If you have never read the classic book Influence by Robert Cialdini, you really should. But you’re also in luck, because the Influence at Work team just released this summary of the six principles of persuasion that the book covers. Spend 11 minutes watching this video – it’s well worth your time.Trouble viewing the video? Go here.No time to watch? Here’s my summary of the principles and how they apply to us.1. Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus all those annoying address labels charities send out as a fundraising ploy.2. Scarcity – Perceived scarcity fuels demand. “Only four memberships are left” prompts action!3. Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures. What expert can attest to the value of your organization?4. Consistency – If people commit to an idea or goal, they are more likely to follow through. It’s why pledging is a great option for people who aren’t ready to take action.5. Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people whom they like. That’s why you want your champions spreading the word about your cause among their friends and family.6. Consensus – People will do what other people are doing. That’s why it’s great to show who is taking action for your cause – others are likely to conform.
Month: October 2019
My friend and colleague Amanda alerted me to this article on the five traits of resilient people. Since that quality is needed by so many of us now, I thought I’d pass on the insights from Jessie Sholl. What occurred to me as I was reading this list is that you probably have every one of these qualities. Working for a good cause is a daily exercise in resilience. Please share that quality with those who need it now.1. Be Positive. “Resilient people are characterized by an ability to experience both negative and positive emotions even in difficult or painful situation. They mourn losses and endure frustrations, but they also find redeeming potential or value in most challenges.” If you work for a good cause, you have this quality. You find hope amid terrible tragedies in the course of advancing a mission.2. Live to Learn. When resilient people encounter pain, they look for solutions. That would be you.3. Open Your Heart. Counting your blessings and committing acts of kindness and service boost resilience. That’s your day job!4. Take Care of Yourself. Good physical and mental health boosts resilience. 5. Hang on to Humor. This is so true. A laugh goes a long way. Do you bring levity to the job?For more on these qualities as well as the amazing tale of Turkey Lady, read the whole article.
If you feel the need to strengthen your financial management savvy, check out StrongNonprofits.org, a new website featuring free tools, how-tos and guides.Developed in partnership between The Wallace Foundation and Fiscal Management Associates, the site contains more than 64 resources for anyone involved in nonprofit financial planning, monitoring, operations or oversight, and particularly nonprofit afterschool program providers. Features range from a nonprofit accounting guide, to an article on sensible growth strategies, to a podcast on how to understand the true costs of programming. The site also offers an array of helpful tools, including the “Go or No Go Decision Tool,” a questionnaire that helps an organization decide whether accepting a contract would help – or hurt – the group’s bottom line.The site includes:• A Five-Step Guide to Budget Development—a presentation that describes a team approach to budgeting essentials such as setting financial goals, forecasting results and monitoring progress.• Budgeting and Financial Planning Tools—Excel-based templates to provide organizations with a framework for building program-based budgets, projecting cash flow, and evaluating revenue scenarios.• Guide to Effective Board Leadership—an easy-to-follow description of how nonprofit boards can do the necessary financial oversight of their organizations.You can find the site here.
M+R had a fascinating post* last week about political fundraising. It highlighted insights from the digital team who sent out fundraising emails for the Obama campaign. While political fundraising is its own animal, I do think many of these insights apply to all forms of fundraising. So whether you’re a political activist or a nonprofit fundraiser, or of the red or blue or purple persuasion, you will find this interesting.(The whole post is here. These are some highlights along with my commentary.)1. It’s hard to predict what will work – so testing matters. There were 18 very smart people on the email team alone, and they often predicted the wrong winners among versions of emails. And just when they figured out what worked, it stopped working. So they tested again. Keep testing!2. The best segmentation was based on what donors did – not how they voted or their demographics. Segmenting their message according to the ways people responded worked far better in yielding strong fundraising results than any other variable. What have people donated in the past? In response to which appeals? Segment accordingly.3. Length didn’t seem to matter a lot, until the end of the campaign, when shorter did better (reminds me of my advice to write very short appeals on December 31!). What did matter was the content and relevance of the message.4. For fundraising, setting a big goal for number of donations worked, but little, very local goals (we need six more donors in Washington, DC) did not. Those only worked for advocacy. Interesting. Something to test?And my favorite finding? The best appeals also had the highest unsubscribe rates. Like Mark Rovner always says, evoking passion means you get strong opinions on all sides. Bland is safe – and gets NO reaction.For more findings, check out the full post, “Surprises from Obama’s New Media Staff.”*Hat tip to Jono Smith of Event360 for sharing the post.
I speak a lot about the connection between behavioral economics and our work, and after every speech I get asked for reference materials. People also often email me for a list of my writing on the topic. So I thought I’d pull together in one post all the resources I’ve created. Here’s a mini library on understanding how people really think – and adjusting our marketing, communications and fundraising strategies accordingly.Plus, as a bonus, I’m including this hour-long video from the Science of Communication speaker series run by the Communications Network and Spitfire Strategies. In this video, Harvard behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan provides a great overview of how his field applies to you. Speaker Series: The Science of Communication Featuring Sendhil Mullainathan from Communications Network on Vimeo.The Mini LibraryThe best place to start are the two ebooks I’ve written on the topic with Mark Rovner and Alia McKee of SeaChange Strategies:Homer Simpson for Nonprofits: The Truth about How People Think and What It Means to Your CauseLisa Simpson for Nonprofits: What Science Can Teach You About Fundraising, Marketing and Making Social ChangeI also wrote a series of blog posts reviewing the latest research on what compels generous behavior and giving. Here are the best of them:How giving makes you happyWhich makes people happier – giving or receiving?The relationship between giving and painHow pledging eases the pain of parting from our moneyThe power of social norms in givingHow do social norms, price & scrutiny affect what people give?The role of personal connections in fundraising successHow the power of one (the singularity effect) prompts givingThe effect of mood on giving – and who we choose to helpWhat happens when you try to making giving less emotionalSea monkeys and the case for tangibilityInterview with the Science of Giving authorsThe time-ask effectNeuromarketing tips for nonprofits from Roger DooleyBrain tricks to sell your causeYour gut is more generous than your brainEnjoy!
The Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) has released its annual State of the Sector survey, and it shows nonprofits like yours are struggling with a tough funding environment and increasing need for the services you provide. This is requiring tough choices – and changing the way you do business, according to the survey.Here’s a summary of the report from the NFF. Does it capture your situation? Are you better or worse off than your peers?According to NFF:Nonprofits need new funding sources and models:• 42% of survey respondents report that they do not have the right mix of financial resources to thrive and be effective in the next 3 years.• 1 in 4 nonprofits has 30 days or less cash-on-hand.• Over the next twelve months, 39% plan to change the main ways they raise and spend money.• 23% will seek funding other than grants or contracts, such as loans or investments.Nonprofits that receive government funding face particular challenges:• Only 14% of nonprofits receiving state and local funding are paid for the full cost of services; just 17% of federal fund recipients receive full reimbursement. Partial reimbursements require additional funding to cover the growing gap as nonprofits serve more people.• Government is late to pay: Among those with state or local funding, just over 60% reported overdue government payments; over 50% reported late payments from the federal government.Under these challenging conditions, many nonprofits are unable to meet growing need in their communities:• For the first time in the five years of the survey, more than half (52%) of respondents were unable to meet demand over the last year; 54% say they won’t be able to meet demand this year.• This represents a worrying trend; in 2009, 44% of nonprofits said they were unable to meet demand.• Jobs (59%) and housing (51%) continue to be top concerns for those in low-income communities.• 90% of respondents say financial conditions are as hard or harder than last year for their clients; this is actually a slight improvement from prior years’ outlook.Nonprofits are changing the way they do business to adapt to the new reality. In the past 12 months:• 49% have added or expanded programs or services; 17 percent reduced or eliminated programs or services.• 39% have collaborated with another organization to improve or increase services.• 39% have upgraded technology to improve organizational efficiency.• 36% engaged more closely with their board. For more on the survey and detailed data, go here.
I’m back from the Nonprofit Technology Conference. At one of my sessions, I talked about the importance of taking the vast problems we seek to address and the critical importance of translating them into a scale that is:1.) Relatable2.) Addressable and3) InspiringWhen we fail to do this, we overwhelm people and create the impression their support won’t make a dent in our social problem.Here are examples of making this translation. At the conference, See3, YouTube, NTEN and Cisco announced these videos were among the winners of the 2013 DoGooder Video Awards. They take big, faraway issues and make them immediate to the kinds of people who are likely to take action for that cause. They stake a point of view with a clear audience. And they inspire action in a funny way. Enjoy.
Creating an editorial calendar is an effective way to keep your organization’s newsletter, website, blog, and social media content fresh and current. Should you go with paper or something more high tech? Use whatever works best for you and your team: a wall calendar, Excel spreadsheet, Google Calendar, or even dedicated project management software. While it can contain loads of info, an editorial calendar at its most basic organizes the what, when, and who of your media outreach. Here’s a quick primer on how to create an editorial calendar that’ll keep your team on track and your online presence fresh. Next: Fill in the Blanks Now that you have the basic framework of your nonprofit’s content needs, you can start filling your calendar with detailed information about each item, such as the specific topic of a blog post or Facebook update. A typical week might look something like this: First: Answer What, When, and Who?Create a broad outline of your organization’s content needs. This process includes answering “what, when, and who?” WHAT types of media do you publish? Make a list of the different ways your nonprofit communicates with constituents. The options are endless, but here are a few ideas: Website: Message from the executive director, volunteer opportunities, upcoming events. Blog: Posts about recent events, fundraising campaigns, awards your nonprofit received, success stories, current issues affecting your cause. Email: Newsletters, campaign updates, event invitations. Facebook: Polls, success stories, links to blog posts or videos, contests, photos from the field, “volunteer of the week” profiles. Twitter: Links to blog posts, event announcements, requests for volunteers. YouTube: Videos from events, fieldwork, success stories. WHEN is the deadline? Look at your “what” list and decide how often to update each item. Maybe you’ll revamp your homepage content once a month, publish a new blog post every Monday, send an email newsletter on the 15th of each month, post to Facebook every weekday morning, and so on. WHO is the writer? Decide who on your team is responsible for creating and delivering each of the various pieces. Also, be sure to assign a team member or two to social media duties so someone is always available to interact with fans. Homepage:Joe T., 10am.Update events sidebar, volunteer opportunities Big-Picture Benefits Save your old calendars! Editorial calendars are great for more than just planning ahead. Over time, you’ll find them useful for reviewing what topics you’ve covered and when. This can help you avoid duplicating content or remind you to update your constituents on, say, a past event, contest, or campaign. You might also include data on published content like page views or click-through rates to see which pieces were most