Clear the Air
Getting the message across clearly is something Abernathy stresses to his environmental clients, telling them they need to take a lesson from the commercial and political worlds. These strategies include:
- Test the waters. Focus groups, for example, are excellent ways to understand how people interpret environmental messages. Bring in randomly selected people and lay out different ways to explain a concept. Find out what kinds of words and images work.
- Create an ad campaign. Like selling products or politicians, environmental groups must define a clear message and find the best ways to convey that message.
- Use direct mail effectively. Despite the dawn of e-philanthropy, direct mail still is an important way to reach out to donors. Use it to convey your ad message. Perhaps more important among this donor demographic than most others is the need to mail responsibly and with regard to natural resources. Too much mail or too many premiums might make donors think you aren’t practicing what you preach.
- Don’t just solicit members; keep them. The environmental sector is overrun with cutesy premiums, but it’s widely accepted that relying on premium-based acquisitions or renewals can lead to low retention rates. Abernathy stresses that conveying the cause — and the organization’s work on that cause — is critical. Contact members regularly with updates, and do it in a way that’s attractive and meaningful.
Christine Weiser is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer.