Speaking the Same Language

Speaking the Same Language

A friend of SCC forwarded along an article that captures the creatures you meet in both the average and important meetings for your organization.

The characters, or creatures, in this blog post resonated with us because we can see ourselves in one or more of the archetypes described (to be honest – I’m a mix of a Sally and a Larry, but a self-aware Larry who wishes others would realize I was one).

But on top of the creatures, what this article truly captures is the lack of communication that can derail even the best meetings and intentions. It can be easy to be stuck within ruts and roles, where each person in that meeting isn’t communicating their own needs. But just as importantly, in falling into these traps and roles, your team isn’t effectively communicating the best interests of the organization.

These meetings break down because of a key reason – no one is speaking the same language. Larry is subtlety trying to indicate that they aren’t needed in the current discussion by working throughout. Chatty Patty is likely overcompensating for a lack of preparedness for the conversation by talking to no end. Two of the characters identified as crucial are literally people who translate and synthesize information so that others can understand – so that everyone in the meeting can speak the same language.

The downside of hosting meetings with key stakeholders that are speaking different languages isn’t just inefficiency. Whether these meetings involve staff, volunteers, fundraisers, or a board of directors, you run the risk of alienating your cast of characters by not identifying their individual perspectives. It is not enough just to be able to identify these creatures – it is necessary to also take advantage of the skills and knowledge of people in the room to more effectively help the organization, even if that means they get kicked out of the meeting.

Larry might not be the most useful in the meeting you are hosting, but he/she might be crucial in solving a crisis elsewhere in the organization. Patty may be taking up so much time in your meeting, but likely can build relationships with other stakeholders by his/her ability to hold court for long periods of time. The key is identifying strengths rather than weaknesses, and determining how that role fits within your organizational goals. To understand if your meeting needs these voices, and how best to appreciate and cultivate their perspectives within the decisions you need to make. To put each participant in the best situation to communicate their perspective in a way to improve the organization.

Why is each person in the room? Why is the meeting being held? Meetings should never be a one way conversation. Decisions should not be made without consultation of important parties. But understanding the value of inputs, and your own understanding of cultivating these perspectives, is crucial not only to meeting efficacy, but to organization morale and functionality. When hosting an important meeting, everyone in the room needs to not only be on the same proverbial page, but at the very least needs to be speaking the same language. And it is up to you to manage this process.

  1. Mary Mazzoni of Triple Pundit highlights the Adobe’s efforts to support creativity in youth and the education system.
  2. Recruiting a sponsor is just the first step. Chris Baylis of the Sponsorship Collective discusses the importance of planning for sponsorship activation.
  3. Shafaq Hasan of NPQ outlines how nonprofit Khan Academy is working with the College Board to offer a completely free interactive online SAT practice program.
  4. In need of advice on your Board of Directors? Liz Ragland of Network for Good interviewed Rachel Muir, vice president of training at Pursuant about how to motivate your Board and engage them as fundraisers.
Calling with Purpose

Calling with Purpose

We’re currently working with a client on transitioning their email and file management system from the systems they’re using to Google for Business. As part of that transition, I verified with Google that they own the nonprofit’s website and account. This verification process triggered a phone call from their previous website and email provider who was worried about the potential of lost business.

One thing was clear as I listened to my colleague at the nonprofit attempt to talk to the customer service representative – the person calling had no idea why they were calling. We couldn’t decide if they didn’t want to say, “We know you’re setting up an email account elsewhere” or were just generally confused. I’ve made and received thousands of customer service calls in my career. This was one of worst I’ve ever been a part of.

It’s a reminder that when you call someone professionally – you must call with purpose. The number of supporters that prefer a phone call to an email is steadily decreasing. If you’re going to call someone and absorb their immediate time and attention, you must have a plan. What are you hoping to achieve? What are you going to ask them? This purpose can be a simple CRM touch and just say hello and see how the individual doing – but there needs to be a plan. Many times, I’ll write out what I want to say and the questions I want to ask. The majority of the time, I don’t even look at it – but it helps get me in the mindset for a productive call.

