Wed, January 28 2015

Our Common Challenges

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Nonprofit leadership •

Yesterday Network for Good was honored to host a group of delegates from 10 countries as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The group included the Executive Director of the Icelandic Youth Council, the Program Director for the Russian Red Cross, the Community Manager from the Office of the Mayor of Athens, and a grassroots organizer from Saudi Arabia, among others who work with local governments and community groups to mobilize volunteers and social giving around the world.

As we gathered to talk about leveraging online technology to mobilize volunteers, raise funds, and communicate with supporters, it was clear that the challenges these international organizations face are nearly identical to those of nonprofits here in the United States. Here are a few themes that rose to the top during our time together:

  • Diversifying funding sources:  Organizations that are highly dependent on government contracts or grants look to shift their funding sources to reduce the vulnerability of relying on one source of funds.  In some cases, this shift to individual giving is new territory and these organizations are sorting out how to prioritize individual donors and the resources needed to support a successful strategy. Sound familiar?

  • Finding (and retaining) the right donors:  The universal challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity to learn from one another.  For some international organizations, most individual donors are coming from outside of the country, so connecting with and expanding the donor base can be difficult. This is where new networking tools and storytelling venues will continue to make a big impact.

  • Communicating with donors: We all agreed that the key to retaining individual donors is regular and responsive communication. Some organizations are trying to find the right balance of interaction and dedicated time to responding to donors and listening to their feedback.

  • Collaboration vs. competition:  With many organizations working to solve similar issues, these NGOs identified a need for more collaboration and stronger networks to pool resources, and make a bigger impact. This is a challenge.  One way we can all encourage knowledge and resource sharing is to commit to supporting and participating in roundtable discussions and gatherings just like the IVLP sessions.

  • Getting the story right:  From attracting supporters to inspiring gifts to retaining donors, compelling stories are critical.  The delegation discussed the challenges of competing with more “media friendly” stories or causes, and the opportunities to connect the right story with the right audience segment. Organizations are made up of multiple stories, which provides a wonderful chance to line up the perfect story with the right segment of a cause’s community.

Do any of these strike a chord with you? What would you add to the list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

We offer our gratitude to the Department of State and the IVLP delegates for spending time with our team and sharing their experiences. We wish them well as they continue their tour of the U.S. and look forward to learning more from our nonprofit colleagues around the world.

 

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Mon, January 26 2015

The Ultimate Donation Page Guide Sneak Peek

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Websites and web usability •

The Ultimate Donation Page Guide

I’m excited to announce that we’ve just published our most comprehensive resource featuring all of our best practices and helpful tips for building successful online donation pages. The Ultimate Donation Page Guide is 27 pages of helpful tips and best practices that guide you through the process of building a fantastic online donation page (or refining an existing page) that gets donors to give, give big, and give again.

You can use this guide as a helpful resource throughout the year, or, if you’re motivated to overhaul your online giving process right now, you can use it as a step-by-step guide to thoroughly navigate every detail that will help your online donation page perform better.

Here’s an excerpt:

Constructing a Proper Donation Page

A lot goes into creating effective donation pages, but that doesn’t mean a lot should go on them!

How Clutter Steals Donations from Your Cause

All too often, nonprofits give people too many ways to leave their donation page without completing a gift, including:

  • Too many fields. Online usability experts generally agree that when a form includes a lot of fields, a visitor is less likely to complete it.
  • Too many links. Links or navigation elements that lead visitors away from your donation page increase the odds that a prospective donor will click away without completing it.
  • Too much text. Additional text on your page requires your donor to do more work and can trigger “fine print” skepticism.
  • Too many images. Photos on your donation page seem like a good idea but can confuse and distract donors, especially when the images don’t communicate why a donation matters.
  • Too much complexity. More complex options on your page make potential donors less likely to complete your form.
  • Too many steps. The more pages there are to complete, the more likely a donor is to abandon the process.

When it takes us more time or effort to do something, we’re less likely to do it at all. It’s just human nature! In other words, all that extra “stuff” = work.

