In this episode I interview Lindrea Reynolds from After School Matters. We talk about:
- Paid social media and how nonprofits can benefit from it
- Sharing stories to increase donor engagement
- The importance of using a good call to action in all digital marketing for a nonprofit
Transcript of this episode:
Adam: [00:00:09] Hi and welcome to Good People, Good Marketing podcast: a podcast about digital non-profit marketing and how to make it better, so that good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host Adam Walker, co-founder of ‘Sideways Aid,’ a digital marketing agency that specializes in nonprofit work, and ‘48 and 48’, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build 48 websites for 48 nonprofits in 48 hours.
Today I have the privilege of talking with Lindrea Reynolds, a youth advocate, and brand storyteller. She’s currently the senior marketing and brand manager for After School Matters, a nonprofit organization that provides life-changing programs for nearly 17,000 teens throughout the city of Chicago. Yes, that’s 17,000. That’s an amazing number. Lindrea, thanks so much for joining me.
Lindrea: [00:00:56] Thank you for having me, Adam. I’m so excited to be speaking with you today about digital marketing, and so this is exciting.
Adam: [00:01:04] Me too! This is going to be such a fun conversation. I really appreciate you hopping on and taking the time to do this. It’s going to be great. So is there anything from that bio that you want to fill in for our listeners?
Lindrea: [00:01:15] Oh, well, like you say, we serve 17,000 teens throughout the city of Chicago. Our focus areas are the arts, communications, sports, and stem and we provide programs through three program sessions. So we provide fall programs, spring and summer programs. And the —
Adam: [00:01:35] Sounds fantastic.
Lindrea: [00:01:35] It’s awesome. And the exciting thing about our summer programs is that we — last year we served like 13,000 teens. And so we get our biggest number of teens during our summer because it’s out of school time and teens need something to do during the summer. So why not have them be in programs finding their future and discovering their potential? So it’s pretty cool.
I’ve been with After School Matters for six years. Actually, I was an instructor prior to being the Senior Marketing and Brand Manager. So I actually have that firsthand experience with being in the classroom with the teens and really seeing what their needs are and really having an opportunity to experience them, which is really cool. And I also serve with the Chicago Women in Philanthropy. I’m with the mentor leadership program and we help to connect emerging leaders with experienced philanthropic professionals, so that’s pretty cool too. So I like to serve a little bit too, outside of my normal work.
Adam: [00:02:38] Obviously! That’s great. You’re dedicating your time to give back. That’s an admirable thing.
Lindrea: [00:02:43] Thank you.
Adam: [00:02:44] I love it. Well, let’s dig into our discussion questions. I want to talk about digital marketing. I want to hear your thoughts about how all this plays out for you and for your job and what you do. So let’s just kind of start out — related to digital marketing, tell us something that’s worked well for you in the past.
Lindrea: [00:03:03] What’s worked well for us in the past is really utilizing our social media. Something that we’ve been doing recently is implementing paid social media. And we literally just started doing that last year around Giving Tuesday. So we really got to explore this year using paid social media; boosting some of those posts to reach audiences that we were able to reach in the past. You know, with Facebook, they have all these algorithms, and sometimes you can create a fantastic post, and it just will not get the reach that you wanted to reach. So we’ve implemented paid social media. And what’s exciting is that we’re using it — we started using it for Giving Tuesday, and we were sharing these amazing stories about our alum. And this was the first time that we actually started to share our alumni stories to increase supporter engagement and fundraising. And it’s been really successful. Our gifts have actually doubled this year from sharing these words.
Adam: [00:04:16] Wow.
Lindrea: [00:04:16] So it’s exciting.
Adam: [00:04:18] So, wait, wait, wait. Let’s just back up just a moment there. So I think what I just heard you say is that your gifts have doubled. And did I hear you say that’s because you’re sharing stories, right? And you’re boosting posts; you’re using paid social media to distribute and push those stories out to get a bigger audience than you otherwise would. Is that would I heard you say?
Lindrea: [00:04:43] Absolutely.
Adam: [00:04:44] Wow.