During yesterday’s conversation, my colleague asked the customer service representative to send an email that explained what they were offering and what any potential issues were. The individual on the phone refused and said, “This is only a conversation I can have over the phone.” While I imagine this may be a company policy, it reflects a short-sided view of what customer service is. Don’t make the same mistake in your communication!

These are a few items from the week that we thought were interesting!

  1. Shana Masterson reflects on her recent vote for Sawyer Fredericks to win The Voice and the impact that crowdsourcing can have on your fundraising ideas and plans.
  2. Seth Godin shares thoughts on story-telling and fundraising in this video interview with Amy Eisenstein.
  3. Ruth McCambridge of NPQ discusses on how to motivate folks during board issues or when a Director leaves.
  4. Your interesting longer piece for the week is Panthea Lee’s thoughtful post on Fast Company about the challenges, worries, and fears with tackling an enormous project in Libya.
Changing the Narrative Behind Overhead

Changing the Narrative Behind Overhead

A recent article on NPEngage tackled the issue of overhead – specifically, how important do nonprofit staff consider overhead concerns, and how prepared are they if a major shift in financial policy takes place. As part of a dissertation, this piece works within a framework of hypotheticals – how would nonprofits respond to the dual pressure of assessing needs with expectations from donors.

This thesis makes a major assumption – that donors will continue to expect and request due diligence in maintaining or lessening the impact of overhead costs. But why is that so? How did overhead become the defacto scale of assessing nonprofit efficacy?

I would argue that it’s not just that donors think that overhead is bad – it is that they have been given no compelling narrative for them to think otherwise.  How do we move the narrative away from this concept of spending less being the ideal?

The story behind the money

As Dan Pallotta puts it – we have dehumanized overhead and now we need to humanize it. When people hear overhead, they think wasteful spending. They worry about the people in need not receiving help or funds because it is being used to salaries and infrastructure.

But salaries are people. Better infrastructure means the ability to reach more members of your community – to scale your services to be even more effective. Marketing costs contribute to reaching new potential donors or funders; office space allows for constituents and clients to meet in a safe, warm environment.

These costs are part of your impact on people and can tell just as engaging a story about your work than your direct services.

What would happen without these expenses?

Alternatively known as the “Doomsday Scenario.” Who couldn’t you reach if you didn’t have these funds available? What direct services would you need to halt in order to cover for these necessary costs? People often assume that donations of time, services, and money can make up the difference – but what if they can’t? How can you justify cutting back on overhead when it is vital for keeping your services afloat and effective?

Better definition of allocated costs

Specifically joint allocated costs. While some donors, in researching nonprofits, look to see the total percentage of income spent on overhead, others like to see specific information on what it costs to provide services to one person. But much of what people consider to be “overhead” is actually a joint cost (meaning it is attributed to expenses that go beyond a single service) that allows your nonprofit to provide services to many constituents.

Putting it another way – you wouldn’t calculate a staff members salary down to .79% of their job helped a single constituent – beyond being impractical, it doesn’t fully tell the story of how many people are being reached by employing this staff person. In purposefully and strategically investing in overhead expenses, you are creating more value. And more value should be what drives donation and contribution decisions, not arbitrary austerity metrics.

What constitutes abuse?

While nonprofit fraud and waste are a concern, the idea that many nonprofits take advantage of donors is largely overblown. Embezzlement and fraud are huge breaches of trust with donors – but also have little to do with the concept of cutting back on overhead.

Nonprofit abuse and mismanaged overhead are two very different concepts, that unfortunately draw similar ire from donors and community members. And by conflating these two together, nonprofit efficacy if being harmed. When your donors and supporters worry about wasted spending, bring it back to the points above – the people, the effect, and the financial impact. In doing so, and by adding transparency, fears of abuse should be alleviated.

