Halloween is a great time to write about the three dangerous poltergeists of nature nonprofit marketing. At first, these spooks might appear as harmless annoyances but left to fester these poltergeists can poison and eventually kill your environmental nonprofit. What are these three marketing poltergeists and how can they be exorcized?

Poltergeist #1: Stopping New Leads

The first poltergeist thrives when you stop developing new leads.

New leads must flow into your nonprofit to grow support, expand your donor base, and replace former members that did not renew. This flow of leads must be continual for your organization to remain vibrant. Sure, there will be ups and downs in the numbers, but the leads must flow and you must always have a solid plan to bring in new leads.

When an organization stops lead generation activities a poltergeist will take up residence at your nonprofit; without new leads, programs will diminish, community involvement will atrophy, and the mission will starve.

Exorcize this fury before it makes a home. Always have a marketing plan that is forward facing, engaging, and will bring in high-quality leads.

Poltergeist #2: Trivializing Your Audience

The second poltergeist revels when your audience is trivialized.

Recently the development director of an environmental nonprofit mentioned her organization was not attending a celebrated annual community event because “it always had the same people and they would just be preaching to the choir.” I was momentarily stunned because she was missing a superb low-hanging-fruit moment for engaging with donors and nurturing future members. It was obvious the second evil spirit, the trivializing your audience poltergeist, haunted this nonprofit.

The event was a community favorite; with attendance over 3,500 people each year it had a well-attended history dating back over three decades. The audience was passionate about environmental issues and very much in line with the nonprofit’s mission. The event cost nothing for the nonprofit to attend, and offered direct contact with individuals from ages 1 to 100 with attendance weighted toward retired folks. The only investment for this organization was setting up a tabletop display, 8 hours of time from a staff member or volunteer, and any communications they chose to send. This was a low investment, high engagement opportunity to interact with a receptive audience and nurture future donors/members.

At the end of the day the nonprofit had passed up an opportunity to shake hands with 350 individuals; half being new leads and who signed up for an e-newsletter. Plus there were two dozen new volunteer signups. (Source: Results from similar nonprofits who attended the event.)

So why did the “preaching to the choir” nonprofit not attend? Because they were not interested in the life experiences of the people who would be most receptive to their message – they had trivialized their audience. When your audience is trivialized you open the door to a poltergeist that will create havoc and confusion within your organization.

Exorcize this demon by not just working for your mission, but working toward your mission; be involved in what your supporters are interested in, be a part of their life experiences.

Poltergeist #3: Being Unresponsive

The third poltergeist is nourished by nonprofits that are unresponsive.

If a person knocks on your door, makes a phone call, or emails about participating in your nonprofit you should answer, right? Sadly, many organizations do not respond. Just from my own experiences, I have been repeatedly disappointed by unresponsive nonprofits.

When an organization is unresponsive it tells the interested person they are not important, it also says your organization does not care about the mission. The frightening part is that the poltergeist does not move into your office, it moves into the mind of the individual. When that person wants to write a check to help a good cause, will they think of the non-responsive nonprofit? Yes, but they will write a check to your competitor.

Exorcize this phantasm from your operations by being diligent about responding to those who are interested in your cause.

Banish this trio of frightening poltergeists away from your nonprofit by keeping the flow of leads open, be engaged with your audience, and always be responsive to people who are interested in your mission.

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