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November 2011

5 Reasons Nonprofits Should Take Search Seriously - Part II

You've been waiting for our last 2 reasons!  We saved the powerful boost of motivation for last.  Here's part II:

4.  Getting started is free!

It’s an uphill battle to compete with commercial clients in the search jungle.  The bottom line is that nonprofits just don’t have the kind of SEM budgets that commercial companies do.  But, you can at least get yourself on the links lists, even if you’re not at the tippy top.  Google Grants are MADE for nonprofits to do just that – get in the game.  It allows you to buy your way in by offering grants up to $10,000 per month to use for Google AdWords to help promote your website.  Learn more here:  Google Grants .  But first, you have to have the internal structure in place to be successful with this sort of science.  You’ve got to have the analytics capabilities (and people) to understand what keywords are driving traffic to your site.  Then, you need someone to do something about these findings by optimizing your site content.  The fundraiser then needs to be sure to place the donation page and button in the right place on this site.  A lot of people and departments, I know.  But, working towards this will be essential to increasing your house file.  It’s no secret that the industry is suffering from a “bodies” problem.  Take action to fix it for the sake of your missions.

5.  We have worldwide motivation 

No need to feel like the nonprofit underdog in a sea of Coca-Cola and Nike successes.  The nonprofit industry has proven its ability to be #1 when it comes to search.  In fact, the Japanese Relief Fund actually ranked #1 worldwide 2 years in a row as the highest searched site.  It turns out that in a worldwide time of need, the search to give and take action trumps the release of a new sneaker.  Also take Breast Cancer Awareness Month for an example.  On Yahoo! alone, searches for “breast cancer awareness” in October were up 552% compared to 2009 and searches for “breast cancer ribbon” were up 412%.  “Breast cancer signs” were also among the leading searches during this month.  As users search these terms, some of the most well known breast cancer nonprofits appear in the results.  We all want donors, but just look at the site content nonprofits provide to save a life:  FAQ pages, testimonials, self-awareness information, educational resources, etc.  Maybe this is why breast cancer diagnosis rates have increased 30% since 1990.  Nonprofit websites provide the right content for early detection!  Search marketing efforts have helped to save thousands of lives – exactly what most organizations aim to do.   


We hope our 5 reasons have been motivating for your organization.  Don't forget to let us know if you're already ahead of the SEM/SEO game and share with us your examples!  If you have questions or are facing challenges, let us know too!  I bet we have answers.

-Amber Bonner

Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

5 Reasons Nonprofits Should Take Search Seriously - Part I

Did you know that search is one of the only marketing channels where you can 100% determine ROI?  Hopefully you received a copy of our Donor Strategist newsletter this week that talked about search marketing.  If not, we forgive you; our SEM experts at IMPAQT have a white paper to explain it all: A Brave New Advertising World:  The Future of Search Marketing .   One of the featured articles, “The Future of Search Marketing” laid the visionary groundwork for where we’re going in the field of SEM.  And while the commercial world is definitely investing the dollars and leading the way in this digital realm, nonprofits still need to get on board if they want to be successful in the future.   We’ve got 5 reasons why.  Read the first 3 now:

1.  Your email list will thank you

We all want more traffic to our sites, right?  Well, why?  So they can see our pretty pictures and read our donor stories?  Of course, that’s part of it – the engagement piece.  But we also need donors.  And online, a large part of that end revenue goal is fueled by getting their email address.  Improving your search marketing efforts means just that – a bigger email list, a bigger pool to target, more gifts, and a bigger number on the online bottom line.  

2.   It’s the Holidays 

It’s end of year - one of the most critical fundraising seasons.  Many nonprofit organizations are building microsites around their holiday campaigns and inserting themed content throughout their various communication channels.  What better time to optimize your search to drive users to your site?  Our friends at IMPAQT  did some research and found that some of the top trending keywords during November and December are “gift”, “top 10” and “gift ideas”.  Being sure to include content with these popular search words will be crucial for driving traffic to your site this time of year.  After all, as a nonprofit you’ve got plenty of gifts for people to buy, right?  Once visitors get there, don’t forget to include a prominent call to action – must fundraise!

