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Posts Tagged ‘NTEN’

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

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

Congratulations, You Survived Another Year!

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

For many fundraisers, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is dreaded the most.  It’s the sink-or-swim season, when everything you’ve got is thrown into appeals, hoping to make coffers swell.  Did you feel like you were drowning for a while?

A lot of organizations won’t know their final totals and how successful their efforts were for a few more weeks yet, until the dust settles and everything is entered, counted and analyzed, but as you’re winding down and regrouping, consider an additional question:  Did you accomplish everything you wanted to this year?

Making the overall campaign goal is certainly important, as well as increasing your average gift, number of donors, acquisition, and your other fundraising markers.  Beyond that, however, surely there are aspirations that you, as a fundraiser have made that too often take a back seat or get forgotten in the frenzy.

Were you hoping to spend more time in the field this year, so that you’ve gotten additional experience working with major donors?  Did you want to take a course in grant writing?  Have you been meaning to learn how to use Facebook and/or Twitter, or did you just want to grasp your database’s reporting system better, so that you don’t have to ask someone else to run them each week?  Perhaps it’s time to study for the CFRE exam and become certified in your profession.

Whatever it is that you would like to learn, improve or accomplish, make a point to consciously add it to your goals and calendar for 2011, instead of just getting around to it in your “spare time.”  The rest of the year may not be as frantic as year-end, but fundraisers rarely have any time to spare.

Just as you map out how you’re going to reach your fundraising goals:

•     I’m going to visit ___ prospects
•     I’m going to send ___ mailings
•     I’ll make ___ phone calls each week

so should you plan your career goals:

•     I’m going to take that grant writing class
•     I will create and use my Twitter account on a regular basis
•     I’m going to study for and take the CFRE exam this year

Keep in mind that you don’t have to navigate these waters alone, either.  It’s always helpful when your organization offers guidance and training, and your co-workers and supervisor are supportive, but even if that is the case, getting another perspective can be very beneficial.  (And, of course, for many people, their work environment is not as educational and supportive as they’d hoped, so that’s all the more reason to seek help elsewhere.)

Networking with a variety of others, through professional organizations such as AFP, CASE, AHP, APRA and NTEN, provide a plethora of resources that one nonprofit simply cannot offer alone, regardless of its size.

Another wise investment in your career is to spend one-on-one time with a mentor in the field – preferably someone who has particular experience in the area that you see yourself headed toward in a few more years.  Networking in larger professional groups is a good way to gain exposure to more people in general, however, to get a better idea overall of what direction you see yourself taking in the future.

As you begin tallying and analyzing those figures coming in, keep in mind that boosting numbers isn’t the only objective you should be striving for.  Certainly you want to raise more money, but consider what you’ll do to hone your craft this year and boost yourself as well as the organization.

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Starting in 2011, blog posts will alternate weekly, and the Annual Giving columns and the Fix It Or Forget It? columns will appear on Wednesdays.

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

What Will Year-End Bring – And What Will You DO With It?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Nearly every non profit earns a substantial amount of its budget at year’s end. For some, this season is a do-or-die time of year. Either way, how many will take the time to analyze which appeals were most successful and which should be re-evaluated?

Overall dollars are important, certainly, but a great deal can be learned by delving into who gave what to which appeal when, why, by what means, etc. Reviewing details of response rates, click through rates and so forth now can help you better plan the upcoming year’s success, once you know what your constituents are responding to.

Take this challenge: Find the separate segments that are performing the very best and the very worst, regardless of whether or not you made more money overall. Where are your trends happening? Which demographics are taking off, and which ones are starting to drop off? Can you see that they are by age, geography, gender – or is it by the channel they are using, such as direct mail, email or social media? Perhaps it’s a mixture of several variables. How will you determine this to make next year’s appeals even better?

In addition to your analysis, it’s essential to keep up with current trends in the industry, which is rapidly changing. Although your organization most likely can’t respond to everything, a good goal would be to add two new things in 2011 that will interest and engage your constituents. For example, perhaps you might start a Facebook page and add video components to your email appeals. These don’t both have to begin on January 1st, but have a plan and work toward projected launch dates for each.

While assessing your year, consider other areas for improvement that affect fund raising indirectly, but may not come to mind immediately when you are doing your initial evaluation.

Find ways to boost your organization’s publicity. If you know a reporter, that’s wonderful, but reach beyond traditional means. What about bloggers? Consider asking several bloggers to write about your latest event, press release or promotion. Also remember to promote directly to your followers and friends, asking them to retweet/forward/share your latest news or video to their friends. This is the nature of social media, after all. (Remember to reciprocate now and then.)

Something else that is crucial to fund raising efforts, but often overlooked: database software. Does your database have dedicated fields for Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, text messaging, etc., or are you using [Other1], [Other2], [Other3] and [Other4]? This will make tracking next to impossible . . . and it’s only going to become more difficult as time goes on. What/how are you going to update your database with social media information or text messaging? Mobile giving and text messaging is only going to become more relevant as people have fewer land lines.

Actively seek feedback from those constituents who support you the most! Getting written documentation, as well as photos and video, will be very compelling testimony that can be used in your appeals (with permission, of course), to demonstrate to other potential donors why your organization is worth contributing to.

Just as you commit to boosting the value of your organization’s Annual Giving program by adding to its portfolio with a couple of new features, make certain that you add to your own professional portfolio as well, and increase your own skills and knowledge by a couple of features this year. Even if your training budget has reduced or evaporated completely, the Bilou Calendar lists many low cost and free online courses throughout the year, and you can subscribe to it. Don’t shortchange yourself or your personal career development.

Also remember that while online courses are very helpful, nothing takes the place of the value of face to face networking. Meeting with those in your profession on a regular basis can provide insight, education, mentoring and connections that possibly lead to a future job one day. If nothing else, staying in touch with those in the same profession helps one feel less isolated. Depending on your area of fund raising, you might find better networking with AFP, AHP, APRA, CASE or NTEN, or a combination therein.

The best year-end gift fund raisers can give to themselves is less exhaustion for next year by earlier, better planning for 2011. This begins with an in depth evaluation of what was done, but the follow through is not only adding some upgrades for the organization’s program, but investing in the fund raiser as well.

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

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