effective. When it comes right down to it, an editorial calendar is just a super-organized to-do list that encourages engagement as your supporters keep coming back to your online channels to find out what’s new and exciting at your nonprofit. Tuesday Thursday Friday Facebook:Gina K., 10am.Link to new YouTube video Facebook:Gina K., 10am.Friday Fan Giveaway: Mug Blog:Ann S., noon.Beagle Boogie gala recap (link on Twitter) YouTube:Joe T., EOD.Ribbon cutting and tour of new kennels and dog run. Fundraising Takeaways Your editorial calendar can be as simple or complex as you like, but it should at least answer the questions what, when, and who. Organizing all the elements of your media outreach into one editorial calendar helps you keep content fresh and up to date. Readers will respond by coming back more often to see what’s new at your nonprofit. Review your old editorial calendars to make sure you aren’t repeating content or that you’ve updated readers when necessary. They’re also useful for tracking which content was most successful. Facebook:Gina K., 10am.Pic from dog adoption fair Email NL (biweekly):Ann S., 10am.Dog adoption, Beagle Bingo event, request for supplies, link to donation page (post pdf on FB, link on Twitter) This is, of course, a very basic editorial calendar, but it’s an easy place to begin. Yours could include more or fewer items, more or less detail, checkboxes to indicate approvals or stages of production, and so on. Expect your calendar to evolve as your needs change. Wednesday Facebook: Gina K, 10am.Volunteer of the Week: Ellen Jones Facebook:Gina K., 10am.Meet the Staff: Joe T. Website:Mary M., EOD.Monthly message from executive director Monday
by Kate Olsen, VP of Strategic Projects at Network for Good @Kate4GoodFellow cause marketers, wouldn’t you like a dollar for every time someone told you to ‘make it go viral?’ The beauty and frustration of virality is that you never know what will catch on. Context, creativity and conversation all have to align to get tens, hundreds or thousands of people to talk about your idea at the same time. We may not be able to make things go viral by sheer force of will, but Jonah Berger has a few ideas about how to engineer messages and campaigns that are more likely to spread. Below are a few tips from his new book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Jonah outlines six key STEPPS that will transform your cause marketing messages into content that will entertain, inspire and incite people to spread the word.1. Social Currency: How will talking about your campaign affect the sharer’s status in his/her community? Will it make the sharer look knowledgeable, in the know, generous?Example: Packaging your message in a slick piece of media, such as the documentary Girl Rising, makes it easy for people to recommend – they seem intellectual, generous and pop culture savvy.2. Triggers: Can you relate your message to a context or habit that is already part of the sharer’s daily life? Examples: Workplace giving and volunteering as a social norm, giving a $1 at checkout, or this NYC Department of Health anti-soda campaign 3. Emotion: Does sharing your message move people emotionally? Can you touch the heart?Examples: Charity: Water puts the supporter as the hero of the campaign, showcasing the personal connection to the cause to share with social networks. This RedSnappa video epitomizes making an emotional connection with your message.4. Public: Can you add a social proof element to your message so people can see that others support your cause?Examples: Movember mustaches, breast cancer pink ribbons, Livestrong yellow bracelets, ‘I Voted’ stickers5. Practical Value: Does spreading your message help people help others? What is the impact you are driving?Example: Causes that make the supporter experience tangible include Dress for Success and Adopt A Classroom. Consumer campaigns that make a tangible donation alongside a useful product include One Pack = One Vaccine and FEED Projects.6. Stories: Is your message or campaign related to a larger narrative people want to share? Examples: Ben & Jerry’s went to congress with a 900 Pound Baked Alaska to protest drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Ben & Jerry’s made a social statement but used their product to illustrate their point, that makes the story sticky relevant and memorable.)Want to know how to craft a powerful story? Download this archived webinar presentation from Jonah Sachs on ‘Winning the Story Wars’.P.S. Thank you to PointWorthy for recommending this fabulous read.
If you’re still not sure what your organization should be doing with social media, it would be a good idea to figure it out soon. As social media use continues to grow, this channel is becoming even more important to online donors as a way to connect with causes and find news and information.Here are some social media fun facts: Free WebinarWant some help with your nonprofit’s social media strategy? Nonprofit communication expert Farra Trompeter of Big Duck will join us on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 1pm EDT for a free Network for Good webinar. Farra is a seasoned fundraising and nonprofit marketing professional who has helped hundreds of nonprofits create amazing campaigns and communicate more effectively via social channels. This is a perfect opportunity to learn from one of the best. Registration is free and I hope you can join us. (Note: If you can’t attend the live stream, we’ll send you the presentation so you can review it on demand.)Develop Your Social Media StrategyTuesday, October 22nd, 2013 1 pm EDT 27% of online time is now spent on social networking. Source: Experian Tweet this stat.47% of those 45 and younger in the U.S. say social media is more valuable than search for discovering news. Source: Reuters Tweet this stat.Thanks to recent algorithm changes, Google now uses many social factors as top criteria for ranking search results. Source: Searchmetrics Tweet this fact.Twitter’s fastest growing age demographic is 55 to 64 year olds. Source: Global Web Index Tweet this stat.
Learn and plan. Donors are the drivers. These are two important reminders that Larry C. Johnson shares in his new book The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising. While these maxims might seem obvious, Larry explores them in a way that will change how you think about asking for donations this holiday season.At the heart of every donor’s decision to make a gift is the desire to actualize their personal values.As you plan your year-end campaign, don’t forget to keep the emphasis on your donor. It’s important to provide a clear tie from the impact of your work to your donors who make it all happen. When organizations ask for donations using their own values, it’s mistakenly assumed that those values are universal. Listen to what’s important to your donors, then position your organization’s fundraising efforts so that you serve your donor’s needs while also raising money for the cause that you both value.Donors want to be engaged, not enticed.Have you ever tried to entice donors to give? When you approach supporters by selling them on the value of the services that your nonprofit offers, your interaction may seem more like a transaction. If you want your donors to feel involved, ask how your organization is meeting donors’ dreams and fulfilling their desires. Has your donor always dreamed of ending childhood hunger? Let him know how his donation will work to achieve that goal. Has your supporter had a lifelong interest in the region where you operate? Tell her about how your work affects the local community. Discover what inspires and motivates your donors, appeal to that, and invite them to be involved.Larry will join us next Tuesday to share more from his book and answer your questions on sustainable fundraising. You’ll learn how you can apply the eightrules to raise more money for your organization. Join our free webinar on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 from 1 pm to 2 pm EST. Register now to reserve your spot. (Can’t attend the live session? Go ahead and register so you receive the presentation and recording via email.)
A story’s emotional power is a fundraiser’s best tool to gain the attention of donors and inspire action. One fundraising campaign that is hitting it out of the park with its emotional “wow” factor is Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Season of Giving. The campaign’s message reinforces the work that RMHC does by reminding supporters that there is strength in numbers and that they are really giving the gift of togetherness when they make a contribution. I had a chance to chat with Jennifer Smith, Senior Director of Communications & Special Programs at Ronald McDonald House Charities to learn more about this campaign and its approach to connecting donors with the work they make possible. Jennifer was kind enough to share a bit of the process behind this amazing campaign and offer some tips to other nonprofits this holiday season.“For any nonprofit, but certainly for Ronald McDonald House Charities, our goal is to share the impact of the work we do with the support of our donors. Every campaign we do lets our donors know that the work they make possible is making a difference in the lives of the families we serve. For potential donors, this illustrates the fact that they are needed,” Jennifer says.The Seasons of Giving campaign includes donor communication pieces, direct mail appeals, videos, online ads, and social media outreach. In this multi-channel campaign, there are unifying elements, such as a red ribbon motif that provides visual connectivity across platforms.Jennifer has a great reminder for all nonprofit fundraisers: Don’t forget to match the message with the medium. “We’re careful to tailor the message. You can’t just stick your direct mail language on Facebook. Different elements pull out different aspects. Use the different components of the story to target specific audience at the right time. We make sure the content is relevant but there are still the connected elements, such as branding and the overall messaging.”How did RMHC arrive at this campaign?Jennifer shares a fundamental, yet natural, shift, “There was a time when we spoke more to facts, figures and children served, but we found that to add more dimension to the message, we had to do that by telling the family stories. People are already willingly telling their stories—they want to be able to share what they’ve been through. They often want to give back and say, ‘We want to help YOU.’ You can’t manufacture authenticity. You need real people telling real stories.”Here are Jennifer’s tips for other nonprofits looking to capture and share stories:1. Listen to what people are already telling you. What are your supporters and beneficiaries saying? Take those words and insights and build a story from them. This helps your supporters understand how our work is making a difference, and that donors are the ones making it happen.2. Sharing stories encourages others to tell their stories. After seeing the Season of Giving campaign, it’s clear that it’s not just about the official videos or stories—it’s about allowing more people to open up and share their stories. “Social media is a wonderful listening tool; the dialogue that happens is inspiring. I haven’t been in their shoes, so when they’re sharing their stories organically, it is a powerful experience,” Jennifer says, giving us a great reminder of the beauty of social media. “If you’re listening you can be more insightful and tuned in to messages that resonate. It also allows those stores to be shared more easily and more widely.”3. Ask, but be sensitive. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Would you be willing to share your story?” Jennifer’s team is careful to recognize the challenges, “We’re very sensitive to the fact that some of these families are going through what they are going through. What is powerful about [the stories featured in our videos] is that Kayla and Christina are still fighting and working to heal from cancer.” Jennifer also reminds us that it’s important to have checkpoints throughout the process. Continually ask, “Are you still comfortable with telling this story?”4. Make it a part of your organization’s culture. Jennifer shares how this works at RMHC, “The way our system is structured, we rarely have to do a formal process. If we see something that catches our eye, we first reach out to our Chapter and ask permission to find out more. Then if timing is right, we talk to the family.” Jennifer adds, “We also use stories from corporate donors, such as McDonald’s owner/operators, volunteers, and staff, etc. One of our core tenets is our compassion, from our training of our staff people to volunteers. We exist to provide resources when people really need it, and this permeates throughout everything we do.” A big thank you to Jennifer for sharing her insight with our readers and to the people at RMHC for the great work they do. To find out more about the RMHC Season of Giving campaign, visit http://www.rmhc.org/season-of-giving.