3.  We’re digital girls (and guys) in a digital world

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the world is moving in an overwhelmingly digital direction.  Search and other areas of digital are evolving and beginning to play in the sandbox together.  As a fundraising organization, figuring out how your constituents connect with your cause in the digital world will help you to more effectively plan your communication efforts.  Search can lay the groundwork for this type of understanding with your constituent base.  Through search analytics, you’ll recognize what part of your mission people really care about and what sorts of topics people seek out information for.  This way, you can target them with the right content at the right time, so your donations can roll in on time!  Focusing on this part of your digital plan will improve your other digital efforts including social media and mobile – 2 of the most predicted nonprofit digital trends for 2012.  If you’re not getting your feet wet and starting to integrate search now, you’re going to leave yourself behind.

Is your nonprofit effectively using SEM or SEO?  Share with us your success stories and stay tuned for reasons #4 and #5 in part II. 

-Amber Bonner

Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

Collecting Candy & Saying "Thank You"

I interrupt this generational series of posts to state my very opinionated … opinion. 

You know how after Halloween your parents had to check your candy bag for powdered poison, blades, kid-killing elixirs and everything else you never even imagined existed?  It sort of took an ounce of the excitement out of immediately indulging in your hard-earned night’s worth of walking and knocking and waiting.  Right?  Ever thought about what this crushing 10 minutes of parental advisory does to little Johnny’s experience? 

I know.  It puts his gratification on pause.  Inadvertently he learns that the fantasy of soliciting free candy from strangers has a catch.  A parental one.  His sugar and caffeine-filled donations are monitored.  Even later he realizes that he never even said thank you to his neighbors for supplying him with a lunch treat, an after school snack and a late-night craving cure for the next few months.  He learns that his costume which, for the most part, makes him anonymous, warrants no follow-up of appreciation the next day when he’s hopped back into his regular clothes.

This learning and behavior has a decent parallel to how we handle fundraising.  The anonymity involved in asking donors to give through our mass-marketing techniques gives us a false sense of entitlement in that we never have to say thank you.   As if we’re not real humans behind the postage stamp or email send button.  Just like knocking on doors to “trick or treat”, we bang and bang again until someone gives us a few more months of electricity and research funds.   We may acknowledge them with an impersonal confirmation, but this commonly involves another ask.  More candy!?  Are you serious?  What if Johnny swung by your door twice and asked for a second Snickers before he said thank you for the first?  In your head, you’d probably be thinking, “I just gave this little rascal one and he didn’t even say thank you!  And now he wants more?  Who raised this kid?”

Well how far off do you think this reaction is from how our donors perceive us when we do the same?  Or when we ask and thank simultaneously?  They may not wonder “Who raised us?”, but they surely are curious to know if we noticed that they just sent us money to advance our missions.  Though we may think so, our computers are not costumes we can hide behind that excuse us from basic human manners, such as saying “thank you”. Especially to those who are freely providing us with the funds to keep our organizations afloat, without anything in return.   So as a fundraiser, there is a catch.  We don’t just get to collect candy, eat it, and move to the next door.  If we do, what do you think this does to our donors’ experience?  My feeling is that it puts their philanthropic spirit on pause, just like Johnny’s 10 minutes of parental perusing.  Taking time out to mine through what we’ve received and express our gratitude in a personal way is necessary.  

As I grew up, I learned to appreciate my neighbors and the $15 or so they spent on those bags of candy that kept my childhood sugar-high accelerated until holiday break.  I eventually said “thank you” and paid them back by buying candy for their kids/grandkids that came knocking years later.   The law of reciprocity is universal.  How will you treat those who sweeten your mission this holiday season?

-Amber Bonner

Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

What is this blog all about?

If you're serious about raising money from donors, you need to get serious about donors. More than ever before, donors are insisting that you share power with them, not treating them like passive ATMs. This blog is about the ways you can do that -- and the rewards that await you and your donors when you do.

About the Blogger

DonorPower Blog is penned by Merkle's Power Blogging Team, led by Greg Fox, our senior vice president of strategy. Working with Greg is a police line-up of guest "artists", fundraising pros all, who like to pose as blogatorialists when the sun goes down. You can reach this blog, and any of our regular contributors, at
donorpowerblog [at] merkleinc [dot] com. See this blog's policies.

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