Stop Obsessing on Communications Channels; Focus on People’s Reactions Instead

Posted by on Sep 25, 2013 in Content Marketing, Fundraising, Strategy, Trends

"Content Marketing" is a new term for many nonprofits. One way to think about the shift that content marketing represents is that this approach moves the emphasis off the specific communications channels used (such as a newsletter or website) and puts it on the people who are using the content provided through those channels. For example, when donors read stories and see pictures in a newsletter and on your website that show the changes taking place because of their support, and they feel good about the choice to support you, they become a communications focus, rather than the website or newsletter itself. This may seem like a subtle difference, but in the hustle and bustle of overworked and underfunded nonprofits, it’s vitally important to understand and embrace it. You want to focus on what you believe your participants' or supporters' reactions to your content will be. How will a particular article or campaign make them feel about your organization? Do you expect them to trust you more, or feel a sense of kinship? Will they feel inspired and compelled to learn or to do more? Does the content help build the relationship between people and your organization to the point where they would consider your nonprofit one of their favorite causes? Kevin Schulman, founder of and partner in the donor relationship and experience company DonorVoice says nonprofits are too focused on specific communications and fundraising activities, which, he says, get talked about as if they were actual strategy. “It’s a false choice,” says Schulman, “to think you have to pick sides in debates about which channels to use to reach which people” (for example, how much to invest in direct mail versus online communications in order to reach a certain demographic). “Nonprofits need to nail their core positioning and their brand in a way that really resonates and that differentiates [them]—it is a sea of sameness right now,” says Schulman. “If this becomes the focus and the litmus test for decision making -- does this content and message fit our positioning regardless of channel or form?—these questions of channel get relegated to tactics where they belong,” he continues. Remember, people are crossing back and forth between communications channels all the time. “Yes, you should pay attention to tactical best practices, but what really matters is how donors think and feel about the nonprofit. That’s what causes giving, not the communications channel.” The conclusion of the 2010 report The Next Generation of American Giving says it well: “[Nothing] is as important as the content you produce. There is not a single tactic or giving channel that is nearly as important as the quality of your message and your ability to...

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Four Words That Are Shifting Nonprofit Communications and Fundraising

Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Content Marketing, Fundraising, Marketing Management, Strategy, Trends

Is your organization thinking about reaching younger supporters? For some of you, younger means Baby Boomers; for others it means Gen X or Y. What might that mean for your communications strategy? Let's try to look at the big picture. Lumping hundreds of millions of people into categories always creates stereotypes. But for purposes of understanding some of the macro shifts that are taking place today, I have boiled down how each of the four generations approaches philanthropy into just one word. Generation Age in 2013 One Word Describing How They Relate to Nonprofits Matures 68 and older Duty Boomers 49 – 67 Identity Generation X 33 - 48 Entrepreneurial Generation Y 22 - 32 Community   Matures are more likely to give out of a sense of responsibility and duty. That's what good people do. Giving back is important. Giving to charity is what's right. Boomers are more likely to give because it fits with their personal sense of identity, or who they are. They want to make a difference and believe that they are change makers, and they see themselves as having a role to play with the charities they support. Generation Xers are more likely to give if they can see a problem being solved. In other words, they are entrepreneurial about their philanthropy. It's less personal, and more about getting things done. Generation Yers are more likely to give if they feel like they are part of a community of change. They see themselves as connected global citizens who are confident that together they can correct injustices of the past and make the world a better place. Of course, there is some overlap. Generation Y shares a sense of civic duty with the Matures, are politically savvy like the Boomers, and value work-life balance like Gen X.  And these trends that won't apply evenly, or at all, to many individuals (you can certainly find 20-year-olds who have more in common with their own great-grandmas than their college roommates). But it's undeniable that the way people approach philanthropy is changing. Leaving aside the age groups for a moment, take a look again at just these four words, in order:   Duty Identity Entrepreneurial Community   What kinds of change or progression do you see in these words? How might that affect your communications? Here's one way to look at it. If people are giving primarily out of a sense of duty, then at some level, it really doesn't matter how good or bad your communications to them are. If you can present a need reasonably well, people will feel that sense of duty to respond to that need. I've heard many a fundraiser with thirty years...

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14 Ways to Share Results with Your Donors

Posted by on Jun 28, 2012 in Annual Reports, Content Marketing, Fundraising

Donors expect results, plain and simple. They want to know that the time and money they share with you is used for good -- to change the world in ways that are consistent with their own values. Reporting back to donors isn't something you should do once a year with an annual report. While annual reports are valuable, they aren't enough. In this presentation, I offer more than a dozen ways that you can share results with your supporters including many real examples from nonprofits leading the way.   14 Ways to Share Results with Donors View more from Kivi Leroux Miller Here's a quick blog post with the 14 ideas in text...

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Fundraising Stories That Don’t Work — and What’s Different About the Ones That Do

Posted by on Apr 26, 2012 in Fundraising, Storytelling

I attended a great session at the Nonprofit Technology Conference earlier this month called "It's Not You, It's Your Stories: Why Fundraisers are Failing at Storytelling and What They Need to Change," presented by Steve Daigneault of M + R Strategic Services and  Sue Citro of The Nature Conservancy. Plenty of research shows us that stories are a very powerful way to communicate, and yet M + R's research with many of its clients found that stories did a terrible job in fundraising appeals, compared to the more straightforward institutional approach of presenting a need and accomplishments. In fact, in some cases the institutional approach raised four times as much as the approach with the personal story. So what was going on? Steve says it boils down to this: Is the donor in the story or not?  Personal stories of one person's situation can be very good at explaining and educating, but that doesn't mean that they will compel readers to act.  For the reader to act, they have to see themselves as an essential part of the story, as if something won't happen unless they act. Steve recommends you get at this in one of four ways, based on why people give: 1. To Feel Happy “You’ll not only fund our work – you’ll know you changed a life.” 2. To Feel Important “Give today to become a member and get insider info and updates.” 3. To Feel Like Part of a Success Story "We saved the savannah elephant. We can save the Asian elephant too.” 4. Because Everyone’s Doing It “From Martha L., a grandmother in Tennessee to Jim T., a construction worker in Florida, Americans everywhere have already committed to our fight.” In other words, in stories that compel action, the donors can change the ending of the story with their actions. Sue shared some wonderful guidance too, as she outlined how The Nature Conservancy has shifted their approach to storytelling over the last year or so. Details Matter Details make your story credible and suprising - it's what catches people's attention. Use the Right "We" When you use We or Us, you should be referring to your organization and your supporters jointly. Create a Donor Identity This goes back to Steve's point -- donors need to know their place in the story. Sue suggests that you frame giving as a chance "to be that special kind of person." Make the Consequences Clear Present giving as  choice that has consequences. Donors have a choice to join in as a hero -- or not. Thanks Steve and Sue for showing us how to transform our storytelling into fundraising that really works! Want More? I am teaching a two-part webinar series on nonprofit...

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How Does Your Online Marketing and Fundraising Stack Up?

Posted by on Apr 11, 2012 in Fundraising, Online Marketing, Trends

Nonprofit communicators want to know how they can measure their own success (we are working on a webinar to help with that). One way is to compare your work to industry benchmarks. In the nonprofit world, there are several annual studies that give us a glimpse into what's happening in our sector, especially with online marketing and fundraising. One big caveat, however: the data in these reports are usually from what most Nonprofit Marketing Guide readers would consider to be HUGE organizations. Nevertheless, they are a great place to start the conversation. It's a tradition for some of these reports to be released in time for the Nonprofit Technology Conference held by NTEN every year. Thus the updated versions of three reports are now available: 2012 Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index Study (Convio) 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study (M+R and NTEN) 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report (NTEN, Common Knowledge and Blackbaud) Let's take a look at some of the key points . . . 2012 Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index Study The 2012 Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index Study looks at online engagement across 700+ nonprofits using Convio's marketing/fundraising tools. This year's report found that Online fundraising continues to grow robustly, at nearly 16% over last year. Good news for smaller orgs: Online giving is growing fastest for nonprofits with 10,000 or fewer email addresses at nearly 27%. First time online gifts represented 37 percent of total median online revenue. Sustainer (monthly giving) programs are growing very strongly, with the average monthly gift as $31.96. The average online gift size is $93.67. The average gift size for organizations with email lists under 25,000 is even higher ($105 - $115). Advocacy continues to play key role in online engagement. Ask people on your list to do more than just give money, and that helps with fundraising! The cross-over between fundraising and advocacy continues to increase. The median growth rate for email lists was 17%. Smaller nonprofits are seeing bigger increases in website traffic, but larger organizations are better at converting that traffic to email subscribers. Total online revenue correlates closely with email list size. The more people you can ask, the more money you will raise. But remember, in terms of growth trends, online fundraising by organizations with smaller lists is growing fastest. 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study The 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study looks at data from 44 large U.S.-based national nonprofits, all of whom are identified in the report's methodology (you'll recognize nearly all the names). Where the Convio report includes smaller nonprofits, this report doesn't, so it's interesting to see where the findings are similar and where they diverge. (Here's the infographic) This study reports even better growth in overall online fundraising, with...

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Five Ways to Sabotage Your Ask for Support

Posted by on Mar 20, 2012 in Copywriting, Fundraising

I hear it all the time from nonprofits: "Our e-newsletter doesn't work." "Direct mail doesn't work for us." "Social media doesn't work for us." When I probe a little deeper, what people often mean is that their communications don't seem to be motivating people to do what the nonprofit wants, whether that's donating money, signing up to volunteer, or registering for an event. A closer look at these communications often leads to a common problem: vague, inconsistent, or buried asks. Many times, it's simply not clear what the nonprofit is asking the reader to do! “Making the Ask: Getting People to Give, Volunteer, and More” is the topic of today's free webinar (3/20/12).  One of the points I'll cover is recognizing and avoiding common ways that nonprofits sabotage their asks. Here are five frequent problems with the way nonprofits ask for support, whether it’s donating money or time or some other valuable. 1. Assuming One Size Fits All. There is no such thing as the general public. Know your supporters, donors, participants or whoever you are talking to, and customize the way you ask for support to that group.  You should talk to your long-time volunteers differently than you talk to someone you just met. Your major donors have different expectations of you than someone who just clicked “like” on your Facebook page. Of course, avoiding the one size fits all approach requires that you are tracking data about your supporters so that you can more easily segment them into groups and customize your messages accordingly. 2. Being Too Vague. Don’t ask for “support” or “help” or use any of these other weak calls to action. People don’t know what you are asking for. Be specific. 3. Failing to Make It Relevant. What’s in for them? Why should they care? What good will it do? You have to answer these questions or people won’t follow through. Another way to think about this is "So What? and Who Cares?" 4. Not Making It Super Easy to Do It. Put yourself in their shoes and walk through the exact process you are asking others to follow. How can you make it easier and faster? Is donating online super easy? Is getting the right person on the phone super easy? (Think nonprofits are pretty good at this? Think again.) 5. Asking Sheepishly. If you seem embarrassed or guilty when asking, that’s a clear sign to your volunteers or donors that they might feel embarrassed or guilty themselves by following through. Remember, asking is about giving people an opportunity, not about taking something away from them. We often mirror emotions in these situations, so if you want someone to be excited to volunteer, you should show a little enthusiasm yourself. If you...

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