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.

If your message falls on deaf ears/eyes, does it still make a sound?

“Prospect Research” by Waddy Thompson (The NonProfit Times, 15 September 2009). Please note: The link to Mr. Thompson’s article will actually take you to his web site, not NPT.com. NPT, being an old media outfit (?), did not have the article posted on their web site. They also did not respond to an inquiry as to whether it was going to be added any time soon. And old media wonders why they’re losing readership. I don’t get it. Actually, they don’t get it. Oops, I digress.

Waddy does a super job here in laying out a framework for segmenting your mailing list and why that matters. What’s beautiful is that this mindset works for all types of businesses, not just 501(c)(3)s. With tools such as Salesforce.com or Zoho’s CRM offering (http://crm.zoho.com/crm/) the possibilities are powerful, inexpensive and nearly endless.

Here is another article of interest (that has been sitting in the to-be-posted pile, so please excuse the delay, the information is still spot on): “Email Segmentation for Higher ROI” by Peter Prestipino (Website Magazine, February 2009).

Don’t forget, targeting your message is not only good for you but it’s even more good (note: the word play was intentional) for your guests. They, just like you, have limited time and attention. The better you stay on *their* message, the more likely they are to keep you in their conversation. It’s not so much about what you want to say, but about what they want to hear. Right? Right!

Give more get more

“T-Shirt Premium Jazzes Up Public Radio Fundraising” by Michele Donohue and Mark Hrywna (The NonProfit Times, 15 September 2009). Good stuff. Who doesn’t love a success story? And a premium? But as you read this please keep these AU caveats in mind:

— Why was the KCSM-FM promotion only offered to “lapsed” members?

— The article says that there was over $42k raised from 577 donors with an average gift of over $100. Simply put, that math doesn’t add up.

— There is not mention of a control group for the KCSM-FM promotion. And while the results sound impressive, the true effectiveness is impossible to analyze. Maybe it just a better looking mail piece?

— While the fulfillment vendor isn’t specifically mentioned, AU wonders if Zazzle.com (or a similar service) might have been a better, more cost effective choice.

— Since when are mailing labels considered a premium?

Last but not least, maybe the concept of donor should be put to rest already? To a certain extent,  donor implies a sense of one-and-done. However, member and membership not only gives the guest a sense of belonging to a community but it should also force the NPO to not see every warm body as a dollar sign. Perception and words matter.  Needless to say, donor, in a world where expectations are formed by Web 2.0 does not inspire an appropriate “UX” (user experience).

Getting (NPO) guests to buy the passion

“Hello? Arkansas? Yeah, It’s Facebook” by Mark Hrywna (The NonProfit Times, 15 June 2009). Great and inspiring article but for the moment try not to be distracted by the social network hype. Using social networks is a tool, not a panacea. It still takes time and resources to use that tool . What’s nice is that when the work is done well then the fruits of that labor can scale rather well (i.e., the pool of guests / donors is large).  It should be noted that Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation (ACHF) “recently hired someone to take over direct marketing efforts and social networking.” In other words, to reap the fruits an investment must be made, managed, maximized, etc.

In addition, Ben Tanzer, senior director of strategic communication at Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA), makes an essential point when he says:

The goal is to create as many platforms and portals as possible, providing people with different opportunities that the organization eventually will cross-link, and as Tanzer describes it, cross-pollinate. PCAA is focused less on fundraising and more on “helping to refine the message so when people learn about the organization they get what we do,” he said.

Being available is half the battle. It is still important for the brand to clarify their message, a message that needs to resonate with their perspective guests. The NPO has to figure out what it is that their guests are willing to buy. Simply asking for money is probably not going to be enough.

Finally, with success stories such as this one the clutter factor is going to come into play fairly quick. Soc-nets are where the guests are so they are certainly not a channel to be ignored. On the other hand, that channels’ ability to deliver “get rich quick” results will in all likelihood diminish as the level of noise and competition increases.

As we at AU like to say, “The internet… You can figure it out now. Or you can figure it out later. But you will have to figure it out.” No pain, no gain, eh?

Can you tweet me now?

“Social Butterflies Can Raise Money” by Michele Donohue (The NonProfit Times, 1 April 2009).  It’s difficult to go a day without someone asking, “What about Twitter?” or “How can I use Facebook?”. True success stories do seem to be somewhat limited at this point in time. However, all hype aside, when an 800 pound guerrilla – make that two 800 pound guerrillas – walks into your room and beats their chests it’s probably wise  to sit up and listen.

Most Twitter articles tend to focus on how you could / should use Twitter. Yet more often that not the blank stare is followed by, “But what do I have to say that that’s important?” While not mentioned directly, this article highlights another strategy for using this tool… Get others to Twitter about your company, event, etc. to their network. It’s possible you might be asking the wrong question. It’s not a matter of what you have to say, but how can you get others to say (good) things about you. Let them define the what, while you focus on supplying whats to Twitter about. It might not be necessary to build your own network as much as try to capitalize on ones that are already there and are sympathetic to your cause / brand.

While we’re on the subject of non-profits, this issue of NPT also had: “Spending more in a down economy” by Tom Pope, as well as “Destroying The Integrity Of Nonprofits” by Richard A. Viguerie. Unfortunately, Mr. Viguerie’s cutting-against-the-grain insights are not yet available online.