The Nonprofit Exchange Podcast

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Why Marketing is a Nonprofit’s Secret Weapon

Vicky Winkler

Vicky Winkler

Having been in the marketing field for almost 35 years, focusing on working with nonprofits, I have learned the importance of branding and having stellar marketing materials. When potential donors of today evaluate charities within seconds of being exposed to the organization, it can make or break a nonprofit without them not even realizing it!

For nearly 35 years, Vicky Winkler has been deeply immersed in marketing, specializing in assisting businesses and nonprofits with enhancing their branding, creating captivating marketing materials, and executing top-notch print work. With a career journey that has taken her through all facets of the marketing world, Vicky has held corporate, nonprofit, education, and entrepreneur marketing positions.

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The Interview Transcript

0:01 – Hugh Ballou This is Hugh Ballou, founder and president of SynerVision Leadership Foundation. It’s creating synergy. We, leaders, create synergy because we’re clear on our vision. This is the Nonprofit Exchange, the weekly interview show. We’ve been going for nine years. And this is 381. We’ve had a few episodes and wonderful experts. This is the first time with this particular slant on marketing. We’ve had a little chat with Vicki Winkler, our guest today, and she knows her stuff, and she’s gonna share some tips with you.

0:36 – Hugh Ballou Vicki, welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange. Please tell people a little bit about yourself and why you do this. What’s your passion for doing marketing?

0:45 – Vicky Winkler Yeah, so hello, and thank you for having me. So a little bit about me is, I mean, I’ve always been in the field of marketing. I kind of live, and breathe it. I’m currently even an adjunct professor at a college teaching marketing in addition to having two marketing businesses. But why do I do this for nonprofits? I was in corporate America. I was in the automotive industry and At one point, I just thought to myself, you know, there’s got to be kind of more than this and just kind of helping to market automobiles.

1:17 – Vicky Winkler And so I had quit my corporate job and joined the Peace Corps and went to Nicaragua and was actually doing marketing, small business marketing in Nicaragua. And when I came back, I was impassioned to do something a little bit more with my career than working in the for-profit industry. So I went and worked for a nonprofit as their marketing director, and we were working with adults with disabilities. And I was also a Special Olympics coach. And so I just really became impassioned with helping others and working with nonprofits and helping them to just do better at what they’re doing.

1:51 – Vicky Winkler And so after I had left my job as the marketing director, I formed the marketing shop. And since then, 21 later, we’re still working and helping nonprofits in the area of marketing.

2:04 – Hugh Ballou Wow. No, great. That’s really a good story. And I can feel your passion for this when you talk about it. It’s something you love. No wonder you’re good at it. So why do nonprofits think they can’t do marketing? What are some of the myths out there about we can’t do it, we can’t afford it? What are some of the misconceptions?

2:23 – Unidentified Speaker Right.

2:24 – Vicky Winkler Well, I think that there’s that thought that, well, people are donating to us, and we’re getting grants for specific programs and programmatic. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing with the funds. And nothing should be going into anything that’s more administrative or marketing. But the truth is, part of those programs and making them successful is they need to be marketed. They need to be promoted. The marketing materials that go into promoting them need to be succinct.

2:50 – Vicky Winkler They need to really communicate what they communicate. And just in the foundation, the basis foundation for nonprofit fundraising is having the right materials and communicating what you’re doing for your fundraising to your donors and your stakeholders. Is so important so that they understand your mission. They understand what you’re doing, and the services you’re providing, so they know. And that they know you’ll be good stewards of the funds and that the amount that they’re donating is going to a really good cause.

3:22 – Vicky Winkler And if they don’t really understand what that cause is, then it’s really going to reduce your amount of the donations that you’re able to bring in.

3:30 – David Dunworth Well, you know, you bring up a really important point forward that I’d like to explore a little bit more with you. The term nonprofit is really kind of a misnomer, isn’t it? Because that’s just the tax classification. It’s the way, you know, how they have to report to the government. And I think people get that scarcity mindset from it. Do you run across that type of thing in the nonprofits that you’ve encountered, both internationally and locally?

4:03 – Vicky Winkler Yeah, I mean, it is that you can have, and I think a lot of them do have that mentality of that scarcity, that we’re a nonprofit, and so it’s okay to not, you know, to have any pension, to have to be frugal. But at the same time, there are a lot of things that can be done in the area of fundraising where you’re going to put some marketing into that in order to bring in the funds. And there are all different kinds of avenues for bringing in fundraising. And I think that that’s one thing that a lot of nonprofits can look more into is the many different avenues and channels to do fundraising.

