- Thu, January 10 2013
- Filed under: Websites and web usability
I often get asked for examples of beautiful nonprofit websites. Good news - there is a great article highlighting 31 one of them (thanks to my colleague Allison for spotting it).
I especially like the Kidzeum, a Network for Good customer!
- Wed, January 09 2013
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
This is a really important guest post. If you are in the business of fundraising in any way, it’s recommended reading. Please also share it, because our sector needs to see this data and act accordingly. Thanks to the author, Jay Love, for putting this together in such a compelling way. Jay is the former CEO of eTapestry. He is currently CEO of Bloomerang and SVP of Avectra while serving on numerous local and national nonprofit boards. He’s very smart about this topic.
By Jay Love
Ever since the Urban Institute and the Association of Fundraising Professionals created the Fundraising Effectiveness Project a few years ago, I have been tracking the results religiously. They provide a near real-time scorecard on what is driving the bulk of charitable giving in our country. The headline of the results is this: Repeat donors matter most. But we are terrible at keeping them. The good news is we could double the fundraising results of most nonprofits by doing a better job keeping our donors. Just imagine what impact such an increase could have on virtually all charity missions!
Here’s my team at Bloomerang’s visual analysis of just how badly we’re doing – and why I’m an advocate for doing better.
What jumps out at you here is the comparison of the commercial sector customer retention average result of 94% versus the charity sector donor retention result of 41%. That is a drastic difference by any means of comparison. I do not believe the donor retention percentage will ever be the same as those derived from customers paying for a service they use daily, and in most cases where they spent decent sums of money implementing. However, as the bottom right corner block of information states, there are nonprofits who achieve a rate of 70% or higher. Every organization should establish a goal for what their donor retention should be. Unfortunately, many organizations are not aware of their current rate or if they know it do not share it with either their staff or board.
What to do about it
To fix this problem at your nonprofit, you need to start with your own data. Track the various retention rates below, comparing those rates with the ones I share here. As the old adage goes, what is measured is what improves. Some key retention rates to track are:
1. First Year Donor Retention Rate by Dollars
2. First Year Donor Retention Rate by Number of Donors
3. Repeat Donor Retention Rate by Dollars
4. Repeat Donor Retention Rate by Number of Donors
5. Overall Donor Retention Rate by Dollars
6. Overall Donor Retention Rate by Number of Donors
Coupled with the above, are the added measures of tracking “upgrades” and “downgrades”. Together these metrics provide solid data to use for establishing individual key objectives and goals. Next, read the recommendations of Professor Adrian Sargeant. His website will give you an MBA in Donor Retention principles and practices here.
My hope is each of you reading this post garners an insight or a concept that allows you to improve your organization’s retention levels enough to truly double the lifetime value of your donor database.
- Tue, January 08 2013
- Filed under: Fun stuff
If you are seeking to be more creative in 2013, I strongly recommend Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. I spent this past weekend reading and re-reading this unconventional little book, and it was a revelation.
Above all, it reminded me that the opposite of “garbage in, garbage out” is “ideas in, ideas, out.” Or “brilliance in, brilliance out” if it’s a really good day. Your mind is what you feed it. So be happy if you have endless curiosity about what smart people think. I certainly do.
If you want to be more creative this year, read, watch and look at smart things. “Ideas in” yield amazing ideas from you. The more you fill yourself up with an array of brilliance, the better thinker you will be.
New year’s resolution? Steal like an artist.
I’m hosting a free webinar tomorrow at 1pm ET on the 5 Technology Shifts That Will Change Nonprofits in 2013. I hope you can join me! But register even if you can’t make it, because we’ll send you a recording after the fact.
Technology is more important than the hottest new device or social network. It’s all about how you use technology to make connecting with your supporters easier and more compelling. Join me as I dive into five areas of fundamental technology changes that are critical to understanding how to engage with your supporters in 2013. A panel of nonprofits like yours from Tulsa School for Arts and Sciences and ACTS Prince William County who have embraced these shifts will discuss, in depth, the rise of mobile technology, the growth of peer networks, the increasing personalization of marketing and communications, the upside of slacktivism and new discoveries about how people think about our causes. Hear the stories, get the facts and learn how to adapt.
It’s the time of year when a lot of us (including me) take stock. Why are we here? What should we be doing in 2013?
A few years back, I was lamenting to my wise cousin Elisabeth that I wasn’t sure where I should focus my work. What was the best job for me? What was I meant to be doing with my life?
She told me her method for figuring that out. She pays attention to when she feels jealous. If she hears about a job someone’s taken or a project someone has started and feels envious, that’s a clear sign it’s what she most wants to do.
We’re not talking about the nasty kind of envy - as in the deadly sin where you feel diminished by others’ success and want to derail someone else’s good fortune. And I don’t mean longing for the fame and money that can be a side benefit of professional success. I simply mean the telltale twinge you feel when you hear about someone’s endeavor and wish you could do that, too. Stop and wonder: What about that activity creates a craving in you? Was it something you’ve always longed to try? Something you’ve been afraid to try? Maybe you can and should attempt that very thing.
It’s a clarifying feeling. Jealous? Maybe you should be chasing that dream yourself.
- Thu, January 03 2013
- Filed under: Social networking and web 2.0
The wonderful people at the Georgetown Center for Social Impact Communication have drawn on their recent research to profile who is most likely spread the word about your cause - and how.
To me, the headline is that while most people are active online, that doesn’t mean that they focus all their advocacy efforts on the Internet. People spread the word both online and off, just as they donate online and off, just as they shop online and off. The wise nonprofit - and the wise company - recognize you have to meet people in the many real and virtual places they inhabit and provide easy ways of spreading your message wherever they are.
- Wed, January 02 2013
- Filed under: Nonprofit leadership
Here are three ways you can improve your work - and your workplace - in the New Year.
1. Know what you’re doing before you worry about how you’ll do it.
We jump to thoughts of implementation so often in our work, and that tendency creates several problems. We may not know exactly what we’re implementing, why we’re implementing it or how much is possible. By skipping ahead to the details, we begin work that may not make sense—and we unnecessarily constrain ourselves. This year, be mindful about each idea you’re pursuing and determine its larger purpose before running forward with activities. It’s not about what you’re doing but why you’re doing it.
2. Spend at least 15 minutes a day in deliberate thought about something bigger than your to-do list.
This is critical. I believe in mornings - but for some people, it works best to do this exercise at the end of the day to prepare for the next morning. What larger purpose defines you right now? One year from now, what will you be glad you did tomorrow? Ten years from now? What are the big things that need to happen to advance those aspirations? I believe the sum of our efforts each year reflects the rigor we apply to these larger questions. Take a few minutes each day to ask them. You may not have every answer, but you’ll make smarter choices along the way - and let the little crap go more easily. For me, five minutes at the start of my workday plus nightly blogging are tools I use in trying to step out of everyday to-do lists and think about what ideas matter most each day. What tools can you put into place to schedule reflection?
3. Think about what unites your colleagues rather than what’s in it for you.
The best workplaces in the world have something in common: Colleagues embrace a collective vision, and they’d do anything for each other. I’d always prefer to be in that kind of culture than a dog-eat-dog slugfest because it’s better for me and better for my organization. Try to set a course toward that kind of camaraderie. Define what you all want to do together. Along the way, share credit. Recognize the achievements of others. Sacrifice something selfish if it yields a greater good. If you are a manager, you have the chance to transform the experience of those who report to you. Seize it with a spirit of selflessness. In the end, it’s the fastest way to achievement - and happiness - for everyone.
- Tue, January 01 2013
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
Happy New Year!
We’re still tabulating results at Network for Good, but a first look at the numbers suggests December was good to most nonprofits. While the average number of online donations per nonprofit looks flat compared to 2011, the average size of gift is larger, so most of the thousands of organizations that fundraise through our platform saw about 10% more dollars this December than last. How did you do?
As we head into the New Year, please don’t forget the number one priority you should have today: Thanking your donors. It’s the single most powerful way to raise more money in 2013. And it’s the right thing to do.
