Into Focus: A Benchmark Guide to Effective Nonprofit Video and a Guide for Creators

More than half of online content today is video. See3, YouTube and Edelman recently collaborated on a study of how nonprofits are taking advantage of that trend, called Into Focus: A Benchmark Guide to Effective Nonprofit Video. Here are some of our favorite take-aways from the report:

Metrics: Ensure you have a clear goal for what you would like to achieve using video. It’s likely that you should focus on some sort of action or conversion goal rather than simply the number of video hits. Answer these questions: Why are you making the video? What are you trying to say? Who is your audience? What do you want them to do?

Integration: Incorporating the video and its message into multiple channels will multiply its impact.

Social sharing: Start by distributing your video to your most engaged supporters, rather than promoting it to people who are less connected with your mission. They will help you share it further.

Cultivate prospects and steward donors: Video can be used to push potential donors up the ladder of engagement, and thank donors in a special and meaningful way when they give.

Download the Into Focus report

Wendy Marinaccio is a Senior Account Executive at Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company.  Contact:

National Organization for Women targets women’s rights offenders

Who do you think is the #1 women’s rights offender? Right wing extremists are trying to downplay the “War on Women” with rhetoric but continue to push anti-women legislation at the state level. In anticipation of the GOP’s aggressive efforts to criminalize abortion in states like North Dakota and Virginia, Donordigital is helping National Organization for Women raise funds to defend women’s rights.

We’ve launched the “We’re Not Fooled” Campaign that highlights the ongoing, convert attacks on reproductive rights across the country. And we’re just about to deploy an interactive microsite that features a gallery of sharable “Women’s Rights Offenders” images and opportunities to take action on the recent issues. The shareable “baseball cards” feature politicians, states pushing forward anti-reproductive rights initiatives, and fun memes.

Learn more about NOW.

Optimizing Facebook display advertising results through audience testing

With social media a growing component of major nonprofit campaigns, organizations need to be prepared to jumpstart the conversation online and drive engagement for their cause.  This Case Study of our work with the National Parkinson Foundation showcases how we spoke to those they most wanted to engage by targeting the right Facebook groups with the right message, while maximizing a limited budget.  This hands-on Case Study examines how nonprofits can use Facebook Advertising to drive potential supporters to you, giving them opportunities to engage in your mission.

About the Client: For over half a century, the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) has focused on meeting the needs in the care and treatment of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). NPF has funded more than $172 million in care, research and support services. Unique among other Parkinson’s organizations, NPF has a singular focus — their mission is to improve the quality of care through research, education and outreach.

About the Campaign: The Aware in Care: 10,000 Kits for 10,000 likes Facebook campaign was part of the larger Aware in Care program launch. Aware in Care is an amazing NPF program that aims to help people with Parkinson’s disease get the best care possible during a hospital stay. The Aware in Care kit contains tools and information to protect, prepare and empower people with Parkinson’s before, during and after a hospital visit. The 10,000 Kits for 10,000 likes Facebook campaign gave users a chance to have a free kit delivered to a patient in need just by liking NPF. And by driving Facebook likes, NPF also drove larger awareness of the campaign, which allowed those who needed a kit for themselves or a family member to also order online.

About the Results: By finding the best responding audience, NPF drove engagement with a 92% conversion rate, while optimizing budget by lowering the cost per like by up to 30%, giving them almost 30% more voice to start the conversation with!

Download the free Case Study

Hunger Knows No Party: Social media engagement campaign for Share Our Strength

Hunger Knows No Party

Author’s Note: this post is part two in a two-part series, adapted from a session by Jesse Kelsey (Donordigital) and Jason Wilson (Share Our Strength), first presented at the 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We explored unconventional solutions to work with Blackbaud’s Luminate platform (formerly Convio).

PART TWO: Hunger Knows No Party

The goal of this campaign was for our network to engage the presidential candidates last October, and let them know that hunger is an important issue. The topic was timely (communications went out immediately following a presidential debate) and a great way to engage our core audience while raising awareness via social media.

This is the “recipe” that we used as a guide for the landing page, which enables advocates to post tweets to Presidential candidates’ Twitter pages:

  • Dynamic/interactive Tweets
  • Timely response
  • Add Convio survey/list building elements

Some of the secret ingredients used in this recipe:

  • JavaScript/jQuery
  • In-house social media formatting tool
  • Convio Pagebuilder/Convio survey

This “viral” version of the landing page, meaning the one that was picked up through social networks and shares by email (not the version that we sent to our in-house list), sent people first to a Convio Pagebuilder page with a very short survey, requiring first name, last name, and email address information.

Upon submitting information, the advocates, also newly subscribed to the Share Our Strength email list, were redirected to a page with interactive ways to tweet either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, who had just participated in a presidential debate (October 2012). People were encouraged to “Join Team No Kid Hungry in asking Mitt Romney and Barack Obama the tough questions they can’t ignore,” and provided with a few example questions to tweet, or the ability to send a custom tweet.

Tweet example for Hunger Knows No Party

Most of the magic on this landing page happened with the use of JavaScript. For example, once a question was selected, a preview window updated automatically just below the questions. Once either the “Tweet Romney” or the “Tweet Obama” buttons were clicked, a custom tweet was packaged up using JavaScript to include the selected question, two hash tags (#NoKidHungry and #election2012), a shortened url with the “viral” version of the page, and the appropriate candidate Twitter handle (“@BarackObama” or “@MittRomney”).

Let’s dissect one example, and choose the first question: “Will you help ensure that no child grows up hungry in America? #NoKidHungry #election2012

When the “Select This Question” button is clicked, the following is what happens in the code:

// the function below fires when the button is pressed to select question one
jQuery("#quest1select").click(function() {

// the border around question one is turned orange
jQuery(“#quest1”).css(“border”,”3px solid #f26722″);

// the border around the other three questions turn gray
jQuery(“#quest2, #quest3, #quest4div”).css(“border”,”3px solid #a69c91″);

// the text string within the question one box is turned into a javascript variable
var grabdesc = jQuery(“#quest1”).text();

// the text string is encoded as it will be used in a Twitter share url
var description = encodeURIComponent(grabdesc);

// a hidden section of HTML code is updated with the encoded text string

// the preview window below the questions is updated with the text from question one

Then, when the button for a specific candidate, let’s say Barack Obama, is clicked, this is what happens in the code:

// the button is pressed to tweet obama
jQuery("#tweetobama").click(function() {
// a text string, BarackObama, is created as a variable
var candidate = "BarackObama";
// a Twitter share url is constructed using the hidden tweet from the function above
var twitUrl = "" + jQuery("#descspan").text() + "%20%40" + candidate;
// the advocate is redireted to the newly assembled Twitter share url
window.location = twitUrl;

Within the first 24 hours, tweets generated nearly 1.1M impressions and reached an audience of 252,454 followers — generating hundreds of tweets from our network. Twitter advocacy isn’t necessarily an area we’ve put a lot of effort into up until this point, but as a result of this campaign, we will be building out more Twitter-centric advocacy campaigns.

Download the full presentation slides here, from C is for Cookie: Convio Platform Townhall, a presentation from the 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference.

Design Trends: Minimalism in the Age of Mobile

The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more.
— Ad Reinhardt, fine artist (1913 – 1967)

No Kid Hungry Sample

These samples illustrate minimalism in web design for nonprofits. There is a definite theme in three of these samples, in that they all feature large, mobile-responsive slideshows in the masthead and little else in the way of design embellishments.

As the number of mobile web users continues to boom, many brands are finding increased success with a more minimalistic design approach. Because such layouts are easier for the eye to scan, load quicker, and render with more fluidity and better reactivity on a wide range of displays, and within a limited amount of visual space, minimalism is becoming the latest trend in many online designs.

Minimalism is a long-established technique used by graphic designers, fine artists, architects, and industrial designers. The philosophy behind minimalism is that by reducing a subject down to its core, stripping it down to its most necessary elements, a designer (or artist, architect, etc.) maximizes point of view and creates visual and emotional clarity. And although it’s not a new idea, of late there’s been a major resurgence of its use in graphic design, especially online. Major brands, such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Google — long recognized for setting the standards for brand design — have been steadily paring their visuals down to the barest of bones. And they’re not alone, more and more brands are turning toward minimalism in their overall marketing — especially in regards to their online presence. We’re seeing the decline of heavy-handed, visually weighty layouts, laid thick with the skeuomorphism (illusionary textures and lighting effects) that’s become fashionable over the last few years. In their place are layouts featuring a cleaner, more metropolitan look that makes use of subtle gradients, limited color palettes, sharp edges, clean and crisp font faces, and bold use of white space.

