6 Questions To Ask When Considering a Rebrand

Rebrand Drake Strategies

Imagine you're scrolling Instagram. What brands can you recognize in an instant? Chances are posts by RED, Nike or the UN may catch your eye without even looking at the caption. Why? These brands have worked hard at branding every aspect of their organizations. 

If you're considering a rebrand, don't be intimated. You don't need million dollar budgets to capture your audience's attention. You just need consistency and a clear brand vision.

Today, our goal is to equip with you six questions you should be asking if your organization is considering a rebrand.

Question 1: What does your data say?

Does your data show a sudden new wave of interest? Are you campaigns not meeting goals or previous years expectations? Are you plateauing? Once you start to spot trends in your data, you can determine whether or not a rebrand will empower you to grow and create a larger impact.

Question 2: Is your engagement plateauing?

If your supporters aren't continually supporting you or if they have lost enthusiasm, it's a good time to ask yourself why. Perhaps you're not communicating enough. Maybe your message is falling flat. Either way, a good communications strategy empowers you to gradually grow over time, so if you aren't growing and remaining stagnant, you need to figure out why.

Question 3: How are you internal communications?

This will become very important if you embark on a rebrand, as your team is your key to successfully launching a new brand, message or story. You need to get the pulse of where your team is. A strong internal team reflects externally. If you are transparent and listen to the concerns of your team - then address them before moving forward - your rebrand will be much more successful.

Question 4: What tools are at your disposal?

This is an important one. A rebrand can range from big to small and what you need may or may not extend beyond your internal capabilities. Perhaps you need an entire firm, or perhaps you have the talent on your team. Most likely, you will need a mix of outside help that comes alongside your team to get the job done. Whatever the case, set your budget so that you stay on track and focus on the elements that matter most for your organization.

Question 5: When is the last time you updated your design?

Perhaps your website isn’t mobile friendly. Maybe you only post on Instagram during your fall gala and let it lay dormant the rest of the year. An updated, consistent design can go a long way to refreshing your brand.

Question 6: What is the goal of your rebrand?

This is true in all communications. It is not enough to say more engagement or more funding for programs. When you know what impact you want to make with a rebrand, you can better drive results.

In general, if you are considering a rebrand, start having conversations with your staff and key stakeholders. Look for trends and overlap in their responses and then build out a plan that empowers your team and gets you toward your ultimate goal. There are plenty of tools out there that can fit any budget. Someone may have $100,000 for a rebrand and someone else may only have $100. You have to work with what you have, but by telling an inspiring story, with a clear call to action and clean, consistent design, you’ll be well on your way to elevating your impact and getting the results you aspire to.

StefaniZimmermanDrake Blog Entry Headshot.jpg

Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + recognized by HoneyBook and Rising Tide Society as 20 On The Rise for her advocacy work, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits, businesses + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dogs. 

Mastering Nonprofit Communications:  Three Short Lessons 

Winkler Group for Drake Strategies

Messaging in the nonprofit world is just as important as in corporate America. But instead of getting someone to buy a product, our goal is donor investment in our communities, our universities, our churches.  

Embrace Vanity

In today’s donor-speak, a three-letter word is all the rage.  The word is not “now,” although conveying a sense of urgency is always important.  It’s not “yes” or “why.”

The word of the day is “you.” It’s called donor-centric fundraising—a strategy that is less about an organization’s accomplishments and more about the emotions that come with making a gift. For example, “Because of you, 100 more students will walk across the stage at graduation” or “Your contribution is the reason this family stayed together in their home.”

Perhaps it’s a result of our narcissistic society.  Maybe the blame falls on our attention-craving leaders or the rise of the selfie.  Whatever the reason, it’s all about ourselves—even as we help others.    

But maybe harnessing the power of the good feeling isn’t all bad.

A 2015 conversation with Draymond Green, the Golden State Warrior’s power forward, shows the power of emotion. He pledged $3.1 million to his alma mater, Michigan State.  The motivations behind his gift are self-centered yet inspiring. 

Green had spoken with Tom Izzo, his former coach, about giving.  Izzo talked about the $1 million donation he had made to Michigan State four years earlier.  Green explained, “He said it was one of the happiest moments of his life.  I wanted that feeling.”

