Events

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.



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 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.


How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

Quick note: During the summer, we'll only be publishing one blog post per month as we focus on some new activities and allow you some down time without falling behind on content.

I don't know about you, but I love events. I love attending them, of course, but also working on them behind-the-scenes. When I was an event marketing director, I was able to help create a dynamic experience for almost 8,000 people. And with my nonprofit and social enterprise freelance clients, it's still a blast to see an event go from concept to completion, resulting in smiling faces, sales earned, and money raised.

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of working with one of my favorite local organizations, Atlanta Dream Center, on their annual benefit dinner. I had been volunteering with them for three years at that point, and they were Signify's first, official client, so they'll always have a soft spot in my heart. Understandably, I was thrilled to be working with them on a professional level now, too.

At the end of the evening, we had quite a surprise—we had not only met the fundraising goal, but we had quadrupled the previous year's total! High fives all around!

However, I don't think it was an accident. After working on so many events over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.

So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

 How to Make Your Next Event More Successful

If you stumbled upon this post looking for the latest event planning tips and tricks, you might be a little disappointed. But, hang with me, I think you'll still learn a really valuable lesson, especially if you're a beginner to the event planning world.

You see, what I've found over and over again, across many contexts, is that while there are always shiny, new ideas to make your event look awesome, there is one element of event planning that should always get the spotlight.

It's the step that should never get skipped.

So, what is it? Strategy.

I truly believe taking a more strategic approach to planning the 2016 Atlanta Dream Center (ADC) annual benefit gala was key to its financial success.

Here's why.

A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS

When I first started as a contractor for the benefit dinner, I was mostly working alongside the development director, who had been in the position less than a year. So, we were both newbies to the event. And even though the dinner was entering its fourth year, I felt like the event was just trying to get off the ground. 

There was no established model to follow. The ADC staff had tried a few different formats, but hadn't really fallen in love with one yet. That gave us a lot of latitude without a tremendous amount of expectations, except for the fact that this was their largest fundraiser of the year. #NoPressure

There were a couple of things we immediately did to start off on the right foot. The first was to get organized. Those who had been in charge of the dinner previously were no longer with the nonprofit, so we had to conduct a treasure hunt for some of the assets because I really wanted to take a look at what had been done before to assess how effective it was, and ways to build on it.

Once we had them collected, my suggestion was that we move everything to Google Drive so all stakeholders would have instant access. This plan worked great, and allowed us to collaborate well. It also solved the problem of keeping everything in a central location should someone else leave in the future.

The other, main thing we did was set up regular planning and check-in meetings leading up to the event, which was about five months away. Some of those were just between the development director and I, and some involved all department heads for the organization that needed to have a say in aspects of the dinner. 

These two choices may seem small or inconsequential, but I promise you that they made a big difference in the tone and feel of the event right from the start. And everyone could feel it.

Never underestimate the power of being organized!

STRATEGY'S ROLE IN EVENT PLANNING

Now, we were ready to start the event planning process. And this is where strategy became the star player.

During one of our early meetings, the entire team was sitting around a table discussing the format, logistics, and what people liked and didn't like from previous years. I also started asking them more questions about who would be in the seats.

This proved to be a key moment because, not only should you ask this question every time you plan an event, but that year was a turning point for the organization. The goals for this dinner were bigger because costs had risen, of course, but they were also gaining a bigger reputation in the area.

Previously, it had been friends, family, and close partners who attended the event. That year, however, they wanted to target new individuals and corporations. Essentially, they were ready to broaden their reach.

So, we had to start looking at everything fresh for that year's dinner. What had worked in the past might not work for a new crowd.

We revamped the sponsorship package, added a lot of cold leads to the potential sponsor list, and changed the format of the event to be more forward-thinking and informative, rather than using "insider" language as they had done before.

This new group of attendees might not be familiar with the different ministries under ADC's umbrella, or know why the work is important, or understand how their donations can effect people and programs all over the state. It was a big opportunity, and we didn't want to miss it.

I also created::

  • Positioning language for the sponsorship package, instead of it just be a list of benefits.
  • A formal sponsorship letter that anyone on the staff could use as a framework to solicit donations.
  • Talking points so that anyone who spoke about the dinner to a potential sponsor or donor could stay "on message," relaying the most important aspects of why the event was being held.
  • The language for the website and email/print newsletters, so that everything was aligned and on point.
  • A marketing plan for them to see the event strategically from start to finish, even if I wasn't around.
  • A press release to get the word out about the event's success after it was over, which could bring more eyes to their work, resulting in even more new supporters, donors, or partners.

