5-Step Guide to Donor Communications After an Event

Guest Post Contributed by: Dan Quirk, Marketing Manager at Salsa

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There are few greater feelings in the world than the sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed a difficult task, such as the moments in the immediate aftermath of a fundraising event.

Your nonprofit has worked hard, gathered a great crowd, and raised money for your cause. Once the night is over, it is time to celebrate and revel in the fruits of your labor. Your team deserves to celebrate, but it’ll have to jump back into action pretty quickly. Post-event communications don’t write themselves.

Follow these five steps as you walk through your post-event donor communications.

Need event inspiration before you check out these donor communications tips? You can read DonorPro’s extensive compilation of fundraising event ideas here.


1. Gather necessary contact information before the attendees leave.

Okay, I know. Technically this step does not take place in the post-event world. This is something you’ll need to accomplish before and during the fundraiser. But, hey, the early bird gets the worm.

You can’t send out excellent post-event communications if you are missing the names, emails, phone numbers, and addresses of your attendees.

Yes, fundraising events are focused on fundraising. However, they are also an opportune chance for your organization to deepen its relationship with supporters. You will not be able to build on your time with those supporters if you have no means of reaching them afterwards.

To ensure that you gather the necessary contact information:

  • Request those details during the event registration and store the data in your CRM. With the right donor database software, you should be able to set up registration and ticketing pages online and seamlessly collect all the requisite information.
  • Actively seek out those details while the event is occurring. This method of data collection is going to vary from event to event. For some, this might mean putting contact cards on dinner tables, while for others it might include asking everyone to put their details down to be entered into a raffle. Find creative ways to get the necessary donor data for post-event follow-up.

If you didn’t get enough information to move forward with, there’s an option for you. *Hint* It’s step two!


2. Prospect screen to fill in any blanks.

Now we’re officially on to post-event donor communication tips. Maybe your gala attendees brought plus ones that you didn’t have details on or your walk-a-thon walkers invited friends to watch you weren’t expecting. With the influx of new people, you collected some complete contact cards, but, for many, you only secured a name and maybe one other detail.

Worry not! Let prospect research fill in the personal data blanks. The more details you have, the better you’ll be able to research, but even with limited information, prospect research can fill in enough blanks for your nonprofit to be able to effectively communicate.

Once you have the right details to be able to reach out to your event attendees, prospect research can also assist you in getting to know them better so that you can customize your communications and stewardship.

Your screening could reveal that a few of your guests are high-quality major gift or planned giving prospects. You won’t know until you look, though.


3. Segment your attendees into communication groups.

Now that you know a little more about each of your guests, it is time to segment them. You could send them all the same emails and series of follow-ups, but that doesn’t serve you, your mission, or, most importantly, your supporters in the ideal way.

When it comes to doing the actual work of segmenting, you have options depending on your nonprofit’s need, such as grouping guests according to:

  • Expected giving level. That way, you can funnel monthly giving prospects down one communication path and major giving prospects down another.
  • Future event interest. Take your list of guests and compare it to your events calendar. Find the right events for the right supporters and send invites accordingly.
  • Preferred communication channel. Through careful tracking of donor preferences in your CRM and potentially a post-event survey, you should be able to ascertain how each attendee likes to be contacted. Within your organization’s resources and budget, try to cater to donor preference as much as possible.

There are plenty of other ways to segment your attendee list. You can personalize your segmentation efforts according to the needs and resources of your nonprofit.


4. Start with your thank yous.

Immediate gratitude is the first step in donor retention. As such, it has to be a step in your post-event donor communications.

The first communication an attendee should receive from you following an event is a thank you.

Your thank you should include:

  • A salutation with the donor’s name .
  • A direct, genuine thank you for attending.
  • An acknowledgement of any additional donations the guest made during the event with further instructions if needed.
  • A summary of what the event was able to accomplish thanks to the generous participation of the guests.
  • A signature from one of the more prominent event organizers, whether that’s a development officer at your organization or the event chair or both.

Your supporters offer so much more than money. Show them that you value the relationship you’re building before diving into solicitation mode.


5. Move attendees into your email list.

The heading here says email list, but it doesn’t necessary have to be email. If a donor feels like email is a source of spam, you’re not going to be able to connect with the donor that way, so it isn’t worth your time.

The point of this step is to emphasize that after an event, the ball is in your organization’s court. It is up to you continue the relationship. Adding guests to an email list is one way of doing so. You don’t want to fade from their memory, so sending email newsletters is the perfect, cost effective way to stay in touch without overwhelming them. Make sure your newsletter includes calls-to-action and is donor-centric, not organization-centric.

There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to manage email, so check out this advice to avoid giving subscribers email fatigue.

