Author Archives: Marcia Brooks

Direct Mail Gets Personal

We know direct mail is a powerful sales and marketing tool. By personalizing your next direct mail campaign, you will get even greater impact. Research by InfoTrends shows an average improved return on investment of 50% when personalization is used. Let’s get personal!

wib-blog_directmailWhy Personalize?

Everyone has a name – and everyone likes to see their name in writing. Capitalize on this by including your recipients name on your next direct mail piece. Including a person’s name will also help keep your direct mail piece from being mistaken as a piece of junk mail.

Take advantage of information you have on mailing list members and include it as part of your campaign. Including personal information in addition to their name will make them feel more valued. A more valued consumer, is likely to be more engaged and become a repeat customer/donor.

Data in Direct Mail

You likely have plenty of data on each of you mailing list members. Here are 4 points you want to understand and include as you prepare your next direct mail piece.


  • Name. You should absolutely include your recipient’s name in the salutation of all direct mail pieces. Including it within the body of the piece is worthwhile, too. Yes, this is an extra step, but including it multiple times will help to draw your reader in.  Please, please, be careful and ensure that spelling is correct.


  • Reference purchase history or past donations. Mention the recipients past purchase or donation in the body of your direct mail piece. If they made a donation in the past, share something about how your organization used that contribution and ask if they are able to offer an increased donation again this year. Did they make a purchase from you last year? Share how what you are now selling complements their previous purchase. This is not only a great way to “sell” them but will remind them they were once moved to purchase/donate before and could motivate them to do so again.


  • Location. Understanding the location your direct mail pieces are headed has multiple benefits. You can mention how what you are selling or the cause you are promoting directly affects their location. For example, if you’re selling snow blowers to Colorado residents you can remind them how much snow fell last year.  You can also seize the opportunity to share specifically the impact your cause is making in your reader’s hometown. Showing that their contribution will have a positive impact right in their own community could positively affect the overall success of your direct mail campaign.


  • Timing. When sending out your next direct mail campaign look at the history you have with your recipient. Often times, donors make contributions in conjunction with a special event or milestone. Remind them of this. They will appreciate the reminder and care and likely show their gratitude in the form of another donation.

Ready to make your next direct mail campaign more personal? Check out our post, “4 Ways to Make Your Direct Mail More Personal” for inspiration!

Motivate Your Members

wib-blog-membermotivationYour organization has worked hard to build a trustworthy brand that attracts new members and it’s paid off. Now that you have a large membership, how do you keep them actively engaged?

To answer this question, you must first look at why your members have chosen to join your organization in the first place. Polling new members as part of the registration process will help you to best asses why they have selected to become a part of your organization and what it is they are looking for.

Whatever their reason — they are now part of your membership and you want to keep them actively engaged.

Training Opportunities

Approximately 50% of those joining a new professional organization do so during the first 5 years in the industry. For them, you want to offer online learning opportunities and professional development classes. This will keep your newer members engaged but you’ll want to gear opportunities to your seasoned members as well. They are looking for more advanced training that includes updates on new developments and trends in the industry. A balanced calendar of opportunities will keep all of your members happily engaged.


Whether they are new to the workforce or been in the industry for decades, well planned events will garner a rise in engagement from your membership. Annual conferences are a must. They should offer multiple tracks so there are sessions available for everyone regardless of where they are in their career.

Offering smaller, local events that put some emphasis on social in addition to professional growth will keep members active year round. This is a great opportunity to have your legacy members lead a roundtable or host newer ones at a happy hour.


Ultimately, members look to professional organizations to provide them with industry specific information. Being the first to share new trends or developments will boost appeal of your organization to your member base. Whitepapers, regular newsletters (digital and paper) along with a strong web and social media presence are all ways to share updates with your membership. Remember to keep the content fresh and memorable.


Provide ample opportunity for members to share their thoughts and give you feedback. Solicit their thoughts after each event you hold — not just your large, annual conference. Once you have the feedback be sure to act on it — or at the very least, acknowledge it.  Members will happily take the time to provide you feedback as long as they know it isn’t falling upon deaf ears.

How does your organization keep members engaged?