Nonprofit finances are not easily understood, which is why simple narratives of waste and abuse have become so popular. By redefining what overhead means, and by showing how these capital resources are helping your community, you can help shield future organizations from tackling the hypothetical situation of operating with even less.

  1. Tammy Gordon, Vice President of AARP Studios, shares how AARP is adapting to digital communication channels.
  2. The NFL finally gave up their tax-exempt status! Rick Cohen of NPQ discusses why they may have done that now.
  3. Network for Good published a post-webinar Q&A with Vanessa Chase, founder of the Storytelling Non-Profit.
  4. We love good podcasts. We love Salesforce. Here’s a podcast that combines the two.
Three Questions to Help You Write

Three Questions to Help You Write

Almost everyone who works in the nonprofit or social enterprise world has to write at some point in their day. Individuals are responsible for annual reports, program updates, mass emails, social media, and blog posts. Finding the time and creativity to write can be challenging.

This week Kenna Griffin of PR Daily provided five suggestions on how to stop procrastinating and start writing. This piece helped me during a writing project this week and made me think about additional questions to think about that can help motivate you.

Who are you writing for?

Whenever I’m struggling to write, I go back to the question – who do I want to read this? It helps keep me focused on the intended audience and avoid straying off course. I always try to consider what I want them to take from the piece. What is the call to action? What do I want them to do when they’ve read my email or Facebook post? Is what I’m writing relevant to that group? Continually coming back to these questions helps tighten up the piece and keep you focused.

Where are you writing?

If you’re struggling to stay motivated you should consider where you’re doing the work. Do you have a lot of distractions? Is the same place that you’re working the rest of the day? Where do you do your best writing? I’ve found that my location impacts my writing speed and creativity. There are times in which the office is distracting and writing from a coffee shop or somewhere without wifi helps me focus and minimize distractions.

When are you your most creative?

Timing your projects around the natural ebb and flow of your day is an ideal way to tackle writing commitments. Are there times of the day in which you’re most creative and able to focus? Your organization’s writing needs may not always be conducive to your natural clock, but if you find you’re most creative and can better focus early in the morning – start the day off writing. If you’ve found you to your best writing when you’re under a deadline, create an artificial deadline for yourself. Tell your colleagues you’ll have something to them by 10am and push yourself to meet that goal.

If you need additional motivation for writing, reading others can help spark creativing. Below are a few links we enjoyed from the week.

  1. Google is changing their mobile ranking algorithm on April 21. Robin Strohmaier explains the change and provides strategies to ensure you’re ready.
  2. Shana Masterson shares tips on how to crowdsource fundraising ideas.
  3. Nancy Baughman Csuti wrote a thoughtful post about how The Colorado Trust asks for data from grantees and the challenges with it.
Four Strategies to Build Interest-based Email Segmentation

Four Strategies to Build Interest-based Email Segmentation

Mike Snusz of Blackbaud recently wrote an article that highlights the over-reliance of segmenting messages by donor vs. non-donor. Snusz points out,

When constituents think about your organization, do they really view themselves as a “donor” or “non-donor?” You won’t hear someone say “I’m a non-donor at XYZ Food Bank.”

For many small and mid-sized nonprofits, just reaching a point in which you have enough accurate and accessible data to segment your messages can be a challenge. Segmenting by donor vs. non-donor is often done because it’s one of the few data points available. We’ve previously discussed questions you should consider when determining how and when to segment messages. Segmentation by industry/profession, volunteer activity, age, or how they learned about your organization provides an opportunity for more personal and engaging communication.

Snusz discusses the need to shift to communicating based on volunteer interest. This is the best segmentation because you’ve catered communication directly to the individual regardless of their professional, donation history, and volunteer program. But, how do you reach a point in which you can segment by volunteer interest?

A/B Testing

A/B tests can help you determine what messaging and interest groups individuals may want to be apart of. If an audience member consistently opens emails on a particular subject matter and doesn’t open other emails – it is safe to assume that they are interested in those topics.

