Thu, August 28 2014

Think your data is too overwhelming? Start here.

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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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!

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Fri, August 15 2014

Why the #IceBucketChallenge works

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fun stuff • Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials • Social Media •

Are your social networks full of friends being doused in icy water? You’ve witnessed the #IceBucketChallenge.

Ethel Kennedy Ice Bucket challenge

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has taken the world by storm, prompting people across the nation to take note of, promote, and donate in support of research and assistance for those diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Challengers throw down the gauntlet to their peers:  dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate to support the ALS Association. It’s an unusual request that has a lot of people taking notice. Ethel Kennedy even challenged President Obama to join in, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has dared Bill Gates to do the same

How has any of this helped the charity? The ALS Association shares how this viral hit has helped to grow their audience—and their donation totals (over $4M so far). This represents a 1,000% spike in donations compared to the same time period last year.

So, why do campaigns like this take off? How do they tap into the part of us that shares, supports, and acts? Here are seven basic reasons why the Ice Bucket Challenge is so successful. (Note: These factors can also help make your next campaign more effective.)

It’s social. We’re social creatures, and we tend to do what other people are doing, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s who we are. We look to social norms to guide us. It’s peer pressure…for good.

It’s personal.  There’s just something about hearing and seeing your family, friends, colleagues, and public figures speak and take action. This powerful personal trigger combines with social norms to inspire action. It wouldn’t have the same effect if a complete stranger (or an organization) asked you to take the challenge.

It’s simple. The ask is pretty clear: dump a bucket of water on your head or give. That’s the choice. There’s not too much to think about there, which is the hallmark of an effective marketing message. Some may argue that an even simpler choice would limit the option to only one:  give. In this case, the ask is important, for sure, but the reason this has spread so quickly (and, in turn, raised so much money for ALS) is due to the stunt. Your ask may be easy, important, and necessary, but remember that it still needs a vehicle to reach your audience.

It’s slightly irrational.  Sometimes we are more likely to give when a stunt is more unusual, painful, or downright weird. Want proof? Look to Christopher Olivola’s experiments from The Science of Giving.

It’s direct.  Instead of issuing a blanket plea, the challenge is built around publicly calling people out. By name. When you want people to pay attention and take action, it makes a difference when you identify an individual vs. asking “everyone” to help.

It’s consistent.  Instead of deviating from the script, each participant in the Ice Bucket Challenge focuses on the same challenge and specifically supports the ALS Association. This provides a common experience and goal, which helps build momentum and community. The same wouldn’t be true if the actions or causes were randomly selected.

It’s different.  Let’s face it. It’s hard to stand out on social media, but we know that photos and videos of our friends make us linger for more than a few seconds. And people doing silly things like dumping freezing water on themselves? America’s Funniest Home Videos can’t even compare!

With all of these things going for it, the challenge does have some critics who say the stunt is merely slacktivism and doesn’t represent a real avenue for fundraising. I’m glad to see some good conversations around this, as I think it’s important for fundraisers and marketers to understand the opportunities—and the limits—of these types of campaigns. That said, as Justin Ware (The Social Side of Giving) points out, if an effort leads to 7-figure fundraising results, it’s difficult to dismiss this example of “slacktivism” as a dead-end street. Justin also smartly clues in on the real opportunity: being able to further engage and retain these new supporters. In his recent Selfish Giving newsletter, Joe Waters underscores the importance of leading with engagement before making the ask. This is where these types of social campaigns really shine.

What do you think of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Love it, hate it, or getting your bucket ready while you’re reading this? Chime in below and share your thoughts!

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Tue, August 12 2014

3 Tips for the Ultimate Donation Experience

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Websites and web usability •

Each year, our Digital Giving Index shows that the online donation experience matters. Donors are more likely to give (and more likely to give larger donations) when they are presented with a donation page that keeps them in the moment of giving. In this video, Annika Pettitt from Network for Good’s Customer Success Team shares three key elements that will make your online donation page more effective and help you reach your fundraising goals.

For expert guidance on creating a donation page that inspires donors to give more, register for the free Ultimate Donation Page Course.

 

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Fri, July 25 2014

It’s Time to Retire the Reception

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Wine and cheese tastings. Fancy dinners. Receptions. What do all these events have in common? They are generic. Any nonprofit can host these events. They are not special to your donors. They are not especially meaningful. To paraphrase Lynne Wester, The Donor Relations Guru, in our popular Nonprofit 911 webinar:  Donors gave you money. They can buy themselves dinner. Hosting an event to honor and recognize your donors is good practice, but make sure that the face to face experience you give them is unique to your organization.

So what kind of donor experience do I recommend? I want to see more unique, memorable, heart-warming experiences. Create an event, an interaction, or an entire day that allows your donors to learn about your organization and gives them an understanding and appreciation for how you are using their investment.

LexyTo help get your ideas flowing, I asked a fundraising pro (and personal friend) Alexis Lux, CFRE and VP of Development for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, to share some donor experience ideas:

So why should a nonprofit host “donor experiences”?

Alexis: These experiences should bring a donation to life. You want this experience to feel priceless to them but it shouldn’t really cost you much. It creates a closer connection to the nonprofit.

Can you give examples of specific donor experiences hosted for one donor or just a few?

I have three examples that were unique experiences for major donors:


1) When I was in the development department at a heritage museum we invited a major donor to the summer camp the museum hosted. He actually led a lesson for the campers!

2) When I raised money for a community boathouse foundation, we would name a new boat after a major donor and they had the opportunity to christen it in the traditional way (with champagne). Later, I would send them a photo of our youth team training with their boat on the river.

3) I also helped university scholarship donors meet the students they were supporting. I tried my best to partner the students and the donors by similar interest. One of our donors, an older women who loves the theatre, had a wonderful time getting to talk to a theatre student and heard firsthand about one of the upcoming shows

Lexy on HorsebackWhat about a donor experience that would be appropriate for a larger group of mid-level donors?

Well, at the YMCA we host a cancer survivor support group and we invite donors to attend the sessions. I even attended once and we did chair yoga! It was a lot of fun and wasn’t anything “extra” that I had to plan.

Also, at the museum we had a private “artist talk” before each exhibit opened. It was pretty cool to have a famous artist give our donors a tour and explain his inspiration for each piece that was included in the gallery.

Any other things to keep in mind when it comes to hosting these types of experiences for donors?

I know my future is full of more galas & wine/cheese receptions than I want to admit, but it’s so much more meaningful when donors can see their gift in action. I encourage all nonprofit leaders to get creative when it comes to the way you interact with donors!

——

Thanks to Lexy for sharing examples of unique donor experiences! I hope that you’re inspired! Need help thinking of donor experiences your nonprofit could host? Have examples that have worked for your nonprofit? Share your questions and ideas in the comments below.

For more on donor relations and why your organization should rethink how you relate to all your supporters, download the archived presentation, Transform Your Donor Relationships.

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Wed, July 23 2014

Enhance Your Fundraising Strategy with Powerful Images

Kera Tyler's avatar

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials • Social Media •

The power of imagery is undeniable. Visuals have a way of emphasizing a message and motivating viewers to act. Watch as I share some examples and walk through the best ways to stimulate and engage your supporters and donors through images.

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