The ministry also began working on ways they could highlight their uniqueness, as well as how it relates to the overall mission of the organization. We needed to clearly communicate how everything worked together. And it turned out to be a very cool, experiential element of the evening that they improve each year.

From the initial conversation to the wrap-up meeting, my goal was to bring a new level of professionalism to the event, and a fresh pair of eyes.

Don't get me wrong, their staff is outstanding at what they do, and they are relational to the core. (And a whole lot of fun!) But, like many small nonprofits, they struggled with systems and processes. Strategy wasn't the foundation of the event. 

We made a huge amount of progress that year—and it showed. Yes, the final fundraising tally was fantastic, but those who had previously attended their benefit dinners also noted how different everything felt. They had a great time, and were looking forward to the next one. That's definitely what you want to hear!

The staff also said that it was the most relaxed they'd felt at the benefit dinner. Each person knew their role, and were able to connect with sponsors and donors throughout the evening rather than running around putting out fires and pitching in on last-minute logistics. 

One of the other things I suggested to the team was that we not only ask for donations at the end of the event, which was already part of the plan, but we give attendees other ways to stay engaged and build deeper relationships with ADC throughout the year. This was important both for the die-hard fans and the people who were new to the mission.

You don't want to have a great event and captive audience, and then just say you'll see them next year. You want to give them a clear next step, and make it easy to take.

Our answer was to have staffed tables and flyers available in the lobby while people waited in line for valet service. This move gave attendees options for getting more involved with whichever ministry struck a chord with them that night, as well as opportunities to further utilize their time, resources, and funds to support the nonprofit.

DETERMINING SUCCESS

It's absolutely true that sales and donations are important. Those things keep the doors open and the lights on. And it's equally true that people have planned events with far less strategy and still seen great results.

But planning a successful event can be seen so many different ways:

  • Hitting bigger sales and revenue goals
  • Increasing attendance
  • Not driving your staff insane
  • Letting you sleep easier at night
  • Allowing your tribe to take the right, next steps with your organization

That's why I think strategy is the key to making your next event more successful. It certainly worked for Atlanta Dream Center, and I think it will work for you too.

 

“‘Exceed expectations’ is an overused expression with few who can document occasions when they actually did exceed expectations. Kristi Porter is one who can point to the work she did with the Atlanta Dream Center and accurately state that she exceeded all of our expectations. You will be well pleased with the results achieved by bringing Kristi onto your team.” - Mark Northcutt, Atlanta Dream Center

 



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 After working on so many  events  over the years, both large and small, I believe there is a key factor we implemented during the event planning process that changed everything.So, if you're looking for event planning tips, this one's a doozy! Here's how to make your next event more successful than your last. (Hint: It's probably not what you think.)

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

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.


How to Woo Your Fans and Supporters

It’s the final week of our “business resolutions series,” and I hope you’re already making big progress on your goals this year! Before we dive into today’s topic, let’s recap, shall we? First, we talked about seven simple tools that build a strong small business foundation. Then, we talked about how to gain authority and trust at your organization through internal communication. To wrap up, we’ll discuss wooing your fans and supporters—and those who could be—through external communication.

You have to actually talk to the people who support you, right? Yes, of course, you do. However, too many small businesses that I speak with know that they should communicate with their customers and donors, but they don’t actually do it.

Marketing and communications usually gets shoved to the back burner, often because it’s just not prioritized. But to retain current fans and attract new ones, you’ve got to reach out. And to begin, you don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to get started.

So, while there are undoubtedly lots of ways to communicate with your customers, donors, and the people who could be, I’ll just highlight three areas that I think you should focus on for maximum impact.

 How to Woo Your Fans and Supporters

Email Should Be Your Top Priority

Email, email, email. I can’t stress this enough. For talking to your previous and current customers and donors, this needs to be your top priority. Unless you’re sitting down over coffee with these lovely people, there’s no better way to communicate with your fans.

Don’t believe me? Think social media should be your numero uno? Did someone tell you email is dead? Consider two arguments.

First, how many companies, either for- or non-profit, do you readily give your email to? And how many more do you follow on social media? Yep, there’s no comparison. We’re all getting more and more stingy with our emails, so when someone willingly hands over their email, you should treat it as precious. You have a direct line to their hearts and minds.

