Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Interview with Steve MacLaughlin about Data Driven Nonprofits

The nonprofit sector has grown dramatically in the last two decades and part of that trajectory has involved the growing use of technology. However, author Steve MacLaughlin argues that nonprofits aren’t using data nearly as much as they could be to move their missions forward.

His new book, Data Driven Nonprofits, focuses primarily on fundraising as the critical element needed to advance an organization. In each chapter, MacLaughlin uses interviews and case stories to explore the variety of ways in which nonprofits, big and small, use data to accelerate change.

We asked MacLaughlin about his favorite example of a nonprofit that uses data to move their mission forward. Learn more about his answer to this question and others below:

CausePlanet: What case story or interview about making the “data leap” is your favorite and why?

SM: There are a lot of really great stories of organizations that have been able to transform their performance through better use of data and analytics. One of my favorites is Denver Rescue Mission, which was founded in 1892, and up until the late 1980s had a staff of four people and total revenue of about $200,000. Today, they raise more than $32 million—so much of that growth has come through being data driven with a growth mindset.

CausePlanet: Where do most nonprofits typically falter when trying to take their initial steps toward using data effectively and why?

SM: One of the biggest mistakes is trying to take on too much, too soon, with expectations that are too high. Nonprofit organizations are much better served by picking a specific question they want to answer or outcome they want to achieve. That first project should be big enough for others to care about, but not so big that it becomes controversial or bogged down in bureaucracy. Time box the team to 30 days to work on that question or outcomes, then come back with recommendations. Over time, you’ll build the right habits and processes to take on the next important problem.

CausePlanet: In your book, readers learn a great deal about how data-driven nonprofits look and behave (e.g. Test, Share, Grow, etc.).

SM: Yes, a big finding from my research and interviews for Data Driven Nonprofits was how big a role organizational culture plays in the success of being more data driven. As you noted, some of those culture types are around testing, sharing, and growing. The bad news is that a nonprofit’s culture must align around and value data. The good news is that nonprofits can have different culture types and still achieve their goals.

CausePlanet: Many important changes or initiatives require buy-in at the top. What three reasons should our readers present to their boards as to why they need to be data-driven?

SM: It’s important, but it’s not the most important thing to being successful. The most important things people can show to senior leaders or their board are examples of how using data produces a better decision or result than just an opinion. Speak softly. Bring data.

CausePlanet: What single idea would you like readers to know about your book?

SM: Equifinality. That’s the single idea that readers should take away from the book. (Pausing for reaction) It turns out that you can have the best data, the best tools, the best people, and still not be successful with data. Organizational culture can undermine any of those efforts. But thanks to equifinality there is hope. Equifinality is the principle that a given end state can be reached by many potential means. Nonprofit organizations have different culture types and still become more data driven. They can start in different places and arrive at the same positive place.

Learn more about this book, related books and our summary:

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit


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[Podcast] Tapping into your donor’s subconscious with Roger Dooley

Leading scientists who focus on brain activity say 95 percent of all thoughts, emotions and learning happen before we are aware of them. Author Roger Dooley says that unfortunately, most marketing efforts bypass the immense subconscious and instead target the rational conscious mind.

Dooley claims that if you want to promote your cause more effectively, it’s time to stop focusing on just five percent of your donor’s brain. Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing is Roger Dooley’s homage to the value of applying brain and behavior research to better understand the decision patterns of those you seek to influence.

The book contains key strategies—100 to be exact—to target your constituency through face-to-face, online, print and other marketing channels. Dooley answers three of our questions below in a recent podcast.

CausePlanet: Would you please comment on why incorporating “sensory features” into your donor marketing is so important?

Listen to his podcast answer here or read his answer below: Roger Dooley on sensory features

Dooley: Whenever we can engage multiple senses, our marketing is more impactful and memorable. Often, these additional senses offer a direct pathway to the donor’s brain. A scent, for example, can evoke memories or emotions, even without the person consciously processing the scent or even being aware of it. In some media, like print, it’s hard to engage multiple senses. In these cases, sensory words can be used. For example, the word “rough” lights up an area of the brain associated with touching, even when the word is used as a metaphor, as in a “rough day.”

CausePlanet: At what stage do most nonprofit marketers fail when trying to apply neuromarketing strategies?

