The three traits with deceptive ROI

first_imgIt’s late, I’m tired and I’m philosophical after a death in the family. When you think about death, you inevitably think about your life. And that got me thinking. There are many things I have struggled to master in life, but let me share just three from a very long list of things I haven’t fully mastered but know to be worthy of the attempt. Before I die, I want to do them as perfectly as I can.Why? I think the very things that seem most difficult are often the best possible things we can do. The things that we fear will bring us catastrophic loss are often those that have the greatest returns. It is the way marketing – and life – mocks our silly sensibilities. So in that spirit, here are three things that seem risky but actually yield great ROI. And happiness. And marketing success.1. Admitting you are wrong. This has been a hard one for me. Fortunately, I have ample opportunity to practice! Too bad 98% of politicians, 85% of corporations and a healthy majority of nonprofits are still finding this hard too. If you make a mistake, just take responsibility and say you were wrong. Don’t do this halfway. “I’m sorry if you were inconvenienced” is NOT the same thing as “I’m sorry I inconvenienced you.” True apologies don’t include the word “if.” While you may fear admitting fault will be the end of the world, usually people are so happy you did it – and quite forgiving. Remember this if you ever have to do “crisis communications.”2. Doing what you fear. No one ever achieved anything extraordinary by doing what was safe or predictable or copycat. As hard as it is, I’m still trying to lean into fear the way my friend Jocelyn does. Marc Pitman talks about asking for money without fear. Seth Godin talks about being as truly different as a purple cow – which is hard when it’s easier to follow the conforming herd. Andy Goodman talks about zigging when others are zagging. It’s scary, but frankly, it’s far more frightening to blend into a sea of mediocrity than to stand up, do the scary, and stand out.3. Being lavish with praise. I used to view praise as a zero sum game — if someone else was great, I was less. But being generous is being bigger. Praise great work, credit everyone around you and share the spotlight. Show extraordinary gratitude to your donors, your colleagues, everyone. Share information freely with other organizations. Being stingy with what you give out will diminish all that comes back to you.What do you have trouble doing? I am sure it is on my list too…last_img read more

Is Salesforce.com right for your Nonprofit?

first_imgThis document is meant to be a short starting point for nonprofits to make a decision if Salesforce.com is a good choice for their nonprofit. It will give some introduction to what Salesforce.com does, and the benefits and risks involved in using it.What is Salesforce.com?Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) is a San Francisco company that makes an online database available to nonprofits. The database is very flexible, and that allows a nonprofit to use Salesforce.com for tracking donor management and other activities.The Salesforce.com Foundation, which has overseen the donation of Salesforce.com cash, staff time, and products, currently donates 10 user licenses of Salesforce.com to any qualifying charitable organization.What can Salesforce.com do?Salesforce.com can help nonprofits keep track of the people they work with, and all the work they do with them. Salesforce.com can be:A centralized contact list of all the people and organizations you work withThe place for prospecting and tracking donations, grants, memberships, and volunteeringThe system for tracking just about any of your other program-related work: canvassing, phone banking, events, tabling, outcomes and evaluation, etc.Salesforce.com allows you to easily track important communications you have with people:It can be a shared contact list for your organization, accessible via the web or directly within OutlookIt makes it really easy to record communications and meetings, again directly from Outlook or via the webYou can cross reference communications to people and also to donations, grants, or other thingsSalesforce.com has powerful querying and reporting tools:The information you enter can easily be used to help you make organizational decisionsWith the built-in report builder that requires no coding, users can build and share reportsDashboards that display report information in charts and graphs can give EDs and Boards compelling summaries of your workSalesforce.com likes to share:Your information can be made available to your other technology systems (as appropriate) through relatively straightforward codingInformation from your other systems can, just as easily, be brought into Salesforce.comLots of affordable services, like email blasting systems, currently integrate with Salesforce.comWhat can’t Salesforce.com do?Salesforce.com, like all software, has limits:Salesforce.com isn’t an accounting system. You can purchase connectors to products like Quickbooks, but accounting functions aren’t handled by Salesforce.com.If you are doing very complex donor management, Salesforce.com may not have the functionality you need to be successful.What are the benefits of using Salesforce.com?Low Cost: Salesforce.com is very inexpensive to useNo server, no one to maintain the server–all you need is a browserNo monthly cost for using the system–Salesforce.com donates 10 user licenses to every nonprofit. That’s a $15,000 per year donation. Centralized Data: You can do most of your work in one system.Handle people who play many roles in your organization–donor, volunteer, board memberSupport the unique work you do that most other systems can’t support Accessible and available: All you need to use Salesforce.com is a web browser and Internet access.It’s accessible from anywhereIt’s secureIt can talk to other modern applications Deal with Change: Salesforce.com can easily change as you doCreate new fields with no coding in a mater of minutesAdd support for new ways of working at very low costcenter_img What are risks I should consider about using Salesforce.com?Access to the system is donated:It’s like they’re paying your rent–donation is only given for a 12 month period and is up for renewal every yearThe company/foundation could go away, and end your donation. At this time this appears unlikely, but because they are donating a service rather than a piece of software, it’s a real riskThey have your information on their servers, it’s not on your computersThe USA PATRIOT Act forces them to comply with any legal government request to see your data, just like your ISPWhat are the costs associated with using Salesforce.com?Salesforce.com needs to be setup to get it to work right for you. This work is best done by a consultant familiar with Salesforce.com. Depending on complexity, the cost will range from a few thousand dollars, to tens of thousands. After that, your ongoing monthly cost to use Salesforce.com can be $0. You’ll need someone to administer your Salesforce.com system after it’s installed. This could be a user on your staff who is good with databases, or a dedicated IT person, depending on your needs.Is Salesforce.com right for my organization?Salesforce.com is a great database option that all organizations should consider because of the incredible benefits.Source: http://www.onenw.org/toolkit/is-salesforce.com-right-for-your-nonprofit Modern: Salesforce.com is cutting-edge softwareConnect your information to your website, email blasting, and other systemsConnect your information to published data: address enhancement, legislative district lookup, etc.Updates just happen about four times a year without any work for the Userlast_img read more

