Your Three-Step Spring Marketing Detox

In a 2015 study, 60% of working professionals report that their productivity suffers because they’re trying to tackle too many things at once.1

That’s a lot of over-busy people who are still disappointed by what they haven’t accomplished!

Are you one of them?

Is your to-do list never ending? Your desk overflowing? Are you weighed down by a heap of unfinished (or unstarted projects)?
From emails to appointments, an endless parade of time-sucking tasks have cluttered our lives and clouded our vision.

When you’re distracted by urgent needs and pending deadlines, you might never get to the high-payoff project that’s been waiting months — or even years — for you to address.

But right now it’s the perfect time to clean out and get focused!

Whether you draw your inspiration from the warm weather’s call to spring cleaning, the tradition of sweeping the chametz from your cabinets for Passover, or the idea of renewal every Easter, there’s something in the human spirit that craves a regular reset.

Here’s a three-step spring detox for your marketing to-do list:


1. Eliminate

First, take an honest look at your list and eliminate anything that really isn’t a priority, doesn’t have a worthwhile payoff, or has been on your list so long that it’s no longer relevant.

Just this week Beth led a social media training session for a group of nonprofits in New Jersey. When she told them they didn’t have to “Be Everywhere” the group let out a collective sigh of relief. And with the assurance that they didn’t have to do everything, they asked, “how do we know if what we are doing is worth the effort?”

Good question. So here are a few more you can ask to find out if it’s time to let it go:
• Are you reaching and holding the interest of your primary audience?
• Can you demonstrate that what you are doing is moving directly or indirectly toward a desirable action?
• Do you know which of your strategic goals that activity supports?

If you are not sure, it may be time to put that project on hold until you do.

Feeling lighter already? Great!

Now for the dreaded eight-letter word:


2. Delegate

Accept that you can’t do it all. If projects are stuck but can’t be eliminated, then you need to get help. A list of work backing up adds stress that can impact your ability to make progress on anything.

First decide what on your list can be handled by someone else. Accept that they won’t do it exactly the way you would and identify projects where done is more important than perfect. Indecision frequently causes more damage than a wrong decision.

In some cases, you might be able to delegate down (or across) to a subordinate, coworker, volunteer or intern. In others, (and this one’s trickier), the project might be languishing because it really needs to be delegated up the reporting chain.

If you’re finding it difficult to delegate down or delegate up, you might discover that you’re dealing with a project that you should delegate out.

Which leads us to our next step…


3. Evaluate

Do you lack someone on your team with the right skillset to complete the project? Are you short on the time or the expertise needed to manage the process?

It would be a ridiculous waste of resources to maintain a staff that encompasses every imaginable skillset your organization could ever need. But sometimes projects get delayed when the right person isn’t available to take it on.

It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll encounter projects that you’d be better off delegating out.

Going outside for help increases your capacity without increasing your overhead. Not to mention that a specialist will get the job done faster and better than anyone juggling multiple priorities.

Outside help can come in many forms. It might be developing an ambassador program to help spread the word. It could be collaboration with another organization that has resources you can share. Or it could mean hiring experts to handle the task.

What opportunities are passing by while your message isn’t supporting your new strategy, your website isn’t working the way you want or that campaign you imagine is still in your head?

If there is a project that is stuck, let’s talk. We can help you leap forward this spring.

1 Wrike 2015 Work Management Survey Report. Retrieved from

The Path to Participation: Five Steps to Inspiring Action

As old man winter swept through with a final hurrah, shovels and snow blowers across the country have been working overtime clearing paths in the snow.

But today we’re going to talk about a different kind of path — the kind that leads people to take action. The path to participation.

Participation can mean different things to different organizations — whether it’s getting people to donate, advocate or volunteer. What matters is that people are taking the important actions you need for your organization to thrive.

In our work, we’ve identified five steps on the path to participation to help you attract the right people and get them more deeply involved:


Didn’t pay your cell phone bill? Don’t expect your phone to ring! The same thing applies when you’re trying to attract people to your cause. If there’s no connection, your audience can’t answer.

