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Social Media for Nonprofits: Understanding “Online Persona”

John Haydon, a thought leader in nonprofit social media, wrote recently about “Online Persona.” You can learn more about John on his website: John has taken a useful Infographic produced by Blackbaud that organizes nonprofit social media audiences into four groups: Key Influencers, Engagers, Multichannel Consumers, and Standard Consumers. In setting social media strategy, it’s important for those responsible for communication to understand the audience(s) and to tailor outbound communication approach reaching the various personas out there. As nonprofits consider social media approach it’s important to know your audience.

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Social Media Mavens

Folks I pay close attention to in thinking about social media application to nonprofit marketing:

  • Laura Quinn at Idealware. I still look back at Using Facebook to Meet Your Mission to remind me why. Follow on Twitter: @Idealware. February 2011 survey of 505 nonprofits on Facebook apps still worth a look.
  • Beth Kanter. She’s the bomb re: social media nonprofit apps. Twitter: @Kanter. Networked approaches around social media. Recent: Five Ways to improve Social Media Measurement: No BS. It’s always about the research with Beth.
  • Bob Cargill.  Tweets as @CargillCreative. And that’s Creative with a capital C. He recently pointed us to 10 Social Media Mistakes to Fix Now (Hubspot Blog). By Corey Eridon A generous dude who truly gets the “social” in social media.

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Board Essentials: Part 5: Hearing Our Customers

Fall of 2010, I did a Board Essentials series on nonprofit governance.

Opening with “Parameters” that govern how nonprofits operate, I moved on the “Roles” of Board members, “Strategic Work” of Boards, and wrapped up with how Board members can “Engage Networks” to help advance the nonprofit they care most about.

This year, the series will focus on the nonprofit’s marketplace: where and how staff and volunteers find and work with its customers.

And let’s start this off in listening mode.  Of course, we’ll have messages we want to communicate. We’ll have a brand to uphold. Our nonprofit will articulate goals and strategies to move our mission forward and we’ll want to let our friends, supporters, stakeholders know what all this is.  But first and foremost, we must listen.

What floats the boat of our donors?  What has motivated them to give to our cause in the past?  What is the special value we’re bringing to our clients?  Or, as Peter Drucker would instruct us: our Primary Customers.  What are we delivering that keeps bringing them back to us for service? That makes them want to tell the story for us?  That earns the support of their families to our cause?  Let’s first and foremost hear what our customers have to say to us.   And let us reflect those messages they have for us back in our words to our target audiences about mission, values, goals, brand….clearly, succinctly.

The better we hear, the better response we’ll get back from our primary (client) customers and supporting (donors, volunteers) customers.


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Are We Reaching Our Audience?

Nonprofit (public benefit) organizations have a number of audiences to reach. Determining the right message for particular audiences, and figuring out if the message is getting through are two important marketing challenges for any nonprofit.

Audiences come in two flavors:

  • Primary Customers who benefit from the service provided by the nonprofit, and
  • Supporting Customers who (ta-da!) support the mission as volunteers or as donors.

Staff work with the board of directors to clarify who comprise the Primary Customers. The folks receiving our service. The folks who are good candidates to benefit from the service we provide, whether its smoking cessation service, performance at our nonprofit theater, parents of kids at our day care center, outdoorspeople who want an adequate supply of clean air and clean water to enjoy.

How are we going to communicate with our target audience?  What media will get our message to the people we want to reach? And how can we best craft our message so its likely to be received in the way we intended?

Nonprofit communication professionals also need to think about and develop action plans that will effectively reach Supporting Customers. When we have something important to say to those who help us accomplish the goals associated with our mission, we want to be sure we reach that audience. That we speak with clarity.  That we not be Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling. But that we clearly articulate the need of our Primary Customers so our Supporting Customers know that the work they do for us, that the contributions they make to our cause, will be used in a way that advances the essential work we do.

The nonprofit organization needs to think this through in a smart and creative way. And then put the good thinking into action. It’s not rocket science. But it takes some focus and good work by the professionals on the staff. And it emanates from solid strategies set forth and approved by the board of directors.

With this approach, it’s likely that our aim is true.

Oh.  My thanks to Leader to Leader, founded by Peter Drucker the management teacher who in his lifetime helped nonprofit leaders think in terms of mission, customers and their needs, and properly focused strategy to meet those needs.

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