Manifesto: 3 Tips for Adopting a Growth-Hacking Mentality
In the nonprofit sector, we wear a lot of hats. We all do it anyway because we care about the mission. We are a passionate bunch. But let’s face it, despite our passion, we all need to get a lot accomplished with a limited budget and limited time to do so. We also need to recognize that cross-team collaboration is vital to fulfilling the mission.
Enter growth hacking for nonprofits.
You may be asking yourself: What is growth hacking? It sounds like a buzz word.
Growth hacking is a term that was coined in the startup world by a guy named Sean Ellis back in 2010. He is CEO of Growth Hackers if you want to check out the plethora of articles on the subject. He recently released a book called "Hacking Growth," and I recommend you read it, if you want to learn the ins and outs of what growth hacking is and what it is not.
While mostly talked about in the for-profit and startup world, growth hacking is immensely applicable to the nonprofit sector. We just aren’t talking about it much.
Growth hacking recognizes the competitive landscape and is about being agile, driving cross-team collaboration and thinking outside the box with technology to bring value quickly.
In today’s competitive nonprofit landscape, what distinguishes your organization from another with a similar mission? What unique value do you bring? How quickly do you deliver that value to those impacted by or supporting the cause? What are you doing with your marketing and your use of technology to keep up and remain competitive, relevant and agile, ensuring the greatest value to those you impact? How are you talking to each other internally to collaborate and bring this value to your audience quickly?
Our sector does make us feel warm and fuzzy at the end of the day, and while it doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy to think about it, there is competition in nonprofit. There are only so many donors and so many dollars to go around and therefore, the nonprofit sector has to be thinking about ourselves as salespeople, as marketers, and, ultimately, as growth hackers.
So, what can you do to get started with growth hacking today, with limited resources? Here are three tips to nonprofits who want to adopt a growth hacking mentality and stand out from the competition.
Tip No. 1: First and foremost, focus on your donor’s user experience and highlight your value prop to your donors.
From offline to online, if your donors and potential donors have a bad experience with your organization and don’t understand the value you are bringing to the table, they may abandon you and move onto the next organization. User experience encompasses everything from the communications they receive via email, social or snail mail and all the way up to your online donation process or event registration process. Keep your value messaging succinct, and make sure it is extremely clear what your call-to-action is. Evaluate all of the ways you are making the touch points above and ask yourself: Does it work, does it work fast, does it look pretty?
Make sure it is quick and easy to consume or take action and then make sure it looks sharp. Approach it in that order. Because if your donation form looks lovely, but takes three pages of steps to fill out, it doesn’t matter that it’s pretty; people will abandon it because it is long.
Tip No. 2: Disrupt your internal silos.
Growth hacking is also about collaboration internally and ensuring that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. However, a common plague in organizations is the opposite. Often, marketing is doing one thing, development is doing another, IT another thing and so on. It’s possible that while you are all working toward the same mission, your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly goals aren’t truly aligned.
Start talking to each other. Set up shared communications calendars or a weekly or bi-weekly meeting for all departments to huddle up, sync up and get aligned. One of the greatest inhibitors to growth is when departments are fractured and not communicating regularly.
Think about a rowing team: If one person is off, it throws the whole boat off. We must disrupt our internal silos and work better together, and that starts with talking to each other. Online collaboration tools, like Google Drive, Basecamp, Trello, Slack, etc., can make it easier to achieve this.
Tip No. 3: If you are afraid of technology, get help from someone who isn’t, try new things and test.
Technology is only as scary as we allow it to be in our minds.Investing time, energy and money can be worrisome—I get it. However, this is the way the world is moving. So, as a sector, we can choose to get on board with automation and learn about how it can help and not hinder us. Or, we can opt out and get left behind.
Therefore, if techy stuff is not your thing, try to find someone who can help you and learn from them. Embracing technology also demands that we test ourselves. Try new things, test new things. If they don’t work, move on, try something else and check that. Eventually, something will move the needle, then you will know that it is resonating with your audience.
Technological advancements continue to move faster and faster. Those who embrace it will grow, and those who do not will become irrelevant. And, in today’s changing technology landscape, trying new things is less expensive, it’s becoming easier, and it can open up a whole new way of bringing value to those impacted by your cause.
Bonus: If you’d like to learn more and get practical tips and tricks on how you can use technology to growth hack, follow my videos at Hacks for Good.
Taylor Shanklin is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and marketing innovator in the nonprofit sector. Taylor is the founder and CEO of Barlele, a brand and marketing strategy agency that helps mission-minded businesses and nonprofit organizations grow through clear storytelling, branding, digital marketing strategies and strategic growth coaching.
In her career, she has served 100-plus organizations on both national and local levels. Her areas of expertise are branding and digital storytelling, digital marketing for nonprofits, empowering one's authentic voice and helping nonprofit organizations realize their full potential through digital donor experiences that delight and surprise. Taylor lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and dachshund named Lady.