41. A non-profit that wants personality

Can your social media strategy succeed without a marketing budget? 💸 Lucky for listeners, that’s Phil and Lauren’s specialty. In this week's episode, Esther needs help devising a marketing strategy for her non-profit organization. Our hosts explain how to authentically connect with an audience (spoiler alert: It all comes down to storytelling) so you don’t need to drop a dime.

Life Phase:
Just getting started

Guest Career:
Non-profit marketer

Brand Problem:


Whether you work with a non-profit or your business isn’t profitable, it’s easy to think that a marketing budget will solve your promotional woes. Yet, as the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness, and, when it comes to branding, money certainly can’t buy brand loyalty, so it’s imperative to meaningfully connect with your audience if you want to get ahead without ad spend.

Here are the top tricks for succeeding on social media without a drop of ad spend.

Make the ordinary extraordinary.

Remember: What’s everyday for you is a whole new world for someone else. To make your social media enticing, put on your story opportunity lenses and realize that you can tell a story out of anything.

A trick for coming up with content is to ask yourself and your team to describe what they do in a day. For example, on a good day, this is Lauren’s typical schedule:

  • Wake up around 6:15am and try not to look at my phone

  • Wash my face with Glossier’s milky jelly cleanser. Follow up with Thayers rose petal witch hazel toner and Pond’s face moisturizer, which I’ve used daily for at least 10 years

  • Make coffee: Nespresso with milk if I’m rushed, stovetop espresso preferred

  • Eat breakfast. I have the same breakfast almost every day: two hard-boiled eggs with Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning and a handful of blackberries

  • Go to Sweat Yoga next door for their 7am class. Still try to not look at my phone, but sometimes I slip up

  • Come back, shower, blow dry my bangs, and get on my computer for back-to-back calls. We try to cluster calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. It’s intense but nothing’s better than having designated no-call days to get work done

  • 1pm: Calls are usually done because it’s 9pm for Phil out in London. I usually take a break to go for a walk in Little Tokyo and get an iced coffee from Cafe Dulce. I’m not a big lunch person, so I’ll usually heat up soup or eat a Trader Joe’s balela salad.

  • For the rest of the day, I try to work off of my Asana tasks. I find that I can’t focus on longer writing assignments until all the little tasks are done, so it usually takes me a couple of hours to get those out of the way. I implemented Inbox Pause a year ago and absolutely love it. The inbox add-on hides emails from me and only delivers them in waves that I decide. All of my emails are delivered to me at 7am, 1pm, 7pm, and 1am. It helps me own my priorities and be less reactive to emails as they come in.

  • I don’t usually start on longer writing tasks until 5pm (brand audits are a big service we offer), so that’s generally when I focus and hammer the assignments out.

  • This year I’ve been working hard on putting away my phone two hours before I go to bed. Because I’m basically a grandma, screens go off at 730pm or 8pm at the very latest.

  • Make dinner, but often, order in. I don’t have too many indulgences, but ordering food is one of them for me. I recently read an article by James Altucher that millionaires spend money on things that will save them time or help them rest, and for me, that’s getting delivery.

  • 945pm: In bed reading. It’s hard for me to turn off my brain before sleeping, but I find reading helps. I’m a serious bookworm (I was an English lit major, after all) and I’m proud to have read 50 books in 2018. I’m currently reading Circe by Madeline Miller and think it’s amazing.

  • Asleep by 1030pm. If I don’t get 7.5 hours of sleep, I can barely function. Sleep is a huge priority for me.

In that single day, think of all the content opportunities. You could do posts on:

  • Three morning routines by our team

  • Poll people on Nespresso or another coffee method

  • Talk about the most-loved brands on your team

  • Focus on two interesting experiences that you had that day

  • Ask people what books they’re reading

  • Debate on whether ordering delivery is a waste of money or a necessary indulgence

  • Share favorite tools with your audience

And so on. Interview your team and you’ll start to realize that “average” experiences are actually great discussion points.

Find your ambassadors.

In the episode with Esther, we recommended she find skaters to follow and create content around their experience. This suggestion isn’t limited to non-profits: anyone can do it!

Ask your clients, your customers, your partners to document their days and experiences with your business. It takes pressure off of you to create content, and it also flatters them to share their perspective. Brands like Glossier and Man Repeller do an excellent job of elevating the voices of their fans to speak as an extension of their brand.

Be consistent and listen.

Here’s the truth: It’s going to take months, years of consistency to really see a payback on your social media efforts. But you can help speed up that process by doing two things:

  1. Post consistently, ideally multiple times per week.

  2. Listen to your audience and pay attention to engagement rate metrics. Likes aren’t everything. What matters is the amount of engagement your posts receive out of the number of people who see your posts. For this reason, the only metric you need to be concerned about is engagement rate. It’s an even playing field of what your audience truly wants.


What advice to you have for Esther? Comment below!


Phil Pallen