Key Takeaways from NIO Summit 2021

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The NIO Summit 2021 included lots of Oompa Loompas, delicious Voodoo donuts, and powerful presentations on marketing for nonprofits. Read below for my key takeaways from NIO Summit 2021.

Key takeaways from NIO Summit 2021:

  1. The fundraiser is NOT always right: Say goodbye to the traditional “Donor Funnel” think through your “Donor Mountain.”
  2. Google is your BFF: What are people searching for related to your cause? Research related search terms and create value-add content.
  3. Own your personal brand: LinkedIn hasn’t reached content saturation – YET. Are you using it right? 
  4. Stop asking for donations: Wait, what!? Instead of just thinking about their next gift, how can you help your donors invite others to your cause to grow advocacy?
  5. Are you talking to me? Be hyper-specific about WHO your target audience is and what message is appropriate for where they are in the donor’s journey.
  6. STAND OUT! It’s so tempting to be safe and boring…you need to win on being unique and different.
  7. People NOT numbers: Involve people in your emails and STOP asking for a gift in every – single – email.
  8. Listen to understand, not to respond.


*Note: There was a lack of diversity on the stage. This is something that was brought to their attention by myself and others. I would like to see a better representation next year.


  1. Free Welcome Email Sequence  (Use code: NIO2021)
  2. Journey Map Template for Content Creation
  3. Soft Skills Are Hard 

Tools & Tech

  1. Copy Optimizer – Get feedback on your email copy
  2. Spark Toro – Audience insights based on URLs and Twitter handles
  3. Speakable – Enable civic engagement online

Notes below from each presentation.

The Fundraiser is NOT Always Right

Tim Kauchuriak – Founder of NextAfter

Question to ASK yourself: What’s your donor’s POV vs your POV of your organization?

As marketers, we need to rethink the traditional donor funnel. 

Introducing the “Donor Mountain” full of micro-decisions a potential has to go through to give their first gift – the “macro” decision. 

Nonprofits are standing at the peak of the mountain and YOU as a nonprofit marketer have to help them up this mountain through your emails, social media, landing pages, events, etc.

Beyond The Cost 

Roger Craver, The Agitator and Richard Viguerie, Amer. Target Adv.

Do you know your average retention rate? 

Oftentimes, nonprofits are focused SO much on how many NEW donors they can attract, that they forget one of the most crucial things…

Build relationships with the donors that have said, “YES” to keep them engaged year after year.

New donor acquisition is far more expensive and you’ll have lifetime advocates.

This led to an interesting discussion about direct mail vs digital.

You know I’m a HUGE supporter of digital, so this was an interesting point.

Direct Mail

  • 43% YoY increase
  • People get far less daily mail, so you stand out in their mailbox (IF done well)
  • Done wrong, goes in the trash


  • Saturated space, harder to stand out
  • Much more competition in the inbox
  • Done wrong pushes people away
  • Done right ability to convert easier

Using LinkedIn to Build Your Personal Brand

Anthony Jones, Ducks Unlimited

LinkedIn hasn’t reached content saturation – YET.

Key steps to building your LinkedIn content strategy:

  1. Post content that allows people to learn about YOU
  2. Define your content pillars
  3. Post 2-3x a week

But what about our nonprofit organization? Is our company page important?

*Employee voices are the most important. Encourage your staff to post and share their stories.*

The New Era of Nonprofit Engagement Has 3 Rules

Hilary Doe, NationBuilder

  1. Doing good can be fun
    1. Using leaderboard
    2. Earn points, gamify giving back
    3. Diversify action/ways donors can get involved
  2. Your supporters are your best fundraisers, advocates, and recruiters.
    1. Instead of just thinking about their next gift, how can you help your donors invite others to your cause?
    2. Equip your supporters to LEAD
      1. Local chapters
      2. Moderate a FB Group
      3. Amplify peer-to-peer outreach
  3. When people ask what they can do to help – be the answer.
    1. Be proactive when news or culturable moments happen relevant to you
    2. Embed actions in media
    3. Use QR codes in person or in the media
    4. Partner for maximum exposure

Content That Donors Can’t Ignore

Lauren Teague, Convince and Convert

“Our best donors use the currency of loyalty and advocacy.” 

How do you empower them to do that?

Put them at the center of your content. Take your brand OUT and make it about THEM.

Relevancy is key.

Who are you talking to? 

What are their needs and pain points?

THEN distribute your content in the right format to where they are. Not where you’d like to be.

Journey Mapping: Intentional content that supports donors in their journey

  1. Audience Overview
    1. Hyper specific about who you want to target
    2. Anchored around mindset, behavior and motivations, not demographics
  2. Decision Mindset – understand the audience’s POV
    1. Awareness
    2. Consider
    3. Action
    4. Advocacy 
  3. Brand Response – create content for each stage through the audience’s POV
    1. Support the audience at each stage

Click here for Journey Map Template

List Building with Movement Marketing

Jen Boulden, HigherU

Bring in values-aligned email subscribers who are more likely to be donors.

  1. Target to Movement
    1. Tie your brand message to a larger movement and shared pain point or passion
  2. Attracting Subscribers
    1. “Sign Up For My Newsletter” language is DEAD. Instead, what can you give them of value? What’s that free digital gift? What’s the value exchange for their email?
  3. Subscribers => Donors
    1. Create an email content that builds not HAMMERS
    2. Give, give, get mantra 


Differentiation Strategy

Peep Laja, CXL

What does donating to YOUR org say about the ME aka the donor?

  • The default is sameness 
  • You need to win on better unique and different
  • It’s so tempting to be safe and boring
  • What do your donors expect? And reverse the brand, give them what they don’t expect
  • Be first in the mind of the donor
  • Personal brand, having a face to your org is so important

How To Improve Your Email Marketing

Brady Josephson, NextAfter

Increase cultivation which equals revenue.

  • 6 out of 10 emails were sent focused on money
  • Names not numbers
  • Involve people IN the email – the power of YOU written in emails
  • Test sending your email from a PERSON vs brand or test “person name, brand”



I’m Dana Snyder! An entrepreneur, digital strategist, and passionate conscious consumer. I founded Positive Equation in 2017 with a focus on helping nonprofits cultivate passionate online audiences of donors, partners, and advocates using social media.

Currently based in Atlanta, I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with Movember, Dress for Success, USTA, Honest Company, Sports Illustrated, American Idol, The Global Foodbanking Network, The Gary Sinise Foundation, LA84 Foundation, and many more on their digital strategies.

Learn how to attract new donors with Facebook and Instagram ads in my online course, Digital Donors On-Demand!

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