Admit it. Everyone likes to get awards, to be recognized. We’ve all had dreams of our names being called after those four glorious words.
When you’re a nonprofit, awards mean more. Awards mean that you are standing out among your peers… among so many wonderful organizations, all doing wonderful things. Awards mean that your organization has its moment in the spotlight.
This time, the award went to The Nature Conservancy. This news is not so new anymore. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was given the 2012 Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award by the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation (DMANF), which was presented at DMANF’s annual New York Nonprofit Conference on July 26. Their award was covered by The NonProfit Times and Huffington Post, amongst other publications. DMANF’s Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award “aims to recognize an organization each year that uses direct response marketing to advance its mission, demonstrating an outstanding record of sustained achievement in direct marketing fundraising and financial performance, as well as innovative direct marketing techniques.”
TNC won because they “acquired more new and younger donors through direct mail in combination with other channels.” According The NonProfit Times and Huffington Post articles, TNC’s membership team “recognized the need to diversify the fundraising repertoire to acquire new and younger supporters.” They acknowledged that direct mail was an important acquisition channel for them, and committed to it. More than that, they found a way to stand out.
Blah, blah, blah words. What does this mean for YOU as a nonprofit? What can you learn from The Nature Conservancy? I was really curious about these questions, so I did my own digging and came up with some tips.
Before I get in to the meat of this post, let me say that everything below is my opinion. I have no particular allegiance to The Nature Conservancy, I just happened to be really impressed by their work after taking a look at their website/communication channels/etc.
If you don’t know much about The Nature Conservancy, let’s just say that they are an extremely successful 60+ year-old membership-based nonprofit focused on making a sustainable world for future generations.
I looked at TNC’s website and social media outlets (especially Twitter and YouTube) for hours. To sum it up, here are my observations on why The Nature Conservancy totally rocks and what you can learn from them (and keep my disclaimer in mind):
1. Choose Your Targets: TNC recognized the need to engage younger supporters. Younger supporters/Millenials/Generation Y are all the buzz right now. Everyone wants to get the attention of this segment because there is so much long-term potential by building connections to young people now. But that’s not the point. Whether TNC decided that their targets were Millenials or Baby Boomers, the point is that they decided who their targets were, period. Knowing your target(s) means that you can communicate to your audience and make a personal connection based on their needs, interests and preferences.
2. Make It Personal: I’d say that this is probably one of TNC’s biggest strengths. Everything about their communication is personal. They speak to YOU. I love what their headline says on every page of their website — so engaging, so powerful: “We’re working with you to make a positive impact around the world in more than 30 countries, all 50 United States and your backyard.” This means YOU. This statement reaches out and demands attention. More than their personal communication techniques, their membership model encourages you to be a part of their “family.” Just as you make a commitment to help the environment, TNC makes a commitment to you that you will become a part of the organization as a member. You’re in the family now; you’re not just a number. If we’ve learned anything about Millenials, we know that they want a compelling reason of WHY they should give you their attention.
3. Stay Current: TNC’s home page is the epitome of current. I mean for goodness sake, they even found a way to connect their work to the 2012 Olympic Games. They have “top stories” that connect current events to their mission, areas of success and areas of focus. Their commitment to staying current and connecting to their mission is awesome.
4. Engage, Engage, ENGAGE: Your mission, your success, your areas of focus… they are all for nothing if you can’t get people involved. Engaging people means that you are building lasting relationships and showing people how they can be a part of change. TNC is masterful at this. Their communications draw you in and make you want to be a part of their success, whether the environment is your #1 priority or not. Their membership model is a big part of their engagement, but more than this, they have:
- My Nature Page: You can customize what you care about, have conversations with others on topics like “Why I Give,” and collect information about “My Impact.” TNC is focused on the younger generation, and data has shown that knowing the impact of your support is important to this segment.
- More Ways to Give: Listed on their “donate” page, money is not the only option for support.
- Flickr: Pictures are worth a thousand words. Their Flickr page allows people to submit pictures and create a bond over their love of the environment, building a strong group of committed people.
- YouTube: Their page features short, inspirational videos that draw you in.
After investigating The Nature Conservancy a bit more, I was really inspired by the work they do and how they do it. Are they the pinnacle of nonprofits, doing everything perfectly? That is not for me to judge. But I’m certainly impressed by what I observed in the context of their recent award. They are certainly doing a lot of things right.
At INK Consulting, my focus is on helping nonprofits realize the potential of all relationships. The days of primary focus on donors are over. I touched on this in some earlier posts, like The Importance of Relationships and Can We Have Your Money? In order to create a sustainable business model as a nonprofit and achieve your mission, you have to focus on relationships. In my opinion, it looks like The Nature Conservancy is doing so. Bravo, TNC. Bravo. Thank you for all that you do to make the world a better place!