Tracking Links

While Snusz’s promotion of the Luminate Online Marketing is a corporate plug, the concept is very valid. If you send a newsletter-style email and you’re able to see which readers are clicking on specific links, you can get a better sense of their interests. It’s imperative to determine the best way to track their interests in your data management tool.

Ask at the point of sign-up

If you have an email sign-up widget or link on your website, include a question that asks about their interests. This can be open-ended or a multi-select checkbox. Asking at this point helps you determine what types of message your audience may enjoy the most. If you’re not quite ready to start segmenting by interest, you can still add this question – it will help you prepare for this eventual segmentation.

Ask anytime

Asking at the point of registration is the easiest, but you can ask at any time. It can be over the course of a phone conversation, an in-person meeting, or an online survey to all audience members. There is no need to be afraid to ask individuals who are already supporting you!

These four tips will help get you on a path to stronger email segmentation. These four links will help get you on a path to stronger knowledge!

  1. The Guardian published an anonymous article from a nonprofit communications staff that is frustrated with their executive leadership’s refusal to use social media.
  2. News organizations that are nonprofits have an increasingly vital role in the new industry. Ruth McCambridge of NPQ shares data from a recent Knight Foundation report on the sustainability of this group and discusses the need for local foundation support.
  3. Fundchat had a thoughtful Twitter chat this week regarding social media and ethic in fundraising.
  4. In a post with refreshing transparency, Jay Geneske explains how and why the Rockefeller Foundation redesigned their website.
Differences between Content Curation and Content Creation

Differences between Content Curation and Content Creation

Content is king. That’s a phrase that all marketers hear on a regular basis and we’ve said ourselves. For many nonprofit organizations content curation and content creation are vital communication tools. Finding the right strategy to manage these two areas are important.

Content curation is the process of gathering information from other reputable sources and sharing content that is relevant to your audience. This strategy is important to nonprofits, as it is a cost-effective method for sharing meaningful content. While quite dated, Beth Kanter provides a great primer on content curation.

If you develop an efficient method to build content resources, you can quickly sort potential stories and publish worthwhile links on your communication outlets. Using Feedly or creating a private list of content sources on Twitter is a fast way to sift through the seemingly endless available communication.

This communication strategy also provides an opportunity for organizations to highlight the organizations that they collaborate with. By linking to their Facebook page, Twitter handle, or Tumblr you can forge stronger relationships and potentially educate their supporters on your work.

While content curation requires time to organize and publish content, it is less time-intensive than generating your own content. Content creation is the process of writing, editing, and publishing your own content on your communication channels. While this strategy can absorb a lot of time, it is imperative that organizations also utilize this method when communicating with constituents.

The creation of new content helps you share your voice and mission. The organizations that you partner with will not have the same perspective on all news items. This is what makes your organization unique. Generating new content helps you illustrate your organization’s viewpoint and opinion on why something is important. Content creation also helps drive new people to your organization or cause. Original content is effective for increasing your brand awareness.

If you interact with a lot of nonprofits you’ll find some organizations that skew very heavily on content curation. This can be caused by a variety of internal issues – many of which are related to time management and resources. You’ll see a Twitter feed that is primarily retweets or a Facebook page that is heavily influenced by shared posts. Finding a balance between creation and curation is important to your content strategy.

Another critical step to developing your strategy is creating a documented strategy. While this may seem obvious, there are many organizations that haven’t had the staff or time to develop a documented content strategy. As you can imagine, this has an impact on effectiveness. According to a Content Marketing Institute survey in 2013, “52% of nonprofit professionals who have a documented content strategy rate themselves highly in terms of effectiveness, compared with 14% of those without a documented strategy.”

Creating or evaluating your content strategy to ensure you are effectively balancing creation and curation will have a positive long-term impact on your organization’s success.

This blog post was content creation. The links below are content curation. We thought you might enjoy them.

