Wed, June 11 2014

The psychology of color and what it means for fundraising

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fun stuff • Marketing essentials •

Color choicesAre you red hot? Or true blue? It’s no secret that color evokes emotion and is a key visual indicator that communicates meaning. But just how much goes on in our minds when it comes to color? Marketing strategist Gregory Ciotti offers an excellent review of how color can influence brand preference and, in turn, how we feel about the messages we receive.

Some highlights:

  • Up to 90% of first impressions of products can be based on color alone.
  • Both men and women appear to have a strong preference for the color blue, while purple tends to be favored more by women, and shunned by men. (Orange and brown don’t seem to get much love at all from either gender.)
  • Our personal experiences and cultural norms influence the way we interpret color.
  • The perceived “appropriateness” of colors used will affect the perception of a brand’s message. (That is, do we generally expect baby blue to communicate power?)

What does any of this have to do with your fundraising approach? The various ways you use color to communicate with your donors can affect how your brand is remembered, and even affect the likelihood of a donor acting on your next appeal.

Be consistent with your nonprofit’s branding.
Ciotti notes that research has shown our brains tend to prefer recognizable brands. Establish a core set of images and colors for your organization and use them consistently throughout your marketing so potential supporters can immediately recognize you. This helps your audience form an association with your work and your visual identity, and can help build a preference for your organization. (Read how ASPCA made orange its signature color.)

Don’t be afraid to stand out.
People often ask what color they should use for their organization’s donation button. Many feel that a strong color, like red, is always the right answer. The reality is that it depends. If your organization’s marketing materials and website are predominantly red or orange, a contrasting color (such as blue) will likely perform much better. Our brains immediately notice the things that deviate from our surroundings. Use this to your advantage and avoid being too color coordinated. Consider how contrasting colors and bold highlights can help your key points and calls to action be seen by busy readers on the go. (Think about how yellow highlighting or red editorial marks in direct mail pieces effectively lead eyes down the page.)

Color descriptions matter.
People seem to gravitate more to colors that have elaborate or more descriptive names. Think raspberry instead of pink, or mahogany instead of brown. This is likely because these names are more specific and allow us to precisely visualize and remember them. While this fact is probably more important to paint manufacturers and fashion designers, it’s worth noting as you incorporate descriptive elements in your nonprofit storytelling. Replace generic descriptions with richer details to paint a more realistic and vivid picture in your donor’s mind.

How are you using color to communicate your organization’s brand values and personality? Have you tested the use of different colors in your fundraising materials? Chime in below and share your experiences or best examples.


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Fri, June 06 2014

Use the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to Strengthen Your Donor Communications

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Donor communications that connect—that appreciate, energize, and activate your prospects and donors—are the key to fundraising success. But you already know that.

What you may not know, however, is that few organizations do donor communications well. Most have lots of room to improve, as evidenced by the focus on donor communications in conference agendas, e-newsletters, blog content in the field, Facebook chats, Twitter discussions, and more. If that’s your organization, you’re not alone!

Integrated Fundraising Report by DonorDigital

Now, with the release of Integrated Fundraising: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, by Mal Warwick/DonorDigital, we have proof of the ways most donor communications fail and the impact of those failures. If you’ve asked for resources to strengthen donor communications and have been turned down or just haven’t found the time to tackle them, this is the kick in the pants you need.


These striking findings come from a six-month study of donor communications—both online and offline—from 16 large nonprofits, following online contributions to each organization. Since “multichannel donors are more loyal than single-channel donors,” researchers focused on how much and how well outreach is coordinated across channels for a consistent, recognizable, and satisfying donor experience.

What I love about this report is that the researchers share what’s good, bad, and ugly in multiple dimensions so we get an idea of what’s working well (that is, what to strive for and what’s happening in organizations you’re competing with for donor dollars), as well as what’s not. Take a look at these findings:

  • Thank you letters—a reliable cultivation tactic—arrive way too late or not at all. The quickest thank you letter, sent via USPS, arrived in 12 days. The slowest took 28 days. Eight organizations didn’t mail a thank you at all.

  • Most donor communications content is inconsistent—in tone, message, and or/graphics—across channels, so it’s more likely to confuse and annoy recipients than to strengthen loyalty or motivate them to give. Most organizations do reach out to donors via multiple channels.

