Are You Ready for Some Football?
A lot of people were surprised when the NFL relinquished their coveted non-profit tax-exempt status — mainly because they didn’t even know the NFL was a non-profit! In many ways, the discovery of the NFL’s stealth status was good news all around.
Yes: It was good in that a lot of those same people would really have been seething had they known earlier, but also good in that a lot of much smaller non-profits (and there are not many larger ones) can learn a lot from the NFL’s marketing strategy.
Set the Right Goals for Yourself…
First of all, keep in mind that the NFL is in the business of filling stadiums. Here’s their mission statement: “To provide our fans, communities and partners the highest quality sports and entertainment in the world, and to do so in a way that is consistent with our values.”
Well done, right out of the box: Set your sights high. Be the best at what you do. In fact, I recommend that you take a look at the rest of their statement. It was written by highly paid professionals and marketing geniuses. Why? To fill stadiums.
… And for Your Donors
But I’m sure you have never heard football season begin with anyone singing out, “Are you ready to buy a ticket?” No! Instead, you see a cheering crowd, big smiles, intrepid warriors, zany fans, and pageantry Americana style. Guts and glory. And by the way, the team from my city is better than the team from your city.
All right, I know, your non-profit doesn’t have to fill a stadium, but what does it have to do? Feed the hungry? Put books on library shelves? Stop sea mammals from becoming entangled in nets? Provide Alzheimer’s patients with healing music?
What’s the end result of your work? That’s where you’ll find your hook: Happiness, Joy, Beauty, Discovery, Magic, Wonder, Peace, Harmony. Can’t think of the right word? Here’s one website that will get you started. You can find many more word lists online.
Now, what do you want to ask your target audience: “Are you ready to make a donation?” or “Are you ready for some happiness?”
Share Your Stories
Next, you’ll need to tell some stories about your successes. Who are your key volunteers? What have they done lately? Be sure to find a good photographer or artist to work with you. Or, if that’s not possible, take advantage of Getty Images for free, embedded, high-quality photos. Again, stretch the envelope a little and be creative in thinking about what type of image best describes the concept your non-profit embodies. Don’t be too literal.
Another great source of content for non-profits is very simple: Share quotations that tie in with your mission or goals. These can be dressed up with typography or you can work with a photo-editing system to layer them over an image. If that’s not in your skillset, try out an online service like Share as Image to create quick, interesting graphics with quotations.
Try to establish a good balance of blog posts that work for your organization, alternating upbeat news, outreach stories, and nothing-but-the-facts. And don’t hesitate to re-blog stories that you find elsewhere, as long as they relate to your mission. Keep showing your readers how your small non-profit fits into the larger scheme of things. And while you’re at it, you can spread your group’s name out in the world by commenting on those other blogs.
If you want to spread your wings, so to speak, and move your message out to Twitter, take a look at these good-to-go templates. You can bet that the NFL has already used all of them to fill stadiums.
Finally, that day is going to come — and come again — when you will need to turn your skills to fundraising, just as the NFL has to finally ask the fans to buy those tickets. But by then, you will have drawn your own audience in, shown them your mission, and won them to your cause, and all you’ll have to say is, “Are you ready to take some action?”