Putting a snowman on it. (Or reindeer. Or fir trees.): Unless you are actually working to save snowmen, reindeer, fir trees — or any other emblem of the winter holidays, avoid featuring any of these as the star of your fundraising appeal. The best use of an image is showing me a real photo of the people or animals my donation will help. Bonus: Avoiding the traditional clip art will also help your appeals stand out from the crowd! At the risk of being a Scrooge myself, here are three holiday fundraising pet peeves that I hope to see less often this year: Photo Source: Big Stock Photo Making me feel guilty about my daily coffee: The classic line of forgoing a daily latte to make a donation is often used to illustrate how easy it can be to find a way to give a little and have it add up to a lot. However, the world is certainly not going to be a better place if I skip my coffee (trust me), and I want to be inspired to give, not guilted. Let me give my donation in a happy, caffeinated state and leave Starbucks (and guilt) out of it. Year-end fundraising season is here and I’m seeing a steady stream of fundraising appeals arrive in the mail and in my inbox. As sure as I can count on receiving Aunt Nancy’s 3-page (front and back) annual family newsletter, there are a few themes that always seem to creep into the mix of these donation requests. Using too many shopping metaphors. Unless you can clearly tie the idea of shopping to giving the gift of charity, specific impact levels or a holiday giving catalog, as done very successfully by Heifer International or even Network for Good’s own Good Cards, consider leaving the shopping to the mall. Giving a donation is a highly personal and emotional act; don’t take me out of the moment by overusing phrases like: “buy now”, “holiday shopping” and “shopping list”.Your best bet to get me to donate to your cause in December? Tell a great story, stick to the point and clearly tell me what I can do to help. Happy fundraising!
Editor’s note: This article was adapted from the webinar presentation “Why They Leave and How to Get Them Back” with Kivi Leroux Miller and Katya Andresen. It was originally published on December 27, 2012 and has been updated. Want to start the off on the right foot with your donors? Take the time to show your gratitude and to differentiate yourself in a way that advances your mission and deepens your relationships with donors. Remember: having a memorable thank you is the first step in retaining more donors.Photo Source: Big Stock PhotoTry these three ways to wow your donors with your next thank you letter.Show the impact.Don’t lead with, “Thank you for your gift of $25 on December 5.” Lead with something that captures the true story of the impact. Lead with the success they are helping to achieve. That’s what the donor wants. They don’t want to know that you deposited $25 in your bank account on December 5. They want to know you are spending that $25 to make a difference in the world.Open the door.Share with your donors the other ways they can be involved with your cause. Invite them to an open house or participate in other programs. Educate them on what they can do in their own life to help your cause and if you have volunteer opportunities, let them know how to join in. Think of the different ways people can learn more about your organization and get even more involved in making a difference.Set expectations.Let donors know when they will hear from you again. If you add them to your mailing list, make sure you have an interesting and inspiring newsletter. Don’t just start slamming people with a bunch of boring information and ask them for money all the time. Create a newsletter that that continues to engage people’s spirit and report back on the results they helped make possible. Plan ongoing updates that will let donors know about all the great stuff that they’re making possible.
It’s the time of year when a lot of us (including me) take stock. Why are we here? What should we be doing in 2013?A few years back, I was lamenting to my wise cousin Elisabeth that I wasn’t sure where I should focus my work. What was the best job for me? What was I meant to be doing with my life?She told me her method for figuring that out. She pays attention to when she feels jealous. If she hears about a job someone’s taken or a project someone has started and feels envious, that’s a clear sign it’s what she most wants to do. We’re not talking about the nasty kind of envy – as in the deadly sin where you feel diminished by others’ success and want to derail someone else’s good fortune. And I don’t mean longing for the fame and money that can be a side benefit of professional success. I simply mean the telltale twinge you feel when you hear about someone’s endeavor and wish you could do that, too. Stop and wonder: What about that activity creates a craving in you? Was it something you’ve always longed to try? Something you’ve been afraid to try? Maybe you can and should attempt that very thing.It’s a clarifying feeling. Jealous? Maybe you should be chasing that dream yourself.
Copyblogger posted this lovely video from Hope for Paws, an animal rescue organization. (Can’t see it? Go here.)The Copyblogger post points to why this is great storytelling:1. It’s remarkable: We get to go on a first-hand journey to save this dog – and the puppies. The iPhone trick is pretty nifty too. It’s the kind of thing you want to share because it’s different and surprising.2. It’s emotionally compelling: We identify with the mother dog’s plight, and the amazing way she is saved.3. There’s a clear call to action at the end.I agree on all three fronts. Through another lens, this is also good storytelling because there is a clear hero, something real at stake and a lesson/solution.The best part is it’s low budget. And it doesn’t matter. If anything, it adds to the authenticity.What could you film from the front lines of your work? And before you say you can’t do this because you don’t have a cause as cute as puppies or you must respect the anonymity of those you serve, get creative. If you’re a policy organization, go film the people who are the end beneficiaries of your work. If you can’t film people you help, go talk to frontline staff or volunteers about their lives and experience. Do what this video does best: Invite us into the innermost experience of your organization, and take us on the adventure it is.