Stop Throwing Stats at Us

A few years ago, a commercial caught my attention, and not because it was amusing or compelling, but because it was so boring.  It was a campaign to stop government funding cuts to hospitals. The ad was a litany of stats: every year, 5.6 million hospital workers conduct 23 million surgeries, deliver 3.7 million babies, and treat 133 million ER patients. 

The flood of numbers numbed my brain. When numbers get that big and abstract, they lose their impact.  They could’ve said 100 million surgeries instead of 23 million surgeries and the result would’ve been the same.  The numbers were just too big to grasp, and there were too many of them.    

Real-life stories would’ve told a different story. Show the baby who would’ve died if not for the doctors and hospital equipment that saved her. Talk about the dad who lived to walk his daughter down the aisle--thanks only to the ER that saved his life.  Bring in emotions and the ad works.

A campaign here in South Carolina used stats, but in a way that was effective.  It was a campaign to reduce traffic deaths.  A reporter asked people on the street, “How many people died on our highways last year?” One said 55,000.  Another guessed 500,000. 

When the reporter asked next, “what is a reasonable goal for reducing traffic fatalities in South Carolina,” most responded that the number should be cut in half. Sensible enough, until the next question.

“What is a reasonable goal for traffic fatalities in your family?” asks the interviewer. The people being interviewed had a shocked look on their face because the question was no longer in the abstract.  It became personal, and the message hit home. 

The Donor as Hero

Donors want to solve a problem.  If nothing is wrong, why does anyone need their donations?

Too many nonprofits are afraid to be negative.  They want only optimistic messaging and pictures of happy children.  If you run a food bank or an animal shelter, it’s okay to show pictures of hungry people or homeless dogs because they evoke strong emotions.  They show the problem only a donor can solve.   

A few years ago, the YMCA rebranded itself as The Y.  The messaging that went with the rebranding was powerful because it set up the Y as the problem solver.  

If you haven’t seen the ads, here’s a brief description of the one called Idle Hands.  

It starts with children looking bored.  They’re wasting time and play fighting. You get the sense that trouble is lurking just around the corner. An ominous voice begins, “Idle hands. They say they’re the devil’s workshop. Easy targets.”

Then, new video appears.  It’s brighter, more cheerful.  Students are working on crafts and other projects.  They’re choosing constructive activities like doing their homework or playing basketball …at the Y, of course. 

Kevin Brady, the ad’s executive creative director, explained the reasoning behind the story.  “You don't tend to give money when everything is perfect, you give it when there is a true, urgent need, and the Y is addressing those needs every day of the week." 

Well said.

Jessica Browning Winkler Group

Jessica Browning is the Senior Vice President of Communications for the Winkler Group, a full-service fundraising firm specializing in capital campaigns and planning studies.  Ms. Browning has 25 years of nonprofit marketing and development experience.  She received a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. and M.B.A. from William & Mary.  Follow Jessica @jwjbrowning or @winklergroup.

Mapping the North Carolina Botanical Garden

01_cover3_IMG_5448.JPG

This blog originally appeared on Diagram Office's Medium Account on July 27, 2017. You can find the original post here

The North Carolina Botanical Garden is part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was built to promote plant conservation and advance sustainable relations between people and nature. The Garden is comprised of 10 acres of display gardens, classrooms and a visitor center, and several miles nature trails.

The Garden needed a new master map that was user friendly, reflected their new brand identity, and accurately depicted the lush, hilly landscape of the region.

02_IMG_5394.JPG

Log cabin in the Mountain Habitat of the Garden

03_original_map.jpg

The original Garden Map

The original map was poorly oriented as visitors only enter the Garden facing south, which meant the map was inverted from visitor’s first encounter with the space. It also didn’t show the nature trails to the south of the Garden and gave too much prominence to the parking area.

After doing an initial drawing, flipping the orientation, and adjusting the scale of the parking area, the next step involved a series of colors studies to determine the basic tone of the map.

04_colorStudies.jpg

There are two approaches to map base colors: light backgrounds with dark labels, or dark background with light labels. We choose to proceed with a darker green style to mimic the lush greens of the physical garden. After choosing a general direction, I further studied the green tones to find the perfect balance.

