Strategic advocacy communication is key to my journey!

Social Change Communication is key to Advocacy

Strategic advocacy communication is key to my journey!

 “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” ― William Faulkner

I am not afraid to raise my voice for honesty, truth, and compassion. I am committed, passionate and motivated when I advocate for change. Strategic advocacy communication is key to my journey!

What is advocacy?

According to Joyce Johnson, writing for Learning to Give, advocacy means to speak up, to plead the case of another, or to fight for a cause. Advocacy, she writes, describes a wide range of expressions, actions, and activities that seek to influence outcomes directly affecting the lives of the people served by the organization. Johnson further states:

Reduced to its most basic level, effective nonprofit advocacy is about communication and relationships.

An effective advocate influences key decision makers. This happens by moving them from understanding and empathy to action. Relationships and strategic advocacy communication underlie this movement.

Strategic advocacy communication is key to my journey!

“If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which way you go!” The Cheshire cat in alice in Wonderland

A plan integrates all an organization’s programs, public education, and advocacy efforts. A long-term strategy positions an organization to be more proactive and strategic, rather than consistently reacting to the existing environment.

I am a firm believer in creating a strategic marketing communications plan. Your plan ensures your organization communicates effectively and meets your organizational goals and objectives.

Elements of an effective strategic marketing communications plan:

  • Goals and Objectives
  • Target Audience
  • Strategies
  • Tactics to Engage Target Audiences
  • Create targeted messages
  • Choose channels to deliver messages
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Work plan
  • Budget
  • Evaluation

Communications Matters created a model designed to help communication practitioners and their colleagues build a common language and a shared understanding of the role that social change communication plays in advancing lasting social changeThis communications model is built around four central pillars: brand, culture, strategy, and action.

  • Brand – Every social change organization, no matter its size or purpose, has three key assets that shape its identity: resources, reputation, and relationships.
  • Culture – Communicating organizations cultivate certain qualities that make their work compelling to others. You may not have all in equal measure, but you need a minimum supply of each to succeed.
  • Strategy – Successful organizations are consistently strategic (deliberate and intentional) about their communication choices, weighing several distinct, yet related, variables before they act.
  • Action – Communicating should never be a one-way activity. Success demands a continuous, virtuous, self-correcting cycle of sending and receiving, plus the ability to cede control.

Social Media for advocacy:

AAUW, empowering women since 1881, suggests these 6 steps to social media for advocacy:

  1. Set your goals. Is your goal narrow (publicizing an event) or broad (building and engaging with a community or coalition)?
  2. Identify your target audiences.
  3. Select the social media platforms you plan to use. Make your choice based on your goals and target audiences. The most well-known are Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Gather resources and materials to create content and share.
  5. Find volunteers to help manage social platforms.
  6. Be sure and integrate into your marketing communications plan.

Blending traditional and new media for advocacy:

The POST Method, developed by Forrester Research, provides a framework for blending traditional and new media. 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 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 afterward? 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.

Strategic advocacy communication is key to my journey with  The Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta. We expand opportunities in the lives of Jewish women and girls via effective grant-making, advocacy, and education through a gender lens. As co-chair of the education and advocacy committee, strategic advocacy communication is the framework I use to move decision makers from understanding and empathy to action.

Do you engage in advocacy? I’d love to know if you have any suggestions for best practices with strategic advocacy communications.

Please let us hear from you!





Don’t shoot yourself in the foot: Revisit your communications plan before you speak!

“If you don’t know where you’re going it doesn’t matter which way you go!”

How could one of the country’s most trusted nonprofits end up in a no-win situation with its supporters and corporate partners?

How could a well-liked and respected organization that does so much good for so many find itself on the defensive?

Below is a brief overview of how the Susan B. Koman Foundation landed in such a difficult spot.

On January 31st AP reported that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s leading breast cancer charity, was halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates that provided breast screening services through a Komen grant.

This caused a bitter rift between the two organizations. Planned Parenthood responded immediately and launched a fundraising initiative to replace the lost funds; at first the Komen Foundation was quiet. By the time they responded it was too late.

The ongoing effects were almost instantaneous. The once venerated Komen Foundation found itself on the defensive and it appears it will remain there for a long time to come.

It is hard to imagine, but as Kivi Leroux Miller describes in the Accidental Rebranding of Komen for the Curethe foundation waded into an area of highly charged public feelings without a communications plan. Or, I would suggest, without using their marketing communications plan to guide their actions.

This is not the first time that Komen has hurt itself. Nancy E. Schwartz, in Getting Attention, describes corporate relationship snafus Komen made, and how the brand suffered.

So, what can you do to prevent your nonprofit from shooting itself in the foot?