Starting a Cause on Facebook

first_imgCauses is a tool that lets you easily fundraise and recruit supporters for your nonprofit on the popular social network Facebook. For nonprofit organizations, there are two components of Causes: 1) your Official Nonprofit Profile, and 2) the different cause(s) on Facebook benefiting your nonprofit, which any Facebook user can start. Your Official Nonprofit Profile is your official presence on Facebook that displays basic information about your organization, and is the page through which you manage causes that benefit your nonprofit. Causes, on the other hand, can be started by any user, including yourself, and there can be an unlimited number.Thus the Causes tool presents a “many to one” relationship, where your nonprofit can potentially be benefited by dozens of causes, all of which you can easily keep track of through your Official Nonprofit Profile.I. Setting up your Official Nonprofit ProfileGo to http://www.causes.com/partners/new and fill out the Nonprofit Partner Application with the requested informationWhat you’ll need: your nonprofit EIN, a electronic picture of your logo, and contact informationClick “Submit Application”You will receive confirmation via email once you have been approved. Use the web link in the confirmation email to access your Official Non-profit Profile, which is your official presence on Facebook.Your Official Nonprofit Profile includes features to:View your “Nonprofit Scorecard”, which shows your total causes, total supporters, total donations, and total donorsEdit your profile by update contact info, organization information, etc.Select official and featured causes to display on your Official Profile on FacebookAccess donor information, including mailing address, donation amount and date of donation. You can also download the information through a CSV file.II. Starting a Cause on FacebookSign-up for Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Set-up your personal account: you will need your full name, email address and birthday. You can use Privacy Settings to choose what information you want or don’t want displayed on your personal profile.Get the Causes applicationAfter setting up a Facebook account, you will be taken to your home pageClick on the “Applications” link on the far left-hand side of the pageClick on the “Browse Applications” link, then type in “Causes” in the search field to search for CausesOnce you see the Causes application, click on it. You’ll then see a button to “Add Application”, and click on this to add Causes to your personal profileStart a cause that benefits your nonprofit!Once you’ve added Causes, an icon will be displayed for it on the far left hand side under the “Applications” link. Click on the Causes icon.Click on the “Start a Cause” button.You will see fields to fill out basic information for your cause, including the name, description, and your positions and goals. You can also upload a picture.Focus the name of your cause on a specific campaign or program, and don’t just use the name of your organization.Select your non-profit as the beneficiary by browsing our database of non-profitsIII. Growing Your CauseTips & Tactics:The cause should focus on a specific issue that the organization focuses on. The name of your cause, your photo, and basic information should reflect this. Don’t simply use the name of your organization as the name of the cause or bland organization-profile information.State a concrete goal or set of goals you want to achieve. If this includes specific monetary goals with a description of what one’s financial or membership support will actually do, even better.Tell a story. Many successful cause creators have shared personal or otherwise captivating stories in the body/description of their cause – this helps convey urgency and lends a universality to your cause that more people can relate to.Designate leaders for your cause offline from different social networks. Assign goals to each one, like inviting a certain number of people to your cause every week and interacting with cause members on a regular basis.Add your leaders as administrators of your cause. They can help post announcements and media, and others can publicly see that they are leaders.Offer an incentive to your top recruiter/donor/leader, like tickets to a sports game or promotional event, a gift card, dinner at a nice restaurant, etc. (you can keep track of progress by viewing your cause Hall of Fame)Utilize the “Announcements” and “Media” posts daily and change the main photo within your cause to maximize your exposure (these posts are sent to cause members’ newsfeeds).Start debates and discussions on your “Wall” to create personal connections and to empower individuals to express what this cause means to them.last_img read more

