Tue, September 23 2014

Creating the perfect campaign for #GivingTuesday

Jamie McDonald's avatar

Chief Giving Officer, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Giving Days • Marketing essentials •

The time is…NOW.

With year-end quickly approaching, and #GivingTuesday just ten weeks away, we’re hurtling toward the giving season. It’s that generous time of year that fundraisers count on to be sure that they are well positioned—and well funded—to fulfill their missions for another year.

Now is the time to solidify your #GivingTuesday campaign focus. Whether you are planning to raise money for a project or for general operations, creativity and communications can be the difference between a good and a great campaign.

Break new ground with #GivingTuesday, but don’t forget the basics.

Annual giving is rapidly growing online. And today’s digital donors are the lifeblood of your organization’s success in the long haul.

Traditional year-end annual giving campaigns use personal solicitation, direct mail, email and phone calls to raise unrestricted donations.

The high visibility of #GivingTuesday, combined with some creative thinking about the focus of your campaign, can be a powerful tool for building unrestricted giving also – it just requires a shift in thinking.

Start by structuring a Clear, Compelling Campaign

Great online fundraising is just great fundraising. In a recent e-book, Joe Garecht, the Fundraising Authority, makes this point well:

“Online fundraising mirrors offline fundraising… and in all fundraising, you have to make asks. This means that if you want people to spread the word about your online campaign, you have to ask them to – specifically and concretely.”

Even if you don’t want to fundraise for a specific project, like money to fund 20 instruments for a new school band, it’s still wise to ‘project-ize’ your asks so they resonate with online supporters.

Step One: “Make me feel like I matter.”

Every program and activity in a nonprofit can be reframed as a “project” that contributes to your mission, so donors can understand exactly why you need their support.

We Need You!

Here are examples of how to reframe your ask into inspiring projects, for different kinds of nonprofits:

  • Direct Service: If you serve 500 people a year with a $1 million budget, frame your annual fund around the $2000 it takes to serve each client. You can also break it down into smaller chunks like funding 3 months of services for $500. Then build a story around an inspiring client that exemplifies your work.
  • Advocacy: As an advocate for a cause, frame your annual fund ask around the number of people you reach each year with your message. So if you are an education advocacy organization trying to improve classroom performance, how many students lives will be changed by the policies you seek to enact? Bring this to life with the story of a student whose attendance rate – and grades - increased because of your work.
  • Arts and Culture: If you are a cultural organization, like a museum or zoo, consider annual fund outreach around how many visitors you have in a year or how much it costs to care for the average animal each day. Build a story about a young artist who found her inspiration after seeing your collection.
  • Place-Based: Urban, environmental, or organizations with a physical campus can structure annual fund asks around the square feet/miles of the area you focus on, or the number of people in your catchment area. One of the most creative campaigns we’ve seen was from Calvin College, who used this approach with great success.

Another effective example: a local clean streams organization serves a series of streams that are five miles long. They need to raise just over $1 million each year. We recommended creating a campaign around providing support for a yard of the stream. The math was easy: $1,100,000/8800 yards = $125 per yard of the stream. This kind of creative thinking repositioned their annual fund for success.

Why frame your outreach this way? Because at its core, your organization is about changing lives, and this needs to be made real and tangible.

In a recent post, Hilborn Consultants said it well “Donors…are feeling and living the giving experience. They want to save lives, make a difference, change the world. Donors give because they care, or have been moved or inspired in some way. How much they give, how often they give, whether they give just once or for the long term mostly comes down to how they feel about your cause and how they feel about the experience they’re having as donors.”

Step Two: Start NOW to build a campaign, not just a one-shot outreach.

So with a strong, inspiring project idea now in the works, it’s time to build your campaign. At their core, every campaign is about moving people to action – getting them to give.

Begin with the end in mind

It takes planning, a strong leader and capable execution to achieve your goals.

But how do you get your campaign going with everything else on your plate? Start at the beginning.

Here are 6 simple steps to get you started.

The Big Six

#1: Set a big goal — Your goal will be one of the most visible anchors of your #GivingTuesday campaign, so make it a motivator. The goal should be big and meaningful enough to get people excited to work hard. If it’s too attainable, it will feel like just another day at the office, and it will be hard to motivate your team.

Your goal will likely include a fundraising target, but it can also include other important metrics:

· Number of donors, number of new donors

· Number of donors that set up a recurring gift (we love this as a focus for #GivingTuesday

· Number of volunteers that participate in an activity

· Participation (for orgs with an alumni base)

#2: Convene a passionate team and active advocates — The most important person on your Giving Day team is the leader, the quarterback of the day, who leads the team from planning to execution to evaluation. Identify the passionate quarterback and then focus on engaging the key thought leaders - and loudest voices – among five key groups:

  • Staff
  • Board
  • Clients, participants, or alumni
  • Volunteers
  • Committed Donors and other potential Ambassadors

Engaged individuals from each of these groups will form the heart of your Giving Day team – and will largely determine your success. Make them insiders. Share your strategy, goals, and make sure they have really internalized the project you have defined. Help them find their passionate voice, so they are as excited to be part of this as you are.