  1. Taylor Maxwell of M&R shares some lessons learned from last month’s NYC Social Media Week with their usual mix of enjoyable gifs.
  2. Amy Sample Ward makes the statement pretty clear in her post – “Technology is everyone’s job because being an effective organization making real progress towards the mission is everyone’s job.”
  3. John Haydon provides three secrets to convert volunteers to donors.
  4. Do you have an email sign-up form on your website? Kim Stiglitz of Vertical Response explains the benefits and provides tips on implementation.
Words Matter

Words Matter

All nonprofits have developed a framework, whether intentionally or not, around how they discuss their work, the people they serve, and their audience. Where one organization might say they help “returned citizens,” another might say “rehabilitated individuals” to refer to formerly incarcerated inmates. Both are working with the same demographic, but have intentionally considered how they want to talk about the people they serve.

They take this effort because words do matter. Words allow the reader and recipient to have an emotional connection to your work; words help outsiders better understand the intent of the services you provide.

But these are not the only important words that nonprofits and social impact organizations can use. Unfortunately, in efforts to powerfully convey intent and actions, organizations fall all too easily into the trap of using the “vocabulary of the moment,” more colloquially known as buzzwords.

The harm in buzzwords is that they can obfuscate your message rather than enhance, diluting the intended emotional connection you are attempting to create. Here are a few popular buzzwords that can be particularly troublesome when misused.


During this week’s SXSW Conference in Austin, TX, Sonal Shah asked during a panel discussion if “the bastardization of the word impact” was affecting impact investing. The response appears to be a resounding yes.

But for those outside the impact investing space, this misuse has also had negative consequences. The word “impact” has turned into the catch-all for social good organizations seeking to highlight the effects and effectiveness of their work in their communities. But what does impact really mean? And how does it translate across causes, regions, and efforts? To put it another way – impact has become a crutch to describe results without having to quantitatively back those claims up.

Impact doesn’t need to be avoided entirely, but used more intentionally. When you consider using the word impact, consider if you have numbers or specific anecdotes that could more effectively describe your work and results. Be as specific as possible. In doing so, you will more dynamically tell your organization’s story.


The concept of empowerment, per Wikipedia, is as follows:

“Empowerment is the process of obtaining basic opportunities for marginalized people, either directly by those people, or through the help of non-marginalized others who share their own access to these opportunities…(e)mpowerment also includes encouraging, and developing the skills for, self-sufficiency, with a focus on eliminating the future need for charity or welfare in the individuals of the group.”

Charitable organizations have a challenging proposition – to treat the people they serve with respect and understanding, while outreaching to donors and funders about the great need of this community. Too often, charities fall into the trap of treating their population as “passive recipients of aid” rather than active participants, while still claiming to “empower” these individuals.

One of the key components of that definition is “encouraging and developing the skills for self-sufficiency” – in what ways does your organization attempt to accomplish this in your work? Oftentimes, “empower” is being used as a shorthand to mean “giving power to” rather than the process of developing self-sufficiency as described above, and in misusing the term, misidentifying the work that is taking place.

Before writing that you are “empowering” your community, consider the ramifications of communicating your work in that way.


A popular and effective fundraising strategy is to create a sense of urgency within your donor and funder base. This is especially true during end of year fundraising campaigns – nonprofits both large and small tout the immediacy of the timeline, urging donors to commit before the end of the year.

But why the rush? Is there an actual reason for the immediate timeline, or is it simply a tactic to increase donations?

To truly connect with your audience, urgency needs to be authentic. A lost major donor or an unexpected financial burden are examples of actual immediate need of funds. An end of a fundraising campaign is not an urgent need, and can come across as disingenuous.

Most importantly, you can’t build a relationship with now. Relationship building is critical to longterm success for fundraising, and a constant barrage of immediate needs and crises can alienate even the most committed supporter.