Second, think about it this way: you own your email list. With social media, we’re all at the mercy of the ever-changing algorithms. The majority of our posts are filtered out, meaning only a fraction of the people that follow you see what you post. And even if you do get the hang of it, the algorithm will change again in a few months. Plus, we all know that some platforms are here today, but gone tomorrow. MySpace anyone? However, for better or worse, email has been our constant companion the last few decades.

As a marketer, this is frustrating, but as a human, I have to remember the “social” aspect of social media.

So, now that you’re thinking email might be a good idea, here are two ways to handle it:

  1. If you don’t already have an opt-in on your website, you need to think about adding one. An opt-in is simply something you give your list in exchange for their email. Examples include e-courses, lists, e-books, insider access, coupons, and more. This tactic will help you build your list, drawing in potential customers and donors.
  2.  I’d like you to email your list at least once a month, and be consistent. We’re all creatures of the out of sight, out of mind variety, so you need to remind people that you’re still here and open for business. You may want to email them more frequently, which is sometimes recommended, but it sort of depends on your organization and other factors. Most people, though, send emails every couple of months, and only when they need something. Yuck! This is not the way to treat those precious emails and the people they represent. So, aim for monthly communication.

Social Media is Important, But Not Everything

People online are currently freaking out over the new Facebook changes that were recently announced, stating that content by companies will be less visible in news feeds. And, I agree, it’s a little scary. I also just dinged social media in the section above. But, no matter how you feel about social media (I have mixed feelings myself), it’s still important and necessary.

So, while I think you should focus on your email list, that won’t always help you reach those who don’t yet know about you. And you probably don’t want to email those who already love you every day and get a bunch of unsubscribes. Enter social media. It’s still an effective way to get your name out and keep it out there, but we’ll all have to try a little harder. But who has the time? This is why I switched to a social media scheduler.

While it’s true that posts sent by schedulers get less play than real-time, “native” posts (typed straight into the platform), for me, it was a matter of what would actually happen. I could have great intentions about getting on social media every day with new content, but the reality is that may not happen. I have too many other things to do, and so do you. This is why I went with a social media scheduling tool, and you can read all the details, as well as my review of 13 popular platforms, right here.

Definitely jump on social media and post in real time, interact with people, share pictures, and generally live it up when you can. But for those times you can’t, consider a scheduling tool. I’m glad to know that if my head is down, and I’m working on a writing project for a few days, my social media posts are still going out the door without me having to press any buttons. I’d rather have a few people seeing my posts than none at all.

Another social media option to consider is Facebook groups. There are millions of them out there, for everything under the sun. My suggestion would be to find a few that contain your target audience, and get active. Be helpful, make connections, and follow their rules for self-promotion. They definitely take time, but are a great and personalized way to build new relationships.

By the way, my friend Jennifer, who is a social media manager, will be talking all about these new Facebook changes, how to stay in front of your audience, and alternatives worth pursuing in my Facebook Group tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. EST. Join us!

Networking and Events Never Go Out of Style

We’ve covered a couple of online options, but you already know there’s no replacement for good, old fashioned face-to-face connection. So, it’s time to get outside your office and shake a few hands. This is still a terrific way to meet potential customers and donors, or even make deeper connections with those who already know and love you. (Bonus: It's also a great way to invest in yourself!)

For us introverts, this may or may not be a welcome suggestion. Me? I love being at home, but I also love attending events. But if you’re the kind of guy or gal who would rather have an email exchange than coffee with someone, then I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to push yourself for the good of your organization. #sorrynotsorry

You may choose to be an exhibitor, an attendee, or even a speaker, and all can be effective. You’ll likely need a combination over time. Obviously, you’ll get the most attention from a larger audience by speaking, but exhibiting and attending can allow you to have more meaningful and personal conversations.

But before you show up, I suggest doing a little event prep work:

  1. Follow the event’s social media or hashtag to start making connections ahead of time.
  2. Make sure your social profiles and website are updated.
  3. Don’t forget to bring business cards or handouts about your org.

(You can read more about each of these items here.)

The important thing is to make the most of the event. Of course, you’re probably showing up to learn, but if you can snag a few more fans, even better! Oh, and in case you’re looking for some cool, cause-focused events to attend, check out this list by Cause Artist.

 

Read the other posts in this series:



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

 Marketing and communications usually gets shoved to the backburner, often because it’s just not prioritized. But to retain current fans and attract new ones, you’ve got to reach out. And to begin, you don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to get started.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

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.)

 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.)



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER: 

 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.)



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.