Nov 8, 2017
Nonprofit Marketing with Geo Ropert
Hugh Ballou: This is Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis co-hosting this episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. Hello, Russ.
Russell Dennis: Good happy Halloween. Good to see you both.
Hugh: As we are recording this, it is Halloween in 2017. You might be listening to this in another century. We are creating episodes for posterity. Russ, we have been on this journey for quite a while. Thank you for hanging in there and being my co-host.
Russell: It’s a pleasure. I meet so many interesting people, like Geo, who is here to talk to us today about marketing. And a lot of nonprofits don’t think they have to do that, but you have to get your message out.
Hugh: You spoiled the surprise. We were going to surprise them.
Geo Ropert: I might as well hang up now.
Hugh: Geo Ropert, welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange.
Geo: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. I am certainly honored that you asked me to join you, and I am really looking forward to this today.
Hugh: I looked at your resume, and you have been holding out on me. You haven’t told me all that good stuff. We generally start out asking people to talk about themselves. In a little snapshot, the things that are related to PR and marketing. Then after you talk about yourself, what’s your background in this really complicated, for those of us who don’t know it, what’s your background and what’s gotten you here? After you do that, distinguish between PR and marketing. I know people confuse marketing and sales, but they also confuse PR and marketing. They don’t know where sales fits. If you can sort that out. But first, give us a snapshot about Geo.
Geo: I have 20+ years in the public relations and integrated marketing community. We’ll talk about that as you had asked. I am accredited in public relations, which means I hold a national certification that less than 10% of PR professionals throughout the country have. I have won awards for my work, and I have been- It really is my passion. I love to communicate. I love to help businesses and organizations share their message across platforms, everything from traditional to new digital and social. I work especially with businesses and nonprofits to really help them be able to tell their story and for them to be the ones that people pay attention to when they speak, when they produce content, when they get out there to their audiences.
I have worked in the nonprofit field. I have probably a little more than 10 years working exclusively for nonprofits, both 501(c)3 and 501(c)6 organizations, so I’ve spent a lot of time really in the trenches with those communities and have learned a lot and have really been able to translate that knowledge to help out organizations, especially nonprofits. That is where my passion lies: helping those folks be able to engage their audiences and gain the support and the resources they need so that they can do the good work that they do.
If you want to talk about public relations and marketing, while they are similar, they are very different in the sense that public relations really has to deal with the side of a business that is the brand. It’s the storytelling, it’s the reputation-building, it’s the work that is done to create buzz, if you will, to create information and knowledge. It’s meant to educate and inform audiences so that they can understand what a business is, what they stand for, their mission, their vision, their values, their culture—all those things are public relations.
Marketing, on the other side, is a staff function that is really about the promotion of products and services that the company has. If you are talking about selling widgets or if you are talking about having your organization that helps feed hungry children or protects kids from danger, these are the things that marketing does. It’s getting out the word on those products and services. They work together intimately, but in most cases, people see that as different.
I’ve been working in the realm where my belief is the industry has been changing to more or less meld those two together because it really is about communication, and the way we communicate today really blurs the lines sometimes. It is effective in both of its aspects.
Hugh: Actually, you need to have a good public image or your marketing won’t be helpful.
Geo: If your reputation is shot, you could have the best products in the world, but nobody will buy them.
Hugh: People also confuse sales and marketing. Sales is another animal. Do you want to give us a sound bite about what’s different about sales?
Geo: Sales is the process that marketing is geared to do, to make people aware of what those products and services are, the benefits they have for them. Then sales is the close. That is where all the process of engaging interesting, getting clients to pay attention and come to your website or make that phone call to your business, everything then is left to the folks in sales to close that deal.
Hugh: We are going to focus on the marketing piece. We have had other experts on this series over the years. Cheryl Snapp Conner owns a large PR agency in Salt Lake City; she was here several months ago and is very eloquent about her field of PR, doing press releases and getting that image out there. The niche that is marketing, that’s moving people toward understanding why they need goods and services—charities aren’t in business for selling things. I’m using the word “charity” instead of “nonprofit” for this conversation. Why would a charity need even think about marketing?
