Not for Profit

10 Easy Ways to Write Better Not-for-profit Blogs

10 Easy Ways to Write Better Not-for-profit Blogs

Blogging is a fantastic tool for NGOs, charities and not-for-profit organisations. So why are so few UK not-for-profit organisations using it effectively? Analysis of the UK’s top charities reveals that only a small minority are using their blogs to maximum effect.

Blogging is an excellent way for NGOs, charities and not for profit organisations to engage new supporters and to raise the profile of the organisation on the web. Blogs get found by search engines and though the largest non-profits will be found easily through name recognition and direct search their home page won’t necessarily hold the information that the viewer is looking for.

Small and medium sized non-profits have most to gain from blogging

So even for the largest NGOs not to have a blog that engages supporters is a missed opportunity. But true as that is how much more important is that to the next tier? Small and medium sized not-for-profits have the most to gain from writing a better blog. Non-profit SMEs don’t have the pull of a household name, a massive research cause or a big TV ad campaign to support them – so they need to be found online and a well written, well promoted blog is one of the most cost-effective ways to get found.

BUT REMEMBER – running a blog take time and resources – most of all IT ISN’T FREE. So think it through before you start.


Here are ten easy ways to write better not-for-profit blogs and to use blogging to get more supporters and donors for your charity.

Use Lists

People love lists, the web loves lists but most important of all people search for lists. So ‘ten things you must know about your cause’ is always a great starting point for a blog post.

Titles and Headlines

Spend time thinking about headlines and titles. Because they matter – a lot. Ask yourself:

  • Will they include search keywords?
  • Will they capture attention?
  • Will they get a message across that the article matters?
  • Do they accurately describe what the article is about?

Structure and Layout

Design at every level is about providing an effective solution to a problem – not just looking good. Typographical design and blog structure matters because people read differently online to on paper. So use:

  • sub heads that describe content effectively
  • bullet points that make information easy to read.
  • hyperlinks to other content and useful information (that also helps SEO)
  • emphasis to get the most important point over

Short paragraphs, concise sentences

Online articles need pace and space. As well as a structure that makes it easy to scan your article quickly keep your sentences short. Think carefully about how you use paragraphs. While it may not be entirely correct to use three short paragraphs when you might use one in print it will make the piece more readable.

Not just words

Blogs are not just words. They can be infographics, collections of images, animations, sound files or video. All these things help the mix and keep it interesting for your readers. Remember too that every blog should have an image because images are found by search engines too.

Plain English is for people

Every profession has its lingua franca and every organisation has its jargon. Do yourself a favour and drop it – or at least keep it out of your blog. Why? Because it’s not about YOU. It’s about your potential supporters and they speak English! (or they speak French, or Spanish – but the same point holds – they don’t speak your jargon).

Current makes it matter

Writing about something that’s in the news right now is great – but it’s not always possible. Even so taking a peg of some sort from the news and hanging older content onto it is an excellent way to produce new blogs from old, making work that you have already done relevant to a new audience. Also not for profit websites are stacked full of information that can easily be turned into a blog and hung on news or current events.

Anecdotes make it real

Dry content that presents facts is all very well but especially in non-profit writing it is good to make blog stories about the real world. So include examples, user stories and anecdotes. In fact they are sometimesthe anecdote can be the inspiration for the whole blog.

The mission matters most

Non-profit blogs need to be varied and present their information in many different ways but remember that viewers become supporters, supporters become members and sympathisers become donors because they understand exactly what you do and the difference that their contribution can make to something they care about. That’s why your mission has to be part of what your blog is all about.

Now ask the reader to DO something

This is where most non-profit blogs fail. They tell an interesting story, they point out how important it all is and then they fail to ask the reader to do anything – whether it is to donate, join or sign a petition. A blog without a call to action is not worthless but it belongs in the academic world or the media – In non-profit it is a missed opportunity.

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Not for Profit, 0 comments
6 ways workshops deliver more successful rebrands in not for profit

6 ways workshops deliver more successful rebrands in not for profit

Brand and re-brand projects in UK charities and not for profit involve significant issues. Everyone who works of lends their time in the third sector does so want to deliver the maximum resource to the charitable function or to delivering the services of the organisation to its clients or members. It goes against the grain somewhat to spend resources on the appearance of the organisation (there are plenty of misconceptions around how much does it cost to rebrand a not fot profit) even if the senior staff and management board can see the job needs doing.

Although this sounds pessimistic it is sometimes as well to remember that a problem anticipated can mean it is a problem well on the way to being solved. It isn’t just a question of seeing the problem as an opportunity, though that helps, it is about building a process that recognises the distinct nature of charity, NGO and not for profit businesses and goes with the flow of the culture.

