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Nonprofit Impact Funnels and Avatars
Episode 606th June 2022 • Connected Philanthropy • Foundant Technologies
00:00:00 00:27:40

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Boris Kievsky discusses how nonprofits can use storytelling, technology, and marketing principles to achieve their missions.

Boris Kievsky, Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good | dotOrgStrategy

Boris is dedicated to helping nonprofits harness storytelling and technology to create more heroes for their cause and a better world for all of us. Having spent a decade in computer science and over 15 years in theater, TV and film, he now loves to combine his passions for technology, storytelling, and making a positive difference in the world. Over the last 10+ years, Boris has helped hundreds of nonprofits increase their impact locally and globally through effective use of storytelling across digital media including websites, social media, email, video, advertising and crowdfunding; as well as technology that can reach and help more people without over-stretching an organization's resources. In addition to consulting, Boris teaches Developing High-Impact Websites for Nonprofits at NYU, and hosts The Nonprofit Hero Factory podcast (nphf.show). You can learn more about his work at dotOrgStrategy.com

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Transcripts

Tammy Tilzey:

Hello and welcome to our Connected Philanthropy podcast. Today we are privileged to have Boris Kievsky of Dot Org Strategy as our guest, and we are talking about creating avatars and impact funnels today. Boris brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this topic. And with your background in tech and Hollywood, you have such a rich source of experience and recommendations, especially for non-profits who are looking to improve their fundraising effectiveness.

Tammy Tilzey:

Earlier this year, we enjoyed having Boris teach our community about effective storytelling methods using Hollywood techniques, and I'll include a link to the recording of that webinar in the show notes for everyone. But it was so exciting to see such a positive results and response from our community, and they wanted an encore. So here we are. Thank you for so graciously agreeing to be our guest on this podcast.

Boris Kievsky:

Tammy thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure and an honor to do the webinar and to get all that positive response you know, I work on that adrenaline that that I get from folks because I love to know that I'm making a difference in the world. I mean, that's why I do what I do

Boris Kievsky:

That's why all the folks listening today do what they do. So we need kind of that positive reinforcement loop. And your audience is great about giving that to me. So I'm thrilled to be back with you today.

Tammy Tilzey:

Excellent. Thank you. So nonprofit impact funnels and avatars. Let's let's dove right in. Can you tell us introduce us to the topic and and tell us why it's important for nonprofits.

Boris Kievsky:

Yeah. So nonprofits tend to think of themselves as amazing organizations doing great work that everybody should just support. And that's true. However, most of us who are not inside that nonprofit, and that even means people who are working in other nonprofits or consultants or companies like Found and people working there, we don't necessarily see what you're seeing. We don't necessarily already know what you know.

Boris Kievsky:

And so we need a little more guidance and structure in order to be able to resonate with what you're talking about and take the actions you want us to take. There's a concept in marketing called funnels. Marketing funnels. I see a lot of talk about that. If you ever Google marketing funnels, you could get lost down so many different rabbit holes.

Boris Kievsky:

But years ago I started thinking about how to adapt that concept to nonprofits. Specifically, and it comes down to a few steps that every effort needs to take in order to achieve the impact they want. It starts with awareness. So where does your ideal hero and we'll talk about those in a minute, where do they discover your ideas, your causes, your messaging, and then it moves to engagement?

Boris Kievsky:

What do they do? How do you hook and keep their attention, keep them engaged and feeling connected to what you're talking about? Then the crucial part is value. What value or benefit do they get from interacting with your content with your organization as a whole? Because that, I believe, is how you get your impact. Because once they feel the value, they feel a sense of debt and connection.

Boris Kievsky:

A lot of organizations also think this is a slight tangent here. We talked about this during the webinar. A lot of organizations think that people should just give them money because they do good work and that's lovely, but that's not how our brains work. Our brains actually work on a system of IOUs and indebtedness we feel like we got something or we can get something, so we pay for it in one way or another.

Boris Kievsky:

And we could talk about the different ways that we pay for things. Money, of course, being the most commonly thought of. So the more value an organization can give one of these avatars, one of these heroes, the more they can ask for in return. Which then generates impact.