05_ToneStudy.jpg

Left: light green with black labels. Right: dark green with white labels.

An important feature to show was the significant elevation changes on the nature trails. I explored several options for showing the elevation using contour lines and shading.

06_TopoStudy.jpg

Left: top down lighting. Right: shaded relief

The Garden wanted to show the canopy covering the Display Gardens and nature trails. We went through several iterations of tree cover to find a style that would work both on the overview map, and a cropped map of the Display Gardens.

07_canopyStudy.jpg

Final Maps

From the beginning, the goal was to create a map that could show the overall trail system, and also be cropped to show the Display Garden in more detail. Below are the two final maps.

08_Final_NCBG_masterMap.jpg

Each trail color was selected to match existing trail markers, and new colors were chosen for the trails that were not yet marked.

The label colors were selected from the Garden’s brand palette and will be used to inform the colors of the wayfinding system within the garden. The orange of the Education Center was also selected from the brand palette and mimics the browns of the physical building.

The new maps will serve as both a template for future maps around the UNC campus and a start on further wayfinding upgrades at the Garden.

09_ncbgmap.jpg
headshot.jpg

Sam is a Raleigh native and NCSU College of Design alumnus. He fell in love with infographics, data, and maps while working at Two Twelve in New York City. He specializes in making information visually concise, beautiful and accessible. Sam's clients include Bloomberg, WIRED, The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Outside the studio, Sam studies and performs improv comedy and reads lots of books.

Libris: 3 Tips for Impactful Data-Driven Visual Storytelling

Drake Strategies Visual Storytelling

This blog originally appeared on Libris by Photoshelter on August 9, 2018. You can find the original blog post here

Data and visual storytelling make up a one-two punch for brands struggling to cut through the clutter and engage their audiences. 

Every day, through their work at Drake Strategies, strategy consultant Stefani Drake and photographer Joshua Drake help nonprofits and NGOs, businesses and humanitarians create visually engaging, data-driven content. At the 2018 AMA Nonprofit Conference, they shared best practices for combining data and visual storytelling to improve your marketing results.

Now, these experts are sharing their secrets with us. Here are three tips for impactful data-driven visual storytelling – straight from Stefani Drake.

Strategy Consultant Stefani Drake’s 3 Tips for Data-Driven Storytelling

1. Use data to tell a story.

When someone hears data, they often think of data engineers or Cambridge Analytica. Rest assured, the point of this post isn’t to make you feel inadequate, it is to empower you with tools to spot trends in your available data.

When looking at data, you need to have the full picture. Pull in every resource available to you, including: website analytics, social media analytics, email analytics, field + program data, monitoring + evaluation, donor databases and more. There are several platforms available to you, like CyfeHubspot + CrowdSkout that can take in your available data, compare it side by side and give you a better understanding of where your challenges are, what message is working and where you need to shift your focus.

The point of data isn’t to overwhelm, it is to inform you on who your audience is, what they are responding to and why they are most likely to engage with your message. So ask yourself questions. Ask yourself why a social media post may have been more effective than the previous. Figure out why certain donors dropped off last year. And experiment so that you have more information to compare. 

Once you understand who you are engaging with, what compels them to take action and what message is most effective, you are well on your way to telling a powerful, action driven story.

2. Capture attention with creative, consistent design.

Next, you need to package your information in creative, compelling ways. Good design will capture people’s attention. Paragraphs of text won’t. 

But let’s think creatively for a moment. If your organization served 2,500 people last year, so what? How is that relatable to someone on Instagram? A more powerful message is showing that nearly 7 people a day walked through your doors last year. 

Get creative. 

Be consistent.

What do we mean by that? When you’re scrolling Instagram, think of those accounts where you immediately recognize a post, without even looking at who posted it. Consistency creates brand awareness and allows your supporters to spot you in a crowded room. 

And for those people who don’t have a graphic designer in-house, have no fear. There are user friendly graphic design tools like Canva and Adobe Spark that make it easy for you to set your brand’s style and tone. And Lightroom has filters you can use to keep a consistent look on all your photos.

