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Diversity Requires Effort, Not Merely a Posture

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Nonprofits know they need to better diversify their marketing efforts.  New research shows that most companies do a poor job of advertising to ethnic minorities.  (When asked for an effective brand, most respondents couldn’t name one.)

To ensure that your nonprofit is in the forefront of constituents’ minds, what can you do? It will take more than being available for them to contact, donate and volunteer!  You will have to learn how to appeal to the various segments of people in your target markets.  Most likely, they each have their own special wants, needs, likes, dislikes and preferences.

In addition to understanding the ethnic makeup of your supporters, many other demographics are necessary, but it doesn’t stop there – and you shouldn’t presume to know without due diligence.  Many people will make assumptions about age, for example, rather than doing research.

A common misperception has to do with age and technology.  Often, people take for granted that Boomers (and older) are not online, don’t donate online and don’t use cell phones, texting, etc., while Millenials are the primary consumers of all things technical, leaving those in between somewhere in the middle.  This is a dangerous assumption, not to mention full of holes.

Research is showing that smartphone penetration is not only increasing across all markets, but Gen X and Y account for the largest market share.  In addition, all segments donate online, and Convio’s The Wired Wealthy study dispels myths about online gifts only coming from younger, smaller donors.

When looking at differences between the genders, it’s been established that women – particularly wealthy women – drive the philanthropic decisions in most households, so particular attention must be paid here, not only to the type of appeal, but in details such as follow up, acknowledgment, etc.  It’s important to most women donors that they learn about how their donation is being used and what affect it has had.  Not providing personal, meaningful feedback is a sure way to lose women donors.

A subset of Millenials has been identified recently – the Post88s.  GirlApproved has identified this demographic as a separate segment of female consumer/donor who responds differently than her predecessor, and therefore, will require a different marketing pitch.  Would you agree?

Another thing we know is that women spend more time on social networking than men do, while men spend a greater amount of time watching videos online, and the amount of video consumed is increasing substantially.  These are things to keep in mind when preparing your campaigns.

You still may have a couple of annual or semi-annual appeals that you want to send across the board, but clearly, it will help to really study your constituents and understand how they exist in smaller clusters of people, too.  Have they been long time supporters for years, or are they specifically donors to your XYZ fund?  Do they always attend your spring event?  Are they inclined to volunteer?  What sets them apart from other constituents?  How do they typically respond?

The need for segmentation was recently demonstrated by a Dunham + Company study which showed that email length and relevance were the most important factors compelling donors to either respond or disengage from a campaign.  Surprisingly, frequency of communication was not among the complaints found.  Effective, targeted – and concise – messaging is what’s most desired.

Diversity also includes more than ethnicity, age and gender.  How accessible is your organization to people with various disabilities?  When you hold an event, are you certain that it is wheelchair accessible?  Do you ask on your registration forms if attendees will need interpretive services for the deaf?  What about your website?  You may be planning to make it mobile-friendly in 2012, but what about making it equal access for the blind?

Of course, a nonprofit that does or doesn’t dedicate itself to true diversity in marketing most likely has a parallel situation internally.  Much of the problems an organization has with their prospecting approach begins with internal issues, such as lack of diversity with their staff and board.  This hasn’t changed much over the years.

When all the ideas are coming from one type of perspective, it’s not surprising that there’d be a homogenous approach resulting from the organization.  There’s even a greater danger when all the power is resting with one set of individuals over another, staffing-wise.  This is when power corrupts.  Diversity has many benefits.

Marketing with old stereotypes and assumptions just won’t cut it any longer, even if you do segment.  Consumers and donors are more demanding now.  If you want them to remember you (fondly), you’ll have to work for it.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

For many nonprofits, this year-end is faring much better than the despair of last December, when there was far less a chance of exceeding the previous year and more thoughts of, “I hope we can match what we earned before!”

Of course, this isn’t the case for every organization, but early indications are quite favorable for the majority of nonprofits polled recently.

Having struggled through these past few years of the recession has forced charities to become leaner and strategize in new and more creative ways.  Many have also taken a long hard look at available research, to see what indicators will help them better serve their constituents.  Even better is taking time to review your own organization’s data, since it may vary from institutional trends on occasion.

