Category Archives: Uncategorized

Content Marketing – How to Use Images for Nonprofit Success

It's been over 20 years, but I think when one hears "Image is Everything" they almost always think of the Canon camera advertising campaign featuring Andre Agassi from the early 90's. The ad agency got it right, image is one of the most powerful communicators we can employ when working to engage our audience and demonstrate our impact in the community. I just don't think they ever thought about how right they were. With so many social media sites that focus on pictures and videos, posts these days just don't seem to attract much attention without a picture.

When most people think about content marketing, generally the first thing that comes to mind are words. How can we use language to best describe what it is we do, how we do it, and why it is important?  However, in communicating to your audience, it is essential to understand that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual and images are processed 60,000 times faster than text.  So in a world where we are inundated with information and where you have virtually only a few seconds to capture someone's attention, what you show is just as important as what you say. 

Fake and Forgettable40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text. But it's not just a case of any picture is better than no picture.  You need to select photos that bolster your story. Ask yourself, what images help to convey the message I'm trying to deliver?  When sorting through pictures to tell your story, remember they can be authentic and memorable, or fake and forgettable. Resource Media's Visual Storytelling Guide lists eight elements to consider when using photos for any of your marketing activities. Here are what I consider the top four:

  1. Match your images with your message. The picture you select should help to tell your story, or to further an impression you are trying to make. 
  2. Use genuine, rather than generic photos. It's so easy to take photos today and the quality is quite good.  When you take photos, have an idea of the story, or message you are trying to develop and you'll start seeing that in your pictures.
  3. People relate to people in photos.  Unless there is something really significant about your office space, or the building that houses your programs, no one is going to care.  What they care about are the lives of the people your work effects and they want to see them, not some building.
  4. Pair your images with words. Add a caption that further illustrates your point, or pulls together your copy and your story.

Visuals evoke emotion and get people to take action. Just understanding that pictures are important is a step in the right direction, but you need to be purposeful in how you use them.  Pretty pictures are just that; a beautiful sunset may be enjoyable to look at, but it's not going to help get a human services organization more donations.  Remember that our brains are still wired to assess situations immediately.  The first thing we see is typically the most important. So remember that first impressions are lasting impressions and take care in selecting the first image a person sees through all your touch points like your website or a brochure.

Check out the team at Questus Strategies. There is expertise in graphic arts, photography, and video production that can help sharpen your message; call 720-638-0909720-638-0909 to see how you can benefit.

Shift Your Focus

Essentially, growth comes in two flavors: bigger, or better.  What ever your goal, you need to invest resources to hit your target.

The idea of investment over expense was recently brought into focus by a blog post from Larry C. Johnson, titled, "Raising Less?—invest more".  It elevated my thinking to realize that where you place your emphasis makes all the difference.  All too often, I hear something along the line of: "we can't afford to spend money on, or we have not budgeted for: ___________".  With this perspective, the emphasis is on expense rather than investment and unfortunately, it is not a very proactive perspective.  As Larry points out in his blog, an investment returns more than its cost.

I learned a long time ago that it is important to plan your work and work your plan. To that I've added: AND, any plan is better than NO plan.  A budget is a planning tool.  So, I'm surprised by how many organizations I've visited of late that have no budget for critical business functions like: marketing, outreach, or fundraising.  If you don't budget for something, you're not planning for it, and if your not planning for it, then it just won't happen. If you want to hit your growth target, it is important to reach out to a greater audience by promoting your exciting plan and many successes. That means investing resources in those areas.

It is important to distinguish that having some amount of money squirreled away in some miscellaneous account, (especially an account that only one person knows about) does not help an organization plan for an activity.  It is important for all stakeholders to be aligned with strategic goals and those goals need to be visible.  Consider adding a line item for marketing, fundraising, or outreach to your budget.

During these difficult times, we all tighten our belts and unfortunately sometimes many important items are cut because they appear extraneous.  While programming leads to community impact, you can't continue to deliver if funding wanes. If you want to grow and hit your targets, a balanced approach includes emphasis on all aspects of your mission, and that's a holistic strategy.

If you make a concerted effort to think holistically and act proactively by shifting your focus towards investment you will dramatically improve your chances of hitting your targets.

Elements of Success

In building their case for funding, most nonprofits go about things all wrong.  They don't tell a compelling story that contains the elements of success.  It is important to frame your "ask" in such a way as to first build an emotional appeal and then present valid reasons why "anyone" would want to participate.  The audience need is primary, your need is secondary.  Here's how to get organized and build a dynamite case for funding:

The case for funding statement is a clear, concise, and most importantly a compelling 1-2 page document that defines the reasons a donor would want to make a contribution or grant to your organization. Within the context of fundraising, this statement should pull together some of the following information and reflect the passion of the organization.

  • Vision for the Future– What do you plan to accomplish as the result of your mission and work? A Vision Statement defines what the organization wants to become. The vision should be shared by all members of the organization and help them feel proud, excited, and part of something much bigger than themselves. A vision should stretch the organization’s capabilities and image of itself. It gives shape and direction to the organization’s future and the future of its constituents.
  •  Mission Statement – Defines who are you, what  you do, for whom and what cause? Mission/Purpose is a precise description of what an organization does. It should describe the business of the organization. It is a definition of "why" the organization exists currently. Each member of an organization should be able to verbally express this mission.
  • Organizational Values – Value statements are grounded in principle and define how people want to behave with each other in the organization. They are statements about how the organization will value customers, suppliers, and the internal community. Value statements describe actions that are the living enactment of the fundamental values held by most individuals within the organization.
  • Statement of Community Need – This element identifies the problem or issues that exist, how it effects your constituents, and why it is important to the community.  It may include the history and historical impact of the organization and how it has worked to alleviate the situation.  A success story or simple case study may work to establish the relevance of the problem and the work that needs to be done for the community’s benefit.
  • Goals & SMART Objectives –  As a result of your overall strategic plan or vision, what are the key goals and objectives that will work to achieve your vision?  These should be set out with striking objectivity, with specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely details.
  • Program – What projects, products and services do you provide?  First a simple description of your product or service offering will give an overview of your work.  But ensure that your description answers the following question:  How does your program address the statement of need and achieve mission goals and objectives?
  • Organization – Every organization is a sum of its parts.  The role of the board, staff, sponsors, and volunteers is critical in defining your work and worth.  Be sure to include key staff and board member backgrounds.
  • Financial Background – Historical income, expenses, cash flow, audits and other $$$ information is important to include either as part of the statement or as an addendum.
  • Discussion of Organizational Need – What do you require? This where you frame how the funder can participate in your mission. Resources broken down by program, special projects, admin, equipment, capital & endowment (if appropriate) are necessary to build your case.
  • Evaluation Strategies – Are critical to success. What outcomes do you measure, how do you determine your work is effective, and how does it relate to the consumer of your work and the community?
  • Funder Benefit – What are the benefits to specific funding constituencies, such as large donors, corporations, foundations.  Answer the question, “What is in it for THEM?”

Follow these guidelines and you will see your donations rise.

Brand Awareness

A brand is the impression the public shares about an organization. Your organization already has a brand. It's what the public thinks about you. It’s what fundraisers, constituents, volunteers, and colleagues in the community think about when they hear your name.

This brand awareness may, or may not be accurate, or flattering to your organization. The purpose of influencing your brand is to clearly communicate your strengths. Enhancing your brand, how others think of you, should be a top priority for your organization. It improves fundraising and volunteer commitments and promotes your mission.