Using Twitter to Expand Your Biomedical Nonprofit’s Fundraising Goals

September 16, 2014

5 marketing strategies for using Twitter to position your Biomedical Institution as an industry leader, spread awareness about your research, and expand critical funding for your brand.

First, Why Twitter?
It’s a tool that enables people to connect and maintain relationships as part of their normal everyday routine and from the convenience of their desks—or wherever they have internet. For Biomedical Nonprofits that want to build legitimacy around their brand, engaging donors and investors regularly is key. Twitter enables engagement across the globe in an instant. Now, here’s what you can do:

Build A Stronger Community
Twitter is a powerful communication tool that can help spread your message, but it’s people who raise the dollars. The key is to spend time building your online community with the right people who are most interested in your Biomedical Nonprofit’s brand story – i.e. investors, etc. They are the Twitter engine that can grow your audience, empower your cause, and ultimately impact your bottom line.

Make It Count.
With only 140 characters per tweet, Twitter forces us to make each Tweet count. Help investors understand your Biomedical Institution’s specific purpose and your request in a concise manner. Simply: Why should they care about your work and how will their monetary contribution make a difference to your research?… To the lives of patients?…To our global health?

Generate Excitement. Brand Your Initiative.
Creating exposure and excitement around any fundraising initiative is crucial. Get creative and set your campaign apart from other Biomedical Institutions by giving it personality and a distinctive voice on Twitter. An easily recognizable avatar and clever #hashtag can serve as smart and vibrant brand extensions for your campaign.

Celebrate Those Who Are Making a Difference.

Leadership Marketing via Social Media is about sharing information, but it’s also about generating positive energy around an important cause. Recognize those who are making an impact on your campaign. It could be a researcher, a donor, a volunteer, an investment group, or even your CEO. Share your thanks and acknowledge the contribution through a simple tweet, your newsletter, blog or an event. These are the roots of your campaign and online community.

Strengthen the Relationship. Stay Top of Mind.
As part of your everyday routine and without leaving your desk, Twitter enables you to regularly engage with your investors and stay top of mind. Sharing timely information enables investors to stay current with your progress. People want to know where their money is going and how it’s making a difference. A simple Tweet can keep them up to date. You can nurture developing relationships with ongoing communication that builds trust, enables your audience to have a greater sense of your needs, and also encourages a more regular and loyal following for your Biomedical Nonprofit.

Is Your Biomedical Institution using Twitter? Tell us more. You can reach me at 866-960-9220 or email

Melissa Jun Rowley from shared her list of helpful tips for successful Twitter fundraising that inspired this post. Click here to read the her article 10 Tips for Successful Twitter Fundraising

Marc Pitman is the author of You may find this introductory article helpful: Twitter for Nonprofits and Fundraising

How well does your Biomedical Nonprofit’s Brand Identity fit?

September 9, 2014

7 ways Leadership Marketing can ensure that your brand identity resonates.

Though the first chill of fall has barely hit the air, I’ve already felt the need to reevaluate my wardrobe for the cold months ahead. Finding pieces I’ve never worn at the back of my closet got me thinking about how you can be attracted to something that really doesn’t fit your personality. The same can be true for a Biomedical Nonprofit’s brand identity.

Amongst all the colors, styles, and options available right in your own closet, you only wear 20% because they fit and flatter. Your everyday choices become your own personal brand that it is projected to the world daily. If you are like me, you hope that brand reflects confidence and leadership.

Sure putting all of the elements of a brand identity together for your Biomedical Nonprofit is a lot more complicated than getting dressed in the morning, but perhaps it’s time for a second glance in the mirror. Is your brand identity reflecting leadership?

If one layer of your Biomedical Nonprofit’s identity is out of place—whether it’s your tagline, website or latest email campaign—there’s a good chance your projected brand image isn’t resonating with key investors, researchers or your sales team. Time to go shopping?

7 Ways To Tell If Your Biomedical Nonprofit’s Identity is a Natural Fit:

It’s Empowering
Just like a well-tailored suit your institution’s identity should empower everyone who represents it—from your CEO to your sales team.

