Just submitted a few pieces of our woe from this past year to the 34th Annual Telly Awards. We won 2 last year, so we’re back for more this year!
Internet/Online Commercial – Not-for-profit
United Way of Greater L.A. – Workplace Hero
It was an incredible team effort and this campaign has really resonated with audiences. Including the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa (below)
Internet/Online Video – Documentary
Frank – ArcLight Cinemas
This short began the Behind The Curtain Series and has really resonated with viewers.
Judging begins next week and as soon as we here, you can bet we’ll be posting it. In the meantime – Why aren’t we creating your next big campaign or art piece to build your brand? Let’s get started: email me @ email@example.com
Portnoy Media Group uses the influence of social networks to expand your organization's voice and tell your story. We connect people with your mission and enable your brand to be shared, discovered, and connected. Work with us as we empower your organization to dramatically extend your online presence and increase donations.
It’s December and I’d like to take a moment and recap all that happened this year
2012 started with a bang! We launched The Non-Profit Narrative. On location with Jones Coffee and complete with a photo booth. And thanks to so many of you, the book has been a real success. Thank you for buying it, talking about it and for your reviews!
This year we continued our work with The United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Last year we worked together to revamp their digital communications and launched a complete rebrand of their website in just 9 days. It wasn’t a lot of sleep but it was a whole lot of good.
First up, we launched a new site for their Home for Good initiative.
This group of business leaders, state officials, faith communities and non-profit partners are moving people off the street and into permanent supportive housing.
Over the summer it was all about community heroes.
Together, the team from United Way, Double Vision Inc and Portnoy Media Group all worked together to build a profile for a campaign that was dynamic, engaging and a whole lot of fun.
This was a great integration of print and digital, of traditional and new media to create this campaign.
It was incredible to see top executives from LA’s largest corporations getting involved with the campaign and making it their own.
This year we also got to work with Nnamdi Asomugha and created a PSA about the work that he cares about with the children of LA.
We also provided media and the stage production at this years Homewalk. Over 10,000 angelinos raising money for the homeless it was great! With attendees like Mark Valley from Body of Proof and Jon Huertes from Castle – Homewalk was a star studded community event!
We coordinated cameras, created the production visuals and covered the event. Homewalk is a great event that helps a lot of people but it doesn’t hurt when Kobe Bryant is the honorary chairman.
In the late summer and fall we partnered with ArcLight Cinemas, incidentally my favorite place to see a movie in the country and produced the Behind the Curtain Series.
First we met Frank an incredible man who loves film and loves to set the stage for the best possible movie going experience.
Next we met the actual man behind the curtain, the director of projection and sound Mr. John Sittig. His decades of knowledge and work with the Hollywood studios makes him a legend! My jaw dropped more than a few times at the stories he told.
This year ended with a big bang of stellar proportions. We worked with The SETI Institute and were able to spend some time talking with TED prize winner Dr. Jill Tarter. and Founder of the institute Dr. Frank Drake.
We worked together on The Communicate campaign
It was a really full and fun year and I can’t be more thankful for all the challenges and the great people that have helped make all of this amazing work happen.
For everyone here at Portnoy Media, I’m Dan Portnoy Be safe.
Last week the United Way of Greater Los Angeles (UWGLA) launched their 2012 campaign. This was a great project for our team to work on. Starting this past May, we began meeting with UWGLA staff on all of the possibilities that were before them.
A few days in the R&D labs and we had a few options panned out. Next, we worked with Jeff Millican at Double Vision Inc. to take the ideas and direction we were forging into some rough templates on look and tone. I think he really hit the mark and gave us some great options. Lastly, UWGLA staff made a choice and we were off to the races creating this video, a campaign website and full integration across social media platforms.
We’ve got a more complete version of the story in the works that will show you all the pieces as they came together (but you’ll have to be patient for now)
Here’s the video and I’d like to thank everyone who worked on it to make it spectacular. (see for yourself)
I’m super thrilled to announce that we’re launching my first book – The Non-profit Narrative
My goal for the book is to end up in the center of three topics.
This book shows how non-profits can thrive by telling great stories.
- Learn what it takes to communicate a narrative in the digital space that gets results.
- Acquire and cultivate your audience at the same time.
- Further your organizations communication with engagement, connection and more donors.
I’m really excited to share this information and study with you very soon.
Sign up for our email list to be the first to be sent a chapter from the book before anyone else!
And check out the book page – The Non-profit Narrative
This is how to ask for money – give vision to your tribe!