It’s no secret that, just like we do, our supporters get a lot of emails each day. On average, individuals receive over a hundred messages per day, each one clamoring for their attention and competing with your fundraising appeal, nonprofit newsletter or member update. The inbox is a crowded place, so how do you stand out and ensure that your emails are being opened? Photo Source: Big Stock PhotoHere are seven quick tips for better subject lines:1. Test.Before you send out an email to a large portion of your audience, test two different subject lines with a smaller subset of your list. Make this part of your normal process, so you get smarter every time.2. Personalize. Use something personally relevant to the reader to grab their attention.3. Be interesting.Make your subject line oddly short, long or different. Above all, make it interesting, so people open the message in the first place.4. Make it fresh.Don’t say “update” or “news” each time. Instead, just focus on what’s actually new!5. Keep it brief.Subject lines often get cut off in many email programs, put key information right up front.6. Instill urgency.Make it clear why your email matters now—”three days left to give.”7. Banish spam-ness.Run your copy and subject line through a content-checker, avoid all caps and shun exclamation points. The Email Sender and Provider Coalition notes that 69% of subscribers base their decision to send your message to the spam folder on the subject line.If I had to choose just one of these to convey, I concentrate on #3. My best advice for building a following is to create wonderful content and reflect it in the subject line. People open the emails they know will contain something of value. Provide that value. The rest will follow! Adapted from http://nonprofitmarketingblog.com/
This is the question recently posed* by Slate’s Seth Stevenson in reference to the case of Karen Klein, the bullied bus monitor in upstate New York. Students called her horrible names and brought her to tears. When video of her torment was posted online, a groundswell of appalled people donated more than $700,000 to a spontaneous campaign on IndieGoGo. (Klein accepted the money, retired and put $100,000 of the sum toward an anti-bullying cause she created.)As Stevenson notes, campaigns to help suffering individuals crop up online everyday – including for people in life and death situations – but they rarely spark the scale of reaction to Karen Klein. What was it about this particular situation that prompted a response from 32,000 donors?Stevenson asked Stephen Reicher, a psychology professor at Scotland’s University of St Andrews, and Reicher cited the following factors – which should be familiar to those of us who enjoy reading about behavioral economics!1. A tangible cause: As Reicher told Stevenson, “To say lots of people are suffering is an abstract concept. To see this one woman suffering, and be able to help her, is more concrete.” This is the identifiable victim or singularity effect I’ve often cited on this blog.2. Archetypal elements: Reicher talked about how the video causes us to flash back to our own childhoods on the school bus, which is powerful. It also inverts roles – the children are bullying the adult, which seemed to evoke strong emotions. This reminds me of the Story Wars idea — that basic universal themes unite audiences around causes.3. Online dynamics: The network effects of the Internet encourage piling on – and can guide our actions. We see this in fundraising all the time – collective action begets more collective action. We join the crowd.Bottom line? What we know works, worked in a big way because of Karen Klein’s story. Remember that, above all, is always the root of every movement. There is someone who stood for something – or meant something to us – and everything grows from that.*Hat tip to Clam Lorenz for sending me this article!
Jono Smith at Event360 asked me to share the following contest with you. Since I imagine the readership of this blog has thousands of big fundraising ideas, I’m inviting you to participate!By Jono SmithIt’s been said that “prototyping is the language of innovation.”A video of the human experience of your proposed new event concept is a prototype. Used correctly, an Excel spreadsheet is a prototyping tool. Google’s Gmail started out as a prototype. A temporary pop-up shop is a prototype. So how do you prototype fundraising ideas?Last week, The Jimmy Fund launched its “Big Ideas Contest,” a competition that encourages community involvement in the prototyping of new fundraising ideas on a large scale. Not only does this initiative “engage the public in creating the Jimmy Fund’s next great fundraising initiative to help conquer cancer,” it also inspired a judging panel filled with CEOs from such prominent companies and organizations as Legal Sea Foods, Stop & Shop, The Kraft Group, the Boston Red Sox, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and others. What a great idea to engage both the business community and the public in a collective effort to help conquer cancer.The contest is open to anyone with creative fundraising ideas and people are encouraged to think big. Nothing is off limits — events, apps, products, promotions — anything that is a feasible and viable fundraising idea will be considered. And, as if helping advance the Jimmy Fund’s mission isn’t enough incentive, there are prizes, including Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots tickets (a great tie-in for this iconic New England-based charity). For more on how to enter, visit the Big Ideas Contest site. The campaign’s tagline is “YOUR IDEA can change the course of cancer.” So what’s keeping you from making your next big fundraising idea real?Jono Smith is vice president of marketing at Event 360.
