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A Quick Quack: Turn 2011 trends into 2012 resolutions

The following is a cross-post by Sarah Durham, principal and founder of Big Duck, a marketing and communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits to help them raise money and increase visibility. You can find the original post here. This is the first in our series called A Quick Quack – focusing on best communications practices for nonprofits.

Ah, the new year! Time to look ahead, set aspirational goals, and view the world with renewed optimism. While we Ducks are loath to make predictions (Ducks generally prefer to live fully in the moment), we’ve observed a few trends in 2011 that will likely affect your nonprofit’s communications in 2012, if they haven’t already.

You get check ups—shouldn’t your communications? As these lean fundraising years continue, more organizations are using their visual identities, messaging platforms, and day-to-day communications to express their value. Organizations who’ve proactively invested in their own branding are making the most of it by reviewing what they’re doing and tweaking where appropriate. The beginning of a new year is a great time to lay all of your materials out on a table and talk about what’s working and what’s not. Read up here on how other organizations perform brand check ups.

Integrated, multichannel campaigns are becoming the rule, not the exception. Email and social media are real, viable fundraising tools. There’s no denying it. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are increasingly launching campaigns that weave email, mail, social media, your website, and perhaps even mobile or video into a cohesive narrative arc, and are seeing great results. If you know you need to go there but don’t know where to start, take a look at 12 ways you can make your campaign stronger or dig into this robust collection of resources.

Just as the middle class in America is disappearing, so too are mid-level websites. Websites these days are increasingly either down-and-dirty, simple, and low-cost, or they’re fancy, highly interactive experiences built with the help of user personas, card sorting, testing, robust content management and constituent relationship management systems, and other useful tools to ensure an optimal experience. Want the latest technology online? Build it into your budget now. Or if your website needs are likely to be simpler, check out these useful ideas from Jereme Bivins, the social media manager at the Foundation Center, for ideas on bootstrapping your website in WordPress.

Your nonprofit’s culture influences how effective your communications are. Organizations that build great online communities know how to break down the wall between people outside the organization and the passion that exists within it. To do that, nonprofits need access, transparency, and collaboration across and within departments. It helps if you can embed communicators throughout your nonprofit, and it’s critical that your leadership sets a tone that encourages a culture that supports clear communications. Gartner’s Social Readiness Assessment will help you determine if your leader’s attitude to social media is folly, fearful, flippant, formulating, forging, or fusing, and might offer some insights on how you can move towards progress.

What are your highlights from 2011 or predictions for 2012? Share them in the comments.

Sarah Durham grew up in the advertising, design, and marketing worlds. In 1994, it was time for her to put communications best practices to work for a better reason: to help nonprofits increase their visibility, raise money, and move the needle on their missions. So she made her escape and started Big Duck. Today, Big Duck is the leading communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits. Clients include local, regional, national, and international organizations.

Sarah is a total nonprofit communications nerd. She was named a top fundraiser under 40 by Fundraising Success Magazine in 2006, and one of the most influential women in technology by Fast Company magazine in 2010. She’s a regular speaker at Association of Fundraising Professionals and Nonprofit Technology Network conferences.

The author of Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2010), Sarah teaches aspiring nonprofit communications nerds at NYU’s Wagner School (where she is an adjunct faculty member) and at the Athena Center for Women’s Leadership at Barnard College. She regularly gives workshops and webinars to anyone who’ll listen.

Sarah tweets @BigDuckSarah; please join her in conversation there.


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Topics: Communications