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

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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.

Sharing the Story of Your Biomedical Nonprofit

July 15, 2014


3 Reasons Adobe Voice can be a Powerful Leadership Marketing Tool

Leadership Marketing means sharing your Biomedical Nonprofit’s expertise and/or mission with a broad audience. These days, that often means online. While some larger institutions can create big budget videos to engage Internet audiences, most Biomedical Nonprofits don’t have the resources to follow suit. Now there’s another option.

Adobe has created an Ipad app that allows users to create a persuasive video inexpensively. It’s called Adobe Voice, and it’s an amazing tool for Biomedical Nonprofits that want to tell their stories, share their missions or help others understand specific areas of research. Here’s why:

The App Is Flexible
Adobe Voice allows users to set still images to music and add a voice over. If your team focuses on using compelling assets to create it, the result will be a well-crafted video. How your team uses Adobe Voice is only limited by your imaginations. For instance, you could create a mission-oriented video that helps your development team turn from pitching to storytelling when they meet with potential major donors. Or, you could promote new research or thought-leading content online the moment you decide it is relevant. The options for sharing your institution’s stories are endless.

Voice Simplifies the Process
Adobe Voice is extremely user-friendly because it is designed for everyday people who want to create videos quickly and easily. A word of warning: This does not mean that just anyone on your Biomedical Nonprofit’s staff should be creating videos on behalf of your brand. Leadership from your communications team, development team, and/or advertising agency should drive the project to ensure that the right staff and assets are available to deliver the right message. Once your team has gathered compelling content and outlined your messaging, Adobe Voice helps put the pieces together for you. The app will ask, “What’s Your Story About?” then prompt you to pick a narrative structure. After that, your team can simply add photos, clip art, music, and other supporting graphics to build your Biomedical Nonprofit’s story.

Sharing Is Easy
The beauty of creating an Adobe Voice video is that it can be embedded on web pages, shared over social networks, or emailed to contacts. Consider the impact of linking a QR code to a persuasive video and printing that code on your monthly Newsletter. Not only would it help your institution further engage current contacts, but it would likely be shared with dozens of people who may or may not be aware of your mission. Posting Adobe Voice to your social network is also easy. Just tap “Share,” to post it on Twitter, LinkedIn, via email, mobile, or anywhere else you can place a web link.

If you have questions or comments about using Adobe Voice as a Leadership Marketing tool, please contact me by calling 866-960-9220 or emailing You can also email me links to any Adobe Voice videos you have successfully created. I’d love to share them!

10 Ways to Ensure Your Biomedical Nonprofit’s Website is a Leadership Marketing Machine

July 9, 2014

Shiny clock gears close up
Creating valuable content to earn trust and build brand loyalty

We’ve talked a lot about how biomedical nonprofits can show thought leadership by sharing quality content, so we’ve pulled together 10 content ideas to help ensure your institutional website is a robust marketing machine.

Brands that publish valuable content regularly online (i.e. content marketing) to a specific audience will continue to generate more qualified leads, earn trust and build greater brand loyalty. And regardless of which content marketing channel you are using, the most effective campaigns connect readers back to your institutional website.

According to Forbes Magazine, content marketing is the #1 online marketing trend this year.

Content marketing allows your biomedical institution to steadily establish authority in specific disease areas, and build a trusted rapport with audience members where they spend time. Whether you are connecting with fellow researchers, donors, potential students or employees, industry partners or publishers, typical content marketing channels for biomedical nonprofits may include your blog, eNewsletters, videos, social media, trade journals and organic search, to name a few. Done well, each piece will connect readers to the most important component of your content marketing strategy – your institutional website.

The quality of content on your website is directly linked to your institution’s reputation as a thought leader. Following are ten ways to ensure that your biomedical nonprofit’s website is a robust Leadership Marketing machine:

1) Publish and update essential FAQ’s regularly
FAQs include your institutional facts and figures as well as those that relate to individual products, services, courses and conferences. Here’s a simple example FAQ page from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

2) Include more video: YouTube is #2 search engine today
Testimonial-style videos from key donors and trustees go a long way towards establishing credibility for your biomedical institution and help you gain trust from other investors. JAX trustee emeritus Dan Tishman talks here about why biomedical research is so important.

Product video tutorials can help drive sales and alleviate service calls like this one highlighting the efficiency of Lonza’s Flash Gel System. Global life science corporations like Lonza also use video to offer greater connectivity between employees, and, of course, to showcase their facilities and capabilities.

Thanks to sites like YouTube and Vimeo, video content is easily sharable which is good for new biomedical ventures like Novo Biosciences. Here, co-founder and CSO Voot Yin, Ph.D. introduces a breakthrough compound, ZF143. In doing so, he tells viewers first-hand why his work is important. This testimonial offers a personal connection to their work, which builds trust and also helps translate research complexities into real world solutions.

3) Package new or existing programs into online content
Video or pod-cast based programs like Sloan Kettering’s Cancer Smart Talks make your events and content accessible to the world, and help your biomedical nonprofit establish a leadership position in a specific area of research.

4) Host a webinar in a particular area of research
Webinars allow your biomedical institution to serve as an authority in a specific area and connect others that share your space.

5) Update your events, courses and conferences monthly
Be sure your events are current and provide links to online content from past events. (Publish video recordings, media coverage, etc. for enhanced SEO.) Tip: when you have a lull in events or lack of content, post simple news articles covering your most recent happenings to keep this section fresh.

6) Create a podcast
Sound alone helps listeners develop a deeper connection with your biomedical nonprofit and your research. Here’s a series from JAX® Mice and Services.

7) Publish important publications online
Post your printed publications, such as newsletters, annual reports, case statements, etc on your website and in a place that is easy for users to find from your home page. PDFs contribute to search and they also make your materials available to a wider audience when available online. Again, be sure they are obvious. For in-depth materials, certainly dynamic publications offer added value online, but a PDF flipbook will contribute to search and creating one is a quick and inexpensive alternative. Check out the latest issue of Connections from Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.

8) Review key articles in your industry
This is one of the simplest ways to start building a relationship with writers and others at key publications where you may want to have your work featured – which leads us to #8…

9) Invite and encourage guest participation
Invite a key member of your industry to co-write a blog post around a critical topic. You’ll both benefit from the process and gain additional online exposure to a qualified audience.

10) Showcase the significance of a location
This in-depth virtual tour of Genzyme Center was a simple way for the Cambridge-based company to highlight their headquarters, commitment to sustainability and support public tours. The independent website connects to their corporate Sanofi site, and uses still imagery and text to detail important facts.

If you are a biomedical nonprofit that is new to content marketing, or you have limited social and online marketing budgets, start with the small stuff here. If you are a veteran content marketer, we’d love to hear from your success stories. Email me at or contact me with questions at 866-960-9220.



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