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Always keep your marketing communications plan  updated & use it!
  2. Always market your mission.
  3. Carefully define whom your mission serves. You need to meet the needs of your core stakeholders.
  4. Measure your constituents’ needs. Research, research, research to ensure your programs & services resonate with your target audiences.
  5. Evaluate the success of programs & their relationship to your mission.
  6. Communicate regularly & consistently.
  7. Craft your messages to reflect how our mission affects your different audiences.
  8. Communicate in terms of your ROI even when it is not in monetary terms; quantify your economic impact.
  9. Celebrate your successes. Show how your ‘market diversification’ creates the funding to provide your services.
  10. Know your organizational elevator speech so you can articulate your vision & Competitive Advantage Statement.
  11. Keep a “face” on your marketing initiatives.
  12. Evaluate often & be prepared to refocus your efforts.
  13. Do not go into the dark. Have a crisis communications plan and be prepared to use it.
  14. Keep your social media outreach up-to-date. If/when a crisis strikes be prepared to address issues head-on. Make sure your posts & tweets are relevant to the issue at hand.

Not certain your new initiative serves your better purpose?

Test it before you launch!

I would love to hear your thoughts on ways to ensure your communications integrity and success.

Interested in a CS&I Marketing Communications Template? Contact me at


Looking back – moving forward

As 2012 begins, it is the perfect time to look back to move forward.

What worked? What didn’t? What could have been even better?

Be sure and invite board members as well as staff to look back to 2011 with you so you can productively move forward.

Make the session upbeat. Celebrate your successes and learn from your challenges.

I’ll help you start with a few opening questions. These are based on lessons I learned over the past year – and beyond.

Did you –

  1. Create/update your strategic marketing plan? Did you really use it?
  2. Base all your marketing communications messages on your mission? Or did you go off message?
  3. Cull/update your database? Identify from whom you had not heard?
  4. Reach out to donors and volunteers and thank them – and then thank them again?
  5. Stay the course and build on your successes, or were you swayed to deviate from your project plans? If so, did it work?
  6. Capitalize on your branded special events or try something new? Were you as successful?
  7. Build-in evaluations throughout the year? Create benchmarks to ensure quality?
  8. Ensure that you know your audiences and that your audiences know you?
  9. Invite new voices to participate in your brainstorming?
  10. Launch a social media campaign? How did it work, how can it grow?

Please stay in touch. Let me know what’s on your mind and how I can help you launch a very successful 2012!

You can always reach me at or visit our Facebook page .

Major Principles for Guiding Your Nonprofit Through a Marketing Lense

Marketing Strategies and Tactics

Recently I was speaking with a prospect and I mentioned the importance of nonprofit marketing. “Well, sure,” he said. “I know that ads and PR are important.”

That was not exactly what I meant! I soon realized we had verydifferent definitions of marketing.

What is Nonprofit Marketing?

“Marketing is so basic that it cannot be a separate function. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final results, that is, from the stakeholder’s point of view.” Marketing Guru Peter Drucker

I see nonprofit marketing as – the strategies and tactics used to identify, create and maintain satisfying relationships with your donors, members, volunteers, clients and other stakeholders that result in value for both your organization and your stakeholders.

Below are 12 principles for guiding your nonprofit through a marketing lense:

  1. Always market your mission, not your current services. The ability to adjust its services to suit client need is key to ensuring the organization’s survival and its financial support.
  2. Carefully define whom your mission serves. You need to meet the needs of our corps stakeholders.
  3.  Measure your constituents’ needs. Research, research, research to ensure your programs & services resonate with your target audiences.
  4. Design programs that meet needs.
  5. Evaluate the success of programs & their relationship to your mission.
  6. Communicate regularly & consistently.
  7. Craft your messages to reflect how our mission affects your different audiences.
  8. Communicate in terms of your ROI even when it is not in monetary terms; quantify your economic impact.
  9. Celebrate your successes. Show how your ‘market diversification’ creates the funding to provide your services.
  10. Know your organizational elevator speech so you can articulate your vision & Competitive Advantage Statement.
  11. Keep a “face” on your marketing initiatives
  12. Evaluate often & be prepared to refocus your efforts.

Want a template for creating a nonprofit marketing plan? Please let me hear from you at

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

Building Your Special Event around an Awards Program

2010 DeKalb Public Safety Champion Awards

“Who is your Pubic Safety Champion?”

The DeKalb Police Alliance was trying to find a way to increase awareness and funding through their upcoming special event. They knew they needed that something special to tell their story and brand their event.

The 2010 DeKalb Public Safety Champion Awards filled the bill! The awards competition became the story, increasing interest in the organization and the upcoming Police Officers Ball. And, it became the linchpin that pulled together all the elements of the event.

The awards honored men and women in public safety and the community who went above and beyond the call of duty to keep everyone safe. An eye-catching nomination form highlighting the Champion Award statuette was key to all promotional activities, including presentations, press releases, social media initiatives and articles. An on-line nomination form gained the most nominations. All people and organizations nominated were recognized as Champion Honorees; the winners were recognized and saluted at the event.

Here are some hints on how you can create an awards program to better tell your story:

  1. Brainstorm – Invite board members and stakeholders to the table. Explore what type of awards program works best with your mission. With the police alliance it made sense to honor people committed to public safety. Look in your arena for best fits.
  2. Make sure you have buy-in from your board– This is key to your success.
  3. Check the Calendar – make sure no other organization is having a similar awards program around the same time as yours.
  4. Be creative and consistent with your messaging and graphic design – Be sure that you take full advantage of the program’s potential by weaving powerful messages and graphics throughout your event.
  5. Find an awards sponsor – Write your proposal to show the awards program benefits to sponsors.
  6. Publicize, publicize, publicize – Create a dynamic program using traditional and social media. Benchmark your successes and analyze responses to see what segment of your market you’re missing.
  7. Use the event wrap-up to position next year’s award program. Start building anticipation. Invite this year’s winners to reach out into their communities to nominate.