Geo: Because there are—let’s see how many there are—over a million public charities in the United States alone. Those are a lot of voices out there, each vying for the attention.
Hugh: Four million. 501 somethings. Churches and government. There are a lot of variances.
Geo: I’m sorry. I had a million public charities. You’re right about the four million. Everyone is clamoring for the attention, the pocketbooks of folks who can support their causes. As much as each of them are involved in very important and very worthwhile endeavors, there is a limited pie out there of funds and resources that are available. The ones who can tell their story the best, who can communicate what their audience is most effectively, are the ones who are going to succeed and be able to advance their causes where the others are basically struggling. I think we see more of the majority struggling than those we do being successful.
Hugh: Absolutely. There is a fallacy out there, and it is exposed in Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk, The way we think about charity is dead wrong, and he has a book to follow that up. The TED Talk says the fallacy is that nonprofits, he says charities, cannot spend money on marketing. That is taboo. I believe- Russell, we don’t agree with that, do we?
Russell: I disagree completely because a lot of people in nonprofits, especially if you are talking about a social worker or teacher, have difficulty talking about the value that their organization provides. It’s a value proposition. A lot of people look at it as bragging when in fact it’s just telling people that you are doing good work. Marketing is important.
A thought just crossed my mind. I came up with a question because I know that reputation management and getting the word out there about what you’re doing are separate but melded together. I was wondering what Geo thought is the right balance between PR and marketing.
Geo: I think if you are looking for a balance, you really want to integrate them both effectively. I don’t think you put one on top of the other in the sense that of course you have to have your brand identity established and visible and strong. People need to recognize it and know what you do, who you are, what you stand for, and what you do to benefit the community. That really is the telling of the story if you want to in PR.
In marketing, it’s telling people exactly what you do, why it’s important that they support your cause. You say, “Well, we don’t have products or services.” Most do. They have some type of service. They provide some type, whether that be support or education or advocacy. All of those things really fall into the marketing side of it.
What a lot of nonprofits- You’re right. They talk about marketing and PR and spending money on it as a taboo thing, that it’s not something they should do. I agree. It is completely the wrong idea to have because unless you are spending money on your voice and getting your message across to people, you are going to be one of the majority that are having a huge amount of trouble keeping your funding sources alive, keeping your organization alive. That is one of the problems I see.
What I also see is that many nonprofits- I can’t tell you how many times a month I get approached by organizations that want to get support, but they are not able or willing to pay for it. They expect to have it for free, pro bono services. While I do believe in helping my community and I support an organization that I work with every year, sometimes intensely, unfortunately I have bills to pay. I have to be able to afford to keep the business running.
Getting them to understand the value of PR and marketing, and marketing especially, is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Once they can really grasp that, and it comes from the leadership down, the executives, the board of directors, once they can understand that you put money into marketing is going to have a return on that investment and is going to grow the donor base, it’s going to grow the support base, and they can see that, then it starts to make sense to them, and they are more willing to invest in actual professional services and, if not, investing in the tools and software that are able to accomplish that.
Hugh: Geo, what’s an appropriate amount as far as a percentage? Is there any kind of benchmark? You mention something that triggered this. We use the word “nonprofit,” and we go into this scarcity thinking that we can’t pay for anything. We can’t pay good salaries, we can’t pay for services, we can’t allot money to marketing, we can’t spend money talking about the goods and services, the good that we do, the impact. That is what is going to drive sales. Sales is donations. Sales is for churches, synagogues, it’s evangelism. It’s growing your numbers in the 501(c)6s, the membership organizations. Why is it important? What is the impact of our work? We are telling a story.
