March 3, 2020

What makes a successful marketing campaign?

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

For the last several years, I’ve been a judge at the IAPD/IPRA annual conference’s Agency Showcase Awards, which highlights marketing and communications from parks and recreation agencies in Illinois. 

This year my category was Marketing Campaigns, which ranged from event marketing to promoting special programs and initiatives. While I was reviewing the competition entries, I noticed several common threads in the most effective campaigns. 

They make SMART goals

The agencies that saw the best returns created SMART goals. Most importantly, their goals were measurable (the M in SMART) and trackable. 

They know their audience

Agencies with successful campaigns got to know their audience by doing customer research online and offline, checking demographic data in Facebook and utilizing customer surveys

They track their data

Rather than tracking anything and everything, agencies tracked the data that was most relevant to them, such as website visits, social media reach, response to events, discount redemptions, visibility of out of home advertising, email campaign clicks and opens, and increase in email list size. 

They use the data wisely

The campaigns that were most successful in their outreach used data to inform their campaigns. For example, one agency saw a decline in attendance in their events, so they launched a campaign specifically to increase event participation and it worked—attendance increased by 30%. 

Are you utilizing  these techniques in your marketing campaigns? Are there any other characteristics that effective campaigns share?

February 18, 2020

RECAP: The Nonprofit Communication Trends Report 2020

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — lidia @ 10:00 am

The 2020 Nonprofit Communication Trends Report from Nonprofit Marketing Guide shares insights from 600+ nonprofit organizations to shed light on the comunications side of fundraising. Not all of it is great news—but there are lessons to be learned and changes to be implemented. 

Email marketing 

Email deliverability and engagement tends to be a challenge for nonprofits. 

  • 69% of nonprofits continue to email subscribers even after they stop opening emails
  • More than 50% of nonprofits implement a re-engagement series—but are waiting too long to implement it
  • Nonprofits are potentially missing out on up to $100 in donations due to email deliverability problems
  • 65% of nonprofits do not send a welcome series to new subscribers

The lesson: Nonprofit communicators should focus on best practices for email marketing such as keeping your list clean, segmenting subscribers, focusing on subscribers who regularly open emails, and launching re-engagement campaigns for lapsed subscribers. 

Social media marketing 

Nonprofits put most of their communications efforts into social media, but admit it’s the area they have the least confidence in—and that they aren’t using best practices to maximize engagement. 

  • 53% of nonprofits manage an active Facebook Group
  • 42% post a story on Instagram weekly
  • 25% actively use Facebook Messenger or a chat bot
  • 17% actively encourage people to create Facebook Fundraisers
  • 13% live stream video monthly

The lesson: With video posts capturing the most engagement on social media, smart nonprofit communicators will spend more time in that area. They may also want to consider Facebook Messenger or other ways of keeping in touch with supporters in real time. 

And of course, like any other marketing outreach, you need to start with a mission and strategy. (Download my Social Media Mission Statement for an easy guide) 

Communications staffing 

The workload for the communication staff continues to grow, yet the size of the team hasn’t.

  • Nonprofits with annual budgets under $1 million devote 21% of their total staff full-time staff to communications positions.
  • Nonprofits with annual budgets between $1-$10 million devote 10% of their total staff full-time staff to communications positions.
  • Nonprofits with annual budgets above $10 million devote 4% of their total staff full-time staff to communications positions.
  • About 73% of effective nonprofits organized their teams as centralized or integrated. 

The lesson: As communications needs keep growing, nonprofit communicators should consider growing their teams or outsourcing, as well as implementing apps that can streamline the process (hint, hint: I love content and social media marketing). 

Communications objectives

The survey found that there is a diversity of purpose found in nonprofit communications teams—as well as a challenge in prioritizing and focusing a strategy.

The top 3 communications goals for nonprofits who responded to the survey are: 

  1. Financial gains or savings (e.g., fundraising results) 
  2. Participation levels (e.g., numbers registering or taking action)
  3. Expression of loyalty (e.g., donor retention or long-term engagement)

The lesson: The best results come from having well-defined goals, a focused strategy and tactics that will reach your ideal audience. 

