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How Do You Conduct A Successful Staff Campaign?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Managing a successful workplace campaign means giving people an opportunity to become engaged in multiple ways with your nonprofit, ranging from quietly turning in their envelope, giving online or attending various events.

First, don’t assume that all employees know everything about your organization, its mission, etc.  As with any other population, your organization has a variety of people in a state of flux:  some people have been working there since the beginning of time, and probably know more than you do, while others are somewhere in the middle, and still others might have just started working there just last month.  Have a variety of activities and appeals so that each set can feel engaged.

For the veterans, probably the initial mention that “It’s staff giving time” during your opening campaign staff meeting will be sufficient; however, reminders are always important to help busy people, so an email or two can boost your participation rate with these people.

The residents on the other hand, have lived in “the neighborhood” for a while at least, and heard this appeal at least a few times now.  You’ll have to make some effort to break through the clutter of the past to make an impact – particularly if you are going to increase the participation rate, not to mention the average gift.

When appealing to the newbies, this is your first chance to introduce them to the campaign, so tell the story right!  Why should they give to the staff campaign, anyway?  While you know it’s important to have a high rate of participation to apply for additional funding, your opening pitch should always focus on the mission of your organization, as it would with any other population.  (What will this gift accomplish?)

It’s tempting, when there are so many campaigns to focus on, to give little effort to the staff campaign and just move on to everything else, but getting staff on board can serve to increase your overall number of ambassadors significantly.  Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth . . . positive or negative.

Give your workplace campaign the same importance as any other, and go the extra mile – solicit a corporate sponsor that might cover the cost of a special staff outing, meal or event.  If this time isn’t feasible, consider soliciting a variety of prizes to be awarded throughout the campaign.

Even small nonprofits with limited staff and budgets have implemented this strategy to bolster morale during their workplace campaigns.

Noreen* was able to give away incentives specific to her office, with management buy-in, such as having heads of departments available to work for other employees for a day, doing their jobs, such as filing, data entry, answering phones, delivering mail, etc.

That was a real morale booster!” Noreen recounts, “But other prizes were popular, too, such as an extra vacation day, or a free executive parking space.  Most importantly, it got more people engaged and excited, talking about who might win the prizes.  Ultimately, our giving and participation went up, too – but the campaign wasn’t seen with the drudgery it had been in the past, simply because of these prizes . . . and, I think, management doing things such as filing and working reception!”

While you want to have enough visibility & events so that everyone can participate, take care to have the means to protect people’s anonymity, as well as see to it that you don’t make anyone feel pressured or shamed into giving.

Some people’s past experiences with staff giving are very negative, leaving them feeling resentful, because – either at their current or previous workplace – they witnessed supervisors directly or indirectly pressuring employees into donating to “the cause.”

Each person’s financial situation is different, and nonprofit employees in particular often don’t make a great deal of money, so creating a festive environment that focuses on your mission and overall (dollar) goal is a better strategy, versus lamenting how your participation goal is still lacking.

Owen* recounts how his mother deposited an empty envelope into the church collection plate every week, so that nobody would think poorly of her, lest she pass the plate without “donating.”

In fact, his mother gave quite generously to their church, by writing one large check per year.  She worried, though, that not being perceived by the congregation as giving on a regular basis could possibly negatively affect her social standing, or make her the target of speculation or gossip.  She felt it was worth the effort to give the impression with the weekly empty envelopes.  Owen still chuckles about this childhood memory today.

As with any other campaign, it’s essential to thank your donors when it’s over.  Make sure to report on the results to everyone (donating or not – prepare for next year!), and translate the overall figures into something meaningful:  “With the $XX,000 we raised, we were able to serve an additional Y,000 hot meals to Z00 homebound individuals!”

Photos and/or video of recent accomplishments are also very impactful, and remember to utilize your social media channels when delivering these messages.  (Make it easy for your new ambassadors to hit the [share] button!)

Finally, track not only your financial successes, but your personal successes.  Which staff members became more engaged or responded the most positively?  You’ll want to explore recruiting them for your campaign committee next year, but don’t wait nine or ten months to do it – ask them now about their interest and ideas.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Do You Motivate Staff To Donate?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

“My working here is my contribution!” is a response that the development team often hears when conducting staff giving campaigns.  How does one deal with objections such as these?

