My guest on the show today is Kirk Noonan. Kirk is the Vice President of Communications & Innovative at Convoy of Hope. He is a former magazine journalist. Kirk is also bent on chasing stories that can be leveraged to help those who are poor, suffering and hungry.
Highlights from this Conversation
- Story showing is helping users to feel the story, smell the soil and hear from the person being interviewed. It takes the user on a journey.
- Always show the beneficiaries being victorious.
- Nonprofits are at their best when they are connecting people to people.
- Always get more intel than you need so you can use it on a rainy day.
- Opportunity can knock you off course.
Adam: [00:00:10] Hi and welcome to the Good People Good Marketing podcast. A podcast about nonprofit digital 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 Eight, a digital marketing agency that specializes in nonprofit work and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours. On the show today I’ve got Kirk Noonan. Kirk is the vice president of communications and innovation at Convoy of Hope. He is a former magazine journalist and he is bent on chasing stories that can be leveraged to help those who are poor, suffering and hungry. I really like that last line, Kirk. What else do you want to add in about your bio for us?
Kirk: [00:00:53] I’m a dad. I’m a husband. I live in Colorado. Play a lot of basketball, and I love to ski.
Adam: [00:01:05] Man, that does not sound bad at all. I love that. I would ski too, if I was in Colorado. There’s not so much skiing in Atlanta, Georgia. Not really a thing here. So I’m missing out.
Kirk: [00:01:16] You’re welcome to come out at anytime.
Adam: [00:01:20] I may have to do that. I like Colorado. I like the mountains a lot. That will be spectacular. Well, as always on this podcast, I always like to interview people, and I ask questions related to nonprofit digital marketing. So, with that in mind, we’ll start with question number one related to nonprofit digital marketing. What has worked well for you or what’s a few things that have worked well for you?
Kirk: [00:01:41] So, one thing just across all of our platforms that we base everything on is story and our deal is like whether you’re a person that can sit down and write a $1 000 000 cheque or you’re a person who is making a cheque to cheque and you’re writing a $10 check to feed one kid in our feeding program. We always want to provide you with a great story. So, we don’t call it storytelling we call it story showing and the difference for me is storytelling is 2-D and story showing is 3-D. We always want to take readers and viewers, everybody that we’re interacting with, on our channel. We want to take them on a journey and we want to show and we don’t want to tell and we want to make them feel as if they’re with us in a developing nation maybe talking to a farmer out in one of our agricultural projects in doing some organic farming. We want them to feel like they can feel the sun searing down into their skin and smell the smell of the soil and hear from the person that we’re interviewing. So everything that we do, we’re always trying to take the reader on a journey, where we try to keep things we call it staying in a tight, light and bright.
Adam: [00:03:07] Nice.
Kirk: [00:03:09] We always want to show our beneficiaries as being victorious. And one of the great things about nonprofit work, and you know this, is you know you get an opportunity to impact someone’s life who needs some help. But there’s always the mistake when people start thinking, or organizations start thinking, that they’re the ones who empower that person to get out of their circumstance. We see ourselves just coming alongside them giving them a couple tools and that could be food, water, supplies, seeds for planting and giving them the ability to start their own business. We give them a few tools, but then that beneficiary is the one that uses those tools to make their life better. And so we get to play a part in that story. And so everything that we do is just based on story. And when we base everything on the story we see the best results.
Adam: [00:04:03] Man, I love that. I mean I’ve got chills. I love that you said, “We want to show beneficiaries being victorious.” Like that is profound and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard somebody quite verbalize it that way, but I love that approach because you are helping people, but they are overcoming, they’re being victorious. It’s not a take, take, take it’s that they’re using this tool, this benefit to then overcome something. That’s amazing.
Kirk: [00:04:34] It’s a super fun journey to be on. I was thinking about this interview and just meeting with you earlier in the week. I think nonprofits are at their best when they’re doing like what you’re doing with your podcasts. You’re trying to connect people to people and people to bigger ideas that can change the world. And when you do that it has like a domino effect that just reaches out to lands and the people that you can never even imagine, but then it also hits that first domino that gets knocked over and it changes their lives. And I think that’s what’s so exciting about nonprofit work and about nonprofit digital marketing and about just connecting with you today. It’s just such a neat thing that there’s so many people that are bent on doing good in this world.
Adam: [00:05:27] Yeah that’s right. And if we can bring more of those people together we can partner together we can do more good together utilizing our collective intelligence and networks and experiences. I think the whole ship rises together.
Kirk: [00:05:42] Absolutely.