- Mon, December 31 2012
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
Email your supporters now (if you haven’t already) and remind them that today is the last chance to make their tax-deductible gift in 2012.
Today is the biggest day of the year for online donations, so don’t miss out.
- Fri, December 28 2012
- Filed under: Fun stuff
1. Mini-meditation: For 10 minutes on public transportation each morning, close your eyes and imagine a relaxing scene like a tree or waterfall. Try to focus only on that. If you drive to work, arrive 10 minutes early and do this in the parking lot. Says author Matthew May, “People who meditate show more gray matter in certain regions of the brain, show stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy.” Sounds like a good reason to try this!
2. Pulsing: Take breaks between stretches of 90 minutes of work. You just spent a lot of energy - now recharge for five minutes by doodling, listening to music or taking a brief stroll.
3. Daydream walks: Find 20 minutes or so to let your mind wander. A lunchtime walk or morning jog are good times to try. Do not think about work but rather something you like to imagine, like a dream trip. You’re taking care of your creative brain - and the benefits will extend to all of your life.
- Thu, December 27 2012
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
To follow up on yesterday’s post - the number one quality of a great presenter - I wanted to share the number one quality of a great presentation.
(Both of these pieces of advice are from The Art of the Pitch from the legendary ad guy Peter Coughter, now at VCU Brandcenter. The book includes excellent stories that remind us how just how critical it is to master persuasion and presentation skills.)
What makes a fantastic presentation? One point. Before you say a thing, you have decided upon a single goal. Everything you say leads to that conclusion. Everything else gets edited out.
This is far harder than it sounds. In fact, if you had to quickly scribble on a notecard the one, clear overarching point of your last pitch, could you do it in seconds? If not, you probably didn’t have the overarching story pinpointed. Stick to that sole truth and sell it with great passion. It’s how we connect - and how we get remembered.
One of my end-of year-traditions is to use any downtime to catch up on reading. I wanted to share some thoughts on the latest book I read, The Art of the Pitch. This quick and motivating read from the legendary ad guy Peter Coughter, who now teaches at the VCU Brandcenter, includes excellent stories that remind us how just how critical it is to master persuasion and presentation skills.
Today, I offer a short post on the number one quality of a great presenter. Tomorrow, I’ll post on the number one quality of a great presentation.
What’s the number one quality of a great presenter? According to Coughter (and I agree), it’s that you approach a pitch as a conversationalist, not a speaker. This advice is excellent, and it’s highly applicable to anyone advocating for a good cause.
“It’s a conversation, only you’re the one doing most of the talking. A lot of people have a hard time with this idea,” says Coughter. “We’ve all been there. Sitting in a meeting, praying for it to end while the speaker drones on about something that is apparently important to him, but of no interest to us… Don’t be that guy. Just talk with us.”
To talk with us, you have to know us, recognize us and converse about our interests. A great presenter is so focused on reflecting and connecting with us that we feel a part of the moment.
Do that and everyone will be riveted.
P.S. I’m also reading Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth. If you want fiction, not business reading, that’s my pick.
- Tue, December 25 2012
- Filed under:
I got this email today from Mark Bergel, founder of A Wider Circle. It was beautiful, so I wanted to share it.
A Christmas Story
I left work just in time last night to make it to Whole Foods, a place where I typically experience a world in which poverty is not the first thought, as it is the rest of the day and night.
As I stood in an aisle, with two people between the shelf and the food choices I waited to make, the two separated and went separate ways. In front of me, however, was not food, but a woman whom I had known as the first person for whom A Wider Circle ever did a group volunteer service effort back in 2002. Alice stood there, now an employee of Whole Foods, and looked at me as I at her, and we embraced.
I have stayed in touch off and on with Alice over the years, and with her children, as well. I have known them since the oldest child was nine years old. I have known the older boy since he was five. He has one of those youthful mustaches – at least he did when I saw him two years ago.
Having just spent the day giving out holiday presents – and having been involved in giving out presents to thousands of children and adults in the past month - I was ready to talk holidays with Alice. I asked her after our hug if the family was ready for a big holiday tomorrow. She smiled.
