Random Thoughts on Life and Work

January 21, 2016

Audience, Purpose, And Clarity

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 3:46 pm
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There are two things (among others) to keep in mind when creating your communications piece. I’m making the assumption here that segmentation is not an option (for whatever reason) and we are dealing with print (physical or electronic) media that is delivered to the audience. However, these two items also pertain to other visual media as well.

  1. Audience – who are you communicating with? This can have great ramifications on the text and design of your piece. Age, gender, occupation, location, etc. All of this comes into play when writing your text, designing the graphics, and determining delivery methods.

    If you are not segmenting, your group will potentially cross a number of demographics. This is fine as long as you keep #2 in mind.

  2. Purpose – what do you want this audience to do? If you want one particular action from them, don’t muddy the water by including extra details or offering other options. If it is purely informational, don’t ask them to do something (except maybe to share it with others). If part of your audience might be interested in some other aspect of your product or services, avoid the temptation to add those options. Leave that for another day and another communications opportunity.

Remembering these two items in particular will help you keep your communications clear and concise and will increase your effectiveness.

April 1, 2015

Know Your Donors – The Value of Age Demographics

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 10:00 am
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Knowing your donors is a major step in targeting your communications effectively. There are a number of ways to slice your donor list and evaluate how you might craft communication across segments or groups of donors. Maybe your list isn’t large so segmentation may not be very efficient but to the extent that you can understand who your donors are, the better you will be able to communicate with them.

One easy way to understand your donor is to gather age demographics. Including a birth date field (even just month and year can be effective) on every response device is a simple addition that can pay off in a number of ways:

  1. Knowing your donor’s birth dates can provide you an opportunity to add a high touch to your donor communication. Sending birthday cards lets your donors know you are paying attention to them.
  2. Knowing the age demographics provides necessary information when considering the launch of a planned giving program. If you have a large portion of your donor file that is over the age of 55, planned giving marketing can be provide donors with an additional way to support the organization that they love.
  3. Understanding the proportions of your donors in various age ranges will allow you to tailor your communication language and style to those groups. Language and idioms that young people use will not resonate with older populations. Preferred color palettes are also different.
  4. Want to generate volunteer opportunities? Different age groups will respond to different opportunities. For example, older adults may appreciate the opportunity to volunteer in your office while younger adults will want to do “field work”.


These two charts can be used to evaluate some basic statistics on your age demographics. Determine the range groupings that make the most sense for your organization. Organizations with larger donor files can probably slice their segments into smaller ranges than organizations with smaller files.

Understanding the age demographics of your donor file will provide you with strong information about the profitability and lifetime value of various segments and ranges. It will also provide you with some indicators of the health of your donor file based on the spread of donors across the age ranges.

August 30, 2012

Basic Etiquette

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 10:55 am
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Why is basic etiquette in business communications so difficult for some people. Especially when it comes to email. Is it a function of the “I’m too important to bother” syndrome? Or maybe the, “I can be more efficient if I don’t reply” syndrome.

Let’s review some basics:

  1. If someone emails you asking a question, respond. Even if it’s a simple “We’re thinking about it.”
  2. If it is an email that requires a third person being pulled in to the conversation, let the originator know the email has moved on to the third. Even better – copy the originator into the forward.
  3. Be clear in your subject line.
  4. Don’t SHOUT unless you mean it.

Email will be with us for a long time and we all get a lot of it. That doesn’t excuse boorish behavior.

November 2, 2007

Blogging Employees

One of the challenges that organizations face with the growth in social media and the blogosphere is the issue of employees blogging about their work.  I had an interesting discussion with a staff person from an international non-profit.  This person raised the issue from a security perspective.  There is a certain amount of risk in allowing an individual to blog about their work from a country that may have security issues.  The knee jerk reaction was to create a policy that would govern what blogging was allowed, what wasn’t, or would cut it off altogether.  I think after some discussion, I was able to share some insights about the value of training rather than policy and the value to the organization to have staff tell the “real-time” story of what is being accomplished.  Here are some points to consider:

  1. The personal voice of a staff member can have huge impact to their immediate circle and beyond.
  2. Be cognizant of the potential danger for staff who live in risky areas of the world.  Communicate that danger to those who are headed to those areas of the world.
  3. Train your team members to communicate clearly.
  4. Consider providing a centralized avenue for blogging with minimal controls.
  5. Be clear about what is not acceptable. 
  6. Recognize that short of termination, you really can’t stop the blogging. 
  7. Remember, that for many, blogging may be cathartic and a way of releasing the stress of the work place.

I hope that helps.

October 26, 2007

The Wired Advocate – A Follow-up

Overcoming inertia in a nonprofit can be particularly difficult.  This stems from many sources but is most often expressed in the sentiment, “We’ve always done it this way.”  As a good friend of mine often says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over expecting different results.” 

Starting small with some test runs can be a great way to get past the initial ‘disbelief’ that making use of new tools will have value for the organization.  Here are some thoughts to consider:

  1. Recognize that you will likely make a mistake along the way.  The initial run may not be perfect.  That’s okay.  Learn from it, remember it, move on.
  2. At the same time, remember that quality is still important.  You can’t have a poor appearance and expect great results.
  3. Determine what you want to measure to determine success.  Dollars raised may not be the correct measurement.  Especially with your first few attempts.
  4. Remember, your audience is going to be different (probably) than your organizational website.  That’s why you are doing this.  Expanding your reach.
  5. Because of #5, don’t just repeat your website.  Provide something different, in a different tone, different appearance, etc.
  6. “Build it and they will come” is not necessarily true.  You will need to promote your applications.  Expand  your reach.  Think outside of the box.

Plan on building slowly.  Once you have established your metrics, go wider.  Determining who in the organization will be ‘responsible’ for the ongoing development and management of the interaction will come with experience.  Successful 2.0 applications will likely develop conversations with your constituency.  You need to be prepared to respond so somebody should be the designated communicator.

Hope that helps.

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