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How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 1
By Eric Jacobson,vice president of Media Development for Ascend Int...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program2
“We also hope readers of this report will share feedback with us. Ho...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 3
“The PSA has been a good way for people in the Kansas City communit...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program4
when we conduct online surveys. Our response rates are consistently ...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 5
Top three communications channels
• Website (82%)
• Print informati...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program6
with volunteers to help them plan, develop and execute their communi...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 7
Twitter (46%), YouTube (34%) or LinkedIn (28%).
“Special Olympics M...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program8
Those are followed closely by print informational brochures and
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 9
and an occasional donated piece. Video is a powerful tool to show p...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program10
• Standing out from the crowd
• Gaining their attention
• Reaching ...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 11
their age, age is a factor when it comes to volunteers’ attitud...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program12
For Twitter users, over half (55%) post weekly and 27% post daily.
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 13
Of channels/vehicles not currently b...
How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program14
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Improve your nonprofit_communications_programs

  1. 1. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 1 By Eric Jacobson,vice president of Media Development for Ascend Integrated Media Executive Summary “This report contains a wealth of never-before available information of great val- ue to nonprofits throughout the Greater Kansas City area,” said Michelle Davis, executive director of Nonprofit Connect, “which is why we are especially pleased to have partnered with Ascend Integrated Media in its production.” “In addition to answers about what’s working and what isn’t for different types of organizations in their efforts to generate donations and connect with constituencies, it also can help organizations plan where and how best to target future marketing investments. “We encourage staff, board members, volunteers and funders in Greater Kan- sas City to read this report and ask questions, such as: • How do our organization’s current marketing and communications budget and channels compare to those of other organizations? • What are other organizations planning to implement in the next two years that we should consider? • What resources are out there to help us? Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program How Greater Kansas City nonprofits communicate with their donors, volunteers, clients and patrons Nonprofit Communications & Marketing Tools Study: Research Report from Nonprofit Connect and Ascend Integrated Media Table of Contents Executive summary 1 Survey respondents profile 4 Key findings for nonprofits with ≤ $500K annual organization budget 4 Communications programs 6 Communicating with different audiences 9 Social media 11 What works best 12 Future communications channels 13
  2. 2. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program2 “We also hope readers of this report will share feedback with us. How was it useful? How could it be improved? What more should the nonprofit community of Greater Kansas City be doing to help you and your organization more effec- tively achieve its mission through marketing and communications?” What’s working In an industry where the focus is helping people, it should not be too surprising that organizations find personal visits and events the most successful ways to generate donations and connect with volunteers. However, nonprofits use more than 20 different types of communications channels for outreach. • Print and electronic newsletters are more successful for connecting with volun- teers than they are for generating donations. • 71% are using social media, with the majority (93%) of those using Facebook. • Few organizations are using the newest technologies of text messaging (7%) and smartphone apps (applications) (2%). The largest challenges Not enough staff, limited time, and tight and small communications budgets are fore- most among the area nonprofits’ communications challenges. Other challenges include: • Standing out from the crowd; getting the attention of busy donors. • Determining optimum frequency for reaching out to donors. • Maintaining an accurate donor and prospect database. The biggest challenges specifically pertaining to volunteers include: • Reaching audiences that may not have email or generally prefer more costly print communications. • Determining how best to provide information that helps volunteers better un- derstand the organization. • Maintaining consistent and regular contact with volunteers. “The long and diverse list of communications challenges cited by survey re- spondents does not surprise us,” said Davis. “Nonprofit Connect training programs address many of these challenges. In fact, one of the primary reasons we created Learning Circles to supplement our educational seminars was to provide opportuni- ties for people doing similar work to exchange knowledge and resources. We host two Learning Circles — Communications and New Media & Technology — for anyone interested in nonprofit communications.” The future • Within the next two years, text messaging and smartphone app usage as com- munications channels will likely grow from 7% to 27%, and 2% to 15%, respec- tively. • E-newsletter use will likely grow from 62% to 81%, and email fundraising ap- peals will likely increase from 51% to 68%. • 17% of respondents plan to start using radio PSAs (public service announce- ments) within two years. survey KEY HIGHLIGHTS • The average annual communications budget (excluding labor costs and in-kind services) is $29,000. • One-third of survey respondents have annual communications budgets of less than $5,000. • 60% of the nonprofits don’t have a dedicated full-time communications/marketing staff person. • Current most used communications channels include websites, press releases, print informational brochures and print fundraising appeals. • The two most successful vehicles for generating donations are personal visits and events. • The four most successful channels for connecting with volunteers are personal visits, events, phone solicitations and electronic newsletters. • 71% of nonprofits use social media, most often posting weekly updates. • Lack of staff and time are two of the largest challenges for nonprofit communications programs. • People aged 18-34 comprise nearly 20% of organizations’ volunteer base but only 1% of the donor base. • Although 62% of organizations report that they currently have an electronic newsletter, 19% say they plan to add one in the next two years, which makes enewsletters, along with text messaging (20%) and e-fundraising appeals (17%), one of the top three up-and-coming communications vehicles.
  3. 3. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 3 “The PSA has been a good way for people in the Kansas City community to become informed that Horizon Academy is available for students struggling with learning disabilities in traditional schools. Airtime on the radio has helped students find our school especially for summer school programs,” said Sharyl Kennedy, executive director at Horizon Academy. Jane Blumenthal Martin, director of strategic marketing at the Jewish Federa- tion of Greater Kansas City, said her organization has a two-part goal with PSAs: 1. to educate members of the Greater Kansas City community – Jewish and non-Jewish – about what we do. 2. to help us show support of our partner agencies and the important work we do together to help community members in need. “Anecdotal evidence shows that in addition to creating greater awareness about what we do among our donors, the PSAs have worked to further strengthen our relationships with many of our partner agencies,” said Blumenthal Martin. Why do the study? “Ourcompanyrealizedtherewasn’tanycomprehensiveresearchaboutthecommunica- tionsandmarketingprogramswithintheGreaterKansasCitynonprofitcommunity,”said CameronBishop,CEOofAscendIntegratedMedia.“So,wepartneredwithNonprofit Connectonthisground-breakingstudytohelporganizationslearnfromeachother.” “Often during our Learning Circles, the discussion leads to attendees asking each other what they are doing, and what is working for them and what isn’t,” said Nonprofit Connect’s Davis. “So, having the opportunity to conduct research that would help answer those questions for the entire Kansas City nonprofit com- munity was of great interest to us,” she added. Kansas City partnership Nonprofit Connect partnered with Ascend Integrated Media to conduct the research and the two organizations prepared the survey questions. Then, on April 15, 2010, the survey was emailed by Nonprofit Connect to a list of individu- als who interact with Nonprofit Connect and are either executive directors or involved in marketing and communications roles, totaling 1,100. Although the questionnaire may have reached multiple people within an organization, each was asked to complete only one questionnaire. Prior to analysis, the data was examined for multiple submissions from a single organization. Those identified as duplicates were removed from the data. On May 5, 2010, the survey was closed. After accounting for undeliverables and by allowing only one completed survey per organization, the response rate was 26% for a total of 289 completed questionnaires. The reported results in this white paper are based on all 289 respondents, un- less otherwise noted. “The survey’s impressive 26% response rate reflects the nonprofit com- muity’s culture of helping and sharing with one another,” said Davis. “We see evidence of this every week when we send out our Link Weekly eNewsletter and
  4. 4. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program4 when we conduct online surveys. Our response rates are consistently above aver- age. We believe this underscores respondents’ desire to interact with Nonprofit Connect and confidence that we will listen and respond to their needs.” Survey Respondents Profile Organization focus Survey respondents represent 14 different types of nonprofit organi- zations, where: • 33% are from Social Services/Human Services • Nearly equal percentages are from Healthcare, Hospital, Medical (14%), Arts & Culture (13%) and Educational Institution (11%) Job title • 44% of respondents are Executive Director/CEO • 20% are Director of Development • 17% are Director of Communications/Marketing Location • 69% of the organizations are in Missouri • 31% are in Kansas Organization budget/size • On average, the annual organization budget is $2.6 million. • More than a third (37%) of the organizations have an annual budget of less than $500,000. “This $500,000 category ties in nicely with a new category for the 2010 Philly Awards that we’re calling ‘In-House Publication,’ open only to nonprofits with budgets under $500,000,” said Davis. • 16% have a budget between $500,000 and $999,999. • 19% fall in the $2 million to $5.9 million range. • 8% have annual budgets of $10 million or more. • The median annual budget is $800,000. Key FIndings for nonprofits with $500,000 or less annual organization budget More than a third (37%) of the Greater Kansas City nonprofits have an annual budget of less than $500,000 [Base: 106]. The profile of this large category of the nonprofit community is: ORGANIZATION BUDGET More than one third of nonprofit organizations’ budgets are less than $500,000. 7% $6 million to $9.9 million 19% $2.0 million to $5.9 million 13% $1.0 million to $1.9 million 16% $500,000 to $999,999 37% Less than $500,000 8% $10 million or more ORGANIZATION FOCUS Survey respondents represent 14 types of nonprofit organizations. Social and fraternal 1% Labor 1% International 1% Animal support 1% Business/professional 1% Funding/foundation 3% Advocacy/human rights 3% Religious 3% Community economic development 4% 11% Other 11% Educational institution 13% Arts & culture 14% Healthcare, hospital, medical 33% Social services/ human services
  5. 5. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 5 Top three communications channels • Website (82%) • Print informational brochure (69%) • Social media (60%) This category of nonprofits use each of the 14 communication channels less than nonprofits with larger annual budgets. Top three investment areas • Website (57%) • Print informational brochure (36%) • Print newsletter (32%) These nonprofits spend a greater percentage of their communications budget on their websites than any other sized nonprofit except for those with an annual budget of greater than $10 million. Top three plan to use communications channels • Email fundraising appeal (24%) • Electronic newsletter (23%) • Social media (19%) • Video (19%) The nonprofits with budgets of $500,000 or less plan to begin using social media to communicate with their audiences at a greater percentage than any other sized nonprofit organization over the next two years. Resources and influencers Who organizations rely on Nonprofits turn to many resources to help them increase their communications and marketing efforts effectiveness: • 64% rely on their Board of Directors. • 54% turn to online resources and blogs, and Nonprofit Connect (i.e. seminars and Learning Circles). • 50% use their local nonprofit colleagues. • 44% rely on contractors/vendors and consultants. “Nonprofit professionals are expected to be skilled across many disciplines and recognize the value of networking with as many resources as possible,” said Amy Mulligan Kennedy, education and member services manager for Nonprofit Connect. “It’s not unusual for Nonprofit Connect programs to see, for example, a fundraiser for an arts organization dialoging with a communications professional from another sector, such as education, health or social services. People in the Greater Kansas City nonprofit community are especially supportive of their peers.” In addition, respondents turn to still other resources, citing that they work Video Case Study with Ronald McDonald House Charities Holly Buckendahl, CEO/Executive Director Why we have a video We developed our Izzy’s Story video as a way to share one fam- ily’s experience with how we help bring comfort and peace during turbulent and unpredictable times when childhood illness turns a family’s world upside down. This particular video was originally cre- ated for a fundraising event. We wanted to motivate our attendees to give generously. We generally create a fresh video annually. Where we show our video We use the video for group presentations, Board meetings, fundraising events, on Facebook and for website posts. Results We find that after showing the video to individuals and various audiences, there is a heightened level of understanding and em- pathy for a family’s journey with childhood illnesses as well as Ron- ald McDonald House Charities. Recommendations Always have a family tell its story. Decide what your audience and purpose is. Aim for three to five minutes that will tug at your heart.
  6. 6. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program6 with volunteers to help them plan, develop and execute their communications and marketing programs. Or, they belong to professional organizations, such as the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). National offices The majority (72%) of nonprofits are not affiliated with a national office, and of the 26% (75 respondents) that are an affiliate of a national office, more than half (57%) say that office is either minimally or not involved in their communications programs. Communications budget Annual communications budget • The average budget for communications activities, excluding cost of labor, is $29,000. The median is $7,500. • 34% of the organizations have a budget of less than $5,000. • 32% have budgets between $5,000 and $25,000. • Only 5% spend $200,000 or more on their communications activities each year. In-kind services • Although 19% of respondents don’t receive in-kind communications materials and services, the average pro bono donation is nearly $9,000 a year, with almost half (45%) of the organizations receiving less than $5,000. • A very small percent (2%) receive $100,000 or more annually. Communications staffing Staffing, vendors, volunteers, interns • 60% of the organizations do not have a dedicated full-time staff member to handle their communications and marketing, and only 21% have one person in this role. • Only 13% have one part-time staff member exclusively devoted to communica- tions and marketing. • Only 8% have one or more interns working for their organization dedicated to communications and marketing. Communications Programs Channels Not surprising, nearly all (91%) of the organizations have a website. Other com- monly used communication channels include print informational brochures, press releases, print fundraising appeals and electronic newsletters. Only about 8 percentage points separate those respondents who use an electronic newsletter (62%) vs. a print newsletter (54%). This translates into 15% more respondents using electronic vs. print. Almost three-fourths of the respondents (71%) indicated they are using social media as a communications channel. Respondents reported that they are primar- ily using one or more of the following social media channels: Facebook (93%), Donor Thank You’s “To demonstrate to donors the val- ue of their gifts, the best thing you can do is to send timely ‘thank you’ letters. Strive to send those within 24 to 48 hours after receiv- ing a donation or gift. But, if you don’t have the staff or resources to meet that standard, establish a timely and realistic goal and then adhere to it. Sometimes nonprofits tell me their donors tell them it’s a waste of a stamp to send a ‘thank you’ letter. I don’t agree.” — Robert F. Hartsook, , JD, EdD, Chairman and ceo of Hartsook Companies, Inc.and president of hartsook institute for fundraising Over Communicating “In my 38 years of working with non- profits,I’ve never seen a case where an organization has either over- communicated or over-recognized its donors.That’s different from organi- zations that have poorly maintained databases that cause duplicate mailings to an individual. That’s not over-communicating;that’s poor database management.” — Robert F. Hartsook, Hartsook Companies, Inc.
  7. 7. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 7 Twitter (46%), YouTube (34%) or LinkedIn (28%). “Special Olympics Missouri uses its YouTube channel as part of our overall social media plan. We recognize that our supporters, volunteers and athletes spend a significant amount of time online and want to use every avenue possible to reach them,” said Mandi Mueller, public rela- tions coordinator for Special Olympics Missouri. “Right now, we are using our videos on YouTube to engage our consituents in an awareness campaign. We’ll post about 10 per week for 15 weeks,” said Lauren Henson, program manager, integrated marketing at PKD Foundation. “We decided to use social media be- cause it gives us an untapped, highly engaged audience right at our fingertips. And, aside from staff time, it’s cheap.” Less than half (40%) of the survey respondents use video as a communications channel. Interestingly, 12% of the respondents use billboards. Some orga- nizations reported they use newspaper advertisements, postcards, and ads on the radio. Few nonprofits in the Kansas City area are using two of the new- est communications technologies – text messaging (7%) and smart- phone apps (2%). Those using text messaging use it for generating donations through either a Text-to-Give or a Text-to-Pledge program, or use it for a Text-to-Volunteer program. “We have been promoting the Text-to-Give option at Big Broth- ers Big Sisters events for about a year and a half,” said Patrick Sallee, development director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City, “Our main focus has been on getting event attendees to further support the agency through a one-time text donation. Our success has been hit and miss. We are continuing to experiment with the messaging and the location of our promotions to maximize our opportunity,” added Sallee. Role of vendors, contractors/consultants and volunteers 72% of the nonprofits pay vendors, contractors/consultants to create or assist with primarily their websites, print informational brochures and print newslet- ters. Volunteers are providing website services to 19% of the nonprofits, and a nearly equal percentage (18%) provide social media services. Key investment communications channels The top three communications/marketing investment areas (excluding cost of labor) for nonprofits are: • Websites (52%) • Print newsletters (40%) • Print fundraising appeals (39%) COMMUNICATION CHANNELS Nonprofit organizations currently use the following communication channels or vehicles: Website Informational brochure (print) Press releases Fundraising appeal (print) Social media (Facebook,Twitter,blogs,YouTube,etc.) Newsletter (electronic) Annual report Newsletter (print) Fundraising appeal (email) Video Informational brochure (electronic) Public service announcement (radio) Membership appeal (print) Membership appeal (electronic) Public service announcement (TV) Public service announcement (print) Billboards Magazine (print) Other Text messaging (Text-to-Give,Text-to-Pledge,Text-to-Volunteer,etc.) Smartphone application (app for mobile phone) 91% 78% 75% 72% 71% 62% 60% 54% 51% 40% 39% 27% 26% 20% 19% 15% 12% 10% 9% 7% 2%
  8. 8. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program8 Those are followed closely by print informational brochures and annual reports. “Our website is a wonderful tool to get our message delivered to a large and diverse audience,” said Patrick Ayers, president/CEO, American Stroke Foundation. “I am amazed at how effective our website actually is and did not realize this until some problems caused it to go down for a short period. The calls and emails I received letting me know it was down allowed me to see the effect it actually has. Likewise, during the time it was down, our contributions went down because our on-line donation program was inoperable.” Frequency for most common communications channels/vehicles Print newsletters • For those nonprofits with print newsletters (Base: 157), the most common (42%) publishing frequency is four times per year. • 24% publish twice per year. • Only 9% publish monthly. Electronic newsletters • For nonprofits with an electronic newsletter (Base: 179), the most common (45%) publishing frequency for an electronic newsletter is monthly. • 22% publish four times per year. • 16% send weekly and bi-weekly messaging or use impromptu/occasional scheduling frequencies. Fundraising appeals • For those with fundraising appeals (Base: 207), nearly 49% of the organizations send out their print fundraising appeals twice per year. • 16% use a four times per year frequency. • Only 3% send print appeals out monthly. • For email appeals, the most common (30%) frequency is twice per year fol- lowed closely (21%) by four times per year (Base: 146). Membership appeals • By far, the most common (43%) frequency for sending out print membership appeals is twice per year for those who send this type of appeal (Base: 75). • The frequency is more varied for sending out email appeals, ranging from twice per year, to four times per year, to monthly (Base: 57). Videos • The two most common places for presenting an organization’s video message are its website (77%) and on YouTube (62%) for those organizations with videos (Base: 115). • 26% include their videos in their electronic newsletters. • Videos also are posted on nonprofit organizations’ social media sites and are shown during events, as part of tours, and during personal presentations. “We produce videos as often as we can, relying entirely on volunteer interns KEY INVESTMENTS Response to,“What are your top three communications mar- keting investment areas,excluding cost of labor?”: Website Newsletter (print) Fundraising appeal (print) Informational brochure (print) Annual report Newsletter (electronic) Video Social media (Facebook,Twitter,blogs,YouTube,etc.) Membership appeal (print) Press releases Magazine (print) Fundraising appeal (email) Billboards Public service announcement (radio) Public service announcement (TV) Public service announcement (print) Informational brochure (electronic) Membership appeal (electronic) Other Smartphone application (app for mobile phone) Text messaging (Text-to-Give,Text-to-Pledge,Text-to-Volunteer,etc.) 52% 40% 39% 33% 26% 15% 10% 9% 9% 7% 6% 5% 3% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2% 1% 1% 1%
  9. 9. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 9 and an occasional donated piece. Video is a powerful tool to show potential sup- porters what our organization is about, and we hope it will encourage people to come out and be fans of Special Olympics,” said Mueller of Special Olympics Missouri. “We premiered our video at our Heart of Gold 50th Anniversary Celebra- tion,” said Cindy Wissinger, development director, Cancer Action. “It communicates our mission through our clients’ experiences. We have since used it at our Annual Volunteer Awards Reception to honor the work they do for our clients, and with a national professional organization conducting a giving campaign on our behalf,” added Wissinger. “Our video helps our supporters connect with our clients’ needs in a new way, and I know it helped increase donations at the Heart of Gold Celebration. We hope that when we begin to post portions of the video on YouTube, it will continue educating the community about who we are and how we can help.” Events The three most common types of events hosted by nonprofits are galas/dinners, luncheons and golf tournaments. For all three types, as well as the 11% of organizations that hold runs/walks, the most common frequency is once per year. Other types of events that organizations said they host include: • Auctions and art auctions • Casino nights and poker tournaments • Receptions, parties and cocktail parties • Open houses and tours • Educational and training programs • Wine- and food-tasting activities • Fashion shows • Bingo nights • Sports tournaments (volleyball, bowling, dodge ball, disc golf) • Plant sales • Motorcycle rides Communicating with Different Audiences Donor base • Nearly 40% of the primary donor base for Greater Kansas City nonprofits is between the ages of 45 and 54. • Another nearly 40% are between 55 and 64 years old. • Therefore, together, the 45 to 64 age group comprises almost 80% of organizations’ donor base. Respondents told us the types of challenges they encounter in communicating effectively with donors include: DONOR AGE RANGES More than three quarters of donors are 45 to 64 years old. 39% 45 to 54 years old 0.3% 26 to 34 years old 0.7% 18 to 25 years old 8% 35 to 44 years old 37% 55 to 64 years old 8% 65 years old and older 7% No reply 47% 42% 25% 23% 14% 11% 2% NONPROFIT EVENT TYPES Nonprofit organizations host/plan the following event types each year. Gala or dinner Other Luncheon Golf tournament Breakfast Run or walk Telethon
  10. 10. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program10 • Standing out from the crowd • Gaining their attention • Reaching them electronically when not familiar with technology, particularly in the 55- to 64-year-old age category • Maintaining an accurate prospect database • Having the time and staff to handle the task • Finding prospective donors, including a younger donor base • Demonstrating to donors the value of their gifts • Fearing the organization will over-communicate • Communicating with donors in meaningful ways • Lacking enough email addresses “Tell stories,” said Jeffrey Byrne, president and CEO, Jeffrey Byrne & As- sociates, Inc. “Stories will pull your donor into your organization and you can illustrate services and programs in a way that puts a face on your organization. Watch body language of your donors. They’ll pull into you and engage your eyes in a sincere way. Whether you tell it to one person or you write it in a blog or newsletter, stories can be your best way of communicating.” Volunteer base • The primary volunteer base age ranges are more widely distributed, with nearly one third in the 35 to 44 age range and one fourth in the 45 to 54 range. • However, about 20% fall between the ages of 18 and 34, whereas that age range makes up only 1% of the donor base. Nonprofits told us the most common challenges tied to communicating with volunteers are: • Lacking enough email addresses • Lacking an effective communications plan • Reaching new, prospective volunteers • Timing the communication to meet the need for volunteers – making contact at the right times • Keeping volunteers interested and engaged • Gaining their attention • Having the time and staff to handle the task • Maintaining an accurate database • Reaching them (typically the older demographic) electronically when some aren’t electronic savvy “Our primary method of communicating with volunteers of all ages is email. We also use our volunteer-only website and web-based volunteer management software called Volgistics. Volgistics provides online scheduling, hours tracking and docu- ment storage/viewing. It also manages our email communication with volunteers,” said Mary Beth Sloan, manager, volunteer services at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. “Although we don’t communicate differently with volunteers based ENGAGING NEW AUDIENCES “The Kansas City Symphony is always reaching out to new, younger and more diverse audiences. One way to do this is through social media, such as Facebook and YouTube.The Sym- phony continues to expand our reach through these outlets, and by exploring new technologies such as an iPhone app. It’s also important to not forget traditional means of reaching out to people. We make appearances on col- lege campuses to promote our $8 student tickets as well as to distrib- ute free tickets to students.We’ve also been successful in our print advertising.There are so many young, extremely talented guest artists who appear on our series each season.We showcase these amazing talents so that younger audiences can see people just like them presenting world-class performances.” — Jeff Barker, Director of Marketing, Kansas City Symphony VOLUNTEER AGE RANGES One fifth of the volunteer base is 18 to 34 years old,while this age range makes up 1% of the donor base. 25% 45 to 54 years old 18 to 25 years old 5% 13% 26 to 34 years old 29% 35 to 44 years old 12% 55 to 64 years old 7% 65 years old and older 9% No reply
