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Please Listen To All of the Following Options…

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

While technology has made many aspects of our lives easier, one only need hear a voice mail menu to know it isn’t always beneficial.  Forcing someone to listen to endless recorded options truly renders customer service a contradiction in terms.

Many email marketing strategies are set up in a similar fashion as well:  Rather than considering what is best and most efficient for the customer, the company constructs all parameters from its perspective, putting much more work on the shoulders of the customer.  (“…if you want to speak to someone directly, wait on the line…”)

To begin with, care must be taken not only with the subject line, but also with the sender name.  Some nonprofits still opt for using strictly an organizational name, while others choose to add a more personal touch and include an individual’s name along with the organization.  Being generic is less advisable if you want to get your email opened.

Upon further investigation, however, we see that the “name” attached to an email may not reflect the true identity found in the actual email address.  If someone reading the message chose to hit the [Reply] button, often times, they find themselves relegated to a generic mailing list or information box.  Too often these days, one is even incapable of replying to the communication sent, since embedded in the address itself is some form of the text, “do-not-reply.”

In today’s world of social media where two-way communication is the expected norm, addressing an email from a “do not reply” sender is tantamount to saying, “If you have something to tell me, I really don’t care . . . It’s my way or the highway.”

Adding photos to your email is a nice touch, but consider how your message will be viewed by screens that can’t see pictures, or otherwise block images.  Also keep in mind that various screens are looking at your email.  How does it look in a preview pane?  On a pad?  On a handheld?  Be sure you test several versions, and have text embedded behind your photos.

In addition to making emails more inviting to open and reply to, other mechanics that many nonprofits often fail to consider is updating a subscription.  It’s shortsighted to offer only the option of unsubscribing to the organization’s email.

Tiffany* had been subscribing to various trade publications at her office, but they got to be too many and interfered with her ability to see her work emails in a timely fashion.  She decided to create a separate email account, designated just for these subscriptions and move them over to that.

What she discovered was that it was very difficult, in most cases, to change her email subscriptions.  In most cases, they didn’t offer an update option – only unsubscribe.  If she wanted to receive all of the same publications in her new email account, she’d have to unsubscribe from each of them, then open a web browser, find the company, and subscribe all over again with the new email account . . . very often entering her name, company, etc. information as well!

This affected how many subscriptions Tiffany actually retained, and she dropped nearly half of them, keeping only the ones that she deemed were worth enduring the laborious process of resubscribing.  Had they simply given her a shorter process, incorporated within the current system, she most likely would have kept them all.

For your year-end email campaigns, when you take time to craft your message, consider the other components of the email as well.  The mechanics of how it is viewed – from beginning to end – help determine how well received it is, in addition to its content.

Everyone has a full email inbox these days, so the nonprofit that takes extra steps to tighten these loose ends will stand out in the crowd.

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Should I Even Bother With Direct Mail Appeals Anymore?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

It can be easy to be caught up with stories of new technological successes – along with recent press of old technology dying out – and conclude that direct mail should be eliminated from our campaigns, but that would be a mistake.

Perhaps your campaigns have dropped in the percentage of what direct mail has brought in over recent years, from 80% to 70% and now 60% or even half.  While this is certainly a substantial decrease, you still cannot afford to ignore a venue that brings in half of your campaign income!

On the other hand, clearly your donors are responding to other appeals, and additional methods must be added to your development efforts.  Tracking methods and analysis has never been more essential.  Segmentation is also crucial, because various audiences will prefer to be solicited and contacted by different means.  Some people might find being contacted on their cell phones an invasion of privacy, while others view it as the only means of communication, and if you want to reach them, you’d better learn to text and tweet!  (Can you store this detailed type of “do not contact” differentiation in your database?)

Even direct mail itself needs a makeover for most organizations.  If you’re like me, you try to get on as many mailing lists as possible, so that you can review what other companies and nonprofits are mailing, to compare.  I keep the very, very good – and the very, very bad – as examples of what to emulate and what never to do.  Unfortunately, the “what never to do” pile is always larger of the two.  The “ho hum” in-between pile is largest of all and ends up in recycling.

Direct mail can – and should – incorporate a great deal of new technology into its appeals these days.  For example, if the appeal is asking for a donation, add a specific hyperlink in the letter, reply card and on the return envelope, so that you are encouraging online giving.  Make the redirect meaningful and memorable, and either related to the campaign, mission or organization.  (e.g.  Also be sure it is trackable to the specific appeal – and that it lands on the donation form, instead of requiring several more clicks on the donor’s part to locate it.

If the mailing is more related to a cause or petition, then the organization’s Facebook page or Twitter account should be highlighted more, in order to share or tweet the news being spread via the mailing.  Although the social media site(s) would be featured more prominently in these mailings, no doubt there would be a hyperlink to include as well.  The purpose of the mailing would determine which would be emphasized more.

QR codes are becoming more popular and used by the increasing number of smart phone owners all the time.  Many savvy mailers are adding them to mailings as well.  A QR code can represent a variety of things, including a slogan, photo, video, coupon, hyperlink – it really depends upon the purpose of the campaign.  They can also come in many different colors and designs, including custom designs, with embedded logos, to catch the eye.

