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034 – Ways to approach non-profit marketing with David Somerfleck

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In this episode, we have another David as a guest! David Somerfleck is a digital marketing specialist providing digital marketing solutions with over 20 years of experience working for market agencies across North America and 10 years of experience as a certified small business mentor. We’re more than happy to have his insights and thoughts regarding how non-profit’s handle their digital marketing.

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David P: Welcome to the Non-Profit Digital Success Podcast. I’m your host David, and today I have David Somerfleck on the show, another David. Allow me to introduce him. David is a digital marketing specialist providing digital marketing solutions with over 20 years of experience working for market agencies across North America and 10 years of experience as a certified small business mentor. David has written for AOL Time Warner, spoken to packed audiences at Microsoft, taught workshops for WordPress, helped hundreds of business owners, ignited growth using a combination of traditional marketing with digital marketing. He’s the author of the Road to Digital Marketing Profits available from Amazon, Walmart, and other retailers. David, thanks so much for joining me on the show today.

David S: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

David P: Anytime. How are you doing today?

David S: I’m doing very well. Thank you so much. Every day is a blessing.

David P: Absolutely. So if you’re ready, I’m ready. Let’s jump in and, and just hit the, hit the ground running here.

David S: I’m ready.

David P: Awesome. So the first question that I have for you is what has your experience been with nonprofits for the most part?

David S: I’ve had pretty broad, expansive experience working for nonprofit organizations or NPOs. I worked for a nonprofit organization and marketing. Of course, I also worked with nonprofits as an independent, you know, digital marketing consultant. I also worked with nonprofits through marketing agencies that I worked for and I also consulted with, or adviced probably hundreds of nonprofits. I mean, I lost count after probably the fifth year. So I’ve had a lot of experience working with nonprofit organizations in different capacities.

David P: That’s phenomenal. Could you talk about your experiences with how the nonprofits tend to manage their digital marketing?

David S: Where to begin? I think in so many cases, I think a lot of nonprofits will tend to put digital marketing on the back burner. And when I say digital marketing, it’s important to qualify that and say that on the top, we have marketing below that we have digital marketing and then below that we have what is traditionally seen as online marketing. Why do I make these distinctions? Because I work with these tools. So when I refer to marketing, I mean, all of the above digital marketing refers to communicating with your ideal consumers or in the case of nonprofit organizations, donors, or client base using digital media. So you’re using online tools, digital tools, traditional marketing altogether.

David S: So in my experience, the majority of the time when I talk to nonprofit organizations, it’s because of a problem they are having a pain needing to be resolved. So, you know, in the majority of instances, the nonprofit organization needs more donors. They need increased public visibility. They don’t know where to begin. So obviously before I can help them, I have to first diagnose the issues and then latch onto what are the most important issues.

How do I prioritize these issues? And before I can go about setting the course of action to be taken, to resolve these problems. And 9 times out of 10, that digital marketing is done by volunteers, which means they’re unpaid, which means their motivation is going to be very slim. What motivation do you have if you’re working for free, usually on a part-time basis? If we take it a step further, what is your level of competence where it’s experience or professionalism going to be, if you’re working for free on a part-time basis, how long would that person be around? Well, we don’t know. So that’s usually where it begins. Then I can look at the company’s SEO, their social media, their branding, their content marketing, or lack thereof, look at how these factors are being treated holistically or not, and work from there. But in most cases, when you have unpaid part-time temporary staff it makes it kind of problematic.

David P: Yeah, it’s hard for nonprofits to operate without volunteers, right? You need, and at the same time, like you just said, the motivation, why would anybody want to, to work for free or give it necessarily their full throttle?

David S: I think it’s extremely important to look at when you have unpaid staff, usually working on a part-time basis, you have to look at how you’re going to delegate your resources. So in that context, do you really want to entrust the future of your business, in this case an NPO, to unpaid part-time staff, I wouldn’t do it. And I’ve never seen good outcomes from that type of planning. You could have part-time unpaid staff doing work for you that may not be as immediately relevant or directly tied into your public perception, you know, such as answering the answering phones. But then again, wouldn’t you want that done by someone who takes it very seriously too? So you really have to look at how you’re going to utilize part-time unpaid staff. To me, it’s problematic. What are they going to deliver to you at the level that you need not being paid and potentially inexperienced as well?