4:46 – Vicky Winkler And then the part of that and knowing and kind of having that thought, well, we’re going to go after some of this fundraising so that then we can have some monies put aside for marketing and being very intentional about it. Yeah, I mean, on a given basis, on a given day, looking at the budget, you know, you may, well, there’s no room for marketing. Well, let’s make room for some marketing by specific fundraising efforts that are going to go towards that.

5:10 – Unidentified Speaker Great.

5:12 – David Dunworth Yeah, that’s a that’s a point I was, I was begging to abate you to hopefully bring out is that yeah that budget might say this, but who controls the budget, who’s working on bringing that revenue in so that you get better use. Good point.

5:25 – Multiple Speakers Thank you.

5:26 – Hugh Ballou What do you think about that Hugh? Yeah, I think if you’re just coming by, you’re watching us on the livestream or just found the podcast. This is a non-profit exchange. David Dunworth, chair of the board of Center Vision Leadership Foundation and Hubeloo founder president. And we interview fascinating people. And David, I learn stuff every week.

5:44 – Multiple Speakers How about you? Oh, yeah.

5:46 – David Dunworth It’s, you know, no matter how long we’ve been in this particular realm of business and nonprofits are a business. Clergy is a business, it’s just a different type.

5:58 – Multiple Speakers Yeah, we’re learning all the time.

6:00 – Hugh Ballou We are, we are. And even us old guys, we keep learning. I’m the old guy here. So, recently introduced to Vicki by a person I said, you know, you got to be on the show, Vicki. You have such expertise. I find people all the time to say, oh, here’s our logo. That’s our brand. We just did rebranding. All they have is this image. So, what’s wrong with that idea?

6:23 – Vicky Winkler Yeah, well, you know, a brand is so much more. It’s everything about the organization. And that’s why when a brand is not right, and I’m starting with the logo, is that it doesn’t permeate through the organization the way it should. And there’s so much more to a brand. It’s how your employees handle themselves on the phone. It’s how an email is written. It’s what your social media looks like, It’s what your direct mail postcard looks like, It’s what is your email signature.

6:55 – Vicky Winkler There’s, you know, so digital, physical, social, how you’re conducting yourself on a Zoom call. You know, there’s so many things, and it’s important that everybody in the organization, and whether it be a nonprofit, really understands the brand and that they, and they protect it too. And if they see something that doesn’t feel on brand, whether it’s a social media post or something or some way that someone is conducting themselves, that it needs to be brought to the attention of the organization and talked about and decided.

7:26 – Vicky Winkler Is this something that we need to address? And making sure that, again, it’s not just the logo. It’s everything that’s being communicated and going out about the organization.

7:35 – Hugh Ballou So we’re in a time when people, actually, David and I have a friend, David, who wrote a book, Brand Slaughter. And sometimes we’re slaughtering the brand. At least our team members are. We don’t know it. So that’s such a key point, that we are part of the brand. David, you know what I’m talking about. So the brand is a lot of things, but that, you know, we are, as David brought up, it is a business. In a religious organization, it’s stewardship. In any of it, because we’re stewards of other people’s money.

8:14 – Hugh Ballou So it’s a stewardship of good business principles. Is that what you were thinking, David?

8:22 – David Dunworth Yep, I had the long guy behind me now, sorry. Yeah, it’s all of the organizations that are not-for-profit, if you will. If they are a for-profit business it’s one thing, but not-for-profit clergy’s NGOs. They’re stewards of other people’s money. And it’s just a tax reporting thing, but you’ve got to have money in order to do your part. So the more you can bring in, the more impact that you can have. And that’s where I think the failure in the thinking comes. But let’s change horses for a second or two if you don’t mind.

9:00 – David Dunworth Marketing to me, well, there’s all different kinds of marketing, but marketing to me has two roads. One is external and one is internal. Yeah, the logo and the messaging and the brochures and the sponsorship documents and all that, that’s the open road. Internal marketing is the communications to staff, donors, vendors, and those kinds of things. What we’ve learned over the course of these nine years is that A lot of small nonprofits are always chasing the next donor, mainly because they haven’t kept the donor engaged other than that fund request.

9:46 – David Dunworth Tell us a little bit about how you’ve been able to take some of your nonprofit clients and break that mold.

9:53 – Vicky Winkler Yeah, that’s so important is keeping people engaged, keeping in touch with people. In fact, we’re just starting or doing a campaign for a nonprofit that we work with right now, right in the middle of it. And it’s to bring back donors that have kind of fallen off. But they fell off because no one was engaging with them. And so we’re going to try to kind of bring them back into the fold. We miss you, please. You know, we’d love to see you back. And here’s all the exciting things that the organization is doing.