As fundraisers, we often want to know why and how our supporters plan to donate in any given year. As donors, we usually want to know the same thing from the organizations we support. If I give to your organization, what can I expect? Do you have a plan for me if I am a new supporter? A lapsed donor? A major donor? A peer-to-peer giver? A recurring donor? If you don’t have a plan for me, how do you expect to develop a relationship with me as a donor? We often talk about segmenting lists and personalizing communications, but when it comes to your various donor and supporter types, do you have a holistic plan for identifying, nurturing, and retaining each unique tier of support? While you may have the best intentions, without a clearly articulated plan, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to successfully execute tactics that will help you create a well-rounded, long-term fundraising approach for each type of donor (or potential donor).For best results, your comprehensive fundraising strategy should include: a list of key segments for your organizationhow your organization defines each segmentthe historical and projected fundraising results from each groupthe specific tactics and messages that will help you build relationships with each type of donor You should also understand how each segment interacts with the rest of your donor pool and which triggers move someone from one tier to the next (in either direction). If you don’t have this data, start by talking with your most loyal donors to find out what has them giving year after year.Need some help thinking about this? Download the archived presentation of our free webinar with Sea Change Strategies’ fundraising experts Alia McKee and Mark Rovner. Listen to the recording f to learn from these two fundraising gurus, get an inside look at The Missing Middle report, and get your mid-level donor questions answered.
Follow these steps to strengthen your relationship with donors and increase retention rates. In my next post on this topic, I’ll share some key strategies for creating email newsletters that won’t immediately see the delete button.With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org. You’ve seen it happen: When we stop putting energy into relationships with family and friends—relying on past interactions to hold us together—those relationships tend to fall apart. Like your college roommate or that work friend from your first job.Relationships with organization’s donors require the same kind of focus and energy for the duration—if you want to keep them happy, involved, and giving.Unfortunately, recent research suggests that most fundraisers are doing a poor job of maintaining connections, with donor retention rates at an all-time low of 39%. That means your organization could be cut from the give-to list at any point.But there is a proven approach to stopping this fatal attrition—placing hyperfocus on relationships with existing donors to keep them close. That’s mammoth potential, and your donor newsletter is a vital tool for bringing it to life.Here’s how to put your newsletter into play:1. Share, don’t ask.The primary goal of both print and e-newsletters is to reshape your donor relationships from transactional to one that’s more personal, productive, and long term—the big three of donor retention.The only way to get there is to get beyond the ask. After your prompt thanks to a donor for her first gift, you want to invite her further into your organization. Make her feel acknowledged, appreciated, and right at home, just as you would the first time you invite a new friend into your home.In much the same way, your newsletter invites donors in to experience your organization’s (and community’s) personality, promises, and values in a rich, close way.2. Connect your content and your people.Think of your newsletters as opportunities to visit with a donor. Your print newsletter (vital if your donor base skews heavily toward older supporters) is like a rich, immersive visit where you have the opportunity to get into deep conversation. (In many cases, an occasional print newsletter can actually help your organization stand out.) On the other hand, your e-news is more like a quick drop-in.Stories form the core of your newsletter. Prioritize the elements donors focus on most: photos, headlines, photo captions, and articles. Here’s where you show what your donors’ gifts have accomplished and tell how much you appreciate them.Send this version of yournewsletter in both formats only to active and recent donors so your voice stays clear and focused.3. Keep it all about donors—with an imaginary editorial board.It’s tough to remember that your organization is just one small part of your donors’ lives, especially when you live your job. But consider your personal donations—how often do you think about the organizations you support?Keep your donors front and center with an imaginary editorial board composed of personas (aka profiles: how-tos here) representing up to nine of your most important donor segments.Then, get to know your editorial board members by surrounding your desk with these profiles, and keep them in front of you while you write. It sounds hokey, but it works!4. Make it easy to recognize and remember.Using a different mix of written and graphic content, and sometimes even different layouts, for every issue is the most common error in print newsletter production. Ugh!Although this “use whatever we’ve got” or “let’s keep it from getting boring” approach might make it easier for you to get the newsletter out the door, you’re making it tough for donors to recognize it at a glance (that’s all the time you get) and absorb it.Instead, create a content formula or mix based on your donor personas’ wants and interests. Consistently following this formula makes it easier for you to find and craft the content you need and for readers to recognize your newsletter at a glance—increasing the odds that they’ll read it.
In the recently released Individual Donor Benchmark Report, the folks at Third Space Studio and BC/DC Ideas looked at fundraising data for organizations with budgets under $2 million. The report contains a wealth of information—including insight on donor communication, recurring giving programs, and technology use—that can help small and medium nonprofits understand how to best reach potential donors. The research also observed data practices of small nonprofits. Not surprisingly, these organizations often struggle to collect and use their own data to optimize their fundraising approach. Since this information can make a huge difference in the success of a campaign, how can fundraisers make the time to dig into their data to identify new opportunities and communicate more effectively with donors? Consider these three tips on getting started from Third Space Studio’s Heather Yandow: 1. Start small.It can be overwhelming to think about all of the types of data you could be collecting. If you’re just starting out, focus on tracking just a few key metrics like number of donors, number of new donors, and average gift. Also consider the reports built into your database and fundraising tools. 2. Get the most bang for your buck.Understand which metrics have the most impact on your fundraising program and start there. Are you struggling with keeping donors year after year? Take a closer look at your retention rate by type of donors (volunteers, activists, major donors) or by channel (online, direct mail, events). Are you considering moving from direct mail to online only? Try an experiment with a subset of your donors and track the results. (Try this simple worksheet to design and track your experiments.)3. Make it easy for Future You.Keep a record of how you define your metrics and how you measure them. A year from now, you may not remember if lapsed members meant someone hadn’t given in one year or two – or if you counted people who bought tickets to your special event as donors. Be sure to capture those distinctions, including how you tricked your database into giving you the data you wanted, in a safe place so that Future You can calculate the data in the same way next time around.How are you using your fundraising and marketing data to shape your approach with potential and existing donors? Share your tips and challenges in the comments below!