So that’s where it starts. And then we go downhill from there. And most cases now, you know, obvious- I don’t wanna say obviously, but I’m sure, you know, this having a nonprofit organization doesn’t mean you don’t make profit, right? But that seems to be the perception amongst many NPOs, especially those who are new to the NPO environment that, you know, we can’t make money or we’re very poor. We’re very broke. We have nothing, everything has to be free or super cheap and, and so on. And that poverty mentality translates into how they’re perceived, the lack of SEO, the lack of content, content distribution through social media, content repurposing, and so on. So I deal a lot with those issues when I talk to NPOs, but before I can really diagnose issues and, and help them, we first have to get through that number one barrier, that is the poverty mentality. We are either “I’m holding onto this and I’m not investing in growth”, or “I don’t believe in online marketing or digital marketing as a field”.

David P: Are you suggesting, I guess, that most of the nonprofits and charity and community-based organizations that you’ve worked with are typically running their digital marketing in the free or volunteer kind of realm?

David S: The vast majority of ones that I’ve encountered that come to me for help specifically, we’ll usually have a free DIY template builder, such as Wix or Weebley or Squarespace, Google sites and blogger, and many other ones. And traditionally they’ll come to me and, and say, you know, “why am I not ranking in Google search results?” , “Why are my donations not increasing?” And it’s usually, you know, for a combination of factors, you know, you don’t, it’s often a case of you don’t know what you don’t know. So if you’re not familiar with SEO, which is how you outrank competitors in online search, if you don’t know what that is specifically and how that works, and you’re not familiar with programming, then you’re not going to know how to fix your problem. And in most cases, people who are NPO administrators or founders, are not also going to be experts in SEO in content marketing, and internal linking and external linking and all that goes into SEO.

So before you can really help an NPO to expand into new markets and matriculate new donors, we first have to break through the resistance to growth or the misconceptions, or in some cases, the two are entwined. You know, when I worked for marketing agencies, I would do what I call the boots on the groundwork. You know, where my job was to create a beautiful branded, modern, responsive website for NPO clients with high-ranking SEO. I would look at their local competition or their national competition or combination thereof, I’d look at their competitors. But when I worked as a freelancer or independent consultant in between those positions, I had to learn how to take the structure of the marketing agency and apply it to what I was doing as an individual. Right? And so in that process, which took several years, I had to learn how to screen clients for fit, which is NPOs, obviously as well, as well as onboarding them, where I had to train them in how digital marketing would work before I could necessarily help them.

So there’s a whole process in there that I’m happy to elaborate on if you want, but while I was researching this, I found this, I think she’s a psychologist. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross. I don’t know if you’ve heard of her.

David P: No, no.

David S: Okay. She did a lot of groundbreaking research in what are called the stages of denial. So, and this was meant primarily for someone who was going through the loss of a loved one. Now, if you lose someone you love, obviously that’s, it’s incredibly stressful to is an understatement, and it may be wrong to compare that a business owner or NPO owner who is resistant to change for whatever reason or combination of reasons. But I found that the percent I wrote a blog post about it, that’s pretty lengthy where I showed the infographic and how it tied in almost a hundred percent with the research that she had done.

And it, it really actually, it surprised me as well. So now when I talk to potential clients, whether they’re NPOs or not, I can see very specifically at what phase are they stuck in with the final fifth stage being acceptance of the situation. Okay. I have to invest in order to grow. I can’t take a kit card that I bought from Amazon onto the interstate. I can’t purchase a DIY root canal from eBay and do my own root canal and expect it, you know, to have a beautiful smile, right? And yet people do these things every day with the future of their NPO, every day, they entrust the future of their nonprofit organization into the hands of an automated DIY template builder, or someone they found on Craigslist. And then they wonder why things aren’t going the way that they had hoped.

David P: And on, on the flip side, we’ve worked with a number of clients from Wow Digital where the companies they’ve reached out two or the, or the freelancers have locked them out of their website or not given them the full access, or, you know, prevented them from moving their services from one to another. And we just did a migration last week, a 15 sites from one client because the vendor first off, they were running on Drupal which is like a whole other thing, but their vendor refused to give them access to their content.

David S: Well, I’d like to address that. Wh when we talk about, first of all, for anybody listening or watching, who doesn’t know what Drupal is, there are three primary content management systems in the world today, WordPress being number one, the most popular, since it’s the most popular, it attracts the most hobbyists, which is good and bad. Because it attracts more hobbyists it’s also more, it has issues with it that you have to be informed on. I think Joomla or Drupal, depending on who you talk to is number two and number three. Drupal is, has a steeper learning curve, but has improved website security, depending on who you talk to Joomla or Drupal could be number two or number three, they’re all very, very good, reputable content management systems that are basically the motor of a functioning modern website that delivers high value features. As far as, you know, a freelancer or even a marketing agency locking someone out of their website.

