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Posts Tagged ‘Pew Research Center’

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

For many nonprofits, this year-end is faring much better than the despair of last December, when there was far less a chance of exceeding the previous year and more thoughts of, “I hope we can match what we earned before!”

Of course, this isn’t the case for every organization, but early indications are quite favorable for the majority of nonprofits polled recently.

Having struggled through these past few years of the recession has forced charities to become leaner and strategize in new and more creative ways.  Many have also taken a long hard look at available research, to see what indicators will help them better serve their constituents.  Even better is taking time to review your own organization’s data, since it may vary from institutional trends on occasion.

One undeniable successful strategy is to combine appeals and have a multichannel approach.  Most nonprofits now realize that putting donors into “silos” is an inaccurate – and lower earning – method of fundraising.  It’s certainly challenging to manage multiple points of reaching out to donors, particularly when they continue to expand, but the organizations that do it best see the most promising results.

Of course, in addition to adding social media channels (and deciding how many to have!), nonprofits now need to decide when (not if!) to add mobile to their campaigns.

The term mobile itself brings an onslaught, too, since this encompasses a variety of possibilities, from converting the organization’s website to be mobile-friendly, to providing text messaging, apps, donations by mobile (and there are choices just within this), and more!

Again – integration is the key.  Social media is best integrated into what you’re already doing in your campaign, such as an event.  Parts of your mobile appeal(s) can be added to portions of your existing campaign as well, making it an enhancement to something already familiar.

Above all else, though, is the donor.  Cultivation and showing appreciation are key.  However, many nonprofits are unaware that they may not be displaying enough of their attention in the right direction.  New research has shown that in 90% of high net households, women are either the sole decision maker or equally involved in philanthropic decisions.

Women donors want to be more directly involved in their charitable giving and need to see and know that their contributions are making a meaningful impact.  This is important information to know when crafting appeals, annual reports, etc. for donors.  It tells us to write more about personal accounts and the significance a gift has had on the life of a recipient, rather than something resembling a balance sheet.

The more we learn about how to better serve our constituents, meeting them where they are – psychologically and technologically – the more successful we’ll become at acquiring and retaining our donors, not to mention increasing their commitment to the organization over time.

With the early results looking so promising, it seems that many organizations are becoming quite skilled at moving to “where the donors are,” rather than the previous model of telling them to “come over here.”

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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What’s the Payback on Social Media?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

While I was speaking at and attending the Emerging Philanthropy Conference last month, people kept coming back to the same question, regardless of the session or roundtable topic listed: “How do I sell my boss on the value of Social Media?

It became clear as the two days progressed that this weighed heavily on many people’s minds.  Although most nonprofit leaders are at least conceding the point that social media isn’t going away anytime soon, many of them still aren’t moving beyond basic lip service.  That is to say, too many don’t realize that experienced staff and a (gasp!) budget need to be committed to this endeavor as well.

(Mostly!) gone is the illusion of, “Give it to the intern – s/he needs something to do, anyway . . .” and then crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.  Enough studies now exist to show that nonprofits which take social media seriously really do get results from their audiences.

I’ve often found, though, that elaborating with details (even when I have plenty of them!) doesn’t really help me make my case . . . it only causes people’s eyes to glaze over.  Just as it’s essential to tell a potential donor a story that she can relate to when trying to solicit a gift, the staff member must tell the director a story that he can easily relate to when it comes to equating a new fundraising or marketing campaign to one he is already familiar with.

Comparing what is unknown to what is already known is always a good place to begin.

Most directors not only find social media to be new and confusing, but will often point to the fact that they don’t see the staff time or expense invested yielding any income for the organization, so why should they begin – or continue – to invest any of these resources in such an endeavor?

This can be answered by relating to several areas that nonprofits frequently already invest in, which take a lengthy time to produce income – indeed, some never do.  For example:

•     Acquisition mailings:  It’s a commonly accepted industry standard that this segment will need to be mailed to four times before breaking even, after which only then will nonprofits expect to start making money on this investment.  Why do they do it then?  Because they realize that it takes time, money and repetitive, consistent messaging in order to get people in the habit of donating to the organization when it is a new behavior that they are being asked to participate in.  Investing in bringing new constituents on board is something that smart nonprofits do all the time.  They are used to doing this via mail, and many of them also acquire email lists, too, so moving into the social media realm is just an additional channel.

