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Allyson Kapin 6 min read

3 Strategy Mistakes Nonprofits Can Learn From Donald Trump

Donald Trump knows how to generate a ton of earned media. On the other hand, his digital strategy for running for President of the United States, looks like this.


Trump's announcement for selecting Governor Pence as his VP pick is the campaigns latest fiasco. It made me think of all the times nonprofits roll out a big announcement and forget basic strategies because they are so focused on other parts of the campaign or dealing with internal politics just to get it launched. 

Master These Three Lessons from Donald Trump's Campaign Failures


1. Vet Your Partners 

Yesterday a CNN reporter said that Donald Trump was so unsure about Governor Pence that around midnight he asked top aides if he could get out of it. Governor Pence probably felt the same way. 
Vetting your strategic campaign partners and spokespeople may seem obvious, but this is not always done well in the nonprofit world either. Campaigns often come together quickly and everyone is scrambling to get things done for the launch. I can't tell you how many times I have seen nonprofits not do their due diligence in this area and it can be quite damaging to your organization. In the age of social media, where organizations are publicly blasted for every little thing that they do wrong, it's critical that you properly vet your partners and spokespeople before you bring them on board.

2. Hire Professional Designers and Brand Strategists

When designing a campaign logo use an experienced designer and branding professional who understands the goals of your campaign and how to effectively communicate your core message. Your designer needs to understand the ways that constituents, the opposition, and the media can easily manipulate the logo to embrace it or hijack it. One of the best nonprofit examples is when the Human Rights Campaign posted the red version of its logo on Facebook in anticipation of the Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA. Many of their 1.4 millions Facebook followers at the time took the creative liberty to adapt HRC’s logo with pop culture images from Game of Thrones, the comic Peanuts, Star Wars, and more.
On the flip side, the Trump/Pence logo was poorly executed and hijacked by the public, media, and nonprofits like Planned Parenthood who turned the logo into images like this. plannedparenthood.jpg


3. Promote Campaigns on your Website and Social Media Properties

Yup, promoting your nonprofit campaign across your digital channels is pretty obvious and should be at the top of your checklist, but again it's the low hanging fruit that is sometimes forgotten. This usually has to do with organizations scrambling to launch the campaign and the task was not properly delegated. 
Does this sound familiar? "Oh I thought you were doing it," said one staffer. "No, I thought you were going to do it," said another staffer.  
Trump forgot to update his Presidential campaign website when he announced Governor Pence as his VP pick and Governor Pence forgot to update his Twitter profile and change his pinned tweet, which still linked to his reelection page. #Fail 
There's been lots of #fails in Trump's digital strategy that nonprofit organizations can learn from. Share your favorite ones in the comments. 

Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.