It’s Distinct
A well-coordinated brand identity shows the world how your institution is uniquely advancing human health.

It’s Alluring
A Biomedical brand identity that resonates instantly makes investors and researchers want to know more about your institution.

It’s Supportive
Each element of your brand identity should thoughtfully work together to reinforce your overall brand purpose—from your logo and tagline to your investor presentations and fundraising collateral.

It’s Versatile
Once you have those foundational pieces – logo, tagline, corporate fonts, colors, supporting graphics, etc., they can be coordinated and accessorized to suit a variety of purposes.

It’s Resilient
A purposeful brand identity inspires leadership and improves performance by giving your team members the resources, confidence, and energy to persevere.

It’s Celebrated
When others are rallying around your Biomedical Nonprofit’s brand, you know you’ve got a good fit!

Do you have a specific Marketing tactic that truly defines your brand image?

Please share it with us here, or simply contact me, Karan Cushman, by calling 866-960-9220 or emailing


Measuring The Success of Your Biomedical Nonprofit’s Brand

August 19, 2014

Laboratory glass in arm. Laboratory concept.
2 Leadership Marketing Questions That Reveal How Well You Are Connecting

You can’t always measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts with a number or a percentage. Sometimes, asking the right people the right questions about their experience with your Biomedical Nonprofit’s brand can tell you a lot more about how well you are reaching your goals. Here are two areas of questioning you may want to consider:

Are you communicating the “Why?” behind the work your Biomedical Nonprofit does?

Simon Sinek did a powerful Ted Talk about how inspirational leaders and brands get that way. He created a model to demonstrate that they excel because they are able to communicate WHY they do what they do. In other words, true leaders go beyond selling benefits to sharing a mission and a passion.

To find out if your marketing is communicating the “why” of what Your Biomedical Nonprofit does, consider conducting some in-depth surveys.

  1. Talk to patients, groups or communities that currently benefit from your research. Determine their level of awareness of your brand. Do they know what your institution does? Can they connect the work that your institution does with the impact it has on their well-being? Do they understand the role your institution plays in the larger scientific community?
  2. Ask long-time supporters why they support your mission. Hearing it in their words will let you know if they define your mission in the same way you do. You may also find more effective messaging to use in future communications.

Do other scientific institutions trust your Biomedical Nonprofit for insights and information?

Scientists and other Biomedical institutions may be inspired by your brand mission, but they will also base their opinion of you on your industry reputation. It’s a mistake to assume that your marketing messages are defining that reputation. If you really want to know if your messages are resonating, ask these questions to learn more.

  1. Use the Internet and Social Media to “investigate” your own brand. Find out what is being said about your Biomedical Nonprofit and how often it is sited as an expert resource. Staying abreast of social mentions can help you pinpoint missed marketing opportunities and craft more effective leadership strategies.
  2. Conduct an in-depth survey that specifically asks scientists in your area of research how much they know about your institution’s contributions. Don’t assume you know the answers, and don’t be shy about digging deep. You need to find out how collaborative your institution is perceived to be, whether or not it is seen as a scientific leader, and whether its work is thought to be innovative or breakthrough.

If you have questions about conducting surveys or if you would like to share your own tactics for measuring marketing success, please contact me by calling 866-960-9220 or emailing

Kelp-Beds Q & A

August 18, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 4.39.04 PM
This week, I’m answering a question from a Kelp-Beds reader: 
Do you think eNewsletters are as effective for Biomedical Nonprofits as printed newsletters or quarterly/bi-annual magazines?

eNewletters are inexpensive to produce and easier to disseminate than printed donor communications, so I’m sure a lot of Biomedical Nonprofits may be wondering if they should make the switch. My short answer is that eNewsletters shouldn’t be seen as an all-or-nothing proposition. eNewsletter are most effective when they support your print efforts, not when they replace them, because different formats appeal to different audiences.

