Using The POST Method to Guide Nonprofit Marketing Communications

Every morning I spend time reading posts from some of my favorite social media gurus. In all the years that I’ve been working with nonprofits I’ve never experienced such willingness to share information. I’m like a little girl in a candy shop.

Then I stumbledupon a guest post on Windmill Networking by Claire Axelrad –  A New Era in Nonprofit Marketing: Why Winging It with Social Media No Longer Works.

Claire’s opening sentence – “On a wing and a prayer is not a strategy” caught my fancy. Unfortunately her contention that many nonprofits simply ‘wing it’ when it comes to social media is true.

The post is a must read! Throughout Claire provides links to many of the incredible voices in social media, including Kivi Leroux Miller, Beth Kanter, Brian Solis and many more.

As I followed the links I ran across a link to an Internal working plan for communication strategy. uses traditional and emerging communications channels to further their reach in HIV prevention, testing treatment and care.

The communications approach is based on Forrester Research’s POST  Method.  Josh Bernoff, senior vice president, idea development, at Forrester Research, developed The POST Method in 2007. It is really simple, yet profound in that it provides a user-friendly system for using traditional and emerging communications channels. The acronym refers to the four-step approach:

P is People. Don’t start a social strategy until you know the capabilities of your audience. If you’re targeting college students, use social networks. If you’re reaching out to business travelers, consider ratings and reviews. Forrester has great  data to help with this, but you can make some estimates on your own. Just don’t start without thinking about it.

O is objectives. Pick one. Are you starting an application to listen to your customers, or to talk with them? To support them, or to energize your best customers to evangelize others? Or are you trying to collaborate with them? Decide on your objective before you decide on a technology. Then figure out how you will measure it.

S is Strategy. Strategy here means figuring out what will be different after you’re done. Do you want a closer, two-way relationship with your best customers? Do you want to get people talking about your products? Do you want a permanent focus group for testing product ideas and generating new ones? Imagine you succeed. How will things be different afterwards? Imagine the endpoint and you’ll know where to begin.

T is Technology. A community. A wiki. A blog or a hundred blogs. Once you know your people, objectives, and strategy, then you can decide with confidence.

How uses The Post Method

Before starts any new communications activity they discuss the following questions:

  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • What information does our audience need? If we do not know, how can we find out?
  • What is our audience’s use of and comfort level with various communication tools?
  • What do we want to accomplish with this particular audience?
  • Is someone else already doing this? What partnerships do we need to engage to learn more about this audience and plan a response?
  • What resources (e.g., funding, time, capacity, human resources, etc.) do we have to implement and maintain this strategy?
  • What tools are most appropriate for this target audience, objectives, and strategy?
  • What would success look like? How can it be measured?

The Communicaton Strategy Internal Working Plan, January 2011 contains detailed presentations on how they use the POST Method, tools to listen, guidelines for engaging and connecting and monitoring and evaluation.

I strongly recommend anyone interested in using The POST Method for your nonprofit strategic communications review the report.

Interested in a sample Communications Grid based on POST? Please let me hear from you –



On joining the NPO Connect Team

I was invited to join the NPO Connect Team. Another opportunity to empower nonprofits to do good!

NPO Connect is a brand new online platform designed to build the skills of nonprofit professionals and volunteers. NPO Connect offers a comprehensive approach to professional development and networking for the sector.  

How exciting to join such an incredible team. Now I can continue to learn and explore while participating in this new venture.

NPO Connect Content Experts:

So, please join us!  Take advantage of NPO Connect’s no-cost, 30-day trial membership!

While you’re on the site take a look at the Forums. We’re building community and sharing insights in fundraising, marketing & communications, and program planning & development.

Please let me hear from you. I’d love to know what you think!





Role of the Board & Successful Fundraising Techniques

The rollercoaster ride that nonprofits have experienced since the beginning of the ‘great recession’ has been anything but fun!