10:22 – Vicky Winkler So that’s sort of the gist of it. But, you know, you internally, you forget that your donors don’t know everything that you’re doing day in and day out. And they need to be told, they need to be reminded, they need to be sent that annual report to say, look at the impact that you’ve made. And you said something, David, just a little while ago about the more funds that you’re able to bring in, the more impact you’re able to have. And isn’t that why people are working at nonprofits? And so it’s OK to brag about what you’re doing.

10:52 – Vicky Winkler It’s OK to ask for money. It’s OK to say to your constituents, hey, we really need your support. And with your support, this is what we’re going to do. So it’s so important to be constantly communicating with your donor base to let them know this is what we’re doing with your funds. Hey, we’ve got this event coming up. Hey, this is going on. Thank you. We have whole flow charts and spreadsheets of what to do when a donor comes in. And when you get that and what level they’re at and what kind of communication and it doesn’t end it doesn’t end after that first okay thank you letter for your donation there’s so much more and whether that’s sending them a little button that says thanks because you’ve given every year for the past three years we’re putting you in our tenacity society or tenacity group so that it can be the smallest thing.

11:45 – Vicky Winkler That’s just that recognition of thank you. Thank you for giving. It’s so important. It means so much. And here’s a little token. And sometimes all it needs to be is a thank you. But when you forget to keep thanking people, they’re going to stop giving. And you just need to keep them engaged. It really is so important. Otherwise, you’re trying to re-engage them years later. And it’s harder to pull them back in after several years of not giving than it was to just kind of keep them engaged throughout the time.

12:15 – Hugh Ballou Oh, that is so important. Touchpoints about what you’ve done with their money, the difference their money’s made. So the perspective that people should learn and will benefit them from learning is no, you’re not asking for money. You’re telling people how to support a mission. So you’re very, very clear on it. We had a little discussion before we went live with the recording about good-looking materials. I mean, you design, you have experts that design, so you want it to look good, but you don’t want it to look too good.

12:48 – Multiple Speakers What does that mean? Right, right.

12:50 – Vicky Winkler Yeah, I mean, it really is that you know, and I think I gave the example of if you’re, you know, you’re going to a large corporate donor and you kind of sat down around the table with some of the board members and you’ve typed up a Word document, with the sponsorship levels, and it just kind of whipped it together, and you’re going to go out to Mr. Or Mrs. Corporate Donor and say, you know, here’s, we want you to support our organization. But that’s, you know, it needs to be a little bit more than that.

13:19 – Vicky Winkler It needs to be nicely designed. It needs to have nice categories. It needs to be easy to read. The points need to be made short and pithy, because people don’t have time to read. They’re not going to read through gabs of material. But at the same time, it shouldn’t have silk laminate and gold foil and contoured edges and embossing, because that will look like a poor use of funds. And honestly, it’s going to do more damage, but as much damage as the really poorly designed document might do.

13:52 – Vicky Winkler So it really is a balance between looking good, but not looking too glitzy.

13:59 – David Dunworth Good point. Very good point. When we were talking earlier, you mentioned that you did some time In the Peace Corps, when you left corporate America, you went into the Peace Corps, and was it Nicaragua you went to? Tell us about some of the experiences you had and whether you were operating or teaching or what, but you said that you were involved in marketing the whole time that you were there.

14:25 – Multiple Speakers Yeah.

14:26 – David Dunworth Share that with us.

14:27 – Multiple Speakers It sounds like, Yeah.

14:28 – Vicky Winkler Oh, gosh. Yeah. I mean, the most wonderful experience that I’ve really ever had. And I think that what I learned from that when it comes to marketing is that sometimes even little changes can make a big difference and that you just need to kind of make those little changes instead of waiting for everything to all the planets to align. And so my story behind that is I was working. I was living with a family. And in the front of the complex, it was like a complex actually, where the whole extended family lived.

14:58 – Vicky Winkler And in the front was the family store, and they sold various sundry items. And one of the things that they sold was kerosene. People would come and line up, and they would bring their own little cups. And we would scoop it out of a big vat, and then we would weigh it, and then they would pay for it. And there was always a lineup of people. And I said, well, my gosh, you guys are selling so much of this. And they said, yeah, well, we have the best price in town. And I said, well, let’s look at that.

15:26 – Vicky Winkler And so basically what happened is we kind of looked at the math and we figured out that they were losing money on every sale because they had not accounted for all of their expenses. It was a little thing. It was something that just the whole concept of expense and revenue and cost was just something that they just didn’t, they were not given the education on. And so it was a small thing that I was able to look at and it was like, oh my gosh, what an aha moment for them. And then to realize that, OK, well, we need to we need to raise prices because you really don’t want to be losing money on everything.