World Wildlife Fund Sample

Because a minimalist design removes any extraneous clutter that can potentially distract or confuse a user, they can be moved to act — and act quickly — with just a glance. And mobile users, in particular, can do so without having to wrestle with a non-responsive page or get hung up on one that renders slowly. Users are less likely to abandon a page if they don’t have to sift through too much visual input or do a lot of scrolling to find what they need. And they are more likely to act because call-to-action renders properly, and in plain view, on their mobile device.

There are other benefits to using a minimalist design, besides their tendency to display well in both the mobile and desktop environments. Minimalism also helps to keep a brand consistent. In order for a brand to be taken seriously and even to be remembered, it must remain uniform. When a user goes from an email to a landing page to a donation or checkout page, having a thoroughly consistent design helps a user feel confident and makes a brand look more professional and, thus, taken more seriously. By removing clutter and stripping an online brand of anything that might be disorienting or extraneous, a core brand shines through and stays steady and stable in a perpetually fluid digital environment.

Charity Water Sample

Unfortunately, many people think that minimalism must mean boring or shallow. Conversely, if approached correctly, minimalism often creates some of the most beautiful and eloquent (as well as functional) visual results. Think of minimalist design as a sort of Zen rock garden; peaceful and elegant, a harmonious place to reflect and relax the senses. And, in our increasingly busy and distracting lives, how could that kind of tranquility NOT be a beautiful thing, and powerful in its own right?

As mobile web use becomes more common, we are definitely going to see the trend toward minimalism grow and evolve. The growing need for web pages to be fully responsive to a wide variety of screen sizes, to cut through the clutter of the increasingly complex digital sphere, and to inspire with potentially limited visual space will only continue encourage simpler, more tranquil, and more elegant designs.

Less is definitely more and less is definitely better in the current mobile-ready environment.

Further reading:

Minimalist Design – Just Creative

White Space and Simplicity: An Overview – Smashing Magazine

Why Brands are Leaning Towards Minimalism –Webdesigner Depot

Keep It Simple, Stupid –Digital Web

Anthony Blair Borders is the senior web designer at Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company. Contact: or (510) 473-0368.

Best Practices for Mobile-Friendly Email Design

When designing for mobile optimization, it is important for the design to be easily resized for various widths from desktop width (about 640 pixels across) to mobile width (about 320 pixels across). Thus, designs need to be as fluid and flexible as possible. Below are some standards and practices we have found that work best for rendering emails on both mobile screens and desktop monitors.

  • A mobile optimized layout, because of its limited width, is best reduced to a single column. This means that the traditional desktop email layout (which often features large, photographic images and multiple sidebars) renders horribly on a mobile device, often with elements and multiple columns rendering as a confusing jumble. Additionally, the mobile browser often resizes photographic images, creating a loss of image quality and text legibility.
  • Mastheads need to be as clean, simple, and straightfoward as possible for resizing. This is best achieved by having a single logo or simple image, less than 300 pixels wide, be the sole occupant for the space.  Or, alternately (but not recommended) the logo can be placed in tandem with a short “live-text” headline using a “universal” font (such as Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, Times, Georgia, or Courier).
  • Sidebars, if absolutely necessary, also need to be as clean and as simple as possible. Because we need the layout to be as fluid as possible, a solid background color and/or a single, solid, hairline border are strongly recommended over gradient or image backgrounds. The sidebar should be less than 280 pixels wide, so that it rests comfortably within the smaller 320 pixel mobile width. Keeping your sidebar on the slim side also means that your sidebar image won’t need to be resized and suffer from a subsequent loss of quality. Sidebars ideally stack above the main copy on mobile screens and, in a sense, become a sort of masthead with a headline and call-to-action up front. Because of this, it is recommended that sidebars be kept copy light and as succinct as possible.
  • Borders are often used to wrap around entire email messages. In a mobile-optimized environment, these work best as a thin hairline of a single solid color (again, avoiding gradients or images).
  • The rounded corners often seen in web and email design elements are not recommended because of cross-browser incompatibility and errors in rendering in the slimmer, mobile environments.

In conclusion, because of the wide array of monitor and screen sizes in both desktop and mobile environments, your email templates need to be simple and flexible. Because mobile and desktop emails are not separate entities, but rather one email that adapts differently when rendered on different devices, your templates need to have simple mastheads that fit to any size screen, a single, slim sidebar that can stack above or below the main body copy, and as few extraneous design embellishments as possible.

