Fri, December 19 2008

Staying off the fundraising naughty list

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Here is my new Fundraising Success column.  Thanks to Emma for the tips.

I have a really good piece of advice for you. Send a fundraising e-mail the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Dec. 30 and 31 are the biggest online days of the year, in my experience. All those generous procrastinators are just getting their acts together, so your timing is perfect if you send a last-minute reminder at year’s end.

But make it a GOOD e-mail. How do you know the difference? We have a great new e-mail partner at Network for Good called Emma, and that company’s experts have agreed to share 10 big e-mail no-nos, based on their time in the trenches with electronic communications.

So before you hit SEND on that all-important, last-minute e-mail in December, remember to AVOID these sins:

1. Using generic subject lines.
You know your latest e-mail campaign is the December newsletter. And you know it’s great. But it’s up to you to tell your constituents just why December is so darn special. Consider using your subject line to tease your favorite article or whatever you decide is the most enticing part of your newsletter. Also, try including your brand in the subject line. It’ll let people instantly recognize your e-mail at a glance and can help with inbox sorting down the road.

2. Getting freaky with Comic Sans.
Fonts and colors and formatting, oh my. Keep your campaigns easy on the eyes with simple, intentional style choices. Avoid switching fonts every few lines, and choose your colors with an eye for readability. After all, a well-formatted campaign will catch your readers’ attention and make it easy to keep reading. And isn’t that the whole idea?

3. Sending e-mail to people who didn’t ask for it.
While it’s important to make sure your e-mail looks great, a successful campaign really starts with a solid, permission-based list. Only e-mail people who have asked to receive your updates or are directly affiliated with your organization. If it’s a rented list, purchased list or list of people who’ve never heard of you, avoid it.

4. Using an invalid ‘reply to’ address.
Since permission-based e-mail marketing is all about staying in touch with your members and customers, giving your recipients a way to continue the conversation is a must. Otherwise, you’ll miss the follow-up questions from your subscribers, not to mention those rare (but important!) unsubscribe requests from people who choose to reply to you instead of using a built-in opt-out link.

If the “from” address you currently use doesn’t exist, consider asking your e-mail administrator to create it, or change it to an address that does exist and is monitored by someone who can manage the replies.

5. Ignoring those results.
After all the work of the big send-off, don’t forget the fun of watching the results roll in. They’ll tell you a lot about what your audience is interested in. Did you have an overwhelming clickthrough response last month when you linked to your blog? Consider adding more links like that in this issue. Did 62 people click to learn more about your newest program? Sounds like follow-up phone calls might be in order. Make sure you learn from the way people respond, and apply those lessons toward even greater success next time.

6. Sending one big image.
I know it’s tempting to take that gorgeous flier your designer created for print, save it as a JPG and plug it into your e-mail campaign. But sending one big image is risky. Servers are more likely to filter e-mails with large images, and recipients may move on to other things before your image fully loads. And some e-mail programs, like Gmail and Outlook, block images by default, meaning a percentage of your recipients might see the original e-mail you designed as a big, broken image. Yikes.

7. Forgetting to test.
By taking a few minutes to send a test to yourself and a few colleagues, you can have peace of mind that your links work, your copy is typo-free and everything looks just the way you thought it would — all before you send it to the big list.

8. Writing — and sending — a novel.
Don’t send a really flippin’ long e-mail. When you send a campaign that goes on and on (and on), a typical subscriber — with a typically short attention span — probably won’t sift through lots of text to find the content that interests him. Instead, he might delete your e-mail at a glance.

9. Sending too often or not enough).
Finding your ideal frequency depends on a few factors, like what your organization does and who you send to. Just keep in mind that sending too frequently may annoy your readers and increase your opt-out rate, but long lapses of silence may cause some readers to just plain forget about you. Aim for regular contact that keeps your brand in front of your readers, and make sure each send-off has a purpose.

10. Not personalizing.
Sometimes being one in a million isn’t such a good thing, and you certainly don’t want your readers to feel like they’re just one e-mail address in a giant list. Use your e-mail campaign to connect personally with your readers, but don’t just stop with a personal, first-name greeting (although that’s a great place to start). Look for other ways to extend a personal touch, whether it’s through sending targeted messages based on your readers’ ZIP codes or interests, or keeping a friendly, personal tone as you write your content.

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Sat, December 13 2008

Free campaign planning tool!

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Thanks to my friends at Spitfire, if you need help planning your next big campaign, you’re in luck. Spitfire Strategies and the Communications Leadership Institute (the people who brought you the Smart Chart and Discovering the Activation Point) have just unveiled their newest tool: The Just Enough Planning Guide. It’s a free online resource that for the first time gives nonprofits and foundations a process for planning successful campaigns. Whether your organization is planning to pass a law, win popular support for an issue or organize a boycott, the guide gives groups a clear sense of where they are going, the best way to get there and what to expect along the way. Visit justenoughplanning.org to download a free copy.