This concept is simple (Tell your Story) but it’s not easy. Every September, I look forward to hearing Scott Harrison tell me all the really incredible things that friends of charity:water have been doing over the last year. Seeing peers, families and kids get exited about making an impact in a community half way around the world is incredible – plus it doesn’t hurt when cute kids are putting on a lemonade stand for water projects either.
Conventional (or entrenched) wisdom would say that we need to make sure there’s a regular appeal letter, a response device and we need to wait 3 weeks to see how it does. Get some data returned and then look how else we can “engage” our print audience.
Can you imagine if charity:water did that?
I can’t – it would be against their DNA. They’ve never been a conventional charity, YAY!
Check out their website (it changes during this campaign- because it’s how they got started, they’re using every piece of communication to reinforce their position)
This design is so simple and extremely intentional. It’s pretty but the primary function of the webpage is quick connection and helping site visitors become participants in water projects.
But that’s them…. and you work at a more conventional charity and to mix it up too much could be disastrous.. What can we learn? Here’s a couple of tips.
Tell your story
Don’t just tell the stories of those your impacting make sure your organization doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. It’s crucial to share your impact but make sure you’re consistently sharing with your audiences about why you’re active and why you’ve chosen this work versus others.
Film, Film, Film
Hire/partner with a filmmaker – and I don’t mean the guy down the street with a camera. I mean a professional that works withclients all the time. I’ve found that the best filmmakers to collaborate with have big dreams and don’t feel that client work is their endgame. They are pushing themselves and their company to be bigger, as a result, they are always learning and a position of learning means that they’ll have a careful eye on how to make your next film project. (PS if you’re nervous about it, I’ve got a great list of companies that I enjoy working with – just email me firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Clear Ask
One of the new trends is to kind of ask or soft ask. (Have a response device in a mailer but don’t draw attention to it.) It’s confusing. Ask your tribe or don’t. Give them information and thank them, tell them a story or an update but when it’s time to ask don’t “shuffle your feet”. “Do or do not. There is no try?”- Yoda Don’t apologize for raising money to save someones life! When you pause or don’t ask with confidence it can communicate a lot of extra negatives. Either you’re being a good steward with your funds and you can ask with confidence for the ability to carry on this work or you’ve abused this relationship and you’re unsure if this should continue.
Adjust Across Platforms
The web needs to reflect your campaigns. This sounds simple, and it is, but too many times the website is taking a backseat to the agency running a print campaign. remember, you can get more data in 30 minutes from a facebook post (with a vibrant community) than you will on how a mailer responded. (it’s easier for charity:water – to my knowledge they don’t have a regular mailing list, just email)
How are you building it around your project. You have to show the peer to peer influence – don’t just give me some stats – that’s lame. Show me how a human was impacted and made an adjustment in their life for your cause. That will help your community know that this is the kind of action you’re looking for. Read Dan and Chip Heath’s book “Switch” they call it: Highlighting the bright spots.
Ditch the Text
How much text on the charity:water homepage is above the fold? Not that much. Bold statements and a video. This short film will do more than 3 pages of text could ever do to communicate a story. Now look at your website. I run into a lot of NPO’s trying to communicate everything that they do all at the same time. That’s not story telling, it’s asking people to drink from a fire hose and how long would you hang around if that’s all you could do. It’s not connection – it’s offensive. Don’t be offensive.. but you know that already.
Congratulations to Scott Harrison and the team at charity:water for hitting another homerun. I admire your work and you’re all top shelf in my book.
Breaking this information down and getting it working for your organization is what Portnoy Media does best. So if this is feeling like a lot and you’re interested in telling your story better and developing community around your brand – give us a shout. Nonprofits, over 40% of your annual revenue is less than 120 days away!!
Office Number 626.487.9823
Ben Stiller and Stiller Foundation launched a video 2 weeks back about an organization involving Jennifer Aniston and the idea of her being naked. This video preys on the natural behavior on the web (that many people want to see her naked) and give it the old Bait and Switch (because she’s not going to be naked) I’m sure this results in some serious clicks.
Sadly, clicks are not the name of the game when it comes to donor development and brand champions. This video is a great grab for acquisition to a whole bunch of people that probably don’t get asked to help kids in Haiti. (Which is fantastic!) Here’s a breakdown on the video launch.
What he did that was great:
Splash – Using the star power super effectively, Stiller uses his and that of Anistons for fun and with purpose. I applaud Stiller for the brash nature of what he’s doing. The status quo is not getting it done in Haiti so bucking the system is a great start.
A Talkable Video – It’s highly sharable and because of the nature of the video saw exposure on morning talk shows and lots of blog posts. So many nonprofits just communicate facts and forget that they’re crafting a narrative around their brand. Stiller knows this and doesn’t forget.
