Lessons from the 2018 Washington Nonprofit Conference

The most important thing that we learned about from the 2018 Washington Nonprofit Conference can be summed up into one word: Data. As a small and fairly new nonprofit, our marketing and advertising efforts have been miniscule in comparison to many of the other organizations that we interacted with. Inspired by all of the useful information at the conference, we came up with six different areas that we can improve upon moving forward. We will apply the strategies that we learned about to our class marketing, website, social media presence, donor information, and fundraising efforts.

In regards to our class marketing, we realize that we should definitely analyze and evaluate the types, locations, and times of our classes. Some of our classes perform better than others and we don’t have solid evidence to prove why. Furthermore, since we are a mobile company, we do not have the opportunity to engage with our consumers in person on a regular basis. For this reason, we have not done any research on the customer experience and satisfaction with our services. We have also become aware of the fact that our services cater to populations other than children with special needs. For example, parents, center directors, and even our own staff members have a role in our services and we have not made efforts to gain feedback from them. In order to address these needs, we have discussed bringing back monthly newsletters, highlighting staff members and students on our social media, interviewing parents, and looking at similar organizations to gauge what they do differently from us. By engaging in all of these preliminary steps, we hope to portray a better illustration of what services we have to offer and enhance the user experience for everyone involved.

Many of the issues we have had with marketing our classes are influenced by our website. We, as the founders, have no prior experience with graphic design or creating a website. In many of the sessions at the conference, we were provided with a variety of tools to use to make our website more effective. Our initial steps include reflecting on the intent of our website and making it more user-friendly for our consumers. We would like to make the website easier to navigate and therefore need to add buttons for each of the populations that we serve (i.e. donors, parents, service providers, etc.). Due to our mobile status, we also realized that it would be helpful to add a “Find a class” function to ease the search process for interested parties. During our time at the conference, we were able to network with a few individuals from marketing agencies. We will definitely be in touch with them for feedback and guidance.

Up until this point, our social media posts were inconsistent and far from data-driven. We now recognize the value of utilizing data analysis tools to expand our social media presence. The session about testing ads and using behavioral science to reach our audience were definitely eye-opening. After the conference, we resolved to become more familiar with iMovie, YouTube, and Facebook ads. We plan to brainstorm more marketing goals to guide our advertising content and target donors in addition to parents and site directors.

The areas of fundraising and donors go hand in hand. Fundraising is impossible without donors, but we need to ensure that our donors feel appreciated. In order to build capital, we must analyze our donor base, fundraising trends, and networking relationships. We especially enjoyed the session about how to use Kickstarter effectively. Prior to that session, we did not realize how much time and effort goes into the pre-campaign efforts of a Kickstarter. Consequently, we now know to make sure we have a plan should our Kickstarter campaign fail. Contingency plans are essential when executing a large event. Despite the risks that accompany launching a Kickstarter campaign, we are determined to put our ideas into action soon!

The 2018 Washington Nonprofit Conference was an invaluable learning opportunity for our team and we gained useful insight in a variety of areas. We plan to implement the strategies that we learned into improving our class marketing, website, social media presence, donor base, and fundraising efforts. In the future, we plan to attend the conference again with even larger goals and hopefully more data to bring to the discussion.