That’s not a good thing to do. That’s not professional conduct. I can understand why it would happen, but I don’t do it. And the reason that it happens I feel is because there’s a breakdown in the process of screening first, and then onboarding the client. You have to make sure does the client and understand the value that you provide? Can they afford you? Do they want what you can do for them? Do they have someone who will help them? You know, are they capable of paying their bills online? Usually if a marketing agency or freelance or independent consultant locks someone out of a website, it’s usually because there’s a miscommunication there. They haven’t been paid, something like that.

And so in my own case, and I learned this from agencies. So when I screen the client, first, we focus in on what’s the value? What’s the problem? What’s going on? Are we a good fit for each other? These types of topics. In the onboarding, I train the client in how I work, how long a project should take, what steps are involved? What is SEO? What is the value of SEO? What about eCommerce? All of these things we go over before we can begin to work. Then I go over the contract with them. So they understand how these things work, so there should never be any need to lock you out of a website. And so when you inherit situations like that, they’re very, very unfortunate. They’re not at the professional level that they really should be at. And that’s because there was a breakdown in communication there.

David P: So we’ve spoken a little bit about, you know, how nonprofits and how agencies and freelancers, you know, kind of interact and work. Over the last number of years, you know, taking a look at RFPs that come in to us, that we look at and, and talk about, you know, putting together a response and the amount of time and effort involved. I’m not sure, like I’ve been on both sides. I’ve worked in nonprofits for about 16 years. I’ve been on the, “let’s put the RFP together” side of it and the months and time and effort involved in that. And then you put the RFP out and you hope for really great responses.

Sometimes you get some really amazing ones. Sometimes you don’t, but being on the agency side, looking at them, I think they’re, you know, in terms of putting it together it’s hours and hours of time. Yes, it was one we put, we put together a response for, we had probably spent close to 35 or 40 hours just in meetings and then actually putting the documentation and all of that together. I have my opinions, what is your opinion about the RFP process?

David S: I wrote a blog post on what I call the broken RFP process. And, you know, I should revisit that blog post because I have very strong opinions on, I don’t do RFP simply because as you indicated, they’re extremely time consuming, extremely exhausting, requiring a great deal of research if you’re going to respond to it on any kind of serious professional level. Moreover, from the perspective of the NPO they are not effective at finding or soliciting or enrolling professional experienced help. Why is that? First of all, they’re a very broad cattle call, where from the agency or freelancer perspective, intellectually, you know, if you’re getting an RFP, how many other people are getting an RFP? Could be 20 others? Could be 50 others? Who knows. And in most instances the NPO sending forth the RFP is looking for the cheapest possible price, not necessarily the experience.

Do they know how to vet for the most experienced agency or individual who could assist them? Do they know that? Odds are they don’t. And the other problem that I have with the RFPs is that it’s a matter of self diagnosis. You know, you would never dream of going to the doctor and telling doctor, this is what’s wrong with me. This is how much you should charge or how much I’m willing to pay. And this is what tools you need to use and how long it should take. You would never go to the doctor and tell ’em these things. They’d laugh you out of the office and yet, but, and yet the nonprofit organization will send you a one-size-fits-all generic form they could be sending to a hundred other competitors. And they’re telling you “Here are what tools you have to use, here’s how you should use them in some cases, here’s how much you should charge, because we’re not gonna pay you a penny more, here’s who you have to work with, here’s your deadline. You know, here’s what, everything that you should be doing and how you should be doing it”.

So they’re, self-diagnosing their own problems, and they’re telling you how to solve their own problems and what it should cost and how long it should take. It’s utterly ridiculous. No other service provider in the world would tolerate that. The lawyer, the doctor, the plumber, the electrician, the even the custodian would never let you walk up to them and tell them how long it should take, how much you should charge, every tool you should use, that’s insane. And yet we permit it and, and the nonprofit organizations think this is effective. And that’s why so many NPOs have no SEO, broken eCommerce, easily hackable websites, you know, crazy email addresses.

I’ve seen the [email protected] for a nonprofit organization. I’m not gonna donate money to that, I’m not gonna communicate with that NPO. Why would I do that? I mean, come on, I could go and teach elementary school. It’s, it’s, they’re operating at a less than perspective when you attempt to self-diagnose. Well, if you know how to do everything yourself, why not just do it yourself? Oh, wait a minute. It’s because you don’t know how to do it yourself. Why not let the expert be the expert and come in and solve the problem and then pay on the basis of the new value you’ve received. So what do I do? I gauge for seriousness and commitment, and if they seem serious and committed, as opposed to shopping around for the cheapest possible price, in which case I can just send ’em to an affiliate page.

