Thu, October 23 2008

Cringe-worthy annual campaign cliches

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

A few folks recently forwarded me a story about a pretty weird fundraising campaign: 

Framingham State College recently sent out a letter to alumni seeking donations. The missive contained lots of literal “blahs.” A sample of text: “With the recent economic downturn and loan crisis, it has become even more important for Framingham State College to receive your support. Blah, blah, blah, blah…”

The letter was clearly a joke and an attempt to appeal to 20-something hipsters, but many grads didn’t see the humor.

Apparently, they got a few new donations, complaints and an embarassing story in the news.

Blah, blah, blah.  How original?  Not really, in my book.

Which brings me to my October Fundraising Success Column:

Ah, autumn. The crunch of falling leaves under your feet. The crisp, cool air. Football. And the start of — you guessed it — fundraising season.

This year, like every other, I fully expect my mailbox and inbox to be chockablock with the kind of clichés I used to start this column. You can call it moldering messaging. Yuck.

Let’s make this year different. It’s time to turn over a new leaf.

Cliché No. 1

I have a good place to begin. The No. 1 cliché we need to banish this fall is the “it’s fundraising season” or “it’s that time again” appeal. I’m amazed by how many of these I get. My alma mater likes to inform me that it’s “annual gift time.” My public radio station reminds me every five minutes that it’s time for the “fall fundraising campaign.”

The problem with this framing is that the time of year is not a reason to give, unless it’s the last week of December, in which case there is a tax-year deadline relevant to donors. (This is a notable exception — at Network for Good, Dec. 30 and 31 are the biggest days of the year.) We might live by the campaign calendar, but our audiences do not. They don’t care if it’s time for our annual appeal. That’s why they don’t work in our development department or put our campaign dates in their BlackBerrys and iPhones. They have other lives.

Fortunately, it’s easy enough to fix this problem. The remedy, of course, is to stop waving the fundraising calendar and start looking into donors’ hearts and minds. We need to explain why giving now makes sense for them. Tell them what urgent, compelling, fascinating things they can achieve with their gifts. Express how their money will go further right this instant. Spin them a story that engages them on their terms.

This approach creates a sense of urgency far more burning than our budget cycle. And a sense of urgency is essential to get people to give.

But to be clear, I’m not dismissing campaigns. Campaigns are great. There is plenty of research that shows setting a goal and a deadline — and measuring progress toward it — is motivating to donors. But you need to show how they are part of that goal and deadline. It’s about their participation more than our own need.

For example, a good campaign might be called “Send X Kids to School” rather than the “annual fundraising appeal.” It might tell the story of a child that can be helped, followed by a statement such as: We’d like to raise $16,000 to send X kids like this young girl to school. If X people give X amount, we’ll fill a whole classroom together. Then show progress as soon as you have it, so people know they have helped push you over the finish line with their participation. Or if they haven’t helped yet, they’ll know that by acting now, they can make a real difference.

This is a much better approach than “it’s that time again” to support something like “education programs.”

Cliché No. 2

Which brings me to another cliché we need to strike from our campaigns: the focus on our organization at the expense of our donors. When we start talking to donors about their goals for giving — instead of our own fundraising plans — we get far better results. Make them part of the stories we tell and the heroes in our efforts to make a difference.

It’s fall. So by all means, get those campaigns under way. But make them about more than just the seasonal campaign. Make them about what truly matters to your organization and, most important, to your donors. Great campaigns are not a date range on a calendar — they are about an amazing destination that you and your supporters want to reach together.


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Wed, October 22 2008

Twitter 101: A free, easy guide for nonprofits

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

So should you deal with Twitter or not?  This came up while I spoke last week at the NC nonprofit conference alongside smart people like Kivi Leroux Miller and John Kenyon.  I was going to post some bullets on this but then along came fellow blogger and prolific commenter John Haydon with a guide that does ALL THE WORK FOR ME AND YOU.  It’s easy, short and to the point.  If you think bird not technology when you hear the word Tweet, have no fear, this Twitter 101 guide will bring you up to speed.

Here’s a summary John prepared for me to post here:

For many non-profits, Twitter is a new and uncharted social media that is understood and underutilized. For almost six months, John researched hundreds of blogs and social media experts before writing the guide. “I wanted to provide something to help non-profits better use Twitter to increase their fanbase and fundraising.” Additionally, John conducted an on-line survey of over 200 non-profits currently using Twitter (results are included in the guide).

The Twitter Jump Start Guide, which is a living document (those who download the guide will automatically receive updated, more advanced versions every couple of months), includes the following:

• How to create a Twitter Profile that will make folks want to learn more about your non-profit
• How to find Twitter users that already support your cause
• How to find new donors who are already sold on your non-profit
• How to turn those supporters into raving fans
• How to automatically post any news regarding your non-profit
• How to make sure that folks visit your website and stay interested
• 10 Twitter tips that will increase your online donations

The guide can be downloaded for free here!  Thanks John - what a great service to the sector.

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Tue, October 21 2008

This viral video will make your jaw drop

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fun stuff •

You MUST try this out.  Be sure to enter your name - it works better that way.

AARP 08 Video
Enter your name to see who can bring real change to Washington.
First Name:
Last Name:

Why it’s great: Incredibly audience centric.  Very customized.  Extremely fun.  And you immediately want to pass it on.


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Fri, October 17 2008

6 Ways to Survive the Economic Storm

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

ONE: Don’t curl into a fetal position. In other words, do not stop doing things that are important or even risky to raise money. The same old same old isn’t going to cut it this year. This is not the time to be steered by fear. You need to be aggressive about acquisition and creative, new and different in your asks.

TWO: Set realistic goals. The numbers are likely to be down. So manage to that. Do what you can to make them go up, but also be responsible and help everyone in your organization plan how you’d react to various fundraising scenarios, from decent to mediocre to dire.

THREE: Don’t abuse your existing donors. If fundraising isn’t going well, the temptation may be to go back to the well again and again, hitting up your donors left and right. Yes, you should ask them for money. But not every five minutes. You should spend more time thanking them and making them feel great. Then they’ll tell their friends about you. Which gives you new donors. Remember to practice good customer service—i.e. don’t treat your donors like ATM’s.

FOUR: Get online today. If you’re not already online, GET ONLINE and ask for lots of SMALL DONATIONS, including recurring monthly gifts. That’s the way the younger folk like to give, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to raise money via the Internet than any other way. Now more than ever it really makes sense: new audiences, less cost to raise a dollar. Do it.

FIVE:  Don’t undersell yourself. In an era when so many investments look like they’re offering low returns, you are priceless. Remind your donors of their amazing ROI with you. For a few dollars, they get a helper’s high. They feel good because they did good. It’s cheaper than therapy. Their investment in your organization doesn’t yield paper profits. It changes lives. Always. Be passionate and persuasive about your emotional ROI - and your human ROI. Those who can afford it will get it and give.

SIX: Admit to donors that it’s hard. While explaining that you’re a great investment, admit that your numbers – and the numbers on your donors’ investment portfolios – are down. Everyone feels the pain. Share the pain. Note that every tiny bit helps, however tiny the bit. It’s harder to turn down someone who is understanding of constraints and asking for even the smallest of donations. It’s a great time to ask for recurring gifts – just $10 a month. Ask now, because things are going to get worse before they get better.

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Thu, October 16 2008

Carnival late edition: more graph fun

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Branding •

Jeff Brooks has a great addition to the graph fun blog carnival.  Being late everywhere myself, I’m not penalizing him!  Instead I’m adding to yesterday’s carnival post with this gem.  Read about the below graph here.  Remember: your brand should be focused on your donors, not the other way around.

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