Go back to this. You started exploring about stories a while ago. Where does that fit? There is two questions in here. How do you figure out what’s an appropriate amount to designate in your budget to marketing? What kind of information do you- You can’t tell people everything, so you have a limited budget. If you grow the revenue, then you can grow that marketing budget in tandem with that. How do you decide what to market? How much to spend, and what is the story you are going to tell?
Geo: According to the numbers I’ve seen out there, there was almost $400 billion given to charities last year alone. Of that, we would expect, as a business does, to spend a minimum of 10% at least on the marketing efforts. You could figure that is about $39 billion that would go out to help communicate that story, that message.
That can fluctuate anywhere from on the low end to 5% on the high end to- Some of them are spending up to 15% if you look at charitable organizations and the nonprofit organizations, the 501(c)6s.
What they do, the good ones, is they tell a consistent story that resonates. They have a mission. They focus on the mission in their campaigns, in their public relations and in their marketing campaigns, with a singular, strong message. You could have an organization. Maybe you do three or four different things, but your main mission needs to be conveyed and clear. What happens is oftentimes people say, Well, we do this, we do that, we help these folks, we help those folks. It confuses the message. There are millions of messages going out every day that we are being bombarded with. If a message from an organization comes across in three or four different ways, how are we going to be able to focus on that? It takes a minimum of seven times for somebody to see your name to recognize it, to see your message and recognize it. Unless they see that message seven times, maybe in a slightly altered way but still the same consistent message, the chances of traction are slim to none.
Hugh: I have to think about that. What do you think, Russ?
Russell: In terms of income, if people are spending money, they are going to want to know what I am getting back for this. How important is it to show a return on generating income? Is there a typical amount for nonprofits in terms of looking at return on investment with those dollars that they invest?
Geo: I think what you do is you look at the 5-15% of your annual revenue as a baseline maybe to say, Okay, this is where we are going to start. What happens in nonprofits is they base their marketing revenue on those numbers, and if the numbers go down, so do their marketing efforts. Where I believe that you need to be consistent and strong and you have to have a budget set aside. It’s not overhead to me. It really isn’t considered an overhead expense like executive salaries and rent and those kinds of things. It is an expense that helps to generate revenue. If revenues start to decline and you cut way back on your marketing dollars, you might as well just expect those numbers continue to decline. Whereas I think good marketers and executives who understand their value of effective marketing are more apt to say, Okay, let’s put in a substantial and usable amount of revenue into our marketing efforts. If we continue to do that and our mission continues to be strong and delivered across the right platforms, we are going to grow our revenue, we are going to grow our support, we are going to get the things we need to get.
Hugh: I saw some evidence—Russ, that’s a good question—during the last so-called recession that businesses cut way back on their marketing budgets, but the few that didn’t kept market share and actually increased market share during that recession. Russ, I’m sorry, I interrupted you there.
Russell: Just in your reply there, you hit on what I call the magic dirty buzz word, and that is overhead. People are in the frame of mind that anything that you spend beyond the actual delivery of those services is overhead and that you got to put the squeeze on that. You can’t have a huge overhead. Marketing and PR is important. When a corporation goes out and spends money on that, they applaud them. They go out and hire superstar marketing people and superstar executives to run the organization. They pay them good salaries, but they draw in huge amounts of money. Nobody ever questions that because they can see that value.
When a nonprofit or social profit tries to do that, it becomes taboo. It leads to what they call overhead. I don’t think they are doing this, that marketing and PR among other things and fundraising are bad ways to spend that money. You have to have a good structure to have a good solid program. When it comes to marketing and PR with nonprofits, what are the biggest challenges that you see nonprofits having when it comes to actually taking it up, doing it, and doing it well?
Geo: The thing I see is the lack of knowledge, the lack of experience, to do that job. Oftentimes, a lot of nonprofits will say, You are the reception today, and this afternoon, you are going to be our chief marketing officer. Very little knowledge of what it entails. This is a profession. This is something that people go to school for to get educated. Some of us have spent many hours a week, let alone throughout the year, honing our skills, growing our education to do that. That is one of the things.