We start our links with another word that is often used incorrectly, including by us at SCC – sorry:

  1. Tory Paez of Catalyst details the five things that you can say instead of “sorry.”
  2. Tori Loubier of the CLASSY Awards shares five trends that will drive social innovation this year.
  3. Ketchum published interesting research on consumer and marketing trends of those who are 50+. There are many interesting data points for social good organizations.
  4. If you’re struggling with your email newsletter content and performance, we suggest you read John Haydon’s list of things to avoid.
  5. Shana Masterson passes along some of the most tweetable moments from the Peer to Peer Professional Forum Conference (#P2P15)
Four Ways Your Nonprofit Can Listen

Four Ways Your Nonprofit Can Listen

In a recent meeting someone said, “Listening is a skill that never goes out of fashion”. This sentiment is especially true in the nonprofit world. Listening to your donors, volunteers, or individuals that your programs serve is critical to building and sustaining support. Below are four areas in which your organization may be able to do a better job of listening.

Why do you support this cause?

How often are you able to ask and understand an individual’s reason for donating or volunteering their time with your organization? Knowing why someone is supporting your cause is important for sustaining that relationship. Why did they pick your organization over your peers? Can this help in future communication? If you hear that they like your organization’s research program or grass-roots approach, you’ll be able to better communicate with this supporter in the future.

Post-event survey

Many organizations send out a post-event survey to participants. How often are you able to sit down and assess that feedback? What do you do with that information once it is collected? For surveys in which the respondent provides their contact information, it is important to follow-up with them after their survey. Thank them for taking the time to reply, address negative feedback they had, or ask follow-up questions that may be helpful for future planning. This is an opportunity to hear their feedback and help them understand that you’re listening.

What communication do they want to receive?

Many nonprofits have wide-variety of communication topics that they send their supporters across a number of different channels. Asking an individual what type of message and channel they want to be communicated with is a great way to ensure that you’re listening to them. Knowing when to segment messages and when to include them in an email group or mailing list illustrates an understanding of what they need.

Face-to-face communication

Philanthropic support is often driven by the cause – someone chooses to give to an organization based on their mission. Sustained giving is often driven by the relationship manager. As a supporter builds a relationship with an organization they grow closer to the individuals they interact with at the organization. The best relationship managers know when to talk and when to listen. This attentiveness isn’t related to just their involvement with the nonprofit, it should be focused on the individual. What are their interests? What are they passionate about? Knowing this information allows you to be better support them as a relationship manager.

Below are a few links from the week that we enjoyed.

  1. Frank Barry discusses the trends in mobile fundraising.
  2. Ruth McCambridge highlights recent diversity information released by The Council on Foundations.
  3. Donor complaints are something that we’ve all had to deal with. Jeff Brooks discusses two types and the best ways to deal with them.
  4. David Cohen of Social Times shares data from Social Code’s analysis of Facebook Ad pricing by age.
  5. Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint and Stephanie Roth of the Haas, Jr. Fund are seeking stories of fundraising success.
No More Bashing Brand Aware Nonprofits

No More Bashing Brand Aware Nonprofits

There are many that are criticizing the NFL, and now No More, for not directly making an impact to those intimately affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. This criticism is similar to that of people upset with major nonprofits, especially when talking about wasted resources and overhead – why aren’t you helping people more? How is “raising awareness” helping the people you claim to care about? There are people in need, how can you spent money on developing a brand?

A recent Deadspin article makes their opinion clear – they feel that No More is sham of an organization. The purpose of the No More project was, per their own words, “to give domestic violence and sexual assault something these issues had never had: a unifying brand.

If the organization claimed to be directly providing services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims and survivors, and instead ran large scale marketing campaigns, then yes, what they did would be misleading. But from the start, their aim was to raise awareness, a goal that unfortunately is exceptionally hard to track and quantify.

What is overlooked in this article, as well as most writing that demonizes the perceived misuse of resources for overhead, is the price of efficacy. That price comes in many forms – monetary value, expertise, connections, and networks. Being able to communicate effectively costs something – awareness building and brand development doesn’t come easily.