Listen to his podcast here or read his answer below: Roger Dooley on when marketers fail

Dooley: Marketers tend to focus on facts and figures, features and benefits, and other logical appeals that are intended to persuade the donor or customer to act. Appealing to non-conscious motivators should be part of the process from start to finish. Using brain-oriented strategies is particularly important for nonprofit marketers. Usually, we buy products because we need them. We don’t have tangible benefits when we make a donation or volunteer our time. If product marketing is half psychology, nonprofit marketing is 100 percent psychology. It’s essential to identify and use the right triggers to get donors and volunteers on board.

CausePlanet: What interesting developments have you’ve discovered since Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing was published and that our nonprofit readers might find useful?

Listen to his podcast answer here. Roger Dooley on new developments

Want to learn more about how to apply Roger Dooley’s best practices to your donor communication? Follow him on Facebook, Twitter (@RogerDooley), subscribe to his newsletter, or listen to a podcast. You can also learn more about his latest book, The Persuasion Slide: A New Way to Market to Your Customer’s Conscious Needs and Unconscious Mind.

Learn more about this title and related book summaries.

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The value of your nonprofit brand: Are you making the most of it? 

To many, “brand” is a corporate sector concept. While you may not think of your nonprofit as having a brand or a “brand identity,” it does. Overlooking this is a huge mistake, not to mention a major missed opportunity. It’s not enough to have a brand; organizations need to understand the value of their brand and how to maximize this value.

Why should nonprofits care about the value of their brand? Simple. It’s a key competitive advantage and a significant asset.

In the nonprofit sector, brand value is derived from and measured in large part by the support of volunteers, donors and community members. In addition, media visibility is an important component of generating support, as well as being a measure of it. Nonprofits can both leverage and strengthen their stakeholders’ support. In the process, they can enhance the value of their brands and the resources these brands attract. A communications strategy is an important tool in achieving these outcomes. And, in today’s increasingly technology-dominated world, social media is becoming an essential component of an effective communications strategy.

The importance of brand in the nonprofit sector

This article draws on the findings of a study conducted by Cone Communications and Intangible Business, published in the report, The Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100, to illustrate the importance of brand in the nonprofit sector. It discusses the role of communications in building and strengthening brand value, and highlights corporate-NGO partnerships as an example of situations where nonprofits can leverage their brand value to attract resources to advance their missions.

Defining your brand

While no one bats an eye when we speak of a corporation’s brand or the brand of a consumer good, people often look confused when we talk about “nonprofit brands.” However, the concept applies equally well to nonprofit organizations. Every nonprofit has a brand.

On the surface, your brand is your organization’s name, logo, tag line and other descriptors. But, it goes much deeper than this. Your brand is what your stakeholders experience when they see your brand images, hear your name and read your tag line. It’s the emotions they feel, the thoughts they have and the mental images they see. Strong brands create positive experiences and stimulate positive emotions. They have the capacity to attract resources, not only financial ones, but the support of customers, volunteers, community leaders, influential spokespersons and the media. The support they generate is self-reinforcing.

Measuring your brand value

A strong brand is a major asset. As the Cone report reveals, the nonprofit sector in the United States wields significant “brand power.” The top 10 nonprofit brands alone have a combined “brand value” of more than $29 billion. By attempting to measure the value of nonprofit brands, the study highlights the benefits of having a strong brand identity and the importance of communication in building and maintaining this identity.

In the study, Intangible Business applied a process, called “brand valuation,” to calculate the tangible value of a brand. This involves assessing three things:

  1. Brand image
  2. Revenue in the most recent fiscal year
  3. Projected future revenue
  4. Brand image is measured by visibility (media coverage), accessibility, volunteer involvement and support, operational efficiency and diversity of funding (individual contributions versus foundation and government support).

While the calculation of a nonprofit’s brand value is similar to that used for corporate brands, what is different is the assessment of volunteer, donor and community support. Strong nonprofit brands have a broad base of engaged stakeholders. To achieve this, an organization must invest in developing and nurturing relationships with its stakeholders. This requires developing and implementing an effective communications strategy.

Building your brand value

The report lists “10 Essentials for Enhancing Brand Power.” These are interrelated strategies for increasing stakeholder engagement and securing needed financial, in-kind and advocacy-related resources. The majority of the essentials are communications-related.

