You’re in the business not only of doing good; you’re in the business of making people feel great. I like to quote the researcher M.A.Strahilevitz on this topic: “Most fundraisers probably don’t think of themselves in the business of selling happiness to donors, but that is ... their job.”
“Research shows that there are many simple activities that reliably make people happier. My favorite is doing acts of kindness. The generous acts don’t have to be random and they don’t have to be a certain kind (e.g, anonymous or social or big, etc.). We have found that almost any types of acts of kindness boost happiness. And two hot-off-the-presses studies reveal even bigger benefits. An experiment we just published in PLOS ONE showed that when 9- to 11-year old kids were asked to do acts of kindness for several weeks, not only did they get happier over time but they became more popular with their peers. And another big intervention we just finished at a company in Spain showed that asking some employees to be generous to a randomly chosen list of colleagues (we called this our “Secret Santa” manipulation) produced huge benefits (for increasing happiness, connectedness, flow, and decreasing depression) not just for the givers, but for the receivers and even for observers. The recipients of kindness “paid the kind acts forward” and even acquaintances of the givers became happier and were inspired to act more generously themselves.”
Smile, you’re in the happiness business.
- Wed, January 30 2013
- Filed under: Fun stuff
(This is a post I wrote for LinkedIn and wanted to share!)
A couple of years ago, I was invited to an unusual dinner party. Philanthropist Jeffrey Walker, the host, assembled the dozen or so guests - who mostly did not know each other - and outlined the rules of the intimate gathering. Everyone would explain who they were and what cause they stood for, and then we would take turns discussing as a table a series of challenging questions about philanthropy, a topic close to the hearts of everyone assembled. No side conversations or small talk. We were going to wrestle with ideas.
This was my introduction to the Jeffersonian Dinner. Jeff models them on the real deal: Thomas Jefferson, president, scientist and writer of the Declaration of Independence. The president liked to invite intriguing guests who shared an interest area and then provoke a stimulating evening conversation around that topic.
The event I attended was among the most fascinating (and pleasantly intimidating) evenings I’ve had. I walked away with many new ideas and several new friends that I still see regularly.
I don’t think we do enough of this kind of stretching of our minds or our networks. As I said earlier this year, we have to put our brains on the right diet if we really want to make things happen in our lives and in the world. That means everything from reading something outside our regular experience to organizing a Jeffersonian dinner of people who have insights on a topic that matters deeply to our work.
Ready to have that dinner party? Read Jeff’s post on how to do it. He has specific advice for people who advocate for good causes. But you can hold one on any topic close to your heart or career. The goal is to stretch your mind and your ties beyond their well-traveled patterns. You will be delighted by what territory lies beyond the old places - and how it expands your view on just about everything.
- Tue, January 29 2013
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
A report on wealthy Next Gen donors from 21/64 and the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy finds that surveying 310 major donors including in-depth interviews with 30 high-net-worth Generation X and Millennial individuals care about impact and want to feel personally tied to the causes they support. Family heavily influences their choices of causes. They are similar to other donors in these ways - but distinct in how serious they are about making real change and how heavily they use technology to engage with causes.
The study found:
• Next generation donors want meaningful, hands-on engagement with the causes that they care about and want to develop close relationships with the organizations they give to, giving their time and talent as well as their treasure.
• Next generation donors are highly networked with their peers, learning about causes from trusted friends and sharing philanthropic experiences with peer networks.
• Next generation donors seek to maintain the difficult balance of respecting the legacy of previous generations and revolutionizing philanthropy for greater impact, aiming to use new, innovative, even risky strategies to make their giving more effective.
• For next generation donors, philanthropy is a part of who they are; it is not just something they do. They start developing their philanthropic identity from an early age by learning through hands-on experiences looking to older generations, and they are eager for new personal experiences that will help them learn to be better philanthropists.
