Thu, December 18 2014

What Nonprofits Can Learn from Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fun stuff •

joeEditor’s note: This post was written by Joe Waters, author of Fundraising with Businesses and Cause Marketing for Dummies. You can also check out Joe’s work on his blog Selfish Giving.

bell-ringers

I’ve always admired The Salvation Army bell ringers. In addition to donating their time and ringing their signature bell in all sorts of terrible weather, the program raises a sack of money that rivals Santa’s. Last year, kettle bells raised $136 million nationally for The Salvation Army’s mission, which includes food, shelter, addiction recovery assistance, after-school programs and many other services for the needy.

The secret to The Salvation Army’s success isn’t a secret at all—or a complicated fundraising strategy. They have an iconic brand that resonates with people during the holidays, and they work their butts off in December to raise as much money as possible with kettle bells. If you’re a nonprofit and want to stop reading now you should remember that brand and hustle matter. But bell ringers can teach you a lot if you’ll only take a moment to stop and learn instead of hurrying by.

3 Lessons from Salvation Army Bell Ringers

1. You can’t just stand there anymore. People are more distracted than ever these days. They have a lot on their minds and their heads are buried in their smartphones. Savvy bell ringers sing songs, dance and will do anything else to get the attention of passerbys. “You’ve got to get people’s attention and remind them that we’re here,” said one bell ringer to the Wall Street Journal. “And sometimes the bell just doesn’t do that.”

Nonprofits have to do everything they can to earn the attention of supporters. Even if you don’t physically sing and dance like a bell ringer, people want a song and dance to move them to act. An extreme example of what Wine to Water did earlier this year to expand its supporter base.

Wine to Water was founded by Doc Hendley, a former bartender turned do-gooder. MSLGROUP, a global public relations agency, adopted Wine to Water after one of its managing directors saw the charity profiled on CNN Heroes. Doc knew that Wine to Water needed to do something dramatic to cut through the clutter and get people’s attention.

With the help of two Napa Valley wine experts, they developed and launched the Miracle Machine, which claimed to turn water into wine in three days.

water-wine

Fabulous, right?

One publication thought so. Business Insider ran the first story on the Miracle Machine.

That’s all it took!

The mainstream press picked up the story and the Miracle Machine appeared in at least 600 publications, and it was read over 500 million times! A Kickstarter board for the machine generated 7,000 requests for more information on the product.

But underneath all the allure and fascination with this revolutionary product was a GOOD secret. The Miracle Machine was a fake! Two weeks after Business Insider ran its story – the hoaxters came clean. The true miracle is not turning water into wine, but wine to water. That’s the work of Doc Hendley’s organization Wine to Water.

This bell-ringing program from Wine to Water brought in millions of new supporters.

2. It takes a team (of volunteers). While most kettle bells have just one volunteer, the best bell ringers know that you need a team to be a top ringer. That’s the advice of Tom Bomil, a two time winner of the Salvation Army’s Christmas Eve Bell Ringing Contest in Lowell, Massachusetts.

“The key thing is you’re not doing it all by yourself. My name may be at the forefront, but I’m just the captain of what is really a team thing, not an individual effort,” said Bomil to the Lowell Sun. “My co-workers helped me. My brother came out for an hour. They all helped us ringing the bell,”

Bomil’s message is clear: you can’t do it alone. And you can’t afford to accomplish all your goals with paid staff. You need volunteers. But many nonprofits balk at the large-scale volunteer programs that could transform their organizations.

Take the example of Austin Pets Alive! which has gained local and national attention by relentlessly focusing on an everyday tragedy: the unnecessary euthanizing of dogs and cats.

Since 2008, APA! has generated thousands of pieces of content, largely created by a team of volunteers. Thanks to their efforts, Austin is the country’s largest “no-kill” city. “No-kill” means at least 90 percent of strays are not euthanized.