Tammy Tilzey:

How do you set up those funnels, the the messaging so that you first get awareness and not try to do too much all at once? Or how does that go through the funnel?

Boris Kievsky:

So I like to reverse engineer my funnels. And so that starts with what are your goals? So we look at what's your impact, right? Your impact, of course, is going to depend on your mission. You might be trying to empower the disenfranchized, improve quality of life for a certain demographic or population, bring arts to communities or reconnect people to their faith, whatever it might be.

Boris Kievsky:

Right? That's your mission. Your impact is going to be the product of achieving the goals along the way. So now that let's say we understand and I'm sure 99.9% of nonprofits were founded with a mission in mind, so they know what they want to achieve in the world. OK, let's break that down then into actionable goals. And what I mean by that is what are the steps, what are the actions that people can take in order to help you achieve your mission and reach your vision?

Boris Kievsky:

Right. Make the world the better place that you want it to be. Break down those goals into how many ever steps it might take. Each one of those goals is going to take some kind of call to action to get someone to take that action. Right. So now that we know what is the big picture impact and what are the goals that we want people to take, well, now we can ask ourselves, who are the people that are going to take those steps and most importantly, why?

Boris Kievsky:

And that's where we get into the whole avatar and trying to figure out what that avatar looks like, who that avatar is in order to achieve those goals.

Tammy Tilzey:

Yeah, that's exactly. Sometimes they're called personas, target audience, but that's what their avatar is. OK, I love how you break this down and make analogies into, you know, more Hollywood storytelling. It really resonates more personally, and you get that more. So what what type of information do you typically gather to create an avatar or what are the critical elements that you feel a nonprofit should focus on?

Boris Kievsky:

The I break it down into three different sections that you want to get to know your avatar on a personal basis. The first section is going to be the demographics, and that's what people tend to think of when they think about target audiences and all of these things. The difference, by the way, between a persona and an avatar and any of those other terms, they're they're fairly interchangeable.

Boris Kievsky:

I like the idea of an avatar because much like the movie where we might eventually see a sequel, I hear the trailers are out already or some teasers, and Avatar is an embodied persona. It is actually made corporeal, made flesh. You want to feel like you're talking to a real person or a creature on another planet if you're a James Cameron.

Boris Kievsky:

So I like to really define them and get a full body and mind picture of of this potential hero. And that's usually what I mean by Avatar. So we start with the demographics, and that's the measurable quantifiable things about this person, right? Their age, their gender, their location, their education levels, income levels, family structure, all of those things are their demographics.

Boris Kievsky:

And I'm sure there's more that we could come up with. Then there are their psychographics, so their psychographics are going to be how their mind works and what they tend to respond to. That could include their concerns and their passions in the world. Right. Their values and their morals, their habits and their interests. All of those things impact their personality, the way they view the world and what they're going to respond to.

Boris Kievsky:

I'd like to tell people that whenever I start a project, whether it's for profit or nonprofit, everyone, every potential client, every client always tells me that their potential avatar is everyone from age eight to age 88 on any cost, on any anything. And I say, You know what, that's wonderful and I hope you're right. But chances are you can't talk to them the same way.

Boris Kievsky:

I have an 11 year old at home. I've got my I'm still lucky to have my, my grandmother alive. You know, I can't talk to them the same way. I can't even talk to the 11 year old and the teenagers in my house the same way. How are you going to talk to everyone the same way. And if you try to do that, if you try to treat everyone as some abstract thing, well, then you're not really going to connect to a resonate with any single person.

Boris Kievsky:

You're going to just kind of float ideas out there and hope somebody catches it. That's not a way to talk to people. That's not a way to make that personal connection. And I love, by the way, that this show is targeted as much towards the philanthropists. The donors as it is to the organizations. Because I know that you guys, those of you that are on the fund funding, not the fundraising side of things, want to feel like human beings.

Boris Kievsky:

You are human beings. You don't want to be treated like a number. You don't want to be treated like just a string that someone can pull to to get money or a slot machine handle where, you know, if we get the right person on the line, they're just going to magically drop us money. You are an actual human being and you have your own identity, right?

