Bliou Enterprises


Posts Tagged ‘email marketing’

This is a Test, This is Only a Test

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Network For Good has dubbed today the first Be Your Donor Day.  It’s a fabulous idea, designed to get nonprofits to test their online giving forms to see how easy – or cumbersome – their process is.  Why stop there, though?

What other aspects of donor interaction could be improved, if only we could get a look at it through our donor’s eyes?

Vanna* is a development officer who wanted to test this theory, so she made an online donation to her organization . . . using her husband’s credit card, during last year’s holiday season.  She wanted to test the data processing department’s speed and accuracy in entering and acknowledging the gift when things were very busy.

“My husband’s last name is different than mine,” Vanna explained, “And, although I entered myself as the joint donor, I thought that this gift might be lost in the shuffle along with many, many others.”

More time went by than Vanna thought should have, and “her husband” still hadn’t received an acknowledgment, so she decided to check in the database, wondering if it had even been entered.  She was surprised to still find nothing under her husband’s name.

“Then, I thought: ‘Perhaps someone did notice my name and gave me some sort of special treatment after all?’” Vanna recounted.  “I checked under my name, and not only was the gift there, but had been for days!  The problem was that it was credited not to my husband, but some other man entirely . . . living in a different state!  Talk about your data entry mistakes!”

It turned out that Vanna’s “false husband” had an ID number close to that of her real husband, and the transaction opened up dialogue for better verification procedures in the processing department, particularly during peak times.

Wyatt* did something similar, but instead of using a spouse’s or child’s name, opted to submit his dead grandfather’s name for mail, email and phonathon lists.  The name was entirely different, and he maintained a separate email account, where he could receive messages for “him.”  It was his way of not only monitoring what his nonprofit was doing, but other nonprofits as well, since he subscribed “grandpa” to multiple lists.

Wyatt was pleasantly surprised when his new mailing went out to discover that his new mail vendor had done a diligent job of running his list through the NCOA database prior to sending it out.  It was obviously a cut above what his previous vendors had done, because “grandpa’s” mail had been returned, marked as nobody living at that address with that name!

“I can’t tell you how many, many pieces ‘grandpa’ has gotten at my address, from dozens of nonprofits!” Wyatt said.  He plans on staying with this new mail vendor.

Checking your website for mobile-friendliness is advisable, too.  Have you tried to make an online donation using your handheld?  Does that ramp up the level of difficulty?  What about other transactions on your site?  How much interaction do you ask of your constituents online?  Registering for events?  Purchasing items?  Signing petitions?

Whenever you are telling constituents to “Go to our website and [take this action]!” try to take that action with your mobile – and encourage the person responsible for that department to do it as well.

The more departments that engage in this activity, the more buy-in you’ll have as an organization to convert your website to a mobile-friendly one!

What other donor/constituent engagement areas can you think of to test that staff rarely uses?

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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What Do You Do When a Major Funding Source Disappears?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

For many fundraisers closing out their fiscal years, the news isn’t great.  Foundations and corporations are returning, but not quite as quickly as they departed – and not back to their previous levels.  And some not at all.

When a long-time supporter – especially a major one – suddenly stops giving, it can be quite a blow.  This has happened (and is continuing) to many nonprofits as the economy shrinks the accounts of not only companies and foundations, but individual large donors as well.

“Not putting your eggs in one basket” takes on multiple meanings in development in times like these.  In addition to having a diversified campaign that seeks donations from a plethora of contributors – foundations, corporations, individuals, etc. – it’s also important within each campaign to conduct multiple campaigns.

For example, when pursuing foundations, expand your grant proposals to various types, including smaller family foundations, corporate foundations, etc.  Don’t limit yourself to the same kinds that have always funded you in the past.

Corporate sponsorships can be viewed in a similar fashion.  Have you always pursued national companies’ support?  There are many locally owned businesses that might welcome an opportunity to publicize their philanthropy.

With Annual Giving, think of the multiple channels that are now at your disposal to reach a vast audience of individuals.  Not only can you pursue more people with online giving, social media, mobile, etc., but studies show that integrated approaches raise the most money of all.

Consider the United Way campaign(s) and how they are affecting dozens (if not more) nonprofits across the entire country.  Because United Way decided at a national level to reprioritize its mission and refocus on several core funding strategies, agencies that received enormous amounts of funding are now finding it vastly reduced, if not eliminated outright.

This is happening all across the United States, including California, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and in Ontario as well.

While some articles are spun to promote it as a positive opportunity to “let new organizations apply” for funding, many others who have been supported by United Way for years don’t see it that way . . . particularly when their messaging appears to be inconsistent.

For example, their new mission’s focus loudly proclaims to be generally zoned in on three main areas:

•     education
•     self-sufficiency
•     health

Although these are the newly declared areas of funding targets, various inconsistencies in this newly mandated attempt at being consistent continue to appear.

In multiple states (CA, LA, OH, NC, VA), the local Red Cross chapters had their funding significantly cut, if not eliminated, although many tried to argue that their providing food, shelter, clothing, etc., during disasters offers “self-sufficiency,” in keeping with the mission.  In the Buffalo, NY area, that United Way chapter maintained their Red Cross funding, but eliminated funds for the Girl Scouts . . . even though educating youth is supposedly a priority.

Other organizations affected by the new policy, resulting in drastic cuts in funding include the Salvation Army, the YMCA, as well as the Boy Scouts and Big Brothers Big Sisters, which lost their funding entirely from United Way of Dallas.  Given that the new UW priorities are listed as being about educating children, it’s perplexing that these long-funded institutions were dropped altogether, particularly when one sees that another United Way chapter in Illinois gave Big Brothers Big Sisters their highest award.

Although “youth development” is specifically listed among United Way of Topeka’s goals, Boy and Girl Scouts were eliminated from agencies receiving funding!  They got only designated funds from donors . . . and these designated funds are “a practice that is under review and could be eliminated in the future because of changes to United Way’s funding process.”

Columbia, MO and Charleston, SC took issue with the new priorities not addressing issues of real concern to their local communities.  Namely, they felt that their senior population was being severely neglected and ignored by the newly declared priorities.  These citizens argued that a great deal of what the local United Way needed to address and solve were the problems of the local citizens . . . and that the issues sent from national weren’t keenly aware of what was happening in their neighborhoods.

One can see that the Reno, NV and Norman, OK chapters dealt with this more directly, anticipating these needs, and altered the mission to include more local concerns.

While in York, PA, the United Way Executive Director was “flabbergasted” that an agency would make public their disappointment over not getting funded, it seems to be catching on all over the country.  In fact, in Nebraska and Ohio, they’re appealing the funding decisions, and in Ontario, they’re convening a meeting to review the entire allocation procedure!

It’s clear that you can’t control many factors about your funding sources:  the economy, funders’ changing priorities, how slow the post office delivers, cost of postage, etc.  Rather than spending a great deal of time altering an ever-changing strategy (and filing multiple appeals), a better overall campaign strategy is one that includes multiple funding sources, so that if one of them is drastically reduced, it doesn’t sting too badly during the period it takes to replace it with another channel of income.

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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What Are Your Areas of Improvement?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

All nonprofits began doing one or two types of campaign better than others, because historically, it’s where their founders began, and it was the founders’ areas of expertise.  This may be events, grants, direct mail, etc.

As they grew, most organizations honed their skill in their specialty and became even better at raising funds in their particular niche, while typically expanding into one or two other areas over time.  As staff expands, it becomes obvious where the priorities are for the organization by the staffing structure.  Whichever department has the most authority – and people – no doubt has the most history and success, and the greatest priority.

Many development departments have come to learn – particularly after the economic downturn – that too strong a focus on their sole method of raising funds is a poor strategy.  Regardless of what area of development built up the organization, diversification is what helps a nonprofit stay strongest through difficult times.

How would your nonprofit fare if it were to have a significant drop in its main income source?  If this comes from grants, for example, are you prepared to compensate with a few additional email or direct mail campaigns?  What if your signature events have bolstered your coffers for years and you suddenly couldn’t hold a couple of them?  Would you be able to reach your constituents via social media and perhaps conduct an online event instead?