To get that line hot, it helps to start with a little self-reflection…

First, identify the URGENT and IMPORTANT need your organization tackles.

Do you address childhood hunger — or the fact that three-year-old Jane will have nothing to eat today?

Do you work to protect the environment — or are you trying to stop deforestation in your county or there will be no owls left in two years?

Do you help low-income students get a great education — or are you helping Jack learn to read before he loses interest in school like his brother who already dropped out?

Get the picture? It’s about vividly positioning the outcome of your work.

Next, think about what makes you uniquely able to deliver the solution.

Do you have first-hand knowledge of the situation in a particular geographic area? Experience with a certain sub-species of bird? Are you the only organization that offers 24-hour services in your sector?

Look for parameters can you put around your work that make you the one-and-only.

Once you’re clear on what urgent important needs you’re uniquely positioned to solve — things you’re proud your organization does better than any other — you’re ready to create a connection using messages, images and experiences that move your readers.

But to do that, you need to….


If you’re afraid of dogs and allergic to cats, are you going to feel a strong inclination to support your local animal shelter? No matter what the messaging, the shelter’s time and money would be better spent wooing animal lovers.

It’s time to stop doing everything for everyone. Save your energy and effort for where it’s likely to pay dividends, and then laser-focus on what will help you connect with those people you want to reach.

The critical first step is to create a profile of your “perfect” person. And be specific. Don’t just stop at demographics like name and age. Get into her hopes and dreams.

Now imagine you’re speaking directly to this perfect person every time you write a letter, choose a website photo or post to social media. Let that image guide you.

You’ll find this approach shapes which of your projects you talk about, what details you include, who you profile, even what channels you use.


When your supporters donate money, give of their time, or otherwise advance your organization’s mission, it’s not really about you. They’re pursing their dreams for the world they want to see. You’re job is to make it a reality.

Everything you say and do should reflect this reality by putting your audience at the center of the action.

You can check to see whether your messaging is all about your supporters by watching your pronouns. Take some copy from your website, your newsletter, or your last fundraising letter, and highlight every time you use “we/us/our,” and flip it to “you/your.”

For example…

Organization-centered: Dear audience, We did this. We changed this. We need donations to…

Becomes audience-centered: Dear audience, You made this happen. When you volunteered, you changed this. Your gift if critical because…

See how YOU’VE made YOUR audience central to YOUR story?


So far you’ve connected with and engaged your target audience. But if they don’t actually DO anything — share with a friend, make a donation, sign up to volunteer — they’re not participating in bringing your mission to life.

Your audience moves from engagement to participation when you help them take ACTION.

We live in a world overloaded with information, decisions and distractions. To overcome these barriers to participation, your audience needs you to focus their attention.

So stop serving your audience an overwhelming buffet of action options. Instead, offer your supporters a chef-selected entrée you know your perfect person will find appealing.

Your gut (or your board) may push you to ask your community to tutor, sponsor a child, provide snacks during the school year or call their senators, all in one letter sent to everyone. Too many choices usually lead to no choice. Pick the one action that is most valuable to you right now and most moving to your intended audience. Focus on really driving the message home with a stirring story your perfect person will readily react to.

“The key is not always to market the biggest effort you are doing but what you are doing that most connects with your audience,” advises Jeff Miles, Director of Development of the Keystone Opportunity Center.


You might not get someone to participate through your first round of efforts. And even if you do, don’t expect an encore performance without ongoing outreach on your part.

As Sarah Gilman, Director of the National Resource Center on Lupus aptly put it, “For motivation to progress to action, repetition is required.”

Here are some of our favorite ongoing strategies:

Date your audience

Most people don’t get married on their first date. (Well, unless they happened to be in Vegas.) Relationships tend to progress through various levels of commitment before a couple says “I do.”

Take a similar approach to your relationship with your audience by inviting them to participate in stages.

One of our favorite ways to do this is through an email welcome series. When someone first signs up for your newsletter or takes some initial action, you can invite them more completely into your fold through a series of automated specialized emails that cater to their interests and invite future actions based on previous activity.

Work your thank you pages

Once someone’s made a donation or filled out a form on your website, don’t forget to work your thank you pages to create a deeper connection or a second action, whether that means sending them to your social sites, sharing a video, highlighting special content for them or giving them something special.


Use your data to look for inspiration and identify what’s working.

Was one campaign particularly successful? Experiment to see if you can identify the secret ingredient and incorporate it into future efforts.

Split your email list in half and see if you get better results sending out your appeal on different days of the week. Then try again with different subject lines.

The possibilities are endless. But you won’t know what works for your organization and your perfect person unless you try out new strategies.

Feed the connection

All this repetition takes us back to the beginning —pay your audience dues so you don’t get cut off!

Continuing to ask, ask, ask will only disillusion your participants, no matter how “perfect” they are.

When you remember to ooze gratitude and focus on delighting and amazing your audience, they’ll be more likely to take action the next time you ask them to participate.

Converting Information into Inspiration for Compassion International

Compassion International’s volunteer mobilization team had an amazing year. At their kick off meeting for 2017, Mike Lenda, National Director of Mobilization and Engagement wanted to thank his team and celebrate their accomplishments.

And quite a lot of accomplishments there were. So the challenge became: how to convert all of that information into inspiration for the team as they began the New Year.

Oh – and it had to be aligned with their brand…and finished in a week!

There wasn’t time for data visualization or much illustration. We had to work with the copy and find a way to organize and present it effectively.

We started by grouping the data into digestible, related chunks. We looked for groups of content that could be organized as a category. Then we made sure it had a flow from one section to another.

We then did some research on their website to understand their style, key message, brand language, colors and visual hooks. We incorporated those as we edited the copy and designed illustrations for each section.

You can use this idea in your own organization to thank your staff, board or volunteers. You could create a one page annual report, gratitude report or impact report. Your donors, volunteers and grantors want to know what you’ve been doing. Don’t waste their attention with a boring word document. Turn your accomplishments into an asset for connection!

Are you ready to get started converting your information into inspiration?

We have a few tools to help you:

  • In March we’ll be running a follow up to that Master Class that will teach you (in a live demo) how to use some of the best online tools to create your own infographics.
  • Or, you can always give us a call and have us do it for you. That’s what we’re here for!

Aligning Design with Your Personality

A spark of sunshine broke through our dark days of winter last month at Iris Creative when we received this totally cool, completely entertaining annual report email from our email marketing provider MailChimp.

The report is creative. It’s fun. It’s original. It’s one of those pieces that gets your wheels turning out ways you can craft your own engaging, original piece to really draw in your audience.

And we’ve been working with clients long enough to already guess what you’re thinking.

“That is so cool!” you say. “I wish we could do something like that.”

“But,” you balk, “it’s just not us (our audience / our CEO / our board).”

Well, we’re here to tell you: You can do something special and engaging without stepping out of your brand’s character!

Let’s take a look at some of the brand-appropriate ways you can make your own information-laden pieces shine — from annual reports to public health messages.


The Visual Trend

People are busy these days. And they’re swamped by the sheer volume of information they have to process — from constantly buzzing phones to overflowing inboxes.

Scholars haven’t dubbed our era the Information Age for nothing.

That’s why finding ways to simplify your message — while remaining true to your brand and your voice — is becoming ever more important to cut through the clutter.

And that’s where MailChimp gets it right.

Sure some of the stats they share are off-the-wall. Yes, the drawings and animations are whimsical. And maybe that’s not you.

But they convey a lot of information without using a lot of words. And that’s the example we can all learn from, no matter what our brand’s personality.


Your True Colors

To help us organize our discussion, we picked one of the millions of models out there that you can use to talk about your brand’s personality. We liked Jennifer Aaker’s, which divides organizations into five categories that emphasize one of the following brand traits:

  • Excitement (daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date)
  • Sincerity (down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful)
  • Competence (reliable, intelligent, successful)
  • Ruggedness (outdoorsy, tough)
  • Sophistication (upper class, charming)

Don’t get too caught up in the categories here. The important thing is to see how MailChimp’s visual approach can be adapted across many different brand personalities.

Here we go.


