Hello. I'm Maryanne...I am a nonprofit speaker, author, trainer, coach, confidant and bad ass karaoke singer. I've been working with nonprofits longer than I have been rocking the mic, helping clients stop being boring and start getting results. I molded this thinking after years working with hundreds of nonprofits as strategist and resident extrovert at 501creative and working in..
The other day I was taking my foster puppy to her new adopters’ home and realized I was about a quarter of a mile from the home I grew up in. After delivering the foster puppy, I decided the only logical thing to do was to see the old house and maybe take a picture and send it to my siblings.
I grew up in Manchester, Missouri when our house was the edge of civilization. We were the first owners of a two-story home bounded Manchester Road, older ranch style homes and cornfields. It had been years since I was near my childhood home so I took a slow drive past the house, taking it everything that felt new and old at the same time. There was a man doing yard work, and because the house is on a court with only seven homes, and because I wanted to dial down my creep factor, I rolled down the window and explained why I was taking pictures driving slowly past his house.
“Hi! I am just driving by. I found myself in the neighborhood. This is the house I grew up in. I lived here from when I was four until I went to college.”
He replied: “Would you like to come in?”
My response: Are you kidding me! Heck yeah!
I came in and made sure he absolutely knew I wasn’t a creeper. I told stories of which bedrooms I occupied, what was new to the home and not. He was completely cool with me.
Would you like to see the living room? Yes!
Would you like to see the backyard? Yes!
I told him how my BFF Stevie Craddock and I set the grass on fire while my parents were out of town, about the patio with the pergola where I would kiss my first boyfriend.
Do you want to see the upstairs? YES!
The man and now his wife were taking me upstairs. The two teens in the home were remarkably unfazed by the babbling lady saying “This was my room when I grew up!” The back bedroom I shared with my sister, the front bedroom I had to myself after two siblings moved out.
We talked kitchen: my mom hated the western sun in the the kitchen window and so did the wife. We talked flooring and countertops. I remember linoleum and formica. Now it’s hardwood and granite.
Then they asked if I wanted to see the basement.
Yes, I would love to.
Our basement was legendary. My dad turned half of it into a bar full of Anheuser-Busch paraphernalia. There was a full bar with beer on tap, pool table, player piano, shuffle board table and stained glass lamps. We had parties and family gatherings there. That side was stripped of all manner of the rathskeller it once was. It was now a finished family room and in-home daycare.
They asked if I wanted to see the other side of the basement.
Yes, I would love to. This is the side you keep all your junk and I figured they would never let me in there. But the did. The door opened and I saw them.
The storage cabinets my dad built in the early 70s. There they stood. The same paint job (gray with red trim. My father the artist had all trim painted.) I looked up: the ceiling was the same because my dad had painted the ceiling tile trim in the same red. There was the brick wallpaper he put up. No one had touched this space since we lived here.
I moved toward the cabinets and started to cry. I am a stranger off the street and this family lovingly and patiently lets me explore their home. They stepped back and let me have my moment.
I put my hands on the cabinets and I could feel my dad. I felt his energy in me, through me. I had not felt this close to my dad since he would come to me in my dreams after he died in 2008. I stood there with my hands on the doors, crying. I wept for my parents, who were such huge personalities in our life and created a hole that will never be filled. I wept for the kindness of strangers.
Then I saw the back room that was a band rehearsal space for my brother the drummer then my dad’s workshop.
Can I see that room? Yes.
There was his workbench. The same gray color. It was still a workbench. More crying as I shared stories of when I would sneak down into the band room and pretend I was Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac.
I took pictures of everything. I hugged the family. I texted my siblings from the car, my hands shaking because I was so full of emotion. Sometimes I remember the grim times of my life. That day, all I felt was the joy of my family and the energy of life that is not bound by time or body.
Here’s what I learned that day. SAY YES. Receive the gifts before you.
I said YES. I said yes to myself to take the time to go see the home. I said yes to myself to take a photo. I said yes to myself to yell out my car window. Then I said yes to them. Do you want to come in? YES! I could have easily said, “Oh no I couldn’t intrude.” I said yes. I said yes to feeling something deep and profound and not turning away from the pain of grief and loss. I said yes to reframing my experiences to serve me better.
I said yes to receiving all the gifts that came my way that day.
I said yes to the small gifts of an invitation and then said yes to the big gift healing.
I teach clients how to receive. As nonprofits, we focus on giving. We are givers. We love to help. We sometimes can’t receive. When you say yes to the small gifts: a compliment, a cup of coffee, an invitation, you can say yes to big gifts coming your way. Say yes. Without hesitation or reservation. Yes.
Then say thank you. I sent a thank you note and a gift card to a friend’s restaurant. I sent the adopter a text thanking them for giving me the opportunity. I thanked the forces around me for bringing this into my life.
Say yes to the possibility and potential that exists all around you. Then get ready to receive.
Last week, my blog post told you how to create stories and share them. This week, I promised to tell you what to do when you DON’T want the story shared.
Nonprofits are afraid of controversy and scandal. Let me define them.
Controversy: when one group wants a story shared, and the other one doesn’t
Scandal: when no one wants the story shared!
Here’s how you can help your nonprofit when the story is not a good one and you’d rather, well, have everyone stop talking about.
My grandmother had some great wisdom. “Everything in moderation.” “Bad news travels faster than good.” And: “This too shall pass.” The news cycle moves faster and faster these days. One story will probably not mean nearly as much as you think it does. I used to say, “Today’s news is tomorrow’s puppy pad.” Well, today’s news is probably now today’s news because there will be something new in a few hours. When there is scandal or controversy, it galvanizes people to their perspective. If they loved you before, they will love you again. If they didn’t love you, they weren’t your people anyway.
TRUST YOUR SUPPORTERS.
If you follow the tenants of my book Courageous Communication, you already know the benefits of authenticity and transparency. Trust is everything. And authenticity and transparency are the keys to building and keeping trust. In my book I give the example of Scholarship Foundation closing the ScholarShop. The staff and board were clear about the reason for closing and took the time to explain the situation, trusting their supporters would understand. They did.
Stories get shared because the storyteller wants to be heard and understood. When ScholarShop closed, the executive director and communications manager both said they understood because they loved the store too! Listening and empathizing, without trying to convince or change, will go along way. Hear the story, get into their head, ask questions. Strive to understand. When people feel heard then they will seek to understand. And then their story changes and it become one of empathy and respect.
REFRAME THE CRISIS.
This could be a good thing. Your true supporters will come through. When Stray Rescue of St. Louis struggled with a distemper outbreak at their shelter, they used it as an opportunity to learn better shelter management and care. And they told the story of the outbreak, their heartbreak, their lessons learned and their changes, all with authenticity and transparency. They raised money and galvanized support of their loyal donors, and got new donors in the process.
FORGET THE POLISH and BE AUTHENTIC.
I will never forget Randy Grim going live on Facebook in the lobby of Stray Rescue crying at the death of the dogs in their care. He wasn’t polished, he wasn’t rehearsed, he was real. His emotion was palpable. Admit when you were wrong, apologize, and share your lessons learned. Admitting failure shows strength and respect.
STOP FEARING THE C WORDS.
Controversy. Crisis. Yes these scary C words freak us out in the risk-averse nonprofit culture. Here’s the thing, and the EXACT POINT of my book and the entire reason I started my company. If you are doing or saying something interesting, someone is not going to like it, and that’s ok. Stop trying to convince people to care, find the people who share your heart and mission and speak to them.
Marketing and fundraising is hard because we are trying to CONVINCE people to care instead of finding like-minded people and CONNECTING with them. When the ScholarShop closed, there really weren’t that many people who were fans of the mission of the organization. By closing the shop and showing donors they were good stewards of the funds in their care, they galvanized support of people who cared about the mission.
If you want to read about the social media crisis I caused, read this! Just so you know I am not above controversy! And that I survived. The big lesson I learned. People talk. It’s what I do, it’s what you do. And the stories people share are a reflection of an experience through their lenses. It happens but if you are honest, transparent and trust your supporters with the truth, you will survive.
If you want to learn more about how to create a culture that CONNECTS with like-minded people so you can attract new supporters to your organization and raise more money, HIT ME UP! I am happy to take a deep dive into your current marketing efforts and give you some guidance on how to be more effective.
The most effective way, and inexpensive, to market your nonprofit is to share stories. Stories create credibility and energy around your organization, a “buzz” because people are talking about you. They key to telling stories is to understand what a story is, how to cultivate it and how it can create more action and energy around your nonprofit.
What is a story?
Stories are memories we share. Memories are experiences we’ve had combined with emotion. When emotions meet experiences, they become significant in our brain and stay. You’ve had experiences you don’t remember and feelings too. Combined, they form memories. When we share memories, it’s a story.
EXPERIENCE + EMOTIONS = MEMORY = STORY
Why do we need stories?
Stories allow you to share your memories and connect with others. They help you make sense of those experiences and emotions. Sharing a story can help you excite and inspire others and create connections between disparate audiences. .
How do stories help you market your nonprofit?
This graphic is a story cycle that shows how that happens. A story is created, then shared, then absorbed by audiences, then those audiences are compelled to take action. This is how you create “buzz” around your organization. People are talking about their memories! Then they share and more people are compelled to action. Then the cycle goes on and grows, and so does your organization’s influence.
CREATE - DELIVER - ABSORB - EXPERIENCE
Think about this in your own life. You see a movie or read a book, you meet someone and between that experience and emotion (love or hate), you share the story of that memory. The listener absorbs and can buy the book, see the movie, meet the person…or not.
How to create a culture that values stories
Focus on listening. I love to tell a good story AND I love to hear them. Listening to other’s stories is key to experiencing their full humanity. Tell stories in meetings, at events, and encourage stories as you move through the day. Ask for stories: “Tell me something that’s going well for you?” “What’s a great memory you’ve had this summer?” Be curious and listen.
Encourage memory creation. Stories need experiences and emotion. When was the last time your board meeting created a memory that could be shared? How can you make sure your stakeholders have those memories that they will want to share? Think about how you can create memories in all you do. How can your events or meetings or volunteer activities create memories worth sharing?
Empower sharing. Encourage others to share experiences with their circles of influence. Staff, board, volunteers, program participants and donors can all share their memories. When we make our events, our meetings, or our interactions memorable, then the stories will get shared.
Stories are the most reliable way to market, so use them! When others outside your organization share a story, it comes with so much more credibility because it authentic sharing. Focus on making memories and sharing those stories, and grow your visibility, connections and engagement.
Next time: what to do if the story is negative and it is the last thing you want shared.
Do you want a way to achieve your nonprofit’s goals through marketing? Then you need a plan to do that! So I am “throwing open the kimono” as my friend and client Rob Boyle would say, and showing you how it is done!
Having a plan is critical to achieving your goals. A battle plan rarely survives contact with the enemy, and a marketing plan rarely survives the market. Yet your success is increased because of your ability to set goals and determine the steps to achieve those goals on a yearly, quarterly, monthly and daily basis.
Here’s a template for a nonprofit marketing plan that I use with clients. Here’s how to get the most out of it.
Set as few goals as possible. The more goals you have, the less likely you are to achieve them. Focus your marketing plan on two to three goals and put the energy into achieving those.Set a goal and define an audience to reach that goal. Keep it simple and attainable.
The same goes with audiences. The less people you have to reach, the more likely you are to reach them. This template has three goals and three audiences, and that is more than enough. Fight the temptation to do it all…focus on a few things you want and go for it, then build on that success for the next year.
Be as specific as you can about your audiences. This template uses avatars so that the audience you define is summarized as one person, not a group. This keeps your messaging targeted to individuals. You are reaching out to people, not a mass. Be so specific it almost hurts. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to find them. Sometimes you want to be broad to catch as many people as possible. This makes our messages ineffective and makes it hard for us to reach the people who can really help.
To keep the plan in action, focus on the 90 day jump start. Also break down the strategies into quarterly, monthly, daily action. This keeps plans off the shelf or buried in your computer and working FOR you.
Celebrate daily action. If you are working the plan daily, the goals will happen. We tend to celebrate big milestones when the real celebration is daily, consistent action.
Use this template to keep you and your nonprofit focused on marketing to attract money, people or whatever else you need to your nonprofit.
As most of you know, my daughter Jasmine came out as transgender last summer. Because of this, she will be marching in her first Pride parade this weekend. I am so excited for her because she doesn’t go out in public much and to go out and march in a parade…well, I am so proud of her decision to step out of her comfort zone and celebrate.
The idea of what to celebrate and when and how has been the source of conversation, rumor and controversy this year. All across the country, Pride celebrations in DC, NYC and STL among others are taking a long, hard look at what is being celebrated and why.
LGBTQ is a group of letters that describes a community. I wonder how these letters came together or if the cis gender community just said, okay all you folks that are not straight, go under this umbrella. That is a lot of different experiences for one community to hold. Because of that, there is a split between LGB and the TQ.
The white LGB community wants to celebrate. Over the last years, with the passage of gay marriage, there is much to celebrate. As Pride festivals grow and the political clout of a formerly undervalued community rises, it’s a cause for celebration. Major money and mainstream politics signal a triumph for the community that worked for years, struggling, advocating and sometimes dying to be heard, seen, witnessed and valued. Let’s party! We’ve arrived!
Then there are the other letters, the TQ. Transgender and queer communities, and LGBTQ communities of color, are struggling, especially in the current political climate. Yes gay marriage is legal and gay culture is moving mainstream, yet there are so many who are hurting and dying. Transgender status in the military is day to day. Seems like almost everyday I read the murder of another trans woman of color. Homelessness, suicide and violence toward TQ community is more than ever. So the TQ group is saying, “Hey not so fast. We are not thriving with you. Yes, let’s celebrate AND ALSO acknowledge the work yet to do.”
One screams, “Be with us and celebrate our progress!” The other says, “When you center the most marginalized of us, then we will have progress.”
So as one part of a community gains privilege, what do we do with the other part? I am not saying the world is rosy for the LGBs, that all is solved. Yet, we must acknowledge that tides have turned, and the climate has improved.
Initially, when Metro Trans Umbrella Group was asked to be parade marshal, along with members of the trans community, the answer was yes, with the condition that police officers march in the parade without uniforms, to acknowledge that police presence in trans community is complicated at best and often violent. Initially, the answer from the Pride St. Louis group was yes, then after some discussion with city officials, was no. Many in the LGB community wanted police in uniform because it demonstrates visibility and acceptance. The people who were our tormentors are now one of us! That’s a major victory.
The conversation about the role of police presence in the parade re-started a conversation that has been happening for years.
The Pride folks moved the parade downtown, and grew the event and its power to raise money into a bigger celebration. This prompted an alternate festival in Tower Grove Park free of corporate sponsorship.
Then there’s the Gateway Mens Chorus, a voice for gay men for decades to celebrate their culture in song and a safe space to perform. Now there is the Black Tulip Chorale that is open to all LGBTQ.
A few years ago, Black Lives Matter and Black Pride STL were shouted down in the parade. Anything that takes away from the idea of the progress we celebrate, it puts a downer on the celebration.
As the world becomes more aware that there is more than straight and gay, and that those people who are living the trans and queer experience ask to be witnessed, then these conversations will happen.
These are important conversations to have. They are important to me as my transgender, black daughter navigates this world and I work to advocate for her. I am thrilled she gets to lead the parade if Metro Trans decides that’s what they want to do. Mostly I want my kid to be happy, loved and supported. As a straight, white woman, I know I am not living in these spaces. What I do know is that I hear the cries, sadness and fear from LGBTQ people of color and the transgender and queer communities. I stand with them.
In the last few days I got two unexpected gifts. One, a Stanley Cup championship T-Shirt from my friend Sonja who owns a t-shirt company, and a beautiful necklace from a colleague, Jennifer. Jennifer sent me a necklace in the MAIL with a handwritten note! The note said she loves my passion for my work and wanted me to know. Sonja brought the t-shirt by my house on her way to the championship parade so I would have it to wear for that day (and what a day it was!). I told my husband: what joy it is to receive these awesome gifts!
Today I did a meditation and it said, BE - RECEIVE - GIVE THANKS
I immediately thought of the gifts I had been giving just for, well…BEing. And I received them with grace and gratitude. This is a new skill. In the past, I would maybe have not felt worthy of unexpected gifts or the effort it took to give them. I have worked hard to be a receiver.
In nonprofit, we love to give give give give. We struggle to receive. Does this resonate with you?
And you are probably screaming at your phone or laptop right now, “OH heck no, I want more money in the door! I am happy to receive!” And I don’t doubt that. Yet sometimes we aren’t comfortable with our ability to receive. This shows up in big and small ways. Think about how well you receive on an everyday basis.
Last time someone gave you a compliment, what did you say? Did you accept the compliment and own it or did you downplay or brush it off because it made you uncomfortable?
Last time you got a gift, did you say “you shouldn’t have” or “this is too much!”
Do you turn down help at home or on the job because you don’t want to seem like you need help? You didn’t want to show weakness?
Do you downplay your accomplishments because you don’t want to appear overly confident or think you will hurt others’ feelings?