Although the great recession began in 2007 according to the National Bureau of Economic Statics, the reality of its effects on nonprofits really hit home the day the venerable brokerage firm Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in September ’08. Pretty soon nonprofit leaders and staff came to realize that how nonprofits managed their fundraising would be changed forever.

The Nonprofit Finance Fund provides financing, funding and advocacy services to nonprofits and funders nationwide. For the researchers among us, they are a fount of data. Their “Guide to Navigating Changing Times” provides answers and resources to help weather these difficult times.

An October 11 blog posting from David King, president Alexander Haas highlights “10 Lessons Learned from the Great Recession.”

  1. Relationships matter more than causes
  2. Serving on a board in not an honor, it is a real job with real responsibilities
  3. If you stop fund raising, you will stop raising funds
  4. Endowment is not an insurance policy against declines in earned and donated revenue
  5. Take donors for granted and they will take their donations elsewhere
  6. Financial acumen is, in fact, a requirement for nonprofit executives
  7. Your next campaign does not “have” to be larger than you last campaign
  8. We have a new definition for what we “need”
  9. The donor pyramid has been pinched in the middle (think hour glass)
  10. Fear of multi-year pledging has reshaped how capital campaigns are executed.

I have always been committed to a fundraising board. Last year I was asked to do a presentation on the “Role of the Board & Successful Fundraising Techniques.”

This presentation is a Call to Action for nonprofit boards to encourage ownership and enthusiasm for fundraising.

You are welcome to share with your nonprofit’s board of directors. I’d love to hear from you to learn of their response.

I know this is an extremely busy time for fundraising. We at Creative Solutions & Innovations wish you the very best in your quest.

Getting to Know Your Target Audience

“Getting to know your supporters, volunteers, clients and other participants in your mission is easy, if you build that listening and learning into your everyday work.” Kivi Leroux Miller

I know a lot of people think ‘putting together the puzzle pieces’ is a hackneyed term. Beyond the fact that our logo is constructed around a puzzle piece, I think it is apropos to organizations trying to get above the noise in the marketplace to build awareness and raise funds.

What do I mean putting together the puzzle pieces? Reaching out and building better relationships by understanding and knowing your target audiences.

There is no question that knowing your target audiences is the most essential aspect of your nonprofit’s marketing communications and fundraising. Nonprofit marketing guru Kivi Leroux Miller goes so far as to call knowing your target audience the Number 1 Rule in Nonprofit Marketing.

And, I agree.

That said, Kivi also provided some easy to do suggestions on how to know your audience. These appeared in her Nonprofit Marketing Tips on July 12, 2011:

  • Be curious, all the time
  • Formalize that curiosity
  • Convene Informal Focus Groups
  • Conduct an Online Survey

I would like to add to Kivi’s suggestions:

  • Create a CRM database and really use it. Take notes on what you learn. Be sure and qualify how you received a gift, e.g., direct mail, social media posting, personalized letters or special events.
  • Invite board members, key donors and volunteers to sit around the table and discuss your mission, programs and services. Ask what they see as important to each of them.
  • Take that information to craft messages to reach out to current donors, sponsors and prospects.
  • Provide “Invite a Friend” programs to your members. Ask each to invite their friends and family to join them to support you. Be sure and provide meaningful information about what you do and how you touch the community.
  • Consider reaching out to the business community and elected officials to show how you make an impact. Be sure and figure the economic impact of your programs. Gauge their interest and learn how they like to receive information.

Be sure and use this knowledge as you build your marketing communications program. I’ve created a template based on my experiences. There are some excellent templates that can be accessed through a key word search.

The key is to personalize to your organization and keep the plan updated as you learn more and more about your target audiences.

If you’d like a copy of my strategic communications template, please contact me at

Special Events without Sponsors? – No Way!

I’ve written a lot about sponsorships. Sponsorships are about building effective partnerships that enhance both an organization’s mission and the sponsoring company’s business goals. They are fundamental to your organization’s survival.

Special events are the main key to acquiring corporate sponsorships. And, they lead to other sponsorship opportunities beyond events, such as long-term strategic alliances, and cause-related marketing.