If you’re daring, imaginative, exciting…

In other words, if you’re just like MailChimp…

The success of this piece starts with the type of information they chose to share. Instead of telling you how much money they made this year or the number of employees they have, they chose unique stats to tell you important things about the company:

  • 74 graduates of MCU, our internal development and growth program
    Translate: We treat our awesome employees well.
  • 4 pounds of coffee consumed by our support team per day
    Translate: We put a lot of energy into supporting our customers.
  • 13 tons of physical server infrastructure added
    Translate: We’re growing. A lot.

Most importantly, they don’t use oodles of words to convey their message. They pared the information down to just a few key phrases and got busy drawing, using a comic-strip style to literally illustrate their story.

So what does MailChimp’s approach look like if your organization if “adventurous” isn’t exactly the word that defines you?


If you’re known for sincerity, honesty, cheerfulness…

If your organization is a bit more serious, you can have success with a more straightforward approach.

Instead of telling us how much coffee your support team drinks, tell us how many American-based people answer the phones in your call center. And don’t show us a crazy comic-strip drawing of a monkey talking into a banana — use an actual photo of your call team at work — or better yet, take a photo of your people at iconic places in your town to reinforce your “localness” if that’s important to your audience.

There are lots of examples out there of serious organizations that effectively use a visual approach to convey their messages in an interesting way.

A winner in this category is the USDA’s Choose My Plate campaign at

No amount of words can beat this graphical depiction of a balanced meal.

The information is easy to digest. (Sorry, pun intended!) And it makes the behavior they’re trying to encourage easy to replicate.

Another good one is this infographic from the food brand Kashi that explains why the company uses ingredients from farms in the midst of the process of going organic. They introduce the consumer to an entirely new concept and its benefits through a highly graphical representation.

It’s not daring or silly — it’s completely down-to-earth and sincere. But it’s totally visual, just like MailChimp’s annual report.


If you’re competent, reliable, intelligent, successful…

If reliability is your brand’s primary personality trait, your approach will be similar in style to the sincere organizations, but perhaps a little less cheery and a little more polished.

Going graphical can be even more important in this category if you need to help your readers understand complex ideas or data.

A lot of the information that the Centers for Disease Control puts out falls into this category. Take for example how they illustrate the way the International Health Regulations work.

Banks also provide great examples of “reliable” brands presenting their information infographically as well, like this one from TD Bank illustrating their healthcare survey results.


If you’re rugged, outdoorsy, tough…

Think all the examples you’ve seen to this point are too colorful, corporate or cute to really translate to your rugged brand?

Industrial equipment company Grainger show that visual representations of information can be rugged and tough, too. They partnered with NASCAR on this series of infographics that are clearly designed to delight their consumers. And only one includes any link to their products. The series is a great example of positioning your organization by aligning with things your community already loves.

John Deere used visualized instructions to reinforce proper use of their products. When you are tying to keep people safe, images are faster, easier and more likely to be followed than written instructions.


If you’re sophisticated, classy and high end….

This is the trickiest one of all, and it’s pretty much MailChimp’s polar opposite.

In our experience, it’s much harder to find highly “sophisticated” exclusive brands using the same type of visual approach we saw with the other personality types.

But visual communication is not limited to communicating instructions or information. You’ll find that these brands often use the fewest words of all in their overall communications, relying instead on gorgeous photography and one or two choice phrases to make their point.

Take a look at this brochure from Ferrari. It’s 36 pages of stunning photos and only 6 pages have even a single word.

And, in probably my favorite example ever of the battle between visual impact and wordy explanation, I give you this classic YouTube viral video from 2006 “Microsoft Designs the iPod Box”. Hard to believe it’s been 11 years since this was the cutting edge!

As a designer myself, I still find this video hilarious. And the story it tells is just as relevant today. Rumor has it some frustrated Microsoft employees were the masterminds behind this gem.

This is so funny precisely because Apple is known for it’s visual communication.

Organizations that want to embody sophistication absolutely work the fewer-words, more-images angle, even if it shows up in a drastically different way.


Finding ideas everywhere

We hope we’ve shown you that even the wildest of annual reports can get your own organization’s creative juices flowing, no matter what your organization’s personality.

MailChimp stirred ours.

Where will your next great idea come from?

Mobilizing a City to Plan America’s 250th Birthday Bash


America’s turning 250 in 2026! And an occasion like that deserves an epic party.

USA250, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, is building a coalition to develop plans for honoring the country’s Semiquincentennial, with America’s birthplace as the hub of the festivities. The idea is for Philadelphia to be the center of activity for the year — producing and hosting seminal events throughout 2026. Think All Star Games, the Super Bowl, special exhibits at all the museums and compelling public events.

To begin building momentum, the USA250 hosted Toast250, a kickoff party to bring stakeholders to the table.

We’re not sure who had more fun — the partygoers that evening, or our graphic design team while creating the event brand!


To help make Toast250 a smashing success, we designed a suite of event materials starting with a re-design of the Toast250 logo.

We continued with an invitation package, an email banner, web graphics, social media images, event signage elements and a photo backdrop of Independence Hall.


We also worked with our client to provide a design that allowed him to update digital invitations and print small batches on the fly. That way he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to bring someone new into the fold.

Here’s to 2026 in Philadelphia!

Do you have an event you’d like to make extra special? Let’s talk before your to-do list makes you feel like you’re 250!

How a Holiday Became an Annual Movement, and What you can Learn From it


On Monday, January 16, countless people across the country are expected to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in service to their communities.

But that wasn’t always the case.

So how did the holiday grow so rapidly into massive movement of civic engagement?

After a significant struggle, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday was signed into law in 1983 and first observed in 1986. Later, in 1994, Congress designated MLK Day as a national day of service, appointing the Corporation for National & Community Service, a federal agency, to lead the effort.

Soon more organized initiatives began popping up across the country to mobilize diverse volunteer efforts. Today the day is widely known as “a day on, not a day off” that its proponents dreamed it would be.

What can you learn from this impressive movement to help you effect change and inspire action within you own community?

Here are some of key elements we think contributed to the movement’s growth.


The date and its meaning were already on people’s minds.

The MLK Day of Service movement built upon an established foundation of shared ideals, a powerful history, and a date already printed on standard calendars.

Even before the federal holiday was established on the third Monday of January, many already celebrated Dr. King’s birthday on January 15th.

There’s a lot to be said about overcoming people’s inertia by organizing around something that’s already familiar.


There’s a clear connection between the holiday and the effort.

When Coretta Scott King testified before Congress to have the MLK federal holiday designated a day of humanitarian service, she quoted one of Dr. King’s famous statements:

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

There is a clear and obvious link between Dr. King’s legacy and encouraging people to engage in community service that breaks down barriers and builds a land where people live in peace, dignity and equality.


People persevered.

Dedicated organizers across the country persevered year after year to grow the movement. (And before them, dedicated people persevered year after year to have the federal holiday recognized to begin with!)

The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, the nation’s largest MLK Day event, started with only 1,000 volunteers in 1996. Now, over 20 years later, that number has grown to 140,0000!

This was certainly not a one-and-done event.


The movement is bigger than any one organization or person.

A broad coalition has collaborated to make the MLK Day of Service a success.

While some organizations directly connect volunteers with a wide range of service opportunities, large-scale organizers like the Corporation for National & Community Service and the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service also provide resources and tools to help other groups get their own projects off the ground and spread the word.

By working together, organizations can reach a wider audience — and benefit from each other’s areas of expertise.



The MLK Day of Service offers a number of insights into mobilizing action and raising awareness to effect change. How can you put this to work by tweaking it for your own community?

One obvious way would be to organize your own MLK Day of Service effort, geared toward the issue your organization addresses that make the nation a more just place.

But can other holidays throughout the year be used to inspire action, too?


One successful example is the Giving Tuesday movement, an effort that encourages people to break out their wallets to do good while their credit cards are still warm from Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

For more tips on making the most of Giving Tuesday, check out the Cyber Tuesday episodes of our Driving Participation podcast, including Episode 28 – Starting a Movement and Building Momentum and Episode 83 – Evolving #GivingTuesday.

