Media Cause - Social Impact & Non-Profit Marketing Agency
Media Cause is a digital marketing agency for nonprofits. We use digital marketing strategies to drive growth and create impact for our mission-driven clients. Find out how we can help scale your impact.
It’s never too early to start crafting your year-end fundraising plan. By starting early, you give your organization a chance to build data-driven narratives and tell compelling stories that inspire supporters to give.
During a webinar with Salsa Labs on Monday, August 5 @ 2pm ET, we will walk through Media Cause’s proven strategies and tactics to break through the noise of year-end giving season and keep your organization top-of-mind (and top of inbox!) for your supporters.
What You’ll Learn:
How to develop a donor-centric approach in your online outreach
Best practices for segmenting your file and tailoring your messaging based on characteristics including donor history and giving levels
How to incorporate dynamic ask strings and test into your year-end fundraising plan
Examples of email tactics that work from nonprofits that are doing it right
How to determine the right email volume for your organization (and your fundraising goals!).
While you wait to join us live, here are some resources to help you prepare for this webinar, including a look-back at 2018’s successes and learnings:
First, congrats on raising your hand to learn. It’s not always easy to recognize our own opportunities for growth, but that’s the first step toward progress (and yep, it still counts if someone else recommended this as a growth opportunity for you, too).
Second, before you read any further, I want you to take a minute to answer two very important questions that will help shape how you learn, what you learn, and where you’ll be most successful in applying it.
1. WHY do you want to be a better writer?
Just as there are different flavors of “writing” as a discipline and a craft (there’s copywriting, grant writing, business writing, speechwriting…the list goes on), each of us has different personal motivations for wanting to improve our skills.
Do you want to become a better writer because you, a colleague, a mentor, or a supervisor have noticed areas for improvement? Because you’ve been assigned to a new project that needs a different approach or way of thinking? Are you looking for tangible ways to grow beyond your current role and earn a promotion? Are you considering changing specialities or careers? Or maybe you have a side hustle that needs a little extra writing love (nice work!).
All of these are valid reasons—and keeping your end goal top-of-mind is important to make sure that you’re able to stay motivated and on task as you learn.
2. WHAT kind of writing skills do you hope to develop or improve?
If you’re looking for ways to better motivate your readers to take action through compelling blog posts or social content, then focusing on persuasive writing, emotional hooks, evidence, and structure will be important as you dive in beyond the basics. If you found that you struggle putting together oral presentations, then working on clarity, brevity, and flow—as well as spoken cadence and rhythm—may be higher priority. And if you’re looking to become a copywriter at an agency or in any traditionally creative-led role, then understanding all of the above, along with written timing, voice, and narrative storytelling are going to be essential.
Now that you have a better understanding of where you want to go, and why you want to go there…
3. HOW do you make it happen?
The same way that you wouldn’t try out for a semi-pro hockey team after only having skated during 80s disco nights at the local rink, it’s critical to master the fundamentals of writing before you dive into the nuance of different styles and genres. And the best way to build a solid foundation for writing of any kind…
…is to learn + practice in a formal setting.
When I was studying advertising in college, I took poetry writing classes, fiction writing, playwriting, comedy writing, speechwriting…even soap opera writing! And then I took even more classes once I was actually doing the work in the agency world. Regardless of medium, and of where you ultimately want to focus your attention, practicing all of these different types of writing at the outset will help you understand the basic tricks and techniques of language, cadence, rhythm, imagery, persuasion, etc., so you can more effectively identify how and why they work in other people’s’ writing, and ultimately, use them in your own work, too.
That said, all the practice in the world won’t guarantee success if you’re practicing in a vacuum. Learning and writing in a setting where you’re able to get formal feedback to help make your work better is critical to satisfying your personal motivations, and reaching your functional goals.
That also means showing your work to everyone who is willing to read it and review it and provide honest, constructive criticism. A quick note here: not everyone’s feedback is going to be helpful, but learning to discern what’s useful from what’s not is also a valuable skill!
One great avenue for structured practice is online classes.