An organization’s ability to accomplish its mission is only as strong as the organization’s infrastructure. As you fight to make the world a better place, how do you make sure you’re providing a nonprofit workplace that fosters fairness and complies with the necessary rules and regulations? I recently had a chance to catch up with the Aina Gutierrez, author of Walking the Walk: A Values Centered Approach to Building a Strong Non-Profitand Deputy Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. Her new book is an easily digestible, yet comprehensive, practical guide to organizing and improving internal operations and finances.NFG: What drove you to write this handbook? Aina Gutierrez: The national nonprofit I work for, Interfaith Worker Justice, has a network of more than 40 affiliates that are small organizations with less than 10 staff. Part of my job in the last twelve years has been to train these groups on the subjects outlined in the book (office administration, fundraising, financial management, board development and human resources). There were two trends I saw in talking to these groups and other small nonprofits I’ve been involved with. The first is that most small groups struggle with these “back office” issues because there were few training resources and materials for those that juggle multiple roles and don’t have the time (nor passion!) around building systems and procedures. And yet, many of them were really struggling with personnel issues and managing their budgets. It caused many staff and board leaders stress and burnout.The second is that many of the policies and procedures of small nonprofits don’t seem to reflect the values that the organizations espouse in their programmatic work. A number of staff work for low pay and few benefits. Most small organizations don’t have access to constructive feedback or support. I felt strongly about the need to reflect the organization’s values in the way it operates, and that a written resource might be the best way to do that.NFG: The book is geared toward small nonprofits with fewer than 10 employees. We work with many organizations who also have volunteer “staff” or staff members who are running their nonprofits on the side? Can you share some advice for those situations? AG: Sure. It’s pretty amazing, but the smallest nonprofit isn’t that much less complicated to run than a more established organization. Both have boards, raise money, file government forms and have policies. This can be tricky for groups without paid staff, or with part-time staff. There’s never enough money or time to accomplish everything.NFG: Can you share some advice for those situations?AG: So I would recommend that your readers do a quick assessment of each area outlined in the book and highlight parts that seem important to the organization that are missing. The book has chapters on staff, board, office systems and management, government requirements, finance, and fund development. And just start working on it, bit by bit. Include a few tasks in the organization’s workplan, or find a board member or two that are willing to help. There’s a lot of information online and from allied organizations that can be easily adapted and used for small nonprofits. It’s really just being aware of the back office work that needs to be done and doing a little bit at a time.NFG: There’s an entire section on building and managing your board. We hear from many nonprofits who struggle with this relationship. Why do you think this is often such a difficult piece of the puzzle?AG: I think any institution made up of passionate people who bring with them varying ideas and perspectives will not be without its share of internal struggles. An organization’s board is no different. Managing the board can be very rewarding, but it can also be frustrating at times.. And, as staff, it can sometimes feel like its not worth the time and energy to build a strong board, so it falls by the wayside.But, it is worth it. The key is to continue to recruit and develop leaders that care about the organization and have something wonderful to contribute to its success. If someone doesn’t have a skill set or experience to help, or creates a lot of drama, or brings a different agenda to the table, or doesn’t want to do any work – that person shouldn’t be on the board. It can be time consuming to recruit and keep the right people for the job, but a small group of people that really connect and are willing to work can help build the organization in some really incredible ways.NFG: What are some of the challenges you’ve observed in nonprofits who don’t have strong administrative systems? AG: Oh goodness, there are so many stories. Every nonprofit I’ve worked with has at least one horrible story that cost a lot of time, energy and usually money to fix. I certainly have made plenty of own mistakes in this area!The biggest challenge with organizations that don’t have strong systems is that it’s not an efficient way to operate. Pulling together a 300 person mailing shouldn’t be an all day job. But if your database is disorganized, the printer jams the envelopes, and you have to run to the post office to buy stamps, it can take hours. It impacts the important work that the group should be doing. And its super frustrating for the staff!Having weak systems can also cost a lot of money. I’ve worked with a number of groups that miss government filing deadlines and have to pay late fees. Or groups that order office supplies last minute and pay expensive overnight shipping for a meeting. Or, groups that miss grant deadlines because there are not good tracking systems for applications or reports. These things all cost the organization a lot of money, and there often isn’t money to go around.NFG: What are the payoffs for getting it right?AG: One of the biggest rewards of those with good administrative systems is that they are able to engage more people in their work. Organizations that are able to efficiently communicate with their constituents and potential supporters via email or direct mail are more likely to receive more donations and support than those that don’t communicate. Donors that are assured the organization is run well will continue to give and often give more. Board members that are better connected or informed about the work will more likely be better engaged and provide more help.Having good administrative systems is really the backbone of any strong nonprofit organization. It has a direct impact on its programmatic work and financial viability.NFG: This book is obviously a great guide for emerging organizations, can established nonprofits learn a trick or two as well? Should these organizations re-assess their processes? How often?AG: Yes, definitely. I encourage readers of more established groups to first review the policies and practices outlined in the book and make sure they have similar structures in place. Second, take a look at their own policies through a values-centered lens and see if there are areas that don’t reflect the organization’s values. And third, consider if its time to update a few things. For example, my organization recently looked at our healthcare plan to see if we should try the state-based exchange through the Affordable Care Act. It didn’t make sense for us to change right now, but it is likely something that will impact our healthcare benefits in the future. Even long time organizations should try and keep up on policy changes that could benefit small nonprofits.All organizations should look at the administrative and financial progress made every year. Don’t look at everything, but when the organization is making its annual goals and objectives, it should include some work on internal policies and procedures. Incorporate this work incrementally into the organization’s board and staff and new things will be done every year. Progress is something to feel good about!Thanks to Aina for her insight and for providing a handy guide to policies and processes that can sometimes feel daunting. For more tips and insight, check out Walking the Walk: A Values Centered Approach to Building a Strong Non-Profit.
