Insight into the Needs of Nonprofit Organizations
Every vertical segment has its own unique challenges, which in turn present PSPs with a unique set of opportunities. In this issue of Wide-Format Impressions, we are taking a closer look at printing specifically for the nonprofit segment. But while we can talk about it from a print perspective all we want, the reality is that there is no better way to truly understand what these organizations need than to hear from them directly.
Nonprofit Pro is a sister publication of Wide-Format Impressions, and also a part of NAPCO Media. These articles were written for the nonprofit audience, and highlight the very real need they have not just for high-quality printing, but for partners who can help them navigate the increasingly complex world of communications and marketing.
In the first, you’ll get an inside look into the fundraising side of the business, and the challenges nonprofit organizations face when it comes to this crucial element of their operation. Pay close attention to the types of communications they discuss, and consider how your shop might be able to help solve some of those problems.
The second article tackles a subject that anyone who works with brands of any type knows well — brand integrity and brand safety. Just like their for-profit counterparts — and perhaps even more in some cases — maintaining the image and reputation of the brand is mission-critical. PSPs with experience in navigating creative ways to market and communicate with prospects while staying true to the brand can learn a lot from this piece about the best ways to approach these organizations.
Whether it is small local charities, or large multi-national organizations, nonprofits are a great opportunity for PSPs to expand their services. Use this insight to help shape new ideas for local nonprofits in your market, bringing your expertise to those who very much need it.
By Gabe Cooper
Editor’s Note: As nonprofits of all sizes and with every type of focus look for a better, smarter way to connect and build trust with their donors, personalized, targeted messaging is the key strategy they will need to employ. For print service providers (PSPs) looking to serve this vertical, it is a good window into the exact types of communication vehicles these organizations are in desperate need of — methods PSPs are uniquely qualified to provide with the vast array of print, branding, and marketing technologies at the fingertips of most shops today.
I’d like to put a notion out on the table: The fundraising models that drive most of today’s nonprofits were designed for a world that no longer exists.
The ways in which people communicate, connect, relate, and learn has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Technology and media companies have created a world where our brand experiences are now highly personalized. In 1994, AT&T ran the first digital banner ad, imploring its prospects to click “your mouse right HERE.” While that type of promotion may seem immature and even aggressive by today’s standards, it kicked off an entirely new way of advertising — to an audience of one.
Additionally, for-profit companies — from Amazon and Spotify, to Disney and Kroger — provide personalized brand experiences for each and every customer. This has created a world where consumers (and donors) have come to expect highly personalized communications from the brands they care about.
Unfortunately, most nonprofits have failed to adapt. Instead, they have remained handcuffed to outdated fundraising tactics, and as a result there has been an 18% decrease in nonprofit donors since 2006. This represents a fundamental shift in the way people interact with both for-profit and nonprofit brands alike. For example, poor personalization and lack of trust cost U.S. organizations $756 billion last year, as 41% of consumers switched companies.
In order to drive generosity in 2020 and beyond, it’s more critical than ever that nonprofits adopt new-world tactics in order to respond to the individual needs and expectations of their donors. Responsive nonprofits must become experts in continually listening to donors, connecting in a personal way and then suggesting next steps based on the needs of each individual supporter.
Appreciation and Relationships
Based on our observations, there are two essential principles of responsive fundraising we believe can help bridge this gap. The first is to commit to building relationships with ALL donors, not just major donors. Antiquated fundraising tactics promote donor inequality, which is a huge shame as well as a missed opportunity. The focus on who can give your organization the most money, or who has given most often, completely misses out on who has the most growth opportunity. Focusing only on major donors assumes the person who gives the most demands the most attention, when in reality a donor’s growth potential should receive as much cultivation and engagement.
I understand that having a relationship with every single donor can sound like an unattainable goal, but hear me out. We know it’s logistically impossible to have in-person conversations with 10,000-plus individual donors. But with modern technology you can respond to donors in real-time, in a very personal way, and with very little additional staff time.
Automation, CRMs, digital printing, and advanced algorithms have made it possible for everything to be personalized. In addition to this enhanced personalization, more donors want to have relationships with the nonprofits they support. Donors want more inside information, updates on the good their giving has done, education, and giving inspiration. They want to be part of a community, and they need to know that their time, effort, and dollars are making a difference.
A personalized, intentional donor communications strategy will go a long way in supporting your relationship-building efforts. Successful donor communication strategies should always include impact-focused storytelling, regular progress updates, and opportunities for donors to participate in the conversation. By employing this strategy, not only will your donors stay up-to-date about your nonprofits’ good work, they’ll also consistently receive inspiration to remain involved, and a legitimate understanding of their impact.
As a result, your nonprofit will also experience increased donor retention and loyalty, which leads to long-term sustainable growth and being able to do more good.
Trust Is Key
The second essential principle to building a responsive fundraising strategy is to focus on earning your donors’ trust, rather than attempting to maximize reach. Historically, nonprofits have hounded people with direct response messages, crossing their fingers for that 2% response rate. This batch-and-blast numbers game isn’t fun, and nobody wins. I don’t know any nonprofits that enjoy sending this type of outreach, nor have I ever heard of a single donor who appreciates receiving these messages in today’s world.
