Wed, March 12 2014

Planning a fundraising event? Read this.

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

It’s event season! If you’re in the midst of hosting an event this spring, or are thinking of planning one for later this year, we’ve just released an updated edition of our fundraising events guide. From goal setting to following up with your attendees, we have you covered with 7 key steps to hosting a fabulous (and financially successful) event.

Here’s an excerpt:

This might sound painfully obvious, but it’s often overlooked by many nonprofits: Make sure to give attendees the option to give more at your event. Be appreciative of those who have purchased tickets and are attending your event, but recognize that a portion of your attendees will be ready and willing to do even more. Here are strategies for opening the door to more donations at your next event:

Auctions & Raffles: Auctions, games, and raffles are popular ways to raise even more money. The best raffles and auctions feature items that tie back to your cause or reflect your community’s unique interests.

Mobile Donations: Channel supporters’ good feelings into more gifts by reminding them that they can give on the spot via their mobile device. (Don’t have a mobile-friendly donation solution? Check out DonateNow ’s affordable mobile giving features.)

Recurring Donations and Memberships: Create a “Donation Station” or membership kiosk that will help your loyal supporters set up a recurring gift or become members of your organization. Be sure to staff your booth to make this process personal, easy, and fun.

Additional Gifts: Make it easy for attendees to not only register for tickets online, but to also give an additional donation.

Illustrate Your Impact: When your donors feel like there is a real, tangible benefit as a result of their donation, they’ll be more likely to give again.

Grab your copy of the guide here.

Events Guide


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Fri, March 07 2014

How to Connect with a New Generation of Donors and Volunteers

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

The Millennial generation—those 80 million folks born roughly between 1979-99—may not be your organization’s largest contributors today, but these “digital natives” are poised to receive the largest transfer of wealth from their Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation parents and grandparents. Nearly $41 trillion is expected to flow from one generation to the next in the decades to come. Yes, Boomers will continue be your fundraising bread and butter over the next few years, but there’s no denying the fact that Millennials will become more important to the long-term future of charitable giving.

Next Generation Donors

For your cause to survive well into the future, you must have a plan for attracting and retaining this cohort of supporters. To do this, you first need to understand and adjust to the fact that Millennials communicate and interact with marketing differently than previous generations. More than any other generation, they rely on digital and mobile technology to connect to friends, family and organizations they care most about. So what does this mean for nonprofits?

Don’t brush Millennials off as non-donors.

Keep in mind that this generation already wields nearly $200 billion in direct purchasing power. Millennials are giving to charity, but not in the numbers or dollar amounts of their older counterparts—yet.  According to the Millennial Impact Report, nearly 40% gave amounts between $1-50, and another 23% gave at $51-100 levels in 2012. Though Millennials may not be ready to give larger individual gifts, there’s an opportunity to raise more over time, as 52 percent of the Millennial Impact Report’s respondents said they’d be interested in monthly giving.

While Millennials are giving at different levels, they’re also giving in different ways. Blackbaud’s The Next Generation of American Giving report underscores the importance of these key generational differences in communication and giving preferences. It’s no surprise that Millennials overwhelmingly prefer to give online, and that direct mail and phone solicitation are unpopular with this group of young donors. These donors are more likely to give via mobile or through social media, as they see these methods as being a core way of interacting with the world. If ever there was a reason to segment your donors and match them with the appropriate giving channel, here it is.

Beyond how they donate, where the money goes is equally important to Millennial donors. Being able to quickly and clearly illustrate impact is key to activating these givers. Tell them exactly what will happen as a result of their donation and give them the proof to back it up. Only 22 percent of Millennial donors said they would be likely to give an unrestricted gift to a charity, according to The Next Generation of American Giving report. This makes it even more crucial to tie all donations to a measurable impact to gain trust.

To Millennials, the experience matters.

No matter the message, if your outreach doesn’t meet their expectations in terms of accessibility and authenticity, your organization’s results of engagement with this group will suffer. Some things to remember:

Share and connect.  The most frequent action taken by Millennials on a nonprofit’s website was connecting with the organization via social media. So, plan to use your website as a hub for younger donors to find ways to connect with you.  But note that these supporters prefer to share information about the causes that resonate with them, not specific organizations.

Giving is social. The 2013 Millennial Impact Report states that over 70 percent of Millennials are willing to raise money on behalf of causes that matter to them. This means these young supporters can be powerful fundraising messengers, because they love to spread the word. They like to find out about ways to get involved from their peers online, so make sure you’re equipping them with the right tools to share your message and volunteer opportunities with their networks.