The APA! takes their work seriously. They have around 100 volunteers writing blog posts, pet bios and producing videos starring dogs and cats in need of homes. They also contribute content like how-to guides for no-kill advocates and adopter resource information for new pet owners.

If you take volunteer engagement as seriously like The Salvation Army and Austin Pets Alive! do you’ll can make someone’s Christmas wish come true!

dogs
Adam Sowers on Flickr

3. Technology is your friend with benefits.

The Salvation Army has been raising money with red kettle bells since the 1890’s. And while it raises the bulk of its money from this traditional tactic, the nonprofit hasn’t hesitated to embrace technology and try new tactics. They include:

  • An online red kettle program you can join to collect personal donations.
  • An iPhone app that lets you ring your own bell and collect donations.
  • Red kettles with QR codes that take donors with smartphones but no cash to an online donation site.
  • Another mobile option is text-to-give. Just send a text to 4-1-4-4-4 with the words REDSHIELD. You’ll receive a confirmation text and a link to a mobile website.
  • A hashtag campaign that encourages Americans to share personal reasons for donating with the hashtag #RedKettleReason.

If a century-old organization can embrace social media, online giving and mobile technology, so can you! Businesses especially are looking for digitally savvy nonprofits that can keep pace with their own online and mobile efforts. After hosting an online red kettle program that raised $50,000, the fourth largest pizza delivery company in the country, Papa John’s Pizza, created a Red-Kettle Cookie. Through December 28th, Papa John’s will donate 50 cents per cookie sold, up to $300,000, to The Salvation Army.

cookie

Adopting technology and being cutting edge hasn’t been easy for The Salvation Army - and not everything works. But like any army they’re focused on pushing forward. So should you.

Start Your Own Kettle Fundraiser

box

While The Salvation Army’s fundraising strategy is no secret, here’s something you might not have realized. Salvation Army red kettles are just donation boxes (aka coin canisters). But instead of being outside near the entrance or exit, donation boxes are inside the store right next to the register.

A lot of nonprofits dismiss donation boxes as old-school and a huge hassle. But when done well, these programs can raise thousands of dollars locally and tens of millions of dollars nationally!

Here’s how to execute your own successful donation box program.

Target busy stores. With donation boxes, the more foot traffic there is the more money you’ll raise. It’s a numbers game in that your odds improve as you see more people. Sure, you can put a donation box in a tailor’s shop. But how many customers does a tailor see each day? Not as many as a supermarket, coffee shop, or bakery.

Cash is king. A while back a car dealership called me about doing donation boxes. I told them to choose something else. How many people are buying cars with cash, much less quarters, nickels and dimes? Target businesses where people pay with cash.

No tips allowed. Tip jars are popular at many businesses. But your coin canister won’t be if you try to replace the tip jar with your donation box. Employees depend on the tip jar! A Starbucks barista once told me that tips added $50 per week to her paycheck. If you include your charity canister alongside a tip jar, one will go missing. And it won’t be the tip jar!

Front and center. I’ve seen donation boxes in the strangest places, including a men’s bathroom in one store. The best place for a donation box is right in front of the cash register. Don’t give people an excuse to say no. A donation box anywhere except at the register is just begging to be ignored.

Security is key. Theft is a big problem with donation boxes, especially with the round canisters with the slot in the top. It’s demoralizing to the business and the nonprofit when they get swiped. Either empty canisters regularly to discourage thieves, or invest in heavy-duty donation boxes that can’t be stolen. Whatever you do, make security a priority.

Donation boxes are an excellent way to begin a partnership with a business. The USO has grown its donation box partnership with convenience store chain Kangaroo Express into a million dollar program. The fundraiser includes special events with patriotic show cars visiting KE stores and customers showing their appreciation for troops with recorded messages aired on the Salute Our Troops website.

Looking for more examples of donation box fundraisers? Here are 39 example of donation boxes that are sure to educate and inspire!

