Intentional Strategy vs. Nonprofit Status Quo

| by Shannon Williams

Many thanks to Angel Oak Creative for inviting Armstrong McGuire Senior Advisor Shannon Williams to be their guest blogger last week with the following article.

We are in the self-proclaimed information age. At almost any given moment, we have a world of knowledge available at our finger-tips. Some might call it information overload.

It’s interesting to me that during this information boon, most non-profit organizations struggle with how to communicate with their stakeholders. At this time of year, non-profits are executing their fall campaigns and planning their year-end strategies, and I am regularly asked about multi-channel integration of these campaigns.

Multi-channel integration sounds impressive. In reality, most non-profits are asking simple questions like:

‘is it okay to follow up a direct mail piece with an email solicitation (or vice versa)?’

‘Is it okay to send a video link in our email solicitation? If we do include a video, should we push the video through social media as well?’

Generally I answer their questions with a question: what is the down side? Typically shoulders are shrugged, and they move ahead with plans to use multiple media sources. On the surface, this is good, but intentionally building a campaign strategy that integrates multi-channels would be better.

Intentional strategy requires planning (more than a week ahead of the campaign), input from program and communications staff and volunteers, and sometimes, expertise beyond your in-house resources.

The best campaigns are built around a real story of impact—the difference your organization has made for the population you serve. Impact is what drives investment—donors want to know how will my dollars make a difference?

In choosing your story, imagine how it can be told through the following channels:

  • printed solicitation materials
  • your website
  • e-news with a call to action
  • a stand-alone email solicitation
  • video with a call to action (event, email, social media)
  • an info-graphic
  • blogs (in house or guests)
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

Thinking through these channels ahead of time will help you choose your story, tap your resources (photographers, videographers, bloggers, interns, etc.) when they are available to you, and create a multi-channel plan that meets your stakeholders where they are. I can’t tell you how many times, I have heard an organization say in September, “I wish we had thought to shoot that video when our communications intern was here this summer.” Missed opportunity!

Planning ahead also helps you identify channels where you want to strategically increase your engagement with stakeholders in advance of your campaign. Build your friends, fans and followers before you set expectations for results from these channels.

Are you picking up a theme here?

Yes, the best fundraising campaigns are carefully planned and thoughtfully executed. It may be too late to apply this approach to your 2014 efforts, but it’s not too early to start mapping out your 2015 strategies.

While you’re executing your fall and year-end campaigns, take time to document the actual dates that copy went to the printer, direct mail was dropped, social media pushes hit, gifts began to come in, etc. Use that information to begin to create a roadmap for your 2015 fall campaign. Set aside time in December to analyze the schedule you followed and brainstorm your approach for next year.

Mostly importantly, begin to imagine the story of impact you will tell and the resources you will need to share it through multi-channels. Integration does not happen without an intentional strategy. If you want to be intentional in 2015, start now.

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