Check out this idea from our friends at Build-A-Sign. Based after the popular fast pitch idea, they are hosting a Philanthropitch for nonprofits. (Full Disclosure: Their CEO is on the Lights. Camera. Help. Board). Philanthropitch is an event for select Austin-area nonprofits to showcase their organization, its impact on the community, and present a specific need (in less than 5 minutes) to a panel of Austin’s most successful community leaders in order to secure cash prizes for their mission. Any nonprofit can apply starting April 1st to participate in the pitch event taking place on May 29th. Visit www.philanthropitch.com to apply & learn more. Interested? Tell us why in the comments.
This is a special guest post by my friend Dodd Caldwell from BellStrike.com
I don’t like to tell people what to do. Situations and circumstances change and my “expert” advice doesn’t always fit. But I’ve learned a lot recently about starting a nonprofit-centric business so I’ll just share a few things that mattered to Bellstrike (and may matter to you).
Coffee Meetings Matter – Caffeine isn’t the only element that makes coffee shop meetups so important. It’s the education. In the early days of Bellstrike’s development, I asked a lot of local nonprofits for a bit of their time to run my ideas by them. I didn’t try to sell them on Bellstrike; I didn’t even have anything to sell. I just told them what I was working on and asked them to pick it apart. Most everyone was happy to oblige. Getting feedback from potential customers and not just from friends was invaluable. These short coffee meetings made Bellstrike what it is today and continue to shape us.
Impeccable Design Matters – Pixel-perfect design isn’t very prevalent around the nonprofit world. That’s why it’s so important – great design can help any nonprofit-centric business standout even more than it would in other industries. Bellstrike received an initial rush of exposure and much of it was due to our design. But design isn’t just aesthetics. Design encompasses so much more: usability, personality, details, and aesthetics.
Usability – Take an otherwise complicated process and make it intuitive. In order to make sure we did this with Bellstrike, we conducted a lot of user-testing on individuals over the age of 55 with lower incomes and little internet experience. We figured if we could make it easy for them, it would be easy for most everyone else.
Personality – Some people aren’t going to like Bellstrike. They’ll think it’s too playful or unprofessional. That’s OK because some love it. We wanted to set an approachable, fun, refreshing tone throughout our brand – from the videos, to the hidden goodies, to the way we word our copy.
Details – People notice details. On the day we launched, we had multiple people email us screenshots of typos we made deep within our Terms of Service. I didn’t even think anyone actually read those. Also, most companies don’t spend a lot of time designing their Help page, but we wanted to make even our less prominent pages as easy on the eyes as they are to use.
Aesthetics – When most people think of design, they think aesthetics. To get the right look, we hired a world-class designer and illustrator. Even when it comes to elements like buttons, we want beauty, not just functionality. And we love typography. With new developments on the web, beautiful fonts can now be used for dynamic text. In the past the world was stuck with just a few web-standard fonts.
Drastic Change Matters – A “pivot” is a drastic change in a business model that still retains some of the core ideas of that model. I first envisioned Bellstrike as an Etsy for nonprofits where each organization would create a profile and upload content to it. Donors would be able to browse for organizations to support. But I noticed that the competitors in this space were already executing pretty well. I also seriously doubted whether donors “shopped” for nonprofits in this way. Finally, after talking to potential customers, I realized that every nonprofit wants their own branded, donation-enabled website. But they oftentimes have trouble creating and updating it. That’s where we found our opportunity. I decided that Bellstrike would become a website creation platform. And we may very well make other “pivots” in our future. It’s good to stick to your guns but once you realize your plan doesn’t make sense, why not switch to a different weapon?
I recently got the chance to read a pre-release copy of the new Joe Waters (@joewaters) and Joanna MacDonald tome “Cause Marketing for Dummies“. Having followed Joe’s blog and twitter stream for awhile I’ve come to enjoy his sense of humor around marketing and great tips around how to interact with brands. I was a tiny bit familiar with cause marketing having dipped my toe into it at the American Cancer Society and doing some sponsorship work with Lights. Camera. Help., however, as Joe notes sponsorships are not the same as cause marketing.
Even with my limited background Joe and Joanna’s book really opened my eyes to the rest of the cause marketing world. At 300+ pages this book takes you step by step through the cause marketing process from day one of writing the plan all the way down to using advanced digital marketing tricks to earn more money for your campaign.
