danniewriter

Claim your square in 2016

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Whether they are digital or paper, calendars usually involve squares. Fifty-two weeks and 365-days’ worth of them. Does your non-profit have claim on at least one of those squares? If not, make that a promotional goal for 2016.

I’ve always been a tad cynical and skeptical of “awareness” campaigns. October has been a sea of pink for years, and like other writers, I’ve wondered if it makes a lick of difference.

If your non-profit already is a force for positive change, the answer is, absolutely.

Cultures, nations and religions have their biggest days/weeks of the year. Your mission should as well. It is a time to share facts about the important cause of your work and to tell stories of real lives that have been changed because you were there doing that work.

Find your time on the calendar, or make it yourself, and plan a solid campaign of education, celebration and appeal for support. Start with a goal and a call to action for current and potential supporters. Next, collect facts about your cause, the work itself and the impact you are having in your community. Brainstorm volunteer-driven activities, visuals (for example, autism awareness uses the symbol of puzzle pieces), how to involve clients, etc.

Psychology Today has a great awareness calendar that may be helpful. Here are just a few “causes” that could apply to different organizations:

  • Random Acts of Kindness
  • Mentoring
  • World Health
  • Stress Awareness
  • Family Support
  • World Kindness
  • Scholarship
  • Self-Awareness
  • Children

If you can’t find a fit, brainstorm with staff, volunteers, clients and board members to create one. It could be the date your organization was founded or when ground was broken on a facility. Maybe there was a specific date that your organization reached a milestone in the number of clients served, bags of groceries given, children adopted, animals rescued.

Research the date to make sure it’s not already crowded with other causes, then approach community leaders and request an “official” declaration day for your organization or cause. Contact the mayor, county executive, board of education, hospital, college, etc. Plan a ceremony around the announcement to kick off your campaign.

With even a modest budget and some dedicated volunteers, you can stake claim to a space on the calendar that can raise awareness of the good work you are doing. If you need ideas or assistance, please contact me.

 

 

Don’t let your message be lost

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I love Westerns. Yes, that’s a photo of a bottle on a beach up there, but bear with me. In the early 1990s, a television miniseries based on a novel by Louis L’Amour debuted on Turner Network Television. It starred real-life married folk Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross.

Ross’ character is left alone to care for her husband’s children from a previous marriage when the man rides off one day on business and never rides back. She and her stepchildren make do by opening their home as a stagecoach stop, but Evie’s is a lonely life until the lanky Conagher lopes in on his horse and quietly changes everything.

But Evie and Conn Conagher actually meet long before he ever shows up at her door. In her determination to care for her stepchildren and put on a brave face, Evie doesn’t show them her own loneliness and anxiety for their future. (The stage line is changing the route and won’t need their home as a stop anymore.) She takes her tears to the desert, writing poems on scraps of paper and tying them around the thick stems of tumbleweeds and releasing them to the wind. Conagher finds one of them, reads the poem, and then looks for more every chance he gets. When they first meet, he has no idea Evie is his tumbleweed poet.

Evie also had no idea that her messages would get through to anyone, and of course, finding a reader wasn’t as important to her as getting her sadness and fear down on paper, but there’s a practical, non-romantic side to this illustration.

Do you know for sure if the message of your business, service or non-profit is finding its audience? Has relying on word of mouth, direct mail and newspaper advertising maintained sales and donors, or are you struggling?

Is your message lost on the beach … or in the desert?

Don’t do the same old thing in 2016 and expect better than last year. It just won’t happen. Here are some ideas:

If you haven’t dipped a toe into social media yet, pull off those socks. Create a Facebook page for your business/non-profit. Invite your personal Facebook friends to like your page and ask them to share the page on their newsfeeds. Don’t be too wordy. Start with brief posts about who you are personally. What is your product, service or mission? How long have you been doing this? Where are you located? Who do you serve? Invite questions, and if you don’t get takers, post common questions you receive from customers/donors and answer them yourself. Visit the page three or four times daily to respond to questions/comments. Post SOMETHING at least daily.

If you already have an active presence on social media, congratulations. How active are you with other merchants in your community? Do you participate in Small Business Week in May or Small Business Saturday in November?

If you are a non-profit, when was the last time you contacted the local radio station to ask them to produce a public service announcement about your issue? Are you sending press releases to the local paper on a regular basis? Are you posting your releases on free news websites? Has your executive director started a blog yet? What about letters to the editor on the issue important to your organization?

Doing something new is often nerve-wracking. And sometimes it’s even hard to come up with ideas on something new to do. That’s when a set of fresh eyes can be useful. Give me a call. I’d love to help and the initial consultation is free of charge.

Happy New Year!