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Save the Endangered Corporate Sponsor!

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Imagine for a moment that your annual office holiday party was in the same restaurant each year.  In exchange for this promotion, patronage, signage & acknowledgment during the event, food was free and there was a cash bar.

Now, after many years of having this relationship, suppose that, as the restaurant owner, I have decided to change the terms of the agreement.  This year, I’ve decided I want instead:

•     All attendees at the party to wear my restaurant logo t-shirt
•     All attendees to make their own creative “Why I love the restaurant” slogan design on their t-shirt, prior to the party
•   A contest for the best designed t-shirt.  Participants need to post photos of their t-shirts on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, etc, with my restaurant name during the three weeks prior to the party.
•     A three drink minimum for guests at the party
•     The chance to go through each guest’s wallet or purse as they enter
•   I’ll announce the t-shirt winners at the party and pay for their meals.  I’m no longer paying for everyone’s food – just the top five t-shirt designers.

If you were in charge of arranging the office holiday party, what would your reaction be?  Would you capitulate . . . or find another sponsor?  This seems like a lot of extra hoops to jump through – for a lot less in return, doesn’t it?

Yet, I speak to so many nonprofit development officers on a regular basis who have signed up for similar deals.  The chance to have a chance at something!  Does it have to do with the mission of the organization?  Nothing whatsoever.  Does it ask your constituents to engage in repetitive – and meaningless – activity?  Absolutely.  And who comes out ahead?  The so-called “sponsor.”

The reason I mention “going through the wallet or purse” in my analogy is to emphasize that you’re not just wasting your supporters’ time (and spending social capital on frivolity), but all of these social media campaigns obtain permission online to get followers’ personal and private data.  This doesn’t just include such things as DOB, gender, etc., but most often pulls all of their friends’ information, too.  It is essentially going through their wallet.  Many are unaware of how much data they’re handing over when they click [I agree], but not all.

What’s more damaging beyond using your supporters to further the agenda of some unrelated corporate mission, however, is that with every one of these campaigns that nonprofits engage in, we are essentially telling corporations – encouraging them – to continue doing business with us this way in the future.

The more we fight like dozens of dogs in a pit over the same, single piece of meat, the less likely corporations will be in the future to stick to the previous model of sponsoring a single event – either as the lead sponsor, or one of several, for a nonprofit.  Why should they bother?

Consider the future of sponsorship overall – both local, regional and national – when you contemplat engaging in one of these contests.  The more you validate them, the more likely they are to become the single representation of what corporate sponsorship means in the future . . . and wouldn’t that be sad indeed?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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The Devil is in the Details

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Fundraisers are concerned about 2012 year-end giving. Not only has philanthropic giving been slugging along, but Hurricane Sandy’s impact may well further diminish what is typically the most crucial giving season of the year.

Although everyone hopes for a game changer in their campaigns that will lead to a windfall, it’s more realistic to look for areas that can be tweaked and improved, which can lead to various increases and bumps in appeals over time.

Various annual giving professionals have offered a chance to look over their shoulder at tweaks they’ve made which have bolstered different campaigns for them:

Calvin*

I wanted to highlight a specific suggested ask amount on our reply card with one of those red circles, but it wasn’t in my printing budget.  So, instead, I designed it with that particular ask amount in a font size that was one point larger than the others.  Not grossly obvious, but it stood out a tad more.  Our average gift increased with that campaign.

Daisy*

We were sending more traffic to donate online, via multiple campaigns, and wanted it to be as easy and convenient as possible.  This included redesigning our home page so that there was a [one click] option, which would take donors from the [Donate Now] button, straight to the donation eform.  We still had a page which explained why donors should give, what their donation would accomplish and multiple options of giving (e.g., mail, phone, United Way, etc.), who to contact with questions, but wanted an immediate option to give for those donors in a hurry to do so.  Our online giving – both # of gifts and overall amount – increased in the first year.

Elvis*

Just as we have our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & YouTube icons on our website, we have added these on all direct mail pieces as well, to remind supporters that they can engage with us on the social media channels of their choice.

Even though these are not clickable links via mail, the marketing of the channels is important in all touches, including mail – even solicitations.

Fifi*

We include a direct hyperlink in all mail solicitations, to encourage online giving – and distinguish it from our [Donate Now] eform, for tracking purposes.  We make it memorable & marketable, such as Nonprofit.org/donate

Gunther*

After learning which types of gifts are typically larger (online), we redesigned our reply card to encourage these gifts above others, by promoting an online giving response more prominently, followed by credit card giving via mail, and a donation of check last.  Our average gift, overall income and online giving all increased.

Hortense*

We redesigned – and reprioritized – our reply card, keeping in mind that Annual Giving is focused on the “here and now” of giving.  While other, longer-term investments are important, they don’t make funds for this campaign, and belong on the back of the reply card (while “right now” data belongs on the front).

Among fields we moved to the front of the card:

–     Credit card information
–     Joint donor name
–     Email address

Data we moved to the back of the reply card:

–     Matching gift
–     Gifts of stock
–     Change of address
–     Planned giving options

Igor*

I inherited a bunch of appeals that talked mainly about deadlines and tax deductions, which I found to be very short-lived.  While some donors do care about these things, they aren’t the ones who will keep coming back year after year.

I changed our letters and emails so that they were much more mission related.  We began focusing on telling our supporters what their gifts would accomplish and who will be helped because they gave.  This tactic saw a lot more repeat donors . . . and a lot less focus on fake deadlines, fiscal years – or tax deductions.

Jessie*

I discovered that we didn’t have an account set up with the post office to forward our mail to the newest addresses.  We had been getting too much of it returned, and I was horrified to learn that nobody in the office did anything with the returns.  This meant that we were repeatedly mailing to outdated addresses!

I got us a postal account and marked our third class mail with Address Service Requested, which forwarded most of the mail to their new addresses and notified us with the data . . . which I made certain got entered into our system!

Although this meant extra postage costs in the beginning, after several mailing cycles, management saw that it was worth it.  Only the really older addresses would be returned with the original pieces of mail.  As we consistently updated our records, our mail became much more efficient – and the return on our direct mail costs improved greatly.

What tactics have you used to improve your fundraising techniques and campaigns – and which new ones will you implement to try and boost your 2012 appeals?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Does Phonathon Make Money For Your Nonprofit?

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Some nonprofits hire companies to manage their ongoing, year-long phonathons, which seem to run like well-oiled machines.  But if you can’t afford that, do you have to abandon this event altogether? No – not by a long shot.

Although it can be a boon to your campaign to have year-around calling, many nonprofits benefit from periodic volunteer phonathon events, both for the fundraising, but also as an opportunity to bring supporters together and teach them to be ambassadors for their organizations.

Make no mistake:  All events are avenues for volunteers to shine and show their potential!  As you train your callers, reviewing the script, goals, prizes, etc. for the evening, make a point to circulate and listen.  In the beginning, all callers should start out with small donors’ names, as they practice.

While you’re listening, however, you’ll be able to discern between volunteers who can’t get beyond reading a script and those who are truly conversing with – and charming – your donors.  These people need to be upgraded immediately to calling your larger donors, since they know how to ask for larger gifts.

After your phonathon is over, these same outstanding volunteers can be recruited for other committees, or perhaps your board.

It’s essential to make your event – wherever it’s held – feel welcoming and festive to your volunteers.  This means including plenty of food, drinks and snacks.  If your organization can afford it, you may want to have a decorative theme.

Remember that social media can be useful before, during and after your phonathon:  Promoting the event and recruiting volunteers online prior to the phonathon will gain you additional workers.  Posting highlights of your progress throughout the event helps keep your momentum going – and remember to take plenty of pictures!  When the event is over, share the celebration and gratitude with everyone on all social media channels – as well as more photos.  (Remember to get permission to tag people.  Better yet, invite them to tag themselves in the pictures.)

Prizes for various levels of performance are important – although it’s a good idea to keep your goals in mind, too.  For example, if reaching a high percentage of credit card gifts is vital to your organization, don’t give prizes for pledges – only credit card payments . . . but vary the prizes based upon this theme, such as the first credit card gift each hour, the largest credit card gift of the evening, etc.

With caller ID, where you’re calling from is a careful consideration to make.  If your nonprofit opts to be identified – and has enough phones – it might make sense to have your volunteers work from your offices during the evening, using employees’ desks after hours.

On the other hand, depending upon your call list and volunteers, you might choose to have your callers each use their own cell phones.  Particularly if your call location is less likely to be identified with your organization (on caller ID), this might be a better alternative.

Although some would argue that each volunteer can simply make such calls in their own home – on their own time – with a list and their cell phone, this doesn’t lead to the camaraderie that is felt when people come together and share an evening of helping an organization they care about.

It also doesn’t allow staff to handpick their new talent from eyewitness experience.  Additionally, when supporters are called, they may have specific questions for volunteers that only a staff member can respond to.  It’s best to have such a person on standby.

Because people’s schedules are so full, it will take a lot of work to arrange a phonathon – and a lot of work to convince people that it was worth it . . . so that they will do it again in the future.

However – done well – a phonathon can still pay off as a worthwhile investment: in funds, goodwill ambassadors, and future officers for your organization.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

 

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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

Heads They Win, Tails You Lose

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Work can be tough when everything depends on how the boss communicates.  Is it simply a matter of adapting, or constantly bending over backward for someone who’s never going to be satisfied?  See what Esther* and Fern* did.

When Esther* came to me, she was worried.  As an older employee, she felt that starting a job search at her age would be a never-ending task, since she expected to face a great deal of age discrimination.

On the other hand, she told me that she already was, in her opinion.  Since her new manager came on board last year – a much younger manager – it seemed that he wasn’t really interested in hearing any of her ideas when he asked the team for their input.

The new manager made a point over the past year to emphasize that he wanted “everybody’s” ideas, Esther told me; however, although she contributed nearly every time by emailing him a suggestion or two – well before the stated dealine – he very rarely brought her ideas up for discussion during the bi-monthly staff meetings.  In fact, there had been occasions when similar ideas to hers were discussed . . . and other staff members were credited.

I examined Ester’s process of submitting her ideas more closely – particularly when the similar ideas made it to the meeting, asking her, “How did other staff members submit their ideas to the manager?”

Esther discovered that most of the (younger) members actually sent him text messages, rather than emails, much to her surprise.  She also reviewed her emails on the topics and found a couple of responses from the manager, asking her to send him a consolidated version prior to the meeting.

“I thought that I had,” Esther recounted, “But I’m pretty sure that was the month that he presented (and credited) someone else’s similar idea.”

I told Esther that I believed she could Fix It! by learning how to communicate with her Gen X boss in his preferred medium: texting.  Something that would help her become more comfortable and skilled in this area would be to open a Twitter account and learn how to tweet.

Not only does Twitter teach users how to succinctly make a statement, but the 140 character limit forces writers to make every word count.  Clearly, this type of writing is important to Esther’s boss, who just wants the bare minimum when collecting ideas for staff meetings.

Esther applied this new tactic, and within a few meetings, not only did she get her ideas on the agenda, but was complimented on her improved writing skills.  She is very pleased to know that she can continue being appreciated for her talents in her current job, rather than begin interviewing.

Fern* had seen firsthand how difficult the economy was for people.  For the past couple of years, her cousins had been out of work – searching, to no avail – and living with her.

She had a very difficult boss, but didn’t feel she had any choice about putting up with him.  It was obvious to her that the job market was difficult, and she felt lucky just to have a job.  Besides, other people were counting on her – it wasn’t just about her.

Recently, though, the fog had begun to lift.  Each of her cousins had found positions that were permanent, and had begun to save some money.  In several more months, they were planning on moving out, to get their own apartment!

Just knowing that things were going to settle down was making her home life much less stressful, which had the side effect of allowing Fern to really notice exactly how stressful her workplace really was, though – with a kind of laser-like focus.

Fern began to see that the CEO’s odd behavior wasn’t solely directed at her, for one thing, but that others had similar frustrations, not knowing what to expect from him, one day to the next.

She could see that this was the crux of the difficulty, actually:  he was so unpredictable and moody day to day, that his mood swings often greatly affected her mood afterward.

The CEO’s demeanor frequently would oscillate to great extremes, often playing out during meetings, as well as affect policy decisions.

For example, there were numerous planning meetings, where the CEO sat nearly sullen and silent, leading others to speak up more, ultimately heading the project and making the decision on what would happen, because as everyone looked to the CEO, he either nodded or clearly didn’t care, from his shrug.

Later, (often much later) when a great deal of the project was in the works, the CEO would step in, sneer, and either dismantle it altogether, or find so much fault that it ended up getting such a makeover that it didn’t even resemble the original design!

Other times, the CEO was so engaged from the start, nobody could get a word in edgewise during the planning stage, but it was just as well.  Clearly, he only wanted “yes men,” so people either nodded vigorously, or sat silent, waiting for their assignments and watching the clock.

Those who had been through his “mania” before knew that he’d lose interest in whatever he was currently feverish about soon enough, anyway, so there really was no point in volunteering for something that would be altered or shelved, so why bother?

As Fern considered this repetitive pattern, she told me, it gave her a bit of relief.

“I suppose it could have made me even MORE depressed, but I think it was what I needed:  a chance to step back and look at the situation rationally.  My fear of my circumstances had just gripped me before, but now, I could see that it really was him, and not me . . . and that I needed to Forget It!

Without others depending so much upon her, and an indication that the job market was a bit better, Fern decided to start looking for a job for herself.

Although it did take several months, Fern feels that she wouldn’t have been a good candidate before her change in attitude and outlook, anyway.

“I am so relieved to be in a new atmosphere,” she says.  “It’s incredibly different, to be headed to work and think about the tasks I’ll be facing, rather than wonder – with trepidation – what sort of emotional storm lies ahead today!”

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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

Similar Posts:

Merle* and Naomi* deal with age gaps in the workplace

Lynn* deals with her OCD manager

Gabrielle* found a way to be more relevant

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