Marketers learned that programs that combine loyalty with value equal profits. Your relationships with your clients, volunteers and community provide that loyalty and help ensure the audience that your corporate partners want. While many marketing verticals are flat, sponsorships continue to grow and provide positive results.

Pat Kahnert, PBK & Associates Inc., is a Marketing Public Relations Effectiveness Consultant. He is committed to ‘Helping Business Leaders and Their Teams Build Better Communities’. Pat’s excellent checklist for designing sponsorships with confidence is a great tool when venturing into sponsorships:

Objectives –

  1. I know how to help sponsors connect with community through our event.
  2. I focus on desired outcomes and event audience needs and benefits.
  3. I ask key influencers to help me reach the right business contacts.
  4. I have done extensive research to determine preferences of sponsors.
  5. I have a personal contact plan in place for getting to know a prospect.
  6. I will focus first on friend raising and then embark on fund raising.
  7. I have allowed ample time for establishing a strong strategic”fit” with a sponsor.
  8. I understand my prospect’s business goals and primary audiences.
  9. All sponsorship partners are clear about objectives, roles and expectations.
  10. The contract has been signed with plenty of time to deliver on all promises made.

Implementation –

  1. We have developed a customer-centric sponsorship policy with our sponsor’s input.
  2. We have developed an integrated project map process to fulfill all obligations.
  3. My sponsor has agreed to serve on our event organizing committee.
  4. We have organized advisory councils (volunteers, sponsor employees, community)
  5. We have secured media sponsors to help raise profile and promotion.
  6. Sponsor logo recognition was approved and applied to our sponsors’ satisfaction.
  7. We follow a clearly defined risk management policy, with back-ups to everything.
  8. We proactively look for ways to leverage sponsor’s name and association.
  9. We stress professionalism, and give sponsors regular updates against plan.
  10. We facilitate personal introductions of sponsors to others involved.

Measurement –

  1. We measured what matters most to sponsors and their key stakeholders.
  2. We explained to our event audience what our sponsor’s role meant to their enjoyment.
  3. We often asked sponsors if they were pleased with value received so far.
  4. We thanked the sponsor publicly and one-to-one for making a difference for our event.
  5. We produced a summary of benefits (media, audience, logo recognition, value-added)
  6. We optimized promotional investment and publicity effort, keeping within budget.
  7. We appreciated the value of our sponsor’s total contribution (money, time and more).
  8. We shared feedback from audience, volunteers, employees and customers.
  9. We celebrated success and recognized important personal and team contributions.
  10. Our sponsor is delighted with results generated and will return next year.


If you have any questions, please contact me at I’ll gladly share my Timeline for Sponsorship Efforts with you.

Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs!

“In the complicated world of nonprofit organizations, it can seem like everything goes wrong at once.”

Barbara Kibbe and Fred Setterberg, Succeeding with Consultants

I know when I take on a new assignment I am going to step on some toes. After all, I am usually hired to work with nonprofits facing challenges – a struggling board, a scheduled special event without implementation plans, an organization without a strategic plan or a rainmaker founding board member who decides to leave, but won’t let go.

Many times, the stressors are external – loss of funding, harsh political climate or a lack of buy-in from donors on signature projects.

Be sure and conduct a thorough situation analysis to begin. Identify challenges to focus your work. Here are 10 key questions to guide the process:

1)      Does the organization have a fundraising plan that identifies different sources and funding activities?

2)      Do all the board members contribute money?

3)      Is there a donor management program in place?

4)      Is there consensus about the organization’s vision and mission?

5)      When is the last time the bylaws were updated?

6)      Are marketing and development programs based on services and programs instead of the mission?

7)      Does the community know the nonprofit?

8)      Is the IT infrastructure adequate?

9)      Is there an updated strategic plan and is it followed?

10)   Does the organization have published ethical guidelines for governance and fundraising? Are they followed?

So, be prepared to ruffle some feathers. And, be prepared to read the warning signs when it is time to go.

But, before you leave, be sure and share the nonprofit’s successes that were accomplished while you were there.