Spencer Critchley's blog

How Nonprofits Can Succeed with Content Marketing

For a recent article in Nonprofit Communications Report, I was asked by writer Dawn Wolfe for 3 keys to successful content marketing for nonprofits.

I thought it would be worth sharing them here, via excerpts from the piece (a subscription is required to view the full article online).

What is content marketing? It's self-published content that is genuinely useful and/or entertaining, which you us to attract people to your website and socal media presences. It's a core part of inbound marketing.

My 3 keys? Brand, persona and focus.

Great, up to date advice for raising money with social media & the web

Spencer Critchley

By now, just about every nonprofit of any size seems to be using the web, email and social media. And yet many are behind the curve on using online tools effectively.

In particular, we find that many nonprofits use email as if it's just a digital version of a paper newsletter, and the web and social media as if they're just digital bulletin boards.

But in working with any medium -- the web, TV, radio, newspapers or, reaching way back, fax -- it's always been important to understand it for its own strengths, not in terms of whatever came before it.

Empathy: The overlooked key to nonprofit marketing

Don't Mess With Texas PSA

It's an occupational hazard of the nonprofit world to know too much about the problems you're trying to solve. When you're an expert, facts have great resonance for you.

Why is this a hazard? Because when you're trying to reach people, facts are not much use. Then, you need to know not facts, but feelings. That's because it's emotions, not information, that drive our beliefs and behaviors.

So, for a nonprofit communicator, it's critically important to practice the skill of imagining how the world looks to the person you're trying to connect with: to be empathic.

Be a Better Writer in 1 Step: Forget Everything You Learned in College

Spencer Critchley

How did "academic" become synonymous with "irrelevant?" Wouldn't it be a good idea if our smartest, best-informed people played a more active role in society? And yet, as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes in a recent piece, "Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience."

When I'm consulting with clients on anything to do with writing, I spend a lot of time undoing the results of a college education. Call me a philistine, but I believe communication should communicate.

This Future-Oriented High School Is Devoted to Digital Media

Instructor Jesse Valdez and prospective student Bella Prospero

A high school curriculum based on "Creativity, Self-awareness, Empathy, and Critical Thinking" -- and it's focused on digital media arts.

This sounds like someone set out to train the next generation of Boots Roadies! And who knows, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up hiring graduates of the Millennium Charter High School, which opened just a few months ago in Salinas, California, just up Highway 68 from Boots Road Group in Monterey. That seems all the more likely after a tour I was given recently by Hamish Tyler, MCHS' media center director.

One More Step (Ladder) to a Sustainable Office

Nick Frey installing an LED bulb

One of the things we're not keen on at Boots Road is changing light bulbs. That's because our ceilings here in the beautiful old Professional Building are about 15 feet high.

So when a bulb burns out (way) up there, we're inclined to think green: "That's energy being saved, right there."

But as LED technology has kept improving, we now have another option: energy-efficiency and being able to see indoors.

Surprise! Foreign Aid Works, and Other Good News

Spencer Critchley

Also published at the Huffington Post. When you hear every day about suffering, incompetence and corruption, it's easy to conclude that things only get worse in this world. But in fact, there's all kinds of progress being made, and many reasons for hope.

One of the best reasons I've come across lately is the most recent annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation:

How We Used Animation to Help the Feds Help Veterans

Still image of two people from animationIt's a message from the federal government. About taxes. And labor rules.

How would you explain it?

"It" was the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, or WOTC "Watt-see"). WOTC could help veterans and other deserving people get a job -- if only they, and their potential employers, could learn about it in a way that didn't sound impossibly complicated.

Working with our client Social Policy Research Associates for the US Department of Labor, we at Boots Road decided to use animation and video to help make that happen.

Here's a one-minute animation we created. The goal was to motivate employers to take advantage of WOTC, while reassuring them that applying wouldn't be a big pile of paperwork:

The Social Impact Movement: Designing Nonprofits to Succeed

Also published at the Huffington Post. Recently, I raised an awkward question: "Are Nonprofits Designed to Fail?"

As I wrote, for all the good work a nonprofit may do, it's often hard to tell if a it's really making a difference: fixing the underlying problem, rather than forever treating symptoms.

Now almost by definition, the challenges that nonprofits tackle are hard ones. After all, the rest of society has failed to meet them. And some non-profits do of course succeed.

But like an increasing number of other observers, I suspect that much of the nonprofit sector suffers from structural flaws that can make success much harder than it needs to be.

Here I discuss two of the biggest such flaws, and explore ideas for fixing them. These ideas come from a growing movement towards social impact, which seeks to reinvent our models of how nonprofits can work.

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