Thirty million people watched this year’s Oscars broadcast. That’s a lot of eyeballs on Hollywood’s elite actors, actresses, directors, screenwriters, costume designers and special effects producers. So how do these celebrities try to stand out among their peers? They usually resort to extravagant clothes, expensive jewels or gravity-defying hair dos. The results aren’t always positive, but they do get noticed. As I watched this annual spectacle, it made me think about how the average nonprofit can stand out in a crowded field of worthy organizations. Here are a few suggestions to help your nonprofit get noticed:
1. Dress for the red carpet
Just like some people only watch the Super Bowl for the ads, there are people who only watch the Oscars for the red carpet fashions. Viewers this year were treated to a dress made of mirrors (thank you, J Lo) and Lady Gaga wearing a 128-carat, $30 million Tiffany diamond necklace. It’s not likely your nonprofit has easy access to this sort of bling, but it can shine in other ways. One simple step is to ensure that every marketing piece you produce accurately reflects your brand. And by brand we don’t just mean your logo, but the essence of your organization. My guess is your nonprofit works hard to excel at your mission, to make the biggest impact it can with the resources you’re given. A similar effort needs to be made with your website, informational materials and fundraising communications. They may not end up on the red carpet, but they will end up in front of the people most important and influential to your future — your donors, volunteers and board members.
2. Nail that interview with Ryan Seacrest
When celebrities stop on the red carpet to speak with Ryan Seacrest, they already know what they’re going to say. They’ve rehearsed with their publicist and, while Ryan may try to throw them off with random questions, the stars always return to their key talking points. You and your staff should be just as prepared to speak clearly about your organization and answer the tough questions. The first step we recommend to our clients is to build the foundation of their communications with our Marketing Canvas. The Canvas clearly lays out the organization’s belief, mission, vision, values, uniques, primary audiences and key messages, all in one document. This acts as a true north for your nonprofit and ensures everyone is sharing the same message and communicating it clearly and consistently.
3. Thank the Academy
The acceptance speech is second only to the red carpet when it comes to important Oscar moments. Winners have just 45 seconds to show their gratitude to their parents, kids, director, fellow actors and their hair dresser. Thankfully, you have much more time to show how grateful you are for your supporters. One way to stand out is to take the time to thank your donors, and the more personal you can make it the better. Send handwritten notes, make phone calls, meet them for coffee. This shouldn’t just be the job of the executive director or development team. Enlist board members, volunteers and staff to help show the love to donors.
4. Invite people to the after party
I heard it cost $100,000 per couple to attend the Vanity Fair Oscars after party. I can only imagine what a party like that would be like! But it doesn’t have to take $100,000 to celebrate the success of your nonprofit. The key is to invite your supporters to share in the joy of your success. Whether you’re providing housing to those in need, offering a chance for recovery from an addiction or feeding the hungry, your organization is making an impact. Don’t keep all that great news to yourself. Whether it’s through a formal impact report, an annual report or just keeping a running tally of important stats on your website, make communicating (and celebrating) your impact a priority.
You may not have an audience of 30 million like the Oscars, but your donors and supporters are just as important. Be sure you’re doing what it takes to make your organization look great — communicate clearly, show appreciation and celebrate your successes. It might not get you an Oscar, but it will likely make you a star with your donors and community.
– David Chatham, Senior Marketing Consultant