The results were based on a survey of 310 major donors including in-depth interviews with 30 high-net-worth Generation X and Millennial individuals. I find the results quite consistent with other studies I’ve reviewed here, which makes me put stock in them. You can review the whole report here.
I’m going to be speaking at the DMA Non Profit Conference next week. If you’re a Washington, DC-area native or are coming into town for the conference, come say hello.
The DMA has asked me to share these details on the conference: It’s a great opportunity to gain insights into what other organizations like yours are doing in the fundraising world. Topics will include better ways to integrate your fundraising channels, build donor loyalty and improve your fundraising results. I’ll be speaking about what technology can and can’t do for fundraising. And toast and butter.
Technology has enormous potential, but it’s all in how we use it. Technology is at its essence a delivery system. That means what’s being delivered will determine how much good comes of it. Adam Gopnik, a favorite writer of mine, compares technology to toast: “Our thoughts are bigger than the things that deliver them… Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn’t really about the quality of the bread or how it’s sliced or the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It’s about the butter.” He means the content of our ideas—the butter—is more valuable than the delivery vehicle —the toast of technology— that carries them. I’ll be talking about toast, butter and how to use technology in a way that drives more dollars.
More details here.
- Fri, January 25 2013
- Filed under: Personal
I recently had drinks with a mentor of mine, and he was remarking on the fact I post so often (here and at my other, LinkedIn blog). I shared with him one of the honest, personal reasons why, and he said, “You should blog about that.” Since one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to venture beyond what’s easy into the territory of what is profoundly uncomfortable (see #3), here goes. Following are the real reasons I am compelled to blog.
1. To think as I could be, not as I am. I post about ways I want to think, ideas I should pursue and how I could do better work. Each post is at its essence personally aspirational. I write to remind myself of all the lessons I should be applying, not because I’ve mastered any of them, but because I want to try. I recently heard Seth Godin tell Mitch Joel that (even he!) shares his wisdom for himself as much as for the rest of us. Blogging at its best is the pursuit of a better self.
2.To step out of my own, tiny experience. Blogging makes me do two important mental exercises. First, it makes me work through my thoughts more fully. It’s one thing to have an idea - it’s much harder to explain it in a post. Or it’s one thing to read a book, quite another to publicly discuss what was important about it. The second mental exercise is that blogging forces me to apply those more fully formed thoughts beyond my little, silly, daily existence. I have to explore the larger significance of a concept, and that in turn broadens and betters my own experience. It helps me combat intellectual laziness.
3. To kick to the curb the shrill critic in my head. There’s an unkind and unimpressed judge who visits my mind, and she is at her most outspoken when I write, brainstorm or develop a daring idea. She tells me what I’m thinking is strange or stupid or shameful. Often, she gets in the way of my work—for example right now as I blog about blogging, which she yells that no one cares about. Perhaps you’ve met her on occasion. I know Brene Brown has met her, as has Anne Lamott, who points to her perfectionist tendencies. As Lamott puts it, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).” Each time I post something, however simple or small, it involves kicking this inner critic to the curb. It’s creation having to crush fear. Even if the shrill voice is right, if I hit Publish, at least I didn’t listen to her. At least I put something imperfect out there. At least I kept trying. We have to go to battle with this judge as often as we can, with as much force as we can muster. That - as far as I can tell - is the arduous but necessary road to invention.
4. To be in the act of creation. (This reason requires a lot of kicking to the curb.) I believe that if we’re in the act of creating something, we are living most fully in that moment. An act of creation is gloriously affirmative for ourselves and can be a gift to others. I wrote my book when I was going through my divorce from my first husband, and that generative act amid destruction taught me a thing or two about the power of making something. It’s really good for a person. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece and it doesn’t have to be the best thing we ever did. It just has to be something that is our own, that we put out there for others. It might be a book, an idea for a new product or a loaf of bread. As long as creation is happening, we are really living. Blogging makes me create, even at 11 pm when I really don’t feel like it, and that practice makes me more creative in everything else I do.