Remember that it’s easier to gain traction around a date that’s already well established. And there should be a clear link between the holiday and your effort — like candy and cavities, the connection between National Brush Day on November 1st and Halloween the day before.

You can listen to our conversation with Abigail Quesinberry’s about her work with the Ad Council to create National Brush Day here.

Our other favorites include the American Heart Association’s multiple efforts in February that ride the tide of Valentine’s Day, like National Wear Red Day. Another great one is the Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Grave Digger’s Ball, which ties into Halloween to raise funds for the National Historic Landmark.

(Of course, if establishing an entirely new holiday in its own right is part of your mission, don’t let us stop you. Someone had to push for the creation of the MLK federal holiday to begin with!)

Don’t be discouraged if your first year starts small. Look for other organizations that might make logical partners, and keep at it. Soon your audience will begin to remember you each year as the day approaches! Consistent work over time pays off — often better than a big splash at the outset does.

Finally, there’s never better spokespeople than your own supporters. Get them involved to move you forward.



For more information, check out the following Driving Participation Podcasts, including transcripts and links to the audio recordings on iTunes:

Episode 13 – Turning Online Events into a Party for your Cause

Episode 17 – The Real Reach of Social Media with Abigail Quesinberry

Episode 22 – Manufacturing Viral Campaigns

Episode 28 – Starting a Movement and Building Momentum

Episode 70 – Using #GivingTuesday as a Launchpad for Growing Your Audience

Episode 79 – A #GivingTuesday Resource Roundup from our Podcast Guests

Episode 83 – Evolving #GivingTuesday

Episode 87 – Mastering Online Social Fundraising Using Content Marketing


Subscribe to Driving Participation in iTunes.

Or sign up here to have future episodes of Driving Participation delivered to your inbox!

Creating a Warm Welcome to XPN


This summer we helped National Public Radio station, WXPN (XPN) build a better connection with new subscribers who attended their free Latin music festival.

The station has been adding Latin content to their broadcast lineup for some time and last year launched NUEVOFEST, an incredible free Latin music festival.

NUEVOFEST attracts many who are new to XPN. The station wanted a way to connect this new audience to XPN content and move them towards membership.

They have an excellent and regular e-news, but that content is broad and covers their whole audience. How can you help new audiences get to know you while giving them exactly what they want? Here’s how we did it…

The time in between someone signing up and receiving their first e-newsletter is a powerful time. They are never more engaged then right after they have had a positive experience.

For most organizations what happens in this time is — well, nothing. It’s a valley of silence. Depending on when they subscribed to your list, registered for or attended an event, the next communication could be days or weeks away. And with NUEVOFEST’s attendees, many of the people getting that first e-news wouldn’t connect the station to the event they attended.


But you can fix that with a welcome email series.

Before these readers started receiving WXPN’s regular e-news, invitations to other events or an ask to become a member, we built rapport with them over a shared interest. By creating a series of emails designed to show them how the station is the perfect place to support their love of Latin music, we created a bridge to move them into the community.

Over two weeks, the six-part series revisited the fun of the free Latin music festival. The next day we shared how to access the event photos, and teased about video to come in the next email. We then pointed people to Latin-focused content and events. Near the end of the series we introduced other XPN benefits and how membership supports this programming.

We set up emails to trigger on specific days using Journey Builder in XPN’s Salesforce platform. We built everything in advance and then left placeholders so we could include elements from the live event.

Including images and links that were only available after the event definitely made the process more hectic but it was worth it to give each email a personal feel.

The strategy could be summed up as: Give. Give. Give. Give. Give. Then ask. Spending time wooing the people new to your community will help them know they are welcome and valued.

The Secret to Happy Email Subscribers


While festive celebrations dominate our days as 2016 draws to a close, the new year will be here before we know it. Now’s the time to map out a communications strategy that will keep your audience engaged the whole year through!

But as you tackle your communications calendar, don’t fall into this all-too-common trap…


Valleys of Silence

We see a lot of organizations and companies that make the same fatal mistake. They’re so concerned about losing the subscribers they’ve worked so hard to get, they actually UNDER-communicate!