I invite them to what I call a virtual cup of coffee, or in my case tea, let’s have a virtual cup of tea and we screen for fit. I can give, I can talk about budget all day long. I don’t need to talk about budget all day long. I mean, I budgets are the number one concern, “how much” not “what kind of value can you give me?” Or “These are the problems I’m having. This is how long the problems have been going on. This is how many people it’s impacting. This is how it’s interfacing with our NPO. This is decreasing our donations”. It’s always on how much, not how much it’s costing us. So the first thing we have to do is get rid of that 500 pound gorilla in the room and talk about money, not value, but, but money. Then we can talk about the value. Like I was saying before with going through these stages of denial and dealing with the emotional concern before we can tackle the more intellectually based issues, the pain points that are there. So I always talk about investment ranges first, when I invite someone to a virtual cup of tea, let’s sit down, be true adults and have a virtual cup of tea. Sorry to interrupt you.

David P: No, I, I was interrupting you, apologies for that. I think it goes back to what we were talking about originally, where, you know, a lot of organizations, especially, you know, the smaller ones they’re running on a handful of staff and a bunch of hopefully volunteers helping them out. You know, as you said, if they have the experience, why not just do it yourself, right? And I think a lot of this comes down to these organizations for the most part, don’t have the experience in the digital realm in terms of like design trends, SEO functionality, building, picking, selecting the right, the right stacks, or the right system to use for their website or group of systems, like, should they use ConstantContact or MailChimp or Razor’s edge, or, you know, whatever the products happen to be.

David S: Or nothing at all. It could be nothing.

David P: Right. They could be using a Google spreadsheet, right? Like, and just, you know, keeping track CRM wise in terms your donors, there’s all kinds of different products out there.

David S: How could they possibly, how could they possibly put together an RFP that outlines what they want, if they don’t have the expertise to know it is that’s available.

It would be much more efficient to say “my budget is $5,000. I’m going to go and look for an extremely experienced professional individual or agency to help me expand my reach into new markets or to enroll new donors”. That’s much, much more realistic than it is to say, “this is how you need to do it, this is what tools you need to use” They don’t know what tools they need to use or how those tools should be used. That’s ridiculous. You know, I could create a nonprofit organization website within about three hours that I guarantee you could rank on the first page of Google within a couple of weeks. I’m not good at Photoshop. I don’t need Photoshop to do it. I don’t need to use MailChimp. I don’t need to use Drupal. You know, I have my own stack of tools, like you said, my own suite of tools and my own processes, but they’ll tell you on the basis of what they saw a competitor do, or on the basis of someone else’s RFP, or maybe a job position they saw on Indeed or something.

And it may not necessarily be a good fit for them. If you have volunteers running everything, then you need help and you need to get on a monthly maintenance plan because the volunteer isn’t going to know how to find hacking attempts and to block them from keep trying to hack your website on a daily basis. The volunteer won’t know how to do that. The volunteer might know how to put things in alphabetical order for you though. And maybe that would be a better use of an unpaid temporary part-time staff member. So, you know, it’s really important to work from a deliberate organized perspective, and you get out what you put in. I mean, you know, I always, you know, look at Buddha on the, you know, the wall behind me. It has to do with cause and effect, you know, which is a major tenant, a Buddhism cause and effect. What you do has consequences. And, you know, a modern, organized nonprofit organization should function just like a lean business.

David P: I say that quite often is nonprofits need to think of themselves as businesses. They do need money to, to run, to operate, to keep the lights on, to keep doing the work that they do in the communities or, or with the services that they provide. And, you know, they don’t necessarily need a million dollars to have a million dollar impact on the world, but they do, they do need some money in some way, at some point for something and being able to, to keep pushing that and, and have donations. Being able to have a, a website, a brochure site, even it doesn’t need to connect to anything, but just have something very professional and engaging so that when you go and approach organizations or government for grants, right, that they go there and it doesn’t look like it was something that was put together really slowly.

David S: You know, when we talk about what we could do as digital marketing professionals, what we could do for an NPO, the NPO has their organization and business concept, and we want them to run their nonprofit to the best of their abilities and to go make those local connections, to form those liaisons and partnerships and local government partnerships and get involved in local programs. They don’t and should not have the time or energy to say, I’m gonna go and study SEO for two hours a night. And even at that level, you’re not gonna be an expert in SEO for at least a year or so, if you did it like that, I mean, I started studying SEO in 96 or 98 or something, and I regularly have to get up to speed on its changes. So, you know, you have to kind of come to it with that perspective, that I’m going to an expert to get help, to make these things come to fruition, ask a lot of questions, expect them to be informed and to be able to answer your questions, but be a open to really growing a business exponentially.