What could’ve been better:
Nonprofit Youtube Channel – There’s great use of title cards at the end. They show where you can connect to the Stiller Foundation but it would’ve been super hot to allow users to just click the annotations in the video. I’ve written about Annotations inside YouTube videos before (Thanks again for talking about it Weber Shandwick, call me!) and they put a potential donor really close to engagement in your campaigns. Any 501(c)3 can apply for one at google.com/nonprofits
What’s Next? – The question that is always asked. If I do decide to visit the site, the call to action is to support the foundation financially, also a bold move, but it looks like that’s it. There’s connection if I want to click to facebook or twitter (also good) but what about a call to join the email list? Is there an email list?? I couldn’t find one easily. What if in that email was a system of 2-4 auto-responders that explained why Ben felt so strongly to spend his money, effort and energy in this idea. That’s a great story and you’d have me hooked and I’d guess a lot more people too.
Interesting to note:
Impact – With nearly 2 Million followers on Twitter I’d expect a 2 week old video to have more impressions (call me picky). It’s a great video (for reasons mentioned above) but it tells me that the impact for cause related media is not why many of his followers are there. I’d be thinking through how to convert them from observers to participants.
PS. My favorite role of Stiller has to be Tony Perkis in Heavyweights.
This past weekend was a big weekend for movie theaters and for Warner Brothers with the triumphant return of “Harry Potter” to theaters for its final installment. The lobby was packed with costumed patrons all saying goodbye in their own way to characters that they’ve come to know and love over the last 14 years. (“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was published on June 30, 1997.)
I’ve read the books and seen the movies and enjoyed them all thoroughly.
As I sat in the dark theater this weekend, surrounded by a myriad of ages and ethnicities, I started to think about the series, the business, the franchise and what made it work. Next I thought about my clients. What principles could we glean from this success? How could these principles be used to cultivate community?
Here’s a few takeaways:
The Content is Remarkable
Bottom Line – It’s a good story. It’s THE story; the hero’s journey is the foundation of every story and what draws us in. J.K. Rowling created a rich, dynamic world for readers to enter. There’s a spinoff series around every corner; she can tell you the story of characters going back 100 years. She looks to connect us to the humanity in the story. We wrestle with the unknown, we feel uneasy when our characters do and we shed a tear in a Starbucks when Dobby dies (maybe that last one was just me). Point is, it’s worth talking about. It’s a great experience and it’s rewarding. There’s intrinsic value to it. Now how many nonprofits are creating remarkable content? Nonprofits that have great value and with great stories to tell – true stories! Stories of the hero’s journey, of life change and of impact. Takeaway: Make the best content you can.
Rabid Fans Spread Rabidly
The engagement and the worldwide spread of Harry Potter is a phenomeon. It’s part art and part science. We know that to tell a good story that it must have certain pieces (science) and it must weave eloquently (art). Rowling’s blending of the two is nothing short of genius. She gives us the story we want but not in the way that we want it. This is the mark of a great storyteller. Spending a few hours with Harry Potter, using our imaginations and joining his friends on an adventure is a great experience. When I was handed the books I was told, “Hurry to the 3rd book, it gets amazing!” and when I finished it, I was having a great time reading. I was having a great time reading?!?!?! It’s not all that often, I read a lot and most of it is to stay informed about issues or a new strategy, but this was pure pleasure and glorious. I wanted to share this experience with others and tell my sphere about this positive experience. Takeaway: Make sure your donor experience is positive!
J.K. Rowling Has a Formula
As each story starts, Harry is introduced to a new concept and sees that the world is bigger than he thought – just like growing up. She starts each story in August just days before Harry’s birthday (a big event in any kid’s life) and every year she introduces a new mode of transportation, a new creature and fills in the gaps on the evil in the world. The truth is: for every similarity she also breaks her rules but always to further the story. This formula gives us tracks to run on, we can get comfortable and then she uses that comfort against us when she’s breaking the rule. Yet we’re not upset. It’s entertaining and it’s great storytelling. Takeaway: Be informative about how your community works but don’t be afraid to push the envelope.