  • Follow-up appeals via direct mail are frequently implemented, but that second ask can come months after the initial online gift, diminishing its success rate.

  • Sustainer programs (aka monthly giving) provide a strong base of revenue, especially during economic dips, and “new online donors are highly responsive to monthly giving recruitment.” But only one organization integrated its monthly giving ask into mail and email, whereas four didn’t make monthly giving asks at all.

There’s much more to learn in the full report, and I recommend that you download it now. Wherever your organization currently sits on the good, bad, and ugly continuum, there’s always room to do donor communications better.

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at

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Wed, June 04 2014

Rethink how you approach lapsed donors

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Conventional wisdom says it’s more cost effective to retain donors than acquire new donors. Of course you should spend a fair amount of your time tending to your active donors, ensuring they’re seeing the impact of their donation and making them a part of your community. In this case, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. But what do you do if these supporters stop giving? Write them off and move on? 

Not so fast, says donor retention expert, Lisa Sargent. In a recent newsletter, Lisa outlines her perspective, complete with a Monty Python reference. She offers superb examples of what to test with your lapsed and long-lapsed files (especially multiple or long-time lapsed givers), instead of immediately purging or ignoring these former donors.

As you assess your own approach, consider these five things before addressing your lapsed donors:

Lapsed donors probably don’t consider themselves “lapsed.” Be careful how you reach out to these donors—many may consider themselves to still be active givers to your nonprofit. Just because they’re not giving at the frequency you prefer, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel they’re important contributors to your cause. Acknowledge their contributions and make sure to let them know the difference they’ve made. In most cases, your next outreach to this group could be considered an “impact report catch-up.” 

Different segments have different needs. As you build relationships with donors, remember that you have affinity groups who have specific motivations for giving, and give in different ways. Create a cultivation plan with these variances in mind, and do the same for those who have skipped a donation. Preventing a lapse is the best solution, but early intervention can help bring a portion of these donors back from the brink. (Alan Sharpe has a top-notch framework for a ‘win back’ letter.

Engage them with something different. It’s likely these so-called lapsed donors are still interested in supporting your cause in some way. Offer something new to this group, such as surveys, advocacy tools, volunteer opportunities, or event invitations to assess if they’re still interested. These activities will help keep your cause top of mind and communicate the impact of your work, which will allow you to build a case for giving again.

Look in the mirror. Is your donor stewardship model all it could be? Perform an audit of your donor communications from the point of giving throughout the lifespan of that donor. Then, compare that to a timeline of your donor churn rate. These are the critical moments at which you need to prepare compelling, proactive outreach. If you already have communications just before these time periods, it’s time for an overhaul. (Need some help? Listen to our recent webinar with Donor Relations Guru, Lynne Wester.)

Have a conversation. If a long-time or high-dollar donor stops their support, it’s time to pick up the phone and find out more. Use this as an opportunity to reach out and understand if everything is ok—for both your donor and your organization. Is something going on in your donor’s world that interrupted their support, or have they been soured by a miscommunication? Perhaps they’ve outgrown their current relationship with you and are unsure of other opportunities to do more with your cause. Be prepared to embrace any and all feedback—it’s likely to be an eye-opening conversation that could change your understanding of your donors.

So when do you cut them loose? Some fundraising advisors say never, while other experts say to take a hint after one year. I say: it depends. Look at the reasons why donors may stop giving to your organization and your fundraising cycles. Understand those first, then put a process in place to remediate, reactivate, or retire these contacts.

How do you handle your “lapsed” donors? Chime in and share your experiences below!

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Fri, May 30 2014

Key takeaways from the Internet Trends Report

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials • Websites and web usability •

Affectionately known as “Queen of the Net,” Mary Meeker is back with her zeitgeist of digital insight. Meeker, partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, presented the 2014 Internet Trends report during this week’s Code Conference. This annual report is full of useful nuggets, including key stats and opportunities for innovation. As fundraising and nonprofit marketing evolves in an increasingly digital world, this type of insight can help you understand how the landscape is changing and how these changes may affect and inform your efforts to acquire and engage donors over the next few years. A few highlights:

Mobile usage, smartphones, and tablets are still on the rise.

The percent of mobile traffic is growing over 1.5x per year, with this growth expected to continue or accelerate in the coming years. Mobile traffic is currently 25% of all global Internet traffic, a sharp jump from the 14% seen this time last year.