These are largely common knowledge, but it’s striking how frequently they are overlooked:

  1. Build brand stewards: This refers to assuring that “you have aligned your entire internal staff, volunteers and board around your brand and your brand meaning.”
  2. Establish (and adhere to) brand guidelines: Here, the most important part is between the parentheses. All too often, guidelines are tucked away in a folder on someone’s computer, rather than being integrated into all messaging – both internal and external.
  3. Create a dialogue with brand ambassadors: This builds on the previous tip. The key here is the importance placed on two-way conversation and listening; the latter is an oft-overlooked and under-valued skill.
  4. Deliver crisp communications: Enough said.

Two of the tips specifically urge nonprofits to be strategic, to look outward and forward, and to be nimble. These involve strategic communications, as well:

  1. Develop quick reflexes: Nonprofits need to place themselves in the context of the external environment (or market) and ensure that they are relevant.
  2. Issue a rallying cry: Through the positive social change that they create, nonprofits are inspirational. Successful nonprofits know how to connect emotionally with their constituents and deliver on their brand promise. They know how to seize critical moments in time and engage constituents on behalf of their causes.

Incorporating social media

While nothing will ever replace face-to-face communications in terms of its ability to cultivate lasting relationships, in today’s world organizations must leverage the power of social media. With its relatively low costs and growing accessibility, social media reduces traditional barriers to reaching and expanding stakeholder communities. It provides opportunities for building deep and broad support, and to remaining top-of-mind.

Easy as it sounds, engaging in social media is no simple undertaking. It requires a sound strategy, a sincere commitment to continual involvement and to two-way conversations, as well as a high level of transparency. These are all long-standing components of best practices in communications. They are essential in the highly visible and fast-paced world of social media.

Being true to your brand

A strong brand is built over time. However, it can be compromised and even destroyed in the blink of an eye. While marketing, communications and media relations can contribute to building awareness of and support for an organization, they can only go so far. If an organization doesn’t deliver on its promises, the best marketing efforts will fall flat or, worse, backfire. The result is a cascading effect with others’ communications in the driver’s seat.

While the loss of financial resources may be the most visible outcome, far worse is the loss of positive brand experience and brand image. A damaged reputation may be irreparable. This is increasingly the case in today’s closely connected global community where information is readily accessible in even the most remote areas, and where stories are spread with the click of a mouse and then retained in virtual perpetuity.

Leveraging brand value in partnerships

The final “essential” is:

Build corporate partnerships: This advice is particularly noteworthy. It’s an example of how nonprofits can and should leverage their brand power. It acknowledges the power that nonprofit brands have – not only in attracting revenue to support their work, in the same way that corporate brands attract investors, but also in attracting essential non-financial resources. The latter include customers, volunteers, community leaders and media attention. Nonprofits with strong brands typically have significant community support. This is a resource that many corporations do not have, and it is a resource that they want and need.
In essence, for the nonprofit that wants to secure corporate support, its brand value provides a rationale for why a business should consider partnering with it. Brand value provides a measure of the assets the nonprofit brings to the table and puts it on an equal footing in the relationship. As the report states, “Valuing brands gives organizations a license to demonstrate to companies and other partners that there is an established and justified cost to aligning with nonprofits.”

This is not something that only the “big guys” (e.g., the nonprofit “power brand 100”) have access to. In fact, community-based nonprofits typically have significant brand value, as demonstrated by the strong support they derive from their local communities. In the context of cross-sector partnerships, this can be leveraged effectively with local businesses and corporations.

A note regarding cross-sector partnerships: Before entering into a partnership, a nonprofit should carefully assess the potential corporate partner’s brand value and determine if there is a good match between their brands.

In sum, every nonprofit has a brand. It is an essential asset that should be developed, protected and leveraged. It reflects the nonprofit’s mission, vision and values, and the impact it has in making our world a better place. Through their work to create positive social change, nonprofits are able to cultivate deep and lasting communities of supporters. This is a significant component of nonprofits’ “brand power” and an important factor in securing the resources nonprofits need to advance their missions.

See also:

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding: Seven Principles to Power Extraordinary Results

Marketing Series–Volume One: Building a Persuasive Case, Seven Transformative Branding Principles, Multi-faceted Strategies and Bonding with Brands for Life

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing

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Before you can get buy-in, people need to feel the problem

Picture this: you’re in the middle of presenting your proposal and a person at the far end of the table raises her hand. “I’m not even sure the ‘problem’ you’re describing exists, or is a big deal at all!” How do you deal with that?