Photo via Green America.The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a fascinating interview with fundraising guru Penelope Burk, author of the upcoming Donor-Centered Leadership.Turns out it’s not just donors who grow weary of too many direct mail appeals and telemarketing calls. It’s apparently a frequent reason fundraisers quit their jobs — the relentless pressure to bombard donors. They’d prefer to take the time to figure out which solicitations work, but they often aren’t given the time or latitude to have a more thoughtful approach.Over-solicitation, says Burk, is the most common reasons donors give for stopping their support of a charity. Instead donors want to know what’s been done with their money. Then they’d be willing to give again. But too often, they get appeals instead of thanks and reports on impact.No wonder we have 60% churn in our sector.So what do we do instead? Here’s Burk’s advice.1. Thank donors after they give.2. Send them a follow up thanks with detailed information about how their money was used.3. Only ask for money AFTER you do these two things, and when you do, be as specific as you can about why you are asking for money. What specific cause will benefit?Great advice.Do you agree? Do you feel this way?
Resource Media has a fantastic and free guide to visual storytelling. It’s a MUST read (see) for your cause.The guide has great tips like:1. Always test visuals2. Pair visuals with words to increase retention of your message3. Shun bad stock photosThere are great examples, checklists and templates. Get the guide here.(Thanks to Mark Rovner (read his blog) for tipping me off to the guide. I feel the way he does – I wish I’d written it myself!)
Laying a great foundation for the expansion of your nonprofit’s marketing and donation efforts can help you find success now while planning long-term goals. Below is a list of priorities to help you focus your time and maximize your impact ASAP.Photo from Flickr member one tiny sparkThanking donors creatively is one of the short-term priorities you can focus on now. Consider sending thank you notes from volunteers, community members, or a person who was directly impacted by their donation. 1. Nonprofit Website Can website visitors find your donation page in 2 seconds or less? Donation buttons should be big, bold, and above the fold.Is it easy to follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook, and sign up for your email newsletter? Give your potential donors the opportunity to take the first step in forming a relationship with you. If they aren’t ready to give today, make it easy for them to find out more about your work.Make sure your home page has a compelling image and a statement that connects your visitors to your cause. If a stranger can’t identify what your organization does as soon as they land on your homepage, you’re missing out on an opportunity to tell your story (and a possible donation)!2. Online Donation Page Do you have a clear call to action on your donation page (donate now!)?Is your online donation form easy to complete? If your donation page has too many fields to fill out it’s likely that donors will leave the page without making a donation.Don’t confuse donors by redirecting them to a donation page that looks different than your website. Make sure your brand is consistent.3. Email Lists Is there a way for website visitors to sign up for your newsletter on your homepage? What about every other page on your website?Does your email list sign up form make it clear how frequently subscribers will hear from you? Don’t promise something you can’t deliver (or send emails too frequently).Are you collecting email addresses from everyone who attends your events? Give them the option to be added to your list.Include forward to a friend and social sharing links in all your messages. Current subscribers can help you build your email list, make it easy for them to help you!4. Email Marketing Does your subject line entice readers? Those 8 to 10 words are the most important part of the message. Make sure the subject line is clear, conscience, and compelling.Is your email layout easy on the eyes? Make sure you keep the style simple with a standard headline, subheadline layout with a maximum of two columns. Don’t forget to add images that add value to the content.Is your font choice ideal? Make sure your fonts aren’t distracting and impeding readability. Stick with one font family and use the options within that family, such as bold, narrow, and italic.Are you being CAN-SPAM compliant? Email service providers will take care of these compliance issues for you but if you aren’t using an ESP consider investing in one to help you manage lists and email campaigns.5. Thanking Donors and Supporters Do you have a way to immediately thank supporters for giving a donation or signing up for your newsletter? Most ESPs and online donation tools give you the opportunity to send an automated reply as soon as an action is taken.Do you thank donors again at a later date, reporting on the impact of their donation?Do donors have a clear understanding of what you’re doing with their financial investment?Make sure to experiment with different thank you methods such as a handwritten note, a phone call, a children’s drawing, or a special thanks directly from a volunteer.6. Social Media First, define your desired outcome: Do you want to use Twitter to connect with potential donors or develop your status as a thought leader in your organization’s issue area? Or both?Can your donors easily find you on Twitter and Facebook? If they can’t find you they won’t be following you.Is your content interesting, compelling, and unique? Are you continually asking for donations and follows and neglecting to tell your story?Want a more in-depth list? Download The Online Fundraiser’s Checklist for more ideas.