Boris Kievsky:

And the last section of building an avatar that speaks directly to that, even more so it actually drills down in the psychographics are your pain points. Why should someone, a philanthropist a donor of any level, spend their resources on you? And this goes for volunteers as well. By the way, avatars aren't just for donors. They're actually also for clients.

Boris Kievsky:

They're for volunteers. They're for board members and staff members. These are all the types of people you want to attract. You know, in corporate America, there's a lot of talk about culture today. Nonprofits invented culture in the workplace because everyone's united around a cause, right? And you want people that are going to resonate that cause. You don't want just anyone in the street who's going to punch in, punch out, because frankly, we don't pay enough in nonprofits to get the best people to just punch in, punch out.

Boris Kievsky:

We need them to also resonate with our calls and the work that we're doing. So why should someone spend their resources, which our time, money and voice? Those are the three ways that someone can contribute to an organization. Why should they do that for you versus every other organization out there or every other way that they could spend their time?

Boris Kievsky:

And God knows there are enough of those today and their money even probably more of those versus donating to you? Well, my answer is they feel a pain in the world and you are solving that pain. You're alleviating that pain.

Tammy Tilzey:

I like that then and agree the more focused you can be rather than trying to hit everyone. Yeah, I and I do. I also love the fact that this podcast, you know, speaks to every everyone in that exchange and, and thinking about why people do what they do it because asking people for their time, volunteers, you know, who you help.

Tammy Tilzey:

There's more characters in the story. So even if you fear for your communications, your goals, your that lead up to the steps, what other things besides the avatar do you need to plan out in that?

Boris Kievsky:

You need to plan out their journey. You need to plan out how you're going to get that avatar from awareness. As we talked about at the top of that funnel to that action that you're going to have them take in order to become a hero. Now, they might already be a hero. They might already be a volunteer now you're going to ask them to donate or vice versa, or take the next step and become a board member.

Boris Kievsky:

Those are all different levels of the hero's journey that they can be on the hero's journey is not just, you know, beginning, middle end. It's actually in the beginning. There's a beginning, middle and in the middle there's a beginning, middle, and there's so many chapters along the way. So I could go over a quick little demonstration of that, if you like.

Boris Kievsky:

And I think you're going to link to I actually created a little presentation because I'm a very visual thinker. And I love doing things in PowerPoint more than anyone should, really. So I put together a few visuals for this, and I'll be happy to share it with you guys. And the one I'm looking at right now is this hero's journey, and it's basically a sideways version of that impact funnel that I talked about.

Boris Kievsky:

OK, so we're going to start with our goal. Let's say we are an organization that works with parents, that helps parents who are dealing with ADHD children who have ADHD. And I can personally resonate with this, which is why I came up with this particular scenario. So our organization that helps these types of kids and their parents is doing a regular webinar series, let's say, OK, our goal is to get someone to sign up for a webinar.

Boris Kievsky:

Why? Because if they do, we're going to create an impact in the world. It's not just when whenever somebody donates right our mission is not achieved from donations, our mission is achieved from the impact we make. Donations are just one way to help us increase that impact. Reach more people and do more of it. So let's say you want someone to take your webinar.

Boris Kievsky:

The first step is defining who that person is. Now that we have that goal, who is it? So let's say it's Tony. And in this case I decided Tony because the name right either way is a mom of an ADHD child who is throwing tantrums every morning because he doesn't want to eat his breakfast or go to school.

Boris Kievsky:

I'm not directly speaking about my experience this morning, but I am. All right. So Tony's our avatar. Of course, we could go into her demographics and her psychographics, but her biggest pain point at the moment that we identified is her child is darling tantrums. ADHD is getting in the way. It often coincides with oppositional defiance disorder. I won't go into all of those tangents, but we put out as an organization, we put out an ad on Facebook or a post on Facebook or Instagram that someone shared in a in a moms group on Facebook, OK?

Boris Kievsky:

And hopefully we're even a part of that group. And that's how Toni Discovered was made aware of our upcoming webinar. So she clicked on that link. She came over and now comes from awareness to engagement. So first thing we have to do is make sure that the link that she clicked on it made a promise. There was a little story there and we talked a lot about storytelling in, in the webinar that we did.

Boris Kievsky:

And I talk about storytelling all the time, but there was a little story there that set up an expectation for Tony, which is that she's going to discover something about helping her with the situation and she clicks in, she finds exactly what she expected, which was some kind of resource, some kind of tips, guide, a blog post, maybe of some sort that said, here's what you do in the morning when your child is flipping out and doesn't want to eat his breakfast or put on his shoes to go to school.

Boris Kievsky:

Here are five tips from top. Whatever. Right. Great. Tony read that. And Tony felt like a she was being treated as a person. She was felt like she was being spoken to. She got value. She got some sort of benefit from reading this article or watching a video or whatever it was. She feels transformed, empowered and heard. Those are all value that she got from that.

Boris Kievsky:

Now, we're going to ask her to take the next step and we're going to say, hey, we've got a webinar coming up about this. We do the monthly. The next one is specifically about this click here and register. Now, I don't click here and register for most things anymore. I don't know about you, Tammy, but I've got enough stuff going on and even when I do register for things, I usually end up missing them.

Boris Kievsky:

I don't want more things in my inbox. I don't want to just sign up for something without knowing that it's going to provide me value. But if you already gave me value, if you already made me feel like you understand me, you get me and you're going to help me more, then yeah, I'm going to give you my info.

Boris Kievsky:

I want to attend that webinar that's going to give me even more value. Now, you've impacted me. You've created a new potential hero that might be donating to you later, signing up for your programs. If you've got earned revenue programs that you could do and you've now converted Tony into a hero because Tony has taking taken the first step on her hero's journey with you.

Tammy Tilzey:

And that that initial giving some value and and showing that you understand and allowing the the the potential hero or the, you know, the audience really understand and vet out. Is this something I want to learn more about and and is it targeted for me and will it deliver something I'm looking for or need? I like that opportunity and in this journey to do that.

Boris Kievsky:

So thank you. And as I was saying it, even I thought, OK, this is a podcast about philanthropy. I just gave a user journey, a hero's journey for someone who is going to take a webinar that's not necessarily yet a donor. Right. Here's the thing. Tony might become a donor if she gets enough value, if she feels like she's getting more and more.

Boris Kievsky:

And on that webinar, you could basically tell Tony, Hey, this is what we do all the time, but you might have avatars who do not need to take a webinar like that. And yet they feel like people need help with this sort of thing. They feel like ADHD is a genuine problem, especially with school age kids. And your organization is the one that's helping people with that problem.

Boris Kievsky:

So if I'm one of those folks who sees it as an issue in society, I can't fix it myself. I know that I've got to work. I've got to do all kinds of things, including work with my own ADHD kids. So I don't have the time to help everyone else, but I feel the pain. I see it as a problem in the world, and now I come across this organization that solves that problem.

Boris Kievsky:

You are solving my problem. You are solving my problem as a donor, as a potential donor. You are doing something that I can't do without you, and you are transforming me into a hero in the process.

Tammy Tilzey:

Yeah, because maybe that was you as a kid too, and you feel strongly about it. But like you said, you have your day job you have other things, and this nonprofit can do that for you. How you know it. What do I need to do? Where do I sign up for exactly the next steps? Yeah. Are there areas in or techniques you've just shared already?

Tammy Tilzey:

I know on our webinar, so many important elements of, of that journey of how to create that connection, of how to create that that feeling of, You're doing this for me, I'll do this for you, you know, what is the ask what you know and targeting that to the right audience. Are there any other major points that the nonprofits need to know at this element or at this area of the journey that they're creating?

Boris Kievsky:

Basically what I described was the hero's journey adapted specifically to nonprofit avatars. And the hero's journey is a framework for storytelling, a very powerful framework for storytelling. And you know me, Tami, I could talk about storytelling day and night, and I probably do in my sleep the whole experience, there is a story and there needs to be story everywhere along the way.

Boris Kievsky:

So in the awareness section, when someone found you on Facebook or on a Google ad or wherever it was, hopefully you're using your nonprofit grant for Google Ads. Wherever they found you, you started to tease a story. You gave them a headline, you gave them an idea of a possibility. You opened up a curiosity loop, and then you told them, Oh, you want to close that loop, go ahead and click through.

Boris Kievsky:

Now they click through. Now they're on your site or on your video on YouTube, wherever it is that you drove them. Now you need to give them more story. And every story does have in Hollywood terms the three act structure, which we talked about on the webinar, that translates to essentially beginning middle end. In the beginning, there is a problem that problem needs to be kind of agitated a little bit in the mind of the potential hero because they've got to resonate with it enough to take action to start their journey.

Boris Kievsky:

And that action might have been first clicking on the Facebook post or wherever they found you next. That action might even just be scrolling down on your on your blog post or listening for more than 30 seconds to your YouTube. Right. We all have very short attention. Attention spans these days. We don't need ADHD to know that. I think the average time you have to convince someone to stay on your site versus to hit that back button is about 8 seconds these days.

Boris Kievsky:

So if they don't resonate quickly, if they don't see that you are speaking to them and you are going to deliver on the promise that they came to you in the first place for, they're going to click right back and go to the next thing in their feed. So you've got to engage them quickly and then you've got to hold their attention by talking to them as if they're a human being and giving them that value that you promised them along the way through empathy through release of oxytocin and dopamine and all of these different neurotransmitters that are going to make them go on a journey.

Boris Kievsky:

And at the end of that journey, they're going to feel transformed. They're going to trust you more, and they're going to want to take that next up with you.

Tammy Tilzey:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think this is the way that that fundraisers nonprofit and anyone in any part of this story really can can understand that it's it's almost if you take care of the these basic elements of communicating what you're doing and the importance of it in this way, that those are the fundamentals. And you're not asking people for something they don't want to give you are finding the right people.

Tammy Tilzey:

This is this is enabling something that everybody wants to be a part of. Everybody not everybody wants to need help but I mean the the donors and that that exchange so this and I know you have so much more and I really want to let our community know the wealth of resources that you have and you have such great targeted worksheet.

Tammy Tilzey:

I mean, you break it down into this is this is what people need to do. This is this step, this step. And, you know, then allergies that you give on on Hollywood and movie making you realize, oh, this is why I like this movie. But I do want our audience to to follow jump into our show notes, follow divorces website.

Tammy Tilzey:

We have a special link there where boy if you have given us to thank you so much to our audience to great worksheets on avatars in your impact funnel. There and you have courses available. You have a master class that's available at any time. And let's see you. You also have creating your nonprofit online strategy and how to ask people for money, a whole bunch of courses there that I do think if someone wants to learn more to this, this is something that you have the next step for them in their journey to learn more and improve their their effectiveness so what they're doing.

Tammy Tilzey:

I appreciate all that you do for free on the resources as well as as the courses that you have made available as well I think this is a wrap for this bite size piece. I know we can talk forever on storytelling, but do you have any other final thoughts or advice to leave our listeners with?

Boris Kievsky:

Oh, gosh. To narrow down would be it would be challenging. But first of all, thank you for having me on the show. Second of all, to everyone listening. Thank you for spending the last 25 or so minutes with me. If you've done that, that's because Tammy has provided you value in the past. So you tuned in this time, and Tammy and I in this case have provided you value along the way.

Boris Kievsky:

We've teased you, we've given you some stories, we've taken you through the journey, and you have learned something along the way. That was my hope. And if that value was delivered, my call to action is yeah, come on over to my website, get these resources. Like I said, I'm going to also share these visuals that I've been staring at while talking to you, including there's a little bit of movie references in there.

Boris Kievsky:

As well. And take that, enjoy it. Let that be the next step in our journey together and your journey in making the world a better place. I am so grateful to every nonprofit professional out there who is spending their time and they are talented. They are smart people and they are choosing to spend their time to make the world a better place rather than to just put money in their own pockets.

Boris Kievsky:

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm a capitalist. I also believe that nonprofit arts are an integral part of the capitalist system. It won't work without you. So again, thank you for everything that you guys are doing, and thank you for spending your last few minutes with me here today.

Tammy Tilzey:

All right. Thank you. Again, that's a wrap. If you learned something from today's Connected Philanthropy podcast, please share it with others who might enjoy this, this topic or our podcast to benefit from it as well. We look forward to connecting in our Future Podcast series as well as our webinars and our community discussions, and we wish you all the best success.

Tammy Tilzey:

And again, thank you for all you do.