Once you’ve gone through this process with your next few events, your team will be able to follow the steps in their sleep. At a certain point in the not-too-distant future, study your communication performance using fundraising success metrics. You’ll find out your strengths and weaknesses and account for them after your next fundraising event. Happy hosting!

French Lessons in Donor & Visitor Engagement

How is your summer? I am just back from Paris, the beautiful Loire Valley and sunny Provence in France. It was my first trip to Europe. When you have babies in your 20s and start a business at 30 there isn’t much time for travel.

I went with my brother to celebrate his 50th birthday. We figured going someplace where everything was half a millennium old would make being half a century old seem young. And clearly I have spent too much of my life catering to children. I kept looking at quaint French villages and thinking they look just like Disney.

Every day was filled with visits to museums and historical monuments and sites. Somehow it was all so much more interesting than when I had to take Art History in college. I was supposed to be on vacation, but kept seeing examples of visitors and donors more deeply connected so I thought I’d share a bit with you.


We started out in Paris where my friend Katia Blanchard Lapeyre, Private Events Manager at la chez Musee de Louvre was able to give us a guided tour.

Did I mention it was on Tuesday when the Louvre was closed! We got to see the Mona Lisa all by ourselves.  I am still pinching myself. 

Katia said the Louvre has only recently begun individual giving. Despite it’s size, even they cannot afford to acquire everything the want so they decided to experiment to find other ways to fund acquisitions. They created a very focused campaign to buy a piece of furniture. Initially, individuals could contribute as little as 1 euro to become part of the effort. They hung a huge banner in the museum about the campaign and have some simple temporary banners listing the donor names. It was hugely successful in getting new people involved and really ended up working like an internal crowdfunding campaign.

The Louvre is also using their brand very effectively in their events to create really individualized experiences for donors. Katia shared the work she has been doing to create enticing major giving packages that include allowing the donor to hold an event in the museum as part of the opportunity.  Luckily for you I recorded our conversation and it will be coming out as a podcast in a few weeks. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to be sure to catch it.

Next we headed southwest to Chartres Cathedral. Cathedrals were my favorite part of Art History. I am fascinated by the fact that people could imagine and construct something so massive and enduring so long ago. This version of Chartres was begun in 1194. It has these crazy mismatched spires that I love. One got struck by lightning in 1506 and that architect decided rebuild it in the High Gothic flamboyant style. You know what its like when the new boss comes along and wants to chase the latest trends…Noah_IMG_1833

On this trip I got to see the inside and hear the story of the windows. Back in the 12th century, the cathedral was the place for education and the center of the community. The windows each tell a story. Most people couldn’t read so they translated the stories into pictures so all the people could participate. A critical part of storytelling is making sure your intended audience understands. That is often missed in all the talk about the importance of storytelling. This one is the story of Noah.  Click here for  a key to reading the panel. My favorite is scene #33 — Noah getting drunk. Nice to know they had a sense of humor in the dark ages.

The other interesting fact about these windows is that they were donated by groups of craftsmen and merchants. Colored glass windows were expensive.  Specific windows were donated by the butchers, the farriers, the shoemakers, etc. Just like putting your name on a building, the donors are showcased in the panels.

For more than 800 years people have come together to contribute to creating something greater than themselves. To literally become part of the story. It was really inspiring.

On Creating Experiences

Further south we stopped to visit Chambord Castle. We had to see it. My parents used to give us Chambord Liqueur when we had a cough as kids. My parents are awesome.

The Chateaus are now mostly state run organizations. Who else could afford to heat them? Here we saw some interesting things in visitor engagement.   Many places only have tours and signage in French, which I can’t speak at all. I came here knowing the art terms trompe l’oeil and papier-mâché. Not the most helpful travel words. I have since picked up the much more useful “toilette”.

Many sites had what looked like great apps that gave you an enhanced experience of the site. The Eiffel Tower, Versailles, the Chateaus all had them. But we found out about them on a sign at the site which, if we were lucky, had some English. I now appreciate the design and accessibility challenge of deciding when to offer translation. They provided a QR code to download the app, but I had removed the reader to save space for pictures. And, as foreigners, we didn’t have cell service to download it on site. This is where a wifi hub would have been brilliant.

At Chambord, they offered a rented ipad with a virtual reality tour and a treasure hunt for kids. There were cute icons all over and clues that families could search together. It was a perfect choice for that specific space since it was cavernous and had almost no furniture. Running kids were no problem and no one was whining or crying. I’ve dragged my kids on educational excursions so I know how rare and blessed that is.

Technology has been growing as an engagement enhancer to onsite experiences. One of my staff was at Universal Studios the same week. She bought her son a magic wand in Harry Potter World. Throughout the park there were medallions in the ground that showed a wand movement and spell to say that would trigger some action around them.