Benefits of Print
There’s something about leafing through a high-quality, printed piece that appeals to donors, and digital versions don’t offer that same experience. It’s like the difference between reading a printed book and reading a digital book. Of course, many people appreciate the convenience of reading a book on their cell phone or other mobile device, but a hard cover book still holds the allure of permanency.

Having something in print feels solid, timeless, and that lends importance to the content. When you put words into print, you can’t quickly go back and change them. You have to stand for something and that in and of itself validates your work. It also validates your brand. Plus, donors can easily delete an electronic communication. Receiving a quarterly magazine or other printed publication makes donors feel special, so they are more likely to at least skim it.

Benefits of eNewsletters
While I am still a huge fan of printed publications, I regularly see Biomedical Nonprofits successfully using eNewsletters to expand their reach, show leadership and connect with donors.

eNewsletters can help your insitution:

Drive Online Engagement
Readers who enjoy your printed newsletter or magazine may not take the time to visit your blog or website, even if you specifically invite them, because it requires an extra step. When people receive eNewsletters, they are already logged on. That makes it easier for them to link to a web page or other online resource where they can dig deeper into a given topic or learn more about your institution.

Allow Donors to Choose Their Platform
Again, people consume information in different ways. Some donors appreciate the opportunity to sit back and read a 25-page magazine, but others like their information simplified or served up in small chunks. eNewsletters are more flexible than their printed counterparts, and they offer a wider range of options. For instance, I think it is very effective to break the contents of a printed magazine out into several eNewsletters in order to maximize engagement, highlight research and drive readers back to a website to learn more.

Reinforce Your Brand Across Platforms
The more often potential donors interact with your brand, the more likely they are to view your institution as an industry leader. Sending eNewsletters in addition to print is a great way to gain more visibility while reinforcing your message. Consistency is key. For instance, If your eNewsletter is a digital version of a larger, printed piece, remember that the “full-issue” should include the cover, so that readers don’t feel they are missing anything by reading it online.

Be More Interactive
My client, MDI Biological Laboratory ( produces an eNewsletter called “Connections” that exists in print as well as online as a PDF. Whenever they publish a new issue, they send a link out to their email list and through their social media channels. Sharing via social media broadens their potential audience base and helps them reach more donors than they might with a printed version alone. Disseminating their newsletter digitally also makes it easier to accurately measure the response. Another smart tactic used by the Jackson Laboratory is to build your eNewsletter directly into your institution’s website, which offers the added benefit of improving web traffic driven by search.

Add Value to Email Communications
You can send eNewsletters out more than once and through many different channels. They instantly provide added value to weekly emails or other online communications. Consider sending a portion of your eNewsletter as a teaser that links to full articles or issues online.

Is your Biomedical Nonprofit successfully using eNewsletters in your marketing mix? Tell me how, and I’ll share your story in my next post or in an upcoming issue of my eNewsletter, Leadership Marketing at Work. Contact me, Karan Cushman, by calling 866-960-9220 or by emailing

Part Two: Creating an Annual Appeal for Your Biomedical Nonprofit

August 11, 2014

7 Leadership Marketing tactics that will help ensure your appeal connects with donors

You can make sure your Biomedical Nonprofit’s Annual Appeal stands out from all the others by focusing more on your brand’s expertise, industry leadership, and commitment to the greater good. Here’s how:

Keep The Flame Burning By Humanizing Your Appeal
Standardized Annual Appeals often focus on “the ask” through lengthy text and dollar amounts which quickly become uninspiring. You can avoid this pitfall by taking the time to humanize your Annual Appeal. When you can demonstrate how your institution touches lives and changes the world for the better, you are much more likely to strike a chord with potential donors. Give them the opportunity to see your Biomedical Nonprofit at work by sharing personal stories about your most effective programs. Perspectives from your scientists, alumni and even other donors can offer the personal connection that donors need to feel that your research is relevant to them.

Get Out Of The Annual Appeal Box
You can show brand leadership and innovation by telling your story in a more compelling format than a form letter. Traditional appeals can lack color and imagination. If your appeal is going out in the last three months of the year that’s reason enough to do something different.