Alice’s English is just a tad better than my Spanish, so things get lost in translation. I wanted to follow up, so I asked if the kids all had presents. Shy as ever, she just tilted her head down to the left and shook it just a bit side to side, a pained smile on her face.
Hoping we were just not understanding each other, I asked again.
“Do the kids have presents?”
“No,” she said softly.
“None?” Alice and I go back a ways; we furnished and painted their home and I have spent many days with them over the years, though none since 2010. I was not worried about pushing a bit to find out how they were doing this Christmas Eve.
“No,” she repeated.
“Do you have a tree?”
“You have a tree?”
“Yes, but nothing under it.”
I repeated what she had told me and then asked if the kids were home so I could talk to them. Alice gave me the home phone number and seconds later, I was on the phone with her 16-year-old son, a person I knew to be a proud young person, meaning I was unsure how he would react to my offer.
I did not know if he would be too cool, or mixed with embarrassment and teen disinterest, if he would shrug it off and not express a desire to come over the A Wider Circle in the morning to get items.
He was not too cool, and he was not disinterested.
When told that he and the whole family could come early tomorrow, Christmas Day, to get presents, he was excited, much more so than I expected.
“That would be awesome. Thank you so much!”
It seemed music to his ears, and it was music to mine, as well. I would get to see family on Christmas Day.
As Alice and I parted, I thought immediately of the generosity of the entire community, including the woman from a local church who brought over hundreds of dollars in gift cards Monday afternoon – “just in case.” Many of the gift cards would be good for teenagers, a somewhat “forgotten” demographic in holiday giving programs.
I thought of this woman’s fellow congregants and how they had collected so many gifts and gift cards for our holiday program.
I thought of the temple that had provided so many gifts that we had enough for today – a day on which Alice’s family would join the many others that called for holiday help right up until I left the office last night to go to Whole Foods.
A tree with nothing under it.
A metaphor for our work.
Even with homes, even with jobs, our neighbors are living in a different world. We bridge that world – for mothers, fathers and their children – when we connect and stay connected. It is a lesson worthy of today – and every day.
All the best on this special day -
- Mon, December 24 2012
- Filed under: Branding
For my final posts this year, I’m featuring some of my favorite interviews on marketing from my book, Robin Hood Marketing. Today, I quote five laws on branding from my talk with Raphael Bemporad of BBMG.
We’ve found that most successful organizations follow five laws of branding.
1. First is the law of the word. Own a word in the mind of your audience that differentiates your organization from all others. It must be a clear, simple word that no one else owns.
2. Second is the law of focus. The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope. Identify the one thing you do better than anyone else, and focus your brand on that unique value proposition.
3. Third is the law of leadership. Successful organizations are perceived as being the leaders at what they do. How can your organization be the first to develop a unique approach or service? What is the category in which you can uniquely claim leadership?
4. Fourth is the law of authenticity. Does your brand truly reflect who you are and what you do? Is it relevant to your clients and the community they you serve? Do you walk your talk? Authenticity is the proof behind your promise.
5. Fifth is the law of consistency. Trends come and go, but brands should stay the same. A brand cannot get into the mind of your audience unless it is communicated clearly and consistently over time.
- Fri, December 21 2012
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
For my final posts this year, I’m going to publish some of my favorite interviews on marketing from my book, Robin Hood Marketing. Today, I feature one of my greatest mentors, Bill Novelli.
Bill’s career has been the living, breathing answer to Gerhart Wiebe’s question, “Can brotherhood be sold like soap?” Novelli started his career at Unilever, where he marketed laundry-detergent products in New York. After several years of selling soap, he went on to work for the ad agency Wells, Rich, Green. There, he first was confronted with the question of how soap related to good causes. “I had come from Unilever and working on the same kind of products—packaged goods. I was marketing laundry detergent, cat food, dog food, kids’ cereals, whatever,” he recalls. “Then they gave me another account, which was public broadcasting. This was the first time public broadcasting had hired an advertising agency to build audience. The first thing I did was to go to a press conference run by the woman who had created Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney. And she was applying what I thought of as marketing to Sesame Street, which is education. So I thought to myself, you can do more with this thing. You can apply it to education or perhaps other issues, other ideas, other sectors. And that got me going.”
