Everyone is a Marketer: Building an Organization-wide Marketing Team

Hi everyone! I know Erik mentioned, I’d write about technology, but when I sat down to write this post, the topic of building a marketing team just would not leave me. I hope you enjoy it! I’ll see if I can convince Erik to let me guest blog again and I promise that post will be more focused along what I have written in the past, on Mondays with Marissa. Thanks for letting me blog-sit, DonorDreams readers! Erik is back on Thursday! 

A few weeks ago, Erik reflected on a quote by Warren Buffet, “The people own the brand.” That got me thinking; if the marketing-strategy-image-better-business-togetherpeople own the brand, then we as nonprofit staff, are all marketers. It doesn’t matter what position you hold in your organization. Every single staff member is a marketer or at the very least can be part of the marketing team.
As a member of the marketing department, it is my job to grow an audience of participants, supporters and influencers for our organization through various means of communication. This is a challenging job and one, in my opinion, should not rest solely on the shoulders of one department. It is not possible for me to know all of the programs that need to be promoted, see the impact we are making in the community, and attract new members all at the same time. I need help. So together with the other members of my department, we worked to create an organization-wide marketing team.
Here’s how we did it and how you can too:

  • Create a marketing strategy – It is the job of the marketing department (or person) to figure out which audiences are reached by which media channel. Perhaps your participants are all on Facebook, but you can reach all of your supporters via email. Take time and figure this out. Also, meet with each department to figure out what that department’s goals are. Put all of in this information down in one place. It can be as basic or as detailed as your time and resources allow and the format does not matter.
  • Identify key team members – Look at your entire organization. Who communicates with the marketing team (or person) the most? Are there members of other departments that want to develop marketing skills? These people will give the marketing team (or person) the information they need to execute their marketing goals. Nonprofits tend to become siloed because each department is focused on their own set of goals, it can help to have a person who is a bridge between their department and the marketing team. Also, other members of each department might feel more accountable to a member of their own team and as a result, marketing information might be more readily available.
  • Decide on a communication system – Email can get clunky, but if it is what works best for your organization, run with it. However, maybe you’ll find that project management software, like Trello, helps organize things and keeps communication fluid, and focused. Or perhaps, it could be a communication call where a representative from each department (ideally, a member of your team you figured out in the step above) shares what needs promotion in their area. Whatever it is, make sure there is a clear system on how communication will flow.
  • Test it out – Now that you have your strategy, team, and system in place, see how it works. It is important to keep an open mind; ask for feedback and make adjustments.
  • Be transparent – After testing out, let the rest of your organization know how the marketing team is now spread across all departments and explain the impact it is having. Where I work, we have seen that creating a team of promotion managers has allowed the marketing department to go from only being scheduled a week ahead of time, to being scheduled at least two weeks ahead and having promotion items on the calendar a full month ahead.

What I described above, is a step-by-step method for creating a structured marketing team that is spread throughout your organization. Maybe your organization needs something more flexible. In that case, the most important thing is to find a communication system that works best for your organization. This is the anchor for everything.
In many organizations the marketing team, is really only one person. It is important to lean on the entire staff to provide this person with information needed to create participants, supporters and influencers. In order for that to happen people need to know what to do with the information they are submitting to the marketing team and get feedback from the marketing team on how they are going to use it.don draper
On a recent episode of Mad Men, Donald Draper said, “Behind every great ad, is a great story.” Building an organization-wide marketing team can make it easier to find the stories needed to create that great ad/blog post/social media post – one that can grow the organization’s membership, donor base, and awareness.
Do you work in the marketing department of your organization? How do you manage internal communications to ensure you have the information you need to tell your story? Let us know in the comments!

The power of writing it down

inkWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

First let me start this O.D. Fridays post with an apology to DonorDreams blog readers.

For the last week, I’ve been in St. Louis with hundreds of Boys & Girls Clubs from the Midwest and Southwest regions. What an amazing conference with inspiring stories and talented board volunteers and staff members! Hats off to the national staff who planned and executed a flawless conference plan.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for me and this blog platform.