David S: You know, it’s like there was an optician I worked with maybe five years ago, maybe longer. And we had that discussion and I just, “what are the problems you’re facing?” “Well, we want to be able to bid on government contracts.” “Okay. Did you know you could automate that process? Let’s work that out. Let’s hammer out the details of that. So you can bid on these contracts. Don’t worry about the website because right now the money to be made is in the government contracts.” So here’s the discussion. Would you invest $5,000, if you could make back that amount five times over in six months, and then to most businesses and to most NPOs that’s incomprehensible. The possibility of that is just, you know, completely unimaginable. You know, I’m thinking of expletives, but that’s how we as professionals, we have to talk to the NPO and explain if you take one high value, time consuming process and automate that you’re going to make back whatever you could invest in me many times over very quickly.

So automate the bid process, automate the email process, automate, you know, the blogging process by having someone write one blog post per week, or biweekly or monthly for you and editing it, one video per week, one podcast per month, you know, whatever. But by having that put together for you now, you’re freed up to go and make those phone calls and take those meetings with other NPOs and other government organizations, because that’s where the real money is to be made and that’s work that we can’t do. And we shouldn’t be doing for you, in other words, staying in your lane.

David P: So it’s really interesting. You’re talking about, you know, having somebody put together blog posts or, you know, work on podcasts.

David S: Content repurposing.

David P: Exactly. So there’s content repurposing, content marketing. What’s your take on how, or if nonprofits should do and participate in content marketing,

David S: 100%, the only way or reason that a nonprofit organization should not participate in content marketing is if you’re a one person shop and you have no interest whatsoever in writing on a regular basis. And really quite honestly, if that’s you, should you even be doing this? Are you even, and I don’t wanna say this in a mean way, but it may be that you’re in the pre-launch phase. So that you may be at the point where you’re not quite ready to start the nonprofit, or maybe it shouldn’t be a nonprofit. So, but if your goal is to expand, reach, to increase donations and grow as an NPO, you absolutely need to be blogging on a consistent basis. If you can’t do it consistently, don’t start. The same is true with podcasting. You know, I’m on my third podcast, but it’s primarily because I’m one person. I’m semi-retired knock on wood, thank god.

You know, I started the podcast because they were fun for me, when they stopped being fun, I stopped doing them. Okay. That’s a completely different perspective than what should be a lean, mean, focused NPO machine. So if you have the infrastructure in place where you have someone to help you write the content, produce the podcast, make the videos. In other words, a miniature marketing department, then you should begin doing this. And when I say a miniature marketing department, you don’t need 20 people. You need maybe four or five people, and these can be virtual assistants, or it could be even one or two virtual assistants who work remotely and are really, really good. You know, I have a content repurposing package. I don’t know if it’s listed on my website or not, but it’s like what you said, one blog post per month, turn it into a video, turn it into a blog post, a podcast, a video, an infographic summarizing key concepts.

But if you can do that once per month, imagine the amount of content our marketing collateral you’ll have after one year. Now, imagine what would happen if you could do that on a weekly basis. Every Monday morning at 9:00 AM we have a new podcast, a new blog post, a new video, a new infographic. How many, you know, marketing collateral pieces are you gonna have? So you have to look at it like that. The more deliberate, the more organized and structured you are with what you do, the more seriously you take it and see problems as solvable, you know, solvable rubik’s cube. The more you can really get done very methodically, but the savior complex doesn’t work. It really didn’t even work for Jesus, if you think about it. I mean, you know, there’s, there’s a part in the Bible where I think he told Judas, you know, “get me outta here”. I’m not a biblical scholar, but I remember somewhere in the Bible, you know, he asked Judas, “there’s too many people. I can’t heal every single person here.” So if he couldn’t do it, and you’re not an expert in marketing and you don’t have all the time and energy in the world, how are you going to grow a business exponentially without help?

So, I mean, my heart goes out to NPOs. In many cases, I love their missions, but in order to help them, we both have to be able to come to the table and be very open and honest and transparent with each other. The NPO has to be honest about what is a realistic budget estimate or range for them as well as what they can or cannot do. And then the digital marketing person or agency has to be transparent about the tools and skills that they bring to bear as well as the important value.