One undeniable successful strategy is to combine appeals and have a multichannel approach.  Most nonprofits now realize that putting donors into “silos” is an inaccurate – and lower earning – method of fundraising.  It’s certainly challenging to manage multiple points of reaching out to donors, particularly when they continue to expand, but the organizations that do it best see the most promising results.

Of course, in addition to adding social media channels (and deciding how many to have!), nonprofits now need to decide when (not if!) to add mobile to their campaigns.

The term mobile itself brings an onslaught, too, since this encompasses a variety of possibilities, from converting the organization’s website to be mobile-friendly, to providing text messaging, apps, donations by mobile (and there are choices just within this), and more!

Again – integration is the key.  Social media is best integrated into what you’re already doing in your campaign, such as an event.  Parts of your mobile appeal(s) can be added to portions of your existing campaign as well, making it an enhancement to something already familiar.

Above all else, though, is the donor.  Cultivation and showing appreciation are key.  However, many nonprofits are unaware that they may not be displaying enough of their attention in the right direction.  New research has shown that in 90% of high net households, women are either the sole decision maker or equally involved in philanthropic decisions.

Women donors want to be more directly involved in their charitable giving and need to see and know that their contributions are making a meaningful impact.  This is important information to know when crafting appeals, annual reports, etc. for donors.  It tells us to write more about personal accounts and the significance a gift has had on the life of a recipient, rather than something resembling a balance sheet.

The more we learn about how to better serve our constituents, meeting them where they are – psychologically and technologically – the more successful we’ll become at acquiring and retaining our donors, not to mention increasing their commitment to the organization over time.

With the early results looking so promising, it seems that many organizations are becoming quite skilled at moving to “where the donors are,” rather than the previous model of telling them to “come over here.”

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Are You Making the Most of Email?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

There are now many more tools in the toolbox when it comes to contacting constituents, but email is still a valuable one – and definitely one of the most profitable in terms of ROI when soliciting, as well as newsletters, updates, etc.

Some nonprofits have better luck than others raising funds or engaging their followers online, however.  Further scrutiny into their methodologies, combined with available research on the topic, often yields insight which demonstrates that various changes in campaign strategies can bolster – sometimes significantly – online income.

First, remember that email is a more personal and less formal way of communicating than direct mail.  While your language may not be exactly slang, it shouldn’t read like an engraved invitation that comes in the mail, either.  Although your type of communication always depends upon your organization and audience, most people feel comfortable being addressed by their first name in an email.  Other nonprofits leave off the “Dear Curtis” and any signature at all and simply write the message, recognizing the need and expectation that this is a casual mode of communication.

A disturbing trend these days is the automation of so many email systems to the point that the [From] name is listed as [NoReply@nonprofit.org].  (click to enlarge) Nothing screams “form letter” louder than this!  Not only has this sender name guaranteed a lower open and readership rate, but regardless of how much effort you have put into carefully crafting your personal message, many recipients will have concluded that your organization doesn’t really care, since it couldn’t bother to have an actual person send it . . . or receive a reply.  Nearly the same conclusion is reached for the similar email sent by one person, who opens with “From the desk of [important person].”  This translates as, “You weren’t significant enough for me to take the time to write to you myself, but won’t you send us money?”

Brevity is essential.  Indeed, tweets and texting make emails look too lengthy these days, so get to the point as quickly as possible.  Embedded links are ideal for providing additional documentation, videos, registration forms, etc., but yammering on is the quickest way to drive a recipient to the [delete] button.

For an enewsletter, not only are more of your articles likely to get read if each of them has a short summary, followed by a link to read it in full, but your analytics will then show which of the articles was more often read in full.  If each article is completely written out, the amount of scrolling required to get the final few will result in them being read less often, due to positioning rather than content, leaving you with tainted data.

When embedding hyperlinks in various email communications, take care to link significant text, rather than something obvious yet meaningless, such as “click here.”  Soon, your entire email can become riddled with them, rendering it more confusing than helpful.