3. Connecting the head and the heart.

By now you know the importance of a story, but it’s the imagery that you use which truly will captivate your audience. The average lifespan of a photo is 7 seconds. So how do you arrest your audience and engage them?

Video is a great tool to captivate your audience and double the time they will view your content. We always reference a recent study by Libris on visual marketing trends. More and more brands are investing in video.

Our team photographer, Joshua Drake, recommends learning to tell a story in four photos or less: sense of place, interaction, details and portraiture. 

Here’s Joshua’s take:

“It seems impossible at first, but when you think through how you can tell your audience the story you see unfolding, you have to give them a sense of place, an action shot and a picture of the person for whom you are telling the story. If you have the space, a detail shot always adds a layer of context. Ultimately, your goal is to arrest people with an image – so that they stop the scroll – and begin to relate to the story you are telling. If you can achieve that, you are well on your way to creating connectedness with your audience and inspiring them to take action.”

Want to learn more? View all of our best practices here. The difference between good storytelling and great storytelling is in the details. Elevate your brand and expand your impact.

Kristin Twiford Libris

Kristin is the Content Marketing Manager for Libris. She covers visual storytelling trends and best practices here on the Libris blog and uses her background in television production, daily news and communications to shoot, produce, edit and publish video content for social media, marketing and sales.

InterAction: Reflections From Forum 2018

Stefani Zimmerman Drake InterAction Forum 2018

This blog originally appeared on InterAction's blog on July 5, 2018. You can find the original post here

With an increasing partisan divide throughout our nation and the world, it's important to tell your story. I acknowledge that it is easier said than done, but after attending Forum 2018 I cannot stress how vital it is to share your passions with the world. 

As I sat in breakout sessions, watched humanitarians receive awards and networked with amazing people who give their all, it became clear to me that your stories need to be told. The story of InterAction bringing together hundreds of change-makers is important and needs to be told. The innovative solutions to solving complex problems needs to be told. The unifying passion of thinking beyond oneself to reach others needs to be told. 

My team was awarded the opportunity to lead a breakout session at the Forum. Our goal? To empower humanitarians with visual branding tips that will further their impact. We want to make this information accessible for all because we see your passion and believe in your mission.

Below are three best practices to propel you and your team forward to reach the right audience:

1. Not all data is created equal, but all of it is important.

Gone are the days of silos and huge corporate structures and in are the days of collaboration and information sharing. You need to view all available analytics to spot trends, failures and implement strategy, but you should never forget that everyone on the team holds valuable information that needs to be shared to strengthen your story.

Case and point? M+E data. While we work hard to identify indicators and measure goals, outcomes, and outputs for our log-frames, none of that matters if no one knows about it. Of course, you will share this information with your partners, but how can you share your successes, failures and discoveries with your communications team so that they can bring that story to life?

When an organization has strong internal communications, it will have strong external communications. Make it easy for your teams to share stories, pitch new ideas and submit honest feedback. Only then will you be able to implement a strong communication strategy that reaches more people.

2. Consistency is key for branding.

While we all understand the value of data, the importance of a consistent brand can often be overlooked. Remember, for someone outside of your organization to remember your message you must reach them 7 times in 3 different formats. So, make it easy for them and stand out in a crowd.

While design and branding may sound intimidating for type-A data nerds like myself, it is vitally important for others to remember your organization. So be consistent and use clean design. If your logo colors are grey and red, don't use purple and pink on social media. Your brand should look and feel the same across all platforms.

3. Imagery connects the head to the heart.

Let's face it. Text heavy reports, collateral materials, and online news articles don't make nearly the same impact as a simple photograph. Bring your content to life with imagery and video. A good photo can make someone stop and pay attention. In a world of over-saturation, you can't afford anything else.

And telling your story through photographs can be simple enough. If you have to tell a story in three photos or less, make sure you show the landscape/setting, capture an empowering portrait, and show your work in action. 

Whether you are part of a large NGO, a small grassroots organization, or are a boots-on-the-ground humanitarian, your work is important and deserves an audience willing to receive it. Through a smart digital strategy and simple design, you can reach more people and inspire them to take action.

StefaniZimmermanDrake Blog Entry Headshot.jpg

Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + certified in Google Analytics, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dogs.

The Power in Unifying Voices

US Congressman and Human Right Champion Frank Wolf | Drake Strategies

It's not every day you bring together 15,000 refugees to advocate for peace. So, when the opportunity arises, you must have a unified message in order to amplify your impact and create change.

On Monday, we organized an advocacy day for Karen refugees from Burma. Their message was not only about the safety and security of their families back home, it was about the safety and security of all persecuted people within Burma. That is powerful.

But why? 

If you have studied Burmese history, you may know that it is common for ethnic groups to be pitted against one another. Having no authority over what is taught in their schools, children are forced to learn whatever the government tells them to and they have little access to free press or alternative news sources. 

Knowing this, it is quite impressive that an ethnic group that has faced persecution for decades, stands united with all religious and ethnic minorities: including the Kachin, Shan and Rohingya. Their message for peace extends far beyond their immediate concern for family members, as they have unified and advocate for peace for all people who live in Burma.

That is powerful.

Our role was to facilitate press, connect the leadership team with the high-level leaders who can advocate that the US government change policy, and bring human rights leaders to speak at the event. Former Congressmen and Human Rights Champions Frank Wolf and Tony Hall spoke to the crowd of 15,000 at the US Capitol, calling on the government to reimpose sanctions and formally take steps to launch an investigation into genocide.

These actions will make a difference. As the Karen come back to Washington every year and share their stories of violence and persecution, they are unifying their message and reaching the changemakers who can implement US policy. 

Everyone who traveled to Washington on Monday is to be applauded for their perseverance and dedication to all minorities within Burma. Together, their unified voice will make a difference for all. 

StefaniZimmermanDrake Blog Entry Headshot copy.jpeg

Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + certified in Google Analytics, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dog. 

Reflections from the #NonprofitSTRONG Summit

Drake Strategies Nonprofit Strong Summit

Here at Drake Strategies, we believe in empowering nonprofits and others who aim to go good throughout the world. As part of our story, we are committed to sharing our knowledge with others so that all nonprofits and NGOs, regardless of size and budget, are able to apply best practices to their work and create measurable impacts in their field.

Last week, our mission took us to Raleigh, NC to speak at YNPN Triangle’s #NonprofitSTRONG Summit. Our focus? Visual branding for impact. Whether you’re a team of 1 or a team of 100, our belief is that a strong communications strategy, coupled with consistent branding and imagery, will create the impact you need to do more good.

1. Data

Communications should begin and end with data. Whether you are examining your Google Analytics, social media + email analytics, donor database or programmatic data, it all matters. Your data will tell you what resonates with your audience and what falls flat. Pay attention to your message failures so that you can change course and spend that energy on messaging that works and gets the results you need to expand your misson.

Looking at all your data sets together also helps you spot trends. You can get a better picture of your audience through your data and learn how they prefer to hear from you, what moves them to action and what may have prompted them to get involved in the first place. Once you know this, you are equipped to map out a stronger, more effective communications strategy. And don’t forget that everyone on your team has data - from programming, success stories or creative brainstorming sessions, collaboration is key to a stronger, more unified message.

2. Design

Now that you have your data, what do you do with it? Graphics can make your data more compelling. For example, if your nonprofit treated 2,400 people last year you can make it more moving by saying that every day, 7 people walked through your doors. Then visually show that with a door and seven people icons.

Branding is important too. Whether you have a large budget allocated toward branding and marketing, or a small one, it's important to remain consistent. Have a set font, color palate and writing guidelines. You want your organization to look, sound and feel the same across all communication platforms so that your supporters can recognize you in an instance.

3. Visuals

While understanding your data and having a consistent brand are important, you still need to move people to action. What better way to do this than through imagery? Photographs and video are the most effective way to get people to stop and pay attention to your story. Using quality images that tell your story will create inspired action.

As a word of caution, be sure that you are empowering others through imagery and telling a powerful story that you would be proud to be part of. Thankfully, most nonprofits agree that using imagery to manipulate others to give is outdated and wrong. The focus should be on coming together and lifting one another up. 

