Case Study: Non-Profit Searches for Cost-Effective Marketing Solutions

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Merchant: Keshet Dance Company
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Platforms: Alignable, Duke City Fix, Facebook, Google, GreatNonprofits, Twitter, Yelp
Bottom Line: Targeted marketing platforms lead to higher conversion rates, but also require more human investment.

Community support is essential for any local organization, and particularly for non-profits like Keshet Dance Company, which relies on partnerships and sponsorships to fund its socially-driven programming for at-risk youth.

“We can’t serve at-risk youth or offer unlimited non-competitive scholarships for youth without community support, and we believe that starts with our local businesses whose staff and clients are impacted by our services,” says Carolyn Tobias, communications director for Keshet.

One of the ways that Tobias has been able to generate that community support is by participating in Alignable, a social network for local businesses. Keshet was invited to join Alignable by another local business, and Tobias says she uses the platform to connect with other organizations in her town. It might be difficult to reach out to another business blindly with a cold call asking for support or asking for the company to help sponsor an upcoming event, but Alignable makes business owners feel like they already know each other and offers messaging tools that make it easy for organizations like Keshet to reach out and form partnerships.

“Alignable is a tool that works in conjunction with our other online platforms—mostly for awareness building for our services and events so we can creatively partner with local businesses and continue to serve families and individuals across our region,” Tobias says. “…Support from the business sector is crucial to us as an arts-based non-profit.”

Tobias says partnerships and sponsorships dictate 100% of Keshet’s advertising activity, and that social media is “vital” but also “time consuming.”

“[It’s] a necessary evil,” she says. “I also feel it is saturated and busy—as much as we post, the reach is hit and miss, and when we have a lot to communicate it gets lost in the social media noise.”

Although Tobias previously used a targeted email marketing platform to send offers, she didn’t find it effective in terms of conversions. Keshet continues to use its own e-newsletter generation tools, along with Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and a hyperlocal blogging platform called Duke City Fix.

“I find [Alignable is useful] mostly for events or programs that have a longer lead time—rather than the short one weekend shows,” she says. “Referrals take a while, and perhaps Alignable is not yet, in my experience, a top feed that businesses check daily.”

The more targeted the focus of a marketing solution or platform, the more effective it is for Keshet and the higher the conversion rates, but Tobias says those small and highly-targeted platforms tend to be more “human resource intensive,” which is just as much of a challenge for her organization as budget.

As online reviews play an increasingly important role in search engine optimization and web traffic, Keshet has gotten more strategic with its strategy. Tobias says Keshet seasonally requests reviews, with those requests scattered across most of the non-profit’s online messaging.

“We rely heavily on our volunteer network to post reviews,” Tobias says.

Whereas more traditional small and medium-size businesses can push their clients toward general recommendation sites like Yelp and Google+, 501(c)(3) organizations, like Keshet, also need positive reviews for philanthropy and giving ratings on sites like GreatNonprofits, which is a platform for helping consumers find and review non-profit organizations.

“For this reason, I’ve tried to keep Alignable business-to-business focused. Much like LinkedIn, I think we are more likely to get a quick ‘referral’ hit—rather than an in-depth review,” Tobias says. “I look out for those reviews though, because we use them everywhere.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.