Some questions that led our conversation:
- How do you get noticed?
- How do you inspire people to take action?
- How do you show that you’re unique?
National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) faces a situation similar to many nonprofit organizations: they have a small team and big opportunities to move forward many different initiatives.
NPCA is separate from the Peace Corps government agency, yet closely connected and in sync with Peace Corps’ work. The organization’s mission is to champion Volunteers’ lifelong commitment to Peace Corps ideals (sustainable human development, cross-cultural understanding, and peace). Their three strategic goals are 1) helping the Peace Corps be the best it can be, 2) empowering members and the affiliate groups to thrive, and 3) amplifying their community’s global development impact.
Forum One has a deep connection with NPCA and its mission. In 2016, Forum One led the redesign of the PeaceCorps.gov website — and to boot, a number of Forum One staff are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers themselves (shout out to Chris Wolz, Molly Mattessich and Rachel Grossman!)
Let’s unpack four takeaways from the Collaborative Workshop:
Clarifying their value proposition
We kicked off the workshop by brainstorming the most valuable aspects of the organization. This informed a lively discussion about the most important ways in which NPCA answers its audience’s needs. What stood out most of all: Returned Peace Corps Volunteers want to feel a sense of community and connection to people with shared values and the shared experience of service.
Defining their unique brand
NPCA struggles with branding themselves as a separate entity from their main partner, the Peace Corps. After all, it’s in their name! They coordinate with the government agency on many initiatives but retain their independence as an NGO to advocate on Peace Corps’ behalf. This is a rich branding challenge that we we will detail in a follow up blog next month—sign up to get the update.
Understanding their primary audiences
First, NPCA has a wide net of audience members whose ages span over seven decades — from those who served in the Peace Corps from 1961 to the present. Faced with a yearly crop of roughly 4,000 new Returned Volunteers potentially interested in joining as members, NPCA struggles to prioritize website content that targets this range of audience members — many of whom are in their late twenties.
We asked the staff the question: “what does success look like?” for NPCA’s two primary audiences, (1) younger, recently-returned volunteers and (2) older, less-recently returned volunteers. This is a great interactive activity that you can use with your teams, where everyone writes down words to answer the question in three minutes. Each person places them in the appropriate audience section on a wall or whiteboard. For NPCA, the discussion about the ideas was one of the richest parts of the workshop.
Prioritizing the ‘asks’ of their audience
Second, as an association that offers so many diverse activities, events, and advocacy and networking opportunities, NPCA has a hard time prioritizing which calls to action get the hottest locations on their site. They also worry about navigation and the trouble that people have finding and acting upon the information that appeals to them most. Again, this is a common concern for nonprofits who have competing stakeholders, donors, Board members, executives, and staff who want their calls to action to be front and center.
Given that Forum One designed and built the current Peace Corps website less than a year ago, we were able to offer insights into the process that we used to build a website that balances the needs of multiple stakeholders while both capturing the essence of Peace Corps and targeting future volunteers to start the application process.
The actions we recommended for NPCA can also work for your non profit
- Make the call to action clear in every communication—theirs is to sign up for free membership.
- Intersperse more quotes and stories throughout the website.
- Share images that reinforce “community.”
- Make sure all communication to audiences makes an emotional connection.