In the end, whether you have a budget for brand development or not, any organization can achieve a cohesive, powerful brand by understanding its data, using consistent design elements and telling a story through imagery. Your passion for the work you do deserves a brand that moves people to action. These simple best practices will put you on the path to expanding your influence and achieving the mission you set out to do.

StefaniZimmermanDrake Blog Entry Headshot.jpg

Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + certified in Google Analytics, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dog. 

How Data Gives You a Better Picture

When I'm speaking with nonprofits and NGOs, I fully expect that not everyone in the room is going to have access to analytics or all data points. After all, communications is usually reserved for a specific team and the siloing process begins. (That's a whole topic in and of itself, but we'll save that for later.)

However, I was shocked when I read a recent report from Google that stated only 17% of marketers looked at all their data together. My mind was blown. As communicators, we need to understand our audience. We need to know what drives them, what messaging inspires others and what falls flat. Data is at the foundation of any successful campaign.

But data doesn't just exist in Google or in our social media accounts. It can be pulled from the field, from projects, from donors, from our marketing work and more. In today's blog, I want to discuss the various types of data and how a small team can use them to bring synergy and purpose to any communications effort.

1. Data, Data, Data

There are the obvious ways a communications team collects data. Be it Google Analytics, social media analytics, or email analytics, just about every form of communication has performance indicators. But where else can you begin to understand supporters? Have regular lines of communication open both internally and externally so you can collect additional information.

Whether it is an occasional survey or focus group to your donors, team feedback or annual reviews, data can be harnessed from everyone your organization interacts with. And don't forget to loop in everyone on your team. From donor databases, to M+E tools in the field, everyone has valuable information to bring to the table.

2. Bringing it all Together

Now that you have all this data, let's take a closer look. Cyfe is a free tool that I love to use. It has a platform that allows you to examine your analytics side-by-side and get a realistic picture of what is and isn't working. There are great paid services for this as well, like HubSpot

Once you make it readily accessible, you can begin to dig in and look for trends. What message worked on all your platforms? Is one message more niche than the others? If so, it may be better suited for a smaller communication platform. The point is, until you begin to study your data and look at the overarching themes, you won't have the best understanding of who your audience is and what they are responding to. 

3. Seeing from a Bird's Eye View

It's easy to spot things right in front of you. When Instagram tells you what time of the day is best to post and Google tells you what channels people are coming from, that's all important. But the best picture of your impact is going to happen when you look at all available data. After all, when you have the window seat you snap the picture and share it with your friends. Similarly, with data you need to do the work to get you to the top and build out a stronger, more effective communications strategy. 

StefaniZimmermanDrake Blog Entry Headshot.jpg

Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + certified in Google Analytics, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dog. 

Why Partnerships Matter

They say the best way to secure business is through relationships. That's probably why there are so many networking events and endless fundraising campaigns on social media. I have to agree, relationships add an element of trust that you can't find in paid marketing efforts. The rise of Instagram influencers and celebrities, which we feel as though we know, also adds an interesting element to the mix.

Here at Drake Strategies, we are fortunate to partner with the Commonwealth Cares Foundation for their annual Needtobreathe Classic. Each year, they host a golf tournament and concert to raise money for OneWorld Health. Their partnership with Needtobreathe has made a large impact beyond their immediate relationships. Why? Needtobreathe has a national celebrity that carries gravitas and exposes their fan base to the impact being made by partnering with Commonwealth Cares and OneWorld Health. 

Let's explore this case study further. 

1. Partnerships Expand Your Circle of Influence

Let's face it. We only have the time and bandwidth to get to know a fixed amount of people. No matter how great we are at fostering deep conversations, connecting on social media and following up via email, you can only learn to trust a handful of people at any given moment. So if we go in on a project alone, we're going to burn out and our impact will be limited.

Thus the value of partnerships. Collaborating with others not only exposes you to a new audience you wouldn't have previously met, it strengthens your impact and your idea. Feedback is always a good thing and when you team up, you will go further, faster.

2. Partnerships Inspire Others

The rise of technology can cause us to be more isolated. We use our phones as crutches and tend to tune out to the world around us and focus on our little island. That's fine, there's nothing wrong with that, but the human connection runs deep and at some point, we all need one another.

