Five Things That You Can Learn from “The Long Tail” for Marketing Your Nonprofit

Long Tail Parakeet

What is the Long Tail?

It’s a book by Chris Anderson, who talks about the internet’s ability to keep a product going long after it should have stopped selling. The Long Tail means that there are no masses, but lots of people with very specific sets of niches and interests. Mr. Anderson looks at the business models of Zappos, Amazon, Ebay, Apple, Google, and other top American companies, and tries to decipher how they keep up with the changing pace of the business world and the internet markets.

This can apply to your charity, and I’m going to tell you how below.

Number of words: 874
Estimated read time: 5 minutes

1. Make Everything Available
Show your donors how your nonprofit is helping, how your resources are being used, and how they can concretely help today, and I’ll GUARANTEE you get more donations. Transparency is huge. the Indianapolis Museum does this very well. Check out their dashboard which shows everything from how many memberships they have to how many kilowatt hours of electricity they’re using.

2. Help me find it
To reach people in your tribe or very specific groups, make it easy to find your information. Put clear search functions on your website, again, Indianapolis Museum does this really really well. On their dashboard, you can find out everything from how many schoolchildren go through their doors to how much their executives are making, all in one place. This openness and attention to detail makes me trust that they know what they’re doing when it comes to museum education. Crazy, isn’t it? But I think that people who have gotten their stats down to an auto-updated science on their website must have their donation processes together, and have hired the right people to keep all of this running.

3. Lower costs: Move inventory in, or waaaaay out
Amazon does this by offering products on their website that they don’t have, that actually belong to their network of small businesses. When a customer orders something on Amazon, they can tell their supplier to get it to the customer, and take their fee without ever having to worry about touching the product. You can apply this to your nonprofit by farming out your appeal letters to a mail house, letting a printer take care of your annual reports, and creating an auto-email thank you when someone gives online. Your development department will run a lot more smoothly, as your fundraising staff have more time to do major gifts, or create events or other tasks. Another way to lower costs is to partner with other nonprofits who do something particularly well that your nonprofit has struggled with, and allow them to send projects your way that your nonprofit does well. This way, you can both provide better services by playing to your strengths and farming out the rest.

4. Let customers/donors do the work
If you can improve what you are offering to the community, whether it’s an opera, senior services, advocacy, or environmental clean-up, give your donors a say in how you improve. Ask them to come in and investigate how you could do it better. Get your stakeholders to figure out how you could do things more efficiently. Many of them would LOVE to be asked for their advice, and it could make them more loyal donors down the line too, if they know that you care about their opinion.

5. Think Niche: One distribution method doesn’t fit all.
This is why direct mail will never be dead. You may feel completely comfortable with an e-appeal, but other people prefer to get a letter. Still others prefer the fullness of information in an annual report before they give. And then there are people who prefer the phone. And of course most foundations haven’t moved to an online application system yet. They still prefer to get your paper letter of intent, and then your 7 paper-clipped copies of your grant proposal which they send, by mail, to their trustees or board members.

Tomorrow I’ll give you five more things I learned from The Long Tail.

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