Up the Ante
Building on the formula, the stakes get bigger every time. We see characters die in the “The Sorcerers’ Stone” but they were villains so we don’t feel too terrible. It’s what good does, it triumphs over evil and the minions are left holding the bag. By the time the fourth book gets started and we’re introduced to even more characters, we think we’ve got it figured out but then tragedy. A character dies. Not a distant relative or a story from years past. Cedric Diggory is murdered right in front of Harry Potter. When I read this part is was so abrupt that that I was looking for more exposition on the circumstance. The death of characters continues throughout the books. Characters we’ve come to care about, characters with influence. But this is how life is, no certainty and when conveying your story it’s important to up the tension. It’s crucial to show that the act of donating or volunteering will make a difference but you must ACT – and do it now! It’s also important here to note that the story of “Boy who Cried Wolf” is a very important fundraising lesson. Donor fatigue is all too real in today’s world and we need to be mindful and thank our donors as often as possible.. besides, I’ve never heard someone complain because they just keep getting thanks for their work with a nonprofit. Takeaway: Use tension to create urgency in your story. What time of year is this most appropriate? Remember to say “Thanks”, often.
It Takes Time
It’s easy for us to look at the Harry Potter franchise and say, “It’s obvious this would be a hit.” I don’t think the editor of the first book was thinking that this series would bring in over $21 Billion, spawn a theme park and become a household name. After the fourth installment – some would say the second – it was obvious that this series was going to be big. The big lesson here is that consistency will pay your bills in the tough months as long as the tyranny of the urgent doesn’t distract. So publish on Facebook, update your Twitter profile. Do it often and don’t miss your email updates. You’re making deposits into an emotional bank account for your brand. Takeaway: Winning on the web is a splash for some but most involves daily farming. Be consistent!
Helping organizations be creative in the telling of their story is our specialty. (It’s also one of my more favorite things to do!) We love getting to the heart of what your organization is about and then giving you, and your team, the tools to make a major impact. If your organization needs a boost in how you’re communicating online – Give us a shout on our contact page!
Wikipedia released a whole bunch of info on their ongoing campaign to raise funs from within the community. Â The infographic from David McCandless is fantastic because of the quick info communicated. Â (McCandless calls the success “Gore” but I think it’s more effective because they’ve humanized the ask.) What’s the biggest takeaway?
Guilt should never be a tool used to raise money!
Does it work? Â Sure – for the short term. Â You can even argue that guilt raises more money that gratitude but do you want to associate your brand with a negative emotion?
Imagine you’re at a party. The mood is great and the music is rolling. Quality conversation is happening all around you and connections are being made. Â The witty banter of friends carries light on the air. Then a loud interrupting announcement is made that everyone must now play board games and only board games. The announcer goes on to tell you that those who don’t play board games will really be a hindrance to everyone else. Â The vibe shifts. No longer is the merry conversation free-for-all acceptable and now it just gets weird. The audience starts asking, “Aren’t we adults here?” and “Why am I being pushed around like this?”.
This is the exact same scenario that organizations put their audiences through when they push for what they want. Â Don’t let your organization be the strange one at the party making all the rules and excluding folks from being a part of what you do. Organizations define “the online party” by setting the house rules. If you set the rules one way, you’ve got to follow through other wise it hurts your rep. Â The online reputation of your organization comes from your donors but also from those who your programs serve. Bait and switch works in the short term too, but again, is that the conscious choice you want to be making?
I’m often asked about attrition rates when it comes to donors. Â For example: In an email campaign if the attrition rate is less than 1% for all messages common thought is that you’re not emailing enough. Traditional marketing dictates that organizations push their donors to leave. Constantly piling on more and more to the donors plate. Â I would argue that as a donor I would like to engage in the ritual of story and be taken along a journey with an organization year over year. (Traditional offerings are not allowed!) Â This is why charity:water dominates September with their birthday campaign. By participating you’re adding to the story, you’re truly joining their mission. The raise millions online annually with a soft ask.
So what can we learn from this? (and there is a ton of data here, take a look)
- Banner ads are fickle – there’s not a standard approach to making a great pitch. This is great evidence that money can be better spent on anything than these. If you decide to use banner ads they have to constantly be tweaked to get your message right. Their average response ranges from .11% to just under 3% – not any better than direct mail. The fun part for Wikipedia – this doesn’t cost them anything. Your organization doesn’t have this same luxury.
- Give your donors a positive intangible, allow them the opportunity to get involved and show momentum.
- Thank them along the way? Â Of course but that’s not the driving factor to raise money. It’s the driving factor to building a community and with a community you can move mountains!
- Make the connection personal – “I only know one person at Wikipedia, he happens to be the founder.”
Marc A. Pitman gets it. Marc betters the world by helping non-profits raise money. His book “Ask Without Fear” is a best seller and gives NP’s the tools needed to court dollars more effectively and he’s been featured on NBC, CBS, Fox News and more! He’s also part of the team at the recently launched 501 Mission Place (Part of Chris Brogan’s Human Business Works). Â Marc graciously paused from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
(1) In this economy what do you find are the best principles for quality engagement or donor involvement?
