What Nonprofits can Learn from the AMA Cause Conference

Last month I attended the American Marketing Association’s Cause Conference. This was a daylong conference in beautiful La Jolla.  Braving a rainy San Diego day was worth it for this event.  The amount of valuable information that I was able to glean from this conference is incomparable.

Topics ranged from nonprofit social media campaigns to choosing the right cause driven partner to donation apps such as MoGiv. The speaker lineup was a wonderful mix of nonprofit executives, entrepreneurs and business gurus. The keynote speaker was Jay Ferro, the Chief Information Officer for the American Cancer Society. Ferro had incredible insight into starting a conversation on social, thinking big, the importance of stories and asking the right questions. Here are the top five insights gained from Jay Ferro’s keynote speech that nonprofits can benefit from.

1. How to leverage social media

For nonprofits, social media can be tricky.  Finding resources to help shape your social strategy is extremely important (such as this one we created).  The key that Jay Ferro discusses during his speech is to start the conversation. You want people to be talking about your cause so fuel the imaginary fire.  Ask relevant questions to bring people in.  Also ask questions that will help you inform the structure of your organization or could help you grow.  It is critical to have customized content for each social platform. Each platform has a different voice that you should make sure your content is appropriate for.  For example, Twitter is a lot more laid back and conversational while LinkedIn should be leveraged for more professional, longer content.

2. Personal stories

Personal stories bring people in.  They are intrigued by what you say and want to learn more.  This is especially true when they can relate.  Give your audience the chance to tell their story, why your cause resonates with them.  A few ways to do that are to ask interactive questions on social media, run a campaign or even to send out a survey.  Like stated above, questions can fuel conversation as well as give you valuable feedback about your audience.  Running a campaign, such as this one the National MS Society launched during MS awareness week, engaged their audience by asking for their personal stories and why they advocate. People felt listened to and important. Lastly, you can send out a survey to get personal stories.  This is a great way to get feedback from your audience including what they would like to see more or less of.

3. Analytics and big data

Taking advantage of analytics and big data is huge for your nonprofit’s marketing efforts.  Google Analytics are free for your website and learning to read them is not overly complicated.  Leveraging that information could be the difference between having a good and having a great website experience.  Taking advantage of all of the big data out there regarding your cause is crucial to moving forward. It helps you keep up with trends and to understand your audience’s habits.

4. Asking the right questions

With so much data available to everyone it is important to be able to ask the right questions to the right people in order to get the information you are looking for.  One way to figure out the right questions to ask is to do an exercise internally and make a list of areas within your organization that could be improved.  From there it will be helpful to make a list of the information you would need to improve upon those sections.  Finally, create questions that will give you the answers you are looking for.  Keep in mind that open ended questions are going to provide more helpful answers if you’re asking your audience. Then you can distribute the questions through the distribution channels mentioned above or use the questions in search engines to take advantage of big data.

5. Thinking big

This was my favorite quote that Ferro said during his keynote speech referring to building your nonprofit.  He left us with this at the end of his talk.

“You must begin by thinking big, starting small and scaling fast.”

Thank you to the AMA for putting on such a wonderful conference and to Jay Ferro for the great insight. I am already looking forward to the event next year. If you have any questions or additional ideas, we always love to hear from you.


dana-jensen-bioDana Jensen is a project manager at local San Diego creative agency, Visceral (
thisisvisceral.com). Visceral works with leading humanitarian organizations, conservationists, advocacy groups, and social enterprises who tackle the world’s toughest problems. Dana can be reached at dana@thisisvisceral.com.Or on  Twitter (twitter.com/djensen21) or on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/pub/dana-jensen/67/b93/840)

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