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.

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?

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!

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

WORKSHOP: The Infographic Movement

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 1.56.38 PM

Wednesday April 27

8:30am — 10:30am

The Montgomery County Foundation, Inc.

 4 Sentry Parkway East, Suite 302
Blue Bell, PA 19422


Registration is FULL. Thank you for your interest. Make sure your are subscribed to hear about our next workshop.

As the Internet grows ever more visual, infographics seem to be everywhere. This tool for turning complex ideas into simple visuals has become a powerhouse for sharing your content across media. For something that looks so effortless when its done, it can be amazingly hard to create one yourself.

This session breaks down the infographic movement to share how you can use this tactic in your marketing. We’ll discuss the ways you can convert content you already have into visual elements as well as how to create new media from scratch. From annotated illustration to data visualization, we’ll explore the ways visual information is changing how people connect with ideas.


Learning Objectives

  • The difference between data visualization and infographics
  • How to incorporate infographics in marketing
  • Where to find opportunities in content you already have
  • What makes a compelling graphic
  • How to create your own


Beth Brodovsky helps organizations drive participation. As the president of Iris Creative Group Inc., founded in 1996, Beth is committed to developing the communication strategies, tactics and tools organizations need to get people take notice — and take action. Beth also hosts the weekly podcast Driving Participation to share ideas on what’s working in marketing and fundraising communications.


How to Make a Multichannel Fundraising Ask


Guest Post Contributed by: Abby Jarvis, Communications Coordinator at Qgiv

As clichéd as it may sound, no two donors are alike. Each of your nonprofit’s supporters has a different giving preference whether that be check, cash, credit card, or other payment method. Some enjoy giving time over money. And others like giving many small gifts over one larger donation. Just like these preferences matter to your donors, so too do the ways in which you ask for those donations. But if you have more than a few donors, it’s sometimes difficult to know which methods donors like and respond best to.

The best way to alleviate this issue is to use a multichannel fundraising approach. With the multitude of ways for your nonprofit to get in touch with donors and ask them for donations, using a multichannel fundraising approach not only makes the most sense, but is also effective at bringing in more donations for your organization and helping you acquire more supporters.

Check out these best practices for using a multichannel fundraising approach before you start asking for donations:

1. Ask your donors which method they prefer.

Before you start mailing out hundreds or thousands of direct mail appeals or hit the send button on that email campaign, talk to your existing donors and connect with them. Find out which communication methods they have liked in the past.

Your nonprofit should be constantly assessing donor preferences whenever you make donation appeals:

  1. If a donor makes a contribution online, include an option on your online donation form where they can select how they’d like to be contacted.
  2. When talking to donors one-on-one, ask them whether they’d like to receive emails, direct mail, phone calls, or a combination.
  3. Have a table at your fundraising event where donors can indicate their communication preference.
  4. Include a form in your direct mail appeals that donors can fill out expressing how they’d like to stay in touch.

Asking donors how they’d like to be reached is a good first step on the road to making multichannel fundraising asks.

2. Don’t overdo it with email.

There’s nothing worse than ending up on the email list of a company that sends too many emails. It clutters up your inbox and causes needless frustration. Many people wind up unsubscribing from those emails.

Make sure your donors aren’t unsubscribing from your emails. Sending out email appeals makes sense for many nonprofits; it’s a cost-effective and efficient way to connect with donors and ask them for contributions.

But not every email should be a request for more money. Instead, you can:

  • Update donors on current projects they’re funding.
  • Offer volunteering opportunities.
  • Promote your next event.
  • Share success stories.
  • And more!

3. Go mobile.

If you’ve been to a coffee shop, bus station, or really any public place lately, you’ve probably noticed that nearly everyone is on their cell phone. Whether they’re calling their friends to make dinner plans or using an app to find the perfect place for dinner, almost everybody has a smart phone to their ear or in their hand.

How is your nonprofit showing up on donors’ phones?

Make sure that your website is optimized for mobile and tablet use. But even more importantly, have a mobile version of your donation form. This way, donors can give even when they aren’t sitting in front of their laptops or desktops. They can even donate while waiting in line for their coffee! In the past year alone, mobile giving has increased by over 200%! Make sure you aren’t missing out on those donations.

You can also try using text-to-give. Technology has made text giving easier than ever, and your nonprofit can’t afford to miss out on this simple way to bring in donations.Donors like the ease and convenience of giving on the go. Meet that demand and go mobile!

4. Train your staff members to make better asks.

While a lot of fundraising appeals can be made through digital avenues, sometimes a good old fashioned face-to-face donation ask can be the way to go. In fact, for your major gift solicitation, in-person donation appeals are pretty much the only way to go.

But your face-to-face meetings might not go well if you don’t properly train your fundraising staff members.Training your team might mean practicing making donation asks in a group setting. It could also mean sending your staff to a fundraising conference to learn more about the latest trends and techniques.Your staff won’t be properly equipped to make those important in-person donation appeals if you don’t give them the tools they need!