David P: Yeah. And I, I think that’s, that’s exactly it, right? You need to figure out what your budget is, what you want to achieve. Bring in some experts, have them do some discovery sessions and invest maybe a little bit of money to, to bring in the experts, to talk about and find out what it is that you actually really need to achieve, what your goal is, what your desired outcome is. And then also, a website, your digital marketing is not really one and done. You need to have ongoing time and effort put into it. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You know, like David was just talking about producing content on a regular basis every Monday morning or once every two weeks or whatever it is, you know, in terms of producing the content, it could be what we tell our clients, you know, 300 and words, 350 words, right? Doesn’t have to be really long verbose pieces of content-

David S: Oh, that’s not long enough at all. No way.

David P: What would you recommend?

David S: I would say at least 500 words. And again, from the perspective of a former English teacher, 500 words is five paragraphs. Typically with the average paragraph being around five to 10 sentences. So just long enough for you to express an idea and give some depth, three or four internal links, and that means linking to other blog posts and other pages. Three or four external links, linking to scholarly or competitive websites that link higher than you. And I’m not saying that to negate what you were saying, just as my own personal feelings in it, you know, but you brought up a great point when we talk about websites being perceived as one and dones, single objects. And I hear that many, many times, “how much is a website?”. As if you’re ordering, you know, a cheeseburger or something, or you’re, you know, buying a banana or something. It’s not an object.

If you look at government websites, even at the dawn of the internet, back in the nineties, or earlier, I started in the mid nineties, government websites were seen portals, portals. They weren’t single objects. You would go to the government website so that you could use their e-commerce so that you could pay bills. You could check, you know, you could check on the status of an order. You could download documentation that you needed. A doctor we’ll have a portal so that you can check on your medical condition or see your medical report. You can pay your bill. You can see, has your prescription been shipped yet? You can see when your next appointment is any doctor or dentist who doesn’t have these tools usually is not seen as being professional.

And yet the NPO will think, “Oh, I can have a one page website. And the contact form is very simplistic. It may or may not work. The SEO is incorrect or doesn’t doesn’t even exist. Or I don’t know what SEO is and that’s okay. And all my competitors rank higher on Google than I do”.

How is that acceptable? And it really shouldn’t be if you’re passionate about your NPOs success. So when we talk about a website, it’s a process through which all of these other factors must go in order for them to deliver the results that you want. So SEO, eCommerce, content marketing, brand identity, so that people have the same experience, whether they look at you on Facebook or on Twitter or LinkedIn, or go to your company website or read a blog post, or watch a video that’s branding. If you wanna know branding, look at target, look at Barnes and Noble, look at Amazon. Look at these huge global companies. Or if you’re a nonprofit, look at Kaiser Permanente, which is extremely profitable, one of the most profitable companies in the United States, and they’re an NPO.

So you wanna look at all of these factors by going through the company website and working hand in hand to basically, you know, work to support this NPO. To touch on budgeting very briefly, a lot of NPOs don’t know how to budget, especially those who are new. They don’t know what a budget should be. And again, I love a lot of the nonprofit missions, but you can’t have a champagne dot a wish or champagne taste in a beer budget. Back when I had my agency and I was advertising very aggressively, where was this? In Denver. So if I wanted to put an ad in a local Denver newspaper, it would cost me several thousand dollars to put an ad in a local newspaper. And it would only run for two or three months. Once I stopped paying the newspaper would stop running to add whatever phone calls or emails I might get would stop with that.

Now the newspaper would never guarantee you’re going to get X number of phone calls per month, or X number of phone calls or emails per month. They would never guarantee that, okay. They would just tell you point blank. If you wanna advertise in our newspaper, this is our circulation. And you have to pay two, $3,000 at the bare minimum to get exposure in their newspaper. And after that two to three month period, the ad stops. Well, if you want to get a decent website, that’s still, that’s a modest but decent estimate or range, two to three thousand to “play with the big boys”. The very it’s, it’s a modest, but decent amount. I think most agencies or individuals would take you seriously and go, okay, well, at least there’s something that we can work with to put our time and energy into.

Now, take it a step further, if you wanted to put an ad in a radio station, that amount of investment would increase exponentially because you still have people listening to terrestrial radio in their car. So you would pay several thousand dollars more per month to have an ad play on a radio station. The advertisement has to be at a more professional level as well in order to be featured in that way. So now the level of investment goes down much higher.