16:00 – Vicky Winkler And people were not coming in and buying other things either. I mean, they were just coming in and then they were leaving with their little container of kerosene. And so, again, I think the same thing in marketing is that when you’re looking at all these different things that you can do and there’s we have so many options, nonprofits and for probably so many options for marketing. But sometimes it’s OK. All I can do today is make this one change. You know maybe I just need to put some thoughts on paper for for whatever is going to be my next appeal letter.

16:29 – Vicky Winkler Do whatever you can do. That little step is then going to add to another step and eventually, you’re going to get there. But little changes like that can make can have a huge impact.

16:40 – Hugh Ballou Wow. So we’re talking about marketing and I don’t think we really defined what market is because I find that people don’t really understand PR and why it’s different. Marketing is different and why you still need somebody to close the deal and its sales and traditional business. It’s still getting the donation or getting the sponsorship, which in a way is closing the sale. So make a contrast. What specifically is marketing and why should people care?

17:13 – Vicky Winkler Um, yeah, I mean, I think, and, you know, PR is part of marketing too. I mean, it’s all about marketing is all about how you’re communicating yourself, um, out into the public. And so, and actually, uh, my, my, uh, title when I was at the nonprofit was communications director and it didn’t encompass everything. Um, but that was also because, you know, you’re kind of sometimes become a jack of all trades when you’re, um, working for a nonprofit and you’ve got, um, lots of other tasks added to your marketing role.

17:42 – Vicky Winkler But it’s really everything that’s being communicated outside the organization. And we even have one of the tools that we have. We have a free tool that talks about the different touchpoints, and it goes through all of the different things that we don’t sometimes think about, too, that are being communicated to people about our brand, about our organization. And so every piece that goes out the door, every piece of digital marketing, that’s why we talk about emails and how I train my staff in our organization about how emails should sound.

18:19 – Vicky Winkler And yeah, every one of my designers has a little bit of different flavor and personality. But in general, we want to have the same type of thing being communicated. So we’ll get together and we’ll look at emails about how we’re communicating with our clients to make sure that everybody is somewhat consistent. You can always add your own flavor and they all have a little bit of their own personality. But I think it’s really important for, and consistency is really key, is that you’re always saying that same type of thing, that the same vibe, the same type of person, brand personality is coming out in all of the things that are communicated outside the organization and internally as well.

18:59 – Vicky Winkler Because if your internal marketing communications are different than what’s going on in the outside, it’s going to eventually come back to hurt you and to cause damage.

19:14 – Multiple Speakers So David, you’re muted.

19:14 – David Dunworth I am having so much technical trouble today. You gotta be smarter than the equipment and that’s where I’m falling short. But a good point, you know, and a lot of people like Hugh mentioned earlier, you know, it’s just one more hat that that executive director or volunteer or admin person or whatever has to wear. You know, one day they’re doing the bookkeeping, the next day they’re doing campaign letters, the next day after that they’re in the field and yada, yada, yada. And then they don’t, a lot of people don’t even if they don’t understand marketing, they certainly don’t wanna do it out of fear of failure or whatever.

19:50 – David Dunworth But yet, outsourcing the marketing can fix all of that. Tell the audience why outsourcing marketing may be one of the best value adds that they can do to the organization if you would.

20:08 – Vicky Winkler Yeah, sure. So, I actually think that this is it’s the same argument for other ways that fractional services can be used. You know, a lot of times in a nonprofit, that’s exactly what’s happening is that an executive director is burdened by all of the different roles that they need to play and it might be fractional HR or outsourced HR. It might be bringing in a fundraising person. And so oftentimes what happens is that there’s not enough, there’s not enough for a full-time staff person.

20:43 – Vicky Winkler And so Then what happens is they say, OK, well, Sue can do the social media, and she can put up a couple of posts a week. And then Ken over here, he can handle the email marketing. But he’s so-and-so’s nephew, and so he can only do it on the weekends. And then we’ve got this person over here that can maybe do the direct mail campaign and handle campaigns and handle our corporate events. And this person over here can handle the race. And all these people are not quite communicating because they’re islands and they’re often there.

21:19 – Vicky Winkler And sometimes they’re volunteers. And sometimes, like I said, maybe there’s this person only working on the weekends, only do it when they’re their regular job. So they do it after hours. And so it gets very scattered and the message gets very It gets very muddled, and it’s different over here than it is over here. So when you have an outsourced source, and that’s one of the sweet spots of what we do, is there’s a lot of consistency. And we’re able to say, oh, hey, executive director.