Six Steps to Social Media Success

first_imgHere is my May column for Fundraising Success.Put down your iPhone, close your Facebook profile and stop Twittering for just a second. I have something to say to you, head to head and heart to heart.Technology is cool. It can be incredibly effective way to promote your cause. But hard wires don’t necessarily create human bonds. Your social media strategy can’t simply be a toolset – it needs to be a conduit to living beings. “Java” doesn’t inspire people unless you’re talking about the kind you get from Starbucks. Technology doesn’t compel people. People do.I’m taking this precious space to make this point because I think it goes in the forgotten fundamentals category that is the focus of this column. It is all too easy to fall in love with all the sexy social media tools out there and forget WHY people are attracted to social media in the first place. If you don’t stay grounded in the basic human needs that fuel the success of those shiny tools, you will be – in the words of Nicole Engelbert from Datamonitor – a fool with a tool.There are a lot of lengthy and overwhelming definitions of social media, social networking and Web 2.0 out there – pick your jargon. I will not quote them here. Let me give you my definition.All that social media stuff is simply people using the Internet to:1. Be seen and heard2. Connect with each otherThat’s it. And that’s as basic and human as you can get. Social media is about the social, not the media.Here are some examples.Bloggers and vloggers want a platform for personal expression, and they like connecting with people who care about their content. (In case you’ve been living off the grid for the last few years, blogs are personal online journals/columns. Vlogs are video blogs.) Everyone can be a pundit in the world of social media. Even I have one.Social networkers want a platform for personal expression (think a MySpace page), and they want to connect with others (think online “friends”). So do people (including your kids) who love instant messaging.Being seen and heard and connecting are the emotions that drive social media, and they should drive your online outreach strategy. This should be a relief to all of us who think we lack the technological chops to successfully participate in the online world. You don’t need to be under age 20 or an IT director, you just need to grasp what makes it work.Here’s a six-step way to make that happen. And you need to make it happen. Why? Because online outreach is a cost-effective and efficient way to reach people at a time when we’re all low on resources. Because it’s a way to find new constituencies and reach a new, younger generation of donors. Because giving up control of the message and having a conversation can strengthen your relationship with the people with support you. And if none of that moves you, remember that people tend to donate more money online.The Six Steps to Winning Hearts and Minds on Web 2.0:1. STOP! If your Executive Director is commanding you to start a blog or get a Facebook presence today, stop right there. Spend a bit of time thinking more strategically. You want to figure out WHO you’re trying to reach online, WHERE they are, and HOW to best communicate with them. If starting a new blog (and there are already tens of millions of them), you want to be sure there’s a case for it. 2. LOOK AND LISTEN! The beauty of the Internet is you can quickly find the people online that are predisposed to your cause. In a world where there are active online communities of people fascinated by medieval pottery or support groups for people struck by lightning (really), there is surely is a constituency that loves your cause, somewhere out there. Find those people, watch where they are congregating and listen to what they are saying. This is very easy to do by setting up simple alerts so that each time someone mentions your organization or anything related to your cause online, you will be notified. Check out www.google.com/alerts and watch lists on www.technorati.com 3. SEE AND HEAR! Start acknowledging what potential supporters are saying. Post friendly comments on their blogs with constructive thoughts and useful information, openly identifying who you are and your organization. Bloggers love those kinds of comments. They like having an audience! Do the same on online communities, MySpace pages, etc. Give online communities useful tools and interesting content from your organization. Be generous.4. CHOOSE! At this stage, you’ll have a growing sense of whether there’s a need for you to blog or participate more formally in a social network. Be strategic about concentrating your efforts in a few high-yield areas.5. BE EASY TO FIND! Part of social networking is going out and connecting to people. Also make sure you’re easy to find so people can connect to you. Be sure your website can be easily located via search engines. If you decide to have a social networking page, give it an obvious name. Don’t be so clever you don’t show up in search.6. ASK! Once you have relationships with supporters on social media, give them different ways to help you – not just by giving money, but telling their story, spreading the word and expressing their opinion about your issue – in their own words. Turn the conversation into collaboration for social change. Give up control. You never had it anyway.last_img read more

Creating the Constituent-Centric Organization: The Benefits of Constituent Relationship Management (CRM)

first_imgMany organizations struggle with a fragmented view of their supporter base because data about constituents is spread over many different places. Paul Hagen, former Forrester Research Senior Analyst and founder of Hagen 20/20, argues that moving towards an integrated view of constituents helps organizations save time, improve revenue, and increase the impact on mission.About Paul Hagen: Paul Hagen is the president of Hagen 20/20, a consulting firm that provides business strategy & planning, technology strategy & selection, project/program management, and coaching services to nonprofit organizations, green and “CleanTech” businesses, and social enterprises. Paul has over 20 years of strategy, technology, marketing, market analysis, channel development, and project management experience.last_img read more

10 Things to Never Do with Your Website

first_imgWe had a great Nonprofit 911 call yesterday at Network for Good on how to redesign your website. I’d like to share my favorite part of Michael Weiss of Imagistic’s presentation, which you can view in full here.Mike’s Top 10 “Never Do This” List of website redesign10. Never think this going to take 4 weeks9. Never think you can do this alone8. Never skip the information architecture phase7. Never do this without an RFP6. Never send the RFP to more than 5 firms5. Never choose a vendor based on price alone4. Never ask your IT Manager to manage this process this alone3. Never start without a budget in mind2. Never start this process without key stakeholders involved1. Never hire your boss’s nephewlast_img read more

Jimmy Buffett is a marketing genius

first_imgSo I’m back from Mexico, where I went on vacation and hung out with Jimmy Buffett’s brand for several days. We’ve grown tight, because we got a lot of quality time together. Jimmy is in the airport, where you can buy Margaritaville t-shirts or the Perfect Margarita at the Jimmy Buffett restaurant. (I chose the drink over the t-shirt.) He’s singing about his lost shaker of salt on the TV screens in this photo I took in the restaurant in the airport. He’s on the beach, where airborne Cessna’s pull advertisements for a bar called Margaritaville. He’s in hotel bookstore, having apparently penned a bestseller about a pig (“Swine Not?”). In short, he’s ubiquitous, prolific and possessing of serious marketing genius.He has parlayed a hit song – and its drinking-on-the-beach kind of aesthetic – into a brand empire.How do I get me some of that?While sipping on my airport margarita awaiting my flight home, I snapped this photo and contemplated this question. And here’s what I concluded are the three cornerstones of Jimmy’s brilliance.1. Simplicity: He stands for one thing. To me, that thing is life as a margarita – carefree, hammock-lying, drink-sipping relaxed happiness with a little salt around the edges. From his music (Cheeseburgers in Paradise, anyone?) to his restaurants to his books. Which brings me to his…2. Consistency: It’s about the margaritas as life, folks. Always. Visit his website. The name? Of course it’s margaritaville.com. Note: excellent lead generation on the page with the email sign-up. Nice touch.3. Hopeful: The allure of something happy is strong. Remember that when you tell stories. If you go dire in the telling, remember that people want hope and happiness as the punchline.I can hear you now. You’re thinking, that girl had one too many margaritas in Mexico. I’m saving the world, not slinging drinks. Yes. I know. I am too. But while I know it’s easier to sell margaritas or pigs than it is to promote the end of poverty, the principles remain the same. Stand for something compelling and hopeful. And stand for it over and over, over time. It works.last_img read more

Create an Online Fundraising Plan: Work Your Website

first_imgYour web strategy for online fundraising should include three main objectives: maintain a site design that has high usability, remember that content is king, and determine ways to increase site traffic. Work these initiatives into the part of your online fundraising plan dedicated to website improvement: Nonprofit Website Design TipsMake it easier for people to donate. Put your “donate” button above the fold, and make it BIG. Make it interactive with email capture, surveys, contests and other dynamic content. Make it accessible. You know that different people will visit your site for different reasons (to research, to donate, to kill some time). Give them each a chance to shine. Put out different welcome mats–for donors, seekers and Web-surfers. Make it simple to spread the word. Incorporate tactics to increase word-of-mouth marketing, such as tell-a-friend, email links and downloadable materials for your constituents to share.  Nonprofit Content TipsIncorporate the four parts of a great message: Connect to things your audience cares about: saving time, feeling good about themselves, feeling powerful, etc.Identify and offer a compelling reward for taking action: Remember that good rewards are immediate, personal, credible and reflective of audience values. Have a clear call to action: Good actions are specific, feasible and filmable (in other words, easy to visualize doing). They should also measurably advance your mission. Make it memorable: What makes something memorable? It’s memorable if it’s different, catchy, personal, tangible and desirable. But a word of caution: memorable elements should always be closely tied to your cause. Think of all the advertisements that were so funny or memorable that you told a friend about them, but when asked what product the ad was for, you couldn’t remember. Driving Site Traffic TipsIncrease your visibility on corporate partners’ websites. Does a local restaurant provide in-kind support for your events? Do you hold Board meetings in a local office building’s conference room? You both win if you make a plan to make your presence known on their websites. (Think a twist on the old Vidal Sassoon ad: If I (for-profit partner) look “good,” you (non-profit) look good.) Promote your events on event-listing services like CitySearch.com, local message boards, etc. Improve your searchability. Invest in Google AdWords. Learn what meta-tags are.last_img read more

What Makes a Great Donation Page

first_imgDonordigital has a fascinating new study you can access from their home page. It reveals the results of lots of testing of various donation pages. They learned:· Size DOES Matter: Bigger donate buttons helped convert more donors· Color Can Matter Too: Vividly colored donation buttons had varying levels of impact on donation page conversion· Less Is More: Removing unnecessary fields from personal information forms significantly increased conversion· Remind people (nicely) why they want to donate: Polite header copy yielded better conversion than a more forceful call-to-action· Test, Test, Test: Donation page testing can help improve YOUR organization’s online revenue!Check it out. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re raising money.last_img read more

Post your ideas, get advice

first_imgJust wanted to let you know that I’m a guest advisor over at Ideablob this week. You can post your ideas there anytime and receive advice from folks with a lot of business savvy.Ideablob.com is an online community where small business owners and social entrepreneurs (including nonprofits!) are sharing business ideas in exchange for feedback, advice and votes from the community. Advanta, one of the nation’s largest credit card issuers (through Advanta Bank Corp.) in the small business market, awards a $10,000 monthly prize to the best eligible idea, as determined by the votes of the ideablob community.last_img read more