Novelli, an engaging, quietly intense man with a good sense of humor, had found his calling. He went on to direct marketing efforts for another good cause: the Peace Corps. He then founded his own public-relations firm with Jack Porter in Washington, D.C. He built Porter Novelli into one of the largest public-relations firms in the world, and in the process, pioneered the application of private sector savvy to social causes. “In the early days, I liked to call us a bunch of soap salesmen who were trying to work on high blood pressure and cancer. Then I discovered the academic literature. I read the seminal paper on social marketing by Phil Kotler and Gerald Zaltman. I thought to myself, these guys are framing this very nicely. I’m using my lessons from laundry detergent, and they’re framing it better. I need to marry the academic and the practical. That’s how I started, bringing in theory, bringing in the academic perspective, and saying, boy this helps me to do my thing.”
Novelli went on to apply that thinking as executive vice president of the international relief and development agency CARE, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and as chief executive officer for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). He is currently a professor in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. He teaches in the MBA program and has created and leads the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at the School. He also is Co-Chair of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), a national organization dedicated to reforming advanced illness care by empowering consumers, changing the health care delivery system, improving public policies and enhancing provider capacity. In each role, he has paired his dedication to good causes with business sensibility and convinced the rest of us that yes, we can indeed sell brotherhood like soap.
Me: What is the goal in marketing good causes?
Novelli: I think a lot of programs make the mistake of stopping at attitude change, —in other words, getting people to believe as you believe. They think, well, what can I do about teen pregnancy? Well, I’ll get these kids to understand “X.” There’s a difference between understanding and doing. We need to understand we are in the persuasion business, not the information-dissemination business. When people tell me, “It’s not our job or our place to tell people what to think or do,” I think we might as well be shoveling pamphlets out of airplanes. If you really want to get someone to do something, close the sale. If we want to communicate to American people that the world’s oceans are in trouble, ask what you want the consumer and the audience to do. Do you want them to drown themselves, or write a letter to a congressional Congressional representative?
Me: Is brotherhood just like soap?
Novelli: A company looks to potential market demand when developing a product. People say, “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door,” but that is not marketing. Marketers start with the consumer, not the mousetrap. The the people with the mice in their homes —do they want to get rid of the mice? How satisfied or dissatisfied are they with current mouse-removal systems? How much would they pay to remove mice? Nonprofits are by contrast product-driven, not market-driven. That makes it more challenging.
Me: So how do we know what will close the sale?
Novelli: I really like the idea of positive deviance. Don’t study the people who aren’t doing it. Study the people who are and see what motivated them. One of the tenets of marketing is that your best prospects are people like your customers. You want to sell laundry detergent, see who’s buying it now. These people are predisposed. If we’re thinking about smoking cessation, people who have tried to quit smoking twice are more apt likely to try a third time than people who’ve never tried at all. If we’re thinking about physical activity, people who already own a pair of walking shoes are more disposed to get back into it than those who have never gotten off the couch. If we’re thinking about social change, I think it’s a mistake to focus only on individuals. People are swimming in a larger sea. They’re influenced by the media, by normative behaviors. If you look at a neighborhood where all the kids smoke, that’s what you see. It doesn’t matter if your parents are telling you to quit. If we could make physical activity normative behavior, if everybody was doing it, —movie stars, your neighbor, Oprah—it would help. If the media and policymakers are behind it, that is part of it too. Then there is private policy change, though corporations and organizations.
Me: How can good causes manage all of these audiences?
Novelli: Nonprofits have so many more stakeholders than a corporation has. We’ve got this many-layered onion. Maybe at the core is the board of directors, and we have to inform, educate, and persuade our board. The next layer is staff. They tend to be socially oriented, mission-driven. They need to be involved. Beyond that, you might have volunteers, members, and the general public. You have to work with all of them in sequence. If you have the board, you have a better chance of getting the outer layers.