Another standing is the available vehicles to us for marketing. There are so many, but they have to be selectively chosen based on the type of audience that you have, the type of response that you want to get, and also basically the areas that you want to focus your attentions on. It’s one of those things where so often I see, and people have sat down with some folks in the last couple of weeks and they said, “Well, we want to market our agency. We want to market our organization.” I said, “What’s your budget?” “We don’t have one.” “Good luck.”
As much as you can get something, you can get free press donated. Media is great about supporting causes, local newspapers, publications, digital sites that will do that, but you still got to pay for things like Facebook advertising, social media advertising. You have to pay for websites and development and maintenance of those. There are costs to the things that you print and your direct mail costs. If everybody would give it away, it’s wonderful, but I am also reminded that you get what you pay for. If you think you are going to get something free from these people, they will get it to you when they get it to you. They may not be there. They are probably not as deeply invested as somebody whom you pay, even if it is a modicum of money to at least value their services, their expertise. That is what I try to push people to understand. Spend a little money, and you can make a lot of money.
Hugh: It’s not really cost; it’s an investment.
Hugh: Going back to Russ’s question on ROI, we have the old- There is another way that comes up here: advertising. Is advertising part of marketing?
Geo: Yes, advertising is one of the vehicles we use to market. If you are going to spend money on advertising, that is part of your marketing budget. Return on investment, that is something that you want to set up with the organization. I think that’s part of the goal-setting strategy for any organization is: Okay, what are your revenue or support goals that we want to have this year? Then back those numbers out and say, Okay, we believe that we’re going to raise $3 million this year. We are going to spend $300,000 of that in marketing and PR services and software and vehicles and print and digital and creative costs and those kinds of things. It’s very clear.
An organization that has a track record can easily look at their data and say, Okay, we spent this amount of money on Facebook this year, and that got us the best return on our investment. We went over to Instagram or YouTube, and those didn’t necessarily perform as well. We will allocate our resources where they work best. There are so many tools out there right now to be able to gauge what your efforts are doing. They are very measurable. We rely on them now. We can’t just walk into a client and say, “We have an ad or an article in your paper. It has a circulation of 200,000. We multiply that by 1.5, and that is your average viewer.” No, now we can actually measure who sees the ad, who responds to it, who interacts with it, and we can trace them all the way from initial interest through that final check being written or that volunteer sign-up being taken care of.
Hugh: That’s really good. One of our sponsors at SynerVision is the company that prints our magazine Nonprofit Professional Performance, Wordsprint. Bill Gilmer has been on this show and on a panel that we had on PR a while back. His research is in the area of direct mail because he is a print house and a mail house. His statistics are very profound about when people get something in their hand. His research says it’s 30% the message, 30% the person, 30% a regular rhythm, and only 10% the appearance. He has years of documentation.
The donations don’t only remain consistent with the donors, but they go up because people understand the impact of their money, the return on life, ROL. Their return on their investment is the return on people’s lives, the impact. He calls that top of mind marketing. What does that term mean to you? He backs it up with an email. Joe, you got a magazine yesterday, did you look on page four? That doubles the open rate. His research almost without exception is that the donors remain engaged and remain donors because we have done more than ask for money. We have told them the impact of the work. That is part of your message in PR and marketing. Go back to top of mind marketing. Are there other ways besides this really valuable way? That is Wordsprint.com. For more information, you can go there.
Geo, top of mind marketing, what is that, and what are other ways you can do that?
Geo: Hugh, you mentioned one of the key things. People say direct mail and print advertising is dead. It is not. It is still one of the most effective ways to communicate, especially in the fundraising side for charitable organizations. Everybody has to go to their mailbox. Mail arrives every day. They look at that mail, and when that mail catches their eye, it is more likely to stay on the counter or on the table. It’s whereas our digital information that we share comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Unless you’re consistently putting that message out across the platforms that are available, they are great, and they do an enormously good job getting attention. Again, it’s fleeting. I am a big believer, especially in getting messages across that people will read the direct mail, look at it, remember it. It’s that visual imprint. It is great.