Lindrea: [00:04:45] The beauty — and what I’ve learned in sharing alumni stories, is that it proves that our mission works. Our brand promise for our teens is to help them find their future and discover their potential. And we have amazing data that shows that 92 percent of our teens, they actually graduate. And we have some data about college persistence, but it’s harder to get that data about if they finish college, employment, what are they actually doing now? Did they find their future? And so, being able to actually share our alumni stories, it shows that the work that we’re doing it actually works. Where these teens are really — what we’re doing is really impacting their future and it’s exciting. And so donors and supporters they want to see that. They want to see that the work that you’re doing is actually working and it’s happening. And so, where we got that from was that this past year at our gala. We had this phenomenal video that we created for our guests, and it highlighted two amazing young men who came from a low-income neighborhood in Chicago. They really pay homage to their instructor and how much work that their instructor did to really impact their lives. They had a tough situation at home and After School Matters came into play and really helped them to discover who they really were and what they were created to do. And now, one is a chef at Nomy restaurant here in Chicago, and the other — they’re brothers — the other one graduated from the French Pastry School, and we saw the impact that the alum had on our donors. And we just wanted to take it to another level and actually find more stories from our alum and share those stories. Because individuals want to hear stories and hear from our beneficiaries. So it’s been really working.
Adam: [00:06:56] You know, I feel like a lot of times nonprofits try to use a lot of numbers. You know, “We’ve done this many things with this many kids in this many neighborhoods and this many things.” And the problem with numbers is that it really doesn’t communicate anything tangible to a potential donor. What a potential donor can wrap their minds around are stories that they can connect with, that they can put a face and a name and a voice to, and they can understand. And they can say, “Yes, I want to support that, and I want to see more of that.” You know? So I think if nonprofits would shift away — I mean, numbers are important, but I think if they’d shift away from just numbers and really latch on to stories, I think would be a major thing.
Lindrea: [00:07:36] I totally agree. I mean, research shows that individuals want to hear stories, especially when you’re focused on the visual giving. I think when you’re talking about corporations and foundations you may have to give a little — you may have to share more numbers. But when you’re really targeting individuals, they want to hear stories. It has to be more personable. And sharing those stories has really worked for us and really sharing our — and the beauty in sharing our alumni stories is that we’ve actually been able to really re-engage with our alum. We had alum come back and write posts and respond and say, “We were in your program in 1994.” And, “I remember painting with my amazing instructor in 1999.” And so to be able to use social media to not only drive online giving but to also re-engage our alum, and also potentially turn them into volunteers or donors, or whatever works for them. It’s really exciting, and it shows that we really care about where they are. And so that’s been exciting as well, to really re-engage with our alum and bring them back to the organization.
Adam: [00:08:53] That’s fantastic. I applaud you for that. So now for the less fun question. Can you share something with us that hasn’t worked very well that we can learn from?
Lindrea: [00:09:07] I think across all digital media call to actions — in the past, when I would read my analytics, we use Sprout Social, and the one thing I love about Sprout Social is that they compare [00:09:21] well [0.3] versus social. And it’ll show from our social media how many people would use our links to actually go to our website. And I found that, without sharing posts: just sharing, sharing, sharing, and not actually using a call to action, that we were actually losing people. And so I always think that social media or even e-blast, it’s another brand touchpoint. But what’s really important is also to drive potential supporters to our website as well so they can learn more. We have a ton of information. We have recruitment information; we have information for instructors, potential instructors. So we want them to stay engaged with us, and we don’t want to lose them, because we just share one event or one opportunity. We want them to actually learn more about After School Matters, join our community; for teens, apply for our program. So sometimes we will forget to actually use that call to action for them to actually leave Facebook or Twitter and actually go to our website to learn more about us.
Adam: [00:10:31] Right. Right. Yeah, you’re right. It’s more than just sharing, it’s sharing and then asking for someone to take a next step. And if we don’t ask them to take a next step they never will take a next step. So I think that’s insightful.
Lindrea: [00:10:45] Yes. It’s really important for them to take that next step, because you want to keep them. I think of it as a supporter funnel. So we want to funnel them into our website, so we can continue to cultivate them. In marketing, we learn about the consumer journey. And I think of it as a supporter journey. How do we keep them engaged? Every point of contact is a brand touchpoint. And so being able to capture them at social media, bring them to our website and then actually have them engage with a person and learn more about our organization and then visit our programs and then post about us back on social media. It’s like a full cycle. And so we turn our actual supporters into marketers for the organizations. They become brand ambassadors, and that’s always important, to have more brand ambassadors. Because the communications team, we can’t do it by ourselves. The staff just can’t do it. So every person that we meet, and we engage what we want them to become brand ambassadors for the organization because it helps increase our reach and it increases more teen engagement, and they’ll join our programs.
Adam: [00:12:01] Right. That’s fantastic. I mean, that’s the dream, right? You want people to be so passionate about your organization that they automatically, just as a natural part of their day, are sharing about what’s happening, what’s going on, what they’re learning from that and how they’re able to help and impact the community around them because of being a part of what you’re doing.