The worlds of education and entertainment draw closer together every day.  It will be interesting to see if the new beacon technology will take hold and add something valuable. I could see this working well at museums, conferences, city, garden and college tours. Have you tried it in your organization? I’d love to hear from you so we can share it on the podcast.

Lifting Your Head Up

I’m not known as a good vacationer. I haven’t had a lot of practice and, as you can see, I’m still squeezing in a little work. This year I am trying to learn that stepping away from the day-to-day is important. I can’t tell you how many times I have sent a designer or a writer home because they were fighting the problem only to come in the next morning and nail it.

Stepping away and thinking about other things can really spark creativity. I need to remind myself of this. You may too.

I hope you took some time this summer to change gears, and do something that re-energizes you and shifts your perspective.

Being in Europe was a rare treat for me. Its totally different, and I was mostly without my beloved technology.  I left my laptop in the care of my staff. I couldn’t look things up on Google, research restaurants on the go or check directions. I had to actually look around and live in the moment, make uninformed choices, wander, get lost and not ask Siri for help. It was unsettling and disruptive. That probably means I need to do it more.

Next summer I’ll head to Spain with my youngest son to celebrate his college graduation. He speaks the language so I’m basically trading translation for transportation.  I’m looking for new friends with connections for private tours there now…call me!

3 Ways Prospect Research Can Help You Market to Your Donor Population


Guest Post by Sarah Tedesco, Executive Vice President at DonorSearch


Donors are savvy. They know when they are being ‘handled’ and when they are being connected with.

It doesn’t take much, but donors want to feel appreciated and seen by the organizations they give to.

With the ongoing challenges of donor acquisition and retention, nonprofits should use every tool at their disposal to take their marketing strategies to the next level.

Prospect research should be a part of every nonprofit’s tool belt.

A well-executed prospect screening can unveil a treasure trove of information about both prospects and donors. With those details revealed, fundraisers can cater their marketing efforts to the donors in an accurate and highly personalized manner.

Once a development office knows the potential of specific donors, that team can adjust its marketing strategy to best solicit maximum funding from those key supporters.

Donor-centric marketing should be a top focus of fundraising organizations, and prospect research can help fundraisers zero in on what makes their donors tick.

To help get your prospect research-enabled marketing going, here’s a list of 3 ways that screening can aid in the marketing process.


#1 Uncovering Major Gift Prospects Hiding in Plain Sight


We often think of prospect research in terms of what it can reveal about potential donors, but it can also provide a wealth of game changing data on your current donor population.

With a prospect screening, you can learn who of your annual fund donors has the potential to be a major gift donor. Annual fund donors are already loyal to your cause, so making the switch to a major gift is easier than starting from scratch.

For example, a donor who has given numerous $150 contributions to your cause over five years could be revealed as someone who gave an $8,000 gift to another organization.

The opportunity is there, exposed by prospect research, and ready to be acquired through marketing.

Once you know who your existing major gifts prospects are, your development staff can put in the extra effort help encourage the transition to major gift donor.

This more targeted marketing can be anything from highly personalized acknowledgements to additional check-in phone calls from staff to meeting for a meal out.

The good news is that with prospect research information, your staff can spend additional time marketing to potential high quality donors and know their time is being well spent.


#2 Identifying Planned or Deferred Giving Prospects


In a similar vein to number 1 on our list, prospect research can identify who among your donor population is a likely candidate for planned or deferred giving.

Most organizations don’t know where to begin when looking for planned or deferred giving prospects, even though 78% of planned giving donors gave 15 or more gifts to the nonprofits named in their wills during their lifetimes.

Given that statistic, there clearly are predictive behaviors of planned givers, and prospect research will help your nonprofit make those predictions.

Once your staff has a group to focus on, they can begin the rather unique marketing courtship of planned donations.


#3 Singling Out High Quality Prospects Before or After Events


Events are can be major sources of funds for nonprofits. Whether it’s a gala or a golf tournament, an event can render a huge financial boost.

With such a high value event, marketing before and afterwards needs to be catered towards soliciting big donations.

In order to secure big donations, your organization is going to need to have:

  • a great guest list
  • superior donor service during the event
  • an excellent method of post-event follow up

Prospect research during the planning of, for example, a gala, can help define the guest list.

If the guest list is already defined, you can screen that to isolate who your staff needs to spend invaluable face-to-face time with during the event.

The experience during the event is also a great promotional opportunity for your cause in general, and any specific campaigns you’re running.

Let’s consider a push for matching gifts, for instance. At a gala you hopefully have a large subsection of your high quality donors in attendance. Sometime during the gala, either by an announcer or via pamphlets on tables, bring up the topic of matching gifts and how easy it is for donors to increase their donations with help from their companies.