Using photos in emails can help to sell your point even further, but don’t assume that everyone can view the pictures you’ve inserted.  To make sure that both sets of recipients receive your overall message, be certain that photos are only part of the message rather than the entire email.  Also, since many people view emails in a preview pane, test yours prior to sending:  Can you see any text in the preview pane, without opening it entirely?  Another important precaution when using pictures is to place text behind the picture, so that it will appear when the photo doesn’t.

Many organizations are tracking how many visitors come to their site via mobile and creating a different layout that adjusts for that viewing.  How does your email look when viewed on a handheld device?  Is it any better when in a landscape position?  Do you test sending and receiving emails to different email clients and devices prior to sending?

Would you change your text, links or [Donate] button if you viewed your email on a handheld?

Another way to help ensure deliverability is to check your spam score.  Certain words – and even punctuation – used in the body of the email, or subject line, will increase your score and get your message deleted from various filters.  Test your message first for any red flags and boost your number of emails received.

Finally, keep your subscription list as accurate as possible (and in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act) by adding a footer to each and every email that asks the recipient about the validity of their subscription.  Go a step further than providing an [unsubscribe] link, however, and you’ll retain more people than you otherwise would.

Too many nonprofits only offer [unsubscribe] as an option and don’t consider the portion of their constituency that are changing jobs, or simply wish to receive messages at a different email address.  The better option to offer is [update my subscription].

When the constituent selects this option, s/he can choose [unsubscribe], but if they simply wish to change to a different email, this can still be done in one step.  If your form collects additional information, such as title, phone, etc., this can also be done in the same place.  Later, if your organization sends multiple newsletters or communications, the subscription form can be segmented:  Perhaps I wish to subscribe to the food pantry enewsletter, but not the “Meals on Wheels” enewsletter, and I also want to mark myself “Do Not Solicit by phone.”

If I can do this and update my email in one step, I’m more likely to provide my preferences and stay connected.  On the other hand, if I only have the option of [unsubscribe] with this email, then I have to go the home page and sign up all over again with a new email and enter my various preferences . . . I’m more likely to remove myself altogether and be done with it.

When viewing details such as these, it becomes clearer how paying more attention – or not – to individuals’ needs and preferences can make a significant difference with email marketing.  Some studies have said that email doesn’t yet have the return that direct mail does, but I would counter that most nonprofits spend much more time and effort, catering to the specific demands of the donor when soliciting by mail.

I daresay that when the same painstaking detail is invested into email campaigns, as well as follow through, we will see the industry as a whole yield a significant rise in email income and overall engagement.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Speak To Your Audience

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I always have a great time at the NTEN & AFP conferences, catching up with old friends and making new ones, as well as learning new techniques I can apply in my job. I was shocked at what I saw, though, at one of the vendor booths at NTEN:

Like many of the vendors, PayPal was trying to entice visitors to their booth with a giveaway. People who entered the drawing had a chance to win a Nook. Many electronic devices were being awarded at the NTEN conference: iPads, Kindles, etc. Experienced attendees always bring many business cards for these drawings.

But how was PayPal – the company promoting online fundraising – accepting entries? Not with a business card, but with a paper questionnaire! (click to make larger)

Complete this survey for a chance to win 1 of 3 Nook e-readers.  Winners will be notified at the phone number that you provide below.

I asked one gentleman who was at the booth why a company that makes its living selling online commerce would operate in such a fashion and how they expected to compete with all the other vendors who were offering giveaways without requiring this much effort on the part of the conference attendees.

He shrugged and explained that he didn’t actually work for PayPal, but was just “helping out” for the day.

A couple of aisles later, I saw another vendor that was working to meet the needs of a busy attendee . . . on their terms:  The Chronicle of Philanthropy

In addition to providing free paper copies of the Chronicle, they were offering free sign up for people to subscribe to issues online, with the screen facing passersby, so that they could create an account immediately:

It makes a great deal of difference to your constituency how you engage them, and how much you ask of them. Prizes are nice, of course, but most of us left each conference without a new iPad – and will unsubscribe to all of the new emails we’ll be getting . . . unless they provide value and convenience to our lives.