Imagine sending direct mail recipients the ability to view your new PSA video with a custom QR code and a direct donation hyperlink, all in one letter, along with an invitation to join your Facebook page and follow you on Twitter!  Now that is a direct mail piece that is keeping up with the times! (Remember to repeat on the reply card and return envelope.)

And if you do send such an appeal in your year-end mailing, will you have the proper tracking tools in place to measure your success(es)?  What can you do between now and then to make that happen?

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Chronicle of Philanthropy Article

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I didn’t realize yesterday that the link I sent about the Chronicle of Philanthropy article profiling the success of AFP-MD’s networking, etc. in our roundtables was restricted only to those who have subscription accounts.

In case you couldn’t log in to see the the full article, I’ve pasted it below.

— Valerie

Starting a Fund-Raising Roundtable: Tips From Charity Veterans

By Caroline Preston

Fund raising has long been known as a stressful profession, and the recession is making life even more difficult for people charged with bringing in donations. But some development officials say they have fought burnout by getting together for regular “round table” meetings with peers.

A group of fund raisers who work at small charities in Baltimore, for example, meet each month to exchange fund-raising strategies and advice.

Among fund raisers’ tips for starting and maintaining a round table:

Consider contacting nonprofit associations. Some local chapters of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals, as well as other state groups such as the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations, run round tables or have suggestions for how to start them. And if such associations don’t already coordinate round tables, they might be interested in starting them.

Begin with a small group. “Invite five or six people who you know and ask if you want to get together for coffee so you have a core group to start,” recommends Tami Lack, director of development with Third Way Center, in Denver, and vice president of marketing for the board of the Colorado Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter. Says Jennifer Pelton, director of development at the Public Justice Center, in Baltimore: “Start small but with a good vision.”

Be flexible. If one approach isn’t working and there’s little interest from fund raisers, try another, says Ms. Pelton. “Be willing to experiment and be innovative,” she says. Ms. Lack agrees: Her group first tried networking events, forums, and happy hours before deciding that breakfast meetings were the best format.

Stay consistent with schedule. Once you’ve settled on a format, don’t mess with the schedule too much, fund raisers recommend. A group of annual-giving fund raisers, for example, meets every month at a room on the Johns Hopkins University campus, where one of its members works.

Mix formal and informal. Meetings often focus on a specific topic, such as using social media to raise money. But fund raisers try to leave an opportunity to discuss other subjects. Ms. Lack says her group saves 30 minutes of each hour-and-a-half meeting to talk about whatever is on peoples’ minds.

Listen to others. The topic of meetings should be decided by the group, not by one individual, fund raisers say.

Share leadership. Ms. Pelton, one of several founders of the meeting of “small shop” fund raisers in Baltimore, says her group rotates who leads each session. “We haven’t gotten stuck with one person’s style or one person’s agenda,” she says.

Build an online community. Fund raisers recommend setting up an e-mail list or a group on a site such as Yahoo to complement the in-person meetings. That gives people an opportunity to stay in touch and continue discussions outside of the monthly gatherings.

Bring props. Valerie Lambert, assistant director of development at the Center for Talented Youth at the Johns Hopkins University and the coordinator of round tables for the Maryland AFP chapter, suggests bringing books, articles, and other materials to get the conversation started, especially when it’s on a sensitive topic such as negotiating higher pay.

Pay attention to people’s needs. Some round tables focus on a specific type of fund raiser ­ people who work in annual giving, for example ­ while others are open to all development officials. People involved with round tables say the approach will differ based on the size of the community and the interests of people who want to join.

Build trust. Ms. Pelton’s group has a “whatever’s said here, stays here” approach to meetings. She says that’s key to making people feel comfortable about sharing their ideas and concerns. “No question is a dumb question,” she says, “and no question is too big and no question is too small.”

Copyright © 2009 The Chronicle of Philanthropy

What could my organization do with a YouTube account?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

There are many ways that you can get your message transmitted, including posting a link (tied to a still image from your video) in an e-mail.  The e-mail may or may not have a direct solicitation, be a newsletter, etc., but constant communication with your constituents is important.

Here is a very effective video about domestic violence, with a call to action at the end about recurring giving.

The Technology Gap at Work (new study)

Friday, April 24th, 2009

This is an interesting article about a new study conducted in the workplace on the use of technology and the opinions of various people on what was deemed “appropriate” or “useful.”

Although there were obviously some data collection problems, due to how some questions were worded, the results are interesting nonetheless.  This makes me think that the whole Myers-Briggs personality test will need to incorporate a technology section, similar to the typology quiz that the Pew Internet & American Life Project currently administers, which categorizes people as one of the following (What type are you?):

•     Digital Collaborators

•     Ambivalent Networkers

•     Media Movers

•     Roving Nodes

•     Mobile Newbies

•     Desktop Veterans

•     Drifting Surfers

•     Information Encumbered

•     The Tech Indifferent

•     Off the Network

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