Tip: Before adding anything to your donation page, ask yourself, “Will this make it easier for donors to give?”

This guide goes beyond just constructing a better donation page. You’ll also find:

  • The secrets of donation page design
  • Calls to action that get results
  • Giving options that make a difference
  • The brain science of online giving
  • The mechanics of testing and tracking (and a step-by-step guide on how to do an a/b test)
  • Optimizing special campaigns
  • The wonders of a great post-donation experience
  • How to get more people to your donation page

Download the guide now and let us know what you think!

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Fri, January 23 2015

Link Round Up

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fun stuff •

We love reading amazing content from across the sector. Here are a few nonprofit marketing and fundraising resources that stood out this week:

Link Round Up
  • We're big fans of the crew over at GrantStation and their 5 quick tips for launching your grantseeking in 2015. (via Guidestar)

  • If you are a Google Analytics user, you must try this add-on for Google Sheets. If you're not a Google Analytics super user, send this link over to someone who is and I promise you will make their day.

  • DoSomething.org accidentally sent a message meant for a very specific segment of their list to their entire database (2.1 million phone numbers). If you’ve ever made a mail merge error or mass email mistake, you feel their pain (and embarrassment). They followed up with a great idea: an apology in the form of a playlist, featuring songs that used humor to poke fun at their mistake. This fun apology might not work with one of your major donors but for DoSomething’s audience, teenagers, it was a hit. (Via Chronicle of Philanthropy)

  • We all know stories are key to grabbing supporters’ attention and inspiring them to act. Jeff Brooks, one of our all-time favorite fundraisers, shares his presentation on how to tell stories that motivate donors to give. (via Future Fundraising Now)

  • Is it time to ditch the dating metaphor when it comes to donor relationships? (via Achieve)

  • Nonprofits in space? Consider a “moon landing” event for your organization to rally public interest in your cause. (via MarketingSherpa)

Have a must-read story or resource you’d recommend? Share it in the comments section below!

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Wed, January 21 2015

Quick Takeaways from the Pew Social Media Report

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Social Media •

The folks at the Pew Research Center recently published updates to their Social Media Report. Here are a few highlights:

Facebook still reigns supreme. It comes as no surprise that 71% of all online adults are on Facebook, which also sees 70% of users engaging with the site at least daily. 

More older adults adopting social networks. But they’re mostly on Facebook. 56% of all online adults 65 and older now use Facebook, which equals 31% of all seniors. That said, all networks featured in the report saw significant jumps in the number of 65+ users.

Visual platforms continue to emerge as key networks, especially with younger users. Over half of young adults (ages 18-29) online use Instagram. Nearly half of all Instagram users use the site daily.

Pew Social Media Report Site Usage

You can download the full report from the Pew website.

So what does this mean for your nonprofit marketing plans?

Know your audience.
Take the time to define the audience you’re trying to reach and understand where they’re spending their time. If your goal is to activate Boomers, assess your Facebook outreach and create content that appeals to their sense of identity and need for transparency. If you’re looking to mobilize younger supporters, consider documenting your work and the impact of donors via Instagram photos.

Resist the urge to be everywhere.
The Pew researchers found that 52% of online adults use multiple social media sites, which is an increase from 2013. For most nonprofits, though, it’s probably not advisable or realistic to spread resources too thin across multiple outlets. Your best bet, especially if you’re still establishing your social media strategy, is to focus on regular quality engagement on one platform. Measure your results and keep an eye on relevant activity on other networks before expanding. Remember:  your social efforts need to reinforce your marketing efforts in other channels.

Be realistic about your goals for social.
We know that donors are engaging with nonprofits and each other on social, but most online dollars are coming in through non-social. Focus on using social as a listening and engagement platform, rather than expecting Twitter or Facebook to become your organization’s magic money machine. Think of social as a tool for understanding what interests your supporters and use your outreach to develop relationships with them.

