Author Laura Tufis

The email series that will turn one-time donors into long-term advocates



emails for donor engagament

What happens when your NGO receives funding from a donor? There’s usually a lot of interaction while the agreement is being discussed and practicalities are being settled. This is usually followed by a ‘Thank you’ in different forms and a blog or PR piece about the donation. And then? Usually, after around one month, the interaction decreases considerably as new donors are being pursued. However, just like in any business, acquiring a new donor is much more expensive than retaining one. While there are a range of factors that will lead to your donors’ next donation, online engagement always plays a key role in your NGO’s fundraising efforts. And it always has a powerful email series at its centre. Read on to find out what such a series looks like.

The ‘Thank you’ email

This is the most obvious one but the series always starts here and its importance cannot be emphasised enough. In this email you can express your gratitude for the donation and outline again how you are going to use it towards the cause you’re advocating for, even if that was already specified in the proposal or on your website. Emphasise the problem you’re addressing, the impact you’re expecting to make and how important the donation is in driving that impact.

The Community email

The role of this email is to put your NGO’s community in the spotlight by mentioning who else is supporting your cause and how. This doesn’t only give extra visibility to all your donors but, by showing there is a collective effort they are contributing to, it also confirms their own donation and connects them to something larger than themselves, which is key in creating a movement.

The Progress emails

Very often, NGOs don’t communicate anything about a project until they have something big to announce. This is bound to negatively impact donor relationships and significantly decrease their trust. So, even if the project is just getting started and you’re still in the discovery phase, there’s usually plenty to communicate. Think of sharing what you’re learning and what’s surprised you the most so far, stories that left a mark on you, interviews you’ve conducted, data you’ve gathered and patterns you’ve unveiled. All of this can be shared in the form of blogs, photos, videos, infographics, reports and more. So make sure not more than two months go by without your donors hearing from you.

You might think: won’t they find this boring? Don’t they just care about the big impact? Of course each donor’s preferred communication style needs to be considered and not every small step of the project has to make a headline but there’s a lot to be extracted for storytelling beyond the milestones that usually come to mind. In this way, you can keep your donors excited about the cause they’re contributing to and also show transparency in your communications.

The Milestone emails

These emails are key in proving the effectiveness of your projects. They can be about the extensive reach of your action, a change you’ve made in a policy, a mention in key media or by key influencers, a goal achieved before the deadline, an insightful knowledge resource coming out or an inspiring event being organised. Share your excitement with your donors and encourage them to spread the word. They will be happy to show their audience how their donations are contributing to impact.

The ‘Lessons learned’ emails

Not everything always goes smoothly in a project. Hiccups are perfectly normal and can even generate valuable learnings. Communicating the lessons learned to your donors proves transparency and shows the human element of your work. Think about it this way: it’s not even credible that it’s all roses all the time.

The ‘Looking back’ email

As your project is coming to an end, think of doing a recap of the key milestones and lessons learned, all culminating into the impact achieved. This is a key communication piece that will remind your donors once again of the importance of their donations and their role in your NGO’s community. It’s also a great opportunity to thank them again and for you to reflect and celebrate.

The Feedback email

This one is often forgotten but is key for improving future work and donor interaction. Ask your donors what they think about the project implementation and its results, the communications around the project, the aspects that stood out, the things to be improved and the likelihood of a future donation. Don’t be afraid to ask. Their feedback will help you excel in your next endeavours.

The ‘What’s next’ email

Now that the project has ended and the review phase is complete, it’s time to focus on your next projects. Share your plans with your donors, explain the reasoning behind your next steps, ask them what they think and, if they’ve expressed an interest in supporting your cause again, make sure to ask for their renewed cooperation.

Then start this process again. And again. And again.

Which of the emails mentioned above are you already using? Which ones do you think you’ll implement right away? Let me know in the comments below.

Need support in setting up creative email campaigns that will boost your fundraising? Get in touch now.

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Three questions you need to ask before building your NGO’s social media strategy



Questions social media strategy

Social media offers endless possibilities for marketing and communications professionals to promote their organisations. And if the context is the nonprofit world where budgets are often limited, it seems to be the holy grail. Then why does it often trigger confusion and frustration? Because without a clear focus, social media can lead to no results. As Michael Eisner, the former head of Disney, put it, “Discipline is part of the creative process, contrary to popular belief.” The three guiding questions below will help you build a social media strategy that works and gets you buy-in from your management.

What are my NGO’s key objectives?

Gaining clarity on your NGO’s objectives will not only give you focus but will also provide you with a reference point against which to measure your results. You will be able to identify where you can contribute and how, as well as what exactly to monitor to see if your efforts are paying off.

This type of focus does not diminish creativity. Quite the opposite, having to keep generating ideas for a certain objective will most likely push you to think outside the box. Experimentation is key in social media, but experimentation with a purpose is what will build you an effective strategy and will save you time and resources on the long term.

Who are my buyer personas?

“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” (Hubspot)

In our context, customers equal donors – the people who will pay for your cause to be implemented, so the largest part of your target audience. Defining personas will help you better understand your donors’ motivations, needs, goals, priorities, common objections, communication style, preferred channels and much more. By putting the human aspect above the financial aspect, you will get closer to your donors; you’ll speak their language, address their concerns and effectively tailor your messages and content for them.

