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Posts Tagged ‘donors’

Does Phonathon Make Money For Your Nonprofit?

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Some nonprofits hire companies to manage their ongoing, year-long phonathons, which seem to run like well-oiled machines.  But if you can’t afford that, do you have to abandon this event altogether? No – not by a long shot.

Although it can be a boon to your campaign to have year-around calling, many nonprofits benefit from periodic volunteer phonathon events, both for the fundraising, but also as an opportunity to bring supporters together and teach them to be ambassadors for their organizations.

Make no mistake:  All events are avenues for volunteers to shine and show their potential!  As you train your callers, reviewing the script, goals, prizes, etc. for the evening, make a point to circulate and listen.  In the beginning, all callers should start out with small donors’ names, as they practice.

While you’re listening, however, you’ll be able to discern between volunteers who can’t get beyond reading a script and those who are truly conversing with – and charming – your donors.  These people need to be upgraded immediately to calling your larger donors, since they know how to ask for larger gifts.

After your phonathon is over, these same outstanding volunteers can be recruited for other committees, or perhaps your board.

It’s essential to make your event – wherever it’s held – feel welcoming and festive to your volunteers.  This means including plenty of food, drinks and snacks.  If your organization can afford it, you may want to have a decorative theme.

Remember that social media can be useful before, during and after your phonathon:  Promoting the event and recruiting volunteers online prior to the phonathon will gain you additional workers.  Posting highlights of your progress throughout the event helps keep your momentum going – and remember to take plenty of pictures!  When the event is over, share the celebration and gratitude with everyone on all social media channels – as well as more photos.  (Remember to get permission to tag people.  Better yet, invite them to tag themselves in the pictures.)

Prizes for various levels of performance are important – although it’s a good idea to keep your goals in mind, too.  For example, if reaching a high percentage of credit card gifts is vital to your organization, don’t give prizes for pledges – only credit card payments . . . but vary the prizes based upon this theme, such as the first credit card gift each hour, the largest credit card gift of the evening, etc.

With caller ID, where you’re calling from is a careful consideration to make.  If your nonprofit opts to be identified – and has enough phones – it might make sense to have your volunteers work from your offices during the evening, using employees’ desks after hours.

On the other hand, depending upon your call list and volunteers, you might choose to have your callers each use their own cell phones.  Particularly if your call location is less likely to be identified with your organization (on caller ID), this might be a better alternative.

Although some would argue that each volunteer can simply make such calls in their own home – on their own time – with a list and their cell phone, this doesn’t lead to the camaraderie that is felt when people come together and share an evening of helping an organization they care about.

It also doesn’t allow staff to handpick their new talent from eyewitness experience.  Additionally, when supporters are called, they may have specific questions for volunteers that only a staff member can respond to.  It’s best to have such a person on standby.

Because people’s schedules are so full, it will take a lot of work to arrange a phonathon – and a lot of work to convince people that it was worth it . . . so that they will do it again in the future.

However – done well – a phonathon can still pay off as a worthwhile investment: in funds, goodwill ambassadors, and future officers for your organization.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

 

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The Dreaded Annual Report

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Admit it – if you’ve been tasked with working on your organization’s Annual Report, “excited” is the opposite of how you feel about this duty.  It’s a chore – and a bore – and the sooner it’s done with, all the better, right?

The only thing worse than putting weeks (months?) into such a project is realizing that when all is said and done – and you’ve shipped it off to hundreds (thousands? tens of thousands?) of your supporters – is that it’s so dry and boring that pretty much nobody will give it more than a passing glance, if that.

Think of it:  You spent all of that time, and it ends up in the trash?  Why bother?  Are the only people who are really looking at it your potential grantors, when you send the report with a proposal?  If that’s so, you could publish far fewer and be done with it (and it could be much shorter, too).  It may as well look like an accounting report then, right?  Wrong.

There are actually many ways that annual reports can be creative and grab donors’ attention these days.  Also, it isn’t essential to mail a copy to absolutely everyone.  Many reports are becoming much more interactive and web friendly.

Of course, it is still necessary to have printed reports to submit with your grant proposals – and many major donors do still like to receive documentation of how the organization is doing, but it doesn’t mean you need to publish a dry representation of your work that looks like everything and everyone else that has been published for the last couple of decades.

Consider the feedback you get (if any?) after your annual report is sent.  Is it positive or negative?  Should your report be longer or shorter?  Is it missing a component that people wanted to see, or could you really afford to leave several parts out . . . and nobody would even notice?

Irving* worked for a nonprofit that had quite a few wealthy donors, and considered the period after the annual report was published to be “hell month” because it was the time that his phone never stopped ringing.

Try as they might, his development staff never managed to get every donor listed exactly correct in their annual report, and it seemed that everybody paid attention to this section – to the exclusion of all else.