Thanks Spitfire!

Here are steps it covers:

1. Confirm That a Campaign Is Possible. This is the time to step back and assess the viability of a campaign. Are the stars aligned for this effort to be successful?

2. Set a Clear, Measurable Goal That Is Achievable. Your plan needs to be focused on achieving a very specific goal. Your goal is your raison d’être. Are you trying to make something happen or stop something from happening? There is a difference.

3. Chart Your Course. Much like a road trip, there are likely many ways to get to your goal. You will use your knowledge of the field and the external environment to determine the best steps to your goal.

4. Anticipate Conditions. Visualize all possible scenarios – the good, the bad and the ugly – so your plan includes strategies for leveraging opportunities and mitigating challenges, including identifying your opposition.

5. Know How to Make Headway. What will propel you down your path? What major campaign activities can help you get from point A to point B?

6. Prioritize Your Target Audiences. Now that you have a strategy, stay focused by prioritizing who you need to engage to win, and when.

7. Put a Public Face on Your Campaign. Give the effort a name and a personality that is memorable and easily understood. You want people to recognize what you are about and not have to guess.

8. Operationalize Your Campaign. Based on the activities you think will help you make headway, determine which campaign tactics you will need: from intellectual knowledge to government relations to public mobilization to communications to coalition building to fundraising.

9. Stay on Track. Build evaluation mechanisms into your plan that will tell you when you are making progress and when you need to stop and make a mid-course correction. Meet regularly with your team to discuss your progress.

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Thu, December 11 2008

The magic three “i”s of nonprofit marketing

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

1. INSPIRATION: to touch people, help them envision the amazing possibilities they can be part of.  It’s about what they can achieve, not what you need.

2. IMPACT: to compel people to action, show them the tangible difference they can make in the real world.

3. INTIMACY: to close the deal, make it personal.  Or get a messager they know and love.

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Wed, December 10 2008

Wisdom on fundraising during a downturn

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

We recently were lucky enough to have Kim Klein share with Network for Good her wisdom on fundraising.  The woman is an entertaining encyclopedia of fundraising smarts.  She is really, really good at what she does.

If you missed her talk, you can listen to it or read the transcript HERE.

Here are four immediate steps she says you can take this December:

1. Encourage your donors to give the gift of charity.  It’s the holidays.  People are buying gifts.  Have them make that the gift of charity.

2. Call all your major donors.  She says, “The tendency right now is to think, “Oh, these poor people. They lost so much money.” So you don’t call them. What you actually wind up saying to them, even though you don’t mean to, you wind up saying to them, “All we cared about was your money. Now that you don’t have so much money, I can’t be bothered to call you.” And that is really,
really, really not a message you want to give.  You want to welcome them. You want to write to them and use a follow-up phone call to say something like, “We thank you for all you’ve done for us over the years. We are determined to hang in there and continue to do our work as best we can. We hope you will support us at whatever level feels acceptable to you.”  Focus on the donor, not the donation!

3. Tell 70+ donors how to save on taxes!  She says, “You can transfer up to $100,000 in any given year directly from their IRA to a charitable organization and they pay no income tax on that. Normally if you withdraw money from your IRA you pay a tax, whatever tax bracket you’re in that year. And of course if you donate it, you claim that tax donation.  This is a very nice provision that allows you to avoid taxation and still claim the donation, so it’s kind of a double tax advantage.”

4. For smaller organizations especially, share a wish list!  She says, “Tell people, this is the stuff we need. We need four ergonomic chairs. We need 10 printer toner cartridges. We need 75 reams of paper. We need new filing cabinets.” And you just kind of list all the stuff, everything in your budget.”

Thanks Kim!

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Fri, December 05 2008

My gift to you: free fundraising eBook

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Thanks for being a loyal reader this year!

By way of thanks, I wanted to give you a link to the eBook I just helped put together with my colleagues here at Network for Good.  It’s a downturn survival guide for online fundraising.

Here’s what it’s about:

During these uncertain economic times, having an online fundraising strategy is the perfect medicine for a bad economy. Download Network for Good’s free downturn survival guide to learn how to market and fundraise more effectively during a downturn. The guide features 12 real-life strategies nonprofits are using right now to succeed during the downturn, in addition to tons of great tactical advice, creative samples and other resources. And we’ll also include a coupon to save 50% on Network for Good’s online fundraising services.

GET IT HERE!

Enjoy!

Thanks everyone.

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