To advertise on Hulu, I think it is only 500 a month or something now. So you can advertise on Hulu and YouTube and Amazon and all these other incredible websites, millions and billions of people use around the world every day for around that same amount. So it’s fine to have these goals, but like a Thoreau said, “Build your castle in the air for that is where they should be, now lay your foundation beneath it”. So that’s how I like to explain budgeting. If we compare it to the newspaper, radio and television, you know, trinity, you have to start at several thousand and as you want to increase exposure, that’s how you should budget. That’s how you should put the ranges, and it’s very, very similar. So hopefully that helps for anybody who is interested in truly, truly growing a business.

David P: Absolutely. I think it’s really important for nonprofits to take their website seriously. It’s unfortunate, we conducted an audit over 300 nonprofits and charity websites, and there’s so many of them that are just, they look like they were made around the dawn of the internet, probably, you know? And, and what is that gonna do to your donors, right? Is it gonna turn them off? Are they gonna think about investing in your organization when it looks like your website was made maybe 15, 20 years ago, right. Making sure that you have something that can speak to your mission and showcases the amazing work that you’re doing, I think is absolutely critical. Producing this content over time, like you were just talking about, to drive more traffic into your website, to talk about the work that you’re doing and to try to build up your public profile and getting found in search. I think those are all really key pieces.

David S: Yeah. My wife likes to donate to several nonprofit organizations and she’ll find new ones every once in a while that she wants to donate. But as a savvy internet user, she will go to a nonprofit website, and if it looks like a PowerPoint presentation, she won’t take it seriously. If it doesn’t have the green lock to show that it’s secure, she knows not to use it. If they won’t take PayPal, she won’t use it because she knows that if there’s an issue, I have no support. Or if they take the money and run or tap my bank account or something, I have no recourse. So it’s really upon the nonprofit organization to take what they do seriously. And, you know, rather than to send out the mass cattle call RFP, engage in open dialogue, being clear about your pain points, and asking questions about the experience.

And, you know, seeing the website is more than an item, but as a portal, through which all these different digital marketing assets can go so that you can begin receiving the value that you need, the functions that you need help with. And in order to do that, they need to be aware of what they need. So they need to be kind of guided almost and taken through this process so that they’re informed. So, you know, that’s why I put so much emphasis on screening first and then onboarding and that we reverse it. The nonprofit should expect whoever they talk to just screen them for fit and then have an onboarding process where they’re trained and how this person works. But also in making sure that they’re familiar with these concepts of SEO and eCommerce and content marketing, content repurposing, like we discussed, and you know, what is PPC? What, what is a paid advertising budget? Did a, I should set aside if I want to get results, you know, so whoever they talk to should be able and happy to articulate that. Sorry to go off on a tangent.

David P: No, you’re absolutely spot on. If anybody that’s listening to this is thinking of redoing their website and you’re going out there and you’re like, okay, like, I understand that there’s a purpose and intent behind having an open process, especially for any organizations that are getting government funding. See if there’s a way before you engage in the RFP process to connect with some agencies and have these conversations that David was just talking about. You know, if they can’t tell you, you know, how much you should be spending in your ad spend, that might be a bit of a red flag. If they don’t know about the Google grants for nonprofits, for registered charities, that would be a red flag. If they can’t talk about the benefit of having content produced or published on your website on a regular basis, you know, multiple red flags there.

David S: I would even take it a step further and say that a website by itself is nothing. It’s like clothes. I mean, without someone to wear the clothes and give them some personality, it’s an empty vessel, right? So having a website with no content, with no SEO or incorrect SEO, it does no one any good. You know, I remember a long time ago, I volunteered to help, I think it was two nonprofit organizations. And my heart really went out to the causes that they were putting forth. And so one nonprofit organization was one to help homeless veterans. And I thought, well, that’s a fabulous cause. I contacted the NPO, you know, for clarity, “I would be happy to help you. What do you need done? What are your pain points? What are you trying to get done? Do you have competitors who are eating your lunch, that you wanna, you know, be like them or whatever”. I created the site, within two weeks it went to number one in Google for their type of nonprofit, where they were, for their geographic location.

The person in charge of the NPO sent me an email about a week later, saying, “I need you to delete the website, take it down completely”. I said, “why would you want that? You’re you must, I know you’re getting phone calls because I see the emails being sent because, right, I BCC myself so I can track the emails and I can see that they’re working. So I know, she said, “Well, we’re getting so many phone calls and emails, we don’t know what to do. And we’re getting donations, but we’re not set up as a 301C.

David P: 501C3.