Thus, understanding your personas is key for your social media strategy. Personas will guide the content you create, your calls to action, the tone and imagery, as well as the channels where you’ll want to be present.

If you’re just getting started on creating your personas, the tendency will most likely be to create many of them. It’s okay to start the process that way, then notice the overlap in goals and challenges and slowly bring them down to a maximum of five. Even five can be daunting when you’re just starting. So try to identify the key three and focus on those in the beginning.

What are my content pillars?

First off, what are content pillars? Content pillars are the central themes around which all your content pieces will gravitate for a certain period of time in basically…all your communications. It happens very often that organisations produce a lot of content and then fail to see results. No wonder their faith in content marketing and social media instantly plummets.

Content pillars will give you a clear purpose for your content creation and will help you guide your authors, thus ensuring that what you publish triggers action that in turn boosts your organisation’s goals.

You might ask: how do I decide what my content pillars will be?

A great start is understanding your personas’ needs, goals and common objections in great depth. You can then rank those needs, goals and objections, and identify a general theme – your content pillar – that will tackle what’s top of mind among your audience. The next step will be to come up with sub-topics that feed into the content pillar. For this phase you might want to organise a brainstorm to make sure you’ve covered all the angles. Lastly, it’ll be time to start curating content by first doing an audit to identify what’s already there and then recruiting internal and external authors for the content that needs to be produced from scratch. Learn more about how to create a successful content strategy in HubSpot’s free course.

When you’re done with this process, you can start all over again for the next needs, goals, objections and so on. This is a sure-fire and not so daunting way to improve your organisation’s content generation efforts.

Another common question is: how long should I focus on a content pillar? The answer is: as long as it’s relevant to your personas. Which means that engaging in continuous conversations with your donors is essential for you to be able to create content that matters.

Now that you’ve answered these questions, enjoy building and implementing your social media strategy! I’m confident it’ll be a much more gratifying process.

What is your NGO’s approach to social media? Do you find the questions above helpful for building or sharpening your strategy? Please share in the comments below.

Looking for support in developing a social media strategy that is effectively aligned with your organisation’s goals? Get in touch for a consultation.

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Website must-haves for engaging your donors and attracting new ones



NGO websites

What happens when (potential) donors land on your website? You have less than 10 seconds to capture their attention and convince them to click through. In a world dominated by information overload, a powerful website is key to engaging your audience. Is your NGO using its website to its full potential? Here’s a list of website must-haves that will help you attract new donors and keep the current ones engaged.

The ‘Why’ reminder

As Simon Sinek puts it, the “‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with why, you can inspire others.”

Stating the problem front and center on your website isn’t only a way to engage new visitors but also a reminder for donors as to why they are getting involved in the first place.

Another important component is your value proposition (check out some tips on how to craft an irresistible value proposition). Why should donors support your organisation specifically? What is it that you do that is different from other NGOs? What is the impact you want to make?

Which brings us to…

The steps towards impact

What does impact look like and how are you planning to reach it? Making that clear and visible on your website will show your donors what strategies you are employing to generate your impact, helping you prove your expertise and establish credibility. A methodology you can use for this purpose is the Theory of Change. Check out the Akvo Foundation for an example and tips on how to start building one.

The ‘What’s new’ element

If you want your current donors to have a reason to return to your website (and maybe give more) and your new visitors to get excited about your work, the ‘what’s new’ element is essential for your website strategy. Think latest blog posts, news items, videos, ebooks, social media feeds, calendar of upcoming events – whatever format you choose, I usually advise for the new content to be featured on your homepage.

Your organisation is in constant motion and your (potential) donors should not have to dig through your pages to find that out. Coming back to a static website where you find the same content every time or landing on a website where not much seems to be going on can be a total buzzkill.

The proof

The projects you are implementing are your proof of impact. People want to know how their donations are being used or might be used, and put a face to the cause they are supporting or might support in the future. Personal stories can conjure up the strongest of emotions and trigger action.

By showcasing your projects and sharing impact stories, lessons learned and progress numbers, you will show transparency, build credibility and strengthen your connection with (potential) donors.

Here are some elements you might want to consider for your projects section:
• Goal of the project and activities being undertaken.
• Updates sharing the status of the project, lessons learned and impact stories in the form of blog posts, videos and photos. Here are 11 storytelling tips that will help you fuel your NGO’s fundraising.
• Infographics illustrating the results of your projects.
• Donor logos.
• Profiles of people working on the project.
• Knowledge resources developed during the project, such as studies, reports and presentations.

The Donors zone

Having a designated donor section featuring logos and testimonials will not only help you maintain a good relationship with your donors – as you acknowledge their support – but will also strengthen your NGO’s position. Why? Because showing potential donors who you are already working with proves your work is already valued and sparks interest in getting a seat at the table.

Another way to boost institutional donor engagement is by interviewing key decision makers and putting them in the spotlight. Pick a popular figure with an impressive track record in your field and ask for his/her views on a topical theme – for example a Sustainable Development Goal that your organisation is contributing to. This will give your donors a platform to share their views and your organisation a good brand boost and valuable content. However, although nobody in a position of power will have only fans, make sure to do a background check before.

