Tue, February 12 2008
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
I just started writing a monthly column for Fundraising Success Magazine. Check out the current issue here - it’s pretty interesting stuff. Be sure to read Jeff Brooks’ column on “protecting victims.”
Imagine you’re waiting at the bus stop on a busy street in your town. It’s a cold day, and you’ve got your hood up and your head down. You’re thinking about a lot of things. That you’re going to be late to work if the bus doesn’t soon appear. That you forgot to pick up your dry cleaning. That all that holiday overconsumption has made your pants too tight. That your spouse doesn’t look at you the same way anymore. That you forgot to feed your daughter’s guinea pig this morning.
Then I walk up and interrupt your thoughts. I’m a complete stranger, and I say: “Greetings. I’m Katya, and I’m a good person. I was born in 1967. My mission in life is to raise my children well, love those around me and leave the world a little better than when I entered it. I need a friend, and you could be my friend. Will you be my friend today?”
I imagine that you would think I was nuts. And quite the narcissist.
Yet we fundraisers launch into this kind of creepy plea all the time. I have a stack of year-end appeals from December on my desk, and too many sound just like my stranger at the bus stop. Here’s the template:
I’m writing from XYZ Nonprofit.
Established in (year), our mission is to (mission statement).
We need money.
Give us money.
Thanks in advance.
PS: Give us money.
I think this is nuts. And narcissistic. And it sounds like the bus-stop broadside. Fundraisers can and should do better. We should beware the bus-stop broadside fundraiser in all of us.
Why? People are busy, and their thoughts are not on us. They’re thinking about their weight, their job, their spouse, their children, the guinea pig, their place in this universe. If we interrupt them and ask for their attention, we had better do it well. We should not start a conversation with a monologue on our merits. We should acknowledge our readers’ presence and speak to their interests. We should not solely focus on what we want from them. We should focus on what we can achieve together.
If this sounds like common sense, well then, you’re on to me. This column, a new one here at FundRaising Success, is going to focus on the common sense we always forget. It’s about forgotten fundamentals — those immutable laws of marketing that are so easy to recognize and so hard to remember to do. And the fundamental we forget most often is this: To succeed in fundraising, we need to focus on our audience and not just ourselves.
I can speak with great authority on this topic because I’m constantly forgetting this fundamental. I forget that not everyone wakes up first thing in the morning thinking about online giving, which is the focus of my work at Network for Good. It slips my mind that my cocktail party companions might not share my zeal for all things marketing. I have a recurring case of mission myopia. The only cure is self-awareness and regular booster shots of an anti-nonprofit-narcissism vaccine.
Last year, Network for Good processed its 100 millionth dollar for nonprofits; a huge milestone for us. I started to draft a press release, but sanity prevailed. “Who would care?” I thought. No one, I realized. So I thought about why people should care. And what I realized was we were sitting on a fascinating set of data about giving. What if we celebrated our $100 million mark by analyzing our $100 million in giving — who gives online, where, what time of day, etc. — and sending our study to media and nonprofits? It would help media covering the charity beat, and it would help nonprofits fundraise more effectively. The result? A lot of attention and coverage of our work that continues to this day.
I was reminded of that study a few weeks ago when I was drafting a year-end e-mail to Network for Good’s friends and funders. The occasion was our sixth birthday, and the purpose of the note was to talk about the great things we’d achieved the past year. Then I realized that our birthday wasn’t really an occasion at all. Who cares, besides the people in my office, that we’re 6? And why should we be beating our chests, taking all the credit for the good we’d done? I was doing the bus-stop broadside.
So I started over. I drafted a heartfelt thank-you to our friends and funders for all they’ve done to make us what we are. The e-mail talked about how much we appreciate their investment of money, time and moral support — and the incredible returns that have resulted. It celebrated the difference the audience had made, and people loved it.
Here’s the bad news. It’s hard to do this. Our tendency as fundraisers who love our cause is to talk about our cause.
Here’s the good news. When we do the work of thinking about how our cause relates to our audience, wonderful things happen. It’s worth the effort. We turn our preachy monologue into a respectful, engaging conversation. People respond because they want to have a relationship with us. We become great fundraisers, and we might even make a new best friend at the bus stop. FS
Fri, February 08 2008
Filed under: Fundraising essentials •
Katya’s note: This guest post is by my talented colleague Rebecca Ruby at Network for Good. I want to share it because I often get asked, how do I build an email list?
By Rebecca Ruby
A philosophical question: If an e-newsletter is powerful enough to move someone to action, but no one’s around to read it, does it make an impact?
If not particularly mind-bending, this inquiry does bring up a valuable (seemingly obvious) point: You can craft a fabulous e-newsletter, send it out just the right number of times per year and impart some really powerful information, but you need to create an email contact list (an audience) at your organization to be effective.
Here are four tips to get you started on the road to contact-information glory:
1. Make it easy, compelling and cool for your website visitors to give you their email addresses (yes, it can be cool). The majority of people visiting your organization’s website is there on purpose-they may have been searching for your organization in particular or simply shopping around for a nonprofit with your mission. Make the sign-up button easy-to-spot, put it “above the fold,” and make your form brief yet informative (you risk form abandonment if you require or ask for too many pieces of information).
2. Include “join our email list” everywhere you can. Once you have your online form, send people there from all directions: your homepage, the signature at the bottom of your email (your everyday contacts may opt in), and other places you have content sprinkled around the Internet such as blogs and social networking pages.
3. Use the “people love free stuff” principle. Incentivize. You’re asking people to give you something (information), and they’re going to wonder what’s in it for them:
•Set up a drawing.
•Offer prizes to the first X people who sign up for your new e-newsletter or who sign up by Y date.
•Show people that they’re making a difference and/or joining a community.
4. Make it easy for your current subscribers to hook their friends. Promote your newsletter and gain new subscribers by asking current subscribers to forward your message along; consider including a “forward to a friend” link in your message. Keep in mind that you should always include a subscribe link in your newsletter so people who do receive a forwarded copy have an easy way to get their own copy in the future.
Mon, February 04 2008
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
Seth Godin has a superlative blog entry today. In the unlikely event you haven’t heard of Seth, he’s author of the classic Purple Cow, the new Meatball Sundae and one of my favorite writers on marketing. He says:
People take action (mostly) based on one of three emotions:
Every successful marketer (including politicians) takes advantage of at least one of these basic needs.
Forbes Magazine, for example, is for people who hope to make more money.
Rudy Giuliani was the fear candidate. He tried to turn fear into love, but failed.
Few products or services succeed out of love. People are too selfish for an emotion that selfless, most of the time.
It’s interesting to think about the way certain categories gravitate to various emotions. Doctors selling check ups, of course, are in the fear business (while oncologists certainly sell hope). Restaurants have had a hard time selling fear (healthy places don’t do so well). Singles bars certainly thrive on selling hope.
Google, amazingly quickly, became a beloved brand, something many people see as bigger than themselves, something bigger than hope. Apple lives in this arena as well. I think if you deliver hope for a long time (and deliver on it sometimes) you can graduate to love.
I think fear is not a great motivator for good causes, unless you can also pair fear with a way to resolve the situation that is terrifying. This is why health scares often work to get people to change their health behaviors. Too much fear and negativity will make people feel helpless or perceive that your issue is intractable. Fear often prompts a person to cower or take cover. Give people the feeling that they have the power to help or change a situation.
By contrast, hope can make you commit. Hope is a big winner for us. Everyone wants to feel hope, and we are all about hope in our field. I hope you are making hope a big part of the way you talk about your programs.
Love is possible for us. If Google - a search engine - evokes that kind of emotion, we damn well can too. IF we do a good job fulfilling our mission. IF we do a great job telling our story. IF we do a better job reporting back to donors what they’ve done for others. IF we build lasting, two-way relationships with the people who support us. Do people love your organization? They will if you do these things. I hope you do!
Sun, February 03 2008
Filed under: Fun stuff •
Not a whole lot. But it’s amusing. This is my cousin Justin’s band’s video. Give me an excuse for having displayed it! I pledge a free copy of Robin Hood Marketing to the first person who can connect this video to the topic of nonprofit marketing. No astroturfing from pickle or hotdog companies, please.
UPDATE: Wow, well done, readers! You were SO inspired that I’m awarding two books—one for the first entry below by Cindi AND everyone else who replies by midnight tonight gets entered into a lottery for an additional book. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.
UPDATE #2: The lottery winner is Jennifer!
Fri, February 01 2008
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
I was having lunch with some of my favorite web designers the other day, and we got to talking about the scarcity mentality. They were especially irritated with unethical web designers that create websites that nonprofits can’t access themselves, so they could generate more business for their firms in perpetuity. They told the story of one nonprofit that hired them saying their last designer wouldn’t even give them high-resolution electronic files of the logo they’d designed—so the firm could charge the nonprofit each time it needed to do something with their logo. It had never occurred to that nonprofit to beware of that in their contract. While this made the firm money in the short term, the nonprofit was so irate they hired a new designer (my friends) and doubtlessly spread lots of bad word of mouth about that awful firm.
Hoarding, secrecy and a spirit of scarcity are not good strategies.
Then I saw this excellent point made by blogger Terri:
The non-profit universe is set up so that everyone must compete for the same money. This prevents a lot of networking, partnering and coalition-building. I think this is a shame. Just as it is possible for me to invite you over for dinner without giving you my house, it must be possible for agencies and others to connect and interact in ways that increase the visibility, credibility and effectiveness of everyone.
I love the dinner/house analogy, Terri. Well said.
In addition to funding fears curtailing collaboration in our sector, I see information-hoarding as another bad phenomenon. I’m appalled by some funders, nonprofits and companies that serve our sector refusing to freely share what they know and learn.
They don’t get that scarcity mentalities lead to more scarcity.
I believe in giving away everything you can, in sharing information freely and in collaborating openly with others. While this sounds scary in a competitive world, it actually gets you more resources at the end of the day. When you’re generous with others, they usually end up reciprocating. You get absolutely amazing word of mouth and massive amounts of goodwill. When you join forces with worthy partners, you usually get more visibility and resources for both parties. When you act with integrity, you get more business. Really.
I’m not saying there isn’t competition in this world. I’m saying how we react to it is critical to our success. We can fight over the same small patches of territory or we can try to band together for a bigger land grab. The rare disease organizations have done this with great success with federal funding. Newspapers have done this to great success, making online content free - they then get more traffic and therefore more ad revenue. Network for Good does this too with our Learning Center and free calls - we share everything we know about fundraising. And we’ve ended up with more nonprofits using our services, which has led to more revenue.
Generosity has an excellent ROI.
Parsimony pays back accordingly.