In the early 1980s, Johnson & Johnson faced a massive organizational crisis when someone laced Extra-Strength Tylenol caplets with cyanide and returned the bottles to store shelves. When the Tylenol link was discovered, the company sprang into action, spending millions to remove pills from stores, communicating its efforts to consumers via the media, and helping to pioneer tamper-resistant packaging that ultimately reduced similar crimes in the future.What does this story have to do with your nonprofit? It’s a great example of effective organizational crisis management: act quickly and decisively, communicate consistently and honestly, and apply lessons learned to prevent future situations. The key is to be prepared for whatever life throws in your direction. But sometimes our plans go awry amid the chaos. Here are five common pitfalls that can derail your nonprofit’s efforts to guide communications during a PR crisis.Slow or no response. Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, you simply hope the problem will go away on its own. Or your team gets stuck trying to find consensus before taking action. By the time you’re ready to respond, days or weeks have gone by and your organization is in a heap of trouble. Solution: Control the message before someone else does. Be prepared with your crisis communications plan and respond quickly.Ill-prepared spokesperson. You task a key senior executive with handling media outreach, but once she starts getting peppered with hard questions, you find she’s not nearly as prepared for the hot seat as you had assumed. Solution: Take nothing for granted. Test your spokesperson ahead of time. Sit down with that person and fire tough questions at her quickly and relentlessly until she can deliver your organization’s message calmly and consistently. Legal concerns. In the midst of the storm, you have to wait for your legal team before taking action. This slows you down tremendously and potentially derails your entire organization. Solution: Have ample conversations with your legal team during your crisis communications prep. What might they need to do or approve? Where would they need to step in? You’ll avoid disastrous delays if you can agree to operating procedures and best practices in advance.Inconsistency or lack of transparency. Your market doesn’t believe your message or find it credible because they’re hearing different things across channels, which makes your nonprofit seem less than honest. Solution: As the crisis wears on, you’ll continue to get tough questions from every corner, so you need to hunker down and ensure you’re delivering a consistent and honest message, whether it’s on television, in print, or on your website and social media channels.Failure to take responsibility. Do you take responsibility? Do you apologize? Similar to being slow to respond, if you fail to address these questions, you’ll extend the news cycle. Solution: From the beginning, own the problem (or, if you didn’t create it, explain clearly how the problem arose) and communicate how your organization is addressing it. Again, be consistent and honest in your message.A final bit of advice: Fix it yourself first.Some crises will be imposed on you externally, out of the blue, and you’ll need to react with your readymade communications plan. But others you might avoid—if you take action now. If you see anything in your organization that doesn’t seem quite right or could create a bit of drama, talk among your team about how you can fix it yourself before external forces make you fix it. Adapted from the Nonprofit 911 webinar “Crisis Communications for Nonprofits” with Susan Kearney, COO of Network for Good. Download the full webinar.
Now create your own giving pyramid and think it through. If it feels ambitious but achievable, then it is a great place to start with a first year goal. If it seems too easy to achieve, boost the dollar amount. Too much of a stretch? Dial back.Leverage with matching fundsOne of the most powerful tools on #GivingTuesday is matching funds. Consider identifying a lead donor for your #GivingTuesday campaign who is willing to donate marketing fuel to your campaign engine, with matching funds.Even a small amount of matching fund dollars can provide significant benefit to a campaign. If you can raise as little as 5% – 10% of your total fundraising goal in matching funds, there are simple but effective ways to use this to amplify your campaign. These are a few ways to deploy the dollars effectively: · Match a % of dollar raised up to the amount of matching funds you have. So if you have $5,000 against a $50,000 goal, match $1 for every $10 raised until you reach your goal.· Match the first gifts every hour up to an hourly amount. So, if you have $10,000 in matching funds, match the first $1,000 each hour for the busiest ten hours of the day.· Match only gifts up to a certain amount. If one of your goals is number of donors, rather than just dollars, cap your matching funds at $100 or another amount that reflects your likely average gift.· Match gifts that further other objectives, like donors that set up recurring gifts. In this instance, consider doing a bonus match for a monthly donation, since these are an organization’s most engaged supporters over time. Your goal will be one of the most visible anchors of your #GivingTuesday campaign, so make it a motivator. It should be big and meaningful enough to get people excited to work hard. If it’s too attainable, it will feel like just another day at the office, and it will be hard to motivate your team.Everything you do for the next eight weeks depends on motivation and focus; set that goal today, and start planning your giving party on December 2nd! Party on!If you’re a fundraiser, you’re seeing news about #GivingTuesday everywhere.And the buzz is for good reason – #GivingTuesday is not only the launch of the giving season, but has become an international celebration of generosity. And your donors, prospects, staff and volunteers are likely to be hearing a lot about the big day – from you or someone. So, it’s time to solidify your #GivingTuesday plans.GivingTuesday, when done well, can have all the excitement and engagement of a great party, while building awareness and donations for your cause. It can also carry good feelings forward through the December giving season to boost your overall year-end fundraising efforts.What will make it a great day?Like a great party, the secrets to #GivingTuesday success combine great planning with a little magic. And like a party theme, your campaign goal is the part of the plan from