Gear Up For Your Year End Fundraising

wib-blog-yearendfundraisingWith summer a distant memory and the arrival of Fall, it is time to turn the focus on year end fundraising campaigns. Sure, you have some time, but why wait? After all, there is no better time than the present!

Most non-profit organizations report more than one-third of their annual donations are received in December. Maybe it’s because donors are making up for having not contributed all year, are in the holiday spirit or recently received a raise.  Whatever the reason, it’s time to put a plan in place (and then execute it) to capitalize on their generosity!

Ready to get started? Here’s how!


Gather your team and determine what your goal is for the campaign. You want it to be specific. Determine the amount of money you hope to raise and a specific plan to use it. Once you have that figured out, you can develop a theme and plan your messaging around it.  Choose a project and theme that will resonate with would-be donors. Keep in mind you are one of MANY non-profit organizations preparing a year end fundraising campaign and having a clear theme that will be remembered will be an asset to your organization and bottom line.

Introduce Your Theme

A little tease if you will. Get people excited about your theme using a multi channel approach. Through direct mail, email, online newsletters and social media, introduce your theme. DO NOT INCLUDE AN ASK as part of this messaging. You just want to get the word out about your project to would-be donors. Be creative and use brightly colored graphics and catchy taglines. You want them to remember you among the many other organizations vying for their attention (and checkbook)!


As December draws closer, it is time to put clear calls to action in your messaging. Don’t stray from your theme, continue sharing your project goals. It is perfectly acceptable, and highly recommended, that you use every available channel to get your ask out. After all, it is a busy time of the year and people tend to forget. Putting it on your social pages, sending a piece of direct mail, perhaps a brightly colored postcard and a reminder email are not overkill. You won’t get what you don’t ask for.

Follow-Up Request

Plan to send one last appeal request mid-December. Focus the message on this ask about the donor and not solely on your organization. Let them know you appreciate how busy they are and how great they will feel knowing they have made a difference.

Post December

You made it! Start the New Year off with a closing message. Let donors (including past donors who didn’t contribute this time) know the final outcome of your campaign. Did you reach your goal? What impact is the donation they made having on the cause? Pictures, stories and quotes will be appreciated. Donors will remember this and their one-time, end of year donation could turn into a larger gift or recurring contribution. Those that didn’t get the opportunity to donate, may feel compelled to open their checkbooks and donate now.

As you enter the end of year fundraising season, be persistent and consistent. This will increase the success of your campaign with increased donations, larger gifts and more engaged donors.

The Art of the Thank You

wib-blog-theartthankyouTwo little words can create a bond between your non-profit organization and your donors. Those two words are THANK and YOU. We shared our “Interview with an Etiquette Coach” on why these words were so important on a previous post, so you know the value in expressing your gratitude to your donors.

Now that you KNOW these words are important, how do you express them? Thanking donors really is an art form. Take careful consideration as to not embarrass a donor while publicly recognizing them. Your efforts should not be costly. After all, you don’t want to spend the contributions received.

There are plenty of creative and cost effective ways to let your donors know you appreciate them. We’re sharing 8 of them with you today.

Immediate Email

A quick, simply written email sent within 48 hours of receiving a donation expressing your appreciation is by far the easiest method of saying “Thank you.” This is also a great opportunity to provide them with their tax receipt.

Handwritten Note

Yep, we’re suggesting you go old school. A handwritten note of thanks is meaningful and will undeniably make your donor feel valued. We’re not advocating that EVERY donor be sent one. Perhaps send to major donors, on a donor’s anniversary or after multiple donations are received.

The note should be signed by a notable member of your organization. Consider having each board member write one or two at the start of every meeting.

Social Media Shout-Out

If your organization is like most nonprofits, you are active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and sometimes struggle for fresh content. Why not take the opportunity to thank you donors socially? Not only does it thank the donors, but it shows your following that you appreciate those that support your cause. You never know, this could inspire new donors!

Public Display

Sharing the names of donors publicly is a creative way to express your gratitude to your donors and emphasizes good stewardship. A donor wall will keep the names of your contributors on display continually and mark their association to a cause they believe in.  While there is some cost involved in doing this, the benefits outweigh it. Having a wall in a public location can inspire visitors to make donations of their own.

Be sure to get the approval of your donor before ordering their plaque. Some donors are happy to open their checkbooks but may prefer to do so anonymously.

Annual Report

You’re putting it together anyway, so why not compile  a list of donors and share it as part of your Annual Report?  Your annual report is sent to large number of people, including your donors, meaning that it will be viewed by many eyes including your donors. A public acknowledgement of appreciation like this is a great way to say thank you at relatively no cost.

Exclusive Event

Show your appreciation by inviting local donors to an exclusive event. We mentioned earlier the importance of not overspending on appreciation efforts, so keep it simple. Hosting a happy hour or a family picnic are simple, inexpensive ways to show your appreciation.  During the event take advantage of your captive audience and have a board member convey their appreciation to the group for their continued support.


Gather your board members, staff and volunteers and start dialing. Delight donors with a personal thank you. This is a cost free way to express your gratitude as your only investment is time.

This activity has an added benefit — it engages your team and every marketer knows that a happy team member is your best source of advertisement.


Capture the impact donations have made on your cause on film. Share that picture with your donors so that they can see first hand what their donation is being used for. Donors have plenty of organizations to choose from when they open their wallet. They chose you because their values aligned with your cause. Showing them exactly how you are using the funds will keep them engaged and potentially turn a one-time donor into a repeat one.

A Thank You goes a long way to building a lasting relationship with your donor. It not only conveys your appreciation, but keeps them engaged and your organization on their radar. Get creative and have fun with it.

Have suggestions for creative ways to say “Thank You” to donors? Share them with us and our readers!


10 Common Digital Newsletter Mistakes

Email newsletters are commonplace among corporations and non-profit organizations. After all, they are inexpensive to produce and are an easy way to stay in touch with those that support your cause.WIB Blog DigitalNewsletterMistakes

As popular as they are, there are common mistakes made all too often. We’ll take a look at the top 10 and share fixes to help improve the effectiveness of your next newsletter.

1. Not Getting User Permission

The number 1 way to guarantee a low open is to add people to your mail list without their permission.  Simply because you have their information, does not mean they want to be added to your mail list.

What to do: Use a verified opt-in. This will not only give you the permission you need but also ensure your are building a list of humans rather than bots. Using an opt-in will make list growth slower, but it isn’t a race. You will have better results with quality rather than quantity.

2. Lack of List Segmentation

Sure, the larger the list, the more opens you are bound to get. However, those opens aren’t all likely your target audience. If your list includes donors, volunteers and influencers and your messaging is geared toward volunteers, donors and influencers will be disinterested and could stop opening future messages.

What to do: Take the time to segment your list and send out audience specific content. Yes, this may take a bit of time up front, but the end result will be worth it.

3. Using a Generic “From” Address

Readers want to hear from a person or an organization, not from! They are smart enough to know that it’s likely an unmonitored address anyway.
What to do: Create a from name that includes a real person’s name as well the name of your organization. Your readers will appreciate it!

4. A Boring Subject Line

The subject line is equivalent to a first impression…make it a good one!

What to do: Peak the curiosity of your readers with a tease of the content they will find when they open your newsletter and clearly identify what THEY will get from the content.

We shared more tips on crafting a “Stand Out Subject Line” in a previous post.

5. Bland Content

Who wants to read bland content? Not your readers, that’s for sure!  

What to do: Provide exciting stories and clear calls to action. Keeping the readers engaged from start to finish should be your ultimate goal.

6. Too Wordy

If your newsletter is nothing but words – no matter how great they are – readers will become dis-engaged and delete it before they are even close to finished reading it.

What to do: Break your comments up into easy to read paragraphs and toss in a bright image, too!

7. Talk too much about your organization

Obviously, you want to talk about your organization and share news and updates, but readers really aren’t interested in statistics.

What to do: Clearly explain to readers what is in it for them. Tug on their heart strings a bit and get them to become more emotionally invested in what your organization is doing.

8. Having Typos

It’s exciting after spending time crafting the newsletter to hit the “SEND” button, but slow down! Typos will make readers questions your credibility.

What to do: Technology is great — take advantage of it. Whatever program you are using, it is sure to have spell and grammar check capabilities.

9. Not Mobile Friendly

Nearly ½ of all emails are read on a mobile device. If it doesn’t look right on the reader’s screen or is difficult to read it is likely to get deleted or forgotten about in a busy inbox.