As Public Impact developed and updated brands of businesses and not-for-profits we developed a workshop approach that is part education, part engagement exercise and part internal research. We now strongly recommend the approach to clients as a mean of addressing six typical issues that commonly arise in brand and re-brand projects. So in no particular order here are 6 ways workshops deliver more successful rebrands in not for profit:

1. Creating staff ownership of the Brand

The success of any brand project will ultimately stand or fall on the commitment of the staff to the brand. They are the people who must implement the brand on a daily basis. They are the people who must be able to brief agencies, partners and volunteers on how the brand should be presented and represented. Unless their commitment is secured the brand will fail – so it is imperative to include staff in the development of the brand. Properly structured workshops create the space for constructive input to the design thinking of the agency that can be reflected in the outcome. This isn’t and should never be ‘design by committee’ but it should visibly inform the design process.

2. Gaining Trustee/Management Board ‘buy-in’ to the Brand

Trustees bring diverse experiences to the governance of UK charities, NGOs and not for profit bodies. They also bring an obligation to safeguard the finances of the organisation and in doing so trustees seek to protect the resources of the organisation and maximise spend on the client or advocacy function. Trustees need to understand both the need for and the benefits of re-brand. However experience of trustees is varied and there is no guarantee anyone on a board will have expertise in brand promotion or development. Workshops for the board and senior management enable the understanding of brand, the perceptions of the organisation and the benefits and opportunities created by the re-brand process to be understood generating commitment and ‘buy-in’ to the process.

3. Building consensus around brand values

Brand values workshops are very common and, to some extent, have been misused as a management tactic. Used poorly brand values can become simply another tick box list or in the worst cases sticks to be used in internal battles. Used properly brand values build a consensus that can help drive the development of the brand. Where they exist and are used well they act as a ‘given’ around which consensus over the brand’s direction and promotion can be built. Without values in place the workshop process can develop ‘working values’ around which a common purpose for the project can develop.

4. Creating a better understanding of brand  

In the modern world we are bombarded with branding every day. Estimates vary on just how many brands we see or hear every day. It can run into thousands. In terms of direct commercial advertising messages most reckoning suggests 250-300, while brands run much higher, perhaps above 3,000 – that’s about three a minute. Sounds high, but if I said I could see a dozen different brands just on the very small desk at which I am writing this blog you get some idea. All that said there is only limited understanding of what a brand is and what empathies brands seek to create through an ever more sophisticated visual vocabulary that now transcends spoken language in a globalised world. Workshops create some understanding of brand, explore the way brand message act on individuals enabling participants better to contribute to the development and management of their own brand.

5. Scoping Brand management issues for the organisation

It isn’t just the creation or modernisation of a brand that can be aided through a workshop process but the management and on-going promotion of the brand asset. Many organisations, commercial and charitable,neglect the management of the brand. In some cases it is because they don’t understand the concept of brand, in some cases it is because they lack the visual skills in others the promotional or marketing skills to understand how a brand is projected. Brand workshops enable the brand consultants better to understand the culture of the organisation and the skills available and so become better able to make the realistic and necessary recommendations for a successful brand management programme.

6. Understanding the benefits a re-brand offers to charities and not for profit

Finally, perhaps the most elementary of all the aspects of brand that can be tackled through a workshop process is the notion that brand is cost rather than investment and fundraising opportunity. Exercises examining brand investment against the creation of promotional opportunity are simple but effective in getting the team thinking about how to generate return on investment in your charity or not-for-profit brandand can be a vital aspect of creation of brand understanding.

There are probably more benefits to a workshop approach, but it is important to say that, first, every organisation is different, second, that every not-for-profit has a specific culture that needs to be grasped when setting up the programme and that workshop programmes will vary considerably according to the size of the organisation. Most significantly, workshops are a two way process – it is as much an opportunity for the brand consultants and designers to understand the thinking of the organisation as it is for the organisation better to understand brand.

Posted by John Howarth in Brand, Not for Profit, 0 comments
How much does it cost to rebrand a not-for-profit

How much does it cost to rebrand a not-for-profit

Even when you absolutely know that your not-for-profit organisation needs to re-brand the cost and prove to be an obstacle. Persuading trustees that changing or refreshing the brand is a necessary, in fact essential, expenditure can prove problematic even for experienced charity chief executives. So how much does it cost to rebrand a not-for-profit?

It’s easy to understand why committing resources to branding can be tricky. Trustees are there to ensure that the organisation is managed prudently and most, if not all, wish to see the maximum proportion of their income spent on the cause, rather than operational overheads. Neither is there any reason why a group of trustees should have any great insight into the importance of the brand. Some in the third sector even have a problem with the term ‘brand’ – it smacks to them of the corporate world and maybe even seems to be against the ethos of charity.

None of that is surprising when you think about some of the figures cast around in the media as the ‘cost’ of re-brand projects in the corporate world. Sums in the millions are bandied about without any real understanding that the cost of re-fitting vehicle livery on a world-wide fleet or re-signing buildings across a continent can be, well, considerable. But the next time you hear of a £10 million re-brand, such as that recently implemented by catalogue retailer Argos ask yourself how much of that is the TV advertising campaign, how much it is re-badging the stores and how much is the print budget that they would routinely spend anyway? When you think it through seriously it’s pretty clear that they didn’t pay £10 million JUST for a new logo!

Argos were seeking to re-position the organisation somewhat further upmarket alongside more conventional department stores now operating in the online space. A more relevant example for the third sector is Macmillan, who spent £90,000 on their core re-brand from which they gained massive publicity, recognition and profile worth a great deal more than that.

So whatever the arguments for a re-brand, and demonstrating the benefits is essential, finding the right moment that enables cost to be combined with activities that need to happen in any case ensures the best use of cost. These days that often means timing a re-brand, or brand refresh coincident with updating or refreshing the organisation’s website, for example to ensure that the not-for-profit website is responsive for mobile devices. More traditionally it could be timed around the end of a headquarters lease so combined with the cost of the move.

But back to the original question; how much should it cost to rebrand a not-for-profit? Let’s reduce the rebrand to the basics – why should a charity re-brand?

You should get within the basic cost:  

  • Internal re-brand workshop
  • Audience analysis
  • Visual brand development
  • Message and strapline development
  • Usage examples (including digital)
  • Identity manual and implementation guide
  • Roll out/launch recommendations/plan

These are the essentials and they assume existing work on mission and values – if not make sure it is built into the workshop programme. While you could argue that internal workshops are a luxury in my view that would be a mistake. Internal buy-in is absolutely key to brand success and a workshop programme not only creates involvement, it promotes ownership and wider understanding of brands and brand strategies. Without that buy-in the brand will fail, with it you have a better brand and a potentially productive strategy.

For all this you should budget around £6,000-£9,000*  in a small charity or not-for-profit and from £9,000-£25,000* in a medium sized organisation. There are obviously considerable variables depending on the extent to which you are able to include other costs such as web-development, the number or the extent of the audience analysis/market research that is undertaken. In larger organisations this is likely to cost more, but a great deal can be achieved by selecting an agency with the right pedigree. That’s almost certainly not a freelance artworker in a bedroom!

Agencies that understand the third sector and its constraints should be willing and able to work with you to find a route that will suit your needs and to analyse your requirements and roll-out costs. Involving external expertise early in the process provides a degree of objectivity, challenge of internal assumptions, identification of opportunities and focus on outcomes of any exercise. Getting a proper brand audit is money well spent. It should answer the equally pertinent question; what return on investment to expect from a not for profit rebrand? If you can build in improved web search recognition, consequently increase website reads and gain PR coverage then re-brands and refreshes at sensible costs go a long way toward paying for themselves quickly.

If you like this blog find out more about Public Impact and out work with the third sector and please leave a comment.

Meanwhile, updating the website is an ideal opportunity many organisations use as an ideal time to optimise their spend on a brand refresh. You can find out about the ‘must haves’ for a modern, effective website by downloading our free ebook:


* At current exchange rates that’s about $10,000-$15,000 and $15,000-$40,000 – but it is hard to make direct comparisons between the UK and the USA.

Posted by John Howarth in Brand, Not for Profit, 0 comments
5 reasons why not for profit blogs fail

5 reasons why not for profit blogs fail

An audit of the blogging efforts of the UK’s leading charities reveals that more than half are either dormant, poorly updated, unfocussed and, inevitably, failing to deliver the potential that blogging can offer not for profit organisation. If you think this is a questionable assertion then go look for yourself. You will find blogs that are hidden away in the depths of websites, blogs that have no obvious purpose, blogs that masquerade as ‘news’ pages and, worst, blogs that are not there at all.

Of course there are excellent examples of good blogging practice for not-for-profits but it is worth asking yourself how did so many otherwise excellent organisations get to this pass? What are the worst reasons for not-for-profit blogging? Why does a not-for-profit blog become out-of-date? Why don’t people know what to write in a not-for-profit blog? So often this goes back to why the blog was set up in the first place and, as with much in marketing and communications, a consequential failure of strategy.

Only Following Orders

The uncomfortable fact is quite a number of organisations haven’t any real idea how they ended up with a blog in the first place. The reality is when they last renewed or refreshed their website they were told by theweb designers that having a blog was a good idea and they ‘threw it in’ with the rest of the job or it was justanother of the bells and whistles in the webco’s sales pitch. There may even have been a justification of the benefits a having a blog are for a not for profit bring, but no idea of where it meshed with the organisation’s strategy or how they would manage a blog.

Our Blog is a Hostess Trolley

When I was younger my late mother desperately wanted a hostess trolley. She didn’t entertain and there were only the three of us – so she had no ‘core business requirement’ for a hostess trolley. The only reason she wanted one is because “everyone else is getting one” – or so she thought. Fashion is a powerful thing. And so it was with blogs, ‘they’ve got one, so we should get one’, though the purpose was less than clear. My mother used her hostess trolley about twice in 30 plus years. Is your blog a hostess trolley?

Work Experience

I never cease to be amazed by managers who are prepared to hand over emerging communications trends to interns. It’s usually because they can’t be bothered to learn themselves. One manager told me ‘we didn’t know anything about it, so we gave it to the intern and when she left nobody kept it up’. It’s more common than you think. Managers and leaders are busy people but part of leadership is understanding the importance of emerging trends and where they fit into a strategy.