Starting a dialogue about matching gifts deliberately in the presence of pre-screened high quality donors could yield massive donations for your organization.

Once the gala is finished, the attendees can be screened to determine how best to approach acknowledgement and continued engagement.

The goal with all three of these prospect research benefits is to better enhance the marketing relationship between donor and fundraiser.

Development staff are usually stretched very thin. Money is tight and always in demand. Employees need to be able to make the most of their efforts. Prospect research is a great way to maximize fundraising efforts.

Prospect research can focus a campaign by prioritizing donation targets.

Customized marketing can only happen when organizations have a specific sense of who is being solicited, what they should be solicited for, and what the organization has the chance to gain.

Prospect research answers those questions.



“Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President at DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing client retention, and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.”

Last Minute #GivingTuesday Tips from our Guests & Friends



With one week to go until #GivingTuesday, are you wondering what (or what more) you can do to soar on #GivingTuesday? Last week on the Podcast, I shared my 10 tips. Now hear from past consultant guests from Driving Participation (plus a few friends) who share their ideas.


From Vanessa Chase, The Storytelling Nonprofit
Episode 002 Getting People Involved in Your Story
Make your campaign as donor-centric as possible. #GivingTuesday is not about your organization’s needs, it’s about donors. In your call to action be sure to eliminate the word “we” and instead use “you” to highlight what the donor make possible. Organizations should also think about highlighting donor giving stories that day, which is a great way to appreciate donors and incorporate social proof into your campaigns.


From Christopher Davenport, 501 Videos
Episode 003 Telling a Moving Story
Make an offer that’s simple but specific.  Many of the appeals I’ve seen play up the #GivingTuesday angle. I seriously doubt that donors care about #GivingTuesday all that much.  So, instead of talking about #GivingTuesday as a great day to give, talk instead about how one person can be helped by the donor in a significant way if they donate on #GivingTuesday.  It’s less about the date, and more about the bigger impact a donation will have on #GivingTuesday.


From Elizabeth Engel, Spark Consulting
Episode 006 Rethinking What it Means to be a Member
Many associations don’t do any fundraising at all. And even those that do, it’s more like a trade association’s foundation, so they’re reaching out to a REALLY limited audience. They’re not trying to blow up social media with a major public campaign.
That said, if an association does have a foundation or does fundraising for conference scholarships or endowed programs, there’s certainly plenty of time to send a #GivingTuesday themed appeal that sends potential donors to a simple landing page that incorporates social sharing as part of the donation process.
If associations want to get serious about trying to do something related to #GivingTuesday for 2015, they need to pay attention to John Haydon. He’s outstanding on using social media for fundraising and has written extensively about #GivingTuesday.


From Peggy Hoffman, Mariner Management
Episode 011 Banning the “V” Word
I’m coming from how you engage your members in community service rather than raising funds for your own organization. We know members want to be involved in outreach so this is a great easy way to do that in a small, but meaningful way.
If you have a scheduled meeting with members in attendance – pass the hat for a charity of choice. Maybe it’s the association foundation or one association I know has a fund members can tap if times of need (like cancer care, emergency funds).
No meeting? Pick a charity and highlight their work on your blog leading up to GivingTuesday. Announce that on the day you will post a link and ask all members to click through and give.


From Cynthia D’Amour, People Power Unlimited
Episode 016: Care and Feeding of Online Communities
The key is to get the word out. The personal ask make a huge difference. People have tons of choices about where to spend their donation funds.
Also realize one ask many not be enough. If you post to Facebook for your fans, only a small portion will actually see the post. You’ll want to repost it a few times – perhaps give it a fresh spin periodically. Same with Twitter. The life of an average tweet is less than 20 minutes.
Call out your thanks as publicly. If you know people have contributed, thank them publicly – unless they ask you not to. Build the thanking momentum. Make people proud to be on your team.
Create interesting graphics that tell a tale and show why the money matters. Create fun twists that make it cool to give to you. Write copy your folks will feel comfortable sharing with their friends and families.


From Justin Ware, Bentz Whaley Flessner
Episode 022 Manufacturing Viral Campaigns
Do something! A lot of conversation takes place online during #GivingTuesday and people are thinking about philanthropy. So at a minimum, send an email to your database reminding them of the work you do and the opportunity they have to support your organization.
Conduct a mini social media campaign to celebrate philanthropy – it’s not all about the ask – create posts that celebrate giving to your organization that are fun to share. People are focused on philanthropy during #GivingTuesday and are primed to share fundraising-related messaging.