One request: don’t set up your donation box next to a red kettle. December is for The Salvation Army! You have eleven other months to amass your own pot of gold. When you do see a red kettle this month, give generously and know that the bell ringer is a call to action for the new year. The poets words ring true. “Never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Joe Waters shows do-gooder nonprofits and businesses how to create win-win partnerships that raise money for good causes and increase stakeholder loyalty. He blogs at Selfishgiving.com. Subscribe to his podcast CauseTalk Radio on iTunes!

Tue, December 16 2014

Lessons from N4G’s #GivingTuesday Award Winners

Jamie McDonald's avatar

Chief Giving Officer, Network for Good

Filed under:   Giving Days •

Network for Good hosted a special #GivingTuesday campaign, N4G Gives, focused on equipping nonprofits with the tools and knowledge for #GivingTuesday success.  The N4G Gives campaign provided free #GivingTuesday resources to the entire nonprofit community and special training and matching funds to nonprofits using DonateNow, our online giving platform. In addition to matching funds, we also recognized the leaders in 10 fundraising categories with special awards. Read about seven special award winners below and learn more about the top three winners in a previous post.

Honorable Mention Most Dollars Raised: The Sikh Coalition

The Sikh Coalition was founded by volunteers on the night of September 11, 2001 in response to a torrent of violent attacks against Sikh Americans throughout the United States. The Sikh Coalition is the largest Sikh American advocacy and community development organization in the United States.  Today, the Sikh Coalition works toward the realization of civil and human rights for all people.

Key tactics
The Sikh Coalition built their #GivingTuesday campaign around a core tenet of Sikhism focused on the obligation to be generous. They “love #GivingTuesday because of the urgency created around a one-day campaign and the ability to inspire donors to give earlier in December.”

Key elements

     
  • Two emails really drove the campaign. On Monday, 12/1, they sent an email out focused on driving #GT donations in a general way. On #GivingTuesday, they sent an email focused on the story of the wife of a Sikh hate crime victim. They believe it was a powerful one-two punch and their results would support that.
  •  
  • Then, on #GivingTuesday, the Sikh Coalition rallied their supporters around the competition of the N4G Gives campaign. They shared updates about their position on the leaderboard through social channels throughout the day.
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  • As they saw their position rising on the leaderboards, they asked a longtime supporter to add a match to dollars raised, which he did, and they were able to build significant momentum late in the day. (This willingness for a donor to come forward with matching funds on the day of a campaign with good momentum is something we have seen in many giving days around the country.)


Honorable Mention Most Donors: Harding University

Honarable mention most donors - Harding University

Harding University is a liberal arts college in Arkansas with about 6200 students.  With the growing popularity of giving days among colleges, the team at Harding has been thinking about launching a giving day.  In November, they decided that #GivingTuesday would be a great day to test the concept.

Key tactics

     
  • Branded campaign theme and visuals
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  • 5 emails sent during the last 10 days leading up to and on #GivingTuesday
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  • Thank you email sent early on 12/3
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  • Fun contests launched during Thanksgiving week on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to build excitement for the campaign
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  • A video of their President sharing the goals of the campaign was shared on social channels and included in the email on Monday 12/2
  •  
  • On #GivingTuesday, they posted on social channels at least hourly and asked faculty, students and staff to share actively
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  • A #GivingTuesday giving area was set up in the student commons with tables, iPads, couches, donuts, balloons to spur spontaneous giving and sharing – and great picture opportunities.


Honorable Mention, Most New Recurring Donors: YogaSeed Collective

Honorable mention - most new recurring donors - Yogaseed Collective

Yoga Seed Collective is a group of community members who bring yoga to vulnerable and high risk populations that suffer from high rates of chronic disease, behavioral health problems and lack of accessibility to culturally sensitive services. 

Key tactics
Yoga Seed focused its #GivingTuesday campaign on recurring givers at $15 a month.  They believe that, while recurring donors may produce lower donations in December, the long-term impact of committed sustaining donors is more powerful in the long run.  They even plan to refocus 2015 development efforts so that half their time is spent on communicating and collaborating with these dedicated supporters, instead of constantly asking for more.