The Income Opportunity

“We heard you could sell advertising on a blog, but it didn’t produce anything”, is something else I was told. Of course this not-for-profit leader was quite right – a well-run, popular blog with the right amount of traffic can carry advertising – but if that is the prime motivation then failure awaits. It takes a lot of work to establish a level of traffic that will produce significant advertising income and that’s before you consider the complications that carrying advertising presents for not-for-profits. Don’t dismiss the possibility of advertising income but it has to be viewed as a bonus.

The Quick Win

Effective blogging for not-for-profit can improve engagement with supporters, produce more donations and provide a means through which new clients can find your organisation. But blogging is a medium to long term strategy through which results will be produced over months and years rather than in days and weeks.Seeing the process as a ‘quick win’ is a mistake – it will lead to disillusionment and to another neglected or abandoned blog. Go into the process with the right expectations and you are more likely to succeed.

So what about the good reasons for non-profit blogging

Blogging is an essential part of a not-for-profit content marketing or inbound marketing strategy. Through an effective and well-managed blog NGOs, charities and nonprofit businesses can improve engagement:

  • Develop better lines of communication with your customers,
  • Be found online by the people who need the services you offer, and
  • Tell your stories that show how you make a difference.

Supporters, volunteers and donors want to make a difference and your blog gives you a productive and interactive means of not only broadcasting but receiving, learning more about your audience and in doing so establishing your authority in your chosen segment as well as building better search engine results in the areas your audience cares about.

All of these things will only come about if the blog is at the heart of your digital strategy and becomes part of your communications plan. If it isn’t there right now, it’s time to revisit.



revised from the Public Impact Blog, 30.10.14

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Not for Profit, 0 comments
6 ways to do better on #GivingTuesday 2015

6 ways to do better on #GivingTuesday 2015

How much more like the USA do we really want to get?

In retail and not-for-profit alike, it seems an irresistible trend.

Having seen the concept of ‘Cyber Monday’ creep into the retail lexicon of retail during the first decade of this century, back in November 2014, UK retailers embraced the idea of ‘Black Friday’ sales with the attendant silly publicity and unseemly scenes of fighting in the flat screen aisle.

It does all seem rather alien. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the USA – the end of one shopping season and the start of another. It’s a bit like the Boxing Day sales here – quite logical and there are some great deals around – if you wathc the small print. But here it is just another day. Giving Tuesday is the ‘guilt trip’ day when US consumers atone somewhat for self-centred materialism by popping as few dollars in a tin – for the first time this year it was promoted in the UK.

Some have questioned the merits, as well as the morality, of Black Friday.  Andy Street, the Chief Executive of John Lewis, has highlighted the problems of pulling forward discounted trade during what has traditionally in the UK been premium Christmas shopping season. That said, I bet John Lewis run it next year, and the year after that.

So a phalanx of UK Charities followed their US not-for-profit cousins into the uncharted territory of ‘Giving Tuesday’ running social media campaigns to attract new doners and supporters.

How successful was Giving Tuesday?

According to The Guardian, doner websites reported the findings of fundraising software provider Blackbaud of donations up 270% on the same day last year. Meanwhile the Charities Aid Foundation who had promoted the hashtag #GivingTuesday said donations were up 43% over a typical Tuesday.

I’m no expert on fundraising numbers, but I’m not sure how successful that really makes it. You would expect donations to be well up on a day that had considerably publicity, including some on the back of Black Friday to be considerably better than the average day and up by at least that on a year when there was no publicity.

That said, charities need hooks to promote fundraising and, given the global village in which the USA for the moment remains Le Grande Fromage it looks like Giving Tuesday is here to stay (and I should say that the logo is a really smart visual, spelling out the notion of compassion and making clear that it’s happening over here not just over there).

How to get more out of Giving Tuesday

So let’s assume the Giving Tuesday numbers were OK for starters and it’s here to stay, how can it be better for your charity 2015? The evidence of technology, giving and commercial trends suggests the areas that will provide the greatest return on not for profit marketing investment. Here are 6 ways to do better on #GivingTuesday 2015:

1. Make your not for profit website mobile-friendly

The overwhelming evidence is that donation through mobile devices is essential to maximising your effectiveness online. Alarmingly, only a minority of UK not-for-profit websites operate effectively on a table or a smartphone. Social media campaigns like #GivingTuesday will draw traffic disproportionally to mobile devices. With computing moving rapidly to mobile platforms it is absolutely essential to get your message across effectively on these media. If you haven’t yet got a responsive web design then you absolutely need to act soon. You can find out more from our blog here or contact Public Impact to find out how to get your charity web site responsive on mobile.

2. Enable text giving

Text donations on Just Giving were up 80% on Giving Tuesday. Text Giving is easy, instant and ripe for promotion through social media fundraising campaigns.