Make It Beautiful
Compelling visuals go a long way towards helping donors understand the effectiveness of your programs—especially how your organization is advancing science and impacting human health. Incorporate visuals that draw viewers in. Dynamic scientific illustrations can help donors understand complex details about your research. And well-designed graphics can explain progress comparisons much quicker and easier than lengthy text.

Be Sure Your “Ask” Is Inspirational
While many organizations have a financial goal in mind for their Annual Appeal, making that information the focus of your primary message does not help you promote your organization or the significance of its work. In fact, it may prevent people from giving because they can’t give at your expected level. People aren’t motivated by your financial need, they are motivated by the possibility of helping you make a difference in the world. The primary focus of your Annual Appeal should be inspirational. Let them know about the human impact of your Biomedical Nonprofit’s work, and how their contribution—however small—will help.

Use Packaging to Make Your Appeal Stand Out
No matter how well crafted it is, your Annual Appeal may go unnoticed fi it isn’t taken out of the envelope. Consider going first class with a carefully chosen stamp to help your piece stand out from all the other appeals and bulk mail. Studies show that hand-addressed envelopes outperform printed envelopes. For me, seeing my name correctly spelled (Karan) and hand-written makes an envelope worthy of opening. If your mailing is under 1,000, it’s not that hard to accomplish this goal. Reach out to your board and/or enlist a group of volunteers to help.

Personalize To Make an Impact
If you have an active board that is well-connected, consider having members include hand-written notes with some solicitations. Personalize your ask as much as possible. When you do, you earn the ability to ask for a slight increase from last year. But more importantly, focus on the one thing you want your audience to take away. Does your message build confidence in your institution and its work? Always consider how you are inspiring support.

An Annual Appeal is much bigger than a one time ask. Fundraising is a relationship that grows year round. Every interaction you have with your donors should ignite their passion for your work. It’s about putting great projects in front of them regularly and challenging them to make a difference, so that when your Annual Appeal comes around, they will embrace the challenge to support your continued research.

Have a comment or annual appeal success story? I’d love to hear it. You can contact me, Karan Cushman, at 866-960-9220 or email with thoughts or questions.


Part One: Creating an Annual Appeal for Your Biomedical Nonprofit

August 6, 2014

2012-10-28 14.17.16
6 Leadership Marketing insights that will help ensure your message resonates with donors

Igniting a connection with donors is key to the success of your research institution’s next Annual Appeal. Using marketing tactics that show leadership and highlight your Biomedical Nonprofit’s commitment to the greater good will help strengthen your message and invite more meaningful engagement with your brand:

Cultivate A Year-Round Donor Relationship
Many institutions put substantial focus on the Annual Appeal, relying on it as the ONE big ask of the year. While your Annual Appeal can be an important part of your overall funding plan, the most successful fundraising comes from building long-term relationships with donors. That means maintaining a year-round focus on providing helpful resources, information, and insights that demonstrate your institution’s expertise and dedication to its mission.

Ignite Their Passion For Your Work
Potential donors must feel inspired by your research before they will give. They need to understand why your institution is considered an industry leader, and how the work it does is advancing science and improving human health. Communicating these things takes time and must be done as part of a robust donor stewardship program. Your institution can better cultivate donors by getting to know them, learning what they are passionate about, and finding new ways to show that you share their values. If you do this well, potential donors will be excited to receive your Annual Appeal and view supporting your brand mission as a worthy challenge.

Present More Opportunities To Make A Difference
While many donors make contributions at the end of the year, part of building a vibrant donor stewardship program is presenting multiple opportunities throughout the year for donors to learn about your research findings and make contributions towards your progress. For instance, organizations like the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory mail both a spring and fall appeal, making sure the messages between the two are carefully linked.

Consider The Benefits Of Good Timing
If you are sharing meaningful communications, anytime (other than the peak summer months of July and August) is a good time to reach donors through the mail. However, when it comes to Annual Appeals, most organizations traditionally solicit and receive donations in the fall.