Key elements

     
  • Yoga Seed focused heavily on social marketing for #GT.
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  • They created and shared a youtube video alongside thank you memes.
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  • One of the most creative campaign elements we saw were the personal graphics that Yoga Seed created for supporters, like the example on the right.


N4G Staff Pick for Best Campaign: Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue

N4G staff pick for best campaign- Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue

Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue (BBAR) won over the N4G team with their amazing campaign and straightforward mission: Saving badass dogs from idiot humans.  BBAR is a nonprofit, all-volunteer dog rescue composed of a network of fosters and volunteers who work together to rescue sweet, adoptable dogs from high kill, rural shelters in the southern U.S. and get them adopted into wonderful forever homes.

BBAR has grown through the commitment of its passionate volunteers and they recognized earlier this year that they need to define a strategy for sustainable funding streams.  Recurring givers were identified as a key emphasis.  And #GivingTuesday became the jumping off point for their first-ever planned campaign.

Key tactics
What made the BBAR campaign special was that they brought together an actual rescue of 11 dogs from a shelter in Georgia (the #GivingTuesday dogs) with email and social outreach.  They live tweeted and instagrammed the rescue of the 11 dogs while asking supporters to give, spread the word, and set up a recurring gift.

Key elements

     
  • BBAR has built a “badass” website, so all outreach leading up to, and on the day of #GT, centered around driving people to the BBAR website
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  • They did a series of emails and posts using #GT as the kickoff of year end, with the theme “Give a Little. Save a Life.”
  •  
  • Emails stressed both one time and recurring gifts, and asked donors to consider making both a #GivingTuesday gift and to set up a recurring gift to start in January.  They had a meaningful number of donors who did both…it pays to ask!
  •  
  • Online giving page was set up to support the visuals and strategy of the campaign, including an emphasis on recurring giving
  •  
  • Added a banner to their homepage driving visitors to #GivingTuesday donation page
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  • Created a Facebook event for #GivingTuesday and then paid for Facebook ads to drive people to the event/campaign
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  • Encouraged adopters to share #UNselfies with their Badass dogs


Most time on the Leaderboards without “Winning” a Category: Sankara Eye Foundation

Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) is dedicated to eradicating curable blindness in India.  Sankara has a big job: to provide eye health and surgery for the 55 million blind people in India.  They are heavily volunteer driven with only 1 full-time and 2 part-time staff people.

Key tactics
SEF participated in #GivingTuesday for the first time this year.  They developed their campaign as one element in a year-long matching gift challenge.  The campaign message centered around the concept that for less that the cost of a movie and popcorn, you can give the gift of sight. Hey also focused on the opportunity to earn extra funds by winning a category in the N4G Gives campaign as an additional motivator.

Key elements

     
  • “Thanks for providing 1.2 million free surgeries” email on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, highlighting opportunity to give on #GivingTuesday
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  • On the day of #GT, heavy focus on outreach through social channels, including individual channels of CEO and Development Director
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  • Publicized the campaign on portals of a couple of related advocacy organizations
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  • Ran a few targeted radio ads to build awareness for their campaign
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  • Provided hourly updates of their progress moving up the leaderboards


Best Social Campaign: Collective Action for Safe Spaces

Best Social Campaign Collective Action for Safe Spaces

Founded in 2009 as Holla Back DC!, Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) has evolved from a blog to a dynamic organization that mobilizes the community to end public sexual harassment and assault in the DC metropolitan area. It does this through both online and offline activism.  CASS has only one paid staff member and a committed base of volunteers.

Key tactics
CASS participated in #GT 2013 with a campaign that was put together in a hurry and had a good response but felt that they could do better.  So this year, a core team met to plan a robust #GivingTuesday campaign.  They read materials from experts like N4G and followed the recommendations for building a powerful campaign, with a heavy emphasis on social outreach.  The result was that they quadrupled their results over 2013 and ranked 4th among all N4G nonprofits for number of donors on #GivingTuesday.

