top of page

10 Insights into Creating a Winning Nonprofit Campaign

We are so excited to welcome Kelly Callahan-Poe! She is the President of Williams Whittle Advertising and the host of the Two Marketing Moms Podcast. She has worked in marketing for over 30 years in three markets, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and San Francisco.

Williams Whittle Advertising is a full-service advertising agency that works with nonprofit organizations. They focus on four nonprofit verticals, Healthcare, Green, Military/Veterans, and Social impacts. Kelly has been the president of Williams Whittle for 7 years and has worked on many campaigns for varying nonprofits as noted on the Williams Whittle client list.

In the beginning of her presentation, Kelly goes through the services Williams Whittle provides to create an effective nonprofit campaign. These are research, strategy, branding, storytelling, activation, and PSA campaigns.

Once Kelly shares the components of a campaign, she pulls out a book. This book, The Business of Expertise. Kelly explains one of the concepts in the novel, “drop and give me twenty.” In the army, this would be about push-ups, but here, it is the idea that you should be able to say twenty different things about your company, industry, or specialty. At Williams Whittle, they have 10 key insights of nonprofit marketing, and today Kelly is going to share 10 of them with us.

Williams Whittle has found these insights through three main yearly surveys. These surveys are of their donors, PSA directors they work with, and of the media habits of Generation Z. For more information on their surveys visit their Surveys Page on their website.

  1. Take advantage of your status: Nonprofits have many benefits including being a 501(c) tax status, having 25-75% cheaper media negotiating power, free space for PSAs, savings on direct mail stamps, and even $10,000 on Google ads free. These benefits can help non-profits reach a larger audience while saving money!

  2. The mission is the motivator: The driving force for people to take action is belief in the organization's mission. Whether this is a personal connection or a way for them to give back to the community.

  3. The most persuasive marketing tool is a differentiating story that is easy to remember: Taglines are crucial to helping people remember your organization and its work!

  4. Emotion is the most important driver in donor intent: Emotions bring in more donors and help people connect with the organization and its message.

  5. Individual success stories make the biggest impression: Individual stories are two times more effective in attracting donors than data and graphs. These also are more likely to evoke emotion.

  6. Marketing strategy should be driven by a target audience research: Research gives marketing teams a better insight to their target audience and how they can reach them.

  7. Simplify and make it easy to take action: Media should be quick, easy, and have a tangible call to action.

  8. Budgets go further with a mix of paid, earned, and owned media: Nonprofits do not have a large advertising budget so stretching it over these three categories is the most effective.

  9. Stay relevant: There are many awareness months, holidays, and special events that are great opportunities to bring your campaign to life. Williams Whittle teams have even created holidays such as the “Patriotic 6” - the six weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

  10. Continually demonstrate tangible impact: In a survey by Williams Whittle, 72% of donors thought their donations made an impact. Demonstrating an impact is important to show donors what their money is doing, and encourages them to donate more in the future.

Now that AMA members have some insight into creating a successful nonprofit campaign, they are ready to apply their skills to a real life campaign. First, Kelly shares a little bit about one of Williams Whittle’s clients, TAPS, the tragedy assistance program for survivors. This organization provides three main services for family members of military service members who have passed. They provide grief counseling, pair families with other local families who are going through similar situations, and pair families who have lost a loved one with a member of the military to support them.

Kelly explains the first steps for creating a campaign. She says that they need to get the insights. Her team at Williams Whittle met with all the employees working at TAPS, all of which have lost a loved one in the military. In their research, they found people said they missed “the little moments” the most, along with holidays and birthdays. Using their research and budget, the team created a PSA.

Kelly asks AMA members if anyone has seen a PSA. None of the AMA members in the room raise their hands. This is because PSAs are run on television and radio. The choice to run PSAs is very intentional because the average age of a TAPS donor is in their 50s-60s, and this group is most likely to watch television or listen to traditional radio. She then plays the PSA for the room.

To get the PSA aired, they sent mail and email marketing to the PSA directors with local stories to help encourage them to run the TAPS PSA. The PSA is very emotional and leads some of the members to tear up. Kelly shares that this PSA had 60,000 airings and led to TAPS receiving millions of dollars in donations.

Now that the members have ten insights in their arsenal and a background and understanding of TAPS, Kelly shares the exercise with our members. If TAPS was targeting adults aged eighteen to twenty-four, using only earned or owned media, what would you do?

Once given the exercise, the members split into four groups to brainstorm. After ten minutes of discussion, each group got a turn to share their ideas. Some of the ideas were to use social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. On these sites TAPS will share tribute posts to lost military service members, peoples stories, and how TAPS has helped people. Other ideas include creating an online community on a platform such as discord for younger people to connect with each other or get influencers and celebrities to promote TAPS by sharing their story on their platform. Kelly’s favorite idea is to use camo ribbon imagery during suicide prevention month, she even writes it down!

After the exercise, there are a few more minutes of the meeting left where Kelly has an opportunity to talk about her podcast, Two Marketing Moms. She started the podcast in 2020 because she felt bad for the graduates because they had lost opportunities such as walking across the stage and losing jobs and internships. She wanted to create a resource for up and coming marketing professionals. Some of her most popular episodes are “Developing your Personal Brand” and “5 Ways to Sell Yourself: Entry-Level Interview Tips.” If you have a request, contact her and she is more than happy to share her thoughts on her podcast!

We want to thank Kelly Callahan-Poe for coming in to speak today! Our members learned so much about nonprofit marketing. If you are interested in what Williams Whittle does, you can find more on their LinkedIn or contact Kelly. They are looking for interns for Spring and Summer 2024!

If you would like to connect with Kelly or listen to her podcast you can find her on LinkedIn or visit her Two Marketing Moms Website.

- Maeve Smarick


bottom of page