Fri, August 29 2014
“Over the past decade colleges and universities of all stripes have struggled with a truly stunning national decline in alumni participation rates: More than a third fewer alumni make a gift of any size to their alma mater today compared with alumni 10+ years ago.”
—Cara Quackenbush of Eduventures
The cost of college, the rise in student loan debt, a weak economy, and uncertain job prospects have all contributed to the rapid decline in alumni giving.
These are issues that advancement offices can’t control.
But there are many factors that drive participation and giving that ARE in the hands of Higher Ed advancement pros and marketers.
The fix for declining Higher Ed participation rates is a reinvention of the Annual Fund.
Think (and act) like a Crowdfunder
The most exciting evolution of the giving economy in the past ten years is Crowdfunding. And Higher Ed is just arriving at the party.
Crowdfunding sits at the intersection between communities, online, social, and giving. It is more than just a strategy for one-off projects; it should be a core strategy for annual giving.
According to Andrew Gossen, Senior Director for Social Media Strategy at Cornell, “Crowdfunding is far more than just a tool for raising money online. It’s also a means of driving participation, teaching a culture of philanthropy, communicating effectively, mobilizing constituents’ networks on behalf of the institution, building and cultivating a donor pipeline, and a fantastic mode of stewardship.”
So, how can you take advantage of this new way of looking at your annual annual fund? I recently presented some ideas with Dayna Carpenter of University of Maryland Baltimore County during this year’s eduWeb conference. Download the presentation for more inspiration for transforming your alumni giving program.
Thu, August 28 2014
Filed under: Fundraising essentials •
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!
Mon, August 25 2014
How many times have you checked your smartphone today?
Whether we’re texting, reading email, or catching up on our social networks, this on-the-go connectedness is becoming a part of our daily routine. And, because we value the speed and convenience of our smartphone lifeline, we expect our mobile experience to be fast and easy. Of course, it’s the same for your donors, who are becoming more likely to read your emails and research your organization via their mobile device. Think your audience isn’t on mobile? Consider this:
- 58% of American adults have a smartphone
- The average adult checks their phone over 100 times per day
- 70% of mobile searches lead to action within an hour of the search
The reality is this: whether or not they give online and whether or not they give via their mobile device, a greater number of your donors will read your emails and look at your website during this year-end fundraising season. For best results, take some simple steps to make it easier for them:
Keep your content short and sweet. Remember, online visitors skim. Streamline your website and email copy, and break up text with headings, bullets, and bold treatment. Avoid long paragraphs in favor of shorter sentences and clear calls to action.
Make it fast. Keep your page load times to around 3 seconds. For your mobile experience, replace popups and animation files—formats that many mobile devices can’t display correctly—for powerful single images or icons and buttons that make it simple to click.
Minimize data entry. Typing in a lot of information is a mobile turn off. Allow your donors to autofill information wherever possible, and let them complete their donation without requiring a registration.
As you think about how to offer your supporters a more mobile-friendly experience this year, we have even more tips for you. Network for Good and PayPal have teamed up to share the latest insights on mobile trends and how nonprofits can leverage them for more effective communication and fundraising. To find out how you can optimize your email, website, and donation page for mobile viewing (and why you should), download our new free white paper, “Your Mission is Mobile”.
Wed, August 20 2014
In our latest Network for Good video clip, I share some key points about the state of online giving. Online donations continue to grow at a faster clip than overall giving as more of our communication and actions go online. As digital natives come into their own and as we see peer fundraising, mobile giving, and events like giving days become nonprofit staples, we expect online giving rates to climb more quickly.
To make the most of digitally-minded donors, your online fundraising strategy needs to adhere to these core tenets:
Online giving can’t be siloed. Your online fundraising efforts should be tied to your overall fundraising strategy, and integrated with your offline marketing outreach. Make sure your website, email, and social media messages match your direct mail appeals. Your donors’ conversation with you will span more than one channel. Many offline donors will still go online to learn more about you and read about the impact a gift could have.
Online giving must be easy. The beauty of technology is that it can make things easier, faster, and more fun. Your donation experience should work to remove any barriers that might prevent someone from giving. Remember: the fewer steps and clicks it takes someone to complete a donation, the more likely they are to give.
Online giving should encourage more gifts. In addition to making it easy to give, your donation experience should inspire donors to give more. By offering a compelling story, suggested donation amounts, and recurring giving options, you can increase your overall fundraising totals as well as your average online gift.
Need to boost your fundraising results? These resources will help you think through your online strategy:
- Understand online fundraising patterns by reviewing the Digital Giving Index.
- Check to see how your online donation experience stacks up with the Donation Page Grader.
- Learn how to attract more donors with your website, through email, and via mobile and social in our Online Fundraising Survival Guide.
- Sign up for a free demo of Network for Good’s fundraising software. Our team will give you a full tour and answer your questions about which tools are right for your campaigns.
How are you integrating online fundraising at your organization? Chime in below to share your tips and challenges with your fellow readers.
Tue, August 19 2014
Way back when, when social media was newish—let’s say 2007—I used this classic baseball analogy to illustrate how social media fit into the communications universe.
- Your website is your nonprofit’s online home base, with email as pitcher (no hits without the pitcher).
- Core social media platforms (now Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) as inside bases.
- Other social media platforms as the outfield.
Then, for many organizations, social media platforms took precedence—capturing our imaginations and anxieties, if not the impact—over more traditional online and offline marketing.
In fact, social media—or at least the dream of what social media could be—eclipsed websites and email for quite a while in terms of focus and excitement. Alas, resources were seldom part of the picture. But by now, for many of us, the role of social media has moved back to the infield, with your website sticking hard at home base.
That’s because your website remains, even after all these years, the central hub for actions—giving, registering, signing a petition, and more. Social media and, yes, even email are designed to drive people to your site to act (although mobile actions are quickly growing more common).
Here are a few reasons websites live on and remain strong. When done right, your nonprofit’s website:
- Delivers in-depth coverage of your organization’s history, work, and impact. (Multiple pages can showcase a single organization or campaign, with content that exists for the (relatively) long term vs. more ephemeral social media content.)
- Provides access to the rich, multidimensional story of your organization.
- Engages a significant yet diverse audience, which continues to grow as use of the mobile Web surges. Your website is now a see-anytime-anywhere platform.
- Generates insights into visitor behavior and campaign effectiveness via well-tested, low-cost usage analytic tools.
If you needed a reason to refocus on your organization’s website, you now have several. Your website could be your organization’s killer app!
Want some tips for making your nonprofit website even better?
Join this upcoming webinar to learn how to make strategic improvements to your website that will help you better communicate with donors and raise more. You could even get a quick review of your nonprofit’s home page or donation page from the Network for Good experts.
Free Webinar: Speed Consulting! Nonprofit Websites
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 1pm EDT