Your awards program will unearth many meaningful stories and help ensure your success. If you want guidelines for event management and sponsorships, please contact me directly –

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.

Position Sponsorships as a Marketing Vehicle

Sponsors Mingle at Special Event

We all know that sponsorship is important to nonprofits and businesses alike. Sponsorship is all about marketing.

 Securing sponsors is about building effective partnerships that enhance your organization’s mission and the sponsoring company’s business goals. And, sponsorship is about raising money.

All sponsors want to reach as many people as possible in their target market. So, the more you know about your organization’s audience, the better your chances of securing sponsors.

But, do we know why special events are so significant in developing these relationships?

Chalk it up to experiential marketing – the best way to deepen the emotional bond between a company and its customers, through creating memorable experiences.

Experiential marketing is a well-known concept to business marketers. It is a great way to deepen the emotional bond between a company and its customers, through the creating of memorable experiences.

The goal is to establish a connection based on emotional and rational response levels and always contains a face-to-face interactive element. This is exactly what sponsors want. And, during a well-designed and executed special event this is exactly what they get!

On the other hand, special events are a way for the nonprofit to interact with its audiences including donors and prospective donors. They help raise the nonprofit’s voice in a crowded field and ensure that people will know who they are and what they do and why they are important.

Sponsorship guru Patricia Martin brings real focus to the issue with her post Just One Question to Ask a Sponsor in her Culture Scout blog post. She notes that no matter what shape the economy is in, sponsors still need to market their brands. And, what better way than in partnership with a cause?

Hats Off To Aunt Cele – Fundraising Basics

Hats Off To Aunt Cele

My family lost our Aunt Cele this week. She was high-spirited with a strong sense of fairness and generosity. She always had important life lessons for her family and everyone she met. She taught me to be committed to what I believe in and to do things right the first time.

So, in honor of my Aunt Cele, I offer these fundraising basics so that you and your organization can launch a successful fundraising campaign right from the start.

 1.     Remember, fundraising is all about getting people to be supportive of your organization.

2.     Have a passion and commit to your cause.

3.     Never ask a stranger for money. Cultivate your relationships and introduce each person you involve with your passion for your cause.

4.     Think of the needs of your donors. Find out their interests and how they will personally benefit from giving to your cause.

5.     Only ask for what you need. Do not create new ‘wants’ because you think they sound better.

6.     Personalize your solicitation. The more personalized “the ask” the more likely people will give.

7.     Raise money from the inside out. Start with your board and all volunteers involved in your fundraising.

8.     Raise money from the top down. Solicit your largest gifts first. Success is contagious and will impact your campaign.

9.     Make your case larger than your organization. Show donors how they, their children, and the community will benefit.

10. Don’t overreach. Make sure your strategy supports a successful campaign.

11. Run your fundraising campaign like a successful special event – Research, plan, implement and evaluate.

12. Be sure and say Thank You every chance you get.

 Thank You Aunt Cele.

And, Thank You all for reading my posts.

Building a Successful Fundraising Board

Building a Successful Fundraising Board

I’ve been asked to do a presentation on the Role of The Board in Fundraising, and I’m thrilled. Board involvement is the heart and soul of good fundraising. Committed leadership is a nonprofit’s greatest strength.

But, moving to a fundraising board is not always easy. The shift is wrought with tension between the members of the board and staff.

Throughout my years of working with boards in transition, I have heard a lot of reasons why board members do not like to engage in fundraising. Each concern is legitimate and needs attention.

“If I ask, I’ll have to give.”  – Board members are usually asked to engage their family, friends and colleagues. Quite often they are asked to reciprocate and give to their contact’s favorite nonprofit. This could be a problem for board members with limited means.

“No one told me I would have to raise money.”  People join boards for different reasons and work on various projects and programs. It is, however, a board responsibility to raise resources to support the organization. A smart practice is to include fundraising expectations in the board orientation.

 “It’s embarrassing to ask people for money.”  Make sure your organization provides fundraising training. Understanding the development process is important and will assuage a lot of discomfort. 

Should all board members be involved with fundraising? Absolutely! That isn’t to say that everyone will be engaged in the same way. There are many elements that go into successful fundraising.

To get started, walk before you run. Ask each board member to give to the extent of his or her ability. Match talent and comfort levels to the type of fundraising activities in which the organization is involved.

Some board members will be much more comfortable working on a special event than face-to-face solicitation. Some will have the technical savvy to grow interest in their organization through social media.

Remember, people give to people. The main reason a person makes his or her first gift to a nonprofit is that the right person asks. So, successful fundraising goes hand-in-hand with building relationships. And who better to build those relationships than leadership?

You know you have a fundraising board when members are asked what they do for their nonprofit and they say “We raise resources and influence for our organization.”

Now you know you’re on the road to success!