Key elements

     
  • Beginning in October CASS shared messaging every Tuesday about their good work and the opportunity to support them on #GT
  •  
  • They scrubbed and segmented their donor list so that emails could be written with an emphasis on what was important to each audience
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  • 12 people were trained to reach out effectively to their networks on #GT
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  • A phone bank pizza party was held to prime the pump and get people excited about #GivingTuesday
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  • They emailed before, day of and after #GivingTuesday, including a terrific Thank You email!
  •  
  • They made effective use of social channels and reaped the benefits of training an outreach team to leverage their messages
  •  
  • They raised more than $17,000 and exceeded their original #GT goal by 43%


‘Rookie of the Year’ for an organization new to the N4G Family: Our Little Roses

Little girls begging for food is an all too common sight in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Central America. Our Little Roses (OLR) provides a full-time residential home for abused, abandoned and neglected girls in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, dedicated to transforming neglected girls into productive, joyful young women. The girls who arrive at Our Little Roses often come from overwhelming situations of abject poverty, physical or sexual abuse, abandonment and oppression.

Our Little Roses new Executive Director, Cheryl Chapman, followed a legendary founder who recently retired after 25 years.  Cheryl is not a professional fundraiser, but clearly she is a fundraiser at heart.  Just six weeks ago, she decided that OLR needed a much improved online giving capability and she turned to Network for Good.  She followed the NFG recommendations for best practices and geared up to launch her first-ever #GivingTuesday campaign.  OLR’s straightforward, focused campaign was so successful that they were in the top ten for dollars raised among all N4G organizations!

Key tactics
OLR focused on board activation and email outreach as core strategies for #GivingTuesday.  They also highlighted the availability of NFG matching funds and bonus funds.  Throughout the day they used their leaderboard standing as a reason to pump up their communication.

Key elements

     
  • Beginning Thanksgiving week, OLR actively communicated with their board about the campaign, the opportunity for matching funds, and the importance of spreading the word about Our Little Roses to friends and family.
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  • On #GivingTuesday, OLR sent two emails, one in the morning and one in the evening.
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  • They actively marketed their leaderboard standing on Facebook throughout the day.
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  • A supporter was so energized by the success of the OLR #GivingTuesday campaign that he came forward on December 3rd with an unsolicited offer to match the entire campaign!

Rookie of the year - Our Little Roses



 

Fri, December 12 2014

Lessons from N4G’s top #GivingTuesday performers

Jamie McDonald's avatar

Chief Giving Officer, Network for Good

Filed under:   Giving Days •

#GivingTuesday has arrived

On December 2, nonprofits and donors came together in an inspiring day of generosity.  Millions of dollars were raised to fuel the good work of nonprofits all over the world.

Network for Good hosted a special campaign, N4G Gives, focused on equipping nonprofits with the tools and knowledge for #GivingTuesday success.  The N4G Gives campaign provided free #GivingTuesday resources to the entire nonprofit community and special training and matching funds to nonprofits using DonateNow, our online giving platform. In addition to matching funds, we also recognized the leaders in 10 fundraising categories with special awards.

The most exciting validation of the value of #GivingTuesday is reflected in the experience of the “winners” of Network for Good’s N4G Gives campaign.  They are large and small. Some planned for months, and some started the day before. Some have large staff teams, and some are staffed exclusively by volunteers.

The common thread across all the winners was their determination to activate their passionate supporters and advocates to both give and inspire others, and to create a sense of excitement and urgency under the umbrella of #GivingTuesday.

And the winner is…

Most Dollars Raised: Alameda County Community Food Bank, Oakland California (ACCFB)

Alameda County Community Food BankAlameda County Community Food Bank is on a mission to end food insecurity in Alameda County, California.  In 2014, the Food Bank distributed 25 million meals - more than half of the food was fresh fruits and vegetables.

Their big vision can only be realized with strong donor support, and ACCFB inspired people to donate more than $100,000 (online and offline) on #GivingTuesday.