The origin of the AIDS red ribbon is highlighted as a positive grassroots effort to gain attention to a worthy cause. But this is exceptionally hard to replicate for a multitude of reasons. First of all, this event happened in a very different communications and media generation. Secondly, the saturation of causes and nonprofits in the national landscape was significantly less than it is now. Having a good cause isn’t enough anymore. And assuming that nonprofits, and their partners, must play by different rules in order to live up to arbitrary moral and charitable standards limits the impact that these organizations can possibly have.

No More went with a more traditional brand creation process to help achieve their goal of raising awareness. And I challenge those to say that they haven’t been effective. More people are talking about domestic violence and sexual assault. More are considering the ramifications of staying silent. More are reaching out to local organizations and considering ways to help.

And in their goal of raising awareness, the National Football League is an ideal partner to amplify their voice and reach. While the NFL has its many, many faults, it is very good at selling. And it is very good at capturing, and keeping, your attention. Regardless of the intent of the NFL in crafting this partnership, from the perspective of No More, there was no better brand partner in order to truly elevate their impact.

No More is not a sham – it is just not the nonprofit you think should exist. Not all nonprofits provide direct services and some have to focus their work to create more awareness and understanding about under-served communities and issues. It is unfair to expect all nonprofits to adhere to the same model and satisfy unrealistic, ambiguous, and austere standards, especially in a business world and society where generating and keeping attention is essential for generating results. While I may not be purchasing No More branded TOMS, I will continue to support organizations that are helping those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. And I won’t chastise an organization for helping to raise awareness when awareness is needed – and taking the steps necessary to accomplish that.

Influencing a Decision Maker

Influencing a Decision Maker

In this month’s Harvard Business Review, Susan J. Ashford and James Detert dissect the steps necessary to successfully convince your boss to buy in on your plan or strategy. While the list is specific to the boss/employee relationship, the techniques and methodology described can easily be applied to any number of influencing situations – whether it is talking to a board member, building a relationship with a donor, or pitching a new idea to a client, these “issue selling” priorities are crucial for improving impact.

Here are a few highlights:

Tailor Your Pitch

While seemingly a simple and almost obvious piece, the personalization of outreach efforts is such an essential starting point. A reason it is ignored? It can be incredibly time consuming. But by investing your time to tailor your pitch, you show your recipient how valuable you think they are – how highly you consider their time and efforts. And in personalization, you can highlight the needs and wants of your specific target, rather than generalizing and ineffectively communicating.

Frame the Issue

How do your issues, initiative, or project fit into the goals or objectives of who you are pitching? What are their priorities? It is easy to talk about yourself, or your organization, and get lost in your own accomplishments and needs. But how do you fit into the responsibilities and aspirations of your audience? By framing your issue or project from this perspective, you will be much more likely to communicate your message.

Involve Others

Also known as – getting a champion on the inside. If the major decision maker, be it a foundation, a donor, or a board member, is especially influenced by a specific person or department, use that to your advantage. Build a relationship with others both within and outside of your organization and create a support network of multiple skill sets and perspectives. By creating this clamor for support, it is much easier to show the importance of your initiative or issue.

Another popular technique to help guide decisions? Curating content that supports your cause from websites across the internet. Here’s a few to start your next pitch:

  1. Shana Masterson at npEngage shares ideas on what you should start and stop doing with your peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns in 2015.
  2. Are you looking for more people to follow on Twitter? Lauren Smith from Litmus put together a list of top email marketing and design thought leaders to follow.
  3. Jeanne Allen of NPQ highlights a unique way that smartphone giving is being utilized and how it may reduce “chuggers”.
  4. If you’re looking for something to listen to while trekking to your 9-5 job, check out Allison Fine’s podcast discussing, how to make nonprofit work better than just a 9-5 job.
  5. Greg Baldwin, President of VolunteerMatch,