From Stephanie Cockerl, NextSteph
Episode 023 Winning and Working a Google Adwords Grant
Nonprofits can take this time to make sure that subscribers with a Gmail address are indeed getting their email messages by posting a blog post on how to move their messages from the “promotions” tab to the “primary” tab so that their messages for #GivingTuesday are being received and read.


From Jamie McDonald, Network 4 Good
Episode 013: Turning Online Events into a Party for your Cause
Send out a Save-the-Date Email to your donor and prospect lists, highlighting your key campaign messages and goals.
Jamie has a checklist with many more last minute ideas you can download here.


From Josh Nelson , Client Outreach Coordinator, DonorPerfect
Build your #GivingTuesday campaign into your overall end-of-year strategy and make it special. If you could get a donor to provide a one-for-one matching gift campaign through midnight on #GivingTuesday, that could really help.
Share this video with your donors.
Consider making your campaign a recurring gift or monthly giving campaign. These donors will give more and you’ll be able to retain them longer (on average) than single-gift donors. Make sure you clearly state the impact the $10/month donation will have towards your mission.


From Sandy Rees, Get Fully Funded
Nonprofit Toolkit Annual Appeal Q&A Webinar
Be sure your “Donate Now” button works.  You don’t want to be caught with problems on your website! Make sure the site is ready for visitors, the donation button is easy to find, and that the auto-receipt that people receive is consistent with your nonprofit’s brand.


From Kait Sheridan
Episode 028 Starting a Movement and Building Momentum
For nonprofits who are just thinking of getting started: I would tell nonprofits to jump in.  There is still time to plan an initiative and if you are new to #GivingTuesday, is a great day to experiment and try something new!  All of the tools and resources you need to get started is on www.givingtuesday.org.  And remember you don’t have to go huge in your first year – you can always plan a campaign for this year and save the bigger ideas for next year, when there is more time to plan.
For nonprofits already on board: Now is the time to make some noise!  Partners are already starting to spread the word about their campaigns.  Use the hashtag #GivingTuesday to start telling your story and engaging your communities.  Also, remember to share your results and thank yous after #GivingTuesday to keep the momentum alive through the end of the year.


Consultant_Tips1-1Good luck with the kick-off to your giving season!

Download the Tips as a PDF

3 Free Ways to Build Your Nonprofit’s Audience

This week I attended AWeber’s first (and I hope annual) Ascend Summit. It was a digital marketing conference clearly designed for people who are as dorkily into new media marketing as I am.

I spend so much of my time at nonprofit and education communications conferences I was quite surprised at the message that permeated this high tech, business focused event: “Give first to attract an audience”. And while that sure sounds like familiar nonprofit lingo, it’s actually the opposite of what you’re used to.

AWeber is an email marketing company and, aside from a welcome, in two days only one current staff member ever stepped on the stage. They turned the entire event over to experts in industry to share big ideas and stocked a room down the hall with computers and staff to answer as many detailed questions as we wanted. They didn’t make the conference about promoting themselves, it was about giving us the inspiration and education we wanted. Exactly how I recommend nonprofits communicate – as a facilitator of what the donor wants.

I gained lots of new ideas I’ll be bringing into client projects over the next few months. Here are my top three:


1. Don’t Throw Away that Adwords Gift Card

Do you ever get those $100 gift cards from Google to try Adwords? I do and I always tossed them thinking it was too little to have any impact. Anne Holland from Which Test Won has the perfect use for it: push traffic to a specific blog post on your site.Google gift card

When planning a blog post, choose one to three key phrases you would like to rank for in Google. Write a solid, long form, informative post of 2000-3000 words. Contrary to popular belief, statistics prove that people do read long posts when they are looking for information. Then use the free gift card money to buy advertising for those keywords to boost its exposure.

It would work especially well if you timed your spending to something popular in the news like a holiday, a media event like the Oscars or a key issue in your field. Your small spend will go further when boosted by the increased search volume.

And if you wish you could do more Google advertising, listen to Stephanie Cockrel from the Driving Participation podcast episode 23 talk about how to win and make the most of Google Grants.


2. Give Something Away with Every Blog Post to Build your List

Tim Paige from LeadPages gave a presentation about turning “Taking Pages” into “Giving Pages”.

In the nonprofit world, we think of a giving page as synonymous with a donation page – a place where people do something for you. Tim talks about giving pages as places you can give something to your viewer without asking them for anything more than their email address.

The point is to have a something valuable to the reader that that interests them enough to give you their email address. Building your email list is one of the most vital marketing activities you can do. And visitors are getting more protective of their inboxes every day. We need to do more than have a box on the bottom of the website that says “sign up for our newsettter”. If you want to grow your donor base, have control of communications and reduce mailing costs, put your energy here.