Key tactics
After watching the progress of the #GivingTuesday movement in 2013, the team at ACCFB decided to go "all out" in 2014.  They pursued a multi-channel approach including email, website, digital ads, and social.  Planning started about six weeks before #GivingTuesday, but activation went into high gear during Thanksgiving week.

Key elements

  • Created a visual "badge" for all #GivingTuesday communications
  • Changed website header and homepage, and published a post about #GivingTuesday
  • Asked a corporate supporter to provide a match on first $20k raised
  • Sent their first email on the Monday of Thanksgiving week
  • Launched their big push on 12/1:UN Selfies Supporters
               
    • Sent email announcing matching funds
    •          
    • Launched #GivingTuesday branded donation page
    •          
    • Asked supporters to take #UNselfies and share
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  • Rallied on #GivingTuesday:

               
    • Added a homepage popup window asking visitors to donate now
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    • Pushed social media outreach
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    • Launched #GivingTuesday branded retargeting ads
    •        

Most Donors: Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society (Electronic Intifada)

The Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society’s #GivingTuesday campaign raised funds for The Electronic Intifada, its award-winning online news publication focusing on Palestine, its people, politics, culture, and place in the world. As a nonprofit digital publication, The Electronic Intifada relies on readers and supporters to provide the funding for its investigative journalism, news, and analysis.

Key Tactics
MECCS used #GivingTuesday as part of its already planned year-end campaign. The campaign’s focus was to activate new donors by emphasizing the N4G Gives matching funds, and the potential to ‘win’ bonus dollars through the N4G Gives special challenges.  The friendly competition inspired by the leaderboards was very motivating to their audience.

Key Elements

  • Deployed three emails on #GivingTuesday
               
    • First email laid out the opportunity to receive bonus and matching funds
    •          
    • Second and third emails were sent throughout the day to build excitement as they rose up the leaderboard.
    •          
  • Encouraged donors to give generously and repeatedly through the day when the "win" was in sight
  • Sent a thank you email Wednesday morning announcing the win and encouraging those that did not participate to consider giving. This outreach produced their second best day ever.

Most Recurring Donors: Wildlife SOS

India’s wildlife is under severe threat - every animal from the majestic elephant and the tiger, to the shy sloth bear and rare pangolins are being hunted. Wildlife SOS actively works towards protecting Indian wildlife, conserving habitat, studying biodiversity, conducting research, and creating alternative and sustainable livelihoods for former poacher communities.

Wildlife SOS did not focus explicitly on a #GivingTuesday campaign, rather they viewed #GivingTuesday as part of their year-end fundraising.  Their success in the N4G Gives campaign is a particularly powerful demonstration of the impact of #GivingTuesday.  Donors are inspired be part of the movement and will seek out organizations to support – sometimes, even when they are not asked specifically.

What we learned from Wildlife SOS is that the building blocks they put in place all year round pay dividends.  One of those building blocks was an emphasis on recurring, or sustaining, givers.

Key Tactics
Wildlife SOS believes in strategies focused on creating lifelong supporters.  Year-round they focus on animal sponsorships for monthly donors and feel like this gives people a tangible connection to their donation. Having the building blocks in place and then capitalizing on big events means they’re not scrambling on days like #GivingTuesday and at year-end.

Check back next week and meet seven nonprofits who caught our attention on #GivingTuesday and won the N4G Gives special awards.

 

Thu, December 11 2014

Motivate ’Em Messages: What Secrets Can You Share?

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

Filed under:   Branding • Marketing essentials •

When I saw this Facebook post from the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless (ECHH), my smile spread like wildfire.

ECHH Facebook Post

You see, we’ve been working with the ECHH team on year-end fundraising campaigns for a few years, and among the countless things I was surprised to learn when we started is just how many of the individuals and families they serve are working full-time (or more, holding multiple jobs) but still can’t make ends meet—68%!

Sixty-eight percent is a huge segment—almost two-thirds of those served by ECHH. These folks aren’t alone. Unfortunately, the “working poor” population is growing fast, but many people are still unaware of that critical detail.

In fact, there’s a common misperception that people without homes bring it on themselves through laziness (like not working or not trying to find a job), addiction, or other issues. Even though that’s untrue for so many of ECHH’s clients and for other families who have lost their homes, widespread misperceptions like this one often become so entrenched that they seem like facts.

Kudos to ECHH for opening eyes and minds to this crucial fact across its communication channels, including Facebook. It’s a potential game-changer and is likely to move some prospects from no to maybe or yes on the donate meter.

ECHH strives to correct misperceptions that stand in the way of a donation with stories that highlight the efforts those served are putting in to take care of their families. Similar stories that engage readers through likeable protagonists just like themselves were featured in a recent campaign letter:

Mom with girls

We helped Jeannie find extra work to supplement her salary from her full-time job (and build up some savings) and to get the full allotment of food stamps the family deserved.

With Martha and Renee now back to their happy selves and Jack busy in college, Jeannie is once again beginning to feel that her family is secure.

Your organization has stories and stats that are equally vital but unknown. Discover what your secrets are and unmask them asap! They may be the tipping point for your year-end fundraising campaign.

Mon, December 08 2014

How Did You Handle…? A Brilliant Change-Up for Your Year-End Campaign (and Beyond!)

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

Filed under:  

Read Part One and Part Two

This post wraps up our first topic in the new How Did You Handle…? series—specific how-tos based on your experiences.

Here’s the why and how-to behind a change-up likely to be relevant to your year-end prospects (and beyond):

Change-Up: Introducing a new fundraising spokesperson—one of our clients (that is, someone who’s been helped by our donors’ support).

Keeping It All About Our Donors, Not Our Organization

Traditionally, all year-end communications have come from our executive director, who reviews the past year’s work and impact. That’s how most organizations do it, after all.

But this year, we decided to ask one of our clients to share her story of what donors have done for her family, along with her thanks and a request for more support to help folks like her. We wanted donors to see for themselves the value of their donations, and we couldn’t think of a better way to make that happen.

Meet Julie, Our Spokesperson (and Beneficiary)

Julie is one of our food bank’s beneficiaries and the voice behind our 2014 year-end appeal for major donors—those who give $1,000-plus over the course of a year.

Julie is a successful businesswoman and mother in our community—just like so many of our major donors. She reached out to us after her life toppled to the point of needing emergency food, something she never expected to happen. We helped her feed her family when she had nowhere else to turn.

Her story is particularly powerful for major donors because it shows a different face of hunger—someone who went from living in the wealthiest area in our community to standing in a food line, and now working again and giving back, all thanks to the help of our donors. Best of all, Julie wanted to help.

Creating the Campaign

We began by inviting Julie to a face-to-face interview where she verbally “wrote” a letter to our major donors—her peers, in effect—about her experience with us. We built that conversation into a two-page campaign letter based mainly on Julie’s own words, and then powered it up with color photos, a first-time addition for our outreach to this group of donors. Since Julie requested that we not show her face, we used images of her hands holding fresh produce, carrying it in overstuffed bags, and placing bags of food into her car; these will be included as a series of stills at the bottom of each page of the letter. Specific images like this reinforce the reality of Julie’s experience for our donors in a way that’s hard to forget.

Thankfully, Julie recently started a new job and is eager to give back to the community by volunteering at the same food distribution site where she stood in line just a few months ago. We’ll feature this good news in a follow-up in our gift acknowledgement thank-you letter. In fact, Julie is so grateful for our donors’ help that she wants to add personal notes to these letters.

We’ll Keep You Posted

We think that sharing Julie’s story with major donors—featuring words and photos from someone just like them—is likely to motivate them to add to their support and/or get further involved in our mission in other ways.

Our hopes are high!

Source: Renee Thompson, director of philanthropy, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

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