Authenticity is paramount. Trust and transparency are increasingly important for all donors, and Millennials are no exception. They have grown up questioning the media and messages presented to them—they are used to having equalizing platforms like social media at their fingertips. Being upfront about your mission and how you accomplish it will win you favorable ratings from this group, as will having an authentic, personal approach to the way you communicate with supporters. No faceless messages devoid of personality, please!

Involvement, not just awareness. Millennials are interested in true involvement with the causes they support. They view themselves as collaborators, and not just hands-off donors. The NextGen Donors report sees this interest as this generation’s way of developing a sense of self while building their philanthropic identities.

Engagement, then participation. Millennials, like most other donors, don’t want to be bombarded with messages or endlessly solicited. As this generation is likely to tune out irrelevant messages much more quickly, it will be critical for nonprofits to focus on building a relationship with younger supporters and making the case for involvement before asking for a commitment.

Want to find out how you can combine these trends with technology to build relationships with Millennial donors and volunteers?

Next week, we’ll tackle these topics during the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference in our Big Idea panel: The Power of Technology and Leveraging a New Generation Network. This panel brings together new generation experts to explore how to leverage technology to inspire and collaborate with the Millennial Generation. Here are the smart folks who will be joining me for this session:

Todd Baylis, President & Co-Founder, Qgiv
John Clese, Director of Marketing, Strategic Initiatives, Abila
Becky Leven, Strategic Development Officer, Tendenci
Michael Rubio, Senior Program Manager, ZeroDivide
Jason Shim, Digital Media Manager, Pathways to Education Canada

Together, we’ll dig into how Millennials use technology, what it means for you, and we’ll share key strategies you can adopt to engage them on your organization’s behalf. We’d love to have you join us for this discussion. You’ll leave with new ideas on engaging young volunteers, strategies for fundraising with a new generation, and tips for successfully experimenting with technology to build your own Millennial network.

If you’ll be at NTC in person, we hope you’ll join us for this conversation. If you can’t attend NTC this year, this session is part of the Online NTC live stream, so you can participate from your computer, wherever you may be!

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Thu, March 06 2014

What’s the deal with big data?

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about “big data” and how using the plethora of information we now have at our fingertips will help fuel efficiencies and make businesses and causes more successful. But how can data transform a nonprofit’s ability to fundraise more effectively? I recently caught up with Josh Mait of Relationship Science, who offered some intel on how they’re connecting organizations with big data for big results.

Relationship Science offers a “relationship capital platform.” Josh explains, “We help organizations, both for profit and nonprofit figure out what we call ‘relationship capital.’  This is basically how they understand and leverage connections to accomplish what they’re trying to do.”

Josh says that while as individuals we’ve become good networkers, especially thanks to the proliferation of new communication tools like social media, organizations still struggle to make strategic connections. 

In the nonprofit sector, organizations often face three key challenges that data can help solve:

1) Optimizing the board.
2) Identifying high-impact donors.
3) Reducing the length of fundraising cycles.

By using data about individuals and their relationships, you can keep track of how these relationships may connect you to your next major donor or high-impact board member. For nonprofits wondering how to use their donors, board members, or corporate sponsors more effectively, being armed with the right information can help. The ability to talk to a board member, for example, with this kind of specificity is very tactical. If you’re able to approach someone with a common experience or interest, this gives your request added credibility and social power.

“A rich bank of data can help fundraisers identify people who might be good prospective donors,” explains Josh. “By looking at the full picture of your networks and the shared Understand the ones you may already have access to through existing contacts/networks. With limited resources, you can focus on potential donors who can be high impact. You can focus on those who are more likely prospects and approach them with a warm introduction.”

Relationship Science offers nonprofits a platform that has profiles on over 3 million decision makers throughout various organizations, including public and private companies. The service compiles publicly available information on these key contacts.

“There aren’t salacious or personal details—and no contact information. We simply provide a really easy to digest format for intelligence and insights,” Josh says. “Because we collect all of this information and put it into a usable interface, that encourages action. If I pull up a profile, I can find out if my organization and the individual have anything in common. “

In many cases, the availability and usability of this type of intel can be critical for small organizations, as they are less likely to have someone on staff dedicated to manually compiling and managing this information. The smart use of contact and donor data can create efficiencies and helps organizations make choices. Understanding where to allocate your limited resources might be the difference between meeting your fundraising goals and falling short.

So, will “big data” save us? Not so fast.

Josh says it’s not about the data alone, “If we aren’t smart about people’s workflows, if we aren’t smart about the way we interact with the data, then the conversation is meaningless.  If people can’t act on data in a meaningful way, the data is useless.”

Thanks to Josh for sharing his insights. To find out more about how Relationship Science helps causes connect with key contacts, check out this case study on how Interfaith Youth Core to mobilized its national donor and support network.

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Tue, March 04 2014

Top 6 donor communication mistakes to avoid

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, 105% of donors gained by nonprofits were offset by lapsed donors. Let that sink in for a minute: for every 100 new donors that came through the door, 105 walked out. Not exactly the growth most nonprofits are looking for.

One of the best ways to improve your donor churn rate is to improve your donor communications.

Here are six of the worst donor communication mistakes, and some tips for how to avoid them:

Donor Communication Mistakes to Avoid

1. The “One and Done”

Sadly for some donors, the only “communication” they receive from the nonprofits they support is a donation receipt. Others may receive a nice thank you letter, but not much else.

How to avoid: Plan a series of ongoing communications with your donors. In addition to your nonprofit newsletter, provide quarterly updates for donors on the impact of their gifts, and show what goes on behind the scenes to make it happen. Create an editorial calendar and include your donor outreach as one key component to track.

2. The “Me Me Me”

Some causes suffer from nonprofit narcissism. They mean well, but their messages are devoid of one key ingredient: the donor. People who support your work also want to feel like part of your team.

How to avoid: Instead of talking only about the work you’re doing, reframe your communications to underscore how the donor is making your work possible. Use the word “you” more than “we”, and highlight the work of individual donors and volunteers to bring these stories to life.

3. The “Broken Record”

All too often, I see organizations sharing the same updates over and over. This is great … if you want to bore your donors. Unless you’re sharing success story after success story, your donors may wonder if you’re doing anything new or making any progress.

How to avoid: This is another way an editorial calendar can help you improve your donor communications. Create a list of stories, events, announcements, and seasonal topics that are relevant to your cause—and your donors—then, plot them out on your calendar to incorporate variety in your newsletters, impact updates, and social media outreach. Stuck for ideas? Ask your donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries for their input. They have a different perspective than you and probably have some fresh suggestions. Another option: tap your board to share a short update or quote for you to use in your next message.

4. The “Word Vomit”

Are you guilty of sharing too much information? When it comes to your donor outreach, is “verbose” an understatement? If your messages feel like solid walls of text, your supporters are less likely to bother reading them—and may feel like you don’t respect their time.

How to avoid: In most cases, people scan more than they read. This means that short, skimmable text works best, especially online. Use a “tease and link” strategy in your emails if you have longer stories to share. To make your messages even more readable, cut any acronyms, jargon, or insider language that will leave donors scratching their heads.

5. The “Disconnected”

Do you ever feel like you’re talking, but no one seems to be listening? Most often, this is because you’re not communicating in a way that reflects what your donor wants to hear. This often happens when organizations aren’t in sync with why their donors give.

How to avoid: Talk to your donors to understand why they care about your issue and what prompted them to give. Ask for feedback on your communications and let your donors have a say in how they hear from you. Try segmenting your donors by how they came to your organization, their level of giving, or by the specific programs they support. Then, communicate with them based on these parameters to make your message more relevant.

6. The “Show Me the Money”

You know that relative who never calls—except when he needs something from you? Don’t be that guy. When donors only hear from you when you have an appeal, they may start to wonder what happened to the money they already gave you.

How to avoid:  Implement a “share vs. ask ratio” in your organization’s communication. Plan to send a certain number of cultivation or update messages for every time you send an appeal.

(For more donor stewardship ideas, try our checklist.)

‘Fess up: are you guilty of any of these mistakes? What would you add to the list? Which communication missteps bug you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Mon, March 03 2014

Where to Find NFG at NTC

Annika Pettitt's avatar

Senior Communications & Success Specialist, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fun stuff •

We’re really excited to have this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference right in our back yard here in Washington, DC. If you’ll be in town for the conference, please make sure you stop by and say hi. We’d love to see you!

Here are all the ways you can get in touch with Network for Good while you’re at NTC:

NTC Science Fair: Visit us at booth #235 to meet our team, take a picture in our photo booth, pick up some NFG swag, and learn about how to make the most of Network for Good’s online fundraising tools. Don’t forget, the Science Fair is open to the public. So even if you’re not registered for the conference, come by to say hello!

Breakout Sessions: Join our Director of Content Strategy, Caryn Stein, for two breakout sessions on Friday, March 14, 2014

Progressive Party: Come meet the whole Network for Good team and help us celebrate processing $1billion in donations! We’ll be providing food, drinks, and tons of fun on Friday, March 14, 2014 from 9-11pm ET in downtown DC.

We hope to see you at one (or all!) of these events next week.


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