What to do: Most mail programs offer an option to optimize your newsletter to be mobile friendly. Why not take advantage of it?

10. Leaving the Reader Wondering “Now What?”

You’ve shared progress and a great story or two with your readers but do they clearly know what they should do next?

What to do: Including a clear call to action (or two) will keep them involved. A simple “Click Here” or “Read This” will keep readers engaged.  The more involved you keep them, the more moved they will be to do more for your organization.

Take a look at your past newsletters and see how many of these mistakes you’re guilty of making — don’t beat yourself up too badly, they are very common! Instead, focus your energy on not making them in your next one!


Say YES to a Mission Statement

When you hear “Mission Statement” most automatically think of a corporation or big business and not a non-profit. While it is true that corporations do have mission statements, non-profit organizations need one as well.

What is a Mission Statement?

A mission statement is simply a public proclamation that clarifies your organization’s core purpose. It clearly states the reason your organization exists and why others should support it.  In just a few sentences, it should sum up the essence of your organization.

Why does my Non-Profit Need a Mission Statement?

Ideally, the mission statement should serve as a foundation for your organization’s functional strategy. Its moral compass, if you will. It should be the driving force behind all you do, the decisions you make and ultimately, the impact in which you have on your cause.

In addition to defining your purpose, the mission statement it can be incorporated into your marketing strategy and used in all public relations communication. Sharing the statement with the general public can not only yield you new donors, but also supporters, volunteers and even potential board members.

Consider this.

Prior to setting out on the task of writing a mission statement for your organization, keep these things in mind.

Be specific. Keep your writing clear and concise. Put away the thesaurus and forget the superfluous words, no one wants to read a bunch of fluff. Avoid writing generalities. Instead, share the impact your efforts have had. Ensure that you have clearly identified WHY your organization is different from others.

Voice. Write your mission statement from the voice of a perspective supporter and not yourself. You want readers to identify with the statement so they will feel compelled to join you and your cause.

Focus on the WHY. Your mission statement should be memorable. One that will leave readers with a clear understanding of exactly why your organization exists and with a desire to get involved.

3 Mission Statement Must Haves.

Purpose. Readers should know specifically what the purpose of your organization is. Are you raising funds so you can offer financial assistance to others or to provide grants? Perhaps your purpose is to educate consumers on a specific topic. Whatever it is, ensure that the reader knows exactly what your intent is.

Value. Share with your readers the values your organization holds. Whether you are committed to using quality products or local providers, state the clearly.

Why. People will want to know why your organization exists and the mission statement is a good place to share that. Sharing your passion will resonate with your readers and likely increase their desire to support your organization.

Final Thoughts

Your mission statement is a springboard to all communications — internal and external. Once you have developed your mission statement, post it where staff, donors and board members can see it. Add it to your website, in your emails and printed newsletters. Repeat it daily – and encourage all others to as well.

Does your non-profit organization have a Mission Statement?


Get Ready for Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is on November 29th this year! To some that sounds far off, but experienced non-profit marketers know it will be here before your know it! Ward off potential stress and start planning now.

A little history on Giving Tuesday, first. This 1 day movement was started by the interim CEO of the 92nd Street Y in NYC and the United Nations Foundation in 2012. They wanted to focus 1 day at the start of the holiday season on charitable giving. They succeeded!  In 2015, $116.4 was raised and it is expected that 2016’s number will be even higher.

Is your organization looking to capitalize on the generosity of donors on Giving Tuesday? Here are 8 things you can do NOW to prepare.


The easier it is for people to donate, the more likely they are to. Check the ease of making donations via mobile devices, on each social platform and from your website now. This is the perfect time to optimize this process.


Start engaging with past, current and potential donors now. Let them know what your organization has been up to, what impact previous donations have had on your cause and what you have planned for the upcoming year. Donors want to hear from you in between asks.

Involve local businesses.

Now is a great time to identify and approach local businesses about collaborating on Giving Tuesday. Asking them now to match donations will give them time to consider it..and they will likely appreciate your forethought!

Donate now.

Adding (and testing) a “Donate Here” feature to your website and social platforms now can’t hurt. Not only will they then be in place and ready for Giving Tuesday, but your organization could receive unexpected (and appreciated) donations in the meantime.


