Wed, August 20 2014

What’s the state of your online giving?

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:  

In our latest Network for Good video clip, I share some key points about the state of online giving. Online donations continue to grow at a faster clip than overall giving as more of our communication and actions go online. As digital natives come into their own and as we see peer fundraising, mobile giving, and events like giving days become nonprofit staples, we expect online giving rates to climb more quickly.


To make the most of digitally-minded donors, your online fundraising strategy needs to adhere to these core tenets:

Online giving can’t be siloed.  Your online fundraising efforts should be tied to your overall fundraising strategy, and integrated with your offline marketing outreach. Make sure your website, email, and social media messages match your direct mail appeals. Your donors’ conversation with you will span more than one channel. Many offline donors will still go online to learn more about you and read about the impact a gift could have.

Online giving must be easy.  The beauty of technology is that it can make things easier, faster, and more fun. Your donation experience should work to remove any barriers that might prevent someone from giving. Remember: the fewer steps and clicks it takes someone to complete a donation, the more likely they are to give.

Online giving should encourage more gifts.  In addition to making it easy to give, your donation experience should inspire donors to give more. By offering a compelling story, suggested donation amounts, and recurring giving options, you can increase your overall fundraising totals as well as your average online gift.

Need to boost your fundraising results? These resources will help you think through your online strategy:


How are you integrating online fundraising at your organization? Chime in below to share your tips and challenges with your fellow readers.

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Tue, August 19 2014

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

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

Filed under:   Marketing essentials • Websites and web usability •

Way back when, when social media was newish—let’s say 2007—I used this classic baseball analogy to illustrate how social media fit into the communications universe.

  • Your website is your nonprofit’s online home base, with email as pitcher (no hits without the pitcher).
  • Core social media platforms (now Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) as inside bases.
  • Other social media platforms as the outfield.

Then, for many organizations, social media platforms took precedence—capturing our imaginations and anxieties, if not the impact—over more traditional online and offline marketing.

In fact, social media—or at least the dream of what social media could be—eclipsed websites and email for quite a while in terms of focus and excitement. Alas, resources were seldom part of the picture. But by now, for many of us, the role of social media has moved back to the infield, with your website sticking hard at home base.

That’s because your website remains, even after all these years, the central hub for actions—giving, registering, signing a petition, and more. Social media and, yes, even email are designed to drive people to your site to act (although mobile actions are quickly growing more common).

Here are a few reasons websites live on and remain strong. When done right, your nonprofit’s website:

  • Delivers in-depth coverage of your organization’s history, work, and impact. (Multiple pages can showcase a single organization or campaign, with content that exists for the (relatively) long term vs. more ephemeral social media content.)
  • Provides access to the rich, multidimensional story of your organization.
  • Engages a significant yet diverse audience, which continues to grow as use of the mobile Web surges. Your website is now a see-anytime-anywhere platform.
  • Generates insights into visitor behavior and campaign effectiveness via well-tested, low-cost usage analytic tools.

If you needed a reason to refocus on your organization’s website, you now have several. Your website could be your organization’s killer app!

Want some tips for making your nonprofit website even better?
Join this upcoming webinar to learn how to make strategic improvements to your website that will help you better communicate with donors and raise more. You could even get a quick review of your nonprofit’s home page or donation page from the Network for Good experts.

Free Webinar: Speed Consulting! Nonprofit Websites
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 1pm EDT
Register now.

 

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Fri, August 15 2014

Why the #IceBucketChallenge works

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fun stuff • Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials • Social Media •

Are your social networks full of friends being doused in icy water? You’ve witnessed the #IceBucketChallenge.

Ethel Kennedy Ice Bucket challenge

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has taken the world by storm, prompting people across the nation to take note of, promote, and donate in support of research and assistance for those diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Challengers throw down the gauntlet to their peers:  dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate to support the ALS Association. It’s an unusual request that has a lot of people taking notice. Ethel Kennedy even challenged President Obama to join in, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has dared Bill Gates to do the same

How has any of this helped the charity? The ALS Association shares how this viral hit has helped to grow their audience—and their donation totals (over $4M so far). This represents a 1,000% spike in donations compared to the same time period last year.

So, why do campaigns like this take off? How do they tap into the part of us that shares, supports, and acts? Here are seven basic reasons why the Ice Bucket Challenge is so successful. (Note: These factors can also help make your next campaign more effective.)

It’s social. We’re social creatures, and we tend to do what other people are doing, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s who we are. We look to social norms to guide us. It’s peer pressure…for good.

It’s personal.  There’s just something about hearing and seeing your family, friends, colleagues, and public figures speak and take action. This powerful personal trigger combines with social norms to inspire action. It wouldn’t have the same effect if a complete stranger (or an organization) asked you to take the challenge.

It’s simple. The ask is pretty clear: dump a bucket of water on your head or give. That’s the choice. There’s not too much to think about there, which is the hallmark of an effective marketing message. Some may argue that an even simpler choice would limit the option to only one:  give. In this case, the ask is important, for sure, but the reason this has spread so quickly (and, in turn, raised so much money for ALS) is due to the stunt. Your ask may be easy, important, and necessary, but remember that it still needs a vehicle to reach your audience.

It’s slightly irrational.  Sometimes we are more likely to give when a stunt is more unusual, painful, or downright weird. Want proof? Look to Christopher Olivola’s experiments from The Science of Giving.

It’s direct.  Instead of issuing a blanket plea, the challenge is built around publicly calling people out. By name. When you want people to pay attention and take action, it makes a difference when you identify an individual vs. asking “everyone” to help.

It’s consistent.  Instead of deviating from the script, each participant in the Ice Bucket Challenge focuses on the same challenge and specifically supports the ALS Association. This provides a common experience and goal, which helps build momentum and community. The same wouldn’t be true if the actions or causes were randomly selected.

It’s different.  Let’s face it. It’s hard to stand out on social media, but we know that photos and videos of our friends make us linger for more than a few seconds. And people doing silly things like dumping freezing water on themselves? America’s Funniest Home Videos can’t even compare!

With all of these things going for it, the challenge does have some critics who say the stunt is merely slacktivism and doesn’t represent a real avenue for fundraising. I’m glad to see some good conversations around this, as I think it’s important for fundraisers and marketers to understand the opportunities—and the limits—of these types of campaigns. That said, as Justin Ware (The Social Side of Giving) points out, if an effort leads to 7-figure fundraising results, it’s difficult to dismiss this example of “slacktivism” as a dead-end street. Justin also smartly clues in on the real opportunity: being able to further engage and retain these new supporters. In his recent Selfish Giving newsletter, Joe Waters underscores the importance of leading with engagement before making the ask. This is where these types of social campaigns really shine.

What do you think of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Love it, hate it, or getting your bucket ready while you’re reading this? Chime in below and share your thoughts!

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Tue, August 12 2014

3 Tips for the Ultimate Donation Experience

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Websites and web usability •

Each year, our Digital Giving Index shows that the online donation experience matters. Donors are more likely to give (and more likely to give larger donations) when they are presented with a donation page that keeps them in the moment of giving. In this video, Annika Pettitt from Network for Good’s Customer Success Team shares three key elements that will make your online donation page more effective and help you reach your fundraising goals.

For expert guidance on creating a donation page that inspires donors to give more, register for the free Ultimate Donation Page Course.

 

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Mon, August 11 2014

How the Benefit Concert is Shaping Philanthropy

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

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

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

Benefit Concerts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of Benefit Concerts

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

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

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

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

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