5 Steps to Email Marketing

first_imgAuthor information:Winston Bowden, email himVisit the website: www.contactology.com Nonprofits are confronted with many of the questions that any other enterprise, small or large, often ponders: How do I connect with my customers? Which communication vehicle will provide my organization with the highest return on investment? How can I determine what my target market wants?While many of our corporate friends have turned to email marketing to help answer these questions, the concept is comparatively new to nonprofits. Email marketing may not be the silver bullet for every problem, but it provides us with an efficient and affordable tool to communicate with our constituents.Whether you’re launching a membership drive, soliciting donations, or selling tickets to a fundraising event, email marketing can provide the biggest bang for your buck. This article provides information on how to develop successful email marketing tactics and strategies that can be applied both to nonprofits and to businesses. Step 3: Avoid too much of a good thing-email only as often as your list wantsSimply blanketing a general contact list with too many untargeted emails may be doing your organization a disservice. A recent survey by Convio found that 36% of significant donors said they are more likely to donate again if the organization permits them to say how often they’d like to be emailed.As the email marketer for your nonprofit, you should make it a top priority to identify the unique frequency-based groupings in your list and make sure you’re sending them exactly what they requested and when they requested the information.VAE has several email lists:Call for ArtistsCall for SponsorsCall for VolunteersEvent UpdatesBy making an effort to keep content in line with the list descriptions, VAE has maintained a consistent open rate of more than 50% and a click-through rate of 9%.In the past, VAE did not utilize an email marketing software package and had no means of measuring campaign effectiveness. Today, VAE consistently tracks each campaign’s results so that email marketing strategies can be adjusted as needed. Step 2: Building buzz with email marketingFrequent newsletter communications keep your interested members in the loop. Whether you are driving event attendance, seeking volunteers, or requesting online donations, a regular email newsletter keeps your membership engaged.VAE recently used email marketing tactics to increase online tickets sales from 8% to 20% for its gala, which serves as the organization’s major fundraiser. Regular email updates were a critical part of the ticket sales strategy. Each message provided something new and fresh about the gala. VAE didn’t bombard members with the same announcement, but provided them with new data on the event each email blast: Who are the new sponsors this month? How many tickets have been sold? How many artists will have work in the silent and live auctions? What can you tell your members to excite them, and ultimately allure them to follow through with the appropriate action? Step 4: Keep the feedback loop openIt is a good practice to request feedback from your email recipients regardless of what you are sending. Give your receivers a place to talk back. Make it short and simple and place it toward the bottom of your communication. Comments from your audience make for great content for future email newsletters and also allow you to gauge the pulse of your members.center_img Step 1: Building your contact listThere are dozens of articles on how to build an effective email list, and most will identify similar strategies:Face-to-face sign-up sheetPaid searchSearch engine optimizationA link to your subscription center on your signature lineA link on your online donation or event-registration checkoutThese tactics are tried and true. There are dozens of others, but as email marketers know, the biggest taboos are rented or purchased lists. Our goal when helping a nonprofit build its initial contact list is to create a strong group of members who have specifically requested information from the organization.The Visual Art Exchange (VAE) is a Raleigh, NC-based nonprofit that supports emerging artists in the local community. VAE receives the majority of email sign-ups not from the Web but from visitors to its art gallery in downtown Raleigh. Whether you have a retail face to your nonprofit or you simply have a pen and paper at your office’s front desk, do not underestimate the power of face-to-face sign-ups.However, Web site sign-up forms are also important. Most email marketing providers automatically generate a sign-up link that can easily be placed on your homepage. Summing UpWhether you are sending an email campaign or conducting a survey, listen to your list. Your email list represents an active portion of your membership. They have requested content, so they have an immediate interest in what you have to say. Providing them with value-added material will reinforce their dedication to your nonprofit.After implementing a basic email marketing strategy, the Visual Art Exchange was able to increase traffic to its Web site 200%, increase the size of its membership 40%, and double its annual revenue.By thinking like a marketer, you too can help your nonprofit grow its programs, services, and offerings, enabling you to serve your members better.Copyright 2000-2008 MarketingProfs.comAll Rights Reserved Step 5: Conduct regular surveysSurveys are structured requests for feedback and can be a great way for you to gather feedback on what your readers want to see. Send them out sparingly and with deliberation, as they take a greater time commitment from your list. If you would like to conduct surveys more than quarterly, consider creating an advisory segment and send more frequent surveys to that group.VAE recently surveyed its members to determine what new program offerings members wanted to see. Some 40% of email recipients responded. In addition, the email VAE sent to its member list received a 44% click-through rate and a 48% open rate.Members want to have the opportunity to provide feedback. A quarterly survey, performed online, is an efficient and inexpensive way to gauge members interests.last_img read more

How to fix boring newsletters

first_imgThis is my July column for Fundraising Success. Special thanks to frolleague Kivi for her great advice. Check out more of it here. Take her course, even. You won’t be sorry – you’ll be a storyteller!Most nonprofit newsletters are very boring. I subscribe to about 20 of them, and only one or two are interesting enough to regularly skim. Most are full of cookie cutter human interest stories that elicit little more than a yawn. This got me thinking, is this sample representative? If so, yikes. Newsletters are an important way that we cultivate relationships with donors. If we’re generally dull and needy in those communications, our audience will lose interest. And that ultimately spells financial heartbreak for us.So what’s a nonprofit to do? How do we take our newsletters from snoring to soaring?Looking for an easy answer to this question, I decided to turn to punt. I picked up the phone and called an expert who focuses on this very problem. Why not let her do the work? And here’s what trainer, writer and newsletter guru Kivi Leroux Miller of Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com had to say. If you want more of her wisdom – look here.Katya: Why are there no stories, or only milquetoast stories, in so many newsletters? What gives?Kivi: Two reasons, I think. First, people are afraid that they can’t pull it off. When you say “storytelling,” most people envision either someone like Mark Twain or Toni Morrison or a wild-haired grandpa on a stage at some mountain storytelling festival spinning some yarn – someone with way more creative juices flowing. Or they simply don’t think they are good writers, and the thought of writing something that qualifies as a “story” is just too daunting. It doesn’t have to be that way. Nonprofits have tons of great stories. Finding material in the nonprofit sector is never a problem. Katya: So fix this problem for us!Kivi: You just need to learn some basic storytelling patterns. In the book “Made to Stick,” which I highly recommend, Chip Heath and Dan Heath identify three different types of inspirational stories: The Challenge Plot, the Creativity Plot, and the Connection Plot. All three have very basic elements and once you know what to listen for, you’ll start hearing bits and pieces of these stories all around you, every day. At that point, you simply have to ask a few questions to fill in the gaps and you’ve got great stories for your newsletters and other donor communications. Katya: Errr– what’s a challenge plot?Kivi: The Challenge Plot is your basic three–act structure that practically every Hollywood movie is based on. These are your classic underdog stories, against all odds stories. You start out by introducing the character and his situation and goals. Then in Act II, he faces obstacles and the tension mounts. Things might start to work out, but then it usually gets worse. Then in Act III, the action peaks, and the character finally triumphs over the obstacles.Katya: Who’s the underdog? The nonprofit?Kivi: No! Many nonprofits throw themselves into the middle of the story, but that’s not where they really belong. The nonprofit doesn’t come in until Act III and then just as a supporting actor in helping the main character overcome the obstacles. Many nonprofits want to make the story all about them or their staff, but with a few exceptions, the main character really needs to be a client, volunteer, donor, or someone else involved in or affected by your work. You want the reader to relate to the story, and that’s easier to do if it is about t someone who is not on your staff.Katya: OK got it. And the creativity plot? That sounds juicy.Kivi: Creativity stories are those with the “aha!” moments and those “what if we . . .” stories that work out in the end. For a good creativity plot, you need a well-understood problem and a standard response that just doesn’t work. Again, use the people around you – clients, volunteers, donors – to explain the problem and inadequate solution. Then you talk about the new approach that your nonprofit or someone affiliated with your nonprofit is trying, and test runs and theories are OK here. It doesn’t need to be a completely well-thought out and fully tested solution. Then you close with a vision of a new reality and how the original problem would be solved. Katya: Who in the nonprofit world has aced a creativity plot?Kivi: I love the Heifer International founder’s story. The founder, Dan West, was ladling out milk rations to hungry children when he thought, “These children don’t need a cup, they need a cow.” From there, the whole idea of providing livestock to poor families was born. The families not only get livestock to provide food and income for themselves, but when their cows or goats have babies, they pass them on to other families in need, continuing the cycle of lifting families out of hunger and poverty. Katya: And last, the Connection Plot?Kivi: This one is a little harder to pull off without sounding sappy or forced, but once again, with the right elements, it’s easy. These are the bridging the gap stories and big meaning in small events stories. Start with a small, specific situation or event and then look for the larger connection to the greater human experience. These stories usually have a little surprise or epiphany in them that really drives the point home. You’ll see connections between the people in the stories and also between the storyteller and the reader. Interplast’s blog has some great connection stories about the doctors who are correcting birth defects in developing nations.Katya: Cool beans.Like this? Check out more of Kivi’s stuff and her storytelling course – available ON DEMAND, no less – here.last_img read more