Enter partnerships. When we come together to do something greater than ourselves it grounds us, reminds us of our need for conversation and inspires everyone else watching online.

3. Together we will Change the World

In all seriousness, we only know what we know, but when we partner with others we are able to do tremendously more good in the world. Take Commonwealth Cares. A foundation that wanted to do more, so they partnered with a rock band that had the same goal. Their partnership is now a huge fundraising event for a global health nonprofit that has pioneered a sustainable healthcare model in East Africa and Central America. Pretty cool, right?

So let's use our collective voices to champion others. To create inspired action. To deepen our impact and empower each other. It's really that simple. 

Stefani Zimmerman Drake Strategies

Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + certified in Google Analytics, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dog. 

The Connection Between Data + Storytelling

Stefani Drake at Yale

On Sunday, I spoke at Yale University for Unite for Sight’s Global Health and Innovation Conference. While I don’t have a breakthrough cure for a terminal illness or sustainable model for the developing world, I do have a deep appreciation for global health and the life saving work that is done throughout the world. My mission is simple, to weave available data into stories so that NGOs, medical institutions and researchers can expand their reach and impact the lives of more people.

This conference is different than many. It takes an interactive approach where the audience is encouraged to engage with speakers and talk collaboratively about the issues facing global health. It’s exciting, engaging and challenging. Unite for Sight has done a remarkable job at bringing together brilliant minds and innovative thinkers. My challenge to the group, how do you harness that energy and empower the audience to be a point of connection for their specific organization. I truly believe that any one person can create change that ripples throughout an organization, and below I touch on three ways it can be done.

1. Understanding Your Data

As a communicator, I believe in the power of data. It tells you who your audience is, what they respond to, when they take action and when your message fails. If you aren’t regularly reviewing your website, email and social media analytics, then you don’t have the pulse of your supporters, partners and donors. 

Similarly, those in the humanitarian field or research lab have valuable data and insights on programming. The communications team needs to work collaboratively with all departments in order to tell a story and work toward the mission of the organization. 

Your audience may span from government funders, corporate partners and grassroots supporters. They will each enter at various points of your messaging and be interested in a variety of stories, so it is imperative that you to analyze your data and see what stories people respond to, and what messages may not resonate. Harness the power of that information and focus your message on the areas that create someone to take action, while simultaneously learning from message failures. 

2. Clearly State Your Goals

A roadmap is important when working on storytelling. That’s where data is useful. When you know that you want to raise awareness in 10 more communities, or fundraise an additional $10,000 for a project, or engage 100 more volunteers, you can measure and track your progress. The more specific and clear you are with your communication goals, the more you can rely on your data to guide you and build out a successful roadmap to get you there.

For example, if you are a large NGO looking to scale into a new country and need funding to do so, you will likely write a lengthy grant full of budget projections, monitoring + evaluation tools, CVs for key staff, etc. All of this is important to a funder so that they know you are prepared and equipped to use their funding appropriately. The same principles should be applied in storytelling. If your goal is to raise $100,000 in grassroots donations through social media, then you need a comprehensive plan, backed by data, to get you there. 

All messaging should have purpose and when you figure out what it is you are trying to achieve, you can measure the results of your advocacy campaign or social fundraising efforts or year-end appeal and understand that one story may fall flat, but another inspired people to take action.

3. Collaborate    

While data can tell you if you’re on the right track, and your goals can bring your vision to life, collaboration is key to a truly successful organization. Every person on the team has a different perspective and understanding of the organization and it’s goals. Every person on the team also has access to various data points.

Never silo, always encourage the flow of information, a place to share and celebrate successes and a safe place to give feedback and report failures. When you work in synergy with the whole team, you are able to work more efficiently and powerfully toward your mission. Create healthy internal systems for communication so that you have access to all available data, learn about success stories in the field and quickly respond to and adjust strategies that aren’t working.

In the end, stories move people to action, but you need to understand what action you want people to take and be able to adjust your strategy along the way to meeting your goal. Harnessing your data takes you from your vision to achieving success.

 

Stefani Zimmerman Drake Headshot

Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + certified in Google Analytics, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dog.