•     Special events:  A great many nonprofits have annual, signature events that take many staff members nearly all year to plan and implement.  Some have more than one.  Although the hope is to raise a great deal of funds, quite a few others consider themselves  lucky if they turn a profit at all, and some even operate in the red, because it’s obvious that there are other benefits to such events, such as cultivation, publicity, networking, etc.  The amount of staff time and expense invested to execute an annual event can’t even begin to compare to how much staff time is required to create and maintain your social media channels, and yet most directors won’t think twice about budgeting for events as a “regular cost of doing business.”

•     Major Gifts:  For organizations that have dedicated staff or departments pursuing major giving, the directors realize that cultivation efforts of major donors can take many, many months, and the gifts may not come even in the same year – but that it all takes an investment of time before paying off.  The expenses involved often include a great deal of travel, meals, entertainment, etc., and many variables can affect the outcome of when and whether the gifts will be realized; again, however, this is seen as an investment that is worth pursuing.

Social media is no different than any of these above examples.  Typically, the greater the investment, the greater the return, but the principles are the same:

•     Constituents are being asked to participate (often in a new way), and repetition of the messaging is required before they become used to it and respond
•     Boosting income is only one of several goals, such as publicity and networking
•     Over time, the cultivation efforts will pay off, but not immediately

Another effective analogy that has been used to measure the importance of social media can be seen with recent and upcoming elections.  There was a greater correlation found between elected gubernatorial candidates who had larger social media followings in the 2010 elections, for example.  It’s already clear with upcoming presidential politics that social media will play a crucial role.  If it weren’t important, the campaigns wouldn’t invest so much time and money in it – particularly this early.

There are certainly directors who will want figures to back up these arguments, and I have often been accused of being a number-crunching geek who tracks my campaigns’ data, ad nauseum!  I do love analytics, and will create tables, charts and graphs to demonstrate this, that and the other whenever I can.

I’m simply pointing out that in the above examples of mailings, events and major gift cultivation, I’d be willing to wager that most nonprofits can’t produce a great deal of analytics to show detailed ROIs, expenses, splits on LYBUNTS, SYBUNTS, lapsed, etc. either, so why is management holding social media to a higher standard and a shorter timetable to produce results?  Especially when “results” are being defined on an entirely new landscape that’s changing at a much greater speed than the others?  This is very unrealistic.  There are many directors who’ll disregard data in favor of their gut reactions or anecdotes instead.

Obviously analysis can be done to measure results, and several social media experts offer good advice on how to do it; however, many nonprofits don’t invest enough in their staff to have someone who delves deep into the data for any aspect of development.  Often, gross income, net income, average gift and perhaps percentage of donors retained is the extent of the analysis conducted for each campaign.

The alternative of abandoning social media – or doing it half way – is a poor choice, simply because it appears not to measure up to unfair standards that no other campaign strategy is being held to.

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Stone Soup – What’s YOUR Recipe?

Monday, October 11th, 2010

There are many versions of the story of Stone Soup, but most people have heard one or another. The point, of course, is that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. I tend to view all of the soup ingredients as the various aspects needed for a good “Annual Giving recipe” these days.

While one could certainly make a meal out of a basic chicken broth and noodles (e.g., a couple of direct mail pieces and an occasional phone call), that really isn’t a very fancy “soup,” when you consider the plethora of ingredients available on the market these days: email, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, video, text messaging, and so on.

Although not every non profit is equipped to do as much as the next, this year-end giving season is the perfect time to seize the opportunity to learn and do more with your Annual Giving plan. Particularly with projections looking less favorable for donors to increase their giving, non profits will need to find new and creative ways to compensate.

Several organizations have already seen their increased social media efforts pay off – many of them in substantial ways, either with publicity efforts, volunteer support, or outright fund raising.

Recent studies released show results not only how much the four most frequently used social media sites are being used by various age groups, but also additional details on their frequency of using social media, texting and much more. It’s clear that, while the Millennials are the technology leaders, they are by no means the only demographic consuming social media, videos or using their cell phones for internet or texting.

