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Nonprofit Fundraisers: What you can learn from the NRA

This morning, I heard the most astonishing piece on The Daily about how the ACLU is taking a page out of the marketing playbook of the NRA to build momentum.  The key?  Compelling storytelling.

Now, I admit that my political leanings and personal interests do not lead me to peruse the NRA website very often.  I just spent a little bit of time there and there's a lot to be learned here.  Despite my own personal feelings about the NRA, I will admit that their branding and messaging are on point.   Here are some key takeaways for you fundraisers:

The message should be crystal clear:

As they say, if you confuse them, you lose them.  I went on the NRA and it was very, very clear that owning a gun was about exercising your freedom and that any attempt to limit your use of a gun was an attack on your rights as an American.  The control of the message was...well, masterful.  Every page, every post carried the message.  You and your rights are under siege and you must fight.  It was simple, evocative and EVERY WHERE on the site.

Nonprofit fundraisers take heed--clarify your message, shout it out, lather, rinse, repeat.

Weave emotion into it:

Don't be a policy wonk.  Don't bore me with the stats.  Find the emotional center of the message.  For the NRA, it's indignation and fear that you will be unable to defend yourself against the nameless masses/grizzlies/liberals coming to get you.  The NRA has been very effective at naming, harnessing and targeting emotion to spread their message.  What emotion is your message eliciting?  How effective is it in moving your donors?

The power of story:

I clicked on one video featuring an attractive young lady who was a career skeet shooter, instructing people about how to use social media to post pictures with your gun (note: always with proper safety gear!).  She was perky, wholesome and earnest.  She told a story about what skeet shooting meant to her and it was an American as apple pie. The instructions were clear and the video was of good quality.  I have to admit that I have never seen a video on any nonprofit website that instructs their followers exactly how to share their message and branding through social media. 

Clear, user-friendly layout:

The website was laid out with clear headings and sub-pages, good use of photos and an interesting mixture of video, blog and other media.  In other words, there was a clear intention for every page and lots of quality content on every page.  They made it easy to find shooting classes, gatherings and pages that appeal to your niche (women's issues, policy, youth, wildlife).  The website was easy to navigate, clean and clear.  There was no technical jargon, (if you don't count the use of "freedom-loving Americans"), no confusion about where to donate and what your money goes to and how to get involved.  Touche, NRA, touche.

I could probably glean more insights but for the fact that I had to leave the site as I felt my grasp on reality starting to slip in the gaslight.  But, do not let the politics get in the way of lessons to be learned from a very effective communication vehicle.  The reason that the NRA has been so effective despite their relatively small membership is focus, disciplined messaging and use of emotion to drive behavior.  There is a lot to be learned and applied to your own fundraising strategies.  Now, I'm going to take a Silkwood shower.