“We might list someone as giving at the $5,000 level,” Irving explained, “But we inadvertently neglected to count their additional $5,000 United Way donation, which would actually place them in the $10,000 recognition level.  This would really offend some people.”

“Of course, we would apologize for all errors,” Irving continued, “But after a while, I begin to wonder if these donors were giving for the cause, or merely so they could be on display for their other country club friends.  It just seemed so important to them!  And god forbid if someone’s name or title wasn’t exactly correct, or even missing a middle initial!”

Irving would be happy if there was something in his annual report of interest to his constituents besides the donor listing; however, the rest of it reads like a balance sheet, and hasn’t changed from that style since the founding of the organization.

Justine* worked at a nonprofit with supporters who were quite different.  They care deeply about the mission.

“I’m not certain that our supporters would notice or care if their names were listed at all in the annual report,” Justine remarked.  “We’ve been considering removing the levels of support section, and just making one single alphabetical list – which would certainly make my life simpler.”

Justine explained that, more important than the donor’s recognition section, they’ve been considering telling more “How your gifts impact the recipients” stories, but are looking to make an online – or possibly video – version, so that it doesn’t become too long, cumbersome (or costly) to mail an expanded version, with additional stories.  (Their mailed version will remain shorter and be sent to fewer people, as well as kept in reserve for grant submissions.)

Several innovative nonprofits and corporations have already stepped outside of the typical constraints and opted for new ways of producing their annual reports – and gotten attention and publicity for doing so.

•     an eyewear company
•     a solar company
•     the Amazon Conservation Association
•     a food company
•     a university athletics department

How could you apply these tactics to draw attention to the unique qualities of your organization and its mission?

______________________________________________________________________________
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Please Support Us In the Most Meaningless Way of All

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Most nonprofits are still struggling to get back to their pre-recession levels of support.  While some have made it through unscathed, it hasn’t been easy. They can tell you that commitment to mission and donors is essential.

This is why I get so frustrated when I see corporations taking advantage of the nonprofits that are having more difficulties by offering funds to them in various “contests” that serve only as publicity stunts for the companies, really.

What started out as a national trend has already expanded to local companies, making the same types of offers to the very small – and desperate – local nonprofits as well.

These set ups remind me of various “Are you in debt?” commercials, offering distressed consumers options they might not otherwise take for high interest loans, credit cards, etc.  In other words, easy money.

A nonprofit that hasn’t yet made its goal has a pot of gold dangled in front of its eyes, and “all it has to do” is chant the chosen mantra of the corporation of the month that is throwing this particular bone into the pit of desperation.

Of course, it’s not enough that the nonprofit itself blather the company slogan on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, GooglePlus, and anywhere, everywhere else that the company is tracking it.  No, the organization must use all available venues to reach its constituents to nag, beg and cajole them to do the same . . . for the good of the organization(?)

Never mind that the bank, life insurance company, software developer, etc. has nothing whatever to do with the mission of the organization.

“Please, PLEASE text/post ‘Get 2 Free Boxes of Checks with a Bank ABC Checking Account!’ on every channel – once a day, until [deadline], so we can win the $XX,000!”

Like all scams, the easy money only appears easy.  Not only does staff become consumed with constant reminders to all supporters, then someone has to keep track of where the organization stands each day of the contest.  (“We’ve fallen to 2nd place!  Please remember to keep posting daily!”)

The saturation point of supporters will likely cost you in terms of loyalty down the road, even if your organization does win the contest, not to mention the fact that you’ve disconnected your supporters substantially from your mission.  A great deal will have to be rebuilt in the future.

And, if you plan on “winning” such contests as an ongoing part of your budget, both your staff and supporters will become exhausted and burned out, which means your churn rate will go through the roof.  Additionally, you’ll support the corporate notion that this is an acceptable way to support nonprofits, rather than directly via grants and sponsorships.  (Bad idea.)

Research has shown that the best way to gain long term support for your organization is through telling a compelling story about what you do by who benefits from your work.

Chanting some company slogan couldn’t be much farther off point than this, and is probably working to alienate your supporters more than just about any other activity you could be doing, short of a scandal.

The next time you’re tempted to participate in an easy money scheme, think about the story it tells.  If it doesn’t further your mission, toss it aside.  You’re wasting time and money pursuing it, not to mention constituent loyalty.

______________________________________________________________________________
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

 

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What’s Left That Is Private?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

The social media world has encroached upon our privacy in ways we’ve never considered before.  Usually, that’s meant Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg is just the most blatant, declaring that people don’t “care about privacy anymore.”