  11. 11. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 11 on their age, age is a factor when it comes to volunteers’ attitudes toward and comfort with technology-based communication. In general terms, our younger volunteers embrace Volgistics and appreciate that it gives them more autonomy. Our older volunteers need more prompting, more training and more troubleshooting when it comes to using Volgistics. They don’t always see its benefits; they sometimes see it as a nuisance and some refuse to use it,” she added. Client/Patron Base Communicating with an organization’s clients/patrons poses particular chal- lenges. To the open-ended question, “What are your challenges in communicat- ing effectively with your clients/patrons?” here are the top responses: • Limited time, budget and staff to handle the tasks • Giving them easy access to resources • Overcoming language barriers • Maintaining current contact information • Messaging multiple programs and benefits • Dealing with confidentiality and privacy issues • Reaching an audience that doesn’t have easy computer access “Every organization, whether it be a nonprofit or for profit, must communicate effectively with its constituents to be successful and dynamic,” said Ayers, of American Stroke Foundation. “Additionally, the audience the nonprofit is trying to communicate with may be very diverse. For example, the American Stroke Foundation’s audience includes stroke survivors and their families, current or potential funders, and the community at large. Though the gist of the message may be the same, the mecha- nism of delivery may be different depending on the intent of the message,” he added. “And, with the realization of limited resources to devote to marketing and communications, the American Stroke Foundation has taken a rifle approach as opposed to a shotgun.” Social Media What’s being used and how often Of the 71% of nonprofits that use social media: • 93% use Facebook • 46% use Twitter • 34% use YouTube • 28% use LinkedIn For the Facebook users, half update their postings weekly, while 22% post either daily or monthly (19%). Only 7% post updates quarterly. SOCIAL MEDIA USE Among the 71% who use social media [Base:205}, more than 93% of those nonprofit organizations maintain an active presence on Facebook. Facebook Twitter YouTube LinkedIn Other No current presence but are interested in having social media presence 93% 46% 34% 28% 4% 3%
  12. 12. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program12 For Twitter users, over half (55%) post weekly and 27% post daily. LinkedIn users post less frequently, with about a third posting weekly (32%), nearly a third (30%) posting monthly, and a third (33%) posting quarterly. “Nonprofit Connect is steadily expanding its outreach efforts through social media,” said Trudi Galblum, communication consultant for Nonprofit Con- nect. “One of the tools that makes it quick and easy for us to post messages on Facebook and other social media sites is by sending one email on an application called ‘Posterous.’” “Social media has been a blessing that American Stroke Foundation once resisted but now sees (and reaps) the benefits,” said Ayers. “Facebook and Twit- ter has allowed American Stroke Foundation to get our message out effectively, quickly, and it’s free! Though time is our biggest (and most limited) asset, the time spent on these sources of communication brings a large return on our in- vestment,” he added. What Works Best For generating donations The five most successful (defined as successful or extremely success- ful) communications channels for generating donations are: 1. Personal visits (82%) 2. Events (72%) 3. Other (50%) 4. Written appeals (47%) 5. Phone solicitation (47%) Using social media has delivered mixed results for some non- profits, with 26% reporting it to be “not successful.” It’s likely the case that the personal visits and more traditional written or print approaches more appropriately fit the older age range of the donor base for nonprofits. In addition, electronic newsletters are less successful than print newsletters for generating donations, but that might be changing. “Print newsletters are performing better because they are resonat- ing with an older demographic where donations are most likely to come. But, online and electronic giving is growing,” said Hartsook. “Online giving can be fast and convenient for your donor. It’s a way to instantly respond after a great news article in your electronic newsletter. You’re going to leave out a whole generation of givers if you pass by online opportunities to give with Gen X’ers and Millennials,” said Byrne. Those organizations that said they use “other” types of chan- nels to generate donations typically do so via word of mouth, email invitations and via grants. 82% 72% 50% 47% 47% 24% 19% 13% 11% METHODS FOR GENERATING DONATIONS Methods identified as“successful”or“extremely successful” Personal visit Events Other Written appeals Phone solicitation Print newsletter Website Social media Electronic newsletter METHODS FOR CONNECTING WITH CLIENTS Methods identified as“successful”or“extremely successful” Personal visit Other Events Electronic newsletter Print newsletter Phone solicitation Written appeals Website Social media 88% 83% 80% 72% 65% 62% 57% 57% 43%
