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Posts Tagged ‘Mashable’

Direct Mail in 2012 Must Step Up!

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Although year-end mail is always slow, 2011 saw the USPS give new meaning to the word! This was an eye opener for savvy nonprofit mailers who realize that a reckoning day is coming, and that the time to reassess mail campaigns is now.

There’s little question that the post office is headed for some drastic changes, although due to its being stymied in bureaucracy, it may take a while for the deepest of the cuts to be felt.  It seems certain, however, that the results the postal customer will ultimately feel will be twofold:  less service and higher prices.

If we’re going to get less and pay more, why do it?  Well, simply because for most nonprofits, the lion’s share of annual giving income still comes from direct mail, although this slice of the pie isn’t as large as it used to be . . . and it costs more to produce.

Whenever your ROI is affected this drastically (or is about to be), it’s vital to evaluate your overall campaign, to see which areas can be modified, streamlined, combined, improved – or simply need to be eliminated.  Several nonprofits that have strong direct mail programs have done precisely this, and discovered that one of their best tactics is a multichannel approach.  In addition, some have discovered that more resources are best diverted to direct mail for acquisition, while online appeals are successful for retention.

Since it’s unrealistic to eliminate direct mail from your budget or campaign, it’s smarter planning to consider a multitude of factors and be more strategic:

Take care that your database is as accurate and as up to date as possible. The better your data is, the more precise your campaigns are, the lower your costs, and the fewer returned pieces, wasted staff time, etc.

•     Consider sending out smaller, more frequent, segmented mailings. This will take additional time – both to pull the targeted data, as well as to craft the appeals, but it will make your donors/prospects feel special, whether you group them by geography or affinity for a particular type of fund, cause, etc.

•     Schedule your direct mail campaigns sooner than you previously did. Expect delivery to take longer than it has in the past.  Much longer.  This isn’t going to improve.

•     Budget for more direct mail expenses, if possible.  Postage will likely continue to increase, and with other services costing more (e.g., NCOA), this is simply pragmatic.

•     Make certain your appeals are both engaging and get down to business. If your letter is a solicitation, it still has to be interesting, of course, but the ask shouldn’t be buried in paragraph six, either.  Get to the point.

•     Integrate a multichannel approach. Include a direct hyperlink for your call to action (e.g., donation, registration, petition, etc.) on all pieces in the mailing:  letter, reply card, reply envelope, inserts, flyers, etc.  Remember to add a Twitter and Facebook icon and/or hyperlink as well, and QR codes when applicable.  Since a QR code is versatile, it can link to a video, provide a coupon code, or other venue, depending on your campaign.

•     Remember the carrier envelope is the most important, not an afterthought. Mail is typically opened over a trash can, so if your carrier envelope isn’t designed with at least the thought put into your letter, you have drastically reduced the chances of your letter ever getting read.

•     Test at least one variable with each mailing. This can be something as simple as including postage – or not – on your reply envelope, or addressing your carrier envelope on the back instead of the front.  Does a photo on your carrier make a difference, and if it does, do you need to pay for a color photo, or will a black and white one result in essentially the same response rate and average gift?  Perhaps a freemium boosts your average gift or response with an acquisition mailing, but it’s unnecessary when soliciting current donors.

•     Your opinion doesn’t matter! Make sure to track and analyze your data after each campaign.  Just because you personally prefer the bright green font doesn’t mean that it has the best response rate from your constituency.  Until you have several bundles of data from your own organization, a good place to start can be checking sources such as Which Test Won? which gathers and shares a great deal of data on both direct mail and online marketing.

•     Learn from your analyses. Take what worked well, and attempt to extrapolate upon your successes.  For the campaigns that performed poorly, either determine why and fix the errors, or eliminate them and substitute them with the strategies that are succeeding for your organization.  While you’ll probably find that much of what you’re doing follows industry standards, there may be some anomalies that are unique to your constituency.

•     Don’t be afraid to try something new. Annual Giving by its very nature can easily become cyclical and repetitive, and making goal is constantly on everyone’s mind, but great things can happen when you stretch outside your regular boundaries and dare to dream of a different way of doing things.

How can you make the most of what you’ve got – not just with mail, but all of your fundraising venues – and perhaps something new?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

When an interviewer poses a brain teaser to you, it may seem tedious, but the reasoning behind it is to see how you’d deal with stress on the job. It’s also to assess your personality: are you more optimistic or pessimistic?

Since nobody would come right out and respond, “I tend to be a pessimist,” many interview exercises are designed to reveal such things that you might not intentionally disclose otherwise.  Quite a few candidates are now being asked to take a personality assessment test prior to being considered for employment.  Employers want to see how quickly people think on their feet and out of their comfort zone.

Eleanor* contacted me, frustrated, for help, because her months of job search efforts hadn’t paid off.  What I saw in her results was more promising than she realized, though. She didn’t properly interpret what she received.

Eleanor was looking to return to the job market after having been a stay at home mom for several years.  Although she had been working hard to reestablish contacts and network, it became obvious that she was technologically behind and simply didn’t understand some current protocols in today’s job hunting etiquette.

She showed me an email she had sent to a manager, asking for information about an upcoming recurring seasonal temporary position.  Eleanor mentioned a mutual friend they have in common who recommended her for the position, then attached her resume and asked for the manager to review her resume and a time to meet when they might discuss any suggestions that the manager had to bolster or improve her resume.

In the manager’s response to Eleanor, she told her that the recurring seasonal position probably won’t be renewed for the upcoming season, due to budgetary problems, but that a different job might be available instead (it’s still not confirmed).  She gave Eleanor a name and contact information to follow up with for verification of this later in the month.

Eleanor used this email to demonstrate her disgust with how unhelpful people are, lamenting, “She didn’t even mention my resume!  You’d think she could take some time out of her schedule to have a short meeting with me, wouldn’t you?”

Although Eleanor called to engage my services, it was clear she was ready to Forget It! so I tried to take her step by step through this particular email and show her several positives where she saw negatives.

For one thing, I told her, the fact that she got a response at all is an indicator that someone cared . . . most people wouldn’t bother to write back.  This was clearly a personal response, too – not a form letter.  Another good sign.

Answering Eleanor’s question with “this position isn’t available” was helpful, but the manager didn’t stop there.  She obviously cared enough to offer help about another possible available position (and didn’t have to), along with a name and contact information.  These are all positive indicators.

While it’s true that the manager didn’t respond to Eleanor’s second request about meeting or critiquing her resume, I pointed out that this topic was all lumped into the end of the same paragraph as the first request.  It was obvious by the footer in the manager’s response that the she had replied from her mobile handheld device, which means that scrolling large amounts of text is cumbersome – and downloading a document is virtually impossible.

A better way to have sent this message would have been for Eleanor to break up each idea into its own very short paragraph, and send a link to her online resume, I explained.  Then, the manager could have more easily noticed the second request and connected online to view the resume.

It was as this point that Eleanor confessed that she didn’t have an online portfolio, and we got to work on building her LinkedIn account immediately.  She also upgraded her cell phone to a smartphone and began practicing texting and tweeting, to become more proficient with key words and how to market herself in today’s world.

Eleanor learned two different responses that she used whenever someone posed the “Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?” question to her that helped her seem more thoughtful and unique as well, depending upon her assessment of whether she found the manager to be more creative or analytical:

•     That depends.  If the glass is being filled, then it is half full; if it’s being emptied, then it is half empty.
•     Actually, the glass is entirely full:  half of it with water, the other half with air.

When Eleanor realized more what it’s like from the HR manager’s perspective, we were able to Fix It! and set her up on several interviews, until ultimately, she got a job offer with a company that was a good fit for her.

Changing her tactics – and mindset – helped Eleanor develop better interview skills and portray a more confident, talented candidate to each hiring manager she met with thereafter.  She didn’t just say she had a more positive outlook.  She actually found one, and it showed.

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.

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

Similar Posts:

Shelby* and Tisha* know that every interview can be a learning experience

Yvonne* and Zachary* have to deal with the unexpected during their interviews

Olive* learns about office politics and the importance of networking

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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So Much Time And So Little To Do!

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

…Strike That – Reverse It!” Words made immortal by Willy Wonka (the real one), which come to mind often for those in Annual Giving, who have more and more added to our plate every day, it seems. What does a complete campaign look like, anyway?

Everyone knows that If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting – and who wants that? No, we must keep our current donors, of course, but add some sizzle and pop to the mix as well . . . only what does that mean, exactly?

Direct Mail
Ok, even though it’s an old standby, people are still responding to mail. It’s most likely a hefty portion of your budgetary income, so A/B testing is good. It’s also important to have a good tagline and place a meaningful hyperlink with all mail appeals, since integrated campaigns perform better overall.

Special Events
Even events aren’t the same any longer. Few invitations are simply sent via mail with confirmations or RSVPs over the phone. Now, in addition to email, events are posted on Facebook pages, Evite, Twitter, etc. In fact, some organizations are getting creative and tweeting their events as they are happening – and not just the people with smart phones! What other spin can make your event(s) fresh, new and exciting? Where’s the video camera?

Video
Storytelling with video is more important than ever now. A compelling narrative with video is a medium like no other, and your organization needs to keep up by joining in. Michael Hoffman points out, however, that another crucial element is the YouTube Nonprofit program, so that clickable links can be added at the end of a message. Have you gotten your account yet, so that you can embed these links in your YouTube videos? Also, what about Vimeo, Funny or Die and other channels? YouTube isn’t the only video space on the web – where are your constituents?

Email Marketing & Online Giving
Like direct mail, email has become an essential tool that isn’t dead, but needs revamping to keep up. Have you added photos and links to videos, as well as your Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. channels, so that email recipients can connect with you as they wish? Are these buttons also visible on your website template, too, so that regardless of one’s browsing, a constituent can easily find your social media channels? What about a [share] button? Do you monitor your click through rates on your email campaigns?

Analytics
There are many more analytics online to monitor than just who opens your emails and acts on them. Have you been monitoring your search terms, so that your site design offers what people most frequently want? Do you have a Google Analytics account, so that you know the details of your site traffic, once people land, how many pages they visit, how often they stay, etc.? And what about your offline stats? How much analysis do you do regarding direct mail (acquisition, renewal, lapsed, etc.), events, and so forth?

Phonathon
The nature of phonathon has changed, but many nonprofits are still making money by conducting them on a regular basis, and adapting them to their specific circumstances. Others are finding them to be more and more obsolete, however, as their donor base is abandoning land lines in greater numbers and are seeking a better way to connect with these high tech potential supporters.

Mobile
There is no question that connecting with constituents via mobile is the wave of the future – not only for solicitation, but for text messaging and many other uses. Projections predict that the first decade of mobile giving fundraising will surpass that of online giving. Mobile can also facilitate sending tweets or other short messages that notify members of recent legislation, ask for event RSVPs, or simply send people to a specific page of importance on your website. Some predictions see smart phones replacing wallets in the next several years, so communication via mobile will be an essential part of your organization’s strategy. Oh, and then there are QR codes. A whole other world of new and fun applications. Just imagine what you could do with them at an event!

Podcasts
Perhaps you’ve listened to or created podcasts for your organization. Now you can create them on the go, using a smart phone, and integrate them with social media, so that they appear with a photo and on your Twitter and/or Facebook feed. How can you apply short, medium or longer podcasts to your campaign so they are of interest to your constituents?

Facebook
We all know Facebook is a must in the social media realm. If only they wouldn’t keep changing their rules and policies every month or two . . . not to mention the very design of the page itself. (Am I logged in as myself or the administrator??) Analytics can help here, too, to know what, when and how to post to Facebook.

Twitter
Perhaps you haven’t yet delved into the micro-blogging world of Twitter. Well, jump in and learn all about hashtags, following and retweeting! Don’t fool yourself into thinking that only one demographic is participating, or that your people aren’t there – they are! Details on how to do it well are useful, of course, but everyone is on a learning curve at first. You’ll learn best by doing it.

Blogging
Studies have shown that one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website is by blogging – providing useful, relevant content to your followers on a regular basis. One of the biggest mistakes that most new bloggers make, however, is not following through with a schedule once they get started blogging. Whether you’re going to blog weekly, monthly or bi-monthly, announce it and stick to it, so that you will build a loyal readership that knows they can count on viewing your content on a regular basis. (Of course, Seth Godin recommends blogging on a daily basis. Why argue with him?)

There are several other items on your to do list, of course: LinkedIn, Delicious, Foursquare, recruiting and training your board members to be better solicitors – not to mention your own training. (You do have your CFRE, don’t you?) In your spare time, you’ll need to meet several donors face to face and get out a few grant proposals, too.

By the way, will I see you at NTEN or AFP this month? No? Why not?

Well, there are online training events . . .

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

How Many Ways Do You Engage Your Supporters?

Monday, December 13th, 2010

The more one knows about your cause, the more likely they are to support it and/or tell others about you, possibly recruiting them. Volunteering is an excellent way to bring them into the fold, but there are other ways to educate . . . now more than ever.

Social media offers the opportunity to tell your story in a greater number of ways than were possible before; however, instead of only talking at them, an additional way is to engage them in the story by letting them participate.

Many organizations have accomplished this by inviting others to share essays, photos and videos of their own testimonies or stories, related to ongoing campaigns.

The more people are included and made to feel special, the more interested they will become in the organization and its mission – or the company, since this strategy is not unique to non profits.  For profit companies have been successfully reaching out to their customers, using social media as a way of letting them see what’s behind the curtain with a great deal of success.

Creating a buzz and getting people talking about a campaign can begin with various catch phrases or means of online engagement, such as the breast cancer awareness promotion of having women change their Facebook status to announce purse location with a cryptic, “I like it on the . . . ” or the recent attempt to have people change their avatar to cartoon characters for child abuse awareness.

While they both created a buzz for a while and got differing levels of participation, there were some responses to each that were critical, saying that instead of helping to fight breast cancer or combat child abuse, neither of these actions did what they intended, but merely instigated chatter instead.

A counter argument could be made that the fact that press was devoted to both sides of the debate shows that attention was given to the issue and consciousness was raised – although it is good to keep in mind that while promoting your cause, you never want to lose sight of having a call to action (donate, petition, volunteer) readily available, so that once people are moved by your message, they can easily act upon their motivation.

Of course, one of the most popular means of people engaging online is games.  This is an area that is growing so quickly, non profits would be wise to join in an area where constituents are obviously congregating.

One of the largest online gaming companies, Zynga, has over 45 million daily online users, and this figure only looks to increase.  Clearly, people enjoy participating in these types of activities, so why not create simulations related to your organization’s mission that will keep them involved, learning and participating?

This is what Enercities has done on Facebook already, to teach people more about energy conservation as they build their own metropolis while attempting to “balance people, planet and profit.”  Games For Change is a non profit devoted to educating participants about issues of the day through online gaming.

What would you like to educate people about as you keep them interested enough to stay on your site for several extra minutes a day?  How will you go about this?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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