5. To make it better for someone else. You’ll notice that up to now, this is an entirely selfish list. That’s what makes this a confession. I blog with the dream of being a better person, and I write and share the kinds of things I most want to read. Honestly, that is what gives me the energy to do it every day. And yet… While it’s in many ways about me, it’s about you as well. It seems that when we share with others our aspirations, our interests and our passions, it helps other people connect with their own aspirations, interests and passions. It makes something bigger than just me or just you. I care deeply about that. If I didn’t, I would have a diary instead of a blog. My happiest blogging days aren’t when I’ve written a post I like (and believe me, I don’t have many of those given that judge in #3). They are when I created something that someone else said made a difference to them. Or when someone reacts in a way that advances my ideas in a fresh direction. By doing #1 through #4 in public, that is sometimes possible. And that is what makes thinking out loud, in type, ultimately worthwhile. It’s the hope that I might find a meeting of the minds, in the limitless and inspiring place that is far above and beyond the confines of my own head.
- Thu, January 24 2013
- Filed under: Video
The Copyblogger post points to why this is great storytelling:
1. It’s remarkable: We get to go on a first-hand journey to save this dog - and the puppies. The iPhone trick is pretty nifty too. It’s the kind of thing you want to share because it’s different and surprising.
2. It’s emotionally compelling: We identify with the mother dog’s plight, and the amazing way she is saved.
3. There’s a clear call to action at the end.
I agree on all three fronts. Through another lens, this is also good storytelling because there is a clear hero, something real at stake and a lesson/solution.
The best part is it’s low budget. And it doesn’t matter. If anything, it adds to the authenticity.
What could you film from the front lines of your work? And before you say you can’t do this because you don’t have a cause as cute as puppies or you must respect the anonymity of those you serve, get creative. If you’re a policy organization, go film the people who are the end beneficiaries of your work. If you can’t film people you help, go talk to frontline staff or volunteers about their lives and experience. Do what this video does best: Invite us into the innermost experience of your organization, and take us on the adventure it is.
One of the most powerful things you can do this year is to make more visible to your supporters the impact of their gifts. If you don’t, you are likely to lose your donors and volunteers - as well as the chance to build morale and excitement among your staff.
Here’s a great example of an organization doing just that. The Minneapolis Jewish Federation has launched The Make a World of Difference Project, which shows what’s happening in every corner of the world thanks to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and its network of partners.
Every year, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation distributes approximately $15 - $18 million dollars to support programs and services that change the lives of people living in Minneapolis, Israel and 70 countries around the world. That means it can be difficult to convey the impact of its giving and that of the partner agencies it supports. These efforts range from a single mother in Minneapolis who staves off foreclosure thanks to an emergency financial assistance grant, to a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor living in Ukraine who receives food, medicine and warm clothes, to a boy in Haiti who can access a counselor to manage the post-traumatic stress he endures following the earthquake.
“At any given time the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and its network of partners are making such a strong global impact,” said David Grossman, owner of Grossman Design, the creator of the innovative tool. “The Make a World of Difference Project gives donors a real-time look into how Federation is changing the lives of people and communities around the world, every day.”
Built on top of the Google Earth platform, the Make a World of Difference Project uses pins to identify and present the suite of Federation-supported organizations, programs and services. Each pin takes users to a unique page that has aggregated newsfeeds and video galleries from the most widely-used social media sites – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – capturing up-to-date news about what is happening on the ground through each organization, program and service. Users can like, share and comment on the feeds, helping to spread the impact of a networked, global community.
Take a look for yourself here.
Too fancy for you? Here are some other ways to show impact:
1. Provide clear and simple information on how money will be used. The more tangible, the better. For example: “Buy this backpack and our company donates $1 for school supplies for kids who can’t afford them.” There is a lot of research showing that specificity boosts giving and purchasing. Vague statements don’t work as well - and they fuel skepticism among consumers.