  13. 13. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program 13 FUTURE COMMUNICATION CHANNELS Of channels/vehicles not currently being used,nonprofit organizations plan to use the following communication channels or vehicles within the next two years: Text messaging (Text-to-Give,Text-to-Pledge,Text-to-Volunteer,etc.) Newsletter (electronic) Fundraising appeal (email) Public service announcement (radio) Informational brochure (electronic) Video Social media (Facebook,Twitter,blogs,YouTube,etc.) Public service announcement (TV) Smartphone application (app for mobile phone) Annual report Membership appeal (electronic) Other Billboards Fundraising appeal (print) Press releases Public service announcement (print) Informational brochure (print) Membership appeal (print) Newsletter (print) Magazine (print) Website 20% 19% 17% 17% 16% 16% 15% 13% 13% 12% 10% 9% 8% 8% 8% 7% 6% 6% 5% 4% 4% For connecting with clients/patrons For reaching clients/patrons, there is a broader array of communications vehicles that achieve success for organizations. And although personal visits and events are the most successful, electronic newsletters and print newsletters more often than not are successful or extremely successful. For connecting with volunteers To communicate with volunteers, organizations use nearly every type of communications channel available to them, including personal visits, electronic and print newsletters, events and phone solicitations. Respondents also said they use the website and press releases to publicize their volunteer opportunities. “A mixed media strategy is the best route to take for effectively and success- fully reaching a volunteer audience, which our research shows is constantly and rapidly adopting new mediums for information and education,” said Barbara Kay, president, Ascend Integrated Media. Future Communications Channels Nonprofits plan to start using these five main communications chan- nels/vehicles within the next two years: • Text messaging (20%) • Electronic newsletters (19%) • Email fundraising appeals (17%) • Public service announcements (radio) (17%) • Electronic informational brochures (16%) “Research we’ve seen tells us that people aged 42 and younger text more than they talk on their mobile phones,” said Kay. “In fact, the single most-used feature of a mobile phone is now texting. There- fore, nonprofits should not ignore this trend and should employ a broad communications strategy,” added Kay. “One key takeaway from our research is even though those aged 18 to 34 may not have the bank account to support nonprofits right now, they sure do have the heart for them. So, keep those volunteers engaged so that when their incomes mature, they are able to also support nonprofits financially. We have to remember to nurture our future market while meeting the needs of our current market,” said Ascend’s Bishop. “Also, these are the people who are on Facebook with their grandparents. Encourage those younger aged volunteers to “like” your organization’s Facebook page and their parents/ grandparents/aunts/uncles will see that and might make a donation,” he added. 73% 69% 62% 61% 60% 50% 49% 48% 39% METHODS FOR CONNECTING WITHVOLUNTEERS Methods identified as“successful”or“extremely successful” Personal visit Events Phone solicitation Electronic newsletter Print newsletter Other Social media Website Written appeals
  14. 14. How to Improve Your Nonprofit Communications Program14 About Ascend Integrated Media Ascend Integrated Media is a custom content company, established in 1982 in Overland Park,KS. Ascend works with nonprofit organizations and businesses throughout the develop and produce brand-enhancing communications products that strengthen volunteer,donor and client/patron and cus- tomer engagement.Ascend’s suite of fully integrated products and services include print and digital publications,brochures, annual reports,newsletters,websites,smart- phone apps,as well as targeted text and messaging services.Visit Ascend at:www. About Nonprofit Connect Nonprofit Connect links the nonprofit community to education, resources and networking so organizations can more effectively achieve their missions. Nonprofit Connect is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt organization.Visit Nonprofit Connect at: Survey detail The survey was administered by Kristin Letourneau, who has been conducting research for over 20 years, in both corporate and academic settings. Letourneau holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology, with an emphasis in Quantitative Methods. Her work has been published in several business-to-business publications, as well as the academic journals Group Dynamics and European Journal of Social Psychology. More information For questions regarding this research white paper, please contact Eric Jacobson at Ascend Integrated Media at 913-344-1436. This white paper also is available via Ascend Integrated Media ( and Nonprofit Connect (