Five Lessons Learned at NIO Summit 2023

October 13, 2023
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Home 9 +Good Newsletter 9 Five Lessons Learned at NIO Summit 2023

Last month, I attended the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit (NIO) to learn about all things nonprofit marketing, fundraising, and generosity. It was an awesome two days packed with information … which means that today’s email is also packed with information and advice for YOU. 

Keep reading for a selection of the very best strategies I gleaned from the experts at NIO, plus action steps to help you implement them. 

Authenticity has to be at the core of what we do.

Carlos Whitaker talked about the power of harnessing a community around the common good. His advice can be distilled into two steps.

  1. Be human
  2. See humans

Our humanity is the foundation of our connection, and it has to be felt in interactions with donors—from in-person conversations to emails to donation forms. 

Action step: Take your donor journeys. Do you feel seen as a human? Where can you inject authenticity into the process?

AI is changing everything.

There is no avoiding this technology. Mike Kaput, Chief Content Officer at the Marketing AI Institute, reminded attendees that right now is the least impressive AI you will use in your lifetime. It will only get more refined and more ubiquitous. 

AI can be used to save time, cut costs, and accelerate revenue—allowing you to focus on the moments and work a human needs to do.

Action step: AI is especially useful for tasks that are data-driven, repetitive, predictable, or generative. Do you have tasks that could be streamlined by one of the myriad AI services out there? Take the time right now to identify them, find an AI solution, and save your future self time and energy!

Email is still powerful.

Here at Swell + Good, we love email (especially newsletters!), so I was especially excited for Ann Handley’s talk on everything she’s learned writing her popular newsletter, Total Annarchy. 

She focused on building an audience’s trust through every step of their journey. How does she do it? First, she makes sure emails come from a real person (and never from a do-not-reply@ email address), then she envisions a reader and writes to them. This helps ensure a warm, friendly voice. 

Finally, do not underestimate the power of a welcome email. This is where you set the tone and their expectations for email frequency and content. 

Action step: Are you asking for attention or earning trust? How can you optimize your email journey from start to finish to provide value and earn the trust of your audience?

Remember, you are a human.

Asking for money and meeting fundraising goals is a hard job, and it can lead to anxiety and burnout in fundraisers. Mallory Erickson opened NIO with concrete ways to combat burnout, regulate the nervous system, and work through anxiety—all to free up more energy and space for true connection with donors. 

She encouraged fundraisers to pay attention to their feelings and validate them, then try to get curious about donor motivation, instead of anxious. Finally, tracking progress that isn’t just dollars raised can help you or your team feel a sense of accomplishment and healthy motivation. 

Action step: Find a small, regular win you can celebrate with your team to encourage action and bring joy to your work.

Reaching Millennial and Gen Z donors is critical for your nonprofit’s success.

Jon Lee gave a powerful talk centered around being responsive to Millennial and Gen Z donors, who make up 40% of the US population. These donors have low levels of institutional trust, but they are searching for something to believe in. Jon’s tips for connecting with these donors include:

  • Help them feel powerful enough to fix one thing. Really paint a picture of the difference their action makes.
  • Create opportunities for true community and connection.
  • Be transparent about your wins and your losses. 

Action step: As you plan your next campaign, focus on the difference each individual donor will make. Show them exactly how they can create change—big or small.

Lindsey Lincoln

Lindsey is a communications specialist, writer, and literary fiction enthusiast. She spends her workdays writing social copy, stories, and newsletters, all while trying to curb her excessive exclamation point habit. Outside of that, you can usually find her reading books, talking about books, writing about books, or adding books to her neverending to-be-read-list.
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