Spend the time now creating branded graphics, thank yous and other digital medium for use during your Giving Tuesday campaign. Having them ready ahead of time will certainly reduce the stress later on. Keep in mind that posts with images receive more engagement.


Every campaign needs to have appropriate allocated resources, and Giving Tuesday is no exception. Schedule time to meet with your staff, including volunteers and keep them posted on Giving Tuesday plans. Don’t have enough hands? Start recruiting!


Take the time now to test our your existing technology. Being able to track donations in a functioning CRM system, sending emails and monitoring the flurry of activity on your social media is essential. Finding the bugs now leaves you plenty of time to fix them!

Thank you!

Everyone wants to know they (and their donations) are appreciated. Plan creative, personal ways to thank your donors for their Giving Tuesday contribution. Bonus points for sharing the impact their generosity had on your mission.

Whether your goal is to acquire new donors, increase recurring donations or fund a special project, preparing a Giving Tuesday campaign can help you to reach your goals.


How is your non-profit organization preparing for Giving Tuesday?

10 Tools to Help Build Your Website

Increase awareness of your organization and its mission to current and would be donors as well as to potential volunteers with a website. All too often, smaller organizations forego having an online presence because they don’t have staff with the skill set to design a website nor the funds to hire outside help.

There are lots of programs and websites available to help even those without coding or design abilities to create websites for free or a nominal fee. We’re sharing 10 to inspire you to launch a site of your organization’s own!



This easy to follow, intuitive program will help you build and launch your own website and mobile apps. Easily add text, video, images and more to help convey your organization’s mission and cause.

Why we like it: This program is totally customizable right on down to the colors, fonts and layout.


Builder Engine 

Without the need for coding, users can create complex websites using a multitude of available add-on apps. Users are empowered to create the site of their dreams with this flexible powerful system.

Why we like it: Support! A myriad of forums and a ticket support system are available to offer assistance and guidance as you need it.



Create a single page, responsive site that is not only functional, but beautiful as well with this FREE service. That’s right, we said FREE! This platform is currently in BETA version, but is absolutely worth keeping on your radar.

Why we like it: Point and click — it doesn’t get much simpler than that.



Using more than 70 uniquely designed content blocks, you can create a custom site to share your organization’s story. Move blocks around to completely customize your site to meet your unique needs. Add maps, photos and more to create a more robust site.

Why we like it: FAST! Literally, within minutes you can set up your site.



Not only can you easily and quickly set up a one page website on this platform but you can also set up your new domain. Avoid the mountain of forms needed to register your site when you use this all inclusive program.

Why we like it: Sites are published in an average of 5 minutes without DNS or server setup.


Square Space 

Regardless of what industry you are in, you will find templates that apply to it. Within minutes you can build a beautiful website that looks custom designed. The hardest part about this program is deciding which template to use.

Why we like it: All templates are mobile friendly so users are restricted in selecting the one that works best for them.



This user friendly WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface offers a good variety of templates and widgets. While there are plenty of free options to select from, you can also choose others for a nominal fee.

Why we like it: For those that have coding skills, incorporating JavaScript apps is easy making this platform one that can grow with your needs – and skills.


Template Stash 

This curated collection of top website templates puts countless options at your fingertips. Easily search them by keyword, category or other theme to discover the template that best meets the need of your organization.

Why we like it: It’s a true timesaver. No need to spend countless hours combing the web to find what you need, this aggregator does the work for you.



This online platform offers immaculate designs that are sure to please any user. EAch available template is set to work on offer visitors a pleasing experience on desktop machines as well as mobile devices.  An option to publish your site with your own domain or on a Weebly subdomain is available.

Why we like it: Robust site analytics are available so you know how your site is performing.



Creating your website is fun on this platform. The vast collection of designs available are easy to edit and customize to meet the needs of your organization. Reliable hosting is a bonus and will ease your stress once your site is publisher.

Why we like it: Integrated ecommerce and blogging capabilities are part of this platform making it a one stop shop.

Pick the program that works best for you and begin to grow your organization’s digital footprint!

Grant Writing Guidelines

With more than $50 billion in grants awarded annually, it is no surprise that a large number of nonprofits choose to invest time and resources into getting their share. While grants may be “free money” it is a highly competitive process to win one.