From reading your responses to my previous posts, I find that many people aren’t able to even reach the point where they can debate the merits of their proposal. Many get bogged down in the quagmire of trying to effectively communicate the nature and extent of the problem. If you can’t do that, it doesn’t much matter what your proposal is. People aren’t going to consider anything until they are convinced there is a problem that truly needs to be addressed.

Have you made the problem feel real?

In scenarios like this, I’ve found that it’s effective to highlight the problem and the people affected by it in a way that makes the problem feel real. What’s less effective — and far more common — is to make a dry business case that, even if correct, is usually less persuasive and less memorable than it needs to be.

424 gloves drive the message home

On this topic, one story I’ve always liked (from my book The Heart of Change) I affectionately call “Gloves on the Boardroom Table.” A large organization had an inefficient purchasing process, and one mid-level executive believed that money was constantly being wasted with each of the organization’s factories handling their own purchases. He thought there could be tremendous savings from consolidating the procurement effort. He put together a “business case” for change but it went nowhere. His boss said that senior executives didn’t feel it was truly a big problem, especially with so many other daily challenges taking up their time.

So the manager had an idea: he collected the 424 different kinds of work gloves the factories collectively purchased and tagged each one with its different price and supplier. He carted the gloves in and dumped them on the boardroom table before a senior
executive team meeting. He first showed the pile to his boss, who was taken aback by this powerful visual display of the waste inherent in having dozens of different factories negotiate different deals for the items they needed!

The boss showed the CEO, who scrapped the meeting agenda to talk about procurement because what he was looking at was so memorable, so compelling, and so real. It galvanized the executives to action. Ultimately, they overhauled their procurement process and saved a great deal of money.

See, feel, change

I’ve called the process used here See, Feel, and Change, as opposed to Analyze, Think, and Change. The latter is all head, no heart, and often fails to motivate people to recognize the importance of a given problem. It’s too easily forgotten or ignored if it doesn’t feel real.

Highlight the personal, real consequences of the problem you want people to see

So what is my everyday advice if you can’t always collect, catalogue, and cart around 424 pairs of gloves? One way is to highlight the real, personal consequences of the problem you want people to see, and to highlight the real people who suffer because of it.

My newer book, Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down, features a story of someone presenting a plan to provide new computers for a local library. When dissenters don’t listen because they don’t think there is a problem with the current computers, the presenter has two options. He could use PowerPoint slides to compare the library’s computers to current computer models sold in stores, showing the difference in processing power, memory capacity, and modem speed. Or he could relate the true story of a local fourth-grader from a poor family who relies on the library’s computers for homework — computers that are too slow and outdated to allow her to finish her assignments, leaving her underprepared for school.

Which case would you find more compelling? Which case makes the problem feel real?

See also:

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down

Influential Fundraiser: Using the Psychology of Persuasion to Achieve Outstanding Results

To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

Image credits: Harvard Business Review, harborfreight, channelview

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Why facts, features and benefits don’t belong in your copy

“Today’s number one challenge is to leverage better results with less money,” asserts Dooley. Marketers are called upon to accomplish more with less. Dooley has a problem with logic that says “more resources applied equals more success” because this model can get very expensive and may not produce better outcomes. Dooley argues that smarter marketing grounded in neuromarketing is genuinely more effective and costs less. Nonprofit marketers interested in ideas from a unique perspective—many of which are based on the author’s personal experience or conclusions drawn from behavioral science—will find Brainfluence is a path worth exploring.

We asked Dooley at what stage do most marketers fail when trying to apply neuromarketing strategies?

Dooley: Marketers tend to focus on facts and figures, features and benefits, and other logical appeals that are intended to persuade the donor or customer to act. Appealing to non-conscious motivators should be part of the process from start to finish. Using brain-oriented strategies is particularly important for nonprofit marketers. Usually, we buy products because we need them. We don’t have tangible benefits when we make a donation or volunteer our time. If product marketing is half psychology, nonprofit marketing is 100 percent psychology. It’s essential to identify and use the right triggers to get donors and volunteers on board.