Here’s how it happens.

Most organizations find they spend a lot of time asking their subscribers to take action (ahem, that is, give them money) leading up to pinnacle dates through out the year, whether it’s an event, the final day of a membership drive, the conclusion of a fundraising campaign or the end of a big sale. We call this conversion marketing, and it’s a necessary part of your overall strategy if you’re going to stay afloat.

That’s why, if you look closely, you’ll likely find that your marketing calendar is full of peaks and valleys. And that’s totally normal. There should be active selling time as well as down time.

The danger is when down time becomes dead time.

Once that event’s over or that drive has ended, organizations tend to go on radio silence. Why? People tell us all the time — they’re afraid their readers will unsubscribe if they get too many emails.

But the problem isn’t over-communicating.

It’s over-asking.

In an interview with Anne Samilov on Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast, Anne describes your relationship with your subscribers like a bank — if you keep making withdrawals without making any deposits, you’ll eventually hit zero.


The Solution: Relationship Building

Your subscribers joined your list because they want to hear from you. And people buy from people they know and like.

But when you market only to sell, you miss a critical opportunity to support, educate and bond with your community.

Instead, focus on balancing your conversion marketing with “relationship marketing,” which (you guessed it!) focuses on building a relationship with your subscribers.

You can do this by using your valleys to schedule content that’s fun, interesting, educational and personal — just because.

The key is to keep the heartbeat pulsing, even while at rest.

Here’s your step-by-step:

  1. Map out your peaks.
    These are the key dates you need to lead up to every season — the events, the campaigns, the drives, the seasonal sales.
  2. Chart your inclines.
    These are the communications you ramp up leading toward your peak. When you’re done, there should be some valleys when you’re not really sending much about those big annual goals. If there aren’t any valleys, go back and adjust your ramps to create the valleys.
  3. Fill in the valleys with relationship content.
    Your valleys are the place for your relationship content. Think about what you can share that would delight and amaze your community and keep them glad they’re involved.


Ideas for filling in the valleys

At a loss for ideas to fill in the valleys? Here are six of our favorites:

  1. Offer general gratitude.
    A thank you for buying a ticket, making a donation or completing a purchase DOESN’T COUNT — you should already be sending personal thank you’s for that anyway! In addition, say thank you at Thanksgiving. We love you on Valentine’s Day. Send a random expression of gratitude. And whenever you can, work a thank you into the ideas below.
  2. Demonstrate impact.
    Tell about the child who’s beating her disease because of your subscribers’ support. Invite a customer to talk about how he sees more beauty after taking one of your art classes. Describe the economic improvements in the village you source your product from.
  3. Share progress stories.
    Are you constructing a new building? Working to solve an issue? Trying to eradicate a disease? Share updates on the progress you’re making toward your goal.
  4. Educate your readers.
    Whether you organize conferences, sell a product or work toward the common good, you have first-hand, inside knowledge about some subject or issue. Share some of it! Organize yoga retreats? Describe your latest go-to pose and its benefits (with pictures of course!). Offer catering services? Give tips on pairing wines and cheeses for a great party.
  5. Engage your readers in advocacy.
    Are you an issue-oriented organization? Let people know when they can take action on something that matters to them or when important legislation is on the table.
  6. Reveal your process.
    Do you run a successful school? Explain one of your teachers’ effective teaching methods or walk through a typical day. Make exceptional chocolate? Tell your readers how (without revealing your recipe!). Produce stellar shows? Take people behind the scenes of a rehearsal or explain the way you go about selecting your next production.

Time to go get planning! And, as always, let us know if you want help getting this project off your plate!







Spammers are Creeping in on Fundraising

Like you, I have to weed through a ton of spam every day. Sometimes it seems like the smartest minds in technology are not at Facebook and Google but somewhere I never heard of figuring out how to get into my inbox.

Typically it’s vacations and gadgets and miracle solutions for unmentionable things. But they are smart these spammers and look for any place the money is flowing. So – as we head into fall – it’s no surprise that they’ve discovered fundraising.