This all said, simple does not mean designs can’t be attractive and attention grabbing. In a world where we are increasingly bombarded with information and visual stimuli, designs that are simple and elegant tend to cut through the clutter much more effectively than designs that are ornate or busy. For an email message to be successful (both in and out of the mobile environment), it is better to keep your layouts simple and elegant than to loose an audience due to clutter or poor browser rendering.


Mobile-Friendly Desktop Example with SidebarMobile-Friendly Mobile Example with Sidebar
Click thumbnails to zoom

Anthony Blair Borders is the senior web designer at Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company. Contact: or (510) 473-0368.

Going Mobile

Truth be told, I’ve learned to hate this phrase. Not because it’s a bad concept, or because it’s a complete waste of time, but because of how misunderstood – and often misused – it is.

Remember when QR codes were the next big thing? Or when Twitter was going to kill Facebook? And Facebook was going to kill email? And email was going to kill print mail?

If any of these sound familiar, you’ll understand my frustration with mobile. Absolute dedication to – even obsession with – everything mobile, has gotten out of hand. Non-profits tend to seize on one big success, such as the Red Cross’s experience with mobile response to the Haiti Earthquake, and try to build the same thing – often at the expense of other programs.

Print mail, email, Facebook, telemarketing – they’re all still alive and well, part of a healthy direct response program. Rather than replacing each other (at least for the foreseeable future), these channels compliment each other by specializing in different audience mindsets and demographics. Same with mobile.

The trick is that not all mediums perform equally. If you’re like most nonprofits, the overwhelming bulk of your individual fundraising dollars probably still comes through print mail, and you’re probably not seeing anything more than pennies coming from Facebook compared to email (unless you’re running large -athon events).

Before thinking about putting your resources behind going mobile, first determine how much of your website and email traffic is actually on a mobile devices.

If you can’t determine that, stop reading right now and get Google Analytics installed on your website. It’s free, and any college or high school volunteer can have it active in about 5 minutes. Don’t forget to check out Google Grants while you’re at it.

Once you can identify how much mobile traffic you have, you can prioritize the value of getting your site and emails mobile optimized. It’s neither hard nor expensive anymore, even potentially free.

Of course, if you want to go beyond the basics, implementation partners are readily available. Any good programmer – within your org or out – can use the quick instructions right here. Don’t worry about trying to find someone who can write jQuery scripts in their sleep.

Hint: If they know how to pronounce C#, that’s a pretty good sign.


Childhood hunger is a hidden epidemic in America that we can no longer ignore.  Our client Share Our Strength is raising awareness of hunger by bringing it into the forefront of the 2012 presidential election.

Recently, Donordigital worked with Share Our Strength to coordinate an action for their Hunger Knows No Party campaign to encourage the candidates to turn their attention to childhood hunger in the U.S.

We launched a message to Share Our Strength’s email list on the same day as the last presidential debate on October 26 and asked list members to Tweet a question about childhood hunger to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

The landing page featured three pre-populated questions and an option to enter their own question. Upon clicking submit, visitors were able to send a tweet to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama with hashtags #nokidhungry and #election2012 that were hard-coded so that they would be automatically added to their tweet and to also help us track our reach. The link included in the tweet led to an email opt-in landing page for those who learned about the campaign on Twitter and weren’t already on Share our Strength’s email list.

Within the first 24 hours, tweets generated nearly 1.1M impressions and reached an audience of 252,454 followers!

If you’d like to help Share Our Strength raise awareness about childhood hunger too, it’s not too late to ask Mitt or Barack a question.

National Parkinson Foundation celebrates 10,000th Facebook fan

Donordigital joins in celebrating with its client National Parkinson Foundation in reaching its 10,000th Facebook fan.

Donordigital worked with National Parkinson Foundation to run a Facebook Ad campaign with the goal of recruiting 10,000 new Facebook fans. Each new fan helps NPF give away an Aware in Care kit to people living with Parkinson’s. The kit features tools and information to share with hospital staff during a planned or emergency hospital stay.

Through a combination of organic and paid efforts on Facebook, National Parkinson Foundation reached a social media milestone – 10,000 Facebook supporters! To optimize the paid efforts, Donordigital tested ad creative and audiences to identify the strongest messages and most receptive audiences.

NPF is passionate about expanding their work on social media, and this celebratory picture proves it. Kudos to NPF for sharing this celebration picture with their 12,278 (and counting) Facebook fans. To support NPF’s great work and help them give away an Aware in Care kit, click here.