I’m finding an increasing desire on the part of donors to be involved beyond simply writing a check. They want to volunteer somehow. Nonprofits don’t seem ready for this, especially because volunteers aren’t terribly clear on what they want to do. Most seem to want something that fits into their schedule and is flexible while also having amazing impact on the cause.
Social media can be one way to get volunteers to help on their own terms. But nonprofits really need to reconsider donor involvement. There are a larger number of highly qualified Boomers retiring that often aren’t satisfied with the manual work of stuffing envelopes. Their skills are at strategic planning, visioning, accounting–professional, thought working skills. We need to re-examine our organizations to see how we can best receive volunteers.
Often, we simply need to ask our boards and volunteers, what is it that you’d like to do? Here’s what we see you bring to the table, what do you see?
And we need to be politely firm if the donor wants to do something that distracts us from our mission. A “mission-based no” is usually well received even by the most disappointed donor.
(2) What’s been the biggest surprise you’ve seen in fundraising this year? The biggest failure/misuse?
The biggest surprise? That giving has slightly declined in the US. We’re a generous people, but this is a very rare year. Granted, the best giving time of the year is now (as I write this) so that might turn around.
A failure I’m seeing more and more nonprofits make is their use of email. There are so many great services out there like Constant Contact or AWeber. But many are getting lazy and just using an image-based message. So the emails are coming up as blanks when I open them. I never allow emails to display images unless I know, like, and trust the sender.
Nonprofits are losing a chance to get their message to people like me because they’re simply not creating a plain text alternative for the email. It only takes a little longer, but it can significantly help get the word out.
Another problem I’m seeing is people using really small font in their direct mail. No direct mail should go out with font smaller than 11. The people that give by direct mail aren’t getting any younger. We need to help them if we’d like them to read our message.
(3) What’s a favorite non-profit organization of yours?
There are so many! The one that comes to mind right now is the Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic. http://alspay.org/ They’re an incredibly skilled AND fun group of people passionate about humanely decreasing pet over population in Birmingham. I’m just helping them created a fundraising program but they are “getting it” and making it even better than I could’ve imagined.
(4) What are 3 things an organization could do today to benefit their holiday giving calendar?
Send a good fundraising letter: personalized, clear call to action in the PS, large enough font. But to raise real money, get out there and ask face-to-face! I recommend nonprofits Get R.E.A.L.! – Research, Engage, Ask, and Love.
- Research your goal
How much you want to raise before December 31. As a Certified Franklin Covey Coach, I’m big on goal setting! After you have that number, use a gift range calculator to see what levels you should be asking at. Blackbaud has a calculator on their site. And I have a free one at www.GiftRangeCalculator.com.
- Research your prospects
Who do you know that you can ask to give at the levels it’ll take to reach your goal? Don’t worry about overasking. It’s better to over ask than under ask any day. Next to their names, jot down aspects of your organization or cause that you think they’d most resonate with.
- Engage with those prospects
Call them up to set a time to talk about supporting your cause. Don’t get into the ask on the phone, just make the appointment.
- Ask for the gift
Ask for a clear dollar amount. Don’t wimp out with a “Will you consider supporting our cause?” They don’t have any idea what you consider “support” so do them the service of being clear. I’ve never had anyone offended that I’ve asked too much. They laugh in my face but are never offended. If a specific dollar is scary, use the gift range calculator as a prop to help your asking.
People are always more important than their level of giving. If they say yes, do all you can to thank them 7 times before the next solicitation. Show them that they’ve made a great choice.
If they say no, ask them what you can do to get into their top 10 giving priorities. But be gracious. The timing might really not be right for them so treat them well.
There is still alot of time left to raise large amounts of money.
[There's more on this at the "Articles" section of my site. The article is called "Do It Yourself Fundraising."]
(5) What’s the best way for a non-profit to partner with a corporation?
Find some legitimate reason for the corporation to give. Do your research:
- What is the corporation already giving to?
- What is the corporation known for?
- Who is the corporation marketing to?
Corporations are made up of individuals, so that reason may be an employee that is pysched about your cause. But figure out what’s in it for them. I tell clients to PYITS: Put Yourself in Their Shoes. Think like a business owner with scant resources. Would you give in the way you’re approaching the corporation to?
I recommend you approach the marketing division first. They always have bigger budgets than the charitable office.
Thank you Marc for taking the time to answer my questions, great info! Sign up for his email newsletter here, check out his book “Ask Without Fear” here and be sure to connect with him personally on Twitter.
How will you use this info? Has it helped you?