Why does your organization exist? (2 of 15)

The question Why? on a cork notice board[This is part two of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

The first branch: Why does your organization exist? (Part I)

Kids ask “why?” as they are learning how the world works. It has become a joke that we adults find it annoying to have every explanation met with this question, but I’m here to tell you, “The kids are right.” Asking “why?” is foundational to understanding anything.

The first question in the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree is “Why does your organization exist?” In some cases, the answer can be less intuitive than you may think.

For instance, let’s look at Alcoholics Anonymous. The founder’s personal why became the organization’s why and permeated the culture and structure of the organization.  At first, however, he didn’t have a clear understanding of why he was starting the organization.

When Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous he was trying to help other alcoholics. Early on, however, he found that talking to other alcoholics was what he needed to stay sober. He realized that his true motivation was to help himself through helping others. He then realized that what his fellow alcoholics might really need was an opportunity to help others themselves. A peer-to-peer approach replaced his initial model where he was criticized for preaching at people too much. No one likes to be preached at! His new approach, built from a more authentic understanding of his motivations, saw alcoholics flocking to the new organization.

This shift in understanding of his own motivations had repercussions for how the organization was run.  He taught something of an altruistic pyramid scheme where you helped yourself by helping others. The stress placed on anonymity is not just about protecting privacy. It is also about the importance of not letting the organization have a figurehead with a bullhorn. Each group is still independently run rather than being controlled by the central organization. This all gets back to their why.

The question of why you exist can be broken down into two parts: the motivating belief driving your mission and the perception of need. In this post I’m focusing on motivations.

In Erica’s video Heads and Hearts, she talks about her motivations for volunteering with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Spoiler alert! She was motivated by her heart, not her head.

If your organization has not clearly defined why it exists, reflecting on personal values is a great place to start. Have your board, staff, and key supporters pick their top two or three personal values and ask them to explain how those values motivate the work they do in your organization. (If you need help getting started, you can find a value-defining tool here.) Look for the common values that are driving your organization in its mission. Pulling these together is like looking at the repeating theme in a jazz piece. If you just overlaid each musician’s riff, you would get a noisy mess. Instead, you want to pull out the common thread that runs through everything.

Let’s take a look at Chirp to see what this would look like. Chirp is the nonprofit school Roxie, Claxon’s mascot, is starting for her fine, feathered friends.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  You can download it here.

The leadership of Chirp all thought about their values and wrote about how those values influenced their desire to work with Chirp.

Roxie values joy and expressiveness:

I want to make the world a better place. It is already amazing, but I know it can be better. One thing that I think would help is if everyone could tell others about the wonderful things they have discovered. I want to be able to tell my family about the beautiful valleys and the lake I found when I was out flying today. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. Now that they have been through the Chirp program, I can. And, they can tell me about the great places they have found for digging for worms. Life is great!

Albert values learning and carefulness:

Whenever I have a puzzle or decision to make, I find it helpful to talk the matter over with others. It is easy to be biased by your own point of view and so I try to seek out those with a different perspective. Unfortunately, it is hard to find other birds with the breadth of vocabulary necessary to accurately explain their position. I am sure there must be so much knowledge locked away in the brains of my avian friends. I wish I had access to even a portion of that wisdom. Once more birds learn a full vocabulary, it is my hope that Chirp will expand its educational offerings beyond the language arts. The world’s greatest scientist or economist might be a bird, but we don’t yet know what they have to say because they lack the words.

Myrtle values cooperation and friendliness:

I just love meeting new friends! There are so many nice birds out there. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding them because they use so few words, which is a shame because I can still tell they are real nice. I can’t help but think, if we could just talk to each other – really communicate – we could accomplish so much. I’ll bet we could throw the most fabulous aerial dances! I love working with Chirp because I have been able to meet, and eventually talk with, so many new friends.

Jacques values curiosity and personal growth:

In my travels around the world I have met many birds. I wish I could know more about their lives and hear their stories. Alas, so few of them are able to share their vision for the bird society. I value the work Chirp is doing because I want all birds to have the verbal tools they need to explore relationships with other flocks.