And so I think the more — to what you said — the more we can enable and empower the people that support our nonprofits to do that, then the better off –, the more exposure we’re going to have and the more good we can do in the world. Right? So I think that’s fantastic.
Do you have any particular tips related to creating brand ambassadors? Is there anything, in particular, you’re doing or have done that’s been very effective for that?
Lindrea: [00:12:43] So, what I’m really excited about — we’re actually working on our branding guide. And it’s exciting. When I started at the organization, we had more of a one sheet and with just a color palette typography, our logo, how to use it. Now we have an extensive guide that really talks about communicating about After School Matters as well. So we provide materials; we provide flyer templates for our instructors; we provide communication tools and tips for anybody who wants to share information about After School Matters and share our impact; we provide testimonials. And I believe that this branding guide will really help us to create more brand ambassadors, especially for staff. I believe it starts here at home. And if you’re a staff member and you have the tools and the tips, and you’re able to be confident with sharing more about the organization, and feel empowered, then you will become, not just a brand ambassador, I think you’ll become a brand champion, which I think is even stronger than an ambassador. So I think our branding guidelines will really help with that. And something that I’m doing, I’ll be doing brand champion workshops with different staff members and with instructors to really show them what it means to be a brand champion.
We also have a social media policy, which I think is great. You need a social media policy when you’re reaching so many audiences, and you don’t want people to share confidential information about teens. But what I’m excited about is that we’re going to put into place a social media playbook, and it complements the policy, because you can’t always tell people, “No, no, no, no. Don’t do this, don’t do that.” It’s always good to empower people to tell them what you can do. You know, “Here’s a great example of the type of post to share. Here’s our brand voice. This is our tone. This is our persona.” And so, what we’re actually doing is we’re empowering people to be brand ambassadors, but we’re also providing the tools for them to do it well.
So, I think sometimes we can get caught up with telling people, “Hey go talk about the organization.” But they may not have the words to say, and we can say, “Speak from your experience. But here’s a little bit more information too so that you can encourage your team to join or you can encourage someone to give to the organization.” So the social media playbook and the branding guidelines are what I’m really excited about and these brand champion workshops.
Adam: [00:15:35] That’s fantastic. You answered my last question, which is what you are excited about, and you just told me, so that’s fantastic. I love that. So let me do this — because I think we’re getting near the end of our sort of typical time. But I always like to leave with kind of some lessons from what we’ve been talking about. And so, what it sounds like to me: here are the lessons that I wrote down. I want you to tell me if I’ve got these right.
So, the first lesson was: nonprofits should definitely consider paid social media, in particular, boosts on Facebook to reach more audiences. And in doing that, should particularly focus on sharing success stories or alumni stories in order to increase supporter engagement, and ideally improve donations, right? That’s the first lesson. Does that sound about right?
Lindrea: [00:16:22] Yes.
Adam: [00:16:22] So the second lesson I’ve got was that the mistake that you would have preferred to rectify was you weren’t using strong calls to action in your social posts. You were just posting, but you weren’t really saying, “Hey, join us. Hey, give. Hey, do this next step.” You weren’t asking people for the next step. And it would have been more helpful had you been doing that consistently. So I think the lesson there is: do that consistently, right? Always make sure there’s a good solid call to action, so people know what to do next.
Lindrea: [00:16:49] Yes, absolutely. And include a link.
Adam: [00:16:54] And include a link. Yes, always include a link. That’s why I wanted to go over it with you, make sure I got all my points out. And then the last one is: you said you’re excited about the branding guide because you’re going to be able to use that and leverage that so that everybody is on the same page, everybody is speaking the same language, you’re creating brand ambassadors and brand champions that can really go out and really help you to grow your message.
Lindrea: [00:17:15] That’s absolutely it.
Adam: [00:17:20] That was great. That was so good. Well, Lindrea, this was really an amazing time. I’d love to have you back on the show again soon. Any final thoughts you want to share with us?
Lindrea: [00:17:30] I just encourage everyone to use digital media to really share the impact of their organization. I remember a while ago I read this amazing article that mentioned to use social media to appeal, appreciate and advocate. And so I leave you with that because it works for us and you’ll be able to touch several different audiences with those stories using that model. So yeah, I’m excited. I’m excited for everyone who runs not for profit centers doing marketing stuff.
Adam: [00:18:07] That’s right. Well Lindrea, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it. And thanks for listening, to all of our listeners, to the Good People Good Marketing podcast. To get more resources about nonprofit digital marketing make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blog posts, and other fun resources. Also if you want to find me, Adam, your host, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker and on my blog at adamjwalker.com where I talk about leadership and other fun and interesting things. And that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for listening and tune in next time.