Adam: [00:05:44] I love that, and I love the way that you phrase that -story showing is 3-D. And I think that’s a really clever way to think about it because too often we look at our content, and it’s, “We’re going to write this flat piece of content to get out there to help people, it’s a help article, and we’re going to do this one video, and we’re going to this one thing.” But no, if you’re really going to dig in, you have to show them in so many different ways and so many different contexts so they can really understand the depth of what we’re doing in our nonprofits and how we’re really impacting these communities.
Kirk: [00:06:16] Yeah, one of the things I always tell people when it comes to the showing of a story is Disney is known for like the suspension of disbelief. So, if you watch their movies all of a sudden you’re with Captain Jack Sparrow, and you’re in the Caribbean, you’re chasing these treasures. When you walk on to one of their properties, the moment you walk on the property you start looking around and all the sight lines to the outside world are gone. And I think you can apply the same fictional principles to nonfictional stories, so that when you’re taking that reader along they’re going to smell, feel, taste hear all the things that the reporter is getting to do.
And then when you translate that into a video, into a story it’s just amazing how it moves people, and then your job is that marketer that communicator’s made that much easier. I mean there’s nothing worse than coming back from an around the world trip, and you don’t have all the assets to help show a story that you were planning to use. And so you know that’s something that you learn early on like it’s better to collect too much information and find out, start digging beneath the surface on your programs and what you’re doing to help the beneficiary. And then when you come back it’s better to have way more stuff that you’re just putting in a stockpile than to comeback short. You have to encourage people that are leading their marketing teams, or the marketers as you know always get more intel than you need so that you can use the excess for a rainy day.
Adam: [00:07:52] Oh, I love that. Making a note right there. So, my next question, also of course related to nonprofit digital marketing, is can you share something that has not worked well for you that we can learn from?
Kirk: [00:08:08] Yeah, that’s a good. ..I love that question. I mean when I heard that question a couple of days ago, I’ve just kind of pondering it thinking about like specific examples, but if you pull back a little bit from a specific example to just bigger ideas. Like when you’re a nonprofit and you start to get some momentum, one of the things that happens with a nonprofit and the people that run nonprofits and that includes a marketing team, is you start getting that momentum and it’s not always challenges that knock you off course it’s opportunity that knocks you off course. So, what I mean by that is if you get to a certain level in your career you’ve learned to deal with challenges and that’s the reason why you’re at where you’re at in your career. But sometimes an opportunity, the ones that come out of left field or the ones are just sitting right front of you, sometimes those are the things that take you off your mission, and you should never have mission drift no matter what the opportunity.
So we’ve been approached many times with unbelievable opportunities and then when you start to like peel back the onion on that opportunity, sometimes there’s costs associated with them, sometimes there’s just inherent things that start pulling you off from your mission. Sometimes there’s philosophical differences that can take you, make you start drifting away from where your program should be. So whenever you start seeing those types of things that are coming with the deal no matter how great the deal looks, no matter how much money it will bring in, no matter how much market expansion you’ll have, I always just walk away from those deals, and you can usually see them pretty quickly as you start digging in the details. As soon as you start seeing them, that’s when you need to start running because I’ve never seen one of those deals where my gut is saying, “Hey, don’t do this, there’s too many costs involved, there’s there’s too much risk involved.” I’ve never seen one of those deals become like a super fruitful deal.
The deals where I’ve seen that are the crazy, great deals are the ones where innovation, creativity, strategy you start getting connecting like we were talking about earlier- connecting people to this bigger idea and all of a sudden it starts like creating a life of its own and you start bringing up partners that they fit just perfectly into this crazy ball of chaos and the next thing you know, you have a super successful campaign going. And I think if you’re a marketer you’re by nature, an entrepreneur, and that’s where marketers, entrepreneurs, get that fuel to wake up and go to work the next day and be super stoked about what’s going on is when you’re dealing with something that looks like it could be out of control, but you control what you can, and you start capitalizing and the next thing you know, you have a great campaign. Not only does the organization do well, but most importantly the beneficiary does well, and you can start helping more and more people.
And then the domino effect happens on the people that join the partners, the people that have donated, the team that you have and then the teams within the bigger team. Great stuff starts happening. So that’s when I see that I get super pumped up, and I go, “Oh, man, we’re on the money right now. This is the right place to be.”
Adam: [00:11:43] Yeah. I loved what you said. You said, “Opportunity can knock you off course,” and you were talking about very high-level opportunities like partnerships and things like that. but there’s even like low-level daily partnered like opportunities that can knock you off course. You see there’s a new tool that can help me with my e-mail, and then you dump four hours into that new tool and just to find out, “Oh, that really wasn’t as helpful as I thought it would be. Let me move on.” And you’ve lost your whole day. As a general rule recognizing that that opportunity has a chance to create mission, drift is just a really good thing for it to be on our radar in general as nonprofit leaders.
Kirk: [00:12:25] Absolutely. Another another thing you’re talking about what hasn’t worked. Sometimes when you hire an employee, if you find the right employee especially with nonprofits. I’ve hired people that their skill set might not have been at the top shelf, but their heart is like way beyond the top shelf. So sometimes you roll the dice, and you take a chance on some people, and you bring them in, and other times you bring in people that have these huge skill sets, but they’re kind of lacking kind of like the whole mission of the organization.
And sometimes I’m not quick to fire people, I’m equipped to find people’s wheel houses and sometimes when you start moving people around the chessboard, and you start finding like where their sweet spot is, what you hire them for they might be doing some of that, but they end up doing a entirely different portfolio. And then the whole team starts working really well together, but I think that’s a part if you’re a marketing leader and you’re leading a team that’s one of your most crucial jobs. Not only showing these stories, but also going out and working with your team and finding their sweet spots because there’s so many surprises when you do that. It’s like super fascinating, super fun and it makes the adventure of chasing the story. You’re chasing some great stories within your environs of where you were. So those are always super important.
Adam: [00:14:00] Yeah, and I can tell you I’ve had a direct experience with that exact thing. We hired a girl from a digital marketing agency as well as a nonprofit and we hired a girl for our agency probably about a year and a half ago to be a project manager. And she just wasn’t thriving in that role, realized that she was going to quit and I said, “Well, don’t quit. Let’s have you do this instead.” And so then she just kind of stepped into a different role and was kind of doing several different things and then just within the last month she’s been able to step even into a more admin managerial sort of role and she’s like, “This is my dream job, I love this.” And I’m looking at her going, “Yeah, you’re doing an amazing job at it and helping us in a way that I didn’t even know we needed to be helped as an organization.” And so she was the right fit culturally. She just wasn’t quite the right fit for the job and we were finally able over a year and a half time to get her into exactly the right job for her and I’m really excited for her and for the organization.
Kirk: [00:14:57] Yeah, I love that. It’s so fun when you see it all come together and when you have a bunch of people who are bent on doing something great to help the poor , the suffering the hungry. It’s just amazing what can happen. And that’s where I think marketing leaders, that’s probably like the biggest mantel you can carry as you go about your daily duties.
Adam: [00:15:25] Yeah, absolutely. That’s amazing. So my last question which is probably the most fun question of the bunch is related to digital marketing and digital marketing for nonprofits. Tell me something you’re excited about.
Kirk: [00:15:36] So right now Convoy of Hope is based in Springfield, Missouri. And then in May of last year, I moved up to Colorado to the Fort Collins area. And the idea was to open another office which would be an extension of our communications and innovation team. Over that time as we’ve been building this office we kind of saw that we’d probably be more strategic and a little bit stronger if we just concentrated on innovation. So right now we’re in the midst of opening up the office, and it’s going to be called the Convoy of Hopes Innovation Lab of Sport, Entrepreneurship, and Entertainment.
And so we’re partnering with some pretty big organizations and businesses and just doing some kind of creative things to show our story and to show their story too. So for instance in December we partnered with the Forty-Niners and being a California kid, I love the Forty-Niners. And to be a great fit for a partnership and what we did is we had an event. We have these community events at Convoy of Hope. We do about twenty-five or thirty of them a year, or we go into communities and we become a catalyst to help the working poor and so each person that comes on onsite… and they’re usually held in local parks. We get churches, businesses, organizations from the community to come together for one day and every honored guest that comes onto the site they end up leaving with anywhere from probably $300 to $500 worth of goods and services and so there’s beauticians and barbers they’re cutting hair.
We partner with Tom Shoes, who’re putting these great shoes on the kids. Schools will get together and they’ll do backpacks so they give away to the kids and then doctors, dentists they come in they do a health screenings, they give out toothbrushes and then there’s a huge kids zone and everything’s free and then they get a meal and then as they’re leaving, we give them several bags of groceries just to help offset the burden of the financial pressure that they’re feeling. So we took that model and we applied it to the Forty-Niners and so the Forty- Niners held it in the Levi’s Stadium. And it’s like four stories high. Where they have like all the atriums and stuff. And so we had all the players from the Niners and all their staff spread out and we had our convoy team there and last year in December we did like fifteen hundred kids came through and they’re all local agencies that the Niners work with. We have a convoy ambassador on the team who is a player. This year that player is Bradley Pinyon. He’s a punter for the Niners. He went to Clemson (18:47) and he’s a great guy, he’s super bent on helping change the world for good. And he got nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, so that was super exciting.