I didn’t post anything on Monday because my ride to St. Louis picked me up at 5:55 am, and I also missed the mark on Thursday because I needed to be in my exhibitor booth at 7:00 am.

Here are all of the things I’ve been trying to balance this week:

  • Writing for the DonorDreams blog community
  • Managing and staffing my exhibitor booth
  • Organizing and facilitating a training track
  • Networking
  • Working with other clients back home who are under contract and in need of attention

For those of you who know me, I usually balance competing projects fairly well. So, why did this week turn out so messy? Why did I drop the ball and not blog on Monday and Thursday?

I think some of the answers to these questions can be found on John Greco’s July 23, 2013 johnponders post titled “Ink It“. In this post, John drills down on the following Chinese proverb:

The faintest ink lasts longer than the best memory.”

Heading into this challenging week, I didn’t write anything down. I was operating with everything in my head.

I am not just talking about the power of task lists and calendars.  This has everything to do with brain science and in some instances personality types.

Now let’s take a 180 degree turn and about-face with this idea.

If you buy into what John talks about in “Ink It,” then what are you doing to encourage your:

  • staff to write things down?
  • board volunteers to write things down?
  • donors to write things down?

Again, we’re not necessarily talking about task lists and time management, which is how I started the post.

What if your board members were asked to write out their personal action plans for the upcoming year?

What if donors were asked to write out their personal stories about why they support your agency? What if you published those testimonials on your agency’s blog or Facebook page?

Would the result be a deeper sense of engagement?

Would board members be more likely to follow through on what they commit to doing? Would donors end up increasing their contributions?

I dunno . . . but if you buy into what John says about the act of writing something down, then these are questions every non-profit professional should be asking themselves.

Have you ever asked donors to share their story in writing? What was the result? How did you use it? What about engaging board members in writing out their commitments as part of a future focused action planning process centered around your strategic planning process?

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

A side note of appreciation

Throughout the week at the Boys & Girls Club conference in St. Louis, I’ve been approached by countless numbers of people asking me about this blog.

Just last night, I was dragging myself off of the elevator on my way to another late night bedtime when a fellow passenger (who I’ve never met and don’t know), said “You’re that blogger! I missed your post this morning.

I just want to take a moment to sincerely thank all of you who subscribe and read this blog. I very much appreciate your time, loyalty and complements.

It is easy for me to get into that “Fred the Baker” from Dunkin’ Donuts mindset of “It’s time to make the donuts.” However, this week reminds me that this blog and your daily work is all about mission-focus, your clients, and making this world a better place.

Thank you to those of you who re-inspired me.

I’m also glad that I’ve written all of this down in ink so that this inspiration won’t fade too quickly.  😉

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

A one page strategic plan in 60 minutes?

When it comes to strategic planning, many of my non-profit executive director friends tell me that it  is not one their favorite things to do. In fact, many of them told me they would rather have a root canal performed without novocaine than go through a strategic planning process.

I can sympathize with this mindset. Very few people like to wake up in the morning and take a good hard took at themselves in the mirror. Most planning models start with an assessment / evaluation phase, which sometimes feels very harsh and judgmental. If assessment isn’t the objection, then the consensus building process can feel tedious for some people and in some cases it can even become contentious if a few strong-willed individuals hijack the process.

Unfortunately, these objections to planning can erode organizational stability because planning gets put off sometimes forever. Without an organizational blueprint, everything becomes an organic process and decisions get made based upon the loudest voice in the boardroom.

This is not the best way to run a non-profit organization.

When talking to friends who are obviously anti-planning, I usually steer the conversation toward different planning models in an effort to find something that might work better for their circumstances. After all, one size doesn’t fit all . . . right?

Recently, I decided to expand the number of planning models in my consultant toolbox. So, I purchased the following two planning books and started reading:

To be honest, I was a skeptic before I started reading. Now, I am much less so.

If you are looking for a shortcut that results in a comprehensive strategic plan that addresses a variety of strategic issues all condensed down into a one page document, then you will be disappointed. This strategic planning model is interesting, but it cannot perform miracles.