When you don’t feel worthy of receiving the small things, you are actually pushing away even bigger things that may be on their way to you.
Energetically, you are creating resistance. As a fundraiser, the energy in which you make the ask will determine the success of the ask. Actually, the energy of anything you do will determine its success. (Ever cook while you are angry? The meal is never as good.) You and the organization you serve are worthy of receiving. Just for BE-ing.
Because you want to do the best for those you serve, I know you aren’t intentionally not receiving. The idea is first you have to be open to and feel worthy of the abundance you seek to ask for it.
How can you be more open to receiving?
Practice receiving small gifts without apology. Take the door someone offers you, say thank you to the compliment without immediately downgrading yourself in the process, say yes to an offer of help.
Become aware of the resistance you may be putting up to receiving. Watch your inner monologue for stories that diminish your ability to receive. (I don’t want to be a bother. I am sure someone has asked already. I don’t want to ask for too much.)
Accept that it starts with you. When you are open to the growth you seek, then you can allow it. This can be personally or organizationally because, guess what, our orgs are made up of people. So in order to raise more as an organization, you need to explore your individual attitudes toward receiving.
These are tools I practice every day, and I encourage you to do it too.
I am not saying don’t be a giving and caring person. The philosophy I live by is to always be serving and giving value. I want to serve others. That’s why I do what I do. The other part of the equation can be harder to access. It is easy to give because it makes us feel so good, the harder part is feeling worthy enough to receive. Feeling as good receiving as giving.
So next time you get a compliment, or a gift, or someone says, “Let me get the check,” you say: “Thank you!” and feel what it feels like to own that fully and wholly. Don’t fight it off. Just receive. Then give thanks.
BE - RECEIVE - GIVE THANKS
It really is that simple.
If you want to learn how your organization can receive more…attention, energy, donors, funds, schedule an attraction audit with me and we can do a deep dive into your blocks and how to connect you to more of what you need for those you serve.
I got asked a great question and I want to share it.
A colleague said they were developing a website and there was tension between fundraising and marketing over fundraising content and program content. The fundraisers wanted every page to have a testimonial and an ask, and the marketing people thought that was too much, considering that some of the content was very focused on the families they serve.
So who is right?
Oh man, if I had a new pair of shoes for every time I heard about tension between fundraising and marketing. I would have a lot of shoes. Oh wait…
Anyway, here’s the the answer.
If you are building your website based on your internal needs, then you are not in the right frame of mind. Your website should be built around the needs of your audiences. The website should be to be inviting, easy to navigate and meet the needs of those you serve, whether they are program participants or funders.
Instead of “I need an ask on every page so that I can raise more money,” think: how can this website serve donors sand potential donors best? Or, “I don’t want to clutter up my program pages with fundraising content,” or, “Those fundraisers are so pushy!” switch to: How can this website help those who are in need of our services?
Putting those you serve first helps everyone align with their purpose. It helps me, too. Sharing what I know and selling my program is easy when I am not “selling” but helping people who need it and adding value to their lives. It relieves our internal and external tension.
Here’s two ways to organize your website to meet the needs of all those you serve.
This method is helpful if you have several distinct audiences and there is not much overlap between them, meaning the content for each is very different. If the audiences have different needs, organize the content by audience. STUDENTS PARENTS SPONSORS. Allowing users to self-identify then find the information they need quickly and easily is key to them getting value out of your site.
If you have audiences and they have some overlap, then organization by action. LEARN ENROLL VISIT DONATE. Think about what you want people to DO when they get to the site, then organize content by this.
it is tempting to organize your website to reflect how your nonprofit is organized because that’s system you understand. It takes a bit more work to understand the needs of your audiences but that’s who you are building the site for, so it is worth it.
In short, make sure everything you do gives value to those you serve. And that everyone else in your organization is too, When that is your focus, decisions are clear.
If you like what you see and want more from me, go to www.attractionaudit.com and schedule a time to talk. I am here to serve, not sell. We will figure it out together and create new vision for what’s possible.
Here are some great resources for the ultra-busy, several-hat-wearing nonprofit marketer. These websites can save you that draining time in front of a computer trying to learn some new program or code that you think you can’t afford to pay an expert to do.
They can also save you money by taking simple projects in-house and replacing some gritty administrative tasks that distract you from your genius. Remember, if it is not your genius, it is not your job. Use these sites to stay in your genius zone.
www.canva.com: Canva is great for small design projects. It doesn’t replace a graphic designer to develop your visual brand, but it allows you to make visually appealing design work without high-end software like InDesign or Photoshop. Upload your brand colors, logo and any other graphic elements. Then use the many Canva templates and image to create flyers, postcard, social media graphics, etc. My favorite tool: the magic resize button. Have a 8.5×11 flyer that you need to make a postcard? Hit the magic resize button and it creates the postcard! This service is about $12/month.
www.vennage.com: Vennage is Canva for infographics. It lets you browse infographic templates by eight different types, including statistical, informational, comparison and geographic. There are tons of icons and illustrations. If you need to make charts, graphs or want to create an infographic poster, Vennage can do it. There’s a free subscription and if that’s not enough, a low-cost paid plan.
www.trint.com: Trint is a transcription service. You can upload an audio or video file and it will transcribe it into a Word document. It costs about $15 for a transcription. A methodology I teach for developing web or social media content quickly is to start with video. Instead of writing an article, make a video with the article content, upload to Trint, then massage that transcript into an article. The benefits of this are that you can create a video and a companion article in about 45 minutes and video is digital marketing magic. Putting video with an article will give you a lot more exposure. Resist the temptation to transcribe “because you can.” Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your time.
www.upwork.com: Upwork is a freelancing site. You can get support on anything from administration to accounting to coding. Most of the freelancers are overseas and work for much less than you would pay in the US. You can decide if that works or is appropriate for you or not. To use Upwork, create an account and post a job. You will get freelancers applying for that job. You can review the applicants and select someone to do the job. You can also hire a person again and develop a longer-term relationship. I use Upwork when I need help with my website that requires coding. There are experts at almost anything you need at Upwork.
www.fiverr.com: Fiverr is like Upwork but leans more toward creative work, with the minimum price at $5. You can get social media, design, video or audio work done on Fiverr and usually for very little money. I use Fiverr when I make a video. For $30, a video editor creates a slide intro and outro and adds music. Once I found someone who could do the work, I didn’t post the job, just hired that person to do it. It is possible to build longer-term relationships on both Fiverr and Upwork.
www.answerthepublic.com: If are spending a lot of time trying to come up with content ideas, go to Answer the Public. Type in the keywords for your organization to see questions people ask. This site is a goldmine of good ideas that will stimulate your thinking around content ideas. (PS Don’t let the creepy guy with the “come at me bro” look on his face scare you.)
www.SEMrush.com: SEMrush is a huge website for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) diehards. The free account gives you 10 searches a day; that is probably more than enough. The most important feature is the Keyword Magic Tool under the Keyword Analytics tab. Experiment with different keywords to find the most popular words. Using the right keywords means being more findable to new audiences. Remember, you want to use your audience’s language and not yours. For instance, say your organization uses “specialized learning” instead of “special education” to decrease the stigma. Totally understandable, except that those words are not what your audiences is using. Use their language to connect with them and then teach them yours. By way of example, “specialized learning” was searched only 90 times/month while “special education” was searched 12,100 times/month. So using keywords is key to increasing the visibility of your organization.
www.doodly.com: You know those cool videos where magic hands draw illustrations? If you would love to have that but can’t afford it, try Doodly. Costs vary depending on the plan. I tried a Doodly video; you can see it here. It took me a few hours to make. I use this video in webinars and in social media so it was worth the time investment. I did use some illustrations from Canva and brought them over.
www.wordart.com: We have all seen the word clouds that make lists of words into pretty graphics. Here’s something to try: Go to your organization’s website, select All and hit Copy. Then go to Wordart, hit the Create button, then Import and Paste Content. It allows you to easily see the words used most often, and to assess if these words are aligned with your keyword research.
That’s what Robin Phillips, chief executive officer of Child Care Aware of Missouri, told me about their messaging. For organizations that advocate and support those who provide direct services, the story is often hard to tell. I get it. Sometimes it is hard to find the "sexy”….that emotional pull that breaks through, gets attention and attracts you to new donors when your work is policy, advocacy, and systems change.
“We have struggled with this for years. If you can help us solve this, it would be huge. “
I knew the sexy was in there.
Because the staff at Child Care Aware is committed, passionate, bold, driven and relentless in their pursuit of making every day a kid in Missouri spends in child care a good one.
All this passion and devotion was lost in the marketing materials.
All branding and messaging does is close the gap between who you really are and how you present yourself. And there was a gap that made them look a little dry and tame when what they are are innovators and change agents.