Although substituting new campaigns for ones that have been around for some time won’t likely replace the funds that they raised, they can help toward some compensation while regrouping.  A bigger point, though, is to ask the question of whether or not your organization would even have the means to conduct these other campaigns.

How large is your email list, for example?  How often do you communicate via email?  How many followers do you have on your social media channels, and how frequently do you engage them?  If these programs don’t even exist yet – and on an ongoing basis – then you aren’t in a position to have them even begin to compensate, should another campaign have a problem.

Certainly you should lead with your best foot forward, but the diversified nonprofit is the healthiest one.  It pays to take a critical look at your overall program.  Look for a few crucial key areas that need the most improvement, then see them through! It doesn’t mean that your weakest area(s) have to become your strongest.  Instead, though, change at least one of them for the better.

As you take steps to bolster the lowest earning areas of your campaign, make a point to track your progress as you go.  For example, how has your average gift increased, or your participation rate?  Have you gained in total number of followers, comments or shares/retweets?  Has your klout score improved?  Whatever metrics apply, be certain that you’re measuring your success – and looking for new ways to enhance these “lesser” campaigns, based upon what is working well so far.

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Can I Boost My Online Giving Program?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Numerous studies have shown that the average online gift is typically higher than those by mail. (Actually, the multi-channel donor gives the most of all, but online is essential.) So, how do you drive people to give online?

It’s important to note that while direct mail is still responsible for the majority of most organizations’ annual giving income – and shouldn’t be overlooked or placed on auto pilot – there’s no question that online income is growing by leaps and bounds.  Even as total overall philanthropic giving wavered during the recession, then slightly grew, online giving enjoyed massive increases.  Nonprofits that ignore this trend do so at their peril.

Other trends to watch are the Blackbaud Index of Charitable Giving and the Index of Online Giving, which are both measured monthly.  These indices are based on a collection of over a thousand different nonprofits, and also available by segmentations of nonprofits, such as size of organization or type of industry. (e.g., arts, animal welfare, human services, health, education, etc.)

There are several ways to bolster online giving from your constituent base, but one good way to start is to check the research recently published about which cities are already most generous about giving online.  It’s not that you should exclusively limit yourself to these areas, but your most aggressive online campaigns and test launches would likely do well in areas that are most amenable to giving online already.

As Sara Spivey of Convio wisely noted, there is a high correlation to these areas and the geographic locations that have the most broadband, so keep this in mind as well when targeting your constituents with online campaigns.  Even if they didn’t make Convio’s Most Generous list, a more wired community will likely be more receptive to your online campaign!

When you cross reference these lists with another overall Most Generous list (all philanthropy, not just online), you see different cities entirely – except for Washington, DC.  It would be advisable to aim other campaigns (mail, phone, etc.) at these areas that are so philanthropic.

And what if your constituent base isn’t national – or in the cities listed?  How, then, are you supposed to join in the ever-increasing online giving ranks?  There are still ways to encourage your donors to give online.

First and foremost, make a point to ask them for their email addresses at every opportunity.  This includes leaving ample room for them to write it in on all direct mail response cards, event registration cards, etc.  When a donor does donate, register or otherwise respond to your organization online, make [email] a required field, so that you are collecting these online as well.  (Also make [First Name] and [Last Name] required, so that when you send emails out, they’ll be personalized, instead of “Dear Supporter,” form letter type correspondence.)

The average person has three email addresses.  If a constituent gives you multiple emails, how does your database store these?  Are they replaced?  Are they labeled as [work] and [home], or [email1], [email2], or [preferred]?  Make certain your system can handle multiple addresses.

Whenever you send out a direct mail appeal, be sure to encourage online giving in all aspects of the mailing.  This includes the letter, reply card and return envelope.  Designate a direct hyperlink specifically for that appeal, such as [].  Track two separate responses for the mailing:  [response by mail] and [response online].  Over time, with repetition, you’ll see the [response online] in your mailings increase, as your dual channel donors grow.

Another – often overlooked – way to increase online giving is to take a critical look at your homepage. Where is your [Donate Now] button?  Is it easily visible?  Is it above the fold?  Is it part of the template?  (Can I still find it if I’ve been navigating within the site?)  How many clicks does it take me to get to the donation form from the home page?  Once I’m there, how many clicks does it take me to complete my transaction?

The online community is about immediacy.  If you’re taking too long to service these donors, you’ve already lost them.

What other ways can you think of to expand your online giving base?

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

When researching a company prior to an interview, it’s important to go much further beyond “the corporate face” presented on its website.  These days, a great deal more information is available to guide you in your decision.

With such a tight job market, it’s not uncommon for job seekers to spend six to twelve months looking for the right position.  Of course, much of this depends on a variety of factors, including profession, experience, geographic location, time spent each week actively searching, level of networking, etc., but the fact remains that the market is tough.

Because most searches are lengthy, though, I advise all clients to keep track of not only their past applications and interviews, but also to try to remember the listings that they view, because after time, trends or patterns may start to appear.

Magda* had come very, very close a couple of times as a final candidate, but still hadn’t gotten hired after several months.  However, she had learned a great deal after each interview on how to perform better next time, she felt.

Still, there were some losses that stung more than others.  [Organization Y] was one in particular.  Not only had she been a promising finalist, but the Executive Director concluded the interview with a reassuring, “I’ll call you soon,” only to put her off a couple of days . . . followed by a couple more, until finally, he sent her an email, stating, “Thanks for your interest, but we’ve made an offer to another candidate, and they’ve accepted.”

“That one really hurt,” Magda explained, “Not only because I didn’t get the job, but because of the way I was treated.  It seemed obvious in retrospect that I was the second choice, and had just been strung along until they heard back from the one they made the offer to.  Plus, he couldn’t have done me the courtesy of a phone call?”

Less than a year later, Magda was reviewing job listings, as she does weekly, and – much to her surprise – she saw the same job listing for [Organization Y] appear once again!

“As disappointed as I had been last year,” Magda recounts, “That’s how relieved I was not to have gotten the position, upon reading the listing so soon!”  Although still looking, she was ready to tell [Organization Y] to Forget It! this time.

After a few more months of interviewing, Magda did land a job offer with an organization that was a good fit for her, and thinking back to “the bullet I dodged,” she could see how much she had learned over the past year that helped her select a better, more stable place of employment that she felt good about.

At Ned*’s previous place of employment, he had given his all to the company, which left him virtually no time for socializing or networking.  When he was laid off, he found that he had very few contacts or connections to reach out to, because he hadn’t done much to maintain those relationships while he had been working so hard at his job.  One of our first goals was to Fix It! with regard to his social media skills, which would likely translate to any new position he ended up getting.  Regardless, I explained, they would certainly be of use to him while searching for his next job.

Ned made a point to work up a list of the few dozen companies that he most wanted to work for, then he not only followed them on Facebook and Twitter, but also monitored their LinkedIn activity closely.  In addition to tracking the companies’ job listings, Ned worked on building up his various social networks, regularly adding friends, followers and linking with new contacts as much as possible.

Whenever Ned saw a position that he felt was a good match, we reviewed his various networks – particularly LinkedIn – for possible connections to the company, narrowing down to the department, if it was a larger organization.

If Ned was directly linked to someone at the company, he wrote to them for advice on how best to apply (e.g., “To whom do I send my resume?  What is her/his email?”).  If he was a second degree connection, he would ask for an introduction to the right company person, or advice on how to proceed, if they knew.

In many cases, this approach led to expanding Ned’s network even further as he continued his job search.

A great deal of “background research” not found on company home pages was to be gleaned from company social media channels, including peripheral channels, such as employees’ blogs, Twitter feeds and posts to LinkedIn groups that were often fed back through the employees’ personal pages.

This type of up-to-date knowledge helped Ned impress others during interviews, establish more contacts, and ultimately, get hired in his new position.  (He also makes a point to continue networking since having been hired.)

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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