2. Show, don’t just tell. It’s not enough to talk about the problem you’re addressing - you need to make clear you have a compelling solution that is making positive change. That means you need to show your impact vividly. Tell stories, use images and draw on the power of video to bring to life the difference being made every day.
3. Choose your messengers wisely. The best way to prove you have a positive impact is to get someone else to say it. Endorsements, ratings, seals of approval and testimonials are great ways to build trust with consumers.
- Tue, January 22 2013
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
We’re often far more effective as marketers if we control our tendency to seize the role of messenger and contemplate who might be better at that job than us.
Here’s the story of an organization that did just that - and landed on one of the most surprising - and creative - choices of messengers that I’ve ever encountered. And it led to the mostly unlikely (and successful) of partnerships.
The Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Organization was trying to figure out the best way to get women talking about their health - and learning about the often-missed symptoms of ovarian cancer. They could have gone the regular routes - through doctors or public service announcements. Instead, they took a step back and looked for times and places when women were most open about their health - and comfortable learning about ovarian cancer. The answer was not what you’d expect: when they were bring their pets to the vet.
“It has been noted through our Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association members that pet owners talking about their pet’s health often feel comfortable talking to the veterinarian about their own health concerns. This provides that veterinarian a platform that offers an easy transition into difficult concerns and conversations. Raising awareness about this silent killer and saving lives will be our goal,” said Peter Weber, executive director, Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association of a new partnership with the Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Organization.
And so was born the OCSA Veterinary Outreach Program (VOP)—- and its mission of “fighting ovarian cancer with animal passion.”
I love this example of thinking about messengers, messages and partners far outside our daily experience - but intimately close to our audience.
And as a fascinating aside, there’s yet another interesting intersection of these partners. According to Weber, “There are ongoing studies that have been done and are ongoing that are extremely promising as it relates to dogs “sniffing” out ovarian cancer. . There is no simple, effective screening test for ovarian cancer and the dogs are demonstrating tremendous accuracy in identifying women with the malignancy. The medical profession has known for a long time that cancer or any other specific type of tissue can secrete aromatic compounds that have a unique odor to them. Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell and can identify healthy (benign) women from women with ovarian cancer. The two primary studies have shown that dogs were effective in identifying malignancy both through smelling the patients’ breath and urine.”
There you go!
How can you apply this kind of innovative thinking to your cause?
- Mon, January 21 2013
- Filed under: Fun stuff
Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop.com, founding partner at Garage Technology, and former chief evangelist of Apple, is one of the most sought after speakers there is. And he’s agreed to present a Network for Good webinar for nonprofits on how to shape and self-publish your organization’s story.
(If you register, a few days later you will receive a recording of the webinar so you can enjoy it even if you’re not available Tuesday. Since I always get a flurry of emails of readers telling me they did not get their recording, please note: it takes a couple of days and it may be in your spam filter. Please check there if you don’t receive it.)
- Fri, January 18 2013
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
Pursuant to yesterday’s post about the dire state of the fundraising field, I want to offer some tips that I posted on LinkedIn yesterday..
Before you take a job in nonprofit fundraising (and there are lots of vacant jobs out there!) or hire a fundraiser, do the following.
1. Confirm the nonprofit organization warmly embraces the need to fundraise. For an organization to succeed in fundraising, it has to view asking for money as a beautiful partnership between people who work to make the world a better place - and those who join in helping them.
2. Ensure the organization sees fundraising as everyone’s job - as reflected in the way the leadership, board and staff collaboratively support and coordinate with the development director. Together, they set and hold themselves collectively accountable for goals.
3. Make sure the fundraiser is well trained - or can get trained. A huge problem is that many fundraisers aren’t qualified for the job. One in four executive directors (24%) in the CompassPoint report said their development directors have no experience or are novice at “current and prospective donor research.” Among the smallest nonprofits, the number was 32%. If you’re a fundraiser, get well trained. And if you’re a nonprofit, hire qualified people or invest in turning your fundraisers into qualified people by paying for them to get the help they need to do their job.