What I always look at is a mix of marketing materials and methods in order to get the point across and to enforce it. If you see in the mail, and the next thing you know you have it on your website or you are looking on Facebook or one of your other social media sites and you see that message repeated again, that’s seven times. How many times do you see it before it finally clicks and you say to yourself, “That is an organization I want to support?” You are absolutely right on sharing the value of their investment. What is that return to them? You can do it visually so much more easily than any way, shape, or form when you have it right there in front of you. You have pictures and stories and words that convey that mission and vision.
Hugh: I am going to toss it to Russ. He is the one who asks the really hard questions. Russ’s area, one of his areas of brilliance, is helping charities think about their funding options, how they get funded. Russ, relate it to what he was just bringing up and what we have been talking about. There is a relationship to getting more donors, keeping donors, raising donations through what we are talking about. I am going to toss it to you for some comments and questions if you will.
Russell: I think this is part of what comes in when it comes to the fear of how much you spend. There are so many different channels out there that people are focused about which ones to use. The answer to that is it really depends on where your audience is. At my age, they like getting stuff in the mail; they can hold onto it. But if you are reaching out to younger people, they may be in social media, they may be on websites, they could be anywhere. I think if you tailored a channel to where your donors are coming from, you meet them where they are. It takes a little bit of homework to figure that out, but at that point, you can really target your dollars to where you want them to go. That is where people get overwhelmed. I think they should be working from their strengths and whatever works best. That may be direct mail and Facebook for some organizations; it may be Instagram and email if they have a younger audience. Talk a little bit about how you gauge that and how you help nonprofits figure out what the best mediums are for them.
Geo: There is a lot of data out there on the demographics of every person on Earth right now. I like to say that with the analytics and data we have, we know what coffee you drink, when you wake up in the morning, what color pajamas you have, and what car you are driving to work. It’s all there. We have become a very sharing society that we basically give it away and let people know who we are, what we do, what we like, and what we don’t like.
You were asking about what works. There is a 2016 Content Marketing Institute report on the nonprofits in America. Believe it or not, in-person events are still the largest and most effective way for nonprofits to get their message across and to gain supporters. That personal one-on-one touch-and-feel that people have in a personal interaction is still the most important, followed by illustrations and photos, e-newsletters, videos, social media content (interesting that it only ranks fifth out of the most effective tactics) followed up by case studies and those kinds of things, a lot of data and information and background information that people look for.
It really is imperative that you have someone who understands how to read demographics, how to interpret those, and be able to take those and say, Okay, our group from 35-54 is mainly on this type of media or reads this type of publication or attends these functions. All of those have to be wrapped up. You have to get a real good understanding of who your audience is. That is the only way you are going to effectively market and spend your money. Again, you can throw that wide net out and put it out in a newspaper. It may have a circulation of 200,000, but only less than 1% of those people could be target audiences for you. You just wasted 99% of your budget right there to reach the 1% that is actually going to care.
Russell: There is a lot of data out there on that. It is really easy to get lost in the weeds. What would you say are the most effective marketing strategies organizations can use to grow their share of that donor base or other supporters like volunteers or board members or advisors?
Geo: Understand your market. Know what appeals to them. Know what their hot buttons are. Where do they have their most care? In business, we talk about the citizen brand, where you create the culture and a mission and a vision that reflects your audience. That is becoming an interesting thing to follow in the way that all organizations are operating is to say to their people: What is important to you? That is important to us. It really helps to create a stronger bond because people today want to know what is in it for me. How are you going to make my world better through your work? Even in a charitable organization, they are still saying that. How are you going to save the animals or save the rainforest, or how are you going to protect abused and neglected children? What is your culture going to do that is going to get me to want to write that check or volunteer my time and efforts?