There are MANY online options out there–some are expensive, others are free; some are legitimate, many more are probably not worth your time. Do the usual due diligence, of course: read reviews, look at syllabi, compare costs, understand coursework expectations, research the instructors, and see what other kinds of professionals have taken the class in the past (personal recommendations are also a great way to go). But to really make sure you’re getting something valuable from your effort, and not just a certificate of completion, also look for classes where:
You’re held responsible for your work. Find courses that are structured with requirements and deadlines for turning in assignments rather than following along at a self-guided pace, and your writing is reviewed by an expert who can provide valuable feedback. Being part of a timed and graded cohort keeps you accountable, and gives you the formal guidance you need to really hone your skills—ideally, from a teacher or other professional in the field who can show you where you’re succeeding and where you still need to improve.
You have the chance for peer collaboration (and commiseration). While you may be physically writing on your own, having a support system to reach out to with questions, to ask for advice, or even to proof your work before submitting it, is invaluable. Because online classes bring together learners from all over the world, you’ll be exposed to people with different backgrounds and experience, all of whom can add something to your arsenal of knowledge.
While I can’t personally vouch for any particular online course (these weren’t around 15+ years ago), I recently stumbled across one that caught my attention because it covers all the fundamentals (although unfortunately doesn’t appear to be offered right now). The syllabus from this class, noted below, is a great reference point for making sure any course you choose gives you the right building blocks for more focused learning and practice later.
Rhetorical Knowledge: how to craft your writing to meet the needs of specific audiences for specific purposes.
Critical Thinking: how to make decisions about what to include and not include in your writing.
Writing Processes: how to use invention, research, drafting, revising, and editing in your writing.
Knowledge of Conventions: how to use various formats and stylistic choices, including genre conventions.
Digital Technology: how to use diverse technologies to write more effectively and efficiently.
Habits of Mind: how to benefit from curiosity, openness, engagement, creativity, persistence, responsibility, flexibility, and reflection.
Another option: find a mentor at work
If there are colleagues in your company or on your team (or even in your extended LinkedIn network) whose writing style or work you admire, ask them if they’d be willing to offer advice or show you the ropes. This option is a little trickier, since we all know how deliverables and deadlines get in the way of even the best intentions. But, if there’s someone you trust and respect who’s open to helping you grow, you’ll be building a valuable relationship at the same time you’re building your skills.
One word of advice here: since you’re asking someone to carve out time from working toward their own growth goals to help you achieve yours, make it easy for them to do it. Don’t rely on them to drive the exchange: respect their time by making regular meetings, bring them suggestions for what you want to practice vs. asking them what you SHOULD do, come ready with specific questions, and make sure they know you respect and appreciate their feedback.
Ready for your first homework assignment?
Spend some time thinking about your WHY and your WHAT of becoming a better writer. Decide on a plan for your HOW, and put it into action. Then, come back for Part 2 of this post – sometime in the not too distant future, hopefully – for some practical writing tips and tricks once you’re ready to dive in.
In the age of subscription services like Netflix and Amazon, the US donor market appears primed to consider making monthly gifts instead of just their annual year-end contribution. As millennials reach their peak earning years and overtake baby-boomers as the optimal donor population, monthly donor programs will become a mainstay of healthy annual giving programs.
Monthly giving provides a pipeline for mid and major level giving, and provides a steady, predictable revenue stream which allows for strategic investment both in programming and in fundraising. In short, monthly giving is the best opportunity to affect donor retention and increase the overall lifetime value of donors.
Need convincing? According to a recent study by NextAfter and Classy, monthly donors are worth 5.4x more than one-time donors over their lifetime. Moreover, the average monthly donor will give 42% more in one year than those who give one-time gifts. Monthly donors are also retained at significantly higher rates compared to their one-time donor peers:
When taken collectively, the annual value of monthly donors increases dramatically. Consider this chart from the 2017 Target Analytics donorCentrics Sustainer Summit:
So, what can organizations do today to lay the foundation so that they are prepared for this shift in donor behavior?
1. Cases for monthly support
At their core, strong monthly giving programs are driven by a compelling case for ongoing support. Here are some ways to incorporate that case for ongoing support with an example from our client FOUR PAWS, who works to end animal suffering:
“It’s one thing to save an animal’s life… but it’s quite another to keep that animal safe.“
“From Borneo, where FOUR PAWS is rescuing and rehabilitating orangutans, to South Africa, where scores of big cats find safe haven from circuses, unlicensed zoos and inhumane exploitation; saving animals is a 24/7, 365 days-a-year mission.”
“Moreover, the sustained effort required in the fight against the illegal puppy trade and reducing the demand for fur worldwide needs an equally sustained commitment from animal lovers everywhere.”