Looking over these four statements, the birds of Chirp agreed that they all wanted to hear what each unique bird had to say. “We are teaching them a full vocabulary because we don’t want to miss a single word they have to share.”

In my next post, I’ll talk about the second part of clarifying why you exist—describing the need. In the meantime, have some conversations about motivations. Look for the common threads and see what you learn! And, hang on to your list of value words. You may find it helpful when you build your organizational lexicon.

Roxie’s Tale

Your Step-by-Step Guide to the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree (1 of 15)

Vicki Williams, ClaxonOver the coming months, Vicki, our fabulous intern (pictured with jaunty umbrella at left) is going to walk you through the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, a tool that guides you through the process of creating a Marketing Action Plan. If you haven’t already gotten this tool, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.

Because examples are always helpful when learning new things, we will be using the example of Chirp, a nonprofit school that helps birds find their unique voice. (Yes, we did have fun coming up with that, thanks for asking.) This post is a tidge longer because the story of how Chirp came into being is included. You can also download it. Okay, enough back story–let’s dig in!



The 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree asks three fundamental questions:

  1. What does success look like?
  2. Who do you need to reach to be successful?
  3. How will you reach your best supporters!

Each main question has a variety of sub-questions. We’ll guide you through each of them over a series of fifteen posts. We’ll explain why these questions are important and offer some tips for facilitating the discussions at your organization.

We have learned that having an example of how another organization might answer the questions in the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree. Therefore, we have created a case study that will be used as an example for each post. The case study features Roxie, Claxon’s mascot, and Chirp, the nonprofit school she is starting for her fine, feathered friends. At the end of each post, you will see how Roxie tackled that question, so you have an example to follow for your organization.

Don’t forget to get your very own 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree so you can follow along. But before we dig in, you have to learn a bit more about Chirp. Read on and learn how Roxie came to start this very special school for birds. If you don’t subscribe to this blog, now would be a good time to sign up. Then you’re guaranteed to get all 15 posts in this series!


Roxie’s Tale


High in the branches of the tallest tree in the forest sat a nest. And in this nest lay a group of little eggs. These were ordinary-looking eggs, round and white and speckled. All was quiet in the little nest except for the occasional passing breeze and the faint sounds of snoring.

But then one day something happened. One of the eggs started to stir. It leaned to the left, and then it leaned to the right. It wobbled forward and then it wobbled back. It shuddered and shook, and then…..

CRACK. A little beak broke through the shiny, smooth shell. The beak paused, as though startled by what it had accomplished. It sniffed the air for a moment, and then crunched away at the egg until a large, jagged hole let in the sunshine for the first time.

Slowly, cautiously, a little head rose from the wreckage. Roxie the bird blinked her eyes and stared in amazement for the first time at the big world around her. She saw golden fields and rolling hills, mountains and valleys, forests and streams. She gasped in delight as she looked over this world, HER world, that was made just for her and for no one els……

CRACK again. The egg next to her rattled and shook and another little head peeped out and looked around. “Me!” it chirped. “Me! Me! Me!”

Roxie froze. Maneuvering her newly-discovered eyes, she shifted her gaze over to her left to see who had joined her. Her little brother emerged from his own egg and shook his damp feathers. He looked up at her and grinned. “Me!”

“You?” she asked. “Me!” he replied. This dialogue went on for a while.

Soon the other eggs were cracking and opening and the nest was filled with fledglings. Roxie found herself surrounded by a chorus of “Me! Me! Me!”. She quickly discovered that her siblings were not very good at conversation.

Just as Roxie was about to give up, a dark shadow passed over the nest. Suddenly the “me”s were silent and they all looked up above. A large shape was descending rapidly on the nest, and very quickly Mama Bird thumped down in the midst of them, her beak full of fresh worms. “MEEEEE!!!” shouted all Roxie’s siblings at once, converging on Mama Bird. She laughed with delight and tucked them all under her wings. Roxie, being quite cautious only a few minutes into her life, stood back and assessed the situation.

“Um…. Are you my mother?” she asked. Mama Bird looked taken aback. “Me?” she asked. “Yes, you,” replied Roxie. “Are you my mother?”

“Meeeee! Me! Me!” Mama Bird squawked, shaking her head. Clearly flustered, she flapped her wings which disturbed all Roxie’s siblings. They all quickly joined her in agitated cries of “Me! Me! Me!”

”What’s wrong?” asked a perplexed Roxie.

At this, Mama Bird took a deep breath, puffed out her chest, extended a wing to point at Roxie, and said in as firm a voice as she could muster, “ME.”

“Uhhhh…. Me?” asked Roxie.

“Me!” they all replied in happy unison, embracing Roxie with their wings and pulling her into the fold. Roxie was not sure how she felt about all this.


You mean, “Me?”

In the days that followed, Roxie grew and learned to fly. During all that time, Mama Bird and her brothers and sisters succeeded in saying nothing more than “me”. She tried over and over to start conversations about the lovely world around them or what it meant to be birds, but to no avail. She became sad and despondent until one day she had had enough of saying “me”. Roxie desperately wanted to engage more deeply with her mother and so she tried the only thing she could think of.

The next day as Mama Bird was tucking Roxie and her siblings in for a nap, she whispered “me” and gave them all a little peck on the forehead. Each one responded with a tired sigh of “me.” But when Mama came around to Roxie, Roxie replied with a cautious “you.” Mama Bird looked aghast but, not wanting to wake the others, remained calm. “Me,” she said firmly.

Roxie mustered up her courage and replied, “Mama, I know you want me to use the same words you do, but the world is so amazing. It deserves more words!”

“Me,” said Mama Bird.

“What if you just tried saying ‘you’?” Roxie implored. “It is such a small word. I’m sure you could fit it in.”

“Me,” said Mama Bird.

“You,” suggested Roxie.

“Me,” said Mama Bird.

Roxie sighed. “Me.”


Just before the dawn

One particularly dark and spooky night, Roxie snuck away from her cluster of snoozing brothers and sisters and tiptoed to the edge of the nest. Having become quite adept at flying by now, she spread her wings and swooped out into the inky black. She fluttered though the night, intending to take just a quick flight around and then return to the safety of her home. But the farther away she strayed, the more difficult it was to find her way back. Shadows in the moonlight made it nearly impossible to recognize once-familiar landmarks. As she passed over rocks and creeks she had never seen before, she became increasingly worried. Finally she landed on the sharp branches of a lone dead tree high on a hill. She was totally lost. Feeling more scared and alone than ever in her short life, she began to cry.

After just a moment, her breath caught in her beak and she became silent. She had an overwhelming feeling that she was not alone. Almost afraid to look, she slowly turned her head and opened her eyes. What she saw caused her to gasp.

A huge figure sat still and silent on the branch, with great horns atop its head and bright yellow eyes peering down at her. She was speechless.

“WHOOOOOOOOOO are you?” it asked, piercing the silence.

Roxie was startled but quickly regained her composure.

“I’m Roxie. WHAT are you?”

“Ah, WHAT! Yes, what! I am so glad you have asked me WHAT instead of WHO!” The figure relaxed from its taut position and began pacing back and forth along the branch.

“All of my fellows simply ask ‘Who,’ ‘Who,’ ‘Who’ all the time, and I keep trying to tell them that first you must ask WHAT.”

Roxie had still not found the answer to her question. “Yes, sir, but you still have not told me what you are.”

“Oh my, yes, yes indeed little one,” he replied, chuckling. “I… am an owl. A Great Horned Owl to be exact. My name is Albert. My father’s name was Albert, and his father before that, and his father before that. Very pleased to meet you, my dear.”

Albert bowed, took Roxie’s wing, and pecked it lightly.

“I say, it is refreshing to meet another bird as loquacious as yourself, who can carry on a conversation,” said Albert. “Where did you learn to speak so beautifully?”

Roxie paused and thought about this for a moment. She was not sure. Language was something that was present to her as she emerged from her egg; she had never really considered from where it had come. She was beginning to realize she had a rare gift.

“I… I’m not sure, sir.” She replied. “It’s just always been there, like knowing how to pull a worm out of the ground or spreading my wings and flying. Where did you learn to speak?”

