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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.”

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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(How) Are You Using Video in Your Campaign?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The nonprofit without video in its campaign is leaving money on the table.  It’s a compelling part of storytelling, and has increased dramatically as a social media channel.  More smartphone market share will only bolster these figures.

Like other social media channels, video works best when it is incorporated with existing campaigns, in addition to occasionally – and eventually – standing alone.  Particularly if you are entering this arena for the first time, you’ll need vehicles to drive your audience to your new venue, so inserting links into your direct mail pieces and emails is a good place to start.  Don’t forget to use QR codes as well, since they can also represent a hyperlink.

Videos don’t always need to be professionally produced, either.  It really depends upon the purpose of the message.  Many nonprofits simply purchase a flip camera and begin shooting.  There may be times when a more polished image is necessary, however.  This is not different than printing many mail pieces in house and investing occasionally in a fine piece with a professional printer for a special mailing.

An important thing to remember is that it’s better to keep your message(s) short and to the point, however.  I advised a client in the past who had just begun to delve into the world of video, after presenting me with their first production that it needed to be chopped into several different pieces.  It was over ten minutes long, which I informed them that nobody would watch!

The great thing about it, though, was that it could easily be segmented into usable smaller portions.  What they had done was have an intro, where the director said “hello,” and spoke about the organization and its mission.  Next, they showed footage of a client they’d helped, with “before” and “after” footage, which took about three minutes.  After that, they showed another client’s “before” and “after,” and another client . . . and another . . .

Putting the right tags on each of these videos as separate items, I explained, would allow viewers who were interested to have the videos come up in the menu sidebar as “more videos like this,” and those viewers could continue watching, but it wouldn’t be a turn off as being too long and prevent nearly everyone from learning about their organization and its services.

There are a variety of messages that nonprofits can convey to their constituents through video, just as they can with direct mail and email:

•  Tell a heartfelt story about the people that the organization is trying to help

•  Have a spokesperson succinctly summarize the mission and add a call to action

•  Have a narrator summarize the mission and add a call to action

•  Provide a progress report (“Here’s what your donation is accomplishing!”)

•  Keep in touch with constituents, send a warm greeting

Additional ways to incorporate videos within existing channels would include adding a YouTube, Vimeo and/or Flickr tab to your Facebook page, and capturing still frames as photos to place in mailings or emailings as needed.

Finally, apply for a YouTube for Nonprofits account, which will allow you to insert clickable links within the videos you produce.  This important addition makes it easier for your viewers to take direct action straight from the video they are currently viewing.

How are you planning to make use of video in the coming year?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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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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