 

At the very least, be sure to write you plan down. The list-maker in me would love to see your timelines too, because I think organization is a key to success. But push yourself to at least be more organized than you were the last time.

Don't just let all the ideas float around in your head. I'm guilty of that because I'm naturally an organized person. But it's incredibly helpful to see everything laid out in front of you, whether it's on paper, on a Word or Google doc, in Evernote, or a project management system. (I'm currently loving Asana.) Simply creating some sort of plan will make you feel so much better about your launch.

 

Time To Make It Happen

Launches take a lot of time and energy. It doesn't matter if it's for a fundraising or awareness campaign, book, event, course, or other type of product. Chances are that you already have a full calendar. So, it's important to make space in your schedule as you're preparing for a launch. Either get some work out of the way prior to the launch time period, or start weeding out tasks that can wait until after the launch.

You may need to work longer hours to prepare for your launch, just to ensure your day-to-day responsibilities get taken care of when you're attention is focused on the launch. Not a fun thing to think about, but remember, it's only for a short time. 

The other option is to move items off your plate. This can be done through delegating, reassigning, nixing it, or putting it off to a later date. Sadly, most of us live our lives in response to either the urgent or shiny object syndrome. But people who plan successful launches know that they are focused on making the launch a priority. 

Plenty of Preparation

Not too far off track from the items above, launches take special preparation. It may mean author interviews, gathering testimonials, selecting a location, writing emails, scheduling social media, or any other number of To Do's. These can feel never-ending.

The point is that launches aren't to be taken lightly. You'll need not only the space in your calendar, but all your ducks in a row. It's highly unusual to launch last-minute and make it a success, unless every waking moment is dedicated to that project, the goals are small, or there is a team of people that can help pull it off.

Think farther out. Your launch may be six months away, but what can you start doing right now to make it a success?

 

Head and Heart Information

I don't have to tell you that people learn in different ways. So, unless you are talking to an incredibly niched and small group of people (like vegan, Tabby cat lovers who only wear purple on Thursdays and have a side photography business) you'll likely need to communicate your message in multiple ways. Usually, this is done not only by having both visual and written content, but also by speaking to both the head and the heart.

Because I work around the social justice space, statistics are thrown around quite frequently. And while stats can be compelling, most people really need to see the faces behind the numbers to make it real for them. So, definitely include the facts and figures that make your cause unique and worthy, but don't forget the stories. You'll probably need both of these things to make the sale or donation.

 

A Variety of Communication Means and Methods

Circa 1990, we were just delighted to get a plain text email in our newly minted Inbox. Boy, how times have changed! (And frankly, some of you reading this weren't even alive then to remember! I feel incredibly old all of the sudden . . .) 

Now, just to be heard, you need to talk to people in a variety of different ways to get their attention. At the very least this means email and social media. But, as you already know, there are lots of other fancy techniques you can try as well.

While this isn't groundbreaking information, the problem I see from too many organizations is that they just send one or two emails and post once or twice, and then sit back and expect they've done their best. But, guys, that's juts not going to cut it. 

Your launch emails need to be set up as a series of emails that build on one another. And in social media world, you need to consider ever-changing algorithms and short life spans. I've heard that the average Facebook post has about a two-hour shelf life, and Tweets are only 18 minutes! If you don't have money for advertising, to keep it in front of people whether they want to see it or not, you need to be posting much more frequently.

This doesn't even take into account people's good intentions. If you only send one email a few weeks before your book launches or your event tickets go on sale, for example, it's going to dog-piled by hundreds of other emails. Then, it just ends up as something someone once wanted to take advantage of, but never got around to. 

Stay top-of-mind by showing up repeatedly wherever they happen to be, either in-person or online.

And I mentioned this above, but you also need to make sure you're incorporating text, video, and images into whatever is going out. Some people are more visual and some prefer to read (me!). Keep in mind that social media platforms are also giving more preference to images—and especially video—right now, which means that they'll show your content to more people.

I know this can be overwhelming! However, the good news is that we live in an age where there are a lot of DIY tools to do things on the cheap. If you can't pay for it, take the time to learn a new skill you can implement into your next launch to ensure more people see your message.

(Side note: A giveaway would also fall under this category. People love winning things, and it creates a buzz!)

Launch Help

Successful launches are never a one-man (or woman) show. Even if no one is helping you promote, you may still need advice from others, or to pay to get graphics done, or have an intern that helps create and schedule content. I know a few unicorns who have an unbelievable amount of skills, and can function pretty autonomously, but even they can't do it all.

Outside of help getting all of the tasks done in time for your launch, public relations is another worthy addition. This may come in the form of setting up guest blog posts or podcast interviews, Instagram takeovers, being featured in magazines or on blogs, speaking gigs, and things like that. These are free opportunities that showcase you, your organization, your cause, or your launch specifically. The trick here comes back to preparation. Some of these need to be scheduled months in advance. Start making a list of places you'd like to be featured so that you don't have to scramble when you're ready to take this step.

And another vital piece to the successful launch process is word-of-mouth. This may be by friends and family, co-workers and staff, or sponsorships and partnerships. If you can get more people to talk about you, the wider your news will spread. You may need to tell them exactly what to say, create social sharing buttons, or be okay with them winging it in their own words. But always make it easy for them.

 

Extras

Depending on your type of launch (book, event, product, fundraising or awareness campaign, etc), you may also want to consider other types of add-ons that will help you get your message across. Here are a few ideas:

  • Meet ups

  • Posters/flyers in local businesses

  • Conference, event, or tradeshow booths

  • Kick off and celebration events (ex: book signing or launch party)

  • Affiliate links for sales

What's helped make your launch a success? I'd love to hear!

(PSST—This is part two of a series. Read Part 1 and Part 3. And if you’re ready to take it to the next level, check out my launch strategy guide, Promote With Purpose.)



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

While it is incredibly helpful to have more money and manpower behind your launch, the truth is that many of them share a lot of commonalities. And there are a number of tactics that you can use whether you're a  solopreneur  or a team to make your next launch your best yet.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.