2. A Holistic Approach to Growing Monthly Giving
After you’ve established your case(s) for ongoing support, develop strategies to retain more of your existing monthly donors. Make sure you’re set up for success from a technological standpoint, and have testing and optimization strategies in place to steadily acquire more monthly donors. Additionally, position your digital properties and outreach so that they are optimized to take advantage of big media moments. With all of these pieces working together in your ecosystem, you can drive strong monthly increases in revenue over time.
Why should donors give monthly?
Making an external case for monthly giving is an important piece of building a sustainer program. Outside of the benefits to your organization, you need to communicate what’s in it for the donor. Here are some benefits to giving monthly:
It’s convenient! Donors can “set it and forget it.”
By spreading out their donations, donors can more effectively help the organizations they care about because they’ll be providing reliable gifts.
It is also more cost effective. A small donation spread out over 12 months as opposed to one donation at a time gives donors on a budget an opportunity to financially support the causes they care about.
Finally, donors can support more than one charity at a time because they’re spreading out their philanthropic giving.
Who should you ask?
Recent one-time donors are the best monthly donor prospects. This is why many organizations typically run their monthly donor acquisition campaigns at the start of the year, immediately following year-end giving campaigns where they’ve acquired a significant number of new one-time donors.
Here are additional audience segments that might also make sense to ask to give monthly:
Previous one-time donors (currently lapsed or deeply lapsed)
Existing prospects already on your email file
New prospects who recently joined your email file – layering in a monthly giving ask to a welcome series is always a good idea!
Website visitors and donation form abandoners. These folks are interested in your work, but need an extra nudge to get them to give.
People who search for your organization on Google or Bing.
People who follow your organization on social media.
Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. We worked with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on their first sustainer acquisition campaign, bringing in 627 new sustainers and over $100k in annualized revenue.
How should you treat monthly donors?
When building a foundation for monthly giving, it is important to think about how you will subsequently treat your donors once they convert to monthly giving. Your strategies may vary, but often include:
Suppressing monthly donors from certain one-time appeals. If you choose to include them, have their monthly gift acknowledged during the one-time ask. For example, “Will you consider making a special one-time gift, above and beyond your generous monthly gift?”
Including additional call-outs for monthly donors in newsletters or other specialized email treatments.
Specific upgrade appeals – typically ran at the same time as monthly acquisition campaigns.
At higher levels, engagement with gift officers.
Special invitations to events.
Ultimately, monthly donor programs can take years to develop – but once in place, they do a lot of good.
Building a monthly donor program, or any other annual giving program, requires a long-term commitment to testing and optimization. You should make sure to have good technology in place, including your database, eCRM, and merchant services. These elements of a solid monthly giving program should be built over time. Limited bandwidth is an all too common challenge for nonprofits, and it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew at once.
Before pursuing monthly giving, make sure to get buy-in from organizational leadership. Often, building a monthly giving program means sacrificing higher levels of giving in the short term for returns that take longer to realize.
Be sure to check back on our blog for a tactical approach to building a monthly giving program that’s donor-centric. Questions? Get in touch with us!
Our Boston team was out at the Classy Collaborative conference last week, where leaders and change-makers from the nonprofit and social good sectors came together to share their knowledge through storytelling. Throughout the three days of panel discussions, keynotes, and intimate workshops, Classy shared new feature announcements for the platform that will empower nonprofits to fundraise more effectively while building stronger relationships with their donors and fundraisers. Here are the 5 features we’re most excited about.
1. Classy + Facebook Connector
The biggest announcement coming out of the Collaborative is definitely the new integration between Classy and Facebook. This has the potential to be a game-changer for any nonprofit leveraging peer-to-peer fundraising, as it harnesses the power of Classy and Facebook’s fundraising tools while creating a more seamless user experience for fundraisers – helping to eliminate dreaded data silos.
The Connector will enable organizations and fundraisers to do the following:
Auto-create Facebook Fundraising Pages. Classy fundraisers have the option to duplicate their page as a Facebook Fundraiser
Auto-sync fundraising progress. Progress-to-goal matches on both Classy and Facebook Fundraiser pages
Fundraising reporting across platforms: Nurture donors to become lifelong supporters with a holistic view of how your fundraising campaigns are performing on Classy and Facebook
Interested in leveraging Classy and Facebook for fundraising? Get in touch with us. No timeline has yet been shared for when the feature will launch, but our Classy experts can get your organization ready in advance of the release.