3. Produce more effective social media infographics

Social media fundraising campaigns are much more effective when they are underpinned by strong visuals. Our recent blog looked at some of the best from last year including some from Giving Tuesday campaigns. We also highlight some of the most obvious missed opportunities and provide 10 rules for not for profit infographics on Twitter to getting it right. Why not get Public Impact to review your social media visuals?

4. Get a celebrity partner with a big twitter following

It’s just a fact, people follow celebs on Twitter. Celebs can be influential and they can retweet to lots of followers. This isn’t just about the big players. The numbers from suggest that Giving Tuesday worked for smaller charities too. Find a local celeb with a big local following who will re-tweet your messages.

5. Bite the bullet and partner with a Black Friday retail offer

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Black Friday might not float everyone’s boat but it’s probably here to stay whether we like it or not. So get ahead of the game and start looking for a retail partner who will plug your Giving Tuesday campaign alongside their Black Friday efforts and extend your reach.

6. Blog about #GivingTuesday

Don’t ignore the obvious. You should plan your blog content well in advance to incorporate your Giving Tuesday campaign with great examples of the power of giving and case studies that make the case for your cause. Get yourself guest blog slots too. All this assumes you are using blogging for your not-for-profit. Download our free eBook to see how to write better not for profit blogs.

Posted by John Howarth in Not for Profit, 0 comments
10 rules for not-for-profit infographics

10 rules for not-for-profit infographics

Oh and Happy New Year y’all.

Looking back through my 2014 timeline there were a bunch of images that nicely illustrate 10 rules for not for profit Infographics on Twitter.

Including images with Twitter posts dramatically increases both the effectiveness of the communication and the sharing potential of the post. That means you reach more people with a more memorable message. Not exactly rocket science, but what makes an effective infographic for social media sharing?

The more I looked at the graphics out there it seemed to me that getting it right isn’t so much about learning new rules than it is about remembering some old ones.

You Can’t Control Sharing, Remember the Brand

When an image is shared it is beyond your control. It can appear in any context, anywhere, anytime on anyone’s feed. In fact that’s exactly what you want but you DO want people to know where the image came from – and maybe even what they can do next. So spot the deliberate mistake:


This simple image makes a simple point well – strong simple image andunambiguous wording. great, but what now and with who? If you want people to know who you are you might want to brand your image and if you want them to take action you might just want a web address or a hashtag.

Here’s another – it even caused a fuss in the media:


An easy mistake to make if you are an inexperienced organisation. As it is this was from Oxfam – not that you would know it; detached from their feed it might as well be from another planet!


Also based on the essential and most powerful advertising formula – this image from WWF UK, who don’t forget to use their powerful brand and web address.

Name Sources for Credible Information

Awareness of message and facts about the issues being championed are often just as important as brand awareness. This is one of my favourite images of last year (and I make no apology for mentioning it again). Simply presented, colourful and powerful, the information speaks for itself. It states its source and the facts from Trussell Trust, operators of Food Banks across the UK, tell the story.


When I saw this infographic on World Aids Day I found the message encouraging – donors want to see the results of their work and when there is good news it needs to be told. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundationpushed out this good news image with credible data, though once again, it’s unbranded. Disappointing but worse is the monotone presentation of data that could be so much stronger and almost unreadable type – a great story somewhat lost.


Shelter, the housing homelessness campaigning charity, get it right with this simple image to make their point that UK housing starts run woefully behind the need for homes.


Keep it Simple, Keep it Clear

Twitter is an instant medium so impactful images are best. Also, images work best when their size is optimised to what works best for the medium. Twitter, for example, previews in the timeline at 435×375, Instagram images are square, Facebook – well, it depends on the latest redesign. There are so many networks and they change from device to device that it is hard to keep track of them all. Anyway, the image will be shared on different networks whatever you do – remember you are NOT in control.

All that said there are several good practice points to remember:

  • Make your point simply – less is more
  • Remember there is a limit to what readers can cope with – don’t try to tell the whole story
  • Think carefully about how people read and where their eyes will go
  • Challenge yourself – do you need every element – if in doubt, take it out.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer do great work and their visual campaigns have involved people. There’s a bit too much going on here, but all the essential elements are present.


By contrast, Alzheimer’s Research UK explain their mission with this concise image – the only problem is who’s mission are we talking about?


The Stroke Association are almost there with their series of infographics promoting the work of their helpline, and they and aren’t afraid of white space. In fact they get everything right except the use of three colours in a headline which weakens the message.


Cancer Research UK almost nail it –  it’s a series, it’s simple, it’s informative but they don’t seem to get hashtags! A series of images in a common style is an important way of amplifying your message and increasing recognition.


Finally, larger graphic can work on social media so long as there are well designed. Here Barnardo’s get it spot on explaining the facts about children leaving care.