One last, critical thought: All nonprofits and fundraisers must invest in treating donors like partners, thanking them regularly and conscientiously reporting on the impact they had. That’s the way to fix the grim donor attrition problem we have.
We have a lot of work to do in our field. We’d better start now - the good of the world is truly at stake.
- Thu, January 17 2013
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
The headline of this post is the gist of a depressing new report from CompassPoint and the Haas, Jr. Fund: UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. Based on a national survey of more than 2,500 development directors and executive directors, the study documents heavy turnover and vacancies in development director positions, a lack of basic fundraising systems, and key board and staff leaders who aren’t sufficiently focused on raising money. On top of that, one in four nonprofit leaders reported that their previous development director was fired.
Sorry to hit you with that news this morning. I hope it doesn’t describe your situation!
Here are the key findings - quoted from the study team.
1. Organizations are struggling with high turnover and long vacancies in the development director post.
• Executive directors at organizations where the development director position was vacant said the posts had been open for an average of 6 months. Almost half (46%) reported vacancies even longer than that.
• Half of development directors said they expect to leave their current jobs in two years or less; and the rate was even higher for smaller organizations.
• Forty percent of development directors aren’t committed to careers in development.
2. Organizations aren’t finding enough qualified candidates for development director jobs. Executives also report performance problems and a lack of basic fundraising skills among key development staff.
• Asked about the last time they tried to hire a new development director, more than half of executives (53%) said the search produced an insufficient number of candidates with the right mix of skills and experience.
• Nearly one in three executives are lukewarm about, or dissatisfied with, the performance of their current development directors.
• One in four executive directors (24%) said their development directors have no experience or are novice at “current and prospective donor research.” Among the smallest nonprofits, the number was 32%.
3. Beyond creating a development director position and hiring someone who is qualified for the job, organizations and their leaders need to build the capacity, the systems, and the culture to support fundraising success. The findings indicate that many nonprofits aren’t doing this.
• Almost one in four nonprofits (23%)—and 31% of organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million—have no fundraising plan in place. In addition, 21% of organizations overall—and 32% of organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million— have no fundraising database.
• Three out of four executive directors (75%)—and 82% of executives among organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million—say that board members are not doing enough to support fundraising.
• Twenty-six percent of executives identified themselves as having no competency or being a novice at fundraising. Further, among executives who said that asking for contributions was one of their main duties, 18% said they dislike it.
• Just 41% of development directors said the partnership between them and their executives on fund development work is strong, compared with 53% of executive directors.
• A majority of development directors reported only little or moderate influence on key activities such as getting other staff involved in fundraising or developing organizational budgets.
• Significant numbers of development directors questioned the effectiveness of their organizations’ fundraising efforts.
OK. Enough of the problem. What the heck do we do about this? Please weigh in. In the meantime, the study team recommends that we:
1. Embrace the importance fundraising across organizations
2. Elevate the field of fundraising - As explained by Kim Klein, “Money is one of the great taboos in our culture. We are taught not to think about it or ask about it… As with the subjects of sex, death, mental illness, religion, politics, and other taboos, people say little about their experiences with money. With people so carefully taught that it is rude to talk about money, it’s certainly not an easy task to ask for it.”
3. Strengthen the talent pool
4. Train boards differently
5. Treat fundraisers like the key staff they are with appropriate transition planning
6. Invest in building grantee fundraising capacity
7. Do more with technology and the innovation it allows
8. Set realistic fundraising goals
9. Share accountability for those goals
10. Fundraisers and executive directors should both show greater leadership
What do you think can be done?
- Wed, January 16 2013
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
(Quick side note to those of you who subscribe to my blog via RSS or Feedblitz: Yesterday’s video didn’t render for you. I’m sorry it got blocked! If you didn’t get to see it, go here!)
