When the push is the process the mountain moves closer

“Special Report: e-Commerce Payment Processing & CRM” by Mira Allen and Laura Quinn (NonProfit Times, 1 April 2010). It’s not easy being a 501(c)3. With so much focus on the mission the necessary level empathy for those on the outside looking in can be difficult to muster. This is especially true when it comes to fund raising. Rarely will the guest (outside) be as committed as those fulfilling the mission (inside). Guests have their own mission(s) as well. Work, wife, kids, etc.

In short, successful donor engagement is no longer a once a year push, but an ongoing process. Resources are of course tight so management must embed the push in the day to day process, which in turn needs to align closer to the day the day lives of the target audience(s).

Mira and Laura (from www.IdealWare.org in Maine), cover many of the highlights in how to best to eat the donation elephant.

“As for any campaign, it’s important to formulate a plan before rushing out to ask for money. Start by developing a compelling message to inspire people to donate. Tell supporters a story — not just about why it’s important to support your organization, but specifically what the donations will support. Maybe the goal is a scholarship fund to help more people take advantage of your programs or a new piece of equipment. When possible, put names or faces to the people the campaign will help, or paint a vivid picture of what the hoped-for results will look like.”

Actually, for best results the story should be ongoing. It’s something that should reflect the mission and be constantly reinforced with every “blurb” that your org puts into circulation. Marketing in the 21st century is about a two-way conversation and not just traditional one-way messaging. It’ s a walk the talk world so be prepared to show them what you got. And then keep showing them! Additionally, it’s getting to be more difficult to meet fund raising goals when the marketing machine only gets ramped up once or twice a year. How do you think it makes your donors feel when you only come looking for them when you want money? While that might not be entirely true, if that’s their perception then consider it written in stone.

Whatever your medium, make sure you create compelling hooks to encourage people to donate. A simple “Help support our organization” might not get the same response as a “Help add 100 books to the library by midnight!” Almost any online message — whether ad, email, or status update — should be crafted to grab attention. Entice your constituents with intriguing and motivating calls to action.

At the risk of sounding like a broken mp3, do realize that the hook is for the donors, not for you. It’s not what those on the inside should find engaging and only have time for. What’s most important is what do those on the outside of the .org hear and/or expect to hear. How many times have we all seen an advertisement – not just from a nonprofit – that is about what the sender wants to say, and not about what the receiver is expecting to hear as well as how they are wanting to hear it. A product/service benefit isn’t a benefit unless the receiver thinks it is.  For example, the sender say,”Been around for 50 years…” While the receiver thinks, “Big deal! What are you going to do for me today?” That’s not to say tradition and established aren’t important to some, but hey are certainly further a way from the benefit target than “saves you time” or “saves you money”.

Btw, as a rule any “sales pitch” should avoid “cute” and don’t over think “creative”. If it’s not reinforcing the idea(s) then it’s probably a distraction. Nine of out of ten time KISS is will get the job done. Do you have the time to wrestle with unraveling a “cute” message? Don’t be that sender.

It’s more difficult to tell how many people are responding to your social networking appeals, but you can look for spikes in donations when you post something to Twitter or Facebook. It’s also possible to collect donations inside Facebook (using the Causes application), making it very clear how much is coming from Facebook users.

Actually, and this goes for you for profits as well, there’s a tool from Google called URL Builder that is an extension of their free website Analytics offering.  In short, you can add parameters to each of the links you post and Analytics will be able to better track that incoming traffic for you. And not to worry, the URLs generated with URL Builder still work with URL shortening services like TinyURL, Bit.ly, etc. Yes, URL Builder adds 120 seconds extra step but it’s time well invested if your .org want to analyze and understand what worked and what did not.

Once is enough?

Study Shows First-Time Online Donors Often Do Not Return By Stephanie Storm (New York Times, Wed 18 March 2009)

Whether you’re an NPO or not this is must-read. The article is just a few paragraphs but if you’re extremely pressed for time the best insights come closer to the end:

“Direct mail may not be a Maserati, but it’s very effective because it is very highly evolved,” said Lori Held, membership marketing director at Trout Unlimited. “We know how to ask for money using the mail, but most organizations are still trying to figure out how to do that online.”

Nonprofit groups face a number of challenges in trying to reach donors electronically, Ms. Held and others said.

For one thing, they must have a team dedicated to fine-tuning and improving their Web site and another team for e-mail marketing, both of which are added expenses. Nonprofit solicitation materials often get caught in systems that trap spam and other unwanted e-mail. Other systems eliminate the compelling images that are so effective in direct mail.

Still, the demographics of online donors are enticing for charities. The study found that of the donors who made at least one online gift in 2008, roughly a third had incomes greater than $100,000, while about one-quarter of those giving in other ways fell into that category.

“I think what we’re learning is that we need to be less worried about what channels these donors use and offer them a variety of channels through which they can give,” said Mr. Smith of CARE.”

Four things:

1) Conclusion: Most people are pragmatic in their charitable giving. This study is strictly from the NPO’s perspective. However, the real gems would be to understand the donors’ decision making process.  It might just be that your average Joe / Jane likes to “distribute the wealth”. Like it or not, if these are the rules then NPOs need to learn to play by them.

2) It would be helpful to know what unique identifier(s) were used to track each donor. Obviously there might be a big difference in the results between using individuals (e.g., Mr & Mrs Smith) or the Smith household. Also, did the study include or exclude anonymous donations? That could in turn effect the percentages calculated.

3) Evidently the Obama campaign actually did quite well in inspiring donors to give smaller amounts repeated times. What was their secret? Maybe that is their secret?

4) It’s nice to know that an AU state of mind just got a bit less lonely.