If you write frequently, “every blog post” may be a tall order. I know I’m not there yet. Focus on the posts that you are using to drive traffic to your site (as in Tip #1) rather than the posts you are writing to share with your current email subscribers. They are already on your list. For this post I can offer you a downloadable design template I created for our Nonprofit Toolkit customers. Its a customizable social media post for #GivingTuesday. Happy Fundraising!


3. Making Email Mobile Friendly

Many email systems use responsive design to shift the email design to a format readable on a small screen. Does yours?Slide1

Justine Jordan of Litmus shared how even in the right template, you may be doing things that make it impossible for users to take action on your emails.

No matter how big screens get, those dang text links are hard to hit. Justine reminded people to put lots of space around links and to create what she called “bullet proof buttons”. Instead of using an image to create your button graphic, put the text in a box and give it a color. This ensures it loads even if the reader has images turned off in their email client. You know, sometimes its the little things that make a huge difference.

My favorite tip was about something that even I tend to ignore – the pre-header. It’s that little line of text at the top of an email that says something like “Use this area to offer a short preview of your email’s content.” But do we? No. I have to say even I delete it most of the time. Justine showed that that line appears right after the subject line on mobile devices, giving you another chance to invite opens.

I spend time every month in the for profit media world. While its good to know the language, needs and rhythms of nonprofit marketing, its important to remember that there is a lot that can be learned and adapted from corporate, entertainment, publishing and other kinds of marketing. Translating and adapting these techniques is my favorite part of the job.


What I Learned About PR From Being an Over-Involved Mother


It’s been a whirlwind summer.

As I have been telling everyone, my son graduated from college, was commissioned as a Naval Officer and got married all within 2 weeks this past June. On top of that, the girl he married is our designer Monica.

Monica started out as our intern and ended up as my daughter-in-law. I am a full service employer.

I may be biased, but c’mon, that’s a great story! So I pitched it to the weddings section of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Yes, I’m that mom. And it got picked up.

I tell you this because to be honest, PR is not my personal strength. Or I didn’t think it was.

I’ve written a ton of press releases following a formula. Some get placed and I cheer my success, most get lost. When we need PR for clients, I’m not the one to do it (don’t worry).

And now I know what I have been doing was all wrong. But when I submitted a pitch on behalf of my son I had no doubt the story would get printed.

How did I know? Here are three things I did differently:

  1. Familiarity. I am a sucker for the Love column and read it every week. I knew the style and the history of what the writer covers. I noted the author likes variety and diversity so I mentioned she had not covered a military wedding lately. That showed I knew her work and how their story would bring something new.
  2. Make it easy to imagine. I wrote the pitch in the same order as her column and tried to mimic the style. My goal was to have her imagine the piece written.
  3. Tell a story. I’m Gen X so I am wired to be formal and business-like, separating my personal and professional worlds. (It’s even hard for me to use this story as an example). But when I emailed the reporter, I was sharing my joy in these kids and it came through in a way I never capture in my business attempts at PR.

Based on what prize-winning writer and journalist Amy Vernon shared with me recently, I am on the right track. Amy wrote a great article that talks about building a relationship with reporters by being a resource and helping them find what they need.

Sound familiar? Relationships. Helping. Emotion. Speaking audience language.

Switching to a storytelling mindset changes everything.

In this case, it created a connection that got the reporter to call. In others its the thing that inspires a donation, nabs a volunteer or intrigues your next hire.

So now I am off to read the stack of publications and the blog feeds that have piled up and get to know the folks who cover the topics I care about.

How about you? Have you had a PR success? I’d love to know what’s working for you.

The Social Bowl – How Brands Shifted their Big Game ads to Social Media

During last year’s Super Bowl there was one ad that set the bar for advertising in 2014.

It was from Oreo. And it wasn’t their TV ad, but one clever quip on social media about the stadium’s power outage. This resulted in 10,000 reTweets in one hour plus a sizeable bite of free media coverage, in addition to their paid TV spot.


It worked because it was unexpected, witty, and hyper-relevant. A perfect example of Real Time Marketing – using social media to newsjack major national events as they happen.

This year advertisers jumped right on the social bandwagon, trying to recreate Oreo’s success with that one memorable comment. 50% of the Big Game’s TV commercials actively encouraged viewers to Tweet their brands during the game. And brands that didn’t have TV commercials piggy-backed on others to create their own social buzz. It’s clear that advertisers have stepped up their game in Big Game advertising.

Here are 8 of the top social moments from last night’s big event.


1. The Pre-Programmed Piggy-Back

Tide Laundry detergent Tweeted a series of video replies to some of the major TV commercials. It was a surprising and witty tactic the first time, as they responded to Chevrolet’s TV ‘cow’ commercial with a reminder of how messy beef can be. But after a while their clips were predictable and the gimmick ran thin. Tide tried to pre-schedule a social buzz according to TV, so lacked the true spontaneity that Real Time Marketing needs. Sorry Tide, you didn’t make any waves here.

2. Easy, Breezy, Commentary

Cover Girl did a good job of knowing their audience, being relevant and staying spontaneous. Their photos and videos weren’t as professional as Tide’s, which made their social campaign feel much more genuine. It really seemed like a group of ‘girls next door’ were watching the game, having fun and making it up as the game progressed. Not one for the guys – but it was cute,  fun and fit with Cover Girl’s image.

3. The “Wardrobe Malfunction”

Talking about having fun and making it up along the way: We’re not sure what JCPenney’s social media team was doing during the game and something tells us – neither were they. Luckily they managed to save themselves from what looked like an embarrassing error from a ‘happy’ social media staffer!

4. The Social Branding

Tide wasn’t the only one being social with other brands last night. It seemed like everyone was trying to piggy-back on other brands’ social capital.

Even Hillary Clinton got in on the act.

Local Philly cheesesteak purveyors and the Philadelphia tourist board made the most of an appearance in a targeted insurance ad.

But with all these brands engaging with each other, it was hard to find a brand engaging with actual customers.

5. Saucing the ‘Oreo’

The only brand that really achieved a true ‘Oreo’ moment was Heinz with this halftime graphic. Which is just as well, because their TV spot (only their second Super Bowl TV ad ever) wasn’t very memorable.

6. The Switch-Over

PBS made it clear that while it wasn’t trying to compete with the drama of the Big Game, it was aiming for second place in the ratings. So when the Big Game itself proved less than dramatic, PBS found an opportunity to promote its own headlines dramas, as even engaged with its viewers.

7. The Brazen Ad Buy

In their TV commercial esurance managed to provide viewers a very good reason to get on social media and start Tweeting. By purchasing the first ad space after the game esurance say they saved $1.5m – which they want to give to one lucky Tweeter. Their hashtag #esurancesave30 rocketed to the top of Twitter’s trending list within seconds (it’s still there), and their list of followers grew by over 100,000 people, all hoping to grab the single cash prize.

8. The Black-Out

And where was Oreo during the Big Game?

Surprisingly, they were offline.

And with a simple, inexpensive reminder of their social success from last year, they still ended up in the news.

This is maybe the biggest lesson in newsjacking with social content. Great content is memorable. It’s helpful to know when your content is most likely to reach its audience, and when it will just get lost with everything else.

What were your most memorable moments from this year’s Big Game?

Avoid Email Fatigue – How to Send Frequent Emails Without Burning Out your List

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I recently answered a question online about launching an email series for a blend of stewardship and direct asks. The questioner asked about the risks of over-saturating the donors versus the benefit of staying in front of the audience regularly.

I love when anyone has a plan to send more frequent communication and focus on actual stories. Its what donors want to hear about – the people and outcomes made possible through their participation. The key thing to focus on is the donor – the organization facilitated the donor’s goal rather than the donor funding the organization. Donors care about what happens because they gave, which is why a story plan is so terrific. Making it about the organization’s role as the leader instead of the conduit takes the focus off the donor. They want to know their involvement can and did make the difference.

Getting your Clicks

Everyone worries about email fatigue and over-saturating. With the right message to an engaged audience there are a surprisingly low amount of unsubscribes due to frequency. To start, include a really inviting emotional subject line. You can play around with this headline analyzer to test the emotional level you are hitting. Its fascinating.

Next I would make sure you have a great picture in your email and include a blurb that cuts off at a juicy point and makes them click-through to read the rest on your site. Short emails make it easier for mobile viewing and encourage readers to take action. This is the same methodology as putting a solicitation in an envelope to get donors to do something from the start.

Regarding how hard you can push direct donation, I would do a split test putting a donate button directly in the email on half and putting the donate button on the web page it links to on half to see if there is a difference.

As much as I love design, keep it simple and keep the key content near the top. The rates of mobile reading of email are rising. And people scan wherever they are. Check the stats on your website to see if your website has a lot of mobile visitors. Chances are your audiences read email on mobile if they visit websites on mobile. If your web visits are more than 25% from mobile, use a mobile optimized email template. And if your website isn’t yet responsive or mobile friendly, its time to start thinking about that too. In the meantime, send the complete story by email rather than linking to your website if you are concerned about mobile viewership.

In your email, give them at least 3 places to click. They can be a combination of buttons and web links, but don’t send them all over your website, make all the clicks go to the same web page with the full story and the donate button. Resist the urge to send them to your home page and link to all the other things you do in the beginning so you can really see how the plan works.


Re-Purposing Content

I’m all about doing something once and maximizing visibility.

Every quarter I’d send a round up with links to all the stories from the quarter. You can have a hard ask with this piece right in the email.

On your website, I would create a section for these stories. When your emails link to your site, at the bottom of each story, list other stories in the series to really build the connection to the people you serve. If you can’t do this on your current site, create a WordPress blog. Blog functionality is great at directing viewers to related stories. You can include an email sign-up to be added specifically to the mailing list for the series. So it basically functions as a targeted, evolving publication and turns the whole project into a piece of content that you create once and get a ton of re-use out of. My favorite.

Using the website as a content hub also lets you turn your stories into social posts with a link back to your website – where they can donate.



If you do expand beyond just email and incorporate your website, make sure you install Google Analytics and have your search or web person run reports on where people go after clicking on the page.

Make sure you are using an email tool that lets you track what people do – opens, click-throughs, and what they click on. I happen to really like how MailChimp provides that information but many fundraising programs incorporate email.


Lessons Learned

When people feel they are part of a community, they want to be involved. I bet you’ll be surprised at the positive response you get.

If you end up getting a lot of unsubcribes, be grateful that email is such a fast response tool. If people are upset about what you do or say enough to want off your list, they are probably not your most loyal fans. You want to watch the volume or you can risk falling out of favor with your email provider. And huge amounts of unsubscribes will tell you that you are hitting the wrong note.

However, nagging the fringes to give will not be as successful as building a content pipeline that the people who love you can’t wait to get. In MailChimp, for example, you can see the names of your most active readers. You can check those names against your donation list to let you know if you are hitting the sweet spot with the right folks. The others, let em go. A big, inactive list is expensive and useless.

Kick Off #GivingTuesday with a Social Graphic you can Customize


With the retail industry’s emphasis on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and recently, Small Business Saturday, Giving Tuesday was launched as an opportunity to promote giving back during the holiday season. Started in 2012 by the 92nd St Y in New York City, #GivingTuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving — this year, that is December 3.

Nonprofits and schools have the opportunity to catch the wave of this national effort. More people who are aware of and value giving is a great thing and the #GivingTuesday website has lots of ideas for activities you can use to capture dollars from this effort.

To help  connect the movement to YOU we created a #GivingTuesday social graphic that you can customize easily and quickly.


Here’s what to do:

  1. Download the file. It’s a Microsoft Word document and should work in 2007-2013. If you have trouble, email me at beth [at] iriscreative.com.
  2. Add your logo at the top. A PNG or a JPG file work best. You can right-click on the placeholder image and select “Change Picture” or just delete and add your image. You may need to adjust the formatting to get it to appear in the correct space.
  3. Change the copy in the middle or just add your organization or school’s name.
  4. Add your donation link. I suggest being specific and sending people directly to the donation page rather than the home page. The link will not be clickable, so remember when you post the image, add a text update as well and repeat the link.
  5. Convert to an image. In Word this is a two-step process. Save as a PDF, then open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat or your image editor and just resave as a jpg.

For more resources:




Giving Tuesday Philadelphia LinkedIn Group



Good luck with the launch of your giving season!

Please let me know in the comments if this is helpful and what other tools you can use to make your communications easier.  I write occasional articles, create free tools and host in person and webinar events to help drive participation. Subscribe on the right to see what’s coming next.

And please click the share buttons below to help other nonprofits and schools grow donations on #GivingTuesday!

Did I Tweet That?

Beth Brodovsky Twitter Tunnel

I don’t know about you, but some days I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast much less if I posted something on social media. With the speed of some sites, your post is there and gone before you even get a chance to see it in your own profile. I just discovered Twitter Tunnel a great tool that archives Tweets. It found my tweets and tweets referring to me for the last 90 days. Why might you want to look at old tweets?

  • Positioning – looking at three months of tweets all together lets you see what message your are sending over time. Are you consistent? Do you keep to your core brand? Do they seem like they all came from the same organization or person?
  • Marketing – When promoting content, programs and events its easy to forget what you have done. Have I said that yet? How often? Being able to copy and old post and resend can save time.
  • Research – You can use other tools like SproutSocial to see your own tweet archives, but you can’t see anyone else’s from that long ago. If you need to find out about an organization or a person, learning what they talk about online can be very helpful. Just be careful how you use the information so it doesn’t seem creepy. Despite the information being public, it still can freak people out that you checked.
  • CYA– If you have someone tweeting on behalf of you or your organization, you should stay in touch with what they are posting. And if an HR or PR problem comes up related to what was written, it would be helpful to read it yourself.

There is always something new coming along in social media – but sometimes you need to keep an eye on what is old!


Iris Creative Group Inc. • 451 S. Bethlehem Pike, Suite 310 • Fort Washington, PA 19034 • P: 267.468.7949
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