Russell: Those are brilliant reasons for reaching out repeatedly because you don’t always have to have an ask. You can ask questions and find out what is important to them. You can take that language and recycle it and return it back to them in their solution.
Geo: Exactly. The three important things to do when you are communicating, especially in the public relations realm, is to inform, educate, and entertain. You are able to do all of those things even with a charitable organization because you inform them of your mission, you educate them and show them what their results are of their support, and it is okay to entertain, too, because not every message has to be, We are in a terrible situation. Our clients are destitute. Our planet is falling apart, whatever that may be. It’s also okay to take a lighter side, show how the organization reaches out in the community, show what some of the folks do in their daily lives, show behind the scenes of what this organization does in their daily work. Create that. Again, you want to create that personal feeling. You want the person who you are targeting to feel like those are the same people that I am, and I want to be with them. All three of those, if they are done properly and in the right percentages, you have an extremely effective message platform that works.
Russell: Live videos from your events where you see people having a good time. What could be more fun? People can say, “Hey, I want to go to the next party these guys throw.”
Geo: Video is hands-down the most important thing that people see nowadays. It has the largest effect. As I am sure is well-known, we have less of an attention span than a goldfish of less than eight seconds. Text doesn’t do it. Photos are okay. But you put something on video, and that’s why Instagram is growing and Facebook is such a volume. Facebook Live is the go-to platform for people to put their messages out there and all the video capabilities that Facebook and YouTube and Vimeo and theses platforms have. They have realized the importance that video has in marketing and public relations efforts.
Hugh: So there is a lot of dynamics that come to mind. Russ, we have interviewed several people on this topic. It’s like the quote Williams said, “Music did not reveal all of its secrets to only one person.” We can take marketing/PR and substitute it in there. I am hearing some different things. What about you, Russ?
Russell: Every time I talk to somebody about this, I learn new stuff. There is a lot to grasp. There is a lot of approaches. Like anything else, different people resonate with different people at a different level.
Hugh: I am sorry to interrupt you, but there is so much to cover that we can’t just cover it in one podcast. The other people had really valuable stuff; you’re not just contradicting them. You are filling in some of the cracks that we don’t have time to deal with. Russ asked earlier how we measure the effectiveness of your campaign. I had somebody we’re talking about. I wanted to introduce them to Bill Gilmer for this direct mail piece, which he is so successful at. They said, “Oh, I tried that last year, and it didn’t work.” I said, “You went to the gym one day and that didn’t work, either?” I stole that from Bill. Bill says flat-out, “You have to do this for two years four times a year in order to see tangible results.” We get in there and want to see success overnight. That is not reasonable, isn’t it?
Geo: No, it isn’t. When we sit down with a client, I tell them that it’s going to take us six months to be able to honestly make an impact in what we’re going to be doing for you. We need six months’ minimum. A year is what we really like. Those efforts are going to take time to gather steam. Developing and distributing content takes time to get it out there, to use it in all its various forms. We are very clear. We can measure on a daily, weekly basis everything that you want to know. We can tell you what’s happening, but we can’t tell trends until we are able to see some data come in. I just started with a client, and we are doing Google AdWords. I think we’re going to have a great return. Can you tell us what we’re going to be doing as we go every week or so? Yes, we can, but we are going to be testing various messages. We are going to find out if that message resonated or if we changed a few phrases, that one worked better. Then we are going to work on that and test another one. Eventually, after a while, you have got the data to back up and say, “These key words work. These key phrases are what are getting people’s attention and are causing them to react and take action.” Anybody who wants it overnight is not going to get it. You really need to understand that because otherwise you are just spinning your wheels. You are throwing money at the next thing the next day. If one doesn’t work, we’ll put money here. No, let’s refine what we are doing here because this is the platform that our audience is on. Let’s make sure we work to create the messaging that is going to be effective.