2. Mobile Events App
New this year, Classy introduced a mobile app that nonprofits can leverage for events, creating a more streamlined experience on event day and allowing more seamless collaboration across teams.
What does this mean for nonprofits? Organizations and event staff can better coordinate on the day of the event for tasks like check-ins and payment collection. Plus, launching a branded mobile events app no longer requires an entire development team!
Here are some of the main features of the new events app:
Nonprofit branded: Organizations can customize their app with their logo, colors, and imagery.
Validate payments anywhere
3. Fundraising Minimums
Classy also introduced a new fundraising minimums feature which allows organizations to set minimum fundraising goals and automatically charge fundraisers the difference when those minimums are not met by a set deadline. These enhancements are powerful for anyone who uses Classy for in-person fundraising events. For example, our client at Tap Cancer Out has had to manually collect payments at the door for anyone who didn’t meet the fundraising minimum and charge them the difference. Now, they will be automatically charged on the day-of (or any day they choose!).
4. Team Fundraising Enhancements
60% of all Classy peer-to-peer event participants are on teams, and 60% also access the platform through mobile. Addressing this, Classy plans to roll out the following feature updates for teams:
Teams within teams (sub-teams)
More tools for team captains, including transferring donations
Enhanced mobile experience
Being a team captain for a peer-to-peer fundraising event is a lot of work, so these teams enhancements are really important. Formally allowing participants on teams to share the responsibility as co-captains may even lead to higher team fundraising totals.
Having the option for sub-teams could also be useful for organizations who have a club model, or for event-based peer-to-peer fundraising organizations who have several teams from a single entity participate, like a club or a school.
5. Recurring Frequencies
Currently, the Classy platform only supports one-time and monthly giving. With the recurring frequencies feature updates, donors can now set their own donation frequencies. Offering yearly and quarterly options could be especially important for organizations offering memberships. In general, it is putting more empowerment back on the donor and giving them ownership over when and how they choose to give, which is extremely important for donor engagement and retention.
While these are our top 5 new feature rollouts, there are many others that we’re excited about. For example, Classy is planning to introduce Google Tag Manager Support, allowing nonprofits to implement tracking pixels outside of Google Analytics. This is huge and empowers nonprofits to add their own tracking pixels without the help of the Classy support team.
In addition, there are new features for the Salesforce integration, Classy Pay, a modularized campaign builder, and more. Stay tuned for announcements on when these features will become available within the Classy platform!
If you’re looking to take your fundraising to the next level, get in touch with us! As Classy partners, we are here to help your organization get the most out of the platform.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a method of fundraising that asks your supporters to fundraise on your behalf. Peer-to-peer campaigns have the power to reach a larger audience because you are leveraging the network of your supporters. The main purpose of peer-to-peer campaigns is to call on supporters to appeal to their network(s) for donations with a collective goal in mind.
Why do it? It’s an additional online revenue source, and can significantly amplify your reach by engaging with your supporters’ networks. It can also strengthen the relationships you have with your current supporters.
It’s also a massively untapped opportunity for many nonprofits. Only 33% of nonprofit organizations worldwide leverage peer-to-peer, and 87% of millennials and Gen Xers say they are willing to fundraise for nonprofits via peer-to-peer.
The first step to a successful peer-to-peer fundraising strategy is to make sure you have your technology ecosystem in place. Think about the tools in your toolbelt – a fundraising platform, CRM, email platform, donor database, the list goes on. Make sure these tools are properly integrated and communicating with each other to avoid siloed data.
Once you have your tools in place, it’s time to think about your goals, and how you will interact with your supporters and fundraisers at each stage of their journey. What are your organizational goals at each of these stages, and how can you best communicate these to your supporters?
With your goals and fundraiser journey mapped out, it’s time to plan and create your content. There are two main types of content goals:
Converting your current supporters into fundraisers; and
Converting their network into donors
Here are some useful content guidelines and a checklist to help you get started:
At the conclusion of your campaign or event, following up with supporters and thanking them is extremely important. Make your thank you messages personal and authentic. Celebrate the impact you created together for the larger goal, and communicate why it wouldn’t be possible without your supporters and fundraisers. They’ve helped you work towards these goals, and it’s important to give them their time to shine. Make sure to also share advice on how to thank their donors.
In addition to a thank you, ask for feedback! Connect with your fundraisers to learn what techniques they used to achieve their success. Their feedback can give you great insight into what’s working and what isn’t, and is important for continued engagement.