The Get involved button

You probably go to events and talk to people face to face, develop relationships, write blogs, post on social media and send newsletters. While you’re building visibility, you need to make it easy for people to support your cause. A prominent Get involved/Donate button or any other call to action relevant to your cause can easily complement your other initiatives in rallying support.

The Get involved page

Once people click that button, the page they reach needs to be clear, engaging and user friendly. Here are some elements you should have on this page:
• Reinforce why it is important they get involved – videos work wonders!
• Explain the different involvement options: donations, sponsorship, fundraising, volunteering etc.
• Add a clear call to action to each type of involvement.
• Explain step by step how their support will be used and where.
• Feature impact stories and testimonials from other donors.
• Give an easy option to contact you in case they have more questions.
• Embed a newsletter sign-up form for people to receive updates about their involvement.
• Have a secure and user friendly system that allows for different payment methods and confirmations.

The invitation to conversation

To build lasting relationships and keep your (potential) donors’ interest alive after they’ve left your website, you need to spark conversations at every step of the journey. Here are a few simple tricks:

Email sign-up: Invite people to connect with you via email while they are engaged reading a blog post, checking out a project, watching a video or reading your story (pop-up windows often work very well as long as they are not overused). Don’t miss out on any opportunity to extend the conversation beyond your website. If they are donors, you want to show your gratitude, send project updates and persuade them to donate again. If they are not, with a good nurturing strategy, they might become donors at a later stage.

Social media: Connecting on social media is often less of a barrier than signing up by email. So in addition to just adding social media icons to the footer of your website, you can use your content to encourage people to join the conversation. For example:
• Create ready-made quotes to be shared at the click of a button from your blog posts or other resources.
• Feature share buttons for every piece of content and prepare ready-made posts that mention your organisation’s name (ie Twitter handle).
• Embed social media feeds in your homepage or your blog for people to get a glimpse into the conversation and be able to directly share or comment.

This will strengthen the sense of community, get people to engage more with your cause and automatically spread the word.

Segmented live chat and feedback: Inviting people to live chat is a great opportunity to listen to your audience, get brand-new ideas and improve what you do. And if you also ask a few segmentation questions while you’re at it (eg. role, main goal, challenge, organisation size, organisation type), you’re bound to gain some great insights about your audience and fine-tune your communications as a result. Depending on the tool you’re using, you can also personalise your live chat messages based on your visitor’s previous website journey. If live chat doesn’t seem to be an option for your organisation at the moment, you can also consider having a segmented feedback form that allows supporters to share their thoughts with you. It’s all about encouraging conversation.

Blog comments: It’s not enough to only add a comments plugin to your blog. Your readers can range from silent listeners to vocal followers. The latter are more likely to express their views but how do you ensure you’re addressing all groups? By asking questions and giving them a voice! Ask people what they think about the content, what their own experience is, what they think you’re missing and should cover next time. And then reply and take their comments into account in your next piece of content.

Over to you. Which of these elements are you already featuring on your NGO’s website? Please share your thoughts or tips in the comments below.

Planning a website revamp? Let’s work together on your content strategy and conversion techniques to make sure your website supports your organisation’s goals. Get in touch for a consultation. 

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12 cost-effective ways to bring more participants to your NGO’s events



NGO events marketing

Events can be a great way to boost your cause and strengthen or expand your NGO’s community. Mixing face-to-face meetings with your online initiatives can work wonders in establishing top-of-mind awareness for your cause. Events offer an ideal platform to emphasise the urgency of an issue and build the personal connection needed for mobilising support. But how can you ensure successful participation numbers on a limited budget?

1. Craft an irresistible value proposition

This will be the backbone of all your event promotions. An inspiring message that resonates with your target audience, shows the uniqueness of your event and triggers action is key in driving registrations. To craft an irresistible message, don’t forget to use Simon Sinek’s golden circle: start with the ‘why’ and then address the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. An effective approach to help you answer the ‘why’ is to keep asking ‘So what?’ to every answer you give until it’s obvious and feels silly to continue.

Here’s an example:
Learn new breathing techniques (So what?) –> So that you relieve stress and achieve inner calm (So what?) –> So that you feel relaxed, radiant and alive every day.

So the message can become:
Feel relaxed, radiant and alive every day. Discover new breathing techniques that will help you release stress and achieve inner calm.

Once your event information is on the website, don’t forget to optimise the content for search engines. Check out this HubSpot blog post for on-page SEO management tips.

2. Build anticipation

Got a clear theme and a date for your event? Even before you have all the practical details figured out and open registration, start generating some buzz around it.

• Announce the event while participating in another event.
• Let your partners know.
• Post on all your social media channels.
• Send an email to all your subscribers who might be interested in the theme as well as to relevant previous participants.
• Maybe even create a short intro video to accompany the announcement.
• And of course, don’t forget to put a sign-up form on your event page for people who want to receive more information about the event. This way, when registration is open or keynote speakers are booked, you already have an interested crowd.

3. Slice and dice your email lists

Email marketing is one of the most effective tools in event promotions. But do stay away from email blasts and make sure you are GDPR-compliant. Understand your subscribers’ preferences and only target the people for whom the theme of your event is relevant. An effective approach is to identify the key segments in your database and map all the event topics against these segments. In this way you will have a clear content overview to help you in your promotions as well as an easy way to tailor your messages.