Hugh: You spoke about live video as a platform. You have spoken about direct mail. That’s a platform. Speak about some of the choices for platforms on digital marketing.
Geo: Digital is like the wild, wild West. There are over 242 social media sites, and those don’t include the dating sites. Just in social media alone, you have a plethora. Those are general social media, industry-specific, interest-specific, all kinds of platforms. Right now, the digital platforms that nonprofits and charitable organizations are using and that have the most effect is Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest, in descending order. Those are the platforms that are available in a social media sense.
You also have your website, which should be the hub of all of your marketing materials. All of your social media should direct back to your website. That has to be a very fluid and dynamic piece of work that is easy to navigate, easy to understand, clearly defines messaging, benefits, features, all of those things that any business and organization is going to want to put in front of folks.
Then you have your digital platforms, your blogs and digital publications and those areas where you can use your message to get out articles, white papers. You can place ads within most digital publications that are attuned to your audience. They are all out there right now. As I said, you can really focus your marketing dollars where it’s going to be best and you will get the phrase return because the data on each of those platforms is very clear. You don’t have to guess about what’s going to happen once you’re there, as long as you understand that it’s the place that you’re supposed to be.
Hugh: When I work with charities of all kinds, I suggest they have someone internal that has the communications hat on. When they hire a person like you to build out their marketing campaign or their donor management correspondence, there needs to be somebody that is focused on bringing in all the data to one point. Somebody like you can be more effective in helping the organization. I find so many people working in charities that are underfunded are overworked and stretched. Imagine without the right data you can’t be fully effective, can you?
Geo: No, not at all. Nor would you expect to be. I wouldn’t want to walk in and be thrown into a situation where I wasn’t given the tools or data. If you are the receptionist in the morning and you are the marketing person in the afternoon, I consider that a waste of money. You might as well just break me a nice check and let me go play golf because that is about what you’re going to get out of that person. It’s nothing against them; it’s just they don’t know how to do it. When my firm comes in and works with a nonprofit, I bring a team of folks. I have the web designers, the writers, the social media experts, the AdWords experts, the graphic designers, whatever that organization is going to need. I am able to put the team together and only for what they’re going to ned. I am not keeping a full staff and having to pay salaries for people who aren’t working on that particular project to keep the company running, which I believe helps the nonprofits out because they get exactly what they need. It’s on time, great time, great service. That is what I think makes a difference. We get in there, and as I always look at it as a partnership, business or charitable organization. I call them partners. It’s not only for the partners I work with to produce, but it’s also the folks I work with because I want to be their partners in marketing and public relations and be a part of their success and help them to reach their goals. When I am doing that, I am as intimately involved in their organization as they are. I learn everything about it. I get data, I get history, I get nuances and rumors and innuendos and anything else they want to share that can help me to better understand how to operate so I can help them do what they really want to do, which is grow, succeed, and serve their communities.
Hugh: Russ, we are in the last part of our interview. I am going to toss it back to you for some comments and questions, if you will.
Russell: One thing that came to mind is that you do have a lot of these smaller shops that don’t have the staffing or funding. What kind of tools could someone like Hugh or I give to an organization that is in this situation that would empower them enough to gather enough information that you would actually be helpful to them?
Geo: There are a lot of free and very inexpensive software platforms that you can use for data analysis, data gathering. Google Analytics is #1. You can go to your website and once you set up your Analytics code, you can see exactly what kind of traffic you are getting to your website, where it’s coming from, how long they’re there, what kind of pages they visit, so you can determine your strengths in messaging. Facebook Insights is another one where if you are putting out Facebook campaigns, you are getting data back on the users. There is plenty of remarketing and other tools that Facebook has that don’t cost you anything. It’s just the cost you are paying for placing your ads.