Get R.E.A.L.: Four Steps to a Successful Fundraising Plan

first_imgI often get asked by start-up nonprofits how to raise money. The panic of making budget seems to make raising money impossible without knowing someone rich and famous like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.But fundraising isn’t impossible. It can an incredibly exciting adventure. Here is a simple plan I recommend to my clients. It can get you off to a good start and keep being used for years to come. To keep it easy, I implore them to “Get R.E.A.L.”The basic model I use for asking is the acronym R.E.A.L.: Research, Engage, Ask, and Love.RESEARCH: The first step of research is to find out how much you need to raise. This may seem obvious but my experience is that most groups never put a specific dollar amount on their need. Once that need is determined, it’s important to research how many gifts you’ll need. If you’re attempting to raise $100,000, the knee-jerk reaction will probably be “We just need to find 100 people that will give us $1,000.” As nice as that seems, decades of fundraising experience show that that simply isn’t how it works.One of the most helpful tools is a gift grid. Long-standing common wisdom shows that you’ll need at least one gift equaling 10% of the total. The next two should equal 5% of the total, etc. So, to reach your goal of $100,000, you’ll need at least one donor to give a minimum of $10,000. Experience shows that you’ll need to have 4 or 5 prospects to achieve that gift. Work through the grid until you have names of prospects for each level.As you’re building your prospect list, you’ll want to continue your research. Google can be an incredibly helpful tool. So can your board members and a development committee in the form of a peer review committee. You could invite these people, remind them of your cause and fundraising goals, and ask them to go over the names of prospects. One simple method of doing this is conducting what I call a “cpi screening”: rating each prospect on capacity, philanthropy, and interest.Does the prospect have capacity-are they financially able to make a gift? Are they philanthropic-are they generous with their money. You need to be a good steward of your resources, if the prospect can’t make a worthwhile gift or doesn’t have a track record of giving you would be better served seeking donations elsewhere. ? Are the interested in your cause? You can find this out by looking at other causes they’ve supported and by asking people close to your organization. Have the people on the committee assign a score of 1-5 for each category-1 being lowest, 5 being highest. This is tool can be useful because it removes individual personalities from the prospect rating process and makes it feel more objective. You should promptly visit anyone scoring 12 or more. But watch for those with high scores in the first two categories and some inclination to your cause. While you can’t make someone more wealthy or generous, but you can have a chance at making someone more interested in your organization. Which brings us to the second step, engage. ENGAGE: I like to think of this as the dating part of the relationship. It’s important to get to know your prospects before you “pop the question.” While you’ll certainly want to share the story of your cause, take time to get to know them-listen to their story, discover their interests, hear their goals. If the prospect has c and p then here’s where you work on i.ASK: The number one reason people don’t give money to your cause is that they are not asked. Even if you skip the prior two steps, you’ll still reach some level of success by consistently executing this one.If you’ve done the first two steps, this step will be quite fun. You’ll already have the odds in your favor. You know that they are predisposed to saying “yes” and you’ll have had time to shape the ask around their passions.I recommend asking people for gifts spread out over a period of time: i.e. “$1000 a year for three years.” This both shows you consider your cause important enough for a substantial investment and it saves you from having to ask them again and again.LOVE: I originally called this step Live/Like/Love. This is easy if the prospect says “yes” when you’ve asked. You simply need to be sure to thank them about seven times before you ask them again.But fundraising is all about relationships. The work really starts if they’ve said “no.” The big thing is to not burn any bridges. If you made it all the way to the ask, you had good reason to believe they’d say yes. The timing simply might not have been right. If you keep in touch with them, they just may give in the future. People will remember you if you’re exceptional at handling a “no.” And refusing a request can be so difficult, they’ll be grateful for your composure.Source: Marc. A Pitman of http://fundraisingcoach.com/.last_img read more

