The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Ask and Listen to Get Close to Supporters and Prospects

There is a way for your organization to build and strengthen vital relationships with the people whose support and loyalty you want as donors, volunteers, and more.

It’s really very simple, and it’s something you probably do on a personal level all the time: Get to know and understand others with whom you want to build a friendship; learn what’s important to them and what their days are like. These insights help you focus on what’s important or interesting to both of you via a common platform—social, mobile, text, mail—at a convenient time.

Here are a few proven ways to ask for the insights you need to forge strong connections.

Form a Marketing Advisory Group

Begin by identifying your target audiences and the segments within them who share wants, needs, and preferences. Then, outline a marketing advisory group that includes as many of these perspectives as possible so you’ll have the right people to turn to when you need them. This diverse group will also provide a solid base of comparison when you solicit input on a specific campaign or message.

Next, invite prospective team members to participate. If you don’t have people in mind who represent all the perspectives you need, ask program staff or other colleagues for recommendations.

Be sure to specify your expectations and keep them modest. I recommend asking team members for their help at most once or twice a month, and for no more than five to 10 minutes of their time in response.

Put your marketing advisers to work in the way it’s most beneficial. That may vary depending on the task at hand. Ask a few for input on draft messages for campaigns to fund your new program, and ask a few others to critique the draft mini-site for the campaign. Or ask everyone to complete a brief online survey to share their perception of the new program and the gap it will fill. Whatever you do, be thoughtful about what you’re asking and don’t overburden your advisers. Most important, thank them frequently.

Try this for six months, refining the program over time to be of greatest value for you and the least burden for your marketing advisory team. When you do, I promise you’ll come to know and connect with your audiences more than ever.

Listen to Social Conversations

There’s so much being said online—about your organization, causes, issues, campaigns, and the organizations you compete with for donations and attention—that you’ll learn a lot by just listening. Monitoring social channels for conversation on relevant topics shows you what resonates and why and helps you better engage your people.

Keep in mind that with this kind of social listening, you won’t know who’s talking and how that person maps (if at all) to your targets. Nonetheless, if there’s a groundswell of conversation on a topic that’s important to your organization, you want to hear it.

Social monitoring options range from free tools like Google Alerts to paid services such as Mention and social listening services like Attentive.ly, which enable you to focus on and listen to your people: in your donor management system, your e-news subscribers, volunteers, and others.

Case Study: American Friends Service Committee Uses Attentive.ly to Connect

A few days after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) noticed that the hashtag #Ferguson was trending on social media. AFSC staff could quickly see that keywords like “police” started trending both nationally and among supporters in the organization’s CRM database.

AFSC created a saved search to see exactly who in its database was talking about Ferguson on Facebook and Twitter. Next, it invited those supporters to a Google Hangout that resulted in record-high participation and 74 donations. That’s incredible targeting!

Ask and Listen in Your Social Communities

If your organization has an active community on Facebook, Twitter, or other interactive platform, you have a focus group that’s ready to roll. But before you just ask and ask and ask again, prioritize what you want to know. Also, decide how to filter and weigh what you hear, because your social communities may not exactly map to your donors and prospects.

Facebook has a few advantages as an audience research tool:

  • You can easily compare your organization’s donor or email list against people who have liked your Facebook page, so it’s easier to map responses to your prioritized audiences.
  • The new Facebook Live Video tool is excellent for gathering quick feedback on a draft logo, design, message, or email format—anything, in fact, that’s easy to view in an online video.

Ask People as They Leave a Program or Event

This technique is ages old but works well—as long as you ask just one or two quick questions. If your question is brief, ask it verbally. If you want to gather names or have a couple questions, then have pens and printed mini-surveys or tablets on hand for responses.

Most Important, Capture, Manage, and Share What You Learn

Keep in mind that what you learn about your audience is valuable only when you log, share, and analyze it across your organization.

This process will position you to put your findings to work most effectively right now. Go one step further to extend value by adding these insights to the donor records in your donor management system. That’s your path to getting closer than ever with donors and prospects.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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