Best Practice with Not for Profit Social Media Infographics

To sum up the 10 rules for not for profit Infographics on Twitter:

  • Brand your images for sharing: whether for blogs or social media
  • Include a call to action and somewhere to go next
  • Hashtags – include them
  • Less is more – don’t try to say too much
  • Think carefully about the size of the image
  • Use colour carefully and keep it on brand
  • Make your facts credible by including a source
  • Make sure your type readable in at 600 pixels square
  • Strengthen your point with a series of infographics
  • Remember how people read – keep it logical
Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Not for Profit, Web & Digital, 0 comments
Band Aid 30 and foodbanks

Band Aid 30 and foodbanks

I thought I would take a seasonal break from talking about how you can use inbound marketing to win supporters, members and donors or how to write better not-for-profit blogs and look an the old chestnut (bad Christmas pun quite intentional) that I thought I had head the last of long since. 

I remember from my days at college the discussions about the merits of charitable giving. Actually they were not debates at all, more like a series of aggressive assertions designed to pillory those who disagreed with the anointed truth.

Charities, we were told, were unequivocally ‘bad things’, at best ‘counterproductive’, more likely ‘reactionary’ and to many ‘counter-revolutionary’. By giving or supporting charities one was propping up the iniquities of a rotten system where the ‘correct course’ was to bring about its downfall. To the barricades!

Well that was all in another time and it is fair to say that my University was a strange and wonderful place back then. The most significant barricades were those in the minds of ivory tower ideologues.

Band Aid changed how charity was viewed by a generation

It all changed with Band Aid. It was a pretty awful song with a lyric that was at best patronising and at worse plain stupid, but it raised money, created awareness and transformed the notion of what charitable giving was about. Those involved were making lots of money and perhaps gave up a Sunday afternoon that set them in a good light but so what? It was a good outcome. Organisations like Comic Relief followed on behind and the notion of giving to good causes found a new, younger, less cynical audience.

I found it pretty odd to be listening to a debate, similar if less aggressive to those at my college, on the appearance of this year’s Band Aid 30. While in 30 years much has changed in Africa and much has changed in development aid. We were told by some that the song and its somewhat adapted lyrics were patronising, gave a negative impression of Africa that took no account of the difference 30 years have made and that those involved were mainly concerned with self-promotion. The song was rubbish back then and it’s rubbish now but these voices were wrong back then and they are still wrong now. I was wrong to listen to them, even a bit.

Rubbish then rubbish now

Of course the Band Aid song is still musically dreadful, lyrically suspect and made by a relatively wealthy group of people. But again, so what? At least these days you don’t have to buy the record to give to the cause they promote – there is a website and everything! Also, and I really don’t care if people think I’m being simplistic, but whatever the changes in Africa (which include all manner of great things I didn’t think I would live to see) there is a real immediate crisis in West African states whose infrastructure has been denuded by war around a virus called Ebola. It is absurd in the extreme to claim on the one hand that ‘the West’ isn’t doing enough and to criticise the detail of how western charitable aid is raised.

An industry I’d like to see in recession

I hear something not dis-similar in the UK about giving to Food Banks. It is an obscenity that in this wealthy country people are forced to rely on food banks. While we talk of winning new donors with not-for-profit marketing donating food for the hungry still matters – a lot. The infographic below* is a fine piece of work representing the most depressing set of statistics I’ve seen in 2014.

Some argue that foodbanks are a deliberate act of policy – to transfer responsibility for social welfare in the UK from the State to the not-for-profit sector – and so by giving to food banks we are simply playing the game of the Government, effectively helping their project. That’s as maybe, but it is still the wrong conclusion. To leave it to others or to argue that those in need have to suffer to bring about change is not an argument that humanitarians, of faith or of no faith, can make in a country as well-off as the UK with any credibility. To find out more about the work of a foodbank local to us click here and watch the video.

Even though Foodbanks are an industry I would love to see go into prolonged recession, they will welcome donations this Christmas.

Thanks for reading this blog and enjoy you holiday.

Posted by John Howarth in Not for Profit, 0 comments
Movember classic not-for-profit inbound marketing?

Movember classic not-for-profit inbound marketing?

So here we are a few days into November and a considerably larger cross section of the male population than any other month will set about growing a moustache. They will have mixed success. Some will look raffish and interesting, some will look like 1970s throwbacks, some will just fail and only a minority will come from Shoreditch.

They will post increasingly hirsute selfies as the month goes by using the #movember hashtag and in doing so will raise awareness and funds of … err … what, exactly?

Movember, through the Movember Foundation, raises a good deal of money for men’s health causes and, just as important, brings conditions like prostate and testicular cancers to the attention of chaps who don’t really like to talk about that sort of thing.

Or does it? Some have suggested that because only 3% of Movember hashtags during October use the word ‘cancer’ Movember (1) is failing to get the message across. In fact Movember themselves reportedly admit that only around half those involved have increased awareness of the issues (2). One especially humourless article in 2013 even described Movember as “divisive, gender normative, racist and ineffective” (3).

So is Movember is lost cause?

Far from it. Movember is classic not for profit inbound marketing. Using social media to build awareness and find new supporters and donors is what Movember is all about. Starting with a big number and drawing interest toward an issue lies at the heart of digital not for profit marketing campaigns. The point of these campaigns is to gain engagement, to capture interest with social media and web content and to take those people who are sufficiently bothered on a journey toward greater awareness.

So if half of those involved increased their awareness that’s a great result because half of a very large number is still a large number!

All marketing is a numbers game.

Movember, through the massive engagement their event generates, are in a position to connect with and educate a target audience who have been traditionally hard to reach but who have made themselves available to them through inbound connections.

When a proportion of those engaging on social media visit blogs, engage with useful content, download informative material or are educated through fact sheets, white papers or vlogs, games or apps then the donor funnel is being filled by the people who will eventually contribute, support and donate to your organisation.

Me, I’ve had a beard for as long as I can remember, so I don’t need to grow one, but I wish Movember nothing but success again this year.

Get our free eBook and discover how great content is at the heart of not-for-profit inbound marketing:

Public Impact has been able to broaden the audience for not-for-profit organisations through effective search marketing and valuable blog and web content and has put in place social media strategies to broaden engagement.

Find out how you it can work for your organisation by downloading our blogging for not-for-profit, or you could also look at our eBook on using twitter to get more customers and doners.


  1. Hubspot Research. It is worth stating here that we appreciate Movember has broadened it’s agenda on Men’s Health, but the same principles apply.
  2. Sharvisi & Singh, New Statesman 27.11.13
  3. Ibid
Posted by John Howarth in Communications, Not for Profit, 0 comments
7 More Excuses for Postponing Inbound Marketing

7 More Excuses for Postponing Inbound Marketing

There are always a lot more reasons put forward for not doing something than for getting on with it. It may be an urban myth but the people who came up with the idea of organising climbs over the Harbour Bridge at Sydney, New South Wales were faced with one excuse after another from the City of Sydney and North Sydney Councils till they asked for all the reasons they could possibly think of for not allowing the climbs. They gradually knocked them away one-by-one till there was no good reason left for not going ahead. The Bridge Climb is now a major tourist attraction that pays for the routine maintenance of the Harbour Bridge.

Is Inbound Marketing your Harbour Bridge Climb? In our last blog we looked at seven typical excuses that hold up inbound marketing in not-for-profit.

 “Our Trustees Won’t Spend Money on Technology”

The web long since stopped being about technology. It is really about content and information underpinning promotion and awareness raising. However the same instinct remains with many trustees and board members – we should only spend on the mission, rather than the overheads. However that didn’t stop organisation printing leaflets, or brochures or appeal envelopes or producing tins to shake. The web is now the come of many other things. Marketing software and web integration is certainly an investment and needs a business case – and in an ideal world that case would be funded entirely from purpose developed grant aid. Consider using an external resource to help you build the case and the funding appeal so that 100% of donations ARE spent on the mission.

“People Won’t Fill in Forms”

They certainly won’t if they want information that they believe is more valuable to you than to them – like you Annual Report or Case Studies that tell the story of how you help. All sorts of people willingly provide information in return for something of value that you can provide. You demonstrate that value by providing useful information within your online content. Sharing the right information is important. Adding forms and landing pages to your site quickly proves this thinking wrong.

“We’ll end up asking too often by email”

It’s true that if you only bombard your contacts with donation appeals they will get tired and unsubscribe quickly – and that would be a shame. So don’t! You need the right combination of content and useful information that educates, enlightens and enthuses your audience mixed with a ‘soft-sell’ of information on how to donate and what it will enable you to do. The donate button might always be present somewhere – but readers will forgive that if it isn’t always the main purpose of the mailing.

“We concentrate on one or two annual appeals”

It really isn’t a question of one or the other. As not-for-profit moves toward events that are ‘moments’ in the virtual world, such as Movember, the importance of social networks, content strategies and inbound marketing to support appeals makes more and more sense. Try thinking about how content and inbound activity can support and enhance the build up to an annual event.

“We don’t have time to create new content”

Perhaps not. Activity expands to fill the time available and those of us who have worked in not-for-profit know that staff don’t spend their time sitting round with nothing to do. There’s even pressure on our time to think. But take a step back for a moment. Think about the content that you already have – on your current site, in newsletters, in magazines, in reports and studies, in the output of government departments or of the European Union. The fact is there is more content out there than you realise. The think a little about the news agenda – anniversaries are always a good start. Pretty soon you have the outline of an editorial plan just based on re-using what is there already.

“Our audience is not on Facebook”

Perhaps not – but maybe it is on Instagram, or LinkedIn or Twitter or watching YouTube. The fact is it is out there somewhere and only by asking your supporters and a little worthwhile trial and error will you know what’s best. Focus on the social networks that produce the most traction. Remember that social networks grow and change constantly. Ruling these channels out would be a big mistake.

“We’re Just Not Ready”

Nobody is ever ready but everyone kind of is! This is the most common excuse of the lot. You almost certainly have some of the essentials and in a technical sense being ready is easy – you have a website, a social network account and you know how to send an email. You have people too, so you are more ready than you think and you can get going but to do it well you do need to prepare a little then commit. You’ll need to optimise your website, you’ll need quality content, you’ll need to mug up on how emails can work and you need to understand the value of blogging in not-for-profit, easy ways to write better not-for-profit blogs and plan an editorial schedule. Most of all you need to know what you want to achieve and how you are going to execute you goals – an inbound marketing strategy. Assessing the readiness of your organisation is another key use for the skills of an external consultant who can set out a road map toward a fully functioning inbound strategy.

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Not for Profit, Web & Digital, 0 comments
7 excuses for postponing inbound marketing

7 excuses for postponing inbound marketing

Let’s start with six of the most dangerous words in the English language: ‘we’ve always done it this way’. Inbound Marketing in not-for-profit is a relatively new way of doing things. Like any new approach it requires change, but the biggest change is a change of mindset. Not-for-profit organisations, charities and NGOs can be among the most innovative advertisers and inventive marketers but just like private sector companies they can also find numerous excuses to put off change to another day.The excuses that we hear in our work, professional and personal, in the UK third sector are pretty typical reasons never to change that can be applied with a few changes to any situation. The danger is that by failing to grasp the nettle of shifting marketing efforts to the integrated digital approach know as inbound marketing good causes run the risk of having to play catch up in an unforgiving world.

1. “Our Trustees Don’t Understand Inbound Marketing”

This is probably right, they almost don’t get it as things stand. But there was a time when they didn’t get the notion of a website, or an email system or even having a computer in the office. However, it is essential for any charity, but particularly smaller charities and ‘not-for-profit SMEs’ that the Trustees learn how you can use inbound marketing to win supporters, members and donors. You also need Trustees to buy in to any move to inbound marketing. That means educating the board. Workshop approaches using external expertise can help broaden understanding and build the business case based on the excellent ROI from Inbound Marketing for not-for-profit organisations.

2. “Our target audience is older and not online”

Says who? It is a dangerous myth that needs to be dismissed. Research in both the UK and USA shows that not only are the target age groups of most charities and not-for-profits online, they are increasingly using mobile devices and talking to their friends on social networks. The perception is just plain wrong – most target audiences are reachable online. Think about who your customer really is. Look at the research, work out where they live online.

3. “Direct mail works for us – so we focus on that”

First of all postal direct mail is far more expensive than it once was. Second, it depends what you mean by ‘works’. Returns from postal direct mail appeals above 1% were considered stella in the days when direct mail was the main route to market for many NGOs and evidence suggests that not much has changed. Even a highly targeted list amounts to a scatter gun approach. Though first impressions might suggest otherwisesocial networks can offer a much more targetted approach. By contrast inbound marketing enables engagement by those who are interested in the work of your organisation. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that those with an interest are more likely to become active supporters or contributors. Take some of that direct mail budget, say half, and apply it consistently to direct marketing then assess the return on investment.

4. “Our priority is raising awareness”

And … inbound marketing in not-for-profit is an excellent method of doing just that, indeed it is central to the whole idea of inbound marketing. Your potential supporters are out there online looking for information about the cause you advocate. If they don’t find you they will find someone else. New and useful content – blogs, infographics, vlogs and trusted information pages – all helps online searchers find your information. It’s also cost effective.

5. “We are too busy to sort out our website”

Research by Public Impact has revealed that many third sector bodies have websites that are out-of-date, out-of-order or which are unable to work effectively on mobile devices. Remember those shops where the window display never changes – those ones where you don’t feel inclined to go inside until one day they aren’t there any longer? By neglecting your web presence you are neglecting the shop window of the organisation. So why doesn’t the website get priority? Often this is because the website has been seen as a cost – something that doesn’t or can’t wash its face. Inbound marketing turns your website into a machine for generating new prospects – so think about the content of your site and what your home page says about your organisation. Does it look like the sort of place you want to invest your money.

6. “We’ve had a blog and we just can’t find enough stories”

This is certainly an issue with which many people have problems. Those problems are largely questions of organisation and, once again, turning the thinking of the organisation outward. First of all there are many thousands of stories just waiting to be told in the third sector – many more so than in commercial organisations. Those stories; successes, needs, the implementation of projects, the production of positive outcomes, are inspiring and engaging. They are entirely appropriate content which most not-for-profits neglect. Content production can be learned with appropriate training or it can be bought in but think about what you have already first and how it can help tell your story.


7. “Inbound marketing is not part of our strategic plan”

Perhaps not right now, but the products of inbound marketing certainly are: new members, more donors, active supporters, improved awareness and there is a budget in the plan for developing these areas. In any case, plans are revised – as part of the plan. It they are not then they should be as a strategy, to be successful, must be a constantly evolving document. Prepare a plan for inbound marketing that meshes with your strategic plan that contributes to the goals of the plan and helps deliver those objectives.

That’s enough excuses for now – but there are more in the next blog on inbound marketing in not-for-profit!

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Not for Profit, Web & Digital, 0 comments