And what happens is when you make those good partnerships like where it’s a win-win for both organizations is that that domino effect starts rolling and so not only for convoying for me for being a forty-niner fan, but also for Bradley and then he is rallying his teammates in the locker room to get involved and then the kids that come in, the beneficiaries that come in, they’re the ones where you get to see at that moment, you get to see all of this hard work, all of this marketing, all these partnerships, all these deals that have to be cut. It all comes to life for like three or four hours, and it’s an amazing experience. My thing is if you have big dreams to partner with big organizations I would never dreamed we’d be able to partner with the Niners, but now that we’ve done it I’m ready to go tackle the rest of the NFL.
Adam: [00:19:59] I love that. Dream big. I mean why not? I think even small nonprofits can get in the door in unusual places and do unusual things if they’re willing to ask the right questions and be tenacious enough to go about it.
Kirk: [00:20:14] Absolutely, man. When you’re doing good stuff people notice. A couple of years ago typhoon Haiyan hit. Stephen Colbert, their producer, called us and I guess we’re probably like the fifth or sixth non-profit they called and they said, “Hey, we want to help you guys do a fundraiser on our team. We’re going to do a text to give on our program. We’re going to do a text to give.” And so we said, “Sure, we’ll do it.” So we sent them a bunch of assets and they went on to the show. Colbert made a pitch for Convoy of Hope and it generated through text giving around $365 000. When a leftfield crazy idea just flies in, it’s an opportunity. I think it’s like four or five nonprofits that were bigger than us said “no”. They thought it was a prank or they didn’t want to get involved for whatever reason. We rolled the dice and it ended up being $365 000 for the people that were impacted by the typhoon. So that’s pretty awesome.
Adam: [00:21:18] Wow. Man, that’s amazing. I love that, yeah. They thought it was a prank. I can see that. Well, this has been so good. Let me let me recap some of the lessons here, you can tell me if you want to add anything to these. Share some final thoughts and then we’ll wrap this thing up. So under what’s worked well for you you talked about how story showing is a 3-D experience where you’re immersing the person in that story so they can feel the sun, they can smell the soil, they can hear the person that’s being interviewed and really understand them at a deeper level and you take the reader on a journey and in particular the line you used in there that I thought was just, I’ve got it bold it here in my notes, profound is: show the beneficiaries being victorious. I love that. I can’t tell you how much I love that. That’s unbelievable.
You also mentioned that nonprofits are at their best when they’re connecting people to people. Which I totally agree with and always get more intel than you need so you can use it on a rainy day, which is just good advice all around. Did I miss anything on the stuff that’s worked well for you?
Kirk: [00:22:24] No, that’s perfect. I guess the way I’d end it is the way I end lot of conversations with my kids who are all teenagers now. I always tell them if you come to a fork in the road and you can take the path of adventure, or you can play it safe, always take the path of adventure because that’s where all the stories are.
Adam: [00:22:44] That’s right. That’s right. You and me both, man. I think marketers like the path of adventure. I’m a big fan. I love that advice. I may have to start giving that. That’s good. Next was what has not worked well for you? And you mentioned simply that opportunity can knock you off course and be careful that that opportunity does not come along and cause mission drift, which I think is really helpful advice for everybody in particular even at a personal level. That’s really helpful advice. And then what are you excited about? Moving to your new office in Colorado, partnering with organizations to do creative storytelling like the Forty-Niners and have big dreams to partner with big organizations to do big things that you never thought possible.
Kirk: [00:23:29] Absolutely. That’s the only way to live, man.
Adam: [00:23:33] I totally agree. Do you have any any final thoughts for our listeners here?
Kirk: [00:23:37] Hey, I just want to say thank you for doing this. I love the idea. I love meeting people who are just crazy about doing stuff that’s going to help make the world a better place, but they are also crazy about connecting people to people and people to bigger ideas that can change the world and that you’re doing that through this podcast and it’s just an honor to be invited to be on it. And it’s just been great to get to know you better, and I hope we have some adventures in the near future.
Adam: [00:24:09] I can fully imagine that, and I will definitely have you back on this podcast because this has been an unbelievable conversation. So with that said, Kirk thanks so much for being a part of the podcast and thank you, listeners, for listening to Good People Good Marketing to get more resources about nonprofit digital marketing make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also if you want to find me, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog at adamjwalker.com or my blog about leadership, productivity, habit building and the semi-insanity of having five children and the adventures related to that. Thanks for listening and tune in next time.