A customer relationship management software program is critical for every organization, especially when you are talking about data and analytics. A couple that are great that I’ve used is HubSpot. There is a free version of it, which is not as robust as their full system, but it allows you to be able to capture names and email addresses and then also to share that with your email system, like MailChimp or Constant Contact. You have CRMs like SalesForce or Zoho. All have a cost to them, which you have to consider when you are putting your marketing budget together. The software platforms you are going to use to analyze your data. You have to keep all of these things in check and in mind and find the one that is going to work best for you.
There are a ton of fundraising management tools that are online that can help you out. SalesForce, Raisers Edge, Donor Perfect. I like Salsa. It’s a really robust system that is fairly inexpensive, but it gives you the opportunity to manage your donors online and your messaging to them. A couple of free ones that I’ve seen work but have not tried yet are Donor Manager, Metrics, Donor Box, and Civic RM. Those are all free. They have different capabilities. You go online and can pull up a web search and say “Free fundraising software.” You will get a list of all of those that are there. There are a lot of great resources that compare them and show the pluses and minuses.
Russell: One of the things that comes to mind because a lot of it is sofware-driven. If you are a nonprofit charity, you can register on the Tech Soup platform, and you can get licenses for commercial software at a reduced rate. That is an important thing for nonprofits to do because you can spend a ton of money on software.
Geo: Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Companies do, but they are bringing in millions and millions of dollars, and that software is their life blood. I’s critical now. You can’t do business without knowing where your information is coming from and where your customers are coming from.
Hugh: Amazing. There is a lot to know about this topic. I think we are going to wrap up here. Geo, we have covered a lot of the topics that we had thought about covering. Is there an area we haven’t asked you about that you want to give us some data in before we do a wrap?
Geo: One of the things that we work on as we are working with clients is: What is important to you? The results are interesting. This comes back to, and I have to agree with what happened in the Content Marketing Institute survey in 2016. Engagement, brand awareness, and developing client loyalty are the top three things that content marketing and marketing efforts are going to do or the goal of those for an organization. They want to get their base engaged, they want to raise that brand awareness, and they want those folks to take that action, to join that organization, to be there not just for that one check, but to be there for five to ten years down the road. Look at when you are setting up your PR and marketing efforts, make sure you establish some very clear goals as to what you want to achieve from them. Getting your name out is great, but what happens when you do that? What then do you want to happen? How do you want in sequence your efforts to move forward? If you start with the brand exposure, how do you then make sure that that becomes an engagement effort, and then how does that translate to getting the folks to say, “You know what? I am going to find out more about the organization and write a check and sign up to help out.”
Hugh: That’s awesome. That sounds like a good summary statement. What do you think, Russ?
Russell: Absolutely. What do we want people to know, feel, and do? It just comes back in so many ways, but that can’t be overemphasized because that is the whole kit and caboodle. If you’re not there, you will never reach the people you want to get to.
Geo: Never. It’s easy to miss them if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Hugh: Geo Ropert, Ropert and Partners is your company. Thank you for sharing this information. I have learned a lot today. Russ, it’s given me some ideas for us to move SynerVision in another direction.
Russell: There is a lot of information people need so they can be good clients. There is a bit of an art and science in the pro bono. Like Geo pointed out, it’s not for something you need yesterday. You have to be clear on what it is that you want out of that engagement. Even as a pro bono client, you have to in some ways behave like a paying client. That is another discussion. Geo, thanks for all the brilliant information you have provided. There is so much out there to take into consideration. But the main thought I want to leave people with is that you can’t afford not to talk about what you’re doing. You can do the best work in the world, but if nobody knows about it, nobody sends you a check.
Geo: No. No, they do not. If you know any nonprofits that need some help in PR or marketing, give me a call. I can help out.
Hugh: You will give them a free consultation, won’t you?
Geo: Absolutely. The consultation is free. The work isn’t.
Hugh: We’ll put your link in the notes. Geo, thank you so much.
Geo: Thank you, Hugh, and thank you, Russ. It was great to be here.
Russell: Thank you.