The annual staff drive is a less glitzy but necessary campaign.  As with board giving, many foundations base their decisions in part on whether or not a nonprofit is supported first and foremost by its internal network – and to what extent.  After all, if the board and staff – those who know the organization best – don’t contribute, why should they?

Most nonprofit boards are typically composed of prominent members of the community who are in a position to give at least something on a regular basis; however, nonprofit employees often earn very little, so soliciting them can be quite challenging indeed.

One might argue that most employees already know firsthand about the organization’s mission, its benefactors and so forth, so there is less of a need to speak about the mission and instead simply cut to the chase:  “Please donate . . . here’s the form and envelope.  The deadline to give is [date] and our goal is [$$$].  Thanks.”  This antiseptic approach would be a mistake, however.

Ozzie* told me about his unsuccessful workplace campaign, where, although the giving percentage was rather high, the average gift was very low.  He discovered this when he began working at his nonprofit and inherited the duty of managing the staff campaign.

As he spoke to the employees individually, he discovered that they believed that they didn’t have any choice in the matter, because the reply slips were addressed to the Executive Director’s office, and each thank you letter was personally signed by the director as well.  Instead of being asked to contribute to the campaign, staff members found the tone of the director to be more mandatory, as though they were being monitored and essentially required to donate.  Ozzie heard from multiple people that they felt that it was an unspoken rule they dare not break, and because they resented it, they usually gave as little as possible deliberately.

When he realized that the staff campaign had basically become a tug of war between management and employees, Ozzie worked diligently to modify the design of the campaign and change its tone over the next couple of years, so that the focus was on how people’s contributions would help the organization, and he also made it clear that the gifts were entirely voluntary.  Although his percentage went down, overall giving actually increased – and morale improved.

Portia* also viewed an example of how she didn’t want to manage a staff campaign, when she helped her Director of Development manage theirs, and pressure was on from above to achieve 100% employee participation.

This was an unrealistic goal, since it had never occurred before, and the previous year’s percentage had been below 80%; however, the Development Director insisted that they continue to strive for 100% in all communications during the campaign.

They raised more money overall, and participation was over 90%, but the Director of Development was still displeased when he saw the half dozen names left of people who hadn’t opted to donate and informed Portia, “Well, I’m going to donate for them, then.  Put $XX down for each of them, and then list our campaign as having reached 100%.  I’ll give you cash – that’ll make it easier to attribute the gifts directly to them.”

*Ruth also inherited a staff campaign that had done so little, she was allowed to reinvent it, so she moved its campaign season to coincide with Fall, to have its conclusion during year-end giving.  Although this was already a busy giving time of year for her, she knew that it was also a prime time of year to appeal to staff members to donate, just like any other prospective donors.

She also engaged them with various activities during the campaign, in addition to reminding them of the organization’s mission with stories and testimonials of constituents that had been helped by the organization.  (“And your gift can help others, too.”)

Most helpful, though, was Ruth’s maintaining a theme throughout her campaign.  Since it was during the holidays, she posted a large gingerbread house on the wall in the staff break area, with cut out gingerbread “people” waiting to enter the home – one per staff member.  As people donated, she would move the gingerbread people inside the house to “join the party.”

The staff members ended up joining in the theme, adding items to the “house.” Every few days, a new item would appear that someone had made and added, such as a pool table, poker table, disco ball, etc.  As they became more engaged in the fun part of the theme, Ruth was sure to add these to her regular campaign messages:  (“We’re now $X,000 away from our goal.  Please consider donating to help us [fulfill our mission] and have your gingerbread cookie play on the new pool table that was recently installed.”)

Just as regular constituents shouldn’t be treated as cash registers, but engaged and educated, so, too, must staff members – particularly during the staff campaign.  Even though everyone is an employee of the nonprofit, development shouldn’t assume people in all departments know about all facets of the organization’s activities, mission, programs, etc.  As with all donors, the more engaged and pampered the employees are, the more responsive they will be to the staff campaign, rather than them feeling bullied or taken for granted.

What ways have you found to make your staff giving campaigns more successful?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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