Wed, November 19 2014
This post is the first in our new How Did You Handle…? Series—specific how-tos based on YOUR experiences.Please watch for our requests to share your wins, challenges and recommendations. YOU are the best trainers there are!
Year-End fundraising tops most organizations’ “must do, every year” list, but it’s challenging both to figure out how to do it differently but better and to get approval for a fresh approach for a campaign that’s so vital.
But case studies from colleague organizations commonly work as a calming balm for anxious decision-makers afraid to deviate from the norm (even when that norm isn’t working so well). Here’s what some of your peers are trying this year, with early results where available:
1. Change Up: Revising campaign tone and content—to be more direct, frank and engaging. For example, we’re showing results of donor generosity (rather than talking about them) and sharing organizational changes in progress as a result of grant guidelines.
Goal: We’re hoping to open up an active conversation with donors and prospects by inviting them into our organization! Our goal is to have these folks contact us with questions or suggestions.
Results to Date: Many donors have already contacted me to share appreciation for the more friendly and inclusive messaging. Several of them requested permission to share content from our year-end newsletter in their own communities (thus increasing our reach).
Others got in touch to share ideas or offer their assistance to tackle some of our organization’s concerns. That’s exactly the kind of response we’re looking for—stronger, closer relationships!
Source: Todd McPherson, Inter-Faith Community Services
2. Change Up: Participating in #GivingTuesday for the first time plus, beefing up our online and monthly giving options.
Goal: I (the Executive Director) introduced these changes to my board. I became aware of #GivingTuesday last year at the last moment, so investigated and proposed to our board that we make an effort this year to use this to kick off our December campaign this year.
I also hoped to motivate other charities in the area to participate in #GivingTuesday, so we’d all get more attention.
Results to Date: I’m still trying to persuade other local charities to participate in #GivingTuesday with us but have not been able to get them to understand the significance. We have decided to lead by example and hope they join us next year.
TBD on the campaign itself.
Source: Bob Stephenson, Executive Director The Literacy Coalition
3. Change Up: Personalizing our year-end content (and segmenting our list accordingly)
We’ll feature the story of one of our beneficiaries in the same state as the donor or prospect receiving the direct mail letter, to strengthen the connection between that donor/prospect and our impact.
Goal: We have read that relevancy/segmentation will increase the number and dollar value of gifts.
NOTE from Nancy: Personalization/segmentation is powerful when you can connect with what’s top of mind for your prospect or donor. If you can discuss state specific challenges likely to be known of and/or experienced by your prospects and your featured beneficiary, that’s golden!
Results to Date: Drops the first week of December!
Source: Emily Behan, Development Coordinator Community Solutions
What are YOU changing in this year’s year-end campaign? Please share your new approach with us!
With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build 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.
Wed, November 05 2014
An NPR story caught my attention this morning. Maybe you heard it too? The story was about a psychologist’s study on what kind of message inspires people to give more.
According to psychologist Paul Slovic’s research about how the head and heart can influence how much people want to give to support a cause, your message is more compelling when you tell the story of one and stick to how a donor’s investment can help that one person, not many.
In Slovic’s study, volunteers heard a story about a young girl suffering from starvation. The researchers then stepped into the fundraiser’s role and made an ask. They measured how much this group was willing to donate to help this girl. Next, a second group of volunteers heard the same story about the little girl and were told some overwhelming statistics about starvation. The same story + stats on what the issue looks like overall. Are you surprised to learn that the second group gave only about half of what the first group gave? I’m not surprised, and here are three reasons why:
1. Donors want to feel happy and hopeful when they give. Hearing a story and framing an ask to help on a small scale is the way to go. Here’s an example:
Message 1: “Thousands of veterans need our help transitioning back to civilian life. Please give now!” = Overwhelming. My donation won’t even make a dent.
Message 2: “A $20 monthly gift will make sure a veteran gets the job training she needs.” = My donation can actually help!
2. People get too caught up in the numbers. Annual reports with numbers are necessary, I know, but don’t get carried away! Tell the whole story, but highlight statistics that show how your work really made a difference instead of focusing on all the work yet to be done.
3. Stories get the job done. Stories connect with the heart, and numbers make sense in your head. Potential donors will be more willing to give when you inspire them with a story. Specifically, a story that makes them feel good about what they can do to help.
Want to read more on this topic and how it relates to fundraising success? Download Homer Simpson for Nonprofits: The Truth About How People Really Think and What It Means for Promoting Your Cause.
Tue, September 23 2014
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.
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.
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:
- Clients, participants, or alumni
- 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:
#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:
Wed, September 17 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
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