An important group is that of previous participants (as long as the theme is relevant to them). These people were previously engaged with your organisation so they are likely to want to participate again. In addition to obvious segmentation by job title, organisation type and size, career level, topics of interest, country of residence etc, this list can further be split based on level of satisfaction with previous events, number of events attended before, sessions they attended etc. And if you don’t have all this information available now, make sure you start gathering it.

4. Launch a new product or publication

If you’re planning to launch a report, a book or a new product, why not use your event as a platform? This way, your launch can receive extra attention and your event can gather more people interested in hearing about the launch. Double win!

5. Develop a content strategy around your event’s theme

Having a content strategy around your theme can help your event get found by the right people and trigger action among a relevant audience without having to fight for their attention. By picking a set of key topics from your event and writing related content that addresses the problems and needs of your ideal participants, you will attract qualified prospects that you can then nurture into registrants. Make sure that each piece of content that you produce ends with a call to action and a sign-up form.

6. Promote the location of your event

While the theme, speakers and set-up of your event will define the unique selling points, the location and venue of the event can also make a difference in your promotions. After a full day of discussions and learning, people love unwinding and discovering new places. You can talk about what the city has to offer and describe the atmosphere of your venue to give your potential participants a taste of the event’s ambiance and thus, an extra reason to join.

7. Unlock the power of your network

The NGO world is highly collaborative – organisations and individuals support each other’s causes and work together towards shared goals. Help your partners promote their work and they will surely return the favour.

In addition, give your speakers ready-made messages to announce their speaking engagements among their networks and also encourage your employees to spread the word. Last but not least, identify influencers and ask for a shout-out. Most of the time, people will step in for a good cause.

8. Prepare a (social) media kit

You want people to help spread the word? You gotta make it easy for them. Don’t expect them to go to your website, figure what to say about your event, craft a message and tailor it to different channels. Maybe you’ve got a few evangelists out there but most of the time people are too busy to make all that effort.

But if you give them the right tools, they will help. So take your event’s value proposition and adapt it to all the different channels where you’d like to get some visibility (eg social media, email). And then make some variations so people have some choice and your message gets out there in different forms. Plus, always attach some channel-specific photos for extra visibility. When your kit is ready, send it to all your employees, speakers, participants and partners. In this way, everyone can just copy, paste and publish your messages, and you can generate a lot of buzz.

9. Raise awareness at other events

Whenever you or any of your organisation’s employees attend other events, make sure to bring marketing collateral to promote your event. And if you have a booth, use pull-up banners, flyers and screens to feature your event’s unique selling points and promo videos. Make sure you allow for people to sign up to be notified about the event and also consider organising a raffle as an incentive.

10. Turn your registrants into event ambassadors

Very often, registration confirmations are the last touch points before the event takes place. So many lost opportunities! What if you could turn your registrants into ambassadors for your event? Here are some ideas:

• Add share buttons and ready-made social media posts to the confirmation page and emails. Make it easy for people to instantly share their excitement with their networks.
• Invite them to the Facebook event and thus raise awareness among their friends as well.
• Send a monthly newsletter to registrants as you book new speakers, add some exciting sessions to the programme or develop interesting content related to some of the topics. This is also where you can mention practical details and boost enthusiasm about the city and the venue. In this way you’ll keep your registrants engaged and give them content to share with their networks.

11. Extend your event participation to the online space

Give the world a glimpse into the content and buzz of your event through live video and tweeting. Think Facebook and Twitter live video as well as live tweeting from key sessions. By doing so, you will boost the visibility of your brand and raise interest in future events. Make sure to have a sign-up form on your current event page for both participants and people who could not make it to be informed about future events.

12. Follow up

The end of your event should not be the end of your relationship with your participants. Follow up with a survey; ask them what they liked and what they would improve; send a link to photos, recordings and presentations; get in touch with each and every person who you promised to contact after the event; send them relevant content (ebooks, webinars) based on their session participation. Establish a connection that goes beyond the event participation and who knows, maybe some of them will even become ambassadors of your brand.

What other tactics do you use to boost participation at your events? Share in the comments below.

Are you looking for ways to attract more participants to your events? Let’s work together on a marketing strategy and plan that will ensure the success of your events. No time for implementation? No worries, I’m here to help. Get in touch for a consultation. 

Photo credit: @kanereinholdtsen, Unsplash

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11 storytelling tips that will fuel your NGO’s fundraising



Storytelling for NGOs

Every NGO has powerful and urgent stories to tell. Good stories evoke emotions, connect us, make us embrace different perspectives and trigger us to take action. Are you looking for ways to bring your NGO’s story closer to your donors’ hearts? Here are 11 storytelling tips that will help you boost your marketing and fundraising efforts.

1. Have a clear purpose

Before even thinking of your storyline, stop and ask yourself: what exactly do I want to achieve through this story? Do I want to attract new donors, show existing donors the impact of their donations or maybe raise awareness about an issue and influence policy-making? Make your goal as tangible as possible, define your target audience and the rest will follow.

2. Focus on one message

Whenever we are passionate about a subject, we want to cover all the details. And in the non-profit world there is generally a lot of passion. So we often want to communicate everything. And it makes sense. It is serious, important and urgent. But exactly because it is serious, important and urgent, it needs to be clear and powerful. And mixing more messages can have the exact opposite effect. It can become confusing and blurry, especially for an audience who doesn’t know the ins and outs of your cause. By emphasising one message at a time, you can channel energy, bring focus and drive more impact.

3. Zoom in on the problem

Powerful stories start by immersing the reader or viewer into a new world. Describe the context and state the problem in order to help your audience dive into your world. You can show the multiple layers of a situation by zooming in from a global or nation-wide perspective to community and personal level. To make the context more tangible and illustrate the magnitude of the problem, use facts and figures; and to make it more relatable, explain what it means for one specific person. To achieve this in your visuals, you can offer a bird’s eye view of your focus area with drone shots and slowly zoom in on your main character(s).

4. Establish a personal connection

Once you’ve zoomed in on your main characters, give a vivid image of their lives, environment, everyday experiences, struggles and joys. Personal stories can break walls, build bridges and conjure up the strongest of emotions. Science shows that stories don’t only activate the language processing parts in our brain but also any other area in the brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story. This is why personal stories can have such an impact on our emotions; we tend to relate them to our own experiences and imagine ourselves in those situations. And even more so when powerful imagery is involved. But as you build your narrative, make sure to respect the dignity of the people involved and always challenge the stereotypes (for more on this topic, see this post on reframing the message in international development).

5. Introduce the (possible) solution

So there is a problem and there is someone or something being affected by that problem. You have a solution and it’s proven to work. Or maybe you haven’t used it yet but you have the evidence that it can work. The important thing is that there is a way to solve the problem. To get your donors/supporters on board, you need to explain your approach in a clear, concise and engaging way and highlight its unique selling points. No jargon, no industry lingo. Just ask yourself: if I weren’t working here, would I grasp the concept right away? Would I get excited about it? Would I support it?

6. Show (possible) impact

Show your (potential) donors what impact your work has generated or can generate with a little bit of help from their side. For existing donors, it is important to see how their donations are being put to use and for potential donors it is important to see what their donations could turn into. Showing impact builds trust and brings hope.

7. Don’t forget the call to action

So you’ve wrapped up your story. And it’s powerful. People are engaged and ready to do their part. This is the moment to ask them to take action. No call to action is a missed opportunity. Remember tip no. 1: have a clear purpose? This is where it all comes together. Get people to click, donate, download, sign. If they love your story, they will follow through.

8. Put your heroes in the spotlight

Every NGO has its heroes, the people in the front line, working hard every day to make a change in their communities or in their environment. These are the people driving your organisation’s impact. Your champions. So make sure to put them in the spotlight. Think video interviews, portrait photos, event speeches.

9. Use new tech for an extra edge

Let emerging technologies get your creative juices flowing. Why not try some virtual reality to better immerse your donors into your story or some drone shots for a different perspective of your projects? All this, combined with live video and powerful photography can give an extra edge to your NGO’s story. Start experimenting and you might discover some totally new angles in your storytelling.

10. Quality is key

This might sound obvious but it cannot be emphasised enough. No matter how good your storyline, if your videos are shaky or have bad sound or poor lighting, your texts have typos or grammar mistakes, your photos are blurry or the tone does not resonate with your audience, well, the story will not be received well, that’s for sure. So make sure you invest in a good editor, a good photographer, a good video crew and a good designer and you’ll soon notice the results.

11. Promote and re-purpose

The same story can take multiple forms, from a journal or a blog post to a photo story, a video, an animation or even a presentation. But regardless of the content, the essence will stay the same. Remember the focus on one message in tip 2. It really comes in handy when you start re-purposing your story. Why re-purpose? Because your donors might be using content in different ways depending on their interests and demographics. And because you can extend the life of your story and ensure a good bundle of content for a while. It’s good return on investment. And once you have your story in various formats, make sure you keep promoting it on various occasions. Don’t forget it in a corner. You’ve worked hard on it.

What other tactics do you use in your storytelling? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Struggling to tell your NGO’s story in a way that engages your donors and prompts them to take action? Let’s work together to create a value proposition and key messages that resonate with your audience. Get in touch for a consultation. 

This post was initially published on Beyond Borders Media.

Photo credit: Anastasia Zhenina, Unsplash


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The anatomy of a retweetable tweet in international development



Social media for NGOs

Every second, around 6000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter. In a world of information overload and shrinking attention spans, organisations are constantly challenged to come up with unique, competitive ways to capture their customers’ attention. And your NGO is not only competing for donors’ funding, but also trying to raise awareness about crucial global issues affecting humanity and the planet. So as a nonprofit marketer you must find ways to cut through the clutter and get that message across. To help you in this endeavour, I have put together 11 strategies that will increase your chance of amplifying your message and driving more impact – backed by science, experience and creative thinking.

1. Have a clear goal

Before you write your tweet, make sure to have a clear goal in mind. The goal should be more than ‘I need to quickly send out this tweet before moving on to my next task’. If your organisation has a social media strategy, think of your organisational objectives. And even if you haven’t written out your strategy yet, you are using social media for a reason. What do you want to achieve by sending out those tweets? Who do you want to reach? This might sound like a time-consuming process; but especially because of time limitations, you want your tweets to be spot-on. Goals could include:

• Raising awareness about an issue.
• Triggering action regarding a cause (eg raising money, gathering signatures for a petition).
• Showcasing your impact to your donors and thus, increasing engagement.
• Highlighting your expertise around a certain topic to boost your thought leadership.

2. Tell a story

As Turkish novelist Elif Shafak puts it, stories ‘let us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel’. And although a tweet has to be short, it can definitely tell a powerful story. Through the right words, the right visuals and the basic storytelling structure, a tweet can conjure up strong emotions. A simplified storytelling structure for a tweet consists of the following:

1. Current context: the problem
2. Solution to the problem
3. Impact generated by the solution
4. Call to action

A tweet following such a structure could sound like: “1.3 bln ppl lack access to electricity. Our #solarenergy project can #endenergypoverty for 15 mln ppl. Join us!”

1. The problem: 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity.
2. Solution: Our solar energy project.
3. Impact: Ending energy poverty for 15 million people.
4. Call to action: Join us!

You can of course decide to alternate the content and use one, two or three of the storytelling elements: Problem + Call to action; Problem + Impact; Problem + Solution + Call to action.

3. Use powerful imagery

Studies have shown that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text. So the ‘story’ tweets mentioned above will get an enormous boost if complemented by the right imagery. According to Buffer, tweets with images get 150% more retweets and 18% more clicks than those without. And Hubspot’s A/B testing tells us that they get 55% more leads. If this is not convincing enough, compare these two tweets:

Which one triggers more attention? The answer is obvious.

And now think of the power of a GIF. With GIFs, you can creatively mix visuals from your most inspiring projects, animate your infographics, give an exciting sneak peek into your latest publication (you name it!) and ultimately stand out more, evoke more emotion and have more impact. Since the introduction of the functionality in 2014, GIFs have been all the rage on Twitter. In 2015 only, users shared more than 100 million GIFs. If you haven’t used GIFs yet, it’s time to get on board.

So go ahead and show the world:

• Images from your programmes to give a glimpse of the context and the impact your organisation is making.
• Collages of people whose lives were impacted by your projects, together with their quotes.
• Infographics based on your studies or on curated content.
• Pictures from events (eg local campaigns; people running at your charity marathon; your experts showing an inspiring slide at a conference; people interacting during one of your conferences etc).
• Glimpses of your latest publications.
• Step by step construction of a home/school/water pipe/solar panel/toilet/cook stove; people working on a project.
• Quotes of end-users, donors, volunteers, members, speakers.

Make sure to organise regular brainstorms to get the creative juices flowing.

4. Enjoy the power of video

If photos can amplify your content to that extent, just hear what videos can do. According to AdWeek’s infographic, videos are six times more likely to be retweeted than photos and three times more likely to receive retweets than GIFs. What’s also interesting is that 48% of the videos watched until the end tend to follow the storytelling structure mentioned above: a problem that is in the end solved.

So take all those videos you’re proud of (maybe add a text overlay for people watching with the sound off) and showcase them directly on Twitter. And if you’d like to only highlight a certain part and make your video snappy and punchy, Twitter offers you the functionality to select a certain time frame.

One more thing! Live video is all the rage now on Twitter. And it seems that Twitter videos around live events increase brand favourability by 63%. So why not give your NGO that extra edge?

Here are some ideas of videos for your NGO:

• A sneak peek into one of your projects, highlighting the problem, solutions and impact.
• Testimonials of people who’ve been impacted by one of your projects.
• Time lapse of something being built (home, school, water pipe, solar panel, toilet, cook stove) or prepared for an event (booth being constructed, signage being hung around the venue).
• Live video from one of your events (a plenary, panel discussion, behind the scenes, marathon, dance, local campaign etc).
• Live video from an important conference.
• Animations explaining how your NGO can address some of the global issues (remember the storytelling structure!).
• An animation explaining a global issue ending with a call to action.

Here’s an example from SNV:

5. Use facts and figures

According to Kim Garst, “tweets containing numbers get retweeted 17% more often than those without”. As Hubspot, Copyblogger, Kissmetrics and many others explain, ‘the brain loves specificity’ and certainty. We are attracted to numbers because they promise structure, substance, relevance and ease of reading. Here’s the proof: infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than any other type of content. By using facts and figures, you can effectively raise awareness about a situation and establish credibility. Just make sure you triple check the accuracy of your data before you press tweet.

Note: If you’re looking for facts and figures for your international development organisation, check out UN’s Sustainable Development Goals website.

6. Use links and hashtags

According to Buffer, tweets that include links are 86% more likely to be retweeted. Plus, tweets with hashtags get twice more engagement. However, don’t overload your tweets with hashtags; one or two will get you 21% more engagement than if you add three or more. In addition, research shows that placing the link 90% of the way through your tweet increases the retweet rate.

Is there an important event coming up and its theme is relevant to your organisation? Even if you’re not attending, you can still contribute to the online conversation and explain your NGO’s stance on some of the issues discussed. Just be sure to stay away from overly promotional tweets. Valuable content goes a long way in promoting your organisation. Remember to check what the right hashtag is and tag or mention relevant organisations or people.

7. Observe international days

If you’re working in a nonprofit, you’re there for a cause: fighting poverty, gender equality, universal access to water, education for children everywhere etc. Join the global conversations around international days, have your say on some of the most important issues facing humanity today and show the world how you’re addressing these issues. Make sure to use the right hashtags and tag relevant organisations. Here’s a list of international days observed by the United Nations.

8. Engage donors and partners

Tagging or mentioning donors and partners will not only increase the chance of your tweet being retweeted but will also boost your relationship on- and offline. Think of your inbound marketing stages: attract, convert, close, delight. How do you delight your donors and partners? Giving them extra visibility will boost the relationship and create a positive dynamic that will extend well into the future.

9. Ask for retweets

It’s as simple as that. Studies show that when asking for a retweet by using the abbreviated ‘RT’, the retweet rate is 10 times higher than the average. Furthermore, spelling out ‘Retweet’ seems to generate a rate that is 23 times higher than the average.

10. Find the best timing

According to Hubspot, tweeting later in the evenings and at the end of the week will garner more retweets. However, it is important to test what works best for your organisation and remember to cover all the relevant time zones. It is okay to tweet the same tweet several times. Studies show that two identical tweets trigger almost the same engagement.

11. Cross-promote your tweets

Capitalise on your other channels to bring more traffic to your Twitter account and increase the likelihood of getting more retweets. Mention your Twitter campaigns, hashtags and handles on your website and other social networks, in your newsletters, marketing collateral, email signatures and in event invitations. Embed a Twitter feed into your website and blog, prepare ready-made tweets for your blog posts, ebooks and newsletters and mention your campaigns in forum conversations.

Want to mobilise support for a campaign and rally people to spread a certain message? Consider using Thunderclap, a ‘crowdspeaking’ platform that “allows a single message to be mass-shared, flash mob-style, so it rises above the noise of your social networks. By boosting the signal at the same time, Thunderclap helps a single person create action and change like never before.”

In a nutshell…

There are loads of tactics out there to help you amplify your content but in the end, the most important tactic is to understand what your audience wants, tweet valuable content (remember the 80-20 rule!), test, check your analytics and test again. And of course, retweet/quote yourself and people will return the favour.

What other strategies do you use to increase your retweet rate? Share in the comments below.

Looking to better integrate your social media strategy with your fundraising efforts? Get in touch for a consultation. 

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23 resources for nonprofit marketers



Marketing resources for NGOs

Are you a nonprofit marketer? Then you’re most likely juggling a wide range of tasks, trying to cover everything from developing a new marketing strategy and launching a new website to social media campaigns and web analytics reports. And while sometimes hard amidst a busy schedule, keeping up with industry trends must become a daily routine in the pursuit of innovation and growth.

To save you some researching time, I’ve put together a list of 23 resources every nonprofit marketer should follow. So bookmark this list and block that reading time in your calendar.

1. Nonprofit Tech for Good

Heather Mansfield’s website comprises resources and news related to nonprofit technology, online communications, and mobile and social fundraising. Heather Mansfield is also the author of ‘Social Media for Social Good: A How-Guide for Nonprofits’ and ‘Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits’ (awesome books btw!). Also check out her (free) webinars.

2. John Haydon’s blog

John Haydon, digital marketing expert for nonprofits and charities, writes about online fundraising, donor communication, content marketing, email marketing, website design, social media strategy and more. John Haydon is also author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies.

3. npEngage

Belonging to the nonprofit software and services provider, Blackbaud, this is a source of trends, reports, best practices and news for nonprofits. Blog categories include fundraising, marketing, social good, advocacy, technology and more.

4. Wired Impact blog

Belonging to Wired Impact, a web design agency for nonprofits, the blog provides tips and tricks on website design, user experience, SEO, content strategy, social media and more.

5. Classy Blog

An online fundraising platform, Classy also runs a blog on topics such as fundraising strategy and ideas, nonprofit content marketing, email marketing, social media, technology, industry trends and more.

6. Empower Nonprofits

Jeremy B. Koch’s website provides  strategies, tactics and resources to help NGOs in their fundraising efforts. His free resources include courses on nonprofit email marketing and storytelling techniques.

7. #501Social Blog

Belonging to Julia Campbell, the blog provides fundraising, digital marketing and social media tips for nonprofits.

8. Nonprofit Marketing Guide

Kivi Leroux Miller’s blog provides marketing and communications tips and tricks, strategies and resources for nonprofit marketing and communications professionals and fundraisers. Kivi is also the author of ‘Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money’ and The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause. Also check out her webinars, e-books and reports (some of which are free).

9. Big Duck Blog

The blog covers topics such as communications, social media, visual identity, messaging, fundraising, copywriting and brandraising for nonprofits.

10. Salsa Blog

Belonging to Salsa, a fundraising software for nonprofits, the blog provides ideas on fundraising, advocacy and nonprofit marketing.

11. CauseVox Blog

CauseVox, an online platform for fundraising and crowdfunding, runs a blog that offers fundraising, marketing, strategy, social media and design tips and also features podcasts on these topics.

12. Hatch for good

Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the website provides a suite of tools aimed at helping nonprofits leverage storytelling to drive social impact. On their blog you’ll find numerous storytelling tips.

13. JustGiving Blog

The blog offers tips, case studies, insights and news for fundraisers and nonprofit marketers and communicators.

14. Network for Good Nonprofit Blog

The blog provides nonprofit marketing trends, fundraising techniques, technology developments and various nonprofit examples.

15. Getting attention

Nancy Schwartz’s website provides tools, reports, case studies and job ideas for nonprofit marketing and communication professionals.

16. Social media for development

David Girling, lecturer and Director of Research Communication in the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, shares research and stories about the use of social media in international development.

17. Informz Blog

Informz is an email marketing software company targeting associations and nonprofits. Their blog gives a wide range of email marketing tips.

18. Wild Apricot blog

Published by Wild Apricot, a membership management software for associations and nonprofits, the blog offers membership, volunteering, communications, website & technology, leadership, fundraising and events tips.

19. Tech Impact blog

The blog features a wide range of technology and digital marketing tips aimed at empowering nonprofits.

20. Top Nonprofits

Founded by Craig Van Korlaar, the website offers a wide range of resources for nonprofits, ranging from marketing, fundraising and social media to management, productivity and tech.

21. FrameWorks Institute

FrameWorks Institute conducts communications research to help advocates re-frame social issues. The think tank developed the Strategic Frame Analysis®, an approach which ‘roots communications practice in the cognitive and social sciences’ and helps nonprofits rethink their narratives so that they have an impact at the system level.

22. Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)

NPQ publishes news and articles on fundraising, marketing, technology, philanthropy, policy and more.

23. Nonprofit Information

This is a collection of resources for nonprofits where you’ll find advice on leadership and strategy, fundraising, volunteer management, marketing, branding, social media and much more.

What other resources do you use for your NGO’s marketing? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Looking to build and/or implement a marketing strategy that supports your NGO’s goals? I’m here to help. Get in touch for a consultation. 

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Reframing the message in international development: where are we heading?



Reframing the message in international development

How can NGOs get the public involved in development projects without being too simplistic in their communications and fundraising efforts? This was the main topic of discussion at a conference organised some time ago by Wild Geese Foundation, a Dutch NGO that supports community-based projects in developing countries. The event’s goal was to share the findings of the EU-supported training and communication project, ‘Reframing the Message’ and discuss the way forward.

‘Reframing the Message’ aimed to improve the communication practices used in international development by advocating for a more realistic and mindful approach; an approach that is transparent, shows both lessons learned and success stories, and is respectful of the dignity of the people involved.

Let’s first take a look the perceptions of the sector. An article published by the Guardian states: ‘[…] media outlets accuse NGOs of […] exaggerating the scale of disasters to attract donor money.’ Furthermore, a street poll conducted by BrandOutLoud illustrates once again the negative images associated with the African continent and the distrust in the way NGOs are using public money. Yes, the sector urgently needs a change in the way it communicates (and not only, but that’s another discussion).

Judith Madigan from BrandOutLoud and Fiona Coyle from Dóchas were two of the speakers who shared their thoughts on the topic. Here are some highlights from the discussions together with my reflections:

The real mission

Step back and think about your nonprofit’s values and role in society. How are these aspects reflected in your communications? Although it might be challenging when in a fundraising role, focus on the long term effects rather than on the short-term gain. Let your mission transpire across all your communications.

A genuine voice 

There is a blatant disconnect between NGOs and the people they work with/for. Involve the local communities in your communications, let their voice be heard. As someone from the audience said, stop talking about Africa, talk about the people – the change agents! NGOs must stop referring to Africa as if it were one country (no wonder the existence of articles such as ‘Africa is not a country’) and discard the ‘white savior’ attitude once and for all. Get closer, listen actively, understand, collaborate. ‘Let’s focus on what unites us not on what divides us’ was someone’s remark.


When crafting a message or designing an image, think about the dignity of the people. Ask yourself: would I like to be portrayed like that? For inspiration, see how BrandOutLoud (an advocate of ‘reframing the message’) is empowering grassroots organisations through branding and communications. Or check out charity: water, whose mantra is ‘Opportunity not Guilt’. These organisations are leading the way.


For NGOs to gain credibility and become sustainable, they need to communicate both success stories as well as lessons learned. What went well? What needs to be improved? Share the inside stories, be open to criticism and implement the feedback.

A new narrative

All these ideas go hand in hand with the research published by FrameWorks Institute, which looks at how nonprofits can re-frame their social media messages in order to fundamentally drive social change (eg. ‘avoid compassion fatigue’). Through Strategic Frame Analysis™, an approach which ‘roots communications practice in the cognitive and social sciences’, nonprofits are encouraged to rethink their narratives so that they integrate their mission and values and have an impact at the system level.

I see these discussions as crucial for the sector and hope that by building on them, integrating them in our daily work and disseminating them, we will soon transform the way NGOs communicate about their programmes.

What’s your NGO’s approach to communications? Share in the comments below.

Looking to give a facelift to your organisation’s messaging? Get in touch for a consultation.

Photo credit: d_pham, framed (Flickr)

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