The truth is, many marketers have been secretly collecting, harvesting and selling customers’ data – from their own computers and elsewhere – prior to Facebook and since then.  It’s simply a matter of who pays attention, when they get caught, and what the penalties are.  Unfortunately, the repercussions are rarely an incentive for the next offenders to be discouraged, and so it goes again.  The next offenders violate at least as much privacy as the prior ones, collect data and profit from it until they are caught and punished, too.

Privacy issues go beyond the bounds of marketing the bounty of data scraping, however. The technology in this case moves so quickly, that not only can the law not keep up, but most people affected can’t keep up.  When default settings are placed in obscure locations and frequently reset with permissions that allow more and more sharing, such as facial recognition software of photos uploaded (and permanently stored thereafter, whether the photos are removed or not), it takes a while for people to realize what’s occurred, let alone object.

Many users choose to participate in location software programs, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, and voluntarily post where they are and what they are doing.  What all smart phone owners may not realize is that the GPS located in their phones often sends the same information to a variety of marketers.  The [I Agree] button depressed with each app downloaded often is a contract that sends the app designer a great deal of data from the phone, including one’s address book, calendar, GPS location information, and so forth.  A free app may cost in other ways . . . every time you use it.

Klout has recently come under public scrutiny for their duplicitous offer to delete accounts, since they were still monitoring data and ranking people with the same accounts, but simply not displaying the data on the “deleted” accounts.  In addition, Klout’s system of ranking people – who have registered or not – was discovered to include minor children, which incensed quite a few users.

The issues of anonymity and social media cross one another like they never have before, and bring up a multitude of situations, both personal and work-related.  As more and more situations arise, a great many of them head for the courts, where the law begins to adapt and get reinterpreted to fit new technology as it never has.

Until all of the legal policies are in place, it’s best to consider what your own personal and organizational policies will be, with regard to data collection, sharing, privacy, etc.  Even if you have a policy, it’s best to pull it out and review it.  If it’s more than two years old, chances are that situations could arise that wouldn’t have applied when your policies were conceived and written.  (e.g.  Does your policy even address situations of what can/can’t be posted on social media channels?  How to handle a problem posting there?  What about text messaging?)

In times like these, when technology changes so quickly, it’s best to be proactive instead of reactive.  Once a constituent feels that you’ve betrayed her trust, it’s not easily regained.
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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Vital Are Women To Your Campaign?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

With most software, when a couple donates, a nonprofit must designate one person the main donor, while the other is the joint donor.  Over time, the joint donor can appear as supplemental or secondary in reports, with virtually no giving history, depending on how statistics are recorded or pulled.  In most cases, this has reflected poorly on the women donors in the database.

It is a mistake to let women donors – and their philanthropic decision making – fall into the background.  Nonprofits that don’t take women’s decision making seriously do so at their own peril.  Not only do women control a great deal of the family decisions, including financial ones, but they weigh in heavily on where the philanthropic dollars will go.

Women who are more affluent seek to make real change with their contributions, and typically are interested in more involvement with the organizations they donate to, wanting to have a personal connection with the nonprofit and its mission.

Annual Giving applies when marketing to women as well, however, since women in the lower income brackets are often the most compelled to give back to society and help others out of poverty, for example.  Women who earn less than $10,000 per year, who are homemakers with children at home, gave 5.4% of their adjusted gross income to charity.

Participation in other areas of philanthropy which often ultimately lead to donations, volunteer engagement and other involvement are showing that women lead the way as well, such as social networking.

Not only will nonprofits need to target and approach their women donors with different tactics, but first many of them will need to record the giving with a new procedure in the first place.

Pamela* discovered that many spouses were not getting credited for gifts that were made by a husband or wife in the same household in the past few years, since her organization had been successfully boosting its online giving program.  Although their online donation form had spaces to enter one’s spouse’s data, most people filled out the bare minimum information to make a gift and hit the [submit] button.

The automatic nature of the online gift didn’t bother to check the donor’s giving history and see that prior gifts (made via mail, with a joint checking account) had been credited to both spouses.  Pamela noticed that if a gift was made by check, both spouses usually got credit, but if it was made online, too often, one spouse was getting ignored and not credited with the donation.  Therefore, the second spouse wasn’t named in subsequent solicitations, nor was s/he listed in the Annual Report, and so on.

It took some work, but Pamela coordinated with her IT director and the online giving department.  Within the next year, nearly all spouses were fully credited for one another’s gifts, although special care had to be taken to accurately track all donors’ marital statuses, as well as updating anyone who’d recently become widowed.

Once this background project of better relationship management was in place, and the staff was better trained on its importance, Pamela’s nonprofit saw an overall increase in donations of nearly 15% the following year.  In the previous year, they had barely reached double digits.  Her director was pleased and agreed that a tighter set of records which gave all parties involved equal credit for gifts was definitely helping them solicit more wisely.

How could you apply similar tactics to improve your campaign?

____________________________________________________________________________
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

 

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