What makes communications teams most effective?

The report found the following common threads in effective nonprofit communications teams: 

  • At least one full-time staff person is dedicated to communications work
  • Teams are centralized or integrated
  • Responsibility and control is given to the team member leading communications
  • Best practices are implemented in email and social media marketing
  • Team members have a willingness to change
  • Team members’ opinions are valued and there is mutual respect

The lesson: Great communications teams are built on respect and trust, as well as an honest understanding of what is required to get the work done.  

How do these results compare to your own organization’s experiences?

February 11, 2020

RECAP: #GivingTuesday 2019 Impact Report

Filed under: communications — lidia @ 10:00 am

#GivingTuesday first started in 2012 with the mission to inspire collective action towards improving communities and creating real change. Since then, the movement has done just that—igniting acts of kindness, both big and small, all over the world.

This year’s Impact Report gives an overview of #GivingTuesday 2019, showing how “when people demonstrate generosity collectively, they can create real and systemic change.”

Here are key takeaways from the report: 

Giving made a real difference

On #GivingTuesday 2019, PALTOWN Development Foundation, a nonprofit that provides online support groups to empower cancer patients (and comprised of only two members), raised 25% of its operating budget. 

Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit that help texters from self-harm, signed up thousands of volunteer crisis counselors on #GivingTuesday.

Food4Thought spent #GivingTuesday—and every other Tuesday in 2019—feeding the homeless and providing them with clothing and toiletries. 

There were measurable results

  • $511 million was donated online 
  • $1.46 billion was donated offline
  • 27 million people participated (13.5 million donated and 7.6 million volunteered)
  • 60 movements within the U.S.
  • 400+ community movements worldwide
  • 20.1 billion social media impressions worldwide.
  • 13% of the entire U.S. population participated in #GivingTuesday.

Records were broken in 2019

#GivingTuesday has continued to grow. In 2019, online giving increased by 28%, donations made online increased to $4.3 million (from $3.8 million in 2018), and average donation size increased to $119 (from from $105 in 2018).

People shared stories from around the world

In Portugal, the city of Chicco donated a baby basket filled with diapers, blankets, and other baby items to mothers that gave birth on December 3rd (“GivingTuesday babies”)

On #GivingTuesday in Liberia, leaders found volunteers to donate their wedding dresses to women that had lost their wedding photos. The leaders then organized a photoshoot so women could rebuild those lost memories. 

Organizations came together to make a bigger impact

Community campaigns within the U.S. have increased by 57%. In 2019, there was a new trend in which multiple organizations came together to fundraise and split the donations equally. Supporters liked this trend because it allowed them to donate to a cause, not just an organization. 

Kids got involved in giving

On December 3, 2019, kids from over 32 countries participated in afterschool acts of kindness and generosity through #GivingTuesdayKids

In Ukraine, students raised money for a local cancer hospital by organizing a school-wide fair that involved a bake sale and other hands-on giving activities. 

Brazilian child superstar, Isabella Casarini, led a social media movement to encourage kids to share their acts of kindness within their community.

It’s not too early to prepare for this year

It’s never too early to start thinking about your #GivingTuesday campaign. As you prepare for this year’s campaign, here are some tips from my series on branding and marketing your #GivingTuesday campaign: 

January 10, 2020

15 Free (or low-cost) project management & productivity resources for nonprofits

Filed under: Time Management — lidia @ 10:00 am

Offers are subject to change, refer to the links for most recent information. Updated 2/15/20.

One of the best ways for organizations to be efficient is by using project management and productivity tools that keep their team connected and improve workflow.

As a volunteer board member for a nonprofit-focused association, I realized I needed to implement systems to streamline our processes and keep everyone on our small staff and board connected.