David S: 501C3, Thank you. Which shows how long it’s been. And well, she said “we’re not set up as a 5013C org”. I said, “Well, you told me you were” “Okay, so basically we don’t have the infrastructure to handle the phone calls and the emails, or actually help the people or handle the donations”. So I said, “that’s fine. Give me 24 hours. I’ll take care of everything. Have a great rest of your life. I’m sorry things didn’t work out”. I took a lot of screenshots. I made a video of the website so I could save it for my own records of the work that I had done. And obviously that changed a lot for me. So now I would never dream of working with a nonprofit. Unless first we screened for fit then onboarded to make sure that they had the assets available that were necessary, that they were familiar with all these concepts and processes. So when you go through that as an NPO, I’m sure it was very painful on her part. And from my perspective, it’s painful because here I have this stunning website that’s getting you phone calls and donations, but now we have to delete it all within the span of one month. That’s not where you wanna be. So you need that foundation first.

David P: Absolutely a hundred percent, right? If you want to go out there and you know, sell shoes online, you need the infrastructure for fulfillment. You need the infrastructure for payments and you need the infrastructure to handle customer complaints and refunds and returns and all that. It’s not just, “okay, we’re gonna go and, and do this”. We’re not just going to accept these donations. You know, how, what do you do internally from a fundraising side, from a donations perspective side, for donors that want to leave pieces in their estates or their wills or to your organization.

David S: Exactly. Yeah.

David P: You have to be completely set up on the back end to handle it.

David S: Exactly. And if, again, we compare this to other service providers. If you go to a doctor, they have a screening and onboarding process, it’s very stringent. In the US. I don’t know how it is in Canada, but in the US, everything is based on either your income level or the type of insurance you have. So if I call a doctor in the US, the first thing they’re going to ask me is “What insurance do you have?” We can’t forget about making an appointment and diagnosing your problem. And you’re not gonna call a doctor and say, “how much is a visit to the doctor. And I need this done immediately. And if you’re not cheap enough, I’m gonna go to another doctor”. It doesn’t work like that. Unless you do. you know, you find a doctor who works in his garage or something, which they do have in the US, but I wouldn’t go to one.

So I mean, you, you’ve got to have these, what they call boundaries, rules and limitations. So these very important structures in place. So yeah, if you go to any other service provider, they’re going to have a way to first make sure that you’re a fit for them, that you’ve got what they need in order for them to work with you. Then they tell you what the payment is going to be. And in many cases, they don’t even tell you what the payment is gonna be, you just get the bill. So we have to kind of look at it like that. You know, that I’m going to this expert on the basis of their experience in order to resolve a serious issue to me. And if the issue isn’t serious, then it’s a hobby.

David P: Absolutely. So this has been so great. We’ve had, it’s really fun to talk to another person that’s been doing the agency work, but that’s been, that’s been working, you know, in, in my shoes and having these kind of conversations and helping the people that are listening to this episode really kind of understand a little bit more holistically, kind of a 360 degree approach to all the different facets and all the different bits of content, backend editing, things that they, they should really know about as they go into potentially a website redesign or thinking about looking at an RFP process and the pain that can be associated with that. So thank you so much. I think this has been a really great episode. I hope the people listening have been able to get some great advice from you and some pointers today. If anybody wants to get in touch with you, what do they need to do?

Well, I’d like to just add one little point at the end, if I may. I think everybody in the digital marketing space, I’m sure you would agree with this, we resonate with the purposes and causes of nonprofit organizations. In most cases, we want to be able to help you, but we need the nonprofit organization to meet us in partnership and to have a dialogue about needs and what the most important pressing issues are, where we can contribute and add value to you as opposed to buying objects, which is a common perception that we all, and we both see on a regular basis, I think it’s fair to say.

So I think that’s really important to bear in mind that, you know, we want to be able to help you, but we need you to meet us halfway, when I talk about these concerns that we’ve discussed in our interview. As far as, you know, how people can reach out to me to learn more, to get a lot of free giveaways I have on my website, I have free downloads and reports and checklists. And even an ideal client game that you can take to see if you’re a good fit for digital marketing on my website, I also offer free no hassle consultation that you can go to my website and schedule one. And I’ll talk to you and be brutally honest with you, just like I was here. So all you have to do is go to Google and type in dms.blue, or go into any browser and just type in dms.blue and hit enter.

David P: Fantastic. So I know you’ve mentioned a couple of blog articles in today’s episode and the link to your website. We’re gonna have a show notes page, just anybody listening head over to wowdigital.com/podcast. Find this episode with David Somerfleck and we’ll have the links and the show notes for you. I hope that everybody takes something from this, at least one maybe actionable item that you’ve heard and you go back and you talk to the people in your team, or if it’s just you, you know, go back and do something with it and have an awesome day, keep on being successful and will see you on the next episode.

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