which everything else stems. If you ran a #GivingTuesday campaign last year, you have a benchmark against which to think about 2014. If you’re in your first year, setting goals will be an educated best guess. Achieving your first year goal is where the (Planning + Luck) = Success equation comes in. Dollars are likely to be one of the key elements you measure, but it doesn’t need to be your only goal. These are a few goals to consider instead of, or in addition to, funds raised:· Number of donors· Number of new donors· Number of volunteers/hours (if you are including an activity)· Number of recurring donors· % Participation among key groups – like staffBuild a pyramidEven if you don’t have prior experience with #GivingTuesday, you can do some predictive planning around logical paths to your goals. Giving pyramids are a simple way to add a quantitative element to planning your dollar goal. They let you sanity check your goal by putting it on paper, rather than just guessing.How do you build a giving pyramid? Let’s take one example: Your nonprofit would like to raise $50,000 on #GivingTuesday. If you’re a small nonprofit, just eliminate zeroes from this example.Here is one illustration of how to predict a path to success with a giving pyramid:· $50,000 Goal· 8,500 donors in data file· 255 Donors if you achieve 3% participation (and you’ll definitely attract new donors too, so this should be a safe bet)So how might this set up in a giving pyramid?
5 Online Fundraising Tools that Should Be Part of Your Donation Management SoftwareBy the time a potential donor gets to your donation page, your organization has invested a significant amount of outreach effort in them. Make sure your online fundraising tools are user-friendly so your donation page doesn’t drive them away. If a page looks unprofessional or is difficult to navigate, users are not going to try to sort it out. They are going to leave the page—without making the donation they had intended to.A great call to action will be ignored if the user becomes frustrated with the page. You want the online donation experience to build trust and make donors comfortable. In order to make your donation management software as engaging and successful at increasing donations as possible, make sure you integrate these five online fundraising tools:Branding: Your constituents recognize your brand, so your donation page should include the same logo, font, colors and themes as the rest of your marketing material. When a donor clicks on a “donate now” button, they should arrive at a page that looks like the rest of your site, so that they are comfortable that they are in the right place for giving money to your organization.Mobile: 31% of all website traffic is users on mobile devices. A donation page should be “responsive,” meaning it is designed to display properly on mobile phones and tablets as well as computer monitors. (Don’t worry about the technical aspects, effective fundraising software has this feature built in—you just have to make sure you choose one that is optimized for mobile.)Call to Action: Your website and email communications should always include a “call to action.” You have to tell people what you want them to do. Your donation page should also include a call to action that relates specifically to making a donation to support your cause.Tracking: One benefit of reaching out to donors online is that you are easily able to track the effectiveness of your outreach. This is how we know how much traffic comes from mobile devices, or what percentage of emails get opened. This is an invaluable resource for nonprofits. Pay attention to what parts of your website get looked at, and which emails get opened. By comparing the results of various campaigns, and different approaches (email, website, etc.) you can see what call to action gets the most response—and the highest donation rate.Testing: Online marketers have found that in some ways, the virtual world reflects the physical world, and people respond the same way online as they do in person. But more often, people behave differently online, and there is no way to predict what way that will be. For example, subtle differences in headlines have been found to make big differences in the rates at which emails are opened. Your donor management software should allow you to compare results from changes that you make so that you know immediately if something has gone wrong—or right!Since 2001, Network for Good has helped over 100,000 nonprofit organizations raise more than $1 billion online. To discuss how we can help you get the most out of your fundraising efforts, contact us today or call 1-888-284-7978 x1.
Nonprofits are finding new ways to tap the most vocal supporters outside their core networks to become active supporters of their causes. These supporters, or peer influencers, could be even more important than your brand. While young people may be inclined to “like” or share your existing information, you must respect the fact that they are capable of much more. Focus instead on inspiring Millennials to create and share their own perspectives. Give them the opportunity to take greater ownership over how you are perceived in the world. Peer influencers can help establish trust, exchange ideas and information, and demonstrate relevance. You can begin to embrace peer influencers and make them work for you by following these steps:￼Consider working with influencers so you can know the message they are sending while giving them room to adapt and remix it.Create opportunities for influencers to be creative, and recognize their efforts when they have success.Make sure your website and landing pages are easy to read and access, or the influence will not work.Monitor the reach of your influence (retweets, etc.).Help your staff understand and leverage the power of influencers.At the end of the day, Millennials are highly selective about what organizations they engage with in a crowded and noisy marketplace. Even though peer influence might attract a Millennial to click or read, it might not be enough to persuade them to follow your social channels. The key to reaching and engaging Millennials isn’t to do more traditional, expensive advertising and marketing campaigns or flashy, creative social efforts that emerge from inside your operation. It’s about finding a way into conversations between Millennials, and then letting those conversations take their course.Adapted from Network for Good’s eBook “The Millennial Donor Playbook,” by Kari Saratovsky, Chief Engagement Officer at Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies