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Football Meets Philanthropy: What nonprofits can learn from Super Bowl ads

in Communications, Marketing by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment

By Lauryn Rosinski – Marketing and PR Account Coordinator 

You know the drill: You walk into your office the morning after the Super Bowl. Your coworkers are gathered around the water cooler, talking excitedly. After all, they still cannot believe what they saw on television last night.

No, they aren’t talking about the game. They aren’t even talking about the halftime show. (Sorry, Justin Timberlake.)

They are talking about the commercials.

For the past 52 years, Super Bowl commercials have become famous for being creative, quotable and memorable. They have also been known to make smaller brands household names in a matter of seconds. In fact, some companies’ websites have shut down overnight from the sheer impact their commercials had on Super Bowl viewers.

Sure, we have all had a good laugh from watching whacky Doritos commercials. We may have even felt patriotic after watching the famous commercial in which Coca Cola customers sing “America the Beautiful” in different languages.

However, as entertaining as Super Bowl advertisements can be, they can also teach for-profit and nonprofit organizations about marketing, branding and using their creative voices to deliver a message.

Check out some examples of this year’s Super Bowl commercials – and see the key takeaways that nonprofits can learn from them.

1: Budweiser – “Stand by you”

Budweiser made a pretty shocking move this year when they decided to not feature their infamous Clydesdales in this year’s Super Bowl commercial. Instead, they went for a different approach – they promoted Anheuser-Busch InBev’s philanthropic water giveaways after natural disasters.

This Budweiser ad is successful for several reasons. First of all, it gives current and potential customers an idea of what happens behind the scenes at Budweiser. Secondly, it effectively promotes the Budweiser brand by telling a story. Thirdly, it explains that AB InBev is a beverage and brewing company that is also committed to creating a cleaner, healthier world through different initiatives.

And, most importantly, it shows why Budweiser helps with AB InBev’s mission.

When marketing themselves, nonprofits should take a page from Budweiser’s book. They need to focus on three key aspects of their organization – who they are, what they do and why they do it. This will not only help potential donors and volunteers understand their mission more clearly, but it will also inspire them to get more involved.

2: Groupon – “Who wouldn’t”

Groupon’s message for this year’s commercial was obvious; in fact, the star of the commercial, Tiffany Haddish, states what that it is in the first seven seconds of the ad:

“When you use Groupon in your neighborhood, you’re not only saving money – you’re also supporting local business.”

If the commercial just ended here, it would be considered boring and on-the-nose. However, the 2018 “Who wouldn’t” ad takes a silly approach following this statement. Haddish goes on to ask what type of people wouldn’t support local business. The viewers are then shown a comedic scene in which a snobby man talks about how he cannot stand local business – and later gets hit by a football.

Again, the message is simple – don’t be like this guy and to support local businesses by using Groupon.

This Groupon commercial exemplifies certain aspects of strong marketing. For one, its key messages are clear throughout the ad and it conveys the tone of the brand by using humor.

Before nonprofits market themselves, they must always keep the image of their brand in mind. What do they want target audiences to know about their organization? Who do they serve? How do they want to be remembered by potential donors and volunteers? If nonprofits can answer these questions, they will be able to market themselves more effectively and successfully.

3: Stella Artois – “Taps”

Anheuser-Busch knocked it out of the park again – and this time, they did it with a Stella Artois ad.

In the 2018 “Taps” commercial, viewers can see people using water as a part of daily life – whether they are taking baths, washing their hands or cleaning lettuce for dinner, they all have access to clean water. The commercial then shows people in developing countries, walking with large water jugs on their heads.

As A-list actor Matt Damon goes on to explain that, while some can get water within seconds, others have to walk six hours to get water for themselves and their families. He then encourages viewers to purchase limited edition Stella Artois chalices, with the proceeds of the purchases going to, an organization that invests in clean water initiatives.

This commercial will make you want to immediately purchase a Stella Artois chalice – and that is the whole point.

When reaching out to donors or volunteers, nonprofits should appeal to the emotional side of their audiences. After all, the nonprofit sector is an emotional business. It is heartbreaking to see the struggles and challenges those whom nonprofits serve face; however, having the chance to help them is also incredibly rewarding.

If nonprofits market themselves in a way Stella Artois marketed, they will be unforgettable and unstoppable.

4: Kraft – “Calling all families”

Although there are millions of nonprofits with different missions and goals, one theme throughout the sector remains the same – nonprofits thrive because real people get involved.

Although Kraft is not a nonprofit, the marketing saw the importance of real families and decided to promote them.

In the first installment of the “Calling all families” advertisements, Kraft encourages families to submit family photos via social media. During the second half of the Super Bowl, Kraft showed several pictures of beaming families, all of whom were hoping to be featured.

Kraft’s commercial is successful because it acknowledges its consumers and gives them an activity to get more involved in their brand. Nonprofits should take similar steps when marketing to volunteers, donors, staff members and other audiences. Whether it is a contest or simply saying “thank you,” nonprofits should show those dedicated to their mission that they are appreciated and needed.


Ultimately, nonprofits just need to stay true to themselves, the people they serve and their audiences.

At the end of the day, successful marketing will mean a touchdown for a nonprofit.

Nine lessons learned from clients in 2017, and how we’re using them in 2018

in Communications, Leadership, Planning by Lauryn Rosinski Leave a comment

In our roles as fundraising and communications professionals at Dot Org Solutions, we educate and guide our clients so that they can raise the most money and awareness as possible for their organizations.

But we have a little secret; one we don’t often share. We learn a great deal from them as well, putting some of their best practices into use in our own company.

That’s because nonprofits have some unique qualities that those of us in the for-profit space should emulate. Yes. For-profit companies should emulate certain nonprofit qualities. There’s certainly a touch of irony in that statement given that boards and others in business often tell nonprofits that they need to run more like businesses. In some respects, I agree. But in terms of having passion for helping others and making the world a better place, most nonprofits can’t be beat.

So, at Dot Org we are taking nine lessons learned from working with our clients in 2017 and are putting them to use in our 2018 planning. We hope that by adopting and incorporating these best practices into our work, we will be an even better company in the future.

#1: Focus on the mission.

More than 95 percent of our clients are nonprofit organizations. It’s the core of what we do here at Dot Org. (Hence our name.)  When we help them plan, develop marketing messages, fundraising campaigns, write grants, etc., we are always highly focused on their mission. We decided to take the same approach and let our company mission drive everything we do. Our mission: to support nonprofits in their fundraising and marketing efforts so they can better serve their clients and build better communities.

#2: Find your niche – do what you do best.

We cannot be all things to all people. And we often tell our nonprofit clients to do what they do best and not develop a new program or service just to get additional funding. We’ve decided to focus on what we do best here at Dot Org – content, strategy, training, planning, branding/brand integration, marketing and fundraising campaigns. This focus will help us get even better in these core areas so we stay true to our mission.

#3: Collaborate.

I think the word nonprofit should be synonymous with collaboration. That’s because nonprofits often must work together to best meet the needs of the constituents they serve. We are seeking ways to collaborate with key partners as well in 2018 to better serve our clients. We already have some partnerships in the works and are looking forward to rolling them out throughout the year.

#4: Tell stories.

We’re great storytellers – for our clients. Sometimes it’s just hard to tell our own. But, we realize how important it is to share our own experiences and the great work of our clients with others. So, we’re going to focus on sharing more of what we do and why we do it. We will also be developing some training and education opportunities to help nonprofits perform better, which we will be rolling those out during the year.

#5: Have clean data.

Ok… This one sounds a little strange. But we spend quite a bit of time helping nonprofit clients set up and clean up their constituent database systems. We preach about the importance of pristine donor data and how it is critical to better communications and fundraising. So, when we implemented a new software system for ourselves this year to create internal efficiencies, we needed to get all of our customer, vendor and prospect data into one place. Wow. What a mess. Our data certainly isn’t pristine. We have much work to do. So, like we advise our clients, we vow to create better data entry processes and continue to clean up our data to save time and better communicate with our clients, vendors and prospects in the future.

#6: You don’t marry everyone you date.

Sometimes client and vendor relationships just don’t work out. It is important to know when the relationship isn’t working and make the choice to move on. That said, we also need to remember not to burn bridges. You never know when you may run into the ex at some point and want to remain amicable.

#7: Plan and set goals.

We spend lots of time working with clients on developing marketing and fundraising plans that align with their goals. We’ve certainly gotten better at this as our company has grown, but we’re making a conscious effort in 2018 to develop solid goals and objectives along with action plans to go along with them.

#8: Remember why you do what you do. What’s your end goal? 

This one ties back to the whole concept of mission. But sometimes it’s hard to focus on the end goal when we are busy, tired, frustrated or fatigued by the length or stress of a project. It’s also easy to lose sight of the “why” we are working on something. So, we’re taking some cues from our nonprofit friends when we get in this situation and asking ourselves “what did we do to make a difference today?” If we can answer that question, we get back to understanding the “why.”

#9: Slow down and savor the successes.

Actually, this bit of advice is something we all can benefit from. Whether it is the homeless program placing a family in a new home after a tragedy, a musical organization building confidence in its young singers, or a community health center providing healthcare to immigrants, nonprofits celebrate and savor successes every day. It is human nature to try to fix things and dwell on what isn’t going well. We’re going to make a conscious effort in 2018 to slow down, breathe and step back to enjoy what we have accomplished.

Whether they know it or not, our nonprofit clients (and thousands of other nonprofits like them), have a profound impact on all of us here at Dot Org Solutions. We thank them for all they do to make our communities great places to live and wish them much success in 2018.

For these times, they are a-changin.

in Communications, Leadership by Amy Wong Leave a comment

Maybe I am dating myself. And yes, I admit to overuse of an oft-quoted Bob Dylan song lyric as an entry to a blog/article. But as a near life-long resident of northeast Ohio (minus six years during college and in my early 20s) I have noticed more change in the last five years than I have seen in a long time.

Something just “feels” different. I can’t put my finger on it, but there seems to be a positive energy cast over the region – an aura that signals some really great things are on the horizon.

I see increased collaboration, new ideas, faster project iteration, a focus on innovation, and even investments in technology and programs that aren’t quite the norm or a guaranteed slam dunk. There are changes in leadership at many levels. Young people are being given a chance to head up organizations and projects, and even though there is still a gender gap, increased opportunities supporting women are emerging.

Leadership Akron’s Community Leadership Institute (CLI) collaboration with Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio is one such emerging opportunity.

I was fortunate to be selected for the CLI Class II, which completed its three-month program in early May. I didn’t know what to expect when the program started, but I knew the content would be valuable since both organizations have a reputation for delivering high-quality programs.

I was certainly not disappointed, but was surprised by how much more I took away from the program than I anticipated. As a CEO, I am constantly looking for ways to do things better for clients and staff. The CLI gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in something that will help me improve and grow personally as well as professionally.

During CLI…

  • I met people who inspired me and that I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise.
  • I learned to embrace the energy and knowledge from our group discussions.
  • I enjoyed that no one talked about how to communicate with a specific age group – baby boomers, Generation Xers or millennials. What we did talk about was how to harness our own strengths and understand the strengths of others to build a better workplace.
  • I made new friends and business connections that will be invaluable.
  • I joined 25 other women in looking for ways to create change in our workplaces and our community.

While heading up my own company and a household with three busy teenagers, I must work to be a good leader and role model. I’m not perfect by any means and I have certainly made mistakes. But I am willing to learn. I think women need programs like CLI to make it easier to gain leadership skills. CLI gave us a “safe zone” where we could be a little vulnerable and honest, while speaking about real issues without being judged.

I am a firm believer that being better requires change, whether it is changing leaders, a habit, an attitude or process. And I truly believe times ARE changing here in northeast Ohio, definitely for the better. And I love it.

What to do when communication misfires

in Communications, Uncategorized by Jeanine Black Leave a comment

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou


Effective business communications is an art form. Whether you are a professional communicator, like me, or an accountant or a plant manager, how you interact with employees, co-workers, colleagues and clients/customers is one of the most important keys to success. And with today’s ever-increasing digital world, non-verbal communication is almost non-existent leaving much of what we say up to interpretation, leading, so many times, to miscommunication.

It’s all in the delivery

We’ve heard this phrase a million times and we all know how true it is, yet somehow, we seem to keep missing the mark. Almost daily, if not more frequently, I receive or am copied on at least one email or text that has the ability to throw me off my game because of someone’s “tone” or because the message is vague and hard to understand.  Yes, there is email etiquette and best practices for communication, but how you handle that negative email, text, phone call or comment on social media will make all the difference in world.

Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that help me in communicating with others:

  • We are all human. We all have hopes, dreams and back stories. We’ve all felt happiness and we’ve all been hurt. Being empathetic to those around you will always give you an upper-hand in your communications. I’m willing to bet that nasty email you received had nothing to do with you. Someone is having a bad day, week or year and you happened to be on the receiving end. Not fair? Possibly…but we’ve all done it. Keep an open mind.
  • Some people just don’t get it. Your hackles go up when you see their name in your inbox or their number comes up on your phone. They are direct, blunt, mean, cold…call it what you will. But they will forever not understand the nuances that go into communicating effectively. It’s how you handle it that will determine where the relationship goes from there. Do you let it ruin your day? Do you shoot back an equally tone-deaf email? Hopefully not. Choose your words carefully and engage them directly. Chances are you will find out they are not upset at all and had no ill intentions – in fact, are very nice people! But they simply don’t know how to express themselves.
  • Digital communication breeds false bravado. We see it every day on Facebook, Twitter and in inter-personal communication. People hide behind the distance email can provide or the anonymity of social media. It’s easy to “speak your mind” when the person you’re addressing isn’t standing in front of you. So buck the trend. Pick up the phone, schedule a meeting or simply go talk to the sender. Bravado disappears when met face to face (notice I didn’t say confronted?) making it that much easier to tackle a difficult issue, situation or communication. And if you have to have a difficult conversation, take some time to evaluate whether email is the proper channel to use; most likely, it is not.
  • Do unto others. How do you feel when you receive a negative email or voicemail? Remember that the next time you’re the one doing the sending. Are you watching your tone? Are you being specific vs. vague? Are you keeping it concise? Are you making it easy for the receiver to figure out what you need so they can prioritize their day? If not, start over.


Patience, empathy and treating others how you would like to be treated can go a long way in communication and relationships, in life and career.


Five tips for fashion-forward communication and fundraising

in Communications, Giving by Amy Wong Leave a comment

In full disclosure, I am not a fashionista. In fact, I hate shopping for clothes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some knowledge of what is going on in fashion. I have a teenage daughter – need I say more?

However, I pay close attention to what is happening in marketing communications and fundraising. I spend a great deal of time reading, listening to experts in the field, fielding questions from clients, trying new things and making sense of it all. What I have found over time is that there are many similarities to fashion. So, as a nod to some of my favorite fashion designers (Coco Chanel, Donna Karan), I compile this list of Five Tips for Fashion-pearlsForward Marketing and Fundraising.

  1. Stick with tried and true– not trendy: Well-written content, proper grammar, attention to detail and forging strong relationships never go out of style. While industry trends come and go (QR codes and telethons anyone?), strong writing and relationship skills continue to be the basis of every successful campaign.
  2. Accessorize: If you stick with what is tried and true, adding trendy accessories is definitely acceptable, as long as they don’t take over the outfit! One of my colleagues says it well. “Social media is a tool not a strategy.” So use tools/accessories such as social media, to enhance your basic outfit (plan). But, don’t use them without some strong wardrobe basics.
  3. Stay classy: Just as a revealing outfit speaks volumes about the person wearing it, so does inappropriate communications and fundraising. I am amazed by people who forget their manners and resort to tactics that compromise their integrity and that of their organization. Yes, today’s society is much more accepting of poor language, revealing clothing, etc. But that doesn’t mean it should make its way into your communications and fundraising efforts. Stay classy. You never know who you may offend.
  4. Edit: Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. So, just as you take a look in the mirror before you head out the door, take a look close look at your campaign before you launch. If there is too much there, do some editing. Or if there is not enough, add some more.
  5. Change with the seasons. Just as you change up your wardrobe as the seasons change, consider making modifications to your materials and messages. They also get bored easily. So don’t be afraid to try new things and make changes to keep things fresh.


Take a minute and look at your fundraising and communications plans just as you would your wardrobe. Consider making necessary adjustments so you too can be fashion-forward in your efforts.


Donor Communication – Comparing it to “the big game”

in Communications, Giving, Planning by Amy Wong Leave a comment

In the spirit of yesterday’s “big football game,” I thought it could be fun to think about donor communications in the context of the pregame and four-quarters.Football scoreboard

Pregame:For nonprofits, the pregame is typically the year-end appeal. A strong year-and campaign often dictates what an organization will be able to do in the next year. If this is the only appeal you do, make sure it includes a mix of mail, social media, email communication and phone calls. You are competing against many other quality “teams” for your donor’s dollars.