“Words have been part of my family for generations,” he said, his bright yellow eyes fixed on her unblinkingly. “My great-great-great-grandfather Albert was the first of my family to have the gift of speech, and all of his descendants have been speakers as well.”

“But why don’t all the rest of the birds in the forest speak like we do?” Roxie asked.

“They have never cultivated their ability to speak like you and I,” Albert said solemnly. “As all the birds of a feather flocked together over the years, they became mired in the jargon of their little groups. It became hard for different flocks to understand one another. And then, the less they communicated, the fewer words they used. They just kept using the same words over and over and over again until they forgot the beauty of a full vocabulary.”

Roxie immediately understood why all the birds in her nest said nothing but “me”. They had become too focused on themselves. She immediately wanted to help them.

“Mr. Albert, can you help me find my way back home? I think I can make a difference starting with my own nest.”

Albert looked up and saw the first hints of purple and orange dancing on the horizon, announcing the approach of daybreak.

“It is nearly bedtime, my dear,” he said, “but no proper gentleman would leave a young maiden in distress. Of course I will help you find your way home. We’ll have to search it out together.”

The two of them took flight from the branch, Albert coasting silently on the breeze with Roxie fluttering clumsily behind. As they flew over the countryside, Roxie looked around desperately for something familiar. She was hoping to see a rock, a tree, a stream, anything that would point her in the right direction toward home. A short time later, the sun had fully risen casting the fresh light of dawn on the dew-laden countryside. But they were no closer to finding Roxie’s home.


Where’s Roxie?

Meanwhile, back at the nest, Mama Bird was becoming frantic. Roxie wasn’t there when they had awoken that morning. Mama looked for her all around their part of the forest, but couldn’t find her anywhere.

Roxie had been a particularly difficult chick. Mama Bird only wanted her to fit in with the rest of the birds, but now she feared she had been too hard on her. Perhaps she should have tried to use words Roxie could relate to.

Mama Bird circled back to the nest, exhausted, to check on the rest of her brood. As she sat, nestled in with her remaining chicks, she gazed out over the forest from her perch in the highest branches of the tallest tree. Thinking of Roxie, she quietly whispered, “you.”


Duck, Duck, Goose

After flying in circles for what seemed like hours, Albert and Roxie both needed a rest. Albert led the way down into a bright meadow and a pond. They landed on the low branches of a shady tree to relax for a moment and get their bearings. As they sat, however, a steady stream of chatter met their ears.

“What? What? What? What?”

Roxie and Albert both instinctively looked up, expecting to find another bird in the branches of the tree. There was no one there. Roxie was the first to look down, and was surprised by what she saw.

A parade of ducks was waddling down the bank and into the pond. Each of them was rapidly asking, “what what what what” as they splashed into the water, one by one.

Albert could hardly contain himself. “WHOO! WHOO!! WHO are these wise birds who are all asking the most important question, ‘what!’”

“Hello there,” he called. “WHOOO are you?”

“What what what what what,” came the reply.

“Ahem.” Albert cleared his throat to call more loudly.

WHOOOOOO are you, friends?”

“What what what what what.”

“I say,” muttered Albert quietly, as he inhaled deeply preparing to shout louder than ever.

“Don’t waste your breath, big guy,” came a very different voice from behind. Albert gave a start and turned his head 180 degrees to see who was speaking. A lovely, brown, rather plump duck looked back up at him. “These guys ask ‘what, what, what’ all the time but they’re far too vague. They’re not very smart with their ‘what’s.”

“Of course,” Roxie chimed in. “Mr. Albert has been telling me what an important question ‘what’ is. Though it sounds like your friends here are not being specific.”

“What they want to do changes all the time!” the duck said, with some frustration. “Every day they want to fly, and then they want to swim, and then they want to drive tourists around the pond in an amphibious vehicle. They can never make up their minds. I think the problem is their vocabulary… They can’t put into words what they really want to achieve.”

Roxie and Albert looked at each other, nodding. Here was a kindred spirit, another bird who was just as frustrated by an inadequate use of words.

“Name’s Myrtle,” she said. “How ‘bout you two?”

“I’m Roxie,” Roxie replied, “and this is Albert.” Albert bowed deeply. “At your service, Madam.”

“We’ve been discussing how some birds wordify their speech and some don’t,” Roxie continued. “I have to ask, where did you learn so many words?”

Myrtle laughed. “Oh, just picked it up along the way I suppose. Flying from farm to farm around the countryside, I couldn’t help but overhear the farmers talking, and I always found it interesting how many words they used. I just listened closely and over time picked up a bunch of new words for my own use, like ‘cultivate’ and ‘fertilize’. And whenever the farmers would get really angry they would use an interesting word that sounds a lot like ‘duck’ but I could never figure out what it means.”

Just then, a series of shadows passed overhead. A wide ‘V’ formation of flying objects coasted across the sky and then turned back toward the pond. They flew lower and lower until finally a squadron of Canada geese landed with a splash at the far end of the water. The other ducks were the first to greet them, with an enthusiastic chorus of “What! What! What! What!” The geese responded with cheerful calls of “How! How! How!”

The leader of the geese paddled toward Roxie and her friends, and lifted his aviator goggles. “Bonjour, mes amis!” he called. “I am Jacques. My associates and I are en route from Montreal on our way south for the winter. We have stopped at your lovely pond for a brief rest and refueling before continuing on our way.

Roxie opened her beak to speak, but Myrtle flapped her way in front of them all to be the first to speak. “Well my my,” she said, batting her eyelashes. “We couldn’t be more honored to have such a handsome and cultured group of gentlefowl like yourself. Please do make yourself at home.” The faintest hint of a blush was visible beneath her feathers.

“Merci beaucoup,” Jacques replied.

“Yes, mercy me indeed,” said Myrtle, fanning herself with her wings. “Did you say you have a winter home down south? How cosmopolitan.” She smiled broadly and batted her eyelashes again.

Just then the pond erupted in a cacophony of whats and hows. From the sidelines, Roxie and her friends watched in concerned confusion as the two flocks became increasingly agitated, each trying to form a circle around the other.

“It would seem that they are attempting a game of duck-duck-goose,” noted Albert. “It must be hard to decide who is ‘it’ when you don’t have the words to communicate properly.”

The two flocks soon settled down, each retreating to its own side of the pond.

One of the other newly-landed geese paddled over to Jacques. “How?” he asked.

“Oui, Jean-Luc,” Jacques replied, “we need to find out HOW to continue our course down south.” He pulled out a map and began plotting coordinates.

“Ah, what sort of measurements are you taking?” asked Albert.

“Yes,” Myrtle added quickly. “A big, strong fellow like yourself was born to be a leader. Where exactly are you going?”

Jacques looked up from his map. “Orlando!” he replied, enthusiastically. “Sea World! Disney! Putt-putt golfing!”

“How!” Jean-Luc added, for emphasis.

“I am plotting how to reach our destination, but naturally we will have to assess our progress and make course corrections along the way,” Jacques continued. “This is a map of your local area.”

“How does a map work?” asked Roxie.

“It is a drawing of important landmarks. See here,” explained Jacques, unfurling the large parchment. This is the pond where we are now. Over the ridge, you should find Mrs. Timberlake’s birdfeeder, marked on the map with the sunflower seed symbol. We want to head south, so we need to fly in this direction, toward the tallest tree in the forest.”

Roxie gasped. “Did you say the tallest tree in the forest?”

“Oui,” replied Jacques. “I know that landmark well. We fly by it every year.”

“How,” said Jean-Luc, nodding.

“But that’s where my home is!” exclaimed Roxie. “I got lost and I’ve been trying to find my way back. Can you show me the way?”

“But of course, mademoiselle,” agreed Jacques. “It would be an honor.”

“I’ll come too!” interjected Myrtle. “I know this neck of the woods. I can help.”

“Oh, that will not be necessary,” said Jacques.  He quickly added, “but of course, as you wish,” upon seeing a disappointed look cross Myrtle’s face. “Indeed, I’m sure you would be of great assistance. You can get Roxie settled as we fly on.”

“What?” she protested in alarm. “So soon? But you just got here!”

Jacques gave a little shrug. “We must fly south. Winter is coming. It is what we do.”

“But why? What do you need to accomplish in the south that you can’t do here?” Myrtle lamented, looking increasingly distraught.

Jacques opened his beak to respond, paused, and then shut it again. “This is an interesting question you ask,” he noted, tilting his head and giving Myrtle a look of wary appreciation.

“It is? I mean, oh, yes, it is! ‘What’ is a very important question. You can never hope to make reasonable decisions if you don’t first decide what you want to achieve.” Myrtle beamed, happy to finally be getting some much-deserved attention from Jacques.

“Hmmm… You have given me much to think about. Perhaps we could… Might we discuss this further? I would be delighted to have you join me in the front as we return Roxie to her home.”

“Oh! What! Oh!” blurted Myrtle, blushing bright crimson and, for once, at a loss for words.



As the slightly irregular V-shaped flock headed south, Roxie slowly began to recognize more and more of the terrain beneath them. She thought of her family and smiled, choosing not to worry just yet about how Mama Bird would react to the plan she was developing.

“You! You!”

Roxie turned to see who had said that and saw Mama Bird flying toward them.

“You! You! You!” she called.

“Mama!” cried Roxie.

The birds all quickly landed at the edge of a nearby meadow and Roxie was quickly enveloped in Mama Bird’s wings.

After their tearful embrace, Roxie introduced her new friends to Mama Bird.

“You,” said Mama Bird, smiling gratefully at Albert.

“A pleasure to meet you as well,” he replied, giving her a little bow.

Roxie could contain herself no more. “Mama!” she exclaimed, “Where did you learn to wordify?”

“You,” she explained.

Roxie could barely believe it. Her short, frustrated lessons had doubled Mama Bird’s vocabulary! Never in her wildest dreams had she expected to make such significant progress. Her plans no longer seemed far-fetched.

“Everyone, I have an announcement!” the little bird declared boldly. “The only thing holding us birds back is our words. Individual birds aren’t heard because their voices aren’t unique. Different flocks can’t engage with each other because each is caught up in its own language. Teaching birds how to use a full vocabulary can solve both of these problems! If we can all come together and share our own message, we can make the world an even better place. I am going to start a school to teach birds how to wordify their message.”

All the birds fluttered their wings in excitement.

“What? What? What? What?” squawked Myrtle.

“Who?” intoned Albert.

“How?” nodded Jacques.

“Great questions,” replied Roxie. “ We need a plan!


A School for Birds

school for birds


Roxie’s school for birds, Chirp, has been up and running for a year now.  Their mission is:

To mobilize all birds everywhere; regardless of feather size, shape, color, or water repellency; by providing a first class educational experience in language arts which can empower them to talk to other birds with different (valued) experiences and viewpoints, ensuring optimal diversity, effectiveness, and sustainability for the bird community.

The initial class was comprised of Roxie’s family along with Jacques and Myrtle’s flocks. The eager students were taught an expanded vocabulary which they are using to make new friends. Chirp wants to be able to grow, but first needs to demonstrate that their teaching methods can work on different flocks of bird


A Success Story

Before coming to Chirp, Canada goose Amelie and mallard Bud had never had a conversation with a bird from a different flock. While working on their lessons, however, they found in each other a helpful study partner, a valued friend, and maybe something more. “I never knew I could have so much in common with someone from such a different background,” explained Amelie. “As we started to put words to our hopes and dreams – for clean water and free access to small bugs – we found we weren’t so different after all.” The budding duck-goose romance has been the talk of the school. Their teacher, Myrtle, is overjoyed to see the partnership develop. “I know some birds don’t see a bird from a different flock as a potential romantic partner, but I think this just goes to show that you shouldn’t be so quick with that sort of judgment.” With more open, accessible, and understandable communication, all of the staff and students at Chirp hope to build a future where all birds can make beautiful music together.


The Competition

Steve the crow started a choir, which is rehearsing The Bird’s the Word. Chirp was initially hopeful of creating a partnership. However, Steve was insistent both on having choir members all say the same thing and on teaching only the nonsensical phrase “Papa-ooma-mow-mow.” Chirp felt that both of these points ran contrary to their core values and so negotiations broke down. Currently, Roxie is not counting crows amongst her supporters, though she remains hopeful that a relationship could be forged once Chirp has established a stronger reputation.


Marketing Needs

Roxie and her friends are ready to take the lessons they have learned from their first year with Chirp and apply them to new students – but where to find them? Chirp needs to bring in new students, both to keep the doors open and to test their teaching methods with a more diverse set of birds. Albert has received inquiries from owls familiar with his family’s reputation, but they have no other potential students as yet.

Roxie has decided to use the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree to develop a marketing action plan for Chirp.

Roxie’s Tale

6 Steps to Going Social Without Going Crazy

Integrating social media into your marketing mix can be daunting. So many options, so little time! In an effort to save you time and keep you sane, we’ve created the following six step process and actionable item checklists for the most popular tools.



Claxon’s 6 Step Process to Going Social Without Going Crazy

    1. Use IdealWare’s fantastically helpful workbook in their Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide to figure out which tools make sense given your goals. (If you don’t know what your goals are, first do the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree.)
    2. Pick 1 or 2 tools. Most organizations don’t have the capacity to do more than two well enough to make it worth it.
    3. Find the accompanying checklist(s) below and decide which items you’ll tackle. Remember: it’s better to do a few things really well, than a bunch of things only so-so.
    4. Identify who will be in charge of each tool and have them block out the time needed each week to do it. (Even though the tools are free, it requires time to make them pay off!)
    5. Review your progress monthly.
    6. Assess strategy vis-a-vis goals annually.

Checklists by Tool


Expect to spend 2-4 hours per week, ideally with at least one post per day.

  • Create a Facebook Fan page and get a customized url for your fan page. John Haydon provides a great video with detailed instructions.
  • “Like” the nonprofits you partner with that also have Facebook pages. Engage with those organizations by commenting on their posts and engaging with their supporters.
  • Be consistent and commit to what you will post on Facebook.  It will help you to think about who you are trying to reach and what action you want them to take.
  • Use Ads to direct people to useful information on your Facebook Page or website.  (Don’t try to sell or fundraise with Facebook Ads.)
  • Repurpose content – post images, video, slides, etc. and drive people to take action such as signing up for your e-newsletter or visit your website.
  • Promote your Fan Page in your email signatures and on your other online outposts.
  • Create a “Facebook Fans Only” offer, do it to see who engages and make your Facebook fans feel special at the same time.


 Expect to spend 1.5-2 hours per week, ideally with at least one or two posts per day.

  • Use Twitter Search to find people to follow who are talking about your organization or topics related to your mission and aggregate into lists using free tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.
  • Follow a number of people in your topic area and community and re-tweet their posts.
  • Create a list on Twitter of everyone that re-tweets your posts.  Then, promote your list to your other followers.
  • Repurpose your content such as your blog posts and Facebook posts.
  • Add link to your blog or website and customize with your logo.
  • Promote your Twitter account in your email signatures and through your other online mechanisms.
  • After you hold an event, help spread the word by creating a specific hashtag for your attendees to use.  For example, if you are hosting a speaker, put up a sign near the speaker that says, “If you are tweeting about this event, use #xyz.” (For an example of how we did this at a recent event, search for #NPlab.)


Expect to spend 4-8 hours per week, ideally with at least one post per week (the time per week includes not only the writing time, but time spent following other related blogs, generating comments and responding to comments)

  • Create a list of 5 influencers who are passionately blogging about your industry – regularly read and make thoughtful comments.  (Tip: Setup Google Reader as a listening station.)
  • Be consistent by having a clear strategy for what you’ll write about.  Start with 5 or 6 relevant categories and rotate through them.
  • Drive traffic to your blog by linking your blog to your website.
  • Search engines love blogs so figure out what people are searching for related to your organization’s mission and write about that.  Read this post to learn more about improving your nonprofit website’s search results.
  • Ask for comments and install share buttons such as a Facebook ‘Like’ button or a ‘Share This‘ to engage your readers.
  • Post customer case studies, educational pieces, and invite guest bloggers to write. This helps bring personality to your blog and can increase traffic to your site or store.  Here’s an example of a guest blogger on the Getting Attention! Blog.
  • Give your biggest fans another way to keep up with your blog or podcast feed by placing an email subscription form on your site with a service like Feedburner or Feedblitz.


Expect to spend 1-2 hours per week, ideally joining in at least one conversation per week.

  • Read this post explaining effective uses for nonprofits using Linkedin.
  • Look for groups or other organizations who are discussing your cause.  Sign-up for email updates and join the conversation.  As an alternative, you could also add relevant Linkedin Questions-Answers to your RSS Reader.
  • Post updates on your individual account to share relevant information with your supporters who are connected to you.  Note that Linkedin works with Twitter and vise versa.
  • Refer and make recommendations for past employees, volunteers, and board members.
  • Start a Linkedin Group, and encourage your organization’s key employees and board members to have their own profiles and join the group so that each member becomes an ambassador for your organization.
  • Use for prospect research and finding out who knows who. If you start a Linkedin Group, you will be able to see all the Linkedin contacts for each of your group members, making it easy see if there is anyone to whom you’d like an introduction.
  • Add your blog RSS feeds to your Linkedin Profile. Here’s one way to do it: How to Add a Blog to your LinkedIn Profile with BlogLink.

Flickr (or other photo sharing website)

Depending on your goals, time and frequency spent on photo sharing sites will vary.  For example, you may spend more time after an event or while trying to build a particular group of followers.

  • Tag your photos to let people easily find or submit photos.  If, for instance, you have an event, tell all your event attendees to upload their pictures on Flickr and tag with your selected tag.  Example:  O’Reilly Emerging Technologies conference in 2006.
  • Embed your Flickr account photos on your website and include a link to your website on your Flickr profile.
  • Use your photos to drive people to your website in your next e-newsletter.  For example, you could include a link to pictures from a recent event.
  • Look for cause-related groups and comment on existing photos to discover new partners and supporters.  For example if you are a organization focused on microfinance, try doing a search for other organizations posting on Flickr by searching for groups with “microfinance” in the description.
  • Search for keywords that include your organization name to see what people are saying about you.

Youtube (or other video sharing website)

Again, depending on your goals, time and frequency spent on photo sharing sites will vary.  However, it is a good idea to check-in at least a couple of times per week to read and respond to any comments.

  • Watch Youtube’s Basic Tips
  • Ask your supporters to share videos with their family and friends to spread your message.
  • Share, embed and link your Youtube videos on your other online portals.
  • Encourage your supporters to send in their own videos to build a repository about your cause.
  • Use your videos to tell stories and drive people to your website in your next e-newsletter.
  • Look for cause-related groups and comment on existing videos. For example, if you are an education focused nonprofit in Seattle, try doing a Youtube search for “education+seattle+nonprofit” to discover new partners and supporters.
  • If you are a larger organization like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, search for keywords that include your organization name to see what people are saying about you.

Are we missing any key action items that have helped you maximize your use of the tools above?  Let us know!

DIY Marketing for Nonprofits

Here’s one thing we know about marketing: if you have a plan, you are way more effective. And yet, very few nonprofits have a marketing plan in place. We must put an end to this, people!

A plan is easy, especially if you take a DIY (do it yourself) approach to marketing, which most nonprofits do. You’ve got to have your plan or you end up working really hard and doing a bunch of stuff, but not necessarily getting results. Not good.

As a way to help our fellow do gooders create mission-driven marketing plans in record time, we created the ‘1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree’. It guides you through the process of figuring out your plan in 3 simple steps. Watch this video in which Erica explains how this great tool can make your life so much easier!

In order of importance, here are the three steps:

  1. Define WHAT success means for your marketing.
  2. Figure out WHO you need to reach for your marketing to be successful.
  3. Figure out HOW to most effectively reach your ideal supporters.

Click the  template here to download your very own ‘1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree’. Get planning!



Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?