Searching for Mr. Right Now: my top 5 tips for non-profits

Read this!  (Image thanks to 427 via Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Read this! (Image thanks to "427" via Flickr, Creative Commons license)

There’s Mr. Right, and there’s Mr. Right Now.  The blogosphere is rife with opinions about the very-most-important tools and tactics for non-profits.  When working with small, local non-profits, it can take six months (or more) to implement the very most basic of basics.  While I think that Facebook in particular is an important part of the marketing mix, it’s a “Mr. Right” but not necessarily a “Mr. Right Now.”

Here are my top five nominations for “Mr. Right Now” when it comes to non-profit tactics:

  • Website – All roads lead to the website, or they should.  Whether people stumble across you through search, or are looking for your website to respond to something, you need to make sure your website is prepared with the right content to inform people, the right look and feel to move people, and the right navigation to help people.  Websites are digital brick and mortar.
  • Email/e-newsletter – Even if Facebook traffic now rivals emails, many of the constituents who will give to your mission still prefer email.  Email and enewsletters are also superior for their ability to target both cultivation and appeal messages.
  • Blogging – In my experience, this is the hardest sell.  Misconceptions abound: blogs are full of snark, blogs are a waste of time, blogs will send forth droves of creepy stalkers after me or my staff.  Blogs are a great, immediate way to collect and share stories about the work your non-profit is doing.  They are also one of the very best ways to keep websites fresh and attract search traffic.
  • Media relations – This now incorporates both traditional media and online media.  It’s hard to beat the boost in credibility that comes with a feature story.  I’ve written a lot about how non-profits need to begin to identify who blogs about their issues locally, given that most traditional news outlets have had to make radical cuts in staff.  Online newspapers, like Sacramento Press here, are also gaining steam.
  • Messaging – OK this doesn’t fall into the tactical bucket; it’s strategic.  Many bootstrap non-profits have poor names and rely on their mission statements to communicate their value.  Short of name-changing, it’s vital to have a brief – like seven words brief – tagline or statement that informs and inspires.  No wonder America’s Second Harvest changed their name to Feeding America.  It’s also important to put appeals in a context by “campaignizing” them.  How much do you need now, by when, and why?  In today’s turmoil, people need a really good reason to part with their dough or get involved.

I blogged back in April about John Kenyon’s perspective on chicken-or-egg dilemmas when it comes to non-profit marketing.  John’s a strong believer in website and emails being top priority.  Yesterday, Beth Kanter published a guest post from Jordan Viator who interviewed David Neff of American Cancer Society’s High Plains division for the Connection Cafe.  David’s top five includes website and email, but he also puts Facebook, videos and file sharing on his list.  About Facebook, he says, “If you concentrate on one social networking tool that’s out there, I would say get on Facebook and make sure you make your presence known.”  You’ll find David’s tips explained best in the video embedded in Jordan’s post.

I’m recommending Facebook, too, but often in the second six-month period of a plan, after the very-most-important pieces are in place.

What’s in your top five?

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