The First Quarter: In the first quarter, your donors are still interested – similar to those who are just sitting down to watch the game and much-anticipated commercials. They have come to the party by making a gift at year end, and your organization is still fresh in their minds. Keep your organization front of mind and set up the coming year.  Consider:

  • Sharing goals for the coming year and how donor gifts will help achieve those goals
  • Producing a calendar of events for the coming year
  • Explaining any changes you anticipate for the year


The Second Quarter:The second quarter can go either way. If your team is still in the game, they will remain engaged. If your team is way behind, you may lose donor interest and they will find something else to do and support. So it is important to keep them in “the loop.”

  • Maintain regular communication – once a month is recommended through e-newsletters or print if your budget allows.
  • Use social media to share photos, organizational events, etc.
  • Keep donors apprised of special events, newsworthy items, etc. through special communications


Halftime:This is a great time to showcase your talent. Your audit should be done and you can share success from the prior year.

  • Create an annual report. It doesn’t have to list donors unless that is important to your constituents. It can be a simple year in review completed in-house and sent out electronically via email and social media channels.
  • Send reports to donors who have endowed funds. Tell them how their gifts were used, the value of their fund and other relevant data.


The Third Quarter:The game is more than half over, but there is still work to be done. Update your donors on your goals. Don’t lose steam as you prepare for year-end. Continue regular communication like you did in the second quarter. If your donors continue stay engaged, this will help your year-end appeal success.


The Fourth Quarter:At this point, you don’t want to rely on a Hail Mary pass. Controlling the game is where you want to be. Make sure you are very strategic and thoughtful in planning and executing your annual appeal.  A strong game plan is going into the fourth quarter will make a significant difference and carry your organization through the end of the year.


Post Game: Take time to celebrate, assess your program, and reflect on the good you do.

Don’t exceed the bugging quotient

in Communications by Amy Wong Leave a comment

For the record, I live in Ohio.

If you have followed the presidential race, you probably noticed our Midwestern state was a pretty popular place leading up to the election. Daily visits from candidates, a barrage of unsolicited phone calls, mail – LOTS of mail, and more mudslinging television commercials than you can imagine.

But that’s not even the beginning. We were home to some of the most-watched Senate and House races in the country. So, more mail, mudslinging… you get the idea.

This election reached my “bugging quotient.” What is a “bugging quotient” you ask? Bugging quotient” is a term I use to describe my threshold for communication. When you exceed it, I tune you out and you have lost me.  I am sure there are quite a few battleground state residents who feel the same way right now.

I can’t say I coined this term, but throughout my career, my “bugging quotient,” has been exceeded many times. Usually it results in removing my name from a subscription list, hitting the delete button, un-following, etc.

There is a fine line between developing a plan that incorporates regular communication and “bugging” those who you want to pay attention to you.


Ideas to help keep your “bugging quotient” low

  • Speak to your consumers – not at them.
  • Keep it fresh.
  • Give your audience a little credit – and have a little fun.
  • Make it relevant and original, but don’t overdo it.


Speak to your consumers – not at them.

Think of how your target audience will receive what you are saying. It is not about you – it is about them. The messages that exceed the bugging quotient the fastest are those that don’t speak to the consumer.

Keep it fresh.

The definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If it worked 6 months ago, it doesn’t mean it will work now. If you notice a drop in readership or followers, change up the message or promotion so audiences don’t get bored and tune you out.

Give your audience a little credit – and have a little fun.

I am amazed (and maybe a little jaded because of the election) how many messages are “dumbed down.”  Give your audience credit that they know something and give them helpful information. But have fun with it. Good information doesn’t have to be boring and everyone needs a chuckle now and then. (The Allstate Mayhem commercials do this brilliantly.)

Make it relevant and original, but don’t overdo it.

People are always looking for relevant information. That is why top bloggers and journalists have such great followings. But too much of a good thing can be dangerous. So, keep the topics real for your audience and pace the messages appropriately. It is not a matter of who sends the most wins.


Today is election day and I am looking forward to a quieter phone, regular commercials and less recycling.I hope you voted and exercised your right as an American! I did and I am hitting the reset button on my “bugging quotient” meter, ready for the next annoying thing.