Nearly 40 percent of charitable gifts are reportedly made during the last two months of the year. But you have to wonder – is that because so many appeals are going out in the fall? Employing Leadership Marketing means not always following the crowd. With so many big-name charities (American Heart Association, Salvation Army, your local Food Pantry, etc.) all flooding mailboxes at the same time, you may benefit by reconsidering your institution’s timing.

Factor In Your Team’s Workload
Fall is often the busiest time of year for many, personally and professionally. If fall is your Annual Appeal time, take a look at the effectiveness of your campaigns over the past few years. Did your advancement team put forth the right amount of focus, energy and time? Talk with your staff about the process. If it has become a routine project, rather than a carefully planned and conceptual part of your development strategy, perhaps a different time of year would bring more energy and results!

Be Strategic About Timing
If you do decide that fall is your Annual Appeal time, it’s critical that your piece is more than a letter. (Part two of this post coming soon!)

As far as mailing, it’s smart to ensure that your Annual Appeal arrives several days before Thanksgiving or sooner. This gives donors the chance to respond right away, as many do. They may also file it aside with other appeals to evaluate and decide at year-end which organizations best align with their values.

Have a comment or annual appeal success story? I’d love to hear it. You can contact me, Karan Cushman, at 866-960-9220 or email with thoughts or questions. I’m always here to help.



Yes, you can generate broad interest in your Biomedical Nonprofit’s specialized cause.

July 22, 2014

The Island Institute’s 3-pronged approach demonstrates how.

While the Island Institute is not specifically a Biomedical Nonprofit, it is a science-based nonprofit dedicated to helping sustain Maine’s year-round islands and working waterfront communities. I chose to highlight the Island Institute this month because it faces a challenge shared by many Biomedical Nonprofits: They have a very specialized cause that doesn’t impact most people directly. The Island Institute uses smart Leadership Marketing tactics to overcome this challenge with a 3-step communications approach:

Building Broad Interest
The Island Institute’s initial challenge was to make a wider audience aware of how climate change is impacting lobster fisheries along the coast of Maine. To do this, they created an in-depth communications piece entitled A Climate of Change that combined donor development, community development, and stakeholder development into one tool. This piece was designed for ease of use in the field, making it simple for representatives to share their story.

The Island Institute’s work is so regionally specific that it might have been difficult for them to get a larger audience involved. So, the content of the piece focuses on a passionate community of people who are already working to address the issues of climate change and establish next steps. By sharing the work currently being done, the Island Institute gives readers something to connect to and makes them feel that they have a stake in the outcome, too.

Take-away: Highlighting a community of people who are already working on solutions to a cause can facilitate connection, build legitimacy, and help your mission gain momentum.

Invite Further Engagement
A Climate of Change was created to provide talking points in the field, but it also lives on the Island Institute’s website so that anyone can download the full PDF. To ensure that people did just that, the Island Institute created a direct mail piece with a QR code that routed those who were interested to that specific section of the Island Institute’s website. The addition of the QR code let potential supporters know there were more resources available to them, and made it simple for them to quickly locate those resources.

Take-away: Creating bridges between communication touch points can help sustain interest. Rather than relying on “donate” as a call to action, consider using such bridges to foster an ongoing engagement.

Bring The Challenge to Life
In addition to offering the full version of A Climate of Change on their website, the Island Institute posted an engaging video ( to further support the cause. The video gives voice to community leaders and lobsterman who are personally concerned about climate change and feeling its impact firsthand. Allowing them to speak candidly, rather than having the Institute speak for them, keeps the mission at the forefront and acts as a platform for others to learn more.

Take-away: Staying focused on the urgency of your cause is more likely to engage and inspire large groups of people. Allowing those who are most deeply impacted to speak for themselves can help your institution connect with people on a deeper level.

Many Biomedical Nonprofits struggle with trying to communicate the importance of their work to those it may not impact directly. What the Island Institute shows us is that helping “others” feel like insiders can fuel interest and garner more support for a cause.

I would love to hear your thoughts or ideas about other Biomedical Nonprofits that you think I should highlight in future issues. Please send your thoughts and comments to or call 866-960-9220.


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