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Mission Control / Insights

What You Can Learn From Puppies, Kids and Instagram

Four different nonprofits, four successful campaigns — and how you can follow their lead.

Photo of a puppy by a lake.

Nonprofits aren’t selling a product or service, but they’re raising funds all the same. They also face similar business challenges, like identifying issues, planning successfully, connecting with the community and adapting across channels.

Wondering what you can learn from nonprofit marketing? These four steps will help you create a foundation for personalized campaigns and growth — with some cause-related examples along the way.

1. Use fresh eyes to take a look at what works — and what doesn’t

It’s always key to cut through the clutter from the start. Transparent stakeholder interviews are a great way to bring everyone up to speed — opening the discussion with thoughtful questions quickly draws out both what’s going well and the common problems experienced at multiple levels across the organization.

How it’s worked: Launching a new initiative requires a lot of buy in. When launching Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s My Southern Health, we connected with team members from across the system — whether designers or hospital service line marketers — to better understand their needs, capabilities and concerns. One project can solve problems, create initiative champions and improve the bottom line for a wide swath of the company or nonprofit. Now is not the time for guesswork or assumptions.


2. Formulate a game plan.

After taking a candid look at the big picture, we collaborate with nonprofits to identify the best way to approach the obstacles they would like to overcome. Is there a chronic lack of communication in their ranks? Are they struggling for a consistent online presence? Analyze the pain points, then determine the best remedy for each one.

How it’s worked: When we prepared for Arizona Gives Day 2017, our team detailed what worked in the previous year and what fell short of our expectations. Arizona Gives wanted to continue to foster connections with the community and build upon its online interactions with its social followers; naturally, we ran paid advertising campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Our team boosted the Arizona Gives signal and engaged with supporters in real time — and it worked. Our number of impressions skyrocketed, with a 148-percent increase from 2016.


3. Create a campaign that resonates with the community.

Nonprofits draw their support from the community around them. Campaigns should relate to supporters and show the organization’s impact within the community. How will its donors react? How will potential new contributors absorb the information? Does it ring true to the organization’s work and its audience?

How it’s worked: Phoenix Children’s Hospital has big hopes for the month of September: raising $1 million to benefit its Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Phoenix Children’s teamed up with C/A to concept and brand Time to Shine, its Childhood Cancer Awareness Month campaign with a huge statewide presence. The sunny yellow is a slight departure from the month’s traditional gold, but gives the community an optimistic and hopeful look at the future of childhood cancer treatment.


4. Ensure the campaign can be easy incorporated into collateral to raise awareness.

When creating a marketing campaign for nonprofits, it is paramount that the ideas behind it can be easily transformed into thoughtful, useful collateral — and not just in one format. Consider how your social graphic can be leveraged for print, or how you can pull a stellar testimonial quote from a Q&A.

How it’s worked: To support the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA) at its summer conference, we designed a beautiful, compact program. Attendees skimmed the schedule, speaker bios and leadership messages with ease — then could simply place them back in a purse, backpack or briefcase when they were on the move. The program helped keep everyone organized, but it did so in style with purpose.

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