#3: Create a unified, branded theme — In addition to your well-defined project, your #GivingTuesday campaign should stand out from your everyday marketing. At a minimum, tie into #GivingTuesday’s or Network for Good’s branding and marketing tools. Make use of their assets to associate your organization with the campaign, visually and thematically.

Or even better, if you have access to a graphic artist, or a creative streak yourself, create your own branded identity to put on all of your campaign materials, posts, and schwag. Use photoshop or a free tool like Canva.com to incorporate your colors or symbols into a GivingTuesday logo, all your own. Here are some great examples:

A Share Kiwanis  Momentum  bmore givesmore

#4: Use your project/theme to create quality content and ‘drip’ it out — To help spread the word and sustain momentum leading up to #GivingTuesday, share your goals and project stories in a weekly “drip.” Create compelling, easy-to-share content for your ambassadors, and keep them engaged with new content each week, on a predictable day. Think tactically about how to include ready-to-use hashtags, Facebook posts and images, tweets, email copy, campaign logo, campaign-related photos, infographics, “Top 10 lists” and links to other engaging content.

#5: Gamify it! — Make the process fun for your ambassadors by creating engaging and rewarding incentives to participate. The most powerful tool on #GivingTuesday is matching funds, but there are other great ways to raise the excitement level – and make donors feel like they are part of something bigger than their own gift.

Special goals like challenges for new donors, most social posts, etc. add a level of engagement. If you have an active client or volunteer base, encourage supporters to set up fundraising teams to compete against each other for the most raised.

Gamification provides fun and engagement, and even more fodder for content creation and social sharing surrounding your #GivingTuesday.

#6 Get your online giving process in shape.  When you’ve invested your time and passion into creating, coordinating and communicating your #GivingTuesday campaign, donors will beating down your digital doors.  Be sure you make your digital experience welcoming and easy to move through.  You don’t want to lose a single donor that reaches your site because they…

• Can’t find your donate button
• Feel it takes too long to donate
• Feel like you are asking for too much information
• Don’t associate your giving page with the campaign

Want some help refining your online donation experience? Reach out to a Network for Good fundraising consultant for more info and a demo of our DonateNow fundraising service.

If you need more strategies for #GivingTuesday preparation, be sure to check out these other resources:

11 Weeks to Go: Launch Your #GivingTuesday Team!

Network for Good’s Complete Giving Days E-Book

Top 10 strategies for a successful giving day [Webinar]

 

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Wed, September 17 2014

The Secret Sauce of Record-Breaking Year-End Campaigns

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

Come in close and listen hard. This is a secret I don’t want to broadcast to the entire world.

The secret sauce to ensuring year-end campaign success that I’ve seen work time and time again is this year-end checklist. Year-end campaign creation and management is a busy, often overwhelming process fraught with anxiety. This checklist is the best antidote I know, and it doubles as a surefire tool to propel you to your year-end victory lap.

Pinpoint Where You Are Right Now


Roll up your sleeves and take a long, hard look at this year’s fundraising results to date, both quantitative and qualitative. Note: If you have no idea what your results are, designing ways to measure success is a must for 2015.

Assess results against your benchmarks.


Review year-to-date results, and compare them to your benchmarks to see what’s working as hoped and what’s not.

This is easier with hard numbers, like those associated with online petition signing or registration, online giving, or other actions that you can directly track to their source. More challenging, but equally important, is drawing insight from quantitative information such as client, volunteer, or donor feedback and stories from the field.

Identify meaningful trends:

  • Which matches are working? Which target audience is responding to what campaigns, channels, and messages?
  • Who else should you be in touch with? Have any surprise visitors—groups you didn’t expect to engage with your organization—surfaced this year?
  • Who fell off your radar that you need to rekindle the relationship with before it’s too late? Who was a loyal supporter in previous years but has been significantly less responsive this year?

Outline Your Plan


Every connection you squeeze into 2014 allows you to deepen the relationship just a little more! So clarify your goal, think through what will be top of mind for these folks, and start reaching out right now.

Do more of what has worked best to engage your most loyal supporters while you have their attention.

Your trends analysis will also highlight the channels and messages that hit a positive nerve with each audience group. These are the ones you’ll want to replicate in the remaining weeks of this year. Use that info to shape some year-end-specific messages.

Go beyond online channels to share those messages. Although email is a timely and relatively low-cost format for targeted campaigns, print and social media campaigns can be great complements if resources allow. There is still time to get another postcard out the door, if it makes sense.

Ramp Up


Line up your team and budget.

Although the stats indicate that year-end is a productive fundraising time, you’ll have to work better and harder than ever from the get-go to generate gifts, because all fundraisers are onto the same stats.

Spend a few minutes with colleagues in your organization, ideally one-on-one, to ask for their help and to thank them for their help in making marketing a success (even if their role is very indirect).

Then, get your website, donation processing, and colleagues ready to respond.

