Thursday, May 10, 2012


Picture this. You have done a good job driving stakeholders or donors to your charity’s website. Maybe you used some cheeky advertising. Maybe you were lucky and got some positive press about your organization. Or maybe you did it all through social media. Whatever you did, you did it well, because people are coming in droves.

So, the job is done. Time to sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of victory. A great accomplishment.

But here’s where the victory turns into the defeat.

You spent so much time seeking and finding that you didn’t give a thought about retention. And so, the avalanche of people that you attracted to your website come, see nothing of interest and then leave AND NEVER COME BACK.

In my experience, this is an all-to-common problem with non-profit marketing. I know of many organizations, large and small, who have spent a great deal of time and treasure on getting people to their website only to lose them once they get there. When that happens all the seeking and finding, and the resources that went into it, become worthless. Not only is it not a victory, it is in fact a crushing defeat.

It’s like throwing a party at your house. You may be amazingly clever and creative in getting out your invitations. People may call or email to RSVP. But if they come, stay for one minute, make excuses and then leave it’s not much of a party, is it?

The lesson is that to be successful, you need to keep the stakeholders and donors you capture in your marketing. This is called conversion. It’s a term used widely in marketing, especially in for-profits. Basically, conversion is a planned process to convert a stranger into a customer over a period of time. For-profits think of customers in terms of their lifecycle. They plan how to take them from one stage to another until they are loyal customers. It is not always easy, but they have a process to make it work. And when it does, it delivers incredible value. Without conversion, an organization needs to go out again and again to attract the same kinds of people. With conversion, it can capture a portion of those people, turn them into customers and keep marketing to them at a fraction of the price. Converting strangers into stakeholders and donors will in fact save you money, time and effort.

The process of conversion can be as complicated as you want it to be. For most non-profits, it should be simple. I’d recommend that they drive people to an e-newsletter sign up or a social media connection. You’re looking for something where they take a deliberate step to keep connected to you and a platform that can both identify who they are and allow you to keep sending them information.  

One key ingredient in conversion is content, and this is why social media or e-newsletters by themselves will not solve the problem. There needs to be a clear and compelling reason for people to connect to you. If there isn’t one, all the social media links and e-newsletter sign-ups won’t work. You have to create something of value that they want. In other words, the same creativity you put into seeking and finding is required to make conversion work. Think it through. Do some research. But find a reason why they should keep connected to you and use it.

The result will be a captive audience that you can communicate with easily, quickly and cheaply.

And that is a great victory.

1 comment:

  1. John, this is a wonderful article, thanks for sharing. We have organically been growing our following for years, through consistently posting pictures of what we are doing each and every week. In the last 6 months we have seen our numbers sky rocket, as we are starting to see our committed clients start telling others about us, as now we are starting to post funding needs as well. I agree with your assessment, and putting in the time to keep your clients committed is definitely the key.