In addition to triggers, Dooley addresses how to apply neuromarketing techniques to your marketing or fundraising copy in his book. I’ve excerpted some of his strategies here:

Surprise your audience by using unpredictable words and language in new ways. We naturally predict common words that will follow other ones, especially in a clichéd saying, so varying your words captures people’s attention.

Develop simple slogans that offer savings.

Describe or rename your product or service if it has negative connotations. For example, we often say, “May we renew your support” rather than “Don’t let your gift expire.”

Use real numbers for greater impact. For example, in one experiment, “People believed cancer to be 32 percent riskier when told that it kills 1,286 out of every 10,000 people, versus 12.86 percent of people.” If you are trying to mute negative statistics about a product or service, use percentages.

Try these two magic words: “free” (people will choose it over a bigger savings because it carries no risk, as in “buy one get one free” versus “buy one get one for one penny”) and “new” while maintaining long-term brand attachments.

Use vivid (e.g., disastrous) sensory (e.g., hair loss), emotional/nostalgic (e.g., too many moms and sisters suffering from breast cancer), specific (e.g., 1 in 8 women suffer from the disease) and branded (e.g., “Go Pink”) language to describe your product or service without overdoing it and making the message too long.

Provide vivid stories with action, motion, dialogue, etc., and story testimonials to powerfully sell your product or service. Anecdotes are more interesting and relevant than statistics. For example, the author discusses how unfortunately, anecdotes about vaccines causing autism trumped the mass of statistics disproving this finding.

Make sure your organization does not let negative stories take over—especially with the power of social media.

Roger Dooley states, “This book is all about smarter marketing.” Brainfluence contains practical advice for marketers, managers, business owners and nonprofit leaders looking for a fresh perspective. Each topic in Brainfluence is designed to explore how our brains work and offers numerous ways to directly apply that knowledge to real marketing challenges. Dooley says, “Every nonprofit today has to accomplish more with fewer resources, and many of the topics here will enable them to do just that.” Busy leaders will find this book doesn’t have to be read cover to cover. The ideas are grouped into major categories and each stands on its own so browsers can find what they are looking for.

See also:

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas from Getting Shot Down

Creating Value in Nonprofit-Business Collaborations

Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done

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Don’t neglect your message in tough times

“We need to get our message across.” This is a common refrain by many nonprofits leaders and never has it been more relevant, given the current economic situation. In any organization, marketing and communications resources are usually the first budgets to be cut. However, getting your message across and getting people to act on your message has never been more important. Thoughtful, sophisticated communication and organizational transparency are hallmarks that constituents have come to expect from effective nonprofits. You can’t afford to fall silent if you want your organization to retain and engage its constituents.

Even in good economic times, investing in a solid communications plan can often be viewed by nonprofit leaders as too difficult and expensive, unnecessary or beyond the scope of the organization. The reality, however, is that even a basic communications plan directed at both internal and external constituents is critical to an organization’s success. Yet, I’ve worked with a wide range of nonprofit clients who struggle to make communications planning a priority. Some of the most common roadblocks to communications planning include:
Who: Who is my target audience? Who should I reach out to?
What: What should I communicate? What is my message?
How: How do I get my message out (i.e. Web sites, blogs, email newsletters, etc.)?
When: I just don’t have the time with everything else on my plate …

These “Who, What, How and When” questions focus on the symptoms, but not necessarily the cause of an organization’s communications challenges. It’s important for today’s nonprofit leader to keep a broader mission-focused perspective when developing a communications strategy.

Understand who you are

For a lasting message, stay focused on your organization’s mission, not passing fads. Your organization’s messaging needs to be tied to your mission and to the broader organizational strategies and programs you coordinate in order to accomplish that mission.

Because many of your constituents are drawn to your organization because of its mission, the last thing they want is for you to waste resources on activities that do not help you accomplish it. Stay focused with a mission-driven message, and reinforce to your constituents that your organization is committed to the mission they care about. Mission-focused communications will stress that your organization is worthy of your constituents’ time, attention and support.

One way to ensure your message is in synch with your mission is to revisit your mission statement and make sure you have the proper strategies or programs in place to actively achieve it. This may include creating new strategies or programs that will help you maintain your constituents’ support and sustain your organization during these tough times.

Stay relevant

After reflecting on your mission, strategies and desired impact, you can frame your message in the context of today’s economic environment. Since constituents demand transparency, ensure your communications are relevant and directly address the economic conditions that impact your organization’s mission. Don’t be afraid to let your constituents know the truth. Clearly communicating to your constituents that “times are tough and this is how we are responding” is better than saying nothing at all.

Don’t try to reach everyone

Often, nonprofit leaders want to reach everyone they come into contact with by casting as wide a net as possible. But prioritizing your audience – specific to the message you are trying to deliver – is key to a successful communications strategy. I suggest identifying your top three to five key constituent groups and determining a) what kind of information you think they want to hear; and b) what you think they will do with this information. Having a clear picture of who you want to communicate with will help in making your message more impactful.

Don’t neglect your staff

In my communications consulting work, I find that one the most neglected constituencies is the staff, and regardless of an organization’s size, this is an issue for most nonprofits. Small organizations tend to suffer from “forgetting,” or having no time to inform, and large organizations tend to neglect staff due to too much bureaucracy or seeing staff as too hard to reach. This is not true for all organizations, but is something to consider as you develop your communications plan. There is nothing worse for morale than having external constituents know a critical piece of information about your organization before staff does.

Moreover, keep in mind that your organization’s staff is usually the most important element in your brand, so making sure they can speak to constituents about the conditions your organization faces is very important. At a minimum, your staff should know how to respond to constituents’ questions and who to refer to when a question reaches beyond their knowledge.

Embrace new methods

Regardless of your message or audience, one consideration stands out more than ever – the communications methods available to you are endless. The days of the printed newsletter are fast disappearing. Today, communications strategies encompass email newsletters, blogs and social media such as Facebook and Twittter. But remember to stay focused on your top priority constituent groups, not trends, when determining which communications methods are going to be the most effective. As long as the communications methods are appropriate for your target audience, don’t be afraid to try as many as you feel comfortable with, and then determine which works best for you. The new methodologies are either cheap or free, so feel free to experiment.

Review, adapt and repeat

Evaluating and adapting your communications strategy over time is critical to your organization’s success. While there are many metrics that communications professionals suggest you track, keeping it simple can also do the trick. For example, once you have sent out your email newsletter, call up some of your constituents and ask what they thought of your recent communication and how it could be improved. Much like investing in communications, any level of resources devoted to researching your communication’s impact is better than no research at all. Regularly solicit feedback from your constituents and adapt your message accordingly.

While the suggestions above are nothing new, they should guide your organization’s communications planning, regardless of the size or budget of your organization. Staying connected with your constituents will help your organization weather today’s challenging economic climate. Times are tough, but do not bury your head in the sand. On the contrary, it is time to let people know your organization is still on the job.

See also:
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Three ways to become more attune with your donors

Bestselling author Dan Pink is asking you to call it what it is.

More specifically, your work. If in your job you spend any time persuading, convincing and influencing others, you are in the business of moving others. Frankly, he explains, you’re selling. And if you’re selling, it’s important to recognize major developments over the years that have changed how the best people are moving others. Through a first-of-its-kind study and a collection of a broad spectrum of examples, Pink has thoughtfully made the case for rethinking sales. You will learn how to be, what to do and how to put all the pieces into play in his new book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

There are a broad variety of strategies at play in the nonprofit sector when executives are in the midst of convincing, persuading or influencing their boards, staffs and constituents. Some may be using old school techniques, and perhaps others draw on intuition. No matter what the convenient tactic at hand, a strong case can be made for formalizing our approach to moving others and understanding what motivates. It is, after all, the business we’re in.

Three truths about moving others today

Nonprofit leaders constantly find themselves asking how to move a donor to give, how to move a board member to lead, how to move the staff to act. Understanding today’s truths about Pink’s sales ideas such as Attunement, Clarity and Buoyancy is especially relevant due to the sector’s increased presence of competition and general misunderstanding of sales.


For example, Attunement honors the knowledge and goals of the buyer, jettisoning the old sales adage, “ABC” or “Always be closing.” Pink begins the new “ABC” with the first word, Attunement, or “the ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you’re in. Think of it as operating the dial on a radio. It’s the capacity to move up and down the band as circumstances demand, locking in on what’s being transmitted, even if those signals aren’t immediately clear or obvious.” He also calls this “perspective-taking.”

Pink describes three ways to become more attune with your buyer/client/funder:

Increase your power by reducing it. Through several social science studies Pink relates, it was found that people who perceived greater power became less attune with others’ points of views. And the inverse is true of those who perceive less power. Because a salesperson no longer holds all the information and therefore, the power, s/he must rely on taking the other’s perspective and giving up power in order to move someone.

Use your head as much as your heart. Perspective-taking is not the same as empathy. Pink describes perspective-taking as a cognitive action where you imagine what someone else is thinking. Empathy means you feel for the other or try to imagine what another person is feeling. Empathy can cause you to toss aside your own interests, as you may feel too deeply, whereas perspective-taking can help both sides achieve their goals. Therefore, perspective-taking with a cognitive focus on people, their relationships and context is more effective to move people.

Mimic strategically. Pink stresses that mimicking your buyer can help you negotiate better. Mimicry builds connections, trust and understanding. However, it must be treated with care so it is not obvious. Otherwise, it can backfire. Pink also discusses how touching (e.g., on the arm) can help build connections and foster negotiations.

Pink’s choice for nonprofits

In addition to attunement, Pink explores many other essential principles surrounding the notion of moving others. We asked him which one he felt was most appropriate for nonprofits for our Page to Practice summary and have excerpted here.

CausePlanet: Nonprofit leaders constantly find themselves convincing or persuading others to support their causes. Is there a principle from your book that you feel stands out as especially appropriate for nonprofit executives to apply?

Dan Pink: Make it personal. There’s an array of research showing that abstract and conceptual appeals (“Increase vaccination rates”) are far less effective than specific and concrete ones (“Vaccinate this child or she risks dying of malaria”). And the principle goes well beyond fundraising. There’s some great research from Israel, for instance, showing that radiologists who see both a scan and a photo of the patient whose scan it is spend more time and are more accurate in their evaluations. The same is largely true for leadership. When leaders put themselves on the line and when others see they’re real people, their leadership effectiveness rises substantially.

For those of you who find yourselves in the business of moving others (and Pink argues virtually everyone is in this business), consider how attune you are with your prospects and then ask yourself how you can make your appeals personal. Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks as we discuss Pink’s observations about clarity, buoyancy and other interview questions we had for him.

See also:

The Influential Fundraiser

It’s Not Just Who You Know

Yours for the Asking


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Leverage the “power of three” for effective communications

The nonprofit market has become increasingly tight, making it more important than ever to shine when communicating with donors and prospects. Your mailings or website are very often the first impression an individual or corporation receives of your organization. By applying the “power of three” in your marketing design, you can improve your chances that prospective donors will read your message.

The “power of three” is a design theory that, simply stated, says that when people are presented with items in groups of three, they are more attracted to that group than with groups with more or less items in it. For example, three colors in a brochure are more effective than two or four because they are easier and more pleasant for our brains to process.

As marketers who develop a wide variety of advertising and marketing campaigns for all types of industries and clients, we found that when the power of three is applied to a communication message, that message resonates better with an audience. With this theory in mind, we designed three messaging components that we incorporate into everything we do: emotional, intellectual and functional.

Functional Component

This component communicates the functional benefits, attributes and features of your program or service. The functional component provides information about what business or service you are in, such as children’s health services, arts education or providing shelters for the homeless, in addition to where you are located or how many offices you have. This is the easiest component for many marketers to communicate, but it rarely gets the reader to act. Simply providing this factual information will cause most prospects to just file the information away and do nothing. Unless your organization is the only one in the city, country or world that offers this service and, therefore, is in high-demand, your communications need more information to be effective.

Intellectual Component

This component provides the opportunity to differentiate and separate your organization from the competition. This includes elements such as perceived quality and perceived value. The trick here for all marketers is to provide information that is relevant and important for their audience. How does your audience perceive quality and value in relation to your program or service? Do you have any significant intellectual properties for quality and value comparison that are of importance to your audience? If so, be sure they are included early on in your communications piece. Don’t hide these messages–they are important and can move a reader to consider action.

Emotional Component

This is the most powerful aspect of any communication piece and often the one that gets the least amount of attention from organization leaders who, ultimately, have to approve communications and their budgets.
Most organizations tend to associate good marketing with communications that focus on the factual and intellectual aspects of their companies. This makes sense since, after all, they are responsible for running an organization and need to focus on non-emotional business aspects to be successful. But, when it comes to being successful in communications messages, particularly those aimed at prospects, emotional components pack the action punch organizations are looking for.

Emotional components include features such as compelling photography and effective, beautifully written copy (in headlines and body copy). The reason emotional aspects work so hard in communications is that they connect the message on a personal level which, in turn, makes it more interesting and important to listen to.

The communication becomes less about your organization fighting to get the reader’s attention to teach something to the reader wanting to learn more about your organization to become part of it, experience it or obtain what you are providing. When your communications can affect someone to do something, you get results—and that is when your marketing funds are well spent.

Using the functional and intellectual components of your message helps to inform and educate your readers, giving them reasons to believe your organization is important for them to know about. But, be sure to pack a punch with an emotional hook to get them to believe in your organization as an important part of their lives that deserves their donations, purchase or other action of support.

See also:


Nonprofit Marketing Guide

Content Marketing for Nonprofits

Image credits:,,,


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Reignite your brand management with a new IDEA

Using your brand as a fundraising and marketing tool is becoming outdated. Your brand must embody your mission, requiring everyone associated with your organization to participate in brand management. How do you manage today’s brand?

With the I-DE-A framework.
Julia Shepard Stenzel and Nathalie Laidler-Kylander inThe Brand IDEA give you a framework to revolutionize your brand, increase your brand’s impact and collectively manage it.

The IDEA framework:

I – Integrity:
Does your brand align with your mission and core values?
Does your brand identity (internal) align with your image (external)?
DE – Democracy
Do you engage all your stakeholders in defining and communicating your brand identity?
A – Affinity

Does your brand allow you to collaborate and extend your sphere of influence to maximize your impact?

Join us!

Join CausePlanet founder and publisher Denise McMahan for a lively discussion with the creators of the IDEA framework, and we’ll explore how to apply this innovative lens when making critical brand decisions that affect your mission.

Subscribers, log in and register here.

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Waters’ new book gives you license to steal

“To be successful in anything you need inspiration. It’s what drives us to keep pushing and excelling. Without it you just hit a dead end. You stop learning and exploring,” explains cause marketing author Joe Waters.

Joe Waters recently inspired us with his new book Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New and Improved Strategies for Nonprofits, which tells a great success story in each of his 40 chapters dedicated to a revenue strategy with companies. I’ve excerpted one of his stories to give you inspiration and glimpse of Waters’ numerous featured partnerships:

Hashtag fundraiser

Over the holidays in 2012, global supermarket chain Lidl offered to donate five four-course Christmas dinners to food banks in Belgium for each tweet with the hashtag #luxevooriedereen, which is Dutch for “luxury for everyone.” The campaign went viral and spread rapidly on Twitter. While Lidl had privately committed to only 1,000 meals, they graciously increased their donation to 10,000 meals.

License to steal!

Waters advises you that when your nonprofit uses hashtag fundraisers and social media in general, you have to plan for the unexpected and be clear on your donation. After Waters explores the case story, some of the meaty sections that follow are “How it Works in 1-2-3,” “Things to Remember,” and “Steal These Ideas!” Who wouldn’t want to read a section called “Steal These Ideas!”? Brilliant.

Too big, too small or just right?

Despite the fact that cause marketing has been in existence since the early 1980s, author Joe Waters is still surprised by the amount of confusion surrounding this idea. Additionally, smaller nonprofits that represent the bulk of our sector are misdiagnosing why great cause marketing partnerships are passing them by and going to the bigger nonprofits. Too often, smaller charities approach businesses for cash gifts when they could be leveraging much more if they are willing to get creative.

“Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you have to think small,” says Waters. He asks, “What if the business is new or struggling?” Does your strategy account for the other assets the business may bring to the table if it can’t write a check? Or, if the company does have money to give, can you see beyond the check and realize the enormous amount of possible donations from customers and employees through an innovative campaign?

Welcome pieces of advice

Each of Waters’ chapters are further bolstered by advice boxes where Waters shares best practices in areas such as “Three Types of Decision Makers,” “Four Ways to Turn Unwanted Gifts Into Nonprofit Gold,” or “Ten Fundraising Ideas for B2B [Business to Business] Companies.”

I encourage you to indulge in a little guilt-free stealing and experiment with Waters’ Fundraising with Businesses. Your bottom line won’t be sorry.

See also:

The End of Fundraising: Raise More by Selling Your Impact

How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money

The Influential Fundraiser

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