Takeaway:  No surprise: mobile is now a primary way we access information and services online. It’s time to understand how your audiences are using mobile by analyzing your own traffic, then plan accordingly for a mobile-friendly experience.

Smartphone users now make up 30% of all mobile phone users. Meanwhile, tablets are growing more rapidly than PCs ever did, as technology and processing power becomes more inexpensive and portable.

Takeaway:  Test your key online interaction points to ensure they are functional and friendly to smartphone and tablet users. Think about how smartphone and tablet use differs from PC (not just how these devices are used, but also where and when), and leverage the smart interfaces and features that users expect on these devices.

Communication continues to shift from broadcast to targeted conversations.

New social channels and messaging apps (such as WhatsApp) have allowed online communications to shift from large broadcasts of fewer messages to more frequent communications with smaller groups.

Takeaway:  You don’t have to Snapchat with your donors, but think about how more personalized and targeted messages may be more effective for your organization’s most valuable relationships.

Technology requires us to re-imagine content.

Social content distribution is driven more frequently through a few key platforms: Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter now drive nearly 30% of all social traffic referrals. The life cycle is relatively short, though, with an average piece of content reaching half its total social referrals in just 6.5 hours on Twitter or 9 hours on Facebook.

Takeaway:  Find out which channels are referring the most traffic to your site and key content. Offer news and updates that are optimized for social platforms and sharing, then plan your distribution accordingly to take the social “half life” into account.

The ‘visual social web’ has grown rapidly over the past year, with platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine providing a powerful intersection of mobile, social, and visual content. Over 1.8 billion photos are uploaded and shared each day, much of that volume being driven by real-time platforms like Snapchat and WhatsApp.

Takeaway:  Beyond engaging your supporters with your own images, encourage them to share photos of your impact and work to help build interest and amplify your reach.

Visual Social Web Growth

Our multi-screen world has unlocked a new age of video consumption, with digital audiences watching more on-demand long form video, as well as short, online. It’s also worth noting that smartphones are now the most viewed/used medium for video in many countries.

Takeaway:  Your best stories can be even more compelling in video form. Consider the video opportunities you already have—event footage, historic clips, testimonials—and make them part of your regular communication with supporters.  For best results, host your videos in such a way that they are mobile-friendly and sharable.

The report also contains keen observations on the shifts in the education and healthcare sectors, and the opportunities of big data.

Check out the full report for more, then chime in below to let us know which stat is most exciting for you and your organization.


KPCB Internet trends 2014 from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers


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Thu, May 29 2014

Calling All Nonprofit Insomniacs, Survey Results Are Here

Kera Tyler's avatar

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fun stuff • Fundraising essentials •

In last week’s edition of Tips, Network for Good’s weekly e-newsletter, we wanted to get a feel for what’s going on around the sector, especially in the trenches. So in our first-ever reader survey, we asked, “What’s the one thing about your organization that keeps you up at night?”

Here’s how you responded:

Survey Results

We had a friendly bet going around the department for the #1 reason nonprofit professionals lose sleep and we are astounded and delighted by the results! (Shhh … don’t tell my boss I guessed management—just kidding!) But seriously, fundraising keeps most of you from getting your 8 hours of beauty rest?! Well, we completely understand and fortunately, we’ve got something better than warm milk to cure your insomnia—tons of experience!

With 2014 nearly half over, December will be here before you know it. In the nonprofit world, we recognize year-end as prime fundraising time and too often, it’s met with nonchalance, trepidation, or worse—woeful unpreparedness. After seeing the results of the survey, we’re surer than ever that our next Nonprofit 911 webinar can help.

On Tuesday, June 3rd at 1pm EDT, Network for Good’s own Caryn Stein will lead a lively workshop on How to Create the Ultimate Donation Page. She’ll share some online fundraising best practices and must-do tasks to either create a brand new donation page or maximize your existing page. With just a few tips that can be a breeze to implement, you’ll be well on your way to bringing in the big bucks for the back half of the year.

We’re here to help and we want you to be prepared to get the most out of your online fundraising efforts. Register now! (Even if you can’t attend, go ahead and sign up and you’ll receive a copy of the slides and recording delivered straight to your inbox.)

(Graphic created with


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