Some of my favorite sections included “What cause marketing can’t do”. Here are some sample thoughts:
1) Cause marketing doesn’t build brand
2) Cause marketing isn’t for the indifferent
3) Cause marketing partnerships can be fleeting
4) Cause marketing is more about marketing than mission
Take that last one to heart kids! My second favorite section was on how cause marketing could be a win-win-win. I won’t give away all of the secret sauce but my favorite parts had to do with when cause marketing works great for the companies involved. Some samples below for you business owners reading this:
1) Other forms of marketing increase your visibility, cause marketing increases your favorability.
2) Cause marketing gives you a competitive edge that goes beyond product and price.
I love that last one as it reminds me directly of the RED campaign, and how much that has given a lift to brands like Apple and Nike. Whether that is deserved or not could be a whole other book…
All in all this is a great start for anyone involved in nonprofit marketing or fundraising. If you are really looking to wrap your heard around the subject this is THE book to pick up. I’m really looking forward to Joe and Joanna’s next book..Maybe a more critical look at the shine companies get from cause marketing? What do you think of the book or cause marketing in general? Sound off in the comments below.
There is no debate on what the future of nonprofits in the mobile space looks like. It’s a must have. Although many nonprofits are resistant to the idea of doing anything in the mobile due to issues of cost, time and resources the future is staring them in the face. Currently there are over 5 billion devices worldwide and growing. According to the BBC in 2010 “In many regions, penetration exceeds 100%, where there is more than one connection per person in the country. Ben Wood, mobile phone analyst at CCS Insight said the mobile phone may be “the most prolific consumer device on the planet”.” What that means for nonprofits is that there are more than three times as many phones as personal computers.
So what are you going to do about this? Do you need an iphone app or Android App? The short answer is no. Not unless you have a compelling or marketable concept. So what do you need to do?
- Make sure your web site has a mobile component. How does it show up on when people look at it on a smart phone or other mobile device?
- Make sure your web site has the proper search engine optimization. Mobile searches will continue to grow and you want to make sure you show up.
- If you decide to make an app, avoid the iphone vs droid debate. Instead design your app in a web layer like HTML5 for maximum usage.
- Start with something easy that your supporters already like. The nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society turned their great print magazine into a magazine for the iPad2. (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/best-friends-magazine-hd/id418888506?mt=8)
So what apps are out there made by nonprofits? Lets a take a look at five of the interesting ones that I found. And big thanks to all the folks on Twitter who helped me find these.
1) name: Hike. supporting the American Hiking Society
description: Get outside, connect with and inspire your community to enjoy and protect your favorite trails with HIKE GPS app for the iPhone 3G and 3G S, powered by Intermap. Supports American Hiking Society, who has been on the forefront protecting the nation’s trails for more than three decades.
2) name: Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper
description: The new app allows you to scan a barcode of a product you’re interested in or search for it by keyword, and once identified, the app will show you Consumer Reports’ rating for the product, similar products from other manufacturers in the same category, and pricing information for multiple vendors. This way you can determine whether the product is worth your money and you’re getting a good deal by buying in the store or by shopping online.
3) name: National Park Field Guides App
description: The most versatile and interactive mobile field guide app available, NPCA’s new National Park Field Guide provides a complete view of a park wildlife, as well as a comprehensive ecosystem review of 50 national parks. Unlike any other mobile app on the market today, the guide includes bird portraits, call recordings, information about endangered and poisonous species, range maps, and wildlife. Users will also find current news about each park, access and visitor information, and directions to park visitor centers.
- name: Relay For Life App
description: The American Cancer Society Relay for Life application is a great tool to track your fundraising progress, and to keep current on all Relay for Life news! This is basically a fundraising app that connects to your online account and help you run your team, raise funds and edit your fundraising page on the go.
- Name: The Paramount Theatre App
description: As Austin TX’s most historic theatre, history happens here nightly, and we’ve made history again by being the first non-profit performing arts theatre in the country with an iPhone app. Features include:
* Purchase tickets to all upcoming shows
* Get box office hours, purchase tickets by phone or shoot us an email
* Use GPS to get directions to the theatre
* Help support the theatre by becoming a member or making a donation
* Stay up-to-date on all Season Subscriber Notes
* Get our special updates regarding new events and availability
So what does the future hold for your nonprofits mobile plan? Is it a site upgrade? Is it a mobile app? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out my new book The Future of Nonprofits: Thrive and Innovate in the Digital Age. Www.thefutureofnonprofits.com