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Posts Tagged ‘VFRI’

My Director Will Never Go For That

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

It’s conference season. Too often, I’ve witnessed a person in a session, hearing a great idea being presented – and then turning to me and saying, “I’d LOVE to do that at my place, but my director will never go for it,” typically followed by a sigh.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I don’t claim to know their director or their organization.

But, this person presumably attended this session to learn more about the topic at hand – and while we’ve all had difficult bosses to work with, this person has already cleared a substantial hurdle:  they’ve been sent to a conference to learn more about their field!  A lot of people I speak with would love to be in their shoes!

Whenever you’re approaching your director with a new idea it always pays to put yourself in their shoes first.  What is the likely response?  More importantly, why?  If the answer is no – why is it no?  Is it due to additional cost, staff time, or something else?

You can’t address an objection effectively if you don’t know what the objection is to begin with.

For example, when I speak at sessions about Incorporating Online Giving With Direct Mail, a reason people often give me that their leadership doesn’t want to add online giving has more to do with ignorance:  I wouldn’t give my credit card number over the web, and I don’t think our constituents really want to, either.”

A way to combat this argument is with a one-two punch:  First, by demonstrating industry standards – showing results of a study that demonstrate how pervasive online giving is, regardless of age, for example.  This can be followed up by results of the organization’s own online giving results to counter another common, but ignorant objection:  “That may be true for that population, but it doesn’t apply to our constituents.”  (We’re different.)

It’s also essential to realize that even if you’ve heard – or had – the best idea in the world, it probably isn’t realistic to expect that absolutely everything is going to go your way and be fully implemented immediately.  Once you accept this, you can prioritize your requests and ask for the most important aspects first.  Change can be difficult for people to accept, and it doesn’t always have to do with the price tag.

This is why tracking is so vital.  When you return with tangible, visible results of the success that your proposal is starting to yield, NOW is the time to request that Stage 2 be implemented, and so on.

Of course, you can get these ideas from many sources – not just attending conferences.  You might be inspired from reading various related websites, blogs, taking online training courses, as well as old fashioned networking.  Each person must use the resources they have available to them.

A few days of exposure to the full throttle of session after session at a conference can leave one with a combination of being inspired and overwhelmed, though, when seeing what other very successful organizations are doing with their campaigns.  The thought of trying to implement such changes into your program with staff and/or officers who are resistant to change can even bring about anxiety.

Here are all these wonderful campaigns, strategies and tools – but how will you take them back and implement them, you wonder?  What if you are also lacking the staff and/or budget that they have?  It can seem daunting, if not impossible.

Taking notes during the sessions on how they began their campaigns is always a good idea, as well as asking questions about how difficulties were handled along the way, since all projects have them.  Most presenters welcome being contacted after their sessions, so be sure to take down their information for follow up questions later.

If I don’t see you at NTEN or AFP International in Chicago, perhaps we’ll meet up Pittsburg next month, or Richmond this July, when I am presenting about online giving again?  I can also be reached via my LinkedIn button below.

If you really do have a director who refuses to try anything new – ever – regardless of the idea’s merit, then perhaps it’s time you asked yourself if you should Fix It Or Forget It?  Where do you see your career headed, and can your current position take you there?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

So Much Time And So Little To Do!

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

…Strike That – Reverse It!” Words made immortal by Willy Wonka (the real one), which come to mind often for those in Annual Giving, who have more and more added to our plate every day, it seems. What does a complete campaign look like, anyway?

Everyone knows that If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting – and who wants that? No, we must keep our current donors, of course, but add some sizzle and pop to the mix as well . . . only what does that mean, exactly?

Direct Mail
Ok, even though it’s an old standby, people are still responding to mail. It’s most likely a hefty portion of your budgetary income, so A/B testing is good. It’s also important to have a good tagline and place a meaningful hyperlink with all mail appeals, since integrated campaigns perform better overall.

Special Events
Even events aren’t the same any longer. Few invitations are simply sent via mail with confirmations or RSVPs over the phone. Now, in addition to email, events are posted on Facebook pages, Evite, Twitter, etc. In fact, some organizations are getting creative and tweeting their events as they are happening – and not just the people with smart phones! What other spin can make your event(s) fresh, new and exciting? Where’s the video camera?

Video
Storytelling with video is more important than ever now. A compelling narrative with video is a medium like no other, and your organization needs to keep up by joining in. Michael Hoffman points out, however, that another crucial element is the YouTube Nonprofit program, so that clickable links can be added at the end of a message. Have you gotten your account yet, so that you can embed these links in your YouTube videos? Also, what about Vimeo, Funny or Die and other channels? YouTube isn’t the only video space on the web – where are your constituents?

Email Marketing & Online Giving
Like direct mail, email has become an essential tool that isn’t dead, but needs revamping to keep up. Have you added photos and links to videos, as well as your Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. channels, so that email recipients can connect with you as they wish? Are these buttons also visible on your website template, too, so that regardless of one’s browsing, a constituent can easily find your social media channels? What about a [share] button? Do you monitor your click through rates on your email campaigns?

Analytics
There are many more analytics online to monitor than just who opens your emails and acts on them. Have you been monitoring your search terms, so that your site design offers what people most frequently want? Do you have a Google Analytics account, so that you know the details of your site traffic, once people land, how many pages they visit, how often they stay, etc.? And what about your offline stats? How much analysis do you do regarding direct mail (acquisition, renewal, lapsed, etc.), events, and so forth?

Phonathon
The nature of phonathon has changed, but many nonprofits are still making money by conducting them on a regular basis, and adapting them to their specific circumstances. Others are finding them to be more and more obsolete, however, as their donor base is abandoning land lines in greater numbers and are seeking a better way to connect with these high tech potential supporters.

Mobile
There is no question that connecting with constituents via mobile is the wave of the future – not only for solicitation, but for text messaging and many other uses. Projections predict that the first decade of mobile giving fundraising will surpass that of online giving. Mobile can also facilitate sending tweets or other short messages that notify members of recent legislation, ask for event RSVPs, or simply send people to a specific page of importance on your website. Some predictions see smart phones replacing wallets in the next several years, so communication via mobile will be an essential part of your organization’s strategy. Oh, and then there are QR codes. A whole other world of new and fun applications. Just imagine what you could do with them at an event!

Podcasts
Perhaps you’ve listened to or created podcasts for your organization. Now you can create them on the go, using a smart phone, and integrate them with social media, so that they appear with a photo and on your Twitter and/or Facebook feed. How can you apply short, medium or longer podcasts to your campaign so they are of interest to your constituents?

Facebook
We all know Facebook is a must in the social media realm. If only they wouldn’t keep changing their rules and policies every month or two . . . not to mention the very design of the page itself. (Am I logged in as myself or the administrator??) Analytics can help here, too, to know what, when and how to post to Facebook.

Twitter
Perhaps you haven’t yet delved into the micro-blogging world of Twitter. Well, jump in and learn all about hashtags, following and retweeting! Don’t fool yourself into thinking that only one demographic is participating, or that your people aren’t there – they are! Details on how to do it well are useful, of course, but everyone is on a learning curve at first. You’ll learn best by doing it.

Blogging
Studies have shown that one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website is by blogging – providing useful, relevant content to your followers on a regular basis. One of the biggest mistakes that most new bloggers make, however, is not following through with a schedule once they get started blogging. Whether you’re going to blog weekly, monthly or bi-monthly, announce it and stick to it, so that you will build a loyal readership that knows they can count on viewing your content on a regular basis. (Of course, Seth Godin recommends blogging on a daily basis. Why argue with him?)

There are several other items on your to do list, of course: LinkedIn, Delicious, Foursquare, recruiting and training your board members to be better solicitors – not to mention your own training. (You do have your CFRE, don’t you?) In your spare time, you’ll need to meet several donors face to face and get out a few grant proposals, too.

By the way, will I see you at NTEN or AFP this month? No? Why not?

Well, there are online training events . . .

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Evaluate Your Strengths AND Weaknesses

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Certainly, we all want to celebrate what we’ve done well at the end of a campaign, event or year’s worth of fund raising effort.  It’s good for the team and personal morale.  It also helps us to see how to continue on the right path and to improve.

Another area that doesn’t get as much attention, though, is the weaknesses.  Call them areas of improvement if that’s more palatable.  Often, this is due to fear of blame.  If these can be looked at analytically (rather than critically), however, often a great deal can boost income here as well.

Perhaps, if department/event/campaign A isn’t performing as well as desired, it should be discontinued.  More likely, though, upon examination, you’ll discover that factors X and Y could be altered or modified to boost income.  Perhaps the scheduling of the event isn’t quite right?

For example, we realized that the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth phonathon simply could not contact parents during the summer.  Parents were sending their children to our summer camps at this time, and when they saw Johns Hopkins on the caller ID, they immediately assumed their child was injured at camp – or had some other problem.  Once they were relieved that nothing was wrong with their child, this was not the time to ask them for a donation!

For another campaign, I discovered that our ask amounts were too low, as well as the coverage being too limited, and boosted the overall income the following year by 46% simply by expanding the reach and increasing the suggested gift amounts.

An important aspect to remember when reviewing any campaign is that they should be viewed with an overall strategy in mind, rather than seeing each one as its own entity.  Donors don’t exist in silos, giving only to the J Campaign, or merely as a mail donor, or an online donor.  It’s best to treat all donors with a more holistic approach.

Too many organizations are under the false assumption that funds earned in the “online bucket” will simply steal them from the “mail bucket,” so why bother moving money from one to the other?  Studies have shown that the holistic approach will actually boost all of these “buckets,” and that the multi-channel donor gives the largest gifts of all.

In the past three and a half years that I’ve been at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, I’ve worked on boosting the strengths, and hunting out any holes – or weaknesses – that could be tweaked for the better, with the following results [click chart for better view, <Back> button to return to blog]:

Center for Talented Youth Annual Giving Appeal Income History

 Although upon first glance, it may appear that web income did “cannibalize” mail in FY 2009, the shortfall that year was due to our discontinuing mailing our Annual Report.  Moving this mailing to an online report was a decision to “go green,” saving us quite a lot in printing and postage expenses . . . but also costing us approximately $36K in donation revenue received from the FY 2008 mailing.

Another hole or opportunity to improve I discovered was in the way we conduct phonathon.  The changes we implemented helped us realize a 20% increase in income this fiscal year from FY 2009.  It is definitely worth taking a diagnostic look at areas that could be performing better!

It’s always important to review studies of how donors are performing industry-wide, but it is equally essential that you track your own donor data within your specific demographics to see these trends as well – and respond accordingly.

I’ll be discussing such examples when I speak next week at the VFRI about How to Incorporate Online Giving Into Your Annual Fund . . . and Track It!

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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