5. Don’t discount direct mail.

Even though email and social media donation appeals are more cost effective, there’s still something to be said for direct mail. Many donors prefer writing out a check, placing it in an envelope, and sending it off to a nonprofit. While not all of your donors will want to go through that process, there is a significant portion of your supporters who like the physical, tangible aspect of direct mail.

Sending out direct mail letters, postcards, and other materials can be a great way to ask for donations from those donors who prefer a more traditional giving method.

6. Do some digging.

Multichannel fundraising asks may seem a bit perplexing at first. How can you determine which communication methods will work best for each donor? You could try using a crystal ball or a psychic, but the surefire way is to simply do some research.Just like past giving is a great indicator of future giving, past success with donation appeals speaks to future success.

Look back at your fundraising asks. Did a particular email campaign bring in more donations than you thought it would? Did a speaker at a fundraising event spur the crowd into action?

Whatever your big-hitting donation appeal strategies were in the past, use them for your future multichannel fundraising asks.

7. Say thank you more than once.

There’s an old proverb that says, “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” This isn’t just good advice for our personal lives; it’s also a good tip for nonprofits!Nonprofit fundraising and multichannel donation appeals aren’t just about asking for money and then walking away. You have to show your gratitude to your donors if you expect to form a lasting relationship with them. Whether your supporters make donations online, over the phone, in person, or with direct mail, you must have a comprehensive acknowledgement plan in place.

This plan might look something like this:

  1. Immediately thank a donor for their contribution. As soon as you receive the funds, you should be thanking the contributor.
  2. Send follow up information when appropriate. If a donor expressed a desire to volunteer or attend an event, get that info out as soon as possible. Use it as a way to thank the donor a second time.
  3. Acknowledge past donations in your current fundraising asks. If you send out a solicitation to a loyal supporter, mention their past contributions and give examples of how their funds are being used.

Naturally, this plan will need to be tweaked depending on how you ask for donations. The key is to express your gratitude more than once.

Multichannel fundraising asks don’t have to be complicated! By diversifying your donation appeal strategy, you’ll be able to reach more donors via their preferred communication method. Follow these seven tips and you’ll be bringing in more donations than ever!

4 Letters and Emails Your Nonprofit Should Send to Grow Your Matching Gift Revenue



Guest Post Contributed by: Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation

It doesn’t make much sense for you to walk around with only one shoe, and it certainly doesn’t make sense for your nonprofit not to talk to your donors about matching gifts. Skipping the matching gifts talk is like going out the door with only one sneaker on your foot.

But how exactly should you go about promoting matching gifts to your donors?

You’ve probably got questions, but luckily, we have answers. Read ahead for more information about matching gift communications you should be sending out to help you bring in more matching gifts than ever! Check out these four donor communications your organization needs to send out to boost your matching gift revenue.

Take a look at this article to learn how better writing translates into stronger connections with your supporters.

1. Matching Gift Reminders

Your donors might not remember to submit their matching gift requests unless your organization reminds them to do so!

Mention matching gifts in your various donor communications including:

  • Invitations to your fundraising events like school art auctions, church family fun days, or organizational dinners.
  • Newsletter updates about ongoing or completed projects.
  • Donation appeals.
  • Thank you letters.
  • Emails about volunteering opportunities.
  • And more!

Whenever you communicate with donors via letter or email, make sure that you mention matching gifts at some point. When the opportunity to double their donation is fresh in their minds, they’ll be more likely to submit requests to their employers sooner rather than later.

You can either dedicate an entire email or letter to matching gifts, or you can briefly mention it. However you choose to let donors know about matching gifts, make sure you give them a way to find more information:

  • Include links in your emails to a matching gift tool or database where donors can look up their employers’ programs.
  • Encourage direct mail recipients to talk to their employers or their HR departments to learn more about matching gifts.

The more informed donors are about matching gifts, the more likely they will be to have their donations matched!

2. Matching Gift Acknowledgements to Donors

Everyone likes feeling appreciated, and your donors are no exception! If they’ve submitted a matching gift request to their employer and you’ve verified and received the funds, send out a thank you letter or email as soon as possible.


Well, you’re already thanking donors for their contributions after they make their initial donation. But the process of submitting, verifying, and receiving a matching gift can take weeks or even months. A donor might have completely forgotten that he or she even submitted a matching donation request! By sending out a matching gift acknowledgement after you’ve received a donor’s employer’s contribution shows that you see donors (and their employers!) as more than wallets or ATMs, an important component of donor stewardship.

And if you’re sending out emails on a regular basis, check out these five ideas for increasing your open rates!

3. Matching Gift Acknowledgements to Companies

Let’s not be too quick to forget who sends the second donation to your organization! Companies and businesses deserve recognition and gratitude just like donors do.

In fact, if you’re looking to form long-term partnerships with your donors’ employers, then you absolutely need to acknowledge the donations that they send your way.

This gratitude can take several forms:

  • If one company in particular matches the donations of several of your donors, you can feature the business on your website or in your letters and emails to donors. Thank them and explain what their donations are going toward.
  • Send a formal thank you letter to the companies that match employee donations. Have a senior executive or board member sign the letter to add a personal touch.
  • Send the company email updates on what their donations have helped accomplish (P.S., this will encourage them to give in the future!).

Fundraising with matching gifts wouldn’t be possible without the help of the companies that donate those second contributions. Make sure that you’re including them in your letter and email acknowledgements and follow up communications.

4. Invitations to Special Events

Whether someone had a major gift matched by their employer or they’ve repeatedly had donations doubled, you might consider hosting a special “Matching Gift Donor Day” and sending out invitations via email and direct mail. Sending out personalized invitations is a good way to remind your donors of their past contributions and encourage them to give in the future. Previous giving is the best indicator of future donations, but sometimes your supporters just need an extra reminder.

Your special event can be a fancy, black tie affair, or a more laid back social event. However you plan on thanking your matching gift donors, make sure that their invitations adhere to the following criteria:

  1. The greeting is personalized. No one starts out a party invitation with “Dear Friend,” and your nonprofit shouldn’t begin yours with “Dear Donor.” Get personal with your supporters and take the time to make each letter begin with their preferred name.
  2. The body of the letter makes mention of their previous donations. If you have a good enough relationship with your donors to invite them to a special event, your letter or email should definitely include a reference and acknowledgement of their past support.
  3. The letter doesn’t ask for another contribution. If you send out an invitation to a special event, don’t try to sneak in an extra donation appeal. It will only make donors feel isolated and unlikely to come to your event or donate again!

Your letter and email invitations should be special, just like your matching gift donors!

There are other letters and emails that you should be sending out to all of your donors, but these four examples are a great starting point if you want to start growing your matching gift revenue. Start asking for (and receiving) matching gifts by sending out these four letters and emails as soon as you can!

3 Mission Statement Mistakes that Nonprofits Make


Guest Post Contributed by: Jack Karako, Founding Principal & Strategist at IMPACTism

Whether your organization is saving puppies and kittens, combating inequality, or improving our environment, you need a mission statement to let people know exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

Sure, supporters might spend thirty minutes looking at the “About” section on your website or flipping through a pamphlet they picked up at a fundraising event, but your mission statement will likely be the first indication individuals have of what your organization does and how you accomplish that vision.

In order to acquire new supporters and keep the ones you have, your nonprofit mission statement will need to meet a few requirements.

Take a look at your organization’s mission statement and make sure you aren’t making any of the following mistakes.


1. Your mission statement is too vague.

Consider the following hypothetical mission statement:

“We Help People.”

This sentence fails to address several questions.

  • What demographic of people is being assisted?
  • How is the nonprofit helping them?
  • What kind of support do they need from volunteers or donors?

This fake mission statement is far too vague to pack any sort of punch. Do they provide after school programs for children in under-developed areas, or do they support cancer research? It’s impossilbe to tell!

Instead, take a look at the Harmony Project’s mission statement:

“Building healthier lives and communities through music.”

This mission statement helps supporters understand what the Harmony Project does and how they accomplish that goal. If you want to engage new and existing supporters, make sure that you have a clear and specific mission statement.

For examples, check out this list of forty mission statements from all types of nonprofits.


2. Your mission statement is hiding.

If your supporters visit your website and can’t find your mission statement, you’re doing it wrong.

There are many ways to build your nonprofit’s audience, but having a bold and visible mission statement is one of the easiest and most effective tactics.

After you and your nonprofit staff have crafted a specific and effective mission statement, send it out into the world!

Place it:

  • On your website.
  • Within your emails.
  • On promotional items like t-shirts and water bottles.
  • On your social media pages.
  • On banners and flyers promoting your fundraising events.
  • Anywhere you can!

Your mission statement should be highly visible and remind supporters of the work that you do. Not only will you be able to briefly explain your nonprofit’s goal through your mission statement, but your new supporters will be uplifted knowing that they are contributing or volunteering with an organization that is committed to a specific vision.

You should be connecting with your supporters in a multitude of ways. Having a visible mission statement is just another tactic for making those effective connections.


3. Your mission statement isn’t part of your nonprofit’s culture.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your organization and completely forget that you even have a mission statement.

If you want to avoid wearing out your nonprofit staff, remind them of the importance of the work they do by making your mission statement part of your organization’s daily culture.

When you consistently make your mission statement a priority at your nonprofit, you help your staff stay focused on what they’re trying to accomplish. Similarly to how you would include your mission statement in your communications to supporters, you should include it:

  • Within internal emails, perhaps in an email signature.
  • On business cards.
  • On letterheads.
  • Within your office space.
  • On company promotional items.
  • Anything else you can think of!

The key is to make your mission statement as visible to everyone as you can. Supporters, employees, and random strangers should read your mission statement, know exactly what you do, and possibly want to be a part of your cause.


If you aren’t sure where to start with your nonprofit’s mission statement, consider attending a nonprofit conference for inspiration. You can gain insight into how to craft an effective mission statement and meet nonprofit professionals who have years of experience in their fields. You’ll also be exposed to plenty of successful mission statements from your colleagues’ organizations. By avoiding these three mission statement mistakes, you’ll be poised for success!

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