Carefully measure your ROI.
Although Facebook is the most widely used social media site with the most engaged users, keep in mind that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to break through the noise (and the Facebook algorithm) and fully reach your audience through the platform. On the Care2 blog, Allyson Kapin recently outlined why it’s getting harder to see a return from Facebook advertising.

Even if you’re not paying for social media advertising, weigh the time and attention your staff spends on social media with the results you see and progress to your goals. To get the most out social, you do need to commit to posting quality content and spending time building your presence and the relationships that result.

Is social media on your 2015 list of priorities? Share your thoughts below and let us know how you’re incorporating Facebook, Twitter, and others into your nonprofit marketing strategy.

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Tue, January 20 2015

Next Frontier of Storytelling in the Nonprofit Sector

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Writing •

Vanessa Chase HeadshotEditor’s note: This post was written by Vanessa Chase, founder of The Storytelling Non-Profit. You can check out more thoughts on storytelling on her blog. Or, if you’re in the mood to watch a webinar on storytelling, you can download the archived version of her Nonprofit911 webinar.

Storytelling is quickly becoming part of the everyday fabric of nonprofit fundraising and communications. While some might suggest that storytelling is simply the latest and greatest trend, much evidence suggests that it’s a fundamental type of human communication working its way into organizational communications. We are entering a new era where organizational communication will no longer be sterile, dry, and boring. Instead, it will sound human. This is the new standard that storytelling and narrative communications are bringing to our sector.

As we hit the ground running in 2015, I anticipate seeing a greater volume of storytelling from nonprofits. This probably comes as no surprise to you. More organizations of varying sizes and causes will hop on the storytelling bus. They will find unique ways to talk about their impact, great staff, and amazing donors. We will hear these stories through the written word, photos, videos, and more. A great many stories will be told online because of the range of formats available to tell them. Many online story platforms are considered to be more interesting and engaging than print.

What else can we expect to see in 2015? Here are two emerging trends that will likely come to the forefront this year.

Storytelling in Stewardship

Donor retention has been a hot topic over the past few years. It is a well-known fact that for many years, organizations were losing more donors than they were retaining. Last year, however, reports showed that the sector retention rates are on the rise. This can largely be attributed to organizations putting a greater emphasis on donor stewardship. Thank you notes, phone calls, and other little touches all add up. What’s more, stories are the perfect type of content to use in stewardship materials. They naturally illustrate impact and outcomes while connecting people through shared emotional experiences.

This year, I think we’ll see more nonprofits overturning conventional approaches to donor stewardship and utilizing stories as a key part of stewardship content. Union Gospel Mission uses stories in its newsletters to show donors how they make the organization’s mission possible. Rather than sharing a ton of dry statistics, the YMCA of Greater Vancouver uses stories in its annual report to talk about impact.

Storytelling in stewardship tip: Take a look at your current thank you letter. Look for the instances where you talk about impact and see if you can find a relevant story to include that will help donors visualize their gift in action.

Community Storytelling

One thing I value most about storytelling is that it communicates emotions and experiences in a way that helps people empathize with each other. This is how connections are made and communities are formed. Nonprofits are uniquely positioned at the center of many constituent groups and have the opportunity to facilitate storytelling between members of their community. Online or offline, donor or nondonor, it doesn’t matter where or who. What matters is that in these various places, we invite people to share their own stories. The benefit of this practice is creating stronger communities to which people truly feel they have a tie.

There are many examples of how organizations crowdsource community stories, which are then shared on websites and social media. The University of Arkansas’ annual giving program has a special landing page where donors can share their stories. The university then uses donor stories on its giving website. Here’s one example:

U of A Stories

Community storytelling tip: Reach out to your active social media followers and ask if they have a story they would like to tell. Encourage them to share a story about their passion for the cause or a personal connection they have to your mission. If you want to get the best stories, a phone conversation or in-person meeting is best.

These are just two storytelling trends we’ll see in 2015. With so many rapid changes in digital media, we’re bound to see even more exciting storytelling techniques emerge.

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