It’s important to take notes from other successful sites and see what you can do at this time.  One such organization is the ASPCA.  While your site may not be as sophisticated as theirs, it’s worth viewing the wide variety of social media interfaces on their Get Involved page and general Online Activism center.   For example, perhaps you could provide instructional videos or PSAs about your mission or services – or, conversely, you might invite your constituents to submit their own videos about how they are involved in lobbying, serving, or otherwise supporting your cause.

Whichever segment(s) you choose to add or modify to your campaign, though, it’s important to track and/or segment what you do. Keeping up with industry research is vital to planning, but tracking the reality of how your organization’s data actually performs is crucial to your follow up. In many cases, it will follow industry standards, but not always. It pays to prepare your data ahead of time.

It will depend on the parameters of your data, but several segments that many organizations typically segment and measure may include current donors, LYBUNTs, SYBUNTs, lapsed, lower-level, mid-level, upper-level (however this is defined at your organization), and also perhaps certain membership levels (duration, geography, age range, etc.).

Additional tests are useful, such as days of the week for electronic communications, as well as various wording of subject lines or calls to action. For direct mail, testing results take longer to receive, but are worth doing to continuously improve results. These include letter length, enclosures, envelope design, size, etc.

If you believe that campaigning in social media is going to be too difficult to accomplish in your organization because of persuading those in charge, one way to broach the subject may be to suggest testing. Try Group A with what you have typically done with your campaign, but supplement Group B with a social media conversation about what you are doing, and why donations are so meaningful, what will be accomplished (that is meaningful to them), etc.

Just as Boomers have come to the social media party late – but they have finally arrivedso, too, it would seem have many executives. A great deal more are beginning to realize the value of social media. They have even become participants in larger numbers recently. Some still have their concerns, of course, so tracking and proof can help to alleviate such anxieties.

Just as in the story of Stone Soup, the more buy-in you can get for adding additional ingredients, the better the final product will be.
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

My Feeling Is…More Facts Are Needed!

Monday, August 30th, 2010

One of the hardest positions to be in is to find that your organizational strategy is based entirely upon not what’s been requested, nor even what’s been successful (since no tracking has been done), but solely the personal opinions of a select few in management who feel that they speak for all.

It’s simply too easy to assume that “we know this group” and set our campaign toward them on auto-pilot; however, this can have detrimental or disastrous consequences, because all groups evolve, adapt and change.  When an organization, company or medium fails to listen, notice or adapt with them, this is a formula for disaster.  Mike Frey makes a good argument about how social media was created because traditional media didn’t pay attention and became further and further removed from its customer base.

Research toward your constituents should be ongoing, segmented and with dual considerations:  Industry-wide data is important to monitor, but you also need to keep tabs on what your own organizational data is as well.  They may not follow the same trends in all circumstances.

When reviewing and segmenting social media data, for example, we see that overall use is growing at an incredible rate among seniors, particularly in the 50 – 64 age category.  While their consumption does not yet equal that of the 18 – 29 age group, it is notable that the rate of increase has roughly doubled in the last year . . . and the year before that.  The rate of increase in social media usage is clearly higher among these seniors than any other group.

This research explains the trends of the data that gut feelings might not, such as:

•     It’s likely that even greater numbers of Boomers will join the ranks of social networking as more of them get high speed internet
•     Older adults tend to be home bound in greater numbers, and appreciate being connected with loved ones online

There are many ways that social networking engages participants of all ages, too.  Consider the plethora of online games and the market penetration of such things as FarmVille viewed on grocery shelves.  This crosses a variety of demographics.

A common misperception about a different segment is that Generation Y exists exclusively online, and the only way to approach them is through Facebook, but there is never just one way.  For one thing, recent studies have documented Facebook Fatigue among Millenials, who are finding it less cool, now that their parents and grandparents are joining in droves.

Teenagers and young adults elsewhere are showing additional offline trends as well:  In Australia, they are using the web as a means to search for ways to shop offline; and there’s documentation that German teens are becoming more interested in face-to-face time these days, too.

American Gen Y entrepreneurs have also recently been meeting with one another in person to brainstorm about how best to create new ideas, including starting the largest Google Doc.

We can’t be positive what the next new trend(s) will be or exactly what our constituents will want from us in the coming year(s).  What is certain, however, is that we must continue to learn all we can about their needs, desires – and proven response rates and meet them where they are . . . not where we decide they should be.

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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