This approach has not only become intolerable, but it’s also increasingly ineffective, as it can push donors away from giving at all. In “The New Nonprofit” by Nicholas Ellinger, he argues that the resulting 92% to 98% of people who don’t respond to mass appeals isn’t just because of irritation, but rather retaliation.
“The donor turns the dissonance back on the organizations specifically or on giving generally.”
Turning back to for-profit businesses as a guideline, we see that 43% of customers will stop doing business with a company if the business loses their trust. Sixty-eight percent of customers will choose to leave if they feel that the company doesn’t care about their business. It’s absolutely crucial that your donors feel they can trust you and that they’re valued.
Donor-nonprofit relationships based on trust will yield a higher rate of return, equate to more giving on a more regular basis, and lead to growth as they tell their friends, family, and colleagues about your mission. This method of trust-based fundraising creates a virtuous cycle where constituents stay engaged and invite more people to your cause. Fundraising strategies that give to donors first before asking for money help build that trust, create pull, and create loyal givers.
So what can your nonprofit do to build more trusting donor relationships? A great place to start is to begin asking more insightful questions in order to actively engage with your donor base. Nobody likes a one-sided relationship, and your donors don’t either.
For example, I know a donor, who, as a young parent, didn’t have much disposable income to be able to give to the causes she supported. However, the donor-nonprofit relationship she had with one particular organization was strong: She cared about their cause, and they valued her as more than a dollar-sign. Because of their collaborative and trusting relationship, she was able to mobilize a group of other mothers who were then able to collectively help in this nonprofits’ mission to aid refugees from Syria.
By virtue of connecting with this supporter and relating to her as a human being, this organization was able to realize the true extent of her generosity — as an influencer in her community. Ultimately, she was able to rally more support for the organization than she ever could have given on her own through a donation form. Unfortunately, most nonprofits would have followed the antiquated approach of simply asking her for a donation at every interaction.
By actively engaging more often with your donors — while keeping monetary asks to a minimum — not only will these relationships build organically, but you’ll likely find ways that your donors can help your organization even without traditional monetary donations.
Be social with your donors, encourage them to be social with each other, be consistent, and, most importantly, show gratitude. By engaging with your donors on a regular basis, you’ll likely find that you naturally won’t have to work so hard to retain them. Listen, connect, and share thoughtful suggestions with your donors as to how they can participate with your nonprofit, especially outside of monetary giving. Create personal connections with all donors, not just a select few.
By putting these principles into action, we’re confident that your nonprofit can successfully build a responsive fundraising strategy that’s both engaging and builds trust within your donor base. This responsive relationship will allow for more win-win situations, allowing everyone involved to do more good. After all, isn’t that what this is all about?
By Lisa Horn
Editor’s Note: Nonprofits — just like their for-profit counterparts — rely on branding and awareness to drive their mission forward. Promotional products are a great way for nonprofit organizations to get their brand in front of potential donors in meaningful ways that will keep them top-of-mind. For print service providers with experience in the promo marketing space, this is a huge opportunity that is mostly going untapped right now. Nonprofits are a prime example of finding industries and verticals that need the services a printer offers, but as this article shows, many are wary of knowing who to trust. Savvy printers can get ahead of the game, going to local nonprofits with not only branding and marketing strategies in hand designed to help these organizations reach their goals, but with clear documentation proving the integrity and quality of the work the shop provides — before they have to ask for it.
How do you promote your nonprofit? There’s traditional advertising in the form of TV, radio, print, and digital. There are interactive experiences, such as in-person events or webinars. Perhaps you’ve worked with social media influencers as brand ambassadors. And then there are promotional products — which are ranked the No. 1 most effective form of advertising to prompt action across all generations, according to Promotional Products Association International (PPAI).
In fact, PPAI’s “2017 Consumer Study” found that nine in 10 people who receive branded merchandise recall the branding, eight in 10 recall the messaging, and seven in 10 recall the call-to-action. With this kind of influence, it’s no wonder you’ll find promotional products being used in all kinds of ways — everything from brand awareness, employee relations, and PR, to business gifts, trade show giveaways, and charitable donation thank-you gifts.
While these promotional powerhouses are effective, not all branded merchandise is created equal. If you’re like most people, you assume the products you buy are manufactured responsibly, of high quality, and don’t contain substances that could cause harm. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case — and any mishap could negatively impact your hard-earned brand reputation (just ask the Spice Girls about the charity t-shirts they created for a campaign to empower women and demand equality that were made in a sweatshop).
These kinds of mishaps are extremely damaging to nonprofits with missions to improve the quality of life for a group of constituents, or right the wrongs of injustice. Promoting these kinds of causes with irresponsibly sourced branded merchandise that could potentially cause physical harm, induce sickness, or violate human rights goes against the very reasons these organizations exist.