The AFP conference in Chicago was held at McCormick Place, which is akin to a large airport! LOTS of walking is necessary to get from one session to another. Even the convention center itself has moved with the times to try to provide service that is convenient to its customers. I noticed this sign in a women’s restroom:

McCormick Cares   Please text the "Keyword" below: MCE3504F  followed by any Restroom needs to 69050

What can you do to keep your finger on the pulse of your constituent base? Have you been measuring your areas of growth, so you can address them and meet those needs? Online giving has increased in nearly all sectors, for example.

Mobile giving and texting are going to show explosive growth in the next year. While smart phones are currently only 13% of handhelds, they account for 78% of the handheld traffic. Does this impact how you might alter your strategy? Would you consider adding a graphic like the one below to your next direct mail appeal, for example?

QR codes are becoming very useful for a variety of things. You can search for a (free) QR code app on your smart phone to decode the one above, and if you wish to create a code of your own, it’s very easy. The code can translate into a word, phrase, phone number, hyperlink, or sms – and be in various sizes. Give it a try!

Just as with any new venture, the response rate will be smaller and slower than something already being done, but the segment of your population that uses this venue will appreciate your catering to them – and they will grow with you over time.  They will also remember who responded to their needs earliest.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

My Director Will Never Go For That

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

It’s conference season. Too often, I’ve witnessed a person in a session, hearing a great idea being presented – and then turning to me and saying, “I’d LOVE to do that at my place, but my director will never go for it,” typically followed by a sigh.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I don’t claim to know their director or their organization.

But, this person presumably attended this session to learn more about the topic at hand – and while we’ve all had difficult bosses to work with, this person has already cleared a substantial hurdle:  they’ve been sent to a conference to learn more about their field!  A lot of people I speak with would love to be in their shoes!

Whenever you’re approaching your director with a new idea it always pays to put yourself in their shoes first.  What is the likely response?  More importantly, why?  If the answer is no – why is it no?  Is it due to additional cost, staff time, or something else?

You can’t address an objection effectively if you don’t know what the objection is to begin with.

For example, when I speak at sessions about Incorporating Online Giving With Direct Mail, a reason people often give me that their leadership doesn’t want to add online giving has more to do with ignorance:  I wouldn’t give my credit card number over the web, and I don’t think our constituents really want to, either.”

A way to combat this argument is with a one-two punch:  First, by demonstrating industry standards – showing results of a study that demonstrate how pervasive online giving is, regardless of age, for example.  This can be followed up by results of the organization’s own online giving results to counter another common, but ignorant objection:  “That may be true for that population, but it doesn’t apply to our constituents.”  (We’re different.)

It’s also essential to realize that even if you’ve heard – or had – the best idea in the world, it probably isn’t realistic to expect that absolutely everything is going to go your way and be fully implemented immediately.  Once you accept this, you can prioritize your requests and ask for the most important aspects first.  Change can be difficult for people to accept, and it doesn’t always have to do with the price tag.

This is why tracking is so vital.  When you return with tangible, visible results of the success that your proposal is starting to yield, NOW is the time to request that Stage 2 be implemented, and so on.

Of course, you can get these ideas from many sources – not just attending conferences.  You might be inspired from reading various related websites, blogs, taking online training courses, as well as old fashioned networking.  Each person must use the resources they have available to them.

A few days of exposure to the full throttle of session after session at a conference can leave one with a combination of being inspired and overwhelmed, though, when seeing what other very successful organizations are doing with their campaigns.  The thought of trying to implement such changes into your program with staff and/or officers who are resistant to change can even bring about anxiety.

Here are all these wonderful campaigns, strategies and tools – but how will you take them back and implement them, you wonder?  What if you are also lacking the staff and/or budget that they have?  It can seem daunting, if not impossible.

Taking notes during the sessions on how they began their campaigns is always a good idea, as well as asking questions about how difficulties were handled along the way, since all projects have them.  Most presenters welcome being contacted after their sessions, so be sure to take down their information for follow up questions later.

If I don’t see you at NTEN or AFP International in Chicago, perhaps we’ll meet up Pittsburg next month, or Richmond this July, when I am presenting about online giving again?  I can also be reached via my LinkedIn button below.

If you really do have a director who refuses to try anything new – ever – regardless of the idea’s merit, then perhaps it’s time you asked yourself if you should Fix It Or Forget It?  Where do you see your career headed, and can your current position take you there?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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