I am reading Daniel Pink‘s new book, To Sell Is Human. The central point of the book is this: Whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, nonprofit staff trying to persuade people to rally to our cause, or parents trying to get our kids to do their homework, we spend our days trying to move others. As Pink puts it: “Do you earn your living trying to convince others? Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.”
I agree with this - in fact, I’ve often said we’re all marketers, too. Pink says that means we need three skills - the ABCs. Not the old “always be closing” mantra of Glengarry Glen Ross, but rather attunement, buoyancy and clarity. He means the ability to connect, a sense of resilience and clarity of purpose. We all must learn to pitch, to improvise and to serve.
“Selling isn’t some grim accommodation to a brutal marketplace culture. It’s part of who we are - and therefore something we can do better by being more human.”
We would all make the world a better place if we embraced the fact we can’t just be right in our fight. The best idea in the world can’t advance without connecting to others. We have to persuade others to join our effort. And that isn’t dictating - it’s selling. Congratulations - you’re a salesman or a saleswoman. And I am too.
Our brains are actually hard wired to relate to other people’s experiences. When we witness or imagine someone acting, our own neurons fire in the same way they would if we were undertaking the same action. That’s why your heart races when your favorite athlete soars toward the football or you feel fear and sorrow watching a mother struggling to save her child from flood waters.
When we translate that empathy into helping another person, we have another reaction in our brains: We’re rewarded with happy feelings, thanks to a chemical dose to our brain’s pleasure center. I like to imagine (and there is some evidence) that the human race is somehow designed to commit to each other and accomplish great things in concert. I’ll give you an example. Watch this video and think about how you feel. It makes me happier - and kinder.
In this ad, Coke has connected to these deep rewards of generosity. The purpose of this post is to ask, if Coke is doing it, why the heck aren’t you? Why aren’t you making people as happy as you could by making visible the acts of kindness that you commit every day, all day, at work? You can and should awaken these feelings in the people you want to move to action. It’s not manipulation. It’s being human.
Please think about this clip and how your cause could be its star. The next time you send something a message out to the world, make sure:
1. It tells a vivid story of someone doing good
2. It shows the reaction of the person helped
3. It inspires the rest of us to do the same
This is the incredibly simple, science-driven way to connect and compel. And Coke shouldn’t be the only one doing it.
You can and should, too.
- Mon, January 14 2013
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
Here’s a quick, good read for a Monday morning: 3 ways to get people to open your emails, based on brain psychology.
1. Use something personally relevant to grab attention
2. Make your subject line oddly short, long or different
3. Surprise people by switching it up
Why do these work - and how exactly do you make this happen? Read this ClickZ article for the details
- Fri, January 11 2013
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
Let 2013 be the year that you exceed your nonprofit fundraising and marketing goals. Not sure how to reach your full potential this year?
The team here at Network for Good has outlined the 10 critical areas of focus for successful nonprofits, including social media, mobile and maximizing online giving. You can discover our recommendations for your 10 Fundraising Mantras for 2013 and let them guide you to true fundraising enlightenment.
One of the mantras is to keep your donors! Do that with:
1. Focus on donor retention more than donor acquisition. Instead of spending more time hunting for new donors, invest in fundraising success by working to keep the donors you have.
2. Focus on donor lifetime value, not one-off campaigns. Gauge success by the way your supporters behave over their entire time of supporting you. This requires a commitment to building donor relationships and to looking at your response rate over time.
3. Focus on results, not effort. It’s not how hard you are working. It’s what happens as a result of that work. Consider this when allocating time and resources to donor acquisition vs. donor retention.
4. Focus on your most passionate supporters. Understand who your most loyal donors currently are. Do you know how to identify those people? Create a special plan to analyze your donors and continually cultivate the most committed. It is extremely difficult to replace these star supporters if they stop giving.
The free guide is here. (Registration required.)