ATE Central Interviews Farra Trompeter, Vice President of Big Duck

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Part of our focus at ATE Central is to create pathways to information and experts that can support and strengthen the work of ATE grantees. ATE Central recently sat down with Farra Trompeter, VP of Big Duck, a communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits based in Brooklyn NY, to discuss how branding and marketing can enhance the work of projects and centers.

Please tell us a little bit about Big Duck and your role there.

Big Duck ( develops the voices of determined nonprofits by creating strong brands, campaigns, and teams. We specialize in working with nonprofits experiencing significant growth and change. I’ve been a member of Big Duck’s team since 2007. As Vice President, I guide organizations through major brand overhauls, fundraising campaigns, and much more. I also speak around the country, training nonprofit professionals on marketing, online fundraising, and donor engagement. You can learn more about me here and connect directly via Twitter via @Farra.

What exactly is branding and why should ATE grantees be concerned about branding their project/center work?

A brand is your project or center’s voice. It’s what your audiences hear, see, experience, and feel—and the impression that is formed as a result of their experiences with you. Your voice may be disjointed, murky, and barely louder than a whisper. Or your voice can ring out, differentiate, and reverberate.

A strong brand isn’t just a temporary fix or a website update. It’s built for the long haul, often to embody a new strategic plan, the vision of a new leader, or other seismic shifts. Rebranding means expressing that vision deeply and authentically, internally and externally.

For a project or center, a strong brand can help you reach and engage with students, faculty, program partners, and other key audiences. It can also help you build relationships with funders and donors for programmatic sustainability.

You use the work marketing - lots of people in the grant-funded world use outreach - is there a difference?

It really depends on the way you define each term. I often think of outreach as the tangible activities you use to get the word out (e.g. exhibiting at a fair, placing an ad on Facebook), where marketing is the strategy you use to drive those efforts (e.g. raising the project or center’s visibility among specific audiences or using social media to reach likely candidates). Both matter so I’d go with whatever terminology works best and just be sure there’s a strategy behind your tactics and vice versa.

How can a PI with no background in marketing come up with a basic marketing (or outreach) plan - what are some first steps?

The first steps are clarifying and prioritizing your goals and then setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) objectives to track your progress toward each one. Then you’ll want to determine who your target audiences should be, considering who are the most important people to know your project or center and what it offers, and then developing personas or profiles that highlight who they are and what they want/need to hear in order to engage with you.

Does Big Duck have free resources that grantees can take advantage of?

Yes! The best place to dive into our free resources is our website at From there you can:

Tell us a little more about the two webinars you'll be doing in January and February with ATE Central.

Sure. Each webinar will be one-hour focused on theory and tactics you can put in place to help your project or center. The first webinar will be on January 29, at 1 pm ET, all about crafting mission statements and messaging to engage your community. The second webinar will be on February 26, at 1 pm ET, and will focus on how to set strategies and tactics to guide your outreach efforts and will include some content related to social media. If you’d like to learn more about the webinars – please see the full descriptions below. You can click on the titles to sign up for these upcoming live events or visit the ATE Central Webinar page.

Webinar descriptions

Tell a good story: Crafting mission statements and messages for your ATE project or center - January 29, 1-2 pm ET

The root of the word ‘communication’ is ‘communis’, meaning to make common. Unfortunately, many of us in the education and grant-funded sectors struggle with identifying the main messages we need to make common to our key stakeholders. And for many of us in the ATE community, we could use help in creating simple, memorable ways to speak and write consistently about our project and center’s work. Clearly defined and consistently implemented mission statements and messaging platforms are key to ensuring that all points of contact with your project or center will reinforce the right messages.

In this live webinar, we will be joined by Farra Trompeter, Vice President of Big Duck – a communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits based in Brooklyn NY, and Rachael Bower, Director/PI of ATE Central, who will review how these messaging elements can be created to more effectively engage students, partners, funders, and other key external audiences. For those who attended the pre-ATE conference workshop, we’ll also revisit the relationship between brand strategy (positioning and personality) and messaging. Farra will provide some examples of how other organizations define and use these tools with examples you can learn from, as Rachael helps connect lessons from the wider nonprofit world to the ATE community.

So many choices, so little time: Setting strategies to guide your tactics - February 26, 1-2 pm ET

When it comes to getting the word out about your project or center, it seems like there are infinite options for communications channels you could use. But with limited resources, which channels are worth your time? Should you use Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook--and how? Beyond social media and other channels, we’ll zoom out and talk about what strategy is and how you can better define what your project or center’s outreach or marketing strategies should be so you can better determine which tactics are worth your time, and which you can put on the shelf.

In this live webinar, we will be joined by Farra Trompeter, Vice President of Big Duck – a communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits based in Brooklyn NY, and Rachael Bower, Director/PI of ATE Central, who will build off the conversation we started at the pre-ATE conference workshop. We’ll discuss how you can use your target audiences as a guide and answer your questions related to strategies and tactics.

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Last Edited: December 18th, 2018 at 12:33pm by Jessica Behrman

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