However, if you have one (possibly two) things that need some attention, then this model will work for you. It will help focus your agency those issues into goals, measurable objectives and accountable actionable.

Perhaps, the most important thing to keep in mind is that regardless of the planning model your organization chooses for strategic planning, it still involves engaging a variety of different stakeholders and building consensus around the who-what-where-when-why-how. Most importantly, all planning models must get participants to focus on one key question:

Which parts of this plan am I so excited about that I’m willing to take responsibility for making it happen.”

After all, planning is not an event . . . planning is not about the resulting document . . . planning is an engagement activity.

No strategic planning model will ever change this basic idea.

On a side note, fundraising professionals should look at this planning model because I suspect it would be great to use with a special event fundraising committee or your annual campaign team.

Have you ever employed the 60 minute, one page planning model to anything at your agency? If so, how well did it work for you? What do you attribute to your success or lack of success?

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

Getting your ducks … er … volunteers in a row

Putting your nonprofit organization’s resource development plan together can be a monumental undertaking. If you do it in an engaging and collaborative manner, then you are likely temporarily expanding your resource development committee and inviting various stakeholders (e.g. event volunteers, foundation staff or board members, and donors) to come to the table. This could easily result in 8 to 16 volunteers jockeying for position around your planning table.

I have used this approach before. Yes, we experienced challenges such as:

  • getting everyone’s calendars aligned,
  • communicating effectively and trying to avoid crazy, overlapping, and confusing long email threads,
  • keeping track of action items (not to mention injecting accountability into the process),
  • collaboratively working on building one document that didn’t result in 20 different versions attached to countless different email threads, and
  • sharing files with each other (Note: “the cloud” did not yet exist at the time of the project I am referencing).

A few months ago, a very dear friend and fellow consultant — Teri Halliday — introduced me to an online product called “Basecamp“. She swears by it, and I trust her like I trust my mother. So, I purchased the service and it changed my life! (Yes, dramatic but very true) There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t think back to the resource development planning process that I described a few paragraphs ago and wonder how different things would’ve been if I would’ve had access to Basecamp.

All of the challenges I described in the previous set of bullet points would’ve disappeared. Once everyone registers and links to your online workspace, you can:

  • work on collaboratively building documents in the Writeboard section,
  • keep everyone’s schedules in lock step with the Calendar section,
  • communicate with each other using the bulletin board functionality in the Messages section,
  • keep track of action items using the To-Do section (and OMG the system even reminds people their tasks are coming due), and
  • share documents using the Files section.

It is true that people who don’t want to be engaged won’t get any more involved in a project just because you’re utilizing an online project management tool. When you see this dynamic at play, your problem isn’t that you’re disorganized . . . you have a recruitment problem!

However, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen well-intentioned volunteers who want to be involved just walk away from a project because it is disorganized and hard to collaborate with other volunteers. It is this problem that Basecamp can help you resolve.

OK . . . I must admit that I am in LOVE with Basecamp. I am like a man with a hammer, and now I see nails everywhere! 🙂  I can see busy families utilizing Basecamp. I can see for-profit companies who operate in offices sprinkled across the country utilizing Basecamp. I obviously see the benefits for non-profit organizations who constantly engage busy employees and volunteers on a multitude of projects (e.g. strategic planning, resource development planning, special event fundraisers, annual campaigns, etc).

While I wish I could say that this “Software as a Service” (SaaS) was free, I cannot say such a thing; however, I think it is reasonably priced with one plan costing just $20 per month (and no long-term contract to sign).

I am sure some of you are wondering what has gotten into me this morning . . . am I a paid spokesperson or something like that? No! No! No! I am just a huge fan of things that work, and I have worked in the non-profit sector long enough to know that a tool like this can be a godsend. I say every day on this blog that “we can all learn from each other” . . . so I decided to put my money where my mouth is today.

What other tools (either free or paid service) has your non-profit agency used to help organize your volunteers and projects (e.g. Doodle.com? Google docs? GoToMeeting? BigMarker? Microsoft Project?)??? Please take a moment to scroll down and share your ideas via the comment box.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC