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Posts Tagged ‘online fund raising’

If Everybody Donated A Dollar…

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

As the campaign launched, Tina* was aghast upon seeing the sponsoring company’s CEO’s blog: “If everyone reading this donated just a dollar, we could raise $XX,000 for charity, to help feed Y,000 people this holiday season!”

“We had had multiple meetings to discuss the strategy, the campaign theme, the schedule,” Tina moaned.  “Who would have dreamed that he’d need it explained to him NOT to suggest a gift amount of a dollar?!”  In the future, Tina resolved to insist on approving all copy associated with her campaigns, regardless of who was writing it.

“I later learned from my gift processors that they resolved to hunt down the CEO and beat him to death if we did in fact receive XX,000 one dollar gifts for them to enter and acknowledge!” Tina shared, laughing.

This is a good example – however disillusioning – of great intentions gone sour.  Clearly, the CEO was on board, fully wanting to cooperate and promote the nonprofit, asking others to donate . . . albeit about as poorly as one can.

It’s not just sponsors or volunteers who unintentionally reduce or sabotage a campaign, either.

Ulysses* asked for my assistance when redesigning his organization’s online giving page, and I noticed that his suggested ask amounts began awfully low – at $25 – and suggested that we raise the minimum amount.

Initially, he was skeptical; however, not only did I point out that, industry-wide, online gifts are typically larger than direct mail gifts, I suggested that we look at his organization’s figures.

Even with the current minimum suggested ask of $25, Ulysses’ average online gift was already higher, at $37, and, of course, we wanted to encourage larger gifts.  I suggested a minimum ask of $50.

“But what about donors who don’t or can’t give at the $50 level?” he challenged.

“That’s what the [other] option is there for,” I explained, “But you also don’t want to start by suggesting that donors give less than what most of them would to begin with.  That’s just bad policy.”

In addition, we listed tangible benefits next to each donation amount – what each gift would help accomplish or achieve for the nonprofit’s recipients of services – to help each donor feel that their contribution had meaning.

Six months after this redesign, Ulysses saw his online average gift approach the $50 mark, so we tackled his direct mail reply card ask amounts, too.

Because his mailings are segmented into non donors, lapsed and current donors, we analyzed the average gifts for each of these groups and based the ask amounts on targets set slightly higher, which paid off as well.

Ulysses is planning to propose that his nonprofit upgrade to a more sophisticated email marketing software system in his upcoming budget, coordinated with a better online giving form, so he can apply the same targeted approach to the non donors, lapsed and current donors with his online appeals in the future, mimicking what his mail appeals are now doing.

What campaigns do you conduct that have similar areas for improvement as you look toward year-end giving?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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What Are Your Analyticszzz?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

When I suggest that development staff pull data on their fundraising campaigns, the most common responses are dread, avoidance and boredom.  Once we get the data (properly) pulled and analyzed, a different reaction appears.

Not only are the development staff pleased to see what is – and even isn’t – working well, but by how much, so that they can make more informed decisions moving forward, knowing that this is the right course, rather than going on instinct.  In some cases, development staff had been in a battle of this gut feeling vs. that gut feeling with management, citing anecdotal evidence of what several overheard comments had been, etc.  This kind of policy-making can be terribly frustrating!

If you’re a development staff member and don’t know how to pull detailed data (not just your total figures) out of your database, it’s time to make friends with the person who can do this for you . . . and it wouldn’t hurt to get some training yourself, so that you can manipulate the data once you get it.

Having the data is only the first step, because you’ll need to present this information to others, such as your senior staff and board members.  The more you can show your data in a palatable, comprehensible format, the better it will be received – and remembered.

Take the example below, which shows a six year history of an annual giving campaign, segmenting mail, online and phone income per year.  Even those who are not in development can easily understand this chart.

If your data isn’t entirely complimentary, it’s still important to see what it says, because this can help drive policy decisions – and changes.  If something isn’t working, clearly it’s either time to stop doing it . . . or at least drastically alter the strategy.  Knowing this – and having a baseline measurement – shows where you’ve been and where you’re going.

It’s also highly unlikely that everything in your campaign is failing, which is why it’s essential to drill down into your analytics and find what you are succeeding at.  Perhaps your retention is weak, but acquisition is improving?  Maybe your average gift is lower than it was, but your number of gifts is greater?

What about your channels?  Are you making the most of online giving?  When you compare the Blackbaud Index of (Overall) Charitable Giving with the Index of Online Giving (for nearly any month, size or type of organization), it’s clear that online giving is doing better, relatively.  Nonprofits that make online giving a larger part of their annual campaign will succeed more overall.  It is the future of annual giving.

Therefore, this would be a good subset of data to present.  Over the years, how has online giving increased?  Another specific set of data within this question to answer would be the size of online gifts.  Such data might be presented in this manner:

Clearly, this data demonstrate a responsive population that is more and more willing to donate online – and with larger gifts over time.  This tendency for larger donors to make online gifts was documented in a 2008 study by Convio et al, The Wired Wealthy.

What will your data show?  Whatever it is, it’s likely to help you make your case for doing more or less of one type of campaign, and focusing on what will help you reach your goals, as well as give your constituents more of what they want . . . now that you better realize what that is.

Remember – data doesn’t have to be thought of as a four letter word!

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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.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

 

The Short End of the Stick

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Video Is Becoming More Important Than Ever Before!

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

I recently attended a presentation by Chip Dizárd, on the importance of video – good video – to the overall nonprofit campaign.  Chip teaches video techniques to Baltimore City school students, often working with nonprofits.

Not only are videos being shared in greater numbers than ever before

but the types of videos that are among those being viewed most directly relate to nonprofit fundraising:

According to Pew Research, nearly ¾ of online adults are using video sharing sites, and more than 1/3 are now looking for their news in the form of online videos.  Will your organization be there to provide any of the information that people are seeking in this medium . . . or will your competition supply it instead?

These days, it’s not enough simply to have a phone and shoot an amateur video, Chip explained.  It’s essential to have a plan, for one thing.  What are you intending to shoot?  What story are you telling?  What do you hope that viewers will do once they are finished viewing your video?  Donate? Volunteer? Sign a petition?  Understand your organization better?  If you don’t know, it’s not time to hit the [RECORD] button yet.

Consider your audience and the story they want and need to hear about your organization and what you’ve been accomplishing.  You’ll do much better telling a story about – and from! – the people you’re serving, rather than the executive director making a speech for ten minutes.  (“That’s what my donations pay for?!”)

It’s also crucial to consider the quality of the video itself, Chip explained.  The competition for viewing eyes is much greater, so if you post something with poor lighting, sound, etc., you can forget having others share it.  Your wonderful script and passionate speaker will have been for naught.

Of course, nonprofits can’t afford the best equipment in the industry, but a good executive director understands that prioritizing enough to invest in some good enough equipment to get the job done is essential.  A decision will have to be made about how important quality online representation is to the organization.

Some very high quality video production can be farmed out, but quite a bit can be done in-house with relatively little investment initially.

Also, there are many intern programs, such as Chip’s, where students who are learning in the classroom are willing to apply it in the organization and company offices.  Chip suggests searching on Twitter, for example, and laments, “People aren’t using social media to its full advantage,” when it comes to networking and finding one another.

An additional important component that nonprofits should add to their video campaign goals is applying for a YouTube Nonprofit account, which allows for additional features, including a clickable link directly within the video.  This can take the viewer outside of YouTube, to a donation page, a petition, or other actionable web page related to your campaign.

How do you plan to bolster video for your campaign in the coming year?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Would You Like To Supersize Your Gift?

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Most nonprofits don’t pay much attention to their matching gift program, considering it an afterthought – a “BTW footnote” listed on the back of the reply card, or at the end of the donation eform.  What if it could be more?

Matching gift can be more than “please-find-your-employer’s-form-and-send-it-to-us” when it comes to your campaign.  It can actually become a way to boost some much needed funds from one of your upcoming direct mail or email campaigns that hasn’t performed as well as you’d hoped.

In order to apply this tactic, it takes more planning ahead of time – and the cooperation of a loyal major donor who is already planning to give to your organization.

Whether major donor in this case is $10,000, $50,000 or $100,000 depends on your organization, but the strategy remains the same – and is sound.  The point is to demonstrate, at the beginning of the campaign, that you already have significant support – and that the seed money has been committed by a strong supporter who’ll match all donations, thereby doubling gifts donated in this campaign!

Several studies have been done to show the effectiveness of this tactic, and the findings showed a 19% increase in overall revenue simply by announcing a match.  The probability that an individual would donate was found to increase by 22% because a match was included in the campaign.

Other interesting findings:  Increasing the match had no significant effect on giving.  It was tested so that various campaigns ranged from a $3:$1 or $2:$1 or $1:$1 match and gift giving did not vary among the three sets.  Other studies by different researchers are cited, who lowered the match ratio to 25% and 50%, and found that 25% didn’t increase giving, but the 50% match did.

Adding some urgency, such as a deadline, to your campaign will help facilitate this even more, such as, “All donations given by [Date] will be matched, up to [$X], so you can double your gift!  Please give today!”

This also has an additional effect of letting your major donor know that they helped strengthen an otherwise lagging campaign by strategically placing their gift, and makes them feel much more important in the organization.  Simply, it’s a win-win strategy!

This not only applies to individual major donors, of course, but some nonprofits have worked with corporate donors who will match contributions given by individuals for a campaign’s duration.  They enjoy the publicity of being supportive of the nonprofit as well, while most individuals prefer to remain anonymous.

Once the strategy is in place and improves your lagging campaign(s), you may want to test it on a more successful one – to see how well it performs, too.  Your donors may come to expect that you’ll be stretching their dollars further as par for the course, which could improve your overall image.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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