21:50 – Vicky Winkler We’re working with Ken over here on the 5K race, and he’s asked us to do this. And I don’t feel like it’s on brand for what we want to do, because we did this over here in the appeal letter when we sent this in this message. So we’re that clearinghouse that can have that outside perspective of we see the messages coming in, and we can say, hey, maybe we need to tweak this over here. Plus, it’s just there tends to be turnover. And so every time someone turns over, you get a new person in the role, that person’s like, well, now so-and-so did a flyer.

22:23 – Vicky Winkler And where’s that flyer from last year’s event? Well, maybe it’s on their home laptop that they did because they were only working on the weekends and they weren’t on the system and they were working remotely. And so things end up getting recreated and more money spent because nobody kind of knows where the file is. And maybe it wasn’t all that great anyway, because it was done in software that wasn’t that somebody doesn’t know how to use. So again, it just, and I think that the biggest thing with outsourcing is that you can have consistency and you can have that reliance, that that group, whether it’s us or if it’s a practitioner in HR, somebody that’s been doing it for a while and that they have a really good, steady work pace.

23:07 – Vicky Winkler And so that you know that they’re going to be there year after year to help you. And like for us, if we do have a client that, let’s say they hires an internal marketing person, we’ve got everything. We can turn it over to them. We never have any problem doing that. If they’ve been able to achieve that level where now they need a full-time person, here are all the files. We’re here to help. We’re here to support you, as opposed to holding things hostage. And so there can be some real value in getting over that hump of, needing the help, but maybe not needing it full-time.

23:42 – Vicky Winkler And I think that fractional sources, there’s all kinds of them, CFOs and CMOs and other, you know, HR, different areas. And I think it can be really part of the solution for nonprofits that are really struggling to find the right kind of help.

23:58 – Hugh Ballou And if we think it’s too expensive, if you put the value on the time you’re spending on things that are not your expertise, and it’s not happening, so it’s not good use of your time or the resources, the nonprofits paying your salary. So Vicky, your website for people who wanna learn more and connect with you is TMS.Marketing. And so, That’s, that’s cool. TMS marketing. So the marketing shop is what it’s called. Tell us what people will find when they go to your website.

24:35 – Vicky Winkler Yeah. So, I mean, on the website, you know, the biggest thing that probably people go to is the success stories in the portfolio. I mean, if you, if you go to the yeah, so that’s, you know, just tell some of the some of the branding stories. That’s one of our, our largest nonprofit clients is right there is the Alliance. And so that gives people an idea of what we do. The portfolio gives an idea of all of our, the great design work of my four amazing graphic designers. And yes, that just shows kind of the different service areas.

25:07 – Vicky Winkler That’s kind of the eye candy section. So people can kind of see some of the designs we’ve done. And then there are the free tools. And if you go under the free tools there’s a, there should be, a section for non-profit marketing. And so some tools are specific for non-profits.

25:27 – Hugh Ballou Wow. Also a Contact Us button. There’s your contact form and your phone number and the marketing shops. So, Vicki, this is so helpful. I want to just get in there and learn some things. So this interview is going by pretty fast, but you’ve covered a lot of lot of ground. What do you want to leave people with today? A tip a challenge or a thought?

25:56 – Vicky Winkler Yeah, I think that the biggest thing is kind of taking some time to kind of reflect on what’s happening in your organization. We’re all really busy. We’re all going a million miles an hour and Sometimes it just takes some quiet time to reflect on what’s going on in your organization and what comes to the marketing standpoint or the branding standpoint to really kind of take an honest look and say, you know, is this really working for us? What are we doing well? Maybe what are we not doing well?

26:27 – Vicky Winkler And taking just that first step, that little thing that can maybe make a difference and reminding themselves, our nonprofit leaders, that what they’re doing is important. And it’s OK to ask and to brag about yourself because it’s going to bring more impact. And that’s what it all comes down to, is thinking of, if I had more funds, if I had better marketing, if I had other things, that I can increase the impact of what I’m doing in the world.

26:57 – David Dunworth You know, and it’s not bragging. My grandfather taught me that as an early young man. It’s not bragging if it’s the truth.

27:05 – Vicky Winkler Right.

27:07 – David Dunworth He had a bent on just about everything, but that’s kind of true.

27:12 – Vicky Winkler Absolutely. Right.

27:13 – Unidentified Speaker Right.

27:14 – Hugh Ballou It’s up to us to tell a story because if we don’t, it may not get told. Vicki Winkler, TMS dot marketing. That’s where you go to find out about Vicki. Thank you for being our guest today on the nonprofit exchange.

27:28 – Vicky Winkler Awesome. Thank you so much. You too. It’s wonderful.

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