Make sure your site features:

  • Recent stories about programs, including some programs introduced pre-2014 (to connect those folks who haven’t checked in much this year).
  • A big donate button on every page, with a “phone in your gift” number.
  • A recently tested online giving process.
  • Consistent messages and look-and-feel across your entire site, including the donation page. Avoid confusing donors; make it easy for them to feel confident in giving by making your donation process match the rest of your materials.


Prep your team to:

  • Be confident in sharing year-end messages.
  • Be ready for a flood of requests for help and info, especially in December.
  • Immediately share important feedback they receive on any component of last-minute marketing so you can correct the course if necessary.


Go!


Like most tasks, implementing your year-end campaign is a lot easier (and will be so much more successful) when based on a research-based plan. Don’t skip that step.

Write right.

Make sure your tone is personal and your call to action clear and easy to act on. Consider these five steps to a successful year-end email campaign.

This last recommendation is so important. If you skip it, you’ll risk undermining campaign success. If you do it, you’ll do great. Get on it!

That’s my year-end campaign secret sauce. What can you add? Share your tried and true practices in the comments below!

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 GettingAttention.org.

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Tue, August 19 2014

Seeking the Killer App? You Already Have It—Your Website

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials • Websites and web usability •

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
Register now.

 

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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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Mon, August 11 2014

How the Benefit Concert is Shaping Philanthropy

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Music has been one of the most powerful ways causes, celebrities, and communities can connect to raise money for serious issues. We recently caught up with Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, who shared his insight on why these events can be so successful for nonprofits of all sizes.

Legacy of Aid: August is the Anniversary of the Benefit Concert

Benefit Concerts

For over forty years, the benefit concert has served as one of the most popular, easily recognizable forms of aid for charitable organizations. 

It all started back in August 1971 when George Harrison called a few friends—Ringo, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, to name a few—to play at the world’s first benefit concert. The Concert for Bangladesh played from Madison Square Garden with ticket and recording sales helping to raise $18 million. These stars likely didn’t realize they were forever changing charitable giving in time of a disaster. Concerts are now a popular vehicle for causes around the world to raise visibility and funds—often targeting a younger crowd or introducing their campaign to an audience not yet familiar with it. 

“Music is a universal pleasure that cuts across cultures and backgrounds,” says H. Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Music is a unifying experience—it’s a natural choice for charities to turn to benefit concerts as a means to raise funds.”

Star power can play a big role but doesn’t always spell success. In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Wyclef Jean’s charity, Yele Haiti, came under scrutiny about its finances. This controversy underscores the importance for charities to make sure they are fully transparent and accountable before implementing a benefit concert which can attract a lot of media attention. 

And star power isn’t the only way to go. Charities across the country have seen great success with smaller scale benefit concerts ranging from high school bands to regional bands. The principles and watch-outs apply regardless of your headliner. 

7 Do’s and Don’ts when planning a benefit concert for your organization:

1. Know your partners. 
If you are co-hosting the benefit concert with another charity, take a moment to investigate them by pulling their report at Give.org. Don’t assume it is well managed just because it has a 501(c)(3) charitable tax exempt status.

2. Pay attention to regulations.
Make sure any state regulatory requirements have been met, including verifying your ability to solicit.

3. Check tax deductibility disclosures.
If the benefit concert tickets are sold in a charitable fundraising context, seek out a tax advisor to find out about tax deductibility disclosures that may need to be made.

4. Beware of cheaters.
Take reasonable measures to reduce ticket scalping. Examples might be: limiting the number of tickets sold to a single purchaser and ensuring computer safeguards are in place to avoid someone “snatching” all the tickets as soon as they are made available. 

5. Practice your FAQ.
Make sure answers are readily available for reasonable questions about your mission, target amounts to be raised, and how collected funds will be used.

6. Be clear.
If the intention is to collect funds restricted for a specific purpose (i.e., disaster relief) make sure that all charity participants agree to this restriction and are able to carry out this work as soon as possible.

7. Be transparent about finances.
Share information on the total amount collected, the cost to hold the concert, and how much went to the cause. Post this information on the charity’s and concert’s websites.

The Future of Benefit Concerts

“Charity benefit concerts will continue to play a role in generating funds and advocating issues,” says Taylor. “Large events work well in times of major crisis or when a big star has a personal stake in a cause. Smaller, targeted local events can be successful as well.”

Whether packing a large event venue or a local concert hall, organizers should be creative and coordinate effectively to ensure that benefit concerts are a useful tool for raising awareness and charitable dollars.

A benefit with local bands and resources combined with a coordinated effort between multiple nonprofits may be a good option for some charities. Whether large or small, however, the expense and coordination efforts for events can be prohibitive and should be considered carefully in terms of the investment of time and resources. Often charities will measure ROI through funds raised as well as impact to the audience.

For more helpful tips on nonprofit collaboration, including information on accreditation, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org. For advice on planning a successful fundraising event, download Network for Good’s guide to Hosting Your Most Fabulous Fundraising Event Ever.

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