So, when Robin asked if I could help, I knew I had the system for creating messaging as bold and engaging as the work they do. We schedule a half-day superstar fundraising on-site training to develop a tagline and new messaging so how they look and talk about themselves represents their authentic organizational personality.
I told them, “The creativity and the answers are in you. I am the vessel that brings it out.”
We started with a full-staff group and I led a discovery session. This hour conversation got to the heart of their strengths and their organizational personality. And what a personality emerged. This is a group of devoted champions of children with a deep belief in the importance of early childhood education. Now, to capture that in a main message and description. After discovery, we broke into a smaller leadership team to create the messaging.
By the end of the time together, barely under 4 hours, we came up with a main message and an agency description that reflects their personality, evokes emotion and gives them clarity and ease when talking about the organization. And they did it. It was their ideas, their words….I gave them the time, space and process to bring it out of them.
Child Care Aware of Missouri 2000 days to make a difference
They had the 2000 days idea because that is the 0-5 years that are so critical. And they liked that the tagline invoked a questions or probing. It feels bold and different, like they are.
Here’s the agency description, so when people ask, “What do you do?” you don’t give a laundry list of programs, you give a concise description.
“We work to create the best outcomes possible for children in child care so they can realize their fullest potential.”
Years of not understanding how to talk about what they do was gone in a day because they had a process to unearth those ideas. When I say I am a vessel and I am bringing the answers out of you, I mean it. When I am working with a group and we are creating together, my body vibrates at a higher level. I can feel their energy.
From Robin and Child Care Aware: “What an eye opening day! Maryanne took our entire team through a discovery phase to help us bridge the gap between our untapped, potential donors and brand recognition of our organization. She then led our leadership team into a deeper dive to help us get out of our own way so we could discover what we already knew to create messages to reflect our agency’s personality!! Maryanne ROCKS!! We accomplished so much in just a few short hours!!”
If you want this for your organization, half day sessions are $1,500 and full day is $2,500. A full day will walk you through all 8 steps and give you a complete marketing plan at the end. In a day. A new tagline in a day for $1,500? Yep! A marketing plan for $2,500? Yep. And like Child Care Aware, it will be from you and you will have more ownership of the outcome, and get lots of training for you to use as you implement.
can’t explain what organization because it does so many things
can’t tell your story in a way that generates excitement and engagement
want to attract more like-minded donors to you to raise more money
these trainings can help. Go to attractionaudit.com and schedule a time to talk about your struggles and your goals. Fundraising starts with telling your story effectively so get started today.
In the last three weeks, I have been in conversations with nonprofit professionals and have heard the same message.
“Our (my) nonprofit does not value marketing. We (they) don’t understand why it is important.”
I have a physical reaction when I hear these words. It HURTS!
Because how can you fundraise if no one knows who you are? How can you find money, volunteers, students, followers, foster parents, or whatever you need if you don’t have a system for attracting like-minded people to you?
I say that in the Thanksgiving table of our economy, nonprofits are at the kids’s table. And in the Thanksgiving table of nonprofits marketing and communications is often at the kids’ table.
Because marketing folks may not be asking for money, they are not seen as important.
As if donors appear magically. They don’t. They appear with a focused, sustained effort to communicate your mission and vision to attract like-minded people.
This graphic is the Loyalty Index to show the pipeline of bringing people into your organization. (You might have seen it in my book.)
Audiences need to know who you are and have a positive impression of you, so they have a reason to initiate contact. And when they do, they need a reason to not only make that first contact, but to make a second contact to become repeat participants. That’s the job of marketing and fundraising. Those two disciplines create a system that is mutually supportive.
I see organizations whose marketing and fundraising people are at odds or are working in silos. Now you can see from the Loyalty Index that they are serving the same system of attraction. Not working together and valuing each other is costing them money.
All my Superstar Fundraising course teaches you is a methodology to feed that pipeline so people are becoming aware, learning more and taking action. And as a by-product, teaching everyone in your organization the value of marketing.
Marketing effectively is key to raising money. Telling your story effectively is key to raising money.
TRUE STORY. Melanie Scheetz at Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition said to me at their 30th anniversary luncheon, “We were able to grow so fast because you taught us how to tell our story.” Their ability to market themselves effectively was key to finding and keeping major donors.
So if you want to grow, if you want to raise more, do more, create better outcomes…focus on your marketing!