I’ve personally researched and used many of these apps in my board service, as well as for my clients. Also, Evernote, Asana and Trello are everyday essentials in my design business [referral links included].

Project management & productivity resources

These tools hold each team member accountable by putting projects in one place where everyone can see what everyone else is working on and what to do next to keep things running smoothly.

Also, just because a nonprofit discount isn’t advertised, doesn’t mean it’s not available. Most app and tool developers are happy to work with you to meet your organization’s needs and budget, so it’s worth reaching out to them personally.

Did I miss something? Let me know so I can add it to the list. And be sure to bookmark this page—I will update it as new resources are available.

Read the previous posts in my series, Free (or Low-Cost) Design and Marketing Resources for Nonprofits:

January 7, 2020

2020 word for the year: voice

Filed under: Small Business — lidia @ 10:00 am

Over the past 6 years, I’ve picked a word for the year to set the tone for the year. This year’s word is VOICE.

Choosing this year’s word was a bit of an impulse decision after reading a prompt in a MsTech Facebook group post—but it think it encompasses many things I’d like to achieve this year.

Quite literally, I want to do more public speaking and webinars on branding (and creative marketing). I want to help as many people as possible find their organization’s unique voice—and the best way to share it with their supporters and community.

I’m also in the process of revamping my website and creating brand guidelines for myself, so that my voice shines through in my branding and marketing.

I also want to use my voice through my nonprofit work and involvement in the local nonprofit community, by bringing awareness to issues that are affecting local Chicago communities.

Doing this yearly exercise has kept me focused—but it’s also fun to look back and read prior years’ words:

And no pressure if you miss a year. Apparently, I skipped 2015—the year my second child was born—but I “regrouped” the following year.

Do you choose a word for the year?

December 5, 2019

Tips for meaningful #GivingTuesday follow-up

Filed under: Giving Tuesday — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

Congratulations, you did it—you made it through #GivingTuesday! But your work is not done yet. 

Take advantage of the momentum of your campaign: Follow up with your donors and supporters, create meaningful connections that will last throughout the year, and use the insights gathered this year to inspire next year’s campaign. 

Say thank you—and share results

Thank your supporters on social media and share the results of your campaign as well as the impact it has on the people your serve. Sharing a video thank you from the organization’s founder or leaders can make it more personal. 

TIP: Create an infographic or graphic that shows the results of your campaign and how you met your goals. 

Send an email

A day or two after #GivingTuesday, send a thank you email or postcard to your donors and supporters. If possible, segment your email list to personalize the message based on their giving (ie first-time donors, returning donors, etc.) 

TIP: Don’t forget to ask donors and supporters to follow you on social media so you can engage with them throughout the year. 

69% of donors prefer to be thanked for their donations via email, followed by a print letter [2018 Trends in Giving Report].

Focus on them (not you)

Rather than talking about your organization’s needs, tell your supporters specifically how their gift will be used, the change it will make in the community or how a person’s life will be affected.

TIP: Add photos or infographics for extra impact.  

Cultivate new donors

Take advantage of this opportunity to engage with new donors: Send a personalized message that tells the story of your organization, including ways they can be involved throughout the year. Mention any upcoming events or volunteer opportunities they can be a part of. 

TIP: Link to a blog post or landing page with a compelling story to help them experience your organization’s mission. 

Donors acquired during Giving Tuesday are 10–15% more likely to give again than donors acquired on typical days through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns (Classy).

Promote your year-end campaign

Just because someone donated on #GivingTuesday doesn’t mean they are unwilling to give again, so add them to your list for year-end giving. Again, segment your list so you can thank them for their previous gift accordingly.

And if they do give again, remember to take them off your active list so they are not receiving unnecessary emails. 

TIP: Include non-monetary ways they can give or get involved with your organization. 

Encourage peer-to-peer fundraising 

Give donors a way to be more personally involved with your mission by suggesting a peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising campaign for their next birthday or special event. 

Contrary to what you may think, all ages respond well to P2P: Over 90% of Gen Xers and Millennials and almost 80% of Baby Boomers report using P2P (Guidestar).

Nearly ⅓ of online donations are made through peer-to-peer fundraising (Classy).

Gather data

Use this time to gather important data on your donors. Analyze their behaviors during #GivingTuesday, note what type of communications resonated best, and use this insight to improve future engagement with donors. 

Check your social media insights and Google Analytics and save screenshots to compare next year. 

TIP: Use the data you collect to make notes for next year’s campaign. 

Collect ideas for next year

Create a shared document where you and your team can collect ideas and design samples to inspire next year’s campaign. 

TIP: If you still have them in your inbox, save the standout #GivingTuesday emails you received this year (as I did myself!) as well as your favorite social media images. 

Return donors whose first interaction was on GivingTuesday re-engaged sooner than donors whose first interaction was outside of GivingTuesday (The State of Modern Philanthropy 201).


Don’t let all your hard #GivingTuesday work go to waste. Use this time to genuinely engage with new and returning donors—as well as to make next year’s campaign even better. 

November 21, 2019

Last-minute communications tips for #GivingTuesday

Filed under: Giving Tuesday — lidia @ 10:05 am

We are just two weeks away from #GivingTuesday! Now that your campaign is in full-swing, there are a few steps you can take to assure day-of event (and post-event) success. 

Update your profiles

Make sure you’ve changed all of your social media headers and profile images  to reflect your #GivingTuesday branding. You may also want to create a Facebook event for the event. 

TIP: Use #GivingTuesday’s custom profile frames to easily change your Facebook profile image. 

Go big on social media

Bump up the frequency of posts, and don’t be afraid to mention your call to action. Do a countdown in your posts (i.e. 1 week away, 2 more days, tomorrow) to emphasize the urgency to give. 

Do one last email push

Schedule weekly emails reminding supporters about your campaign and ways they can give, including a link to your landing page and giving pages. If possible, also include non-monetary ways to give. 

TIP: Don’t forget to reach out to staff and volunteers to remind them to get involved by sharing the campaign in their personal networks and/or being available on #GivingTuesday to help with day-of tasks. 

Test your pages

Test your landing page and giving pages to make sure they are functioning properly. Have a backup plan for any issues that may occur on the day of the event. 

Create a day-of plan

Assign a staff member(s) to manage tasks on #GivingTuesday such as monitoring giving pages, responding to donor questions and engaging on social media. Keep followers and donors updated throughout the day on the progress toward your goal—and remember to thank them for their support and contributions. 

TIP: Create a template for sharing your campaign updates in Canva or Adobe Spark and you can easily update it throughout the day. 

Prepare a thank you

Decide how you will thank donors after #GivingTuesday, whether it’s a video, social media post, email, postcard—or all of the above! Thank your staff, donors, volunteers, community, and anyone else who helped make your campaign a success. Use a popular hashtag like #ThankYouWednesday to increase your reach.

TIP: Consider creating the graphics and messaging now, so they are ready to send or post the day after the event. 

Use the momentum

If you are also doing a holiday or year-end appeal, use the momentum from #GivingTuesday to boost that campaign as well. Mention the support you received on #GivingTuesday and how their gift will help to propel your mission. 

Here’s to a successful #GivingTuesday! Stay tuned for my final post with tips for successful follow-up and post-event engagement. 

Catch up with previous posts in my #GivingTuesday series:

November 14, 2019

Lidia Varesco Design is WBE-certified by WBENC

Filed under: Uncategorized — lidia @ 10:00 am

Lidia Varesco Design is WBENC Certififed

I’m pleased to announce that Lidia Varesco Design has been certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the nation’s largest third party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the US.

Through myself and my team, we can add supplier diversity to your organization’s branding, marketing and graphic design projects.

November 6, 2019

RECAP: 2019 NGO Technology Report

Filed under: Social Media — lidia @ 10:00 am

The Global Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Technology Report is a biennial research project, sponsored by Funraise and produced by Nonprofit Tech for Good, that strives to understand how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide use technology.

Using survey results from over 5,000 NGOs across 160 countries, this report is useful for analyzing your organization’s current use of web and email communications, online fundraising tools, social media, mobile technology, and productivity software, as well as for planning future online goals and strategies

Here are key results for the United States and Canada

Web and Email Communications

Almost all (97%) NGOs have their own website—with a majority of them having mobile compatibility, privacy policy, SSL certificate, online donations, and event registration features on their website.

  • The majority of organizations send out emails to supporters with 46% sending them out on a monthly basis. 
  • The majority of NGOs send email fundraising appeals quarterly. 
  • 64% use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to track donors and supporters. 
  • 46% protect their data with encryption technology.
  • 85% accept donations online through their website. Credit card is the most used type of payment. The majority of organizations use fundraising tools such as recurring/monthly giving, tribute giving,  peer to peer fundraising and mobile card readers.
  • 58% participated in #GivingTuesday in 2018. Of those organizations, 62% received more funding that year than the previous year. 70% are planning to participate this year. Read my series about preparing for GivingTuesday.

TIP: See my post 15+ Low-Cost Social Media, Content & Email Marketing Resources for Nonprofits.

Social Media

The majority of NGOs believe social media is effective for recruiting attendees and volunteers for events, creating social change, online fundraising, for building online brand awareness and encourage people to take action.

  • 97% use social media on a daily basis to engage with donors and supporters.
  • 99% have a Facebook page for their organizationThe majority of NGOs purchase Facebook ads, use Facebook Charitable giving tools and use Facebook Live. 
  • 56% use Instagram, with a majority of organizations using Instagram stories. 
  • 64% use Twitter, with a majority using hashtags regularly. 
  • 37% have a LinkedIn page for their organization. 
  • 73% have a Google Ad grant. 

Productivity & Technology

The understanding of emerging technology by NPO staff is higher than the global average: 79% say they understand Artificial Intelligence, 75% cloud computing, and 58% predictive analytics.

  • 48% increased spending on technology in 2019; 8% decreased spending; 44% stayed the same.
  • 22% use tools for internal communication, such as Slack.
  • 29% use project management tools, such as Asana and Basecamp.

And finally, here are the most effective communication and fundraising tools, as determined by the survey:

  1.   Website
  2.   Case studies 
  3.   Email marketing 
  4.   Social media
  5.   Video

Read the entire Global Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Technology Report. 

October 25, 2019

Tips for using social media in your #GivingTuesday campaign

Filed under: Social Media — lidia @ 10:03 am

We are almost six weeks away from #GivingTuesday! Now that you’ve outlined your goals and strategy, created a brand guide and developed your story, it’s time to launch your campaign on social media.

With 29% of online donors saying that social media is the communication tool that most inspires them to give, you don’t want to ignore this aspect of your campaign.

First, let’s go back to my post that mentions the 4 characteristics of an effective #GivingTuesday campaign and see how it applies to social media:

  • An inspired leader – Include thoughts from or images of your leader (or team member who is leading the campaign) in your campaign to bring a personal touch to your outreach.
  • Clear BIG goal – Define your social media goal: Is it donors, dollars, event attendees, followers, partners or volunteers?
  • Collaboration with partners – Collaboration is huge in social media. Think of ways to partner with a like-minded organization so you can both expand your reach.
  • Authenticity – Help your followers emotionally experience your mission and daily work through real-life photos and videos that genuinely tell your story.

Make a plan

You can’t expect success from a social media campaign if you don’t have a plan. Using your overall #GivingTuesday campaign strategy as reference, create a social media strategy that includes the following:

  • Goals of social media campaign
  • Social media outlets to focus on
  • Audience for each outlet
  • Types of posts for each outlet
  • Posting frequency

Remember that each social media outlet may have a different goal and audience, so you’ll want to consider each and tailor your content accordingly.

For example, 39% of millennials worldwide are inspired to give because of what they saw on social media, so you may focus on Instagram for that audience. And over half of LinkedIn users report donating to charities, so that outlet may be useful for targeting organization leaders or business professionals.

Focus, focus, focus

For a social media campaign to be effective, it has to resonate with your followers. One way to do this is to be very focused. Instead of sharing miscellaneous content, tell one singular story from different points of view throughout your campaign.

TIP: Creating a campaign focused on one story related to your mission also means you will end up with content that can be reused throughout the year.

Make it easy to share

In order to make it easier for everyone to spread the word on social media, it’s helpful to create a simple media kit.

Gather campaign-related images, videos, logos and other graphics. Then create a document with sample pre-written posts to cut and paste for each social media outlet. File everything in a shared folder that can be easily accessed by your team, freelancers, or ambassadors.

Did you create a brand guide as I demonstrated in my last #GivingTuesday post? Great news! Include that in the media kit so that your branding will be consistent throughout the campaign.

Get others on board

Social media is well, social, so get as many people involved as you can. Consider featuring your organization’s leader or the team member leading the campaign through stories and images. And of course, encourage your team to share the campaign with their personal networks.

If you have supporters who regularly share your posts or mention your organization in their posts—turn them into social media ambassadors. As nonprofit social media marketer Julia Campbell says in her guide to coordinating social media ambassadors on #GivingTuesday, this “group of passionate and inspiring people who want to spread the word about your cause and raise money for you” are your greatest asset.

Partner up

Are there like-minded organizations or groups—locally or nationally—that you can partner with on your campaign? By cross-posting content or participating in an Instagram takeover, both organizations can expand their reach.

And don’t limit yourself to fellow nonprofits. Small businesses, especially local businesses, can be great collaborators as they prepare for Small Business Saturday (Saturday before #GivingTuesday).

Get more done in less time

Organizations often struggle with social media because of a lack of time or resources.  A strategy I recommend is to block out a few hours to write and schedule a month’s worth of campaign posts. You can still share and post spontaneously throughout the month, but this way you’ll have a steady stream of posts and maintain consistency in your campaign.

Another way to save time is to use a content calendar to track current and upcoming posts. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet or you can use an app like Trello, which has useful content calendar templates.

TIP: Many social media schedulers and other tools have nonprofit discounts—see my list of 15+ Low-Cost Social Media, Content & Email Marketing Resources for Nonprofits.

Don’t push the ask

Don’t lead with the ask. Make sure your social media content is evenly distributed between information, education, stories, conversations—then the request for donation.

Also, remember that people may want to donate in ways other than money, so consider highlighting non-monetary ways to get involved in your #GivingTuesday campaign, such as board or volunteer opportunities or wish lists of goods and services.

Show followers the impact your organization is making, show them why you are passionate about your mission. Give them enough background so that when they do see your ask, they will be inspired to give.

Be inspired by others

As the #GivingTuesday Learning Lab Facebook page branding expert, I often hear people struggling to find ideas for their #GivingTuesday campaign. One of the best ways to get inspired is to see what others are doing.

Observe how other organizations are using social media in their campaigns—specifically techniques you may not have considered such as Instagram Stories, Facebook Live or a Q&A session or live interview.

A #GivingTuesday hashtag search will provide lots of examples, or you can reference #GivingTuesday 2018 Success Stories for examples from nonprofits, foundations, higher education, schools and more.

P.S. Be inspired, but please don’t copy!

Haven’t started working on your campaign yet?

Not to worry! #GivingTuesday has put together a handy 6-Week Communication Plan that will get you caught up, week-by-week.

On average, nonprofits gain 4X the number of new donors on #GivingTuesday than they do on a typical day. And with social media driving 57% of traffic to fundraising campaign pages, it’s smart to invest time and effort into this aspect of your #GivingTuesday campaign.

Catch up with my #GivingTuesday series:

And stay tuned for the next post where I’ll be talking about last-minute tips for your campaign.

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