Too often nonprofits incorporate grant awards into their annual budget and are then unable to complete projects or fully fund programs when they aren’t won. It is in an organization’s best interest to not count on grant funding but to rather look at it as a bonus.

Ready to apply for a grant? Keep these thoughts in mind as you prepare your proposal.

Research. Research the funder. Research the specific grant. Research past grant winners. Oh, and did we mention — do your research?!?! Doing so ensures that your organization’s mission and this particular opportunity match. It is a waste of your time as well as the funder’s to apply for a grant that doesn’t mesh well with your overall objective.

Get started. As soon as you have found a grant you want to apply for, begin the process. It doesn’t matter how far out the application deadline is, this is the time to start. You are likely to have questions and having ample time to pose them to the project administrators will benefit you and your organization.

Terms. Surely you have heard the old adage that there is no such thing as “free money” – it is true! Grants are not entirely free. More often than not, they are restricted funds. What does that mean? It means you must adhere to specific guidelines when appropriating the funds. Be sure you understand them before you accept a grant.

Details, details, detail. As you embark on the grant application process, it is important to not leave out any details. Offer as many specifics as possible when describing your program, its goals and overall mission. The panel doesn’t want to read about theory, they want to see concrete information. Clearly explain who you are, what you stand for and specifically, where the funds awarded will go to. Grantors want to know that you have a plan and are prepared to put the award to use as soon as you receive it.

Credibility. Back up the statements you make in your application with individual references, those from other organizations or better yet, both. These references should attest to the work your nonprofit is doing and the milestones it has achieved. Begin collecting these references as close to the start of the application as possible so your references have ample time to provide them to you.

Proofread, proofread and proofread. This is so important we felt the need to mention it 3 times. The best way to NOT get a grant — submit a proposal that is full of spelling and grammar errors. It’s basic – if you can’t take the time to proofread your proposal, why should any organization award you with a grant?

Solicit an objective opinion. Once you and/or other members of your organization have completed the proposal ask someone from outside the organization to take a look at it. If they are moved by it, you have done well. Should they have questions or not fully understand your organization’s mission, you will want to go back and revise. For this step, it may be worth it to hire a professional to help you.

Grants are a wonderful way to create additional visibility to your organization and may even present additional networking opportunities. Has your organization successfully been awarded grants? Share your top tips with us!

Tips to Encourage Repeat Donations

According to Network for Good, 60% of donors don’t make repeat donations to the same organization. Don’t be a statistic!

Enhance the donor experience and encourage your first time donors to make recurring contributions to your organization.

Timeliness Processing

Manage the donation receipt process with care and precision. Accurately logging and capturing the data into your system should be done within a few days of receipt. Processing the credit card information and/or depositing funds received via check should also be done timely.

If there is an issue with the credit card or check, reach out to the donor ASAP.

By processing their donation timely, you are showing the donor their contribution is valued and needed.

Secure Systems

Security breaches are becoming more and more common. Set up a system to ensure that the donor information you have collected is secure. Create strong firewalls, invest in antivirus software and intrusion detection programs.  All data files coming in or going out should be data encrypted to prevent the potential of identity fraud.

If you are using a 3rd party payment processor, ensure they are Payment Card Industry Data  Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant.

Donors are more apt to continue contributing to an organization they feel safeguards their information.

Get Friendly

Reaching out and thanking your donors upon receipt of a contribution is a no brainer. Where many organizations fail, is keeping the communication going. Continue sharing updates with your donors – let them know how their contribution has impacted your organization’s mission. While it shouldn’t be the primary focus of your communication, it is perfectly acceptable to include an appeal request in your note.

Donor Involvement

Let’s face facts — monetary contributions are wonderful, but there are other ways donors can be of assistance to your organization. Rather than simply asking for money, ask them to get involved. If they are local, you could have them volunteer at your offices. Not local? No problem! Offer phone or web training and get them set up to make phone calls – appeal, thank you, or other – from the comfort of their own home.

Donors will feel more connected to the organization and may even be motivated to make additional financial contributions.

At one point, a donor was moved to make a donation to your organization. Keep them engaged and excited about the progress being made and they will want to continue to be a part of it.

What retention strategies have you successfully used at your organization?