Have you seen any of these? I got this one this morning:

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 11.11.50 AM

Now, the letter is awful. It’s generic and un-personalized and non-specific.

But sadly, I’ve seen a ton of legitimate fundraising letters that do exactly the same things. The one I got from my college this year wasn’t much warmer.

And even sadder – they do some things BETTER than real fundraisiers. Have you ever thought to provide screen shot directions for how to donate online? That’s actually kind of brilliant.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 12.13.37 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 12.13.49 PM

If you are relying on email to supplement (or replace) your print campaign it is time to step up your game.

  1. Generic makes you look like a spammer. I don’t know for a fact that this email is a fake organization, but it sure looks and reads like it to me. Don’t let your real organization get confused with spam. Every email system has the ability to personalize emails with the recipients name. Its one of the easiest ways to differentiate your message from spam.
  2. Make sure you are capturing first names as a field in your database. It is impossible to personalize if you don’t have the data.
  3. Use a domain-level email address. Emails from make you look like you are in a basement (or a bunker). Switching to an email that is gives back in trust much more than it costs in time and money.
  4.  Write something real. Include details, stories and images that show you know what your donors care about. That means collecting them in advance. Developing a quality appeal with no content is brutal. I’ve had to do it. If you haven’t started collecting your stories – start now. Get this guide if you need help with the process.
  5. Clean your list. People are terrified of unsubscribes. What you don’t know is low open rates are actually killing your deliverability. Email companies monitor what is happening with your list and if no one is opening it, they start to put ALL your email in the junk bin. Even for the people who want to see it. If you have people on your list that never open and never donate, its time to do a little purge. It will cut your costs and increase the effectiveness of what you do send.
  6.  Familiarity creates trust. People get a a ton of email and read it with one finger over the delete button. If you are relying it to boost your donations, developing a consistent memorable look and using it throughout your campaign will help people remember you. In traditional newspaper advertising, the rule was that it took 6-12 views of an ad for a viewer to take action. If you mail a letter, follow it up with an email series and share some posts on social that have the same story and images.
  7. Spy on the spammers. Take a look at what they are doing. What subject lines can you not resist clicking on? What makes you suspect something is spam? What makes you confident that clicking will be worth it?

You don’t want to be confused for a spammer – but you can study what they do to get your attention and use it for good.  Remember that your audience has a range of people from tech-savvy jaded millennials to my adorable 84 year-old father-in-law who still thinks I can email a physical piece of paper. You need to bring them all to a place of trust in order to win their gift.

If you could use some help building stronger connections with your campaign this year, please get in touch. Take a look at what we’ve been doing for the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind. There is still time to get help with your end of year efforts. If you need some DIY help this season, on Nonprofit Toolkit we have:









The 5 Steps to Building a Nonprofit Brand with Impact

BYBC_HeaderThe Basics of Branding for Nonprofits

Do you know that your organization is special but struggle with communicating it in a way that attracts the support you need?

Branding is a powerful tool that can change the trajectory of your organization. When done well, it can transform how you find and connect with your community.

If you have ever thought your organization needed branding but were not quite sure exactly how to get there then this is the program for you.

You’ll learn

  • The difference between a logo and a brand
  • Why your mission statement may be working against your brand
  • The easiest way to figure out who your audience really is — using information hidden in plain sight
  • The ONE form of research that reveals where you should focus your attention
  • The 5 steps you need to build your brand

Beth Brodovsky, Founder of Nonprofit Toolkit, introduces you to the ways branding will help you build momentum toward your vision.


Tuesday, July 12, 2:30PM EST
Presented by: Beth Brodovsky, Founder, Nonprofit Toolkit




Even if you can’t make it to the live presentation next week, sign up anyway. The program will be recorded, so you can watch when you are available.

You can submit your questions ahead of time, and we’ll do our best to answer them during the Q & A section of the program, so you don’t miss a thing!

See you Tuesday
~ Beth

Iris Creative Group Inc. • 451 S. Bethlehem Pike, Suite 310 • Fort Washington, PA 19034 • P: 267.468.7949
Pinterest Google+ Slideshare LinkedIn Facebook Twitter RSS"