How to Check Your Website on Different Browsers

first_imgCross-browser compatibility has long been a frustration for website designers. What looks fine in one browser may be more or less “broken” in another, with sidebars shifted and elements overlapping… But does it really matter, how your website looks in different browsers, in the big picture of what your organization is trying to accomplish with an online presence?Yes.Browser compatibility is about much more than a pretty presentation, although the importance of a professional-looking design should not be downplayed. Sometimes, the effects of how different browsers interpret the code for a web page are so pronounced that your website can be difficult to navigate for users of one browser or another. It can become less inviting, if not downright unusable, for a whole section of your potential audience.Ensuring that your website works for the maximum number of visitors is always a priority. That’s why Wild Apricot software was just updated to be compatible with the newly released Firefox version 3 – which recorded a stunning 8 million downloads in 24 hours – and why usability guru Jakob Neilsen keeps a sharp eye on browser adoption trends since 1999.To check how your website will perform on different operating systems, at different screen resolutions, and in various version of each available web browser – if that seems like a daunting task, it can be! Fortunately, we’ve come a long way from the days of asking friends with different browsers to check a website for us.Browsershots.org is a free open-source online service for testing your website design in different browsers and on different operating systems. You enter the web address of your site, select the browsers for which you’d like to see screenshots, and join the job queue.Bookmark the page – there’s no option for getting the results by email – and you can reload it later to view your screenshots online and/or download the created screenshot images as a (compressed) zip file.Tip: It may be tempting to select All for testing at Browsershots, but I’d advise against it – it’s a considerable drain on the service’s resources, takes a lot of time, runs the risk of creating errors or timing out in mid-job… and more to the point, for most purposes it isn’t necessary to test your site in every permutation. Use a good free web stats tracker such as Google Analytics to look at which operating systems, screen resolutions, and browser versions are actually in use by your visitors, and start your testing there. You can always run more browser checks later, if you determine that SeaMonkey 1.1 is a hot browser with your particular audience.Browsershots is arguably the most comprehensive free tool of its kind – thanks to volunteers who run more than 100 computers to create the screenshots. If the time taken to create screenshots is more than you can spare, $15 can buy you a month of priority processing which bumps your job to the head of the job queue.Total Validator is a good free HTML validation service that has proved itself useful to catch coding errors, broken links, and so on – and now includes the option to check your page in any of 32 browsers across Windows, Linux and OS/X. When I tested Total Validator’s browser check feature this week, however, I received an error message on three of four tries. It is a relatively new feature, so perhaps there are still a few bugs to be worked out – or perhaps I simply hit a time of peak load on the service. And I have not yet tested the desktop version of the tool.There are also a number of excellent commercial services for testing your website’s cross-browser compatibility.LitmusApp, for one, comes highly recommended by several designers I know who use it for checking email newsletters as well as website designs. There is a free plan, but it only includes Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2. To test your site in all 23 browsers supported by the service, you’ll need to move up to a 24-hour pass ($24) or single-user subscription ($49 per month).Browsercam does an excellent job of checking the cross-browser functioning of any dynamic elements of your website – forms, javascript navigation, etc. – and the 24-hour free trial will give you up to a maximum of 200 screen captures. Basic “web capture” plans start at $20 for one day, or $60 per month; another $10 per month adds “device capture” for checking how your site appears on web-enabled mobiles and PDAs.And here’s a real bargain if you’re primarily interested in ensuring compatibility for Mac OS/X users who come to your website, $3 will buy 2 days of Browsrcamp service. “This is the easiest way to test every aspect of your website on Mac, including Javascript, DHTML, Ajax, Flash, etc.,” the service says, with 11 Mac browsers supported. Apple Safari screenshots of your website are free.When you know how your website looks and works for all of your visitors – not just those who use the same browser – you can better decide what steps to take to correct any discrepancies. Which cross-browser differences are mission-critical errors, and which are merely cosmetic? If Internet Explorer 6 doesn’t render your web page exactly as you see it in Opera 9.5, that may be okay. The question is whether your audience can use your website as intended, regardless of the technology they use to view it.Source: This is article is taken from the Wild Apricot nonprofit technology blog, and can also be viewed on their website.last_img read more

Rapid Donor Cultivation

first_imgCommon Knowledge is pleased to share a new online fundraising concept that they are pioneering–read an excerpt from the white paper here:Common Knowledge presents a new concept in online fundraising—Rapid Donor Cultivation (RDC). The motivation for this service is the maximization of the return on investment (ROI) of a nonprofit’s email subscriber acquisition efforts.In order to increase revenue from email direct marketing programs, a nonprofit fundraising online needs to grow their online subscriber base. Therefore, they find themselves with an increasingly larger expenditure on acquiring new email subscribers.  It quickly becomes apparent that it is crucial to focus on both the long-term ROI and the elapsed time to the first gift—both crucial components of their increasing acquisition costs.Download the full white paper now, and learn how we increased the rate of conversion of Subscribers to Donors by 83% over the previous year. There are helpful screenshots of one very successful campaign.Source:Common Knowledgewww.commonknow.cominfo@commonknow.com415.543.7600last_img read more

Should I Force My Executive Director to Blog?

first_imgSource: Adapted from the Nonprofit 911 Presentation “The Experts Are In! Your Online Fundraising and Nonprofit Marketing Questions Answered.” Web-savvy employees are often looking for ways to dive into the social networking realm online. One of the most popular ways to generate conversation is through blogging-organizational or individual blogs.Maybe your organization has a well-traveled, well-spoken ED: She travels a lot, meets a variety of people, gets great stories and can relate to the organization at a bird’s eye level. Should you force your leader to blog? Here are a few points to keep in mind when making a blogging decision:It takes a huge amount of energy and time to blog. You have to be really enthusiastic about the medium, or it’s really not going to work.Your ED may not be your best spokesperson. Perhaps you have a volunteer, another staffer or a constituent that can speak better to what you’re attempting to accomplish through this mode of communications.You’re welcome to blog yourself, but others may be doing it already! If you don’t want to start a blog yourself, what bloggers in your community are talking about your issue that you could reach out to and engage so they’re spreading the word on your behalf?It really comes down to the commitment and the purpose behind the blog. You need someone who will continually contribute and enjoy the process as it’s happening. And, it’s a great opportunity to think about whom you have helped, or what other champions or advocates you have who could blog to advance your mission.last_img read more

How to Defend Your Nonprofit Marketing Budget

first_imgIf you’re not tracking, or not tracking well, here are some tips to get started: Build definition of measurable objectives into your marketing planReinforce your colleagues’ understanding of the value of marketing, and its support for your work by including them in your planning process. That’s the best way to ensure expectations are clear and establish a broad understanding of how marketing contributes to programmatic and organizational success. It’ll never work if you’re the only marketing cheerleader.Track on an ongoing basis, to enable quick course correction, rather than waiting till the end of a campaign.Harvest the low-hanging fruit — the tracking data that’s inexpensive and easy to get and understand. Analytics your Web site, blogs, e-newsletters and mobile phone campaigns is a great way to start. Dive into Google Analytics today if you’re not already analyzing these channels. Lots to learn, for free.But readers, whatever you do, don’t just give in to a proposed budget cut for your department. Consider the options with as much creativity as you bring to your marketing work. Then shape your strategy and come back with a creative solution that will let you and your colleagues continue to build the bottom line necessary to carry out your mission. Tracking should include: Direct Marketing (online and mail):Response rate.Dollars earned per dollar spent (return on investment, or ROI).Media relations:Development of media relationships.Coverage by media type (newspaper, magazine, Web, broadcast).Actions that result: Increase in donations, volunteers, new program participantsPublic Speaking:Number of speaking engagements and presentations (and audience count and feedback). About the AuthorNancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications. As President of Nancy Schwartz & Company (http://www.nancyschwartz.com/), Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to organizations as varied as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, and Wake County (NC) Health Services.Subscribe to her free e-newsletter “Getting Attention”, (http://www.nancyschwartz.com/getting_attention.html) and read her blog at http://www.gettingattention.org/ for more insights, ideas and great tips on attracting the attention your organization deserves.center_img Nothing’s more important now than ensuring your organization’s leaders get that cutting marketing back now is a BAD MOVE! No program succeeds without participants; no service lasts without users; few organizations stay healthy without a strong donor and volunteer base — and marketing is the way that these groups are reached, engaged, retained and motivated to act.Challenge your organization’s leaders NOW if they’re shying away from investing in marketing. If they do, your nonprofit will really suffer longterm. That’s what you have to point out — as diplomatically as possible. And far better than just talking about it, you have to prove it.Rather than taking a defensive position when faced with budget cuts, proactively respond to your leadership’s challenges with either or both of these proposals:Leave our budget untouched, and we will increase X by X in the next fiscal year. Even better, if you will increase our budget by X percent, we’ll increase X by an additional X percent.Let the marketing and communications team work with the current budget for the next two years, and we’ll deliver an X percent increase in revenues (donor and/or earned income) in that time.But to make good on your promise, you have to craft a plan tying marketing work directly your goals, and track the impact of every effort before, during and after the work to enable ongoing course correction. Otherwise, you might as well throw your marketing resources out the door.Arm yourself with as many hard stats and success stories as you can. Talk about what colleague and competitive organizations are doing, and what you’ll lose if your organization retreats now. Show your case, always more effective than telling it. But do it now, proactively. It’s the only way to prove the value your efforts contribute to your organization.last_img read more

The 2 secrets to campaigning like Obama

first_imgI’m blogging from the opening day of Independent Sector, from the first-day session, “Harnessing Election Momentum for Nonprofit Causes.” On the panel are Maya Enista of Mobilize.org, Benjamin Todd Jealous of the NAACP and Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza. (I’m sitting next to fellow blogger Rosetta Thurman, whose fingers are flying. Be sure to read her stuff, too. She’s someone to watch in our sector.)I’d sum up the session for you this way: What the election teaches us – and what we need to sustain the kind of momentum it created among so many audiences – requires two things. The themes were:1. Audience appeal2. Infrastructure (both human and technological)By audience appeal, I mean the ability to appeal to the personal concerns of your audience. If you read this blog regularly, then you know I say this ad nauseum. You probably want to plug your ears by now. But I have to keep saying it, because it’s so very true. And we so often forget. The panelists offered great examples of the power of an audience-centric approach on the campaign trail. Benjamin Jealous talked about jobs and financial security as top issues among his members.Maya Enista talked about how the youth vote turned out because “the candidates gave youth a reason to vote. They talked about jobs, the cost of college, personal debt and predatory lending on college campuses, and they used online engagement to do it.” She said “We need to know the issues that appeal.” Janet Murguia talked about the importance of the rhetoric around immigration in engaging her community, as well as the “Yes we can” message of