Additionally, for nonprofits that have members, it is equally important to educate them on the importance of responsibly sourced branded merchandise so they, too, can protect their brands. In the event one of your members has an incident with a promotional product that violates your organization’s standards or ethics, it not only negatively impacts the member company’s brand reputation, but it also affects yours by association.
This rationale carries over to nonprofits that host trade shows, education seminars, and other kinds of events. Promotional products are highly effective at increasing booth traffic, making it that much more vital to educate exhibitors on the importance of sourcing branded merchandise responsibly.
While it’s not unreasonable to expect the merchandise used to support your organization to do so without posing risks to recipients or the organization itself, you must do the due diligence to ensure this is actually the case.
How do you mitigate potential danger and protect your nonprofit’s brand? Understand the problems and be prepared. The issues around brand safety can be divided into five pillars.
- Social Responsibility
With the vast majority of promotional products as a whole or their component parts being manufactured overseas, there are serious issues with workers’ fundamental rights being violated. As light is being shed on many atrocities (such as internment camps in China, and abusive labor practices in Pakistan), it is becoming increasingly important for nonprofits to make sure they are working with vendors and printers whose factories have documented worker safety and protection programs, fair pay, and proper physical working and living conditions.
- Product Safety
Product safety is just that: Ensuring products, as well as any decorating materials, are manufactured or designed so they’re not dangerous to people or property when used. It’s a seemingly simple concept, but there are complexities. Safety also encompasses being able to meet any applicable regulatory standards for safety, labeling, environmental protection, and other legally required standards and limits.
For example, promo products are classified as consumer products, and as such they are required to comply with federal requirements outlined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Additionally, some states have their own laws (most notably, California’s Prop 65), and these can be even trickier to handle.
- Product Quality
When designing and manufacturing a product, there are many attributes that must be replicated — everything from the material, color, and size, to logo placement — all within established standards. Moreover, the key to quality is working with vendors and printers who are able to consistently achieve these requirements for every lot or batch made.
- Environmental Stewardship
We only have one Earth, and the production of promotional products shouldn’t do damage to the health of the environment itself, or the people within it. Recycling may be the most recognizable kind of environmental stewardship program, but this also encompasses monitoring for banned substances, as well as resource management.
- Supply Chain Security
An often overlooked category, supply chain security is more important than many realize. Having a secure supply chain minimizes delivery disruptions, while working in tandem with law enforcement to combat terrorism, illegal drugs and arms trade, human trafficking, and other criminal activities.
Protecting Your Brand
While there are many considerations when it comes to brand safety, the breadth and depth of the issues can seem overwhelming. How can you tap into the power of promotional products and keep product safety and responsible sourcing from becoming your full-time job?
Start by having an in-depth conversation with your current vendors and printers. Ask the tough questions about their policies and procedures; request third-party audit documentation, and inquire about recall processes. Are you comfortable with the information provided? If not, it may be time to weigh your options.
If your current vendors and printers can’t answer your questions or provide the kind of documentation you need, there are resources for finding vendors well versed in product safety and responsible sourcing within the promotional products industry. One such resource is Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the only coalition dedicated to ensuring accountability and independent validation of corporate responsibility throughout the promotional product industry’s supply chain.
QCA Accredited Suppliers have a proactive, comprehensive compliance program in place to protect the brand equity of end-user clients. They have completed rigorous independent third-party audits, and comply with stringent standards, which are based upon a combination of state and national laws, international standards, and industry-accepted best practices that are recognized for their strength and effectiveness. Asking your promotional products distributor to use QCA Accredited Suppliers is a great first step to getting you the documentation you need to make an informed decision about the products used to promote your nonprofit.
If you need a promotional products distributor, QCA has a directory of Distributor Advocates who can help. These promotional consultants recognize QCA as the standard by which industry firms consistently deliver socially compliant, safe, high-quality, and environmentally conscientious merchandise. Together, the Advocacy Council, QCA Accredited Suppliers, and users of promotional products are forming new levels of collaboration to effectively ensure supply-chain transparency and control that protects brand reputations.
By working with vendors and printers who have established policies and procedures in place to ensure brand safety, you’ll not only get the assurance that the branded merchandise you use is safe and compliant, but you’ll also save time in managing the process.
Don’t let any uncertainty about the safety of branded merchandise keep you from tapping into the power of promotional products. Find vendors and printers who can meet your demands by responsibly sourcing the items you want and delivering the brand safety you expect.
Gabe Cooper is the founder and CEO of Virtuous Software, the responsive CRM and fundraising platform that helps your nonprofit easily create personalized donor experiences at scale that build lasting relationships with all their donors.
His drive stems from a passion to create market-defining software and help charities re-imagine generosity. He frequently writes and speaks about empowering nonprofits to grow generosity through technology.
Since 1998, Lisa Horn, CAS, (a.k.a. The Publicity Gal) has been reporting on the issues that matter most to the promotional products industry. Currently, she writes about brand safety and responsible sourcing on behalf of Quality Certification Alliance (QCA). Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.