Here are some things to consider about when creating a survey:
Think about your supporters, how engaged they are, and what they’re willing to fill out. Typically, the longer the survey, the lower the response rate.
Be deliberate about the the questions you’re asking. Think about how you’ll be able to leverage each data point collected.
Ready to take your peer-to-peer fundraising to the next level? Watch our webinar with Salsa Labs:
#1 — A razor sharp understanding of what’s working (and what’s not)
Often times, we are so busy executing our digital marketing plans that we don’t take enough time to evaluate our efforts in order to understand what’s truly working and what’s actually wasting our time.
In the industry, we call this process an Audit.
An audit is essentially a health checkup for a given channel (email, social media, website, etc.) with a series of data-driven recommendations on how to improve its performance.
Audits also feed directly into your digital marketing strategy by answering those burning questions, like:
What channels should I be investing in (or cutting loose)?
What sort of messaging gets the best ROI? People signing up for your emails, registering for an event, making a donation, etc.
How should we segment our email lists? And, how frequently should we be communicating with our supporters?
How do we stack up against ‘the competition’? I.e. are we doing a good job on digital or do we need to step up our game?
If this sounds like your organization or you are frustrated with your technology, send us a note!
#3 — A steady stream of website traffic (and the ability to capitalize on the attention)
We all know how important website traffic is — it builds your brand; it grows your email file; it generates revenue for your programs.
But many organizations struggle to generate high amounts of traffic for their site, let alone a critical mass of relevant traffic.
A few things that we recommend out of the gate to drive high volume, high quality visitors to your website:
Google Ad Grants Management — with a focus on conversions, instead of just clicks.
Ads (Facebook/Instagram, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc) — to your followers or with look-a-like audiences or interest-based targeting.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — to ensure that as many of your webpages as possible show up on the first page of a Google search.
Email — directing your supporters to share content with their friends and family, attend an event, make a donation, etc.
It’s also important to note that all the traffic in the world will do nothing for your organization unless you have a proper EMAIL CAPTURE STRATEGY in place — landing pages that are strategically designed to build an email file, with content that adds true value to a reader and provides a compelling reason to sign up.
If you want to know how to drive high volume, high quality traffic to your site, drop us a line.
#4 — A compelling story
As a nonprofit, your ‘story’ is heart and soul of your organization. It’s WHY people support you. It’s why they tell their friends or family about your cause.
And on a technical level, your story is why someone opens an email from you or visits multiple pages on your website instead of bouncing after one page.
All good stories:
address a problem or challenge that a large number of people care about;
are relatable or empathetic;
create a clear vision for the future or a path to a resolution;
are consistent across all channels (online + offline);
avoid (like the plague) organizational jargon. They eliminate acronyms or industry speak and use everyday, personal language to craft the narrative.
help achieve your marketing goals — e.g. increasing website visitors, adding new members, driving donations, etc.
Unsure if you’re telling a story that resonates and moves the needle? Let’s chat.
#5 — Proper resourcing
In order to carry out the four items mentioned above, proper resourcing is essential. We recommend organizations have at least two full-time digital marketing staff — typically in the form of a Communications Manager or Director and a Content Writer/Techie.
While a Communications Manager or Director position are fairly common across organizations, we don’t see the same attention given to the content writer/techie position — a member of the team that is 100% dedicated to content production and can churn out multiple blog pieces, emails, social copy, you name it, day in and day out. New content is key to not only keep your audiences engaged, but platforms like Google simply love it and will send more traffic your way when they start to you as a reliable and consistent source of good information.
Finally, we recommend all organizations budget at least $500/mo for digital advertising. Gone are the days of true organic reach on many platforms. Plus, ads can help you reach new audiences and strategically grow your base.
Last week marked 365 days at Media Cause for me. I’m a big fan of anniversaries (or really any excuse to cheers), and upon reflection of my first year on this job, I realized that I’ve learned far more than just the day-to-day of how to be the best copywriter and content strategist I can be. Here are my five biggest nuggets of wisdom:
1. You can love your job.
I didn’t think it was possible. I’ve had good jobs, I’ve enjoyed (almost) all of my past jobs, and I’ve had some pretty tough gigs as well. I think most people have. But there’s a difference between thinking a job is good because you don’t cry in the bathroom every day, and actually loving your job. Heard of the Sunday blues? That dreadful feeling that the weekend, aka living-your-best-life, is over and Monday is coming in, full steam ahead with cranky coworkers, bad coffee and terrible meetings. Those are real for most people–heck, they’ve been very real for me most of my career. Well, not to brag, but I get the Sunday excites. We get to come to work with people I genuinely enjoy, make a difference, and have a great f-ing time doing it. I’m very grateful that in my 30+ years on this earth, I’m wise* enough to realize this is good and I should appreciate it.
Note: If you’re at the “cry in the bathroom” stage of a job, may I offer some unsolicited thoughts? Update your resume, research causes or ideas you are passionate about to see if organizations in that space are hiring, network like crazy, reach out to a recruiter, hug a puppy, take a continuing education class. Do small things, every single day, to get yourself to a better place.
2. But you can still get a bit burnt out.
Of course, with a love affair this rich, you can also get burnt out. On more than one occasion, I would need to remind myself that I needed to set some boundaries. We are the opposite of encouraged to work late or on weekends. But when you enjoy the clients and the work, it’s hard. I like helping. I like to do things that I like to do (duh). But what makes me good at my job is the ability to take time away, refill that creative cup and come back refreshed.
And let’s be honest, there’s a bit of ego. It feels so good to help and see a meaningful difference. It’s hard to walk away (but walk, run, swim, hike, roll – whatever it is away regularly. It’s for the best).
3. Clear communications make all the difference.
Media Cause does a lot of great things for us as employees (go check out our “we’re hiring” page for the nitty-gritty benefits), but by far and away my favorite one is there is such clear, open communication. We formalize kickoffs, and have weekly check-ins with our project management team, Ryan and Kyle. Those dudes are some badasses that keep us on track. But beyond schedules, everyone has a level of mutual respect where we can operate to the best of our ability. We know who is doing what, when and how. We also know when we can just do it ourselves because we’re given the room to grow. By setting (and managing) clear expectations, we are allowed to do our best work– and we’re all happier when we’re able to shine.
4. Google Hangouts has a bingo card of things people have to say before you’re legally allowed to hang up.
With four offices across two time zones, we’re on hangouts a lot. I mean a lot, a lot. I’ve seen more of my coworkers’ houses than I have of some of my best friends’. And on all of these hangouts, I’m convinced there’s a small, but mighty checklist of things you have to say before you’re allowed to end a call.
Can you hear me?
I’m going to share my screen….can you all see my screen?
I’m sorry – you froze for a second.
Hi (insert name of pet who has decided to join the call – likely Noodles, Blue or Tobe)!
I’ll ping you that doc.
5. You can make a difference.
Yes, you. Get educated on the issues that are important to you and make a commitment to help those causes. Maybe it’s a political candidate you’re passionate about for 2020, or maybe you’re really into reducing food waste – it could even be that you just love dogs and want to start volunteering at a local animal shelter, or you have a renewed sense of purpose with advocating for your neighborhood park. People need to hear more from passionate, compassionate humans like you, so find a way to make your voice heard and your work count.
Of course, I’ve learned more than these five things in the last 365 days, but I can’t share my secrets of how to score free coffee at our co-working space, or the most flattering angle for a video call. That’s for my year two recap. The first year has been a rollercoaster – from protecting whales to education around having a puppy, raising funds for cancer research to saving the trees. This job has taught me a lot, but more than anything, it’s that I can impact change day in and day out. The world might be a bit of a dumpster fire, but there are people and organizations who care and are fighting the good fight, and I’m here to help.
*When I read this in ten years and call myself “wise” I will lol, or whatever it is we do in 2029 to express the appreciation of a good joke.
What is Media Cause’s media buying commission? This is a question we get quite often when we are talking with new organizations. Quick answer – Media Cause does not charge commission fees on media.
Let’s unpack the longer answer. Commissions on media buys are a relic of big TV/Radio and print budgets in the for profit world. In most instances, this is still how those mediums work. Most of our clients aren’t investing in these types of media buys; be it for lack of measurable results for their goals or barriers to entry because of budgets. When agencies use this type of fee structure, it incentivizes them to get their clients to spend more money on advertising, rather than focusing on results. These fees are generally in addition to creative, production, ongoing management and reporting.
Many advertising publishers also give kickbacks or discounts on advertising to agencies when they steer clients in their direction. These savings don’t always make their way to the client – rather, it is another way for agencies to make more money from the same media buy.
How does Media Cause approach Media Buying?
We do all of our paid advertising on a time and materials basis. This means we only charge our clients for the time it took to create, publish, and continually optimize the advertisements. We do this for short-term campaigns and for ongoing, evergreen campaigns. In this fee structure, we are focused on getting results and not spending more money on ad platforms. The dirty little secret is that, most of the time, a $10,000 media buy that lasts one month on Facebook takes the same amount of time to manage as a $100,000 media buy during the same time period. Why should it cost 10x more?
We encourage (and prefer) when our clients pay for the media buys directly. This way, there is 100% transparency on what the rates are from the advertising publisher.
Bottom line: We don’t charge commissions on media buying, because it does not further the impact of our clients. Sure, we don’t make as much money, but as a mission-driven organization, we are more focused on accelerating the growth of organizations doing good around the world than double-dipping on fees. Our bet is organizations find more value in paying for all of the work we actually do.
There’s a question that I get asked a lot these days, most often by new colleagues, existing clients or when interviewing new candidates: Why do I like working at Media Cause? And why have I stayed here so long?
In the grand scheme of life, it may not seem like that long — but holding the same job for 5.5 years is an eternity in millennial speak. Instead of climbing the ladder within one company, we often make career steps through shorter stints at different companies, always seeking whether the grass might be greener somewhere else, or if there is another place where we’ll be more valued, make more money, learn a new skill, you name it.
I love answering this question, not only because I get to answer it truthfully and honestly, but because it often opens up a wider dialogue on why we should all love where we work and what we get up and do everyday.
My answer always centers around four main reasons:
1. Purpose-Driven Work
“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.” – W. Clement Stone
For me, selling shoes or peddling energy drinks was never going to cut it. (No offense to any shoe or drink sales people out there!). We all do our best work when we know there is a good reason behind it, some type of greater societal impact we’re making, something bigger that we’re contributing to. And in the field of digital marketing, we benefit even more from being able to track impact, often in real-time, and make the optimizations to realize even better and better results.
Since it’s easy to forget this and get caught up in the day-to-day, one exercise we do at Media Cause is create impact statements for each of our clients. These go beyond the standard KPI’s of website visits, click-through rates or conversion rates – they are tied back to our client’s mission, and the important work we do together. For example:
In just two months, we helped raise more than $750,000 to fund breakthrough cancer treatments that will help create a world where every cancer patient becomes a long-term survivor.
These serve as good reminders of how lucky we are to work with such powerful and meaningful organizations, and that the hard work we do results in tangible, remarkable impact. It’s what fuels us, and will continue to always be at the core of what we do.
2. An Ever-Evolving Industry
I made a promise to myself early on that if I ever stopped learning, I would move on. Luckily, that’s never happened, and so much of that has to do with the pace at which the field of digital marketing moves. Almost every week there’s a new tool being rolled out, a new theory to be tested, or new insights to be gleaned from the data we’re capturing, and that typically means better results for our clients.
As a company, we do our best to keep up with it all, as we know how important it is to always bring new, innovative ideas and solutions to our clients. Our internal Slack channels are buzzing every day with new discoveries, or with questions for colleagues around their experience with new platforms or tactics. We are technology nerds at heart, and when you pair that with passion for the clients and causes we work for, we become a force to be reckoned with.
3. (Really!) Incredible Talent
Media Cause’s own growth is also a factor; in the 5.5 years I’ve been here, we’ve expanded to four national offices, more than 30 people (and counting), worked with hundreds of amazing clients of all shapes and sizes, and expanded our service offerings to become a premier, full-service digital marketing agency.
I constantly find myself in awe of what we do for our clients, and it’s simply due to the incredibly smart, talented and likable people we’ve hired over the years. We make a point to share our work with each other in company-wide meetings we call Bi-Weekly, Bi-Coastals (BWBC), which gives everyone the space to learn from one another, ask questions, and be inspired.
We are all a product of our environment, and if you surround yourself with the best and the brightest, you will never go wrong.
4. Work/Life Philosophy
We’ve all heard the phrase “work/life balance” — at Media Cause, this isn’t just a buzzword, it’s more of a philosophy.
A flexible work-from-home schedule and good benefits are just the start. (You can read about all of that here). But one lesser known fact is that our teams actually get capped at 30 billable work hours a week, which means there is 10 extra hours a week for professional development, knowledge sharing, networking, or even self-care.
We know that to retain talented people, we need to treat them like, well, people. They need the time and space to explore their interests, to travel, to spend time with family, to exercise, to go home and let their dog out. They need to feel supported throughout life’s ups and downs, and know they have a team behind them that cares about their well-being. They need a good laugh (at least once a day) and a hug when the time is right.
If work is where we spend at least a third of our waking hours, then it should be a place that fills our cup up, not drains us dry. We are all human, after all.
There are so many ways to answer the question of why I’m still here. But the easiest way comes from a few simple words I heard a colleague say recently: Media Cause just feels like home.
We should all be so lucky.
Interested in working with us? We’re hiring! Check out our open positions.
Shiny object syndrome: a condition that is almost impossible to escape when you are a digital agency looking to provide value for a client or efficiency in a business model. A new product comes out that promises to be the perfect solution (sometimes to a problem you didn’t even know you had), or a new feature has been developed on a tool you are already using that seems to be the shortcut that will save you 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there. To be fair, some products and services live up to the hype or, even better, some you discover without any fanfare.
Throughout the past 8 years, Media Cause has used/trialed/tested/optimized and sunset many tools, services, models, and systems. When it comes to innovation, we are always willing to give something a try. We’ve learned an important concept through all of this, that in hindsight, seems very apparent: to thrive in social impact marketing means building an ecosystem and not relying on one tool, service or approach. We like to say we work with a lot of “Frankenstein’s monsters” when it comes to technologies our clients are working with, but I’d extend that analogy beyond just the tech suite and say that we’ve seen a lot of organizational structures, business plans, staffing, priorities, etc., to make me feel 100% confident that there is more than one way to be successful in this space. It is also clear that we are at an inflection point in the digital marketing space. The organizations that start building and integrating their ecosystems are going to make bigger strides in capturing more attention, more donor dollars, and ultimately creating more sustainable impact.
What is the Impact Marketing Ecosystem?
All of the resources that you need to do your job. Have you ever taken the time to think about that? To evaluate it? To think about how these tools work together, make you more effective, and ultimately create more impact for you organization? Below are some helpful categories to get you thinking.
Technology Suite: think CRMs, ESPs, CMSs, and all those other acronyms that probably take up the bulk of your day. I’d also throw in Google Analytics, your social channels, fundraising platforms, and anything else that is in the orbit of digital marketing technology. Side note: once all is said and done with creating your list, ask yourself this question: “Does my technology dictate my strategy?” If yes, then it might be time to introduce some new tech into your ecosystem.
Doers: the folks who are executing on your strategy. These could be internal staff, agencies, consultants, etc. Do you have the right skill sets to execute on the strategy you need to create impact?
Data: Sure this might be coming from the technology suite and doers listed above, but what does it tell you? Is it even the correct data to be looking at to determine if you strategy is correct? Do you enlist outside vendors to help sift through data or provide additional context or modeling?
Stakeholders: Outside of your doers, who else internally has (or should have) a voice? Maybe I’m a bit biased, but communications and marketing should have a large stake for any modern organization. That should also translate into finance, operations, the C-Suite, and board members having a stake on strategy and outcomes.
Who/What else makes up your impact marketing ecosystem? Once you’ve got your list together, it is time to start asking the big-picture questions. Do these actors work well together? Could they work better? Are there people, platforms or data missing to make better decisions? And ultimately, do you have the ecosystem you need to be successful in creating more impact – be it more fundraising, more advocacy victories, more efficient programmatic fulfillment, etc.?
At Media Cause, we have our own ecosystem that we rely on to be the best agency we can be. I’m sure that there is overlap with yours. We work with some great technology vendors, some effective advertising platforms, and some gifted thought partners. But this is always evolving and we face the same challenge of making sure all the parts in our ecosystem are working toward the same goal of creating more impact for our clients. We’re able to get out there and test all the shiny objects to see which ones actually work best and pass this knowledge along to our clients. For all of us, this is going to be an ever-changing landscape. It is important for us to recognize that no one piece of the ecosystem can be leaned on for driving impact – it’s all the pieces working together and constantly tweaking that will lead to the most sustainable success.
Unfortunately, this ecosystem approach to social impact marketing is not going to be deployed by everyone. As marketing has shifted to more integrated approaches, driven by digital-centric strategies, some organizations are going to make that transition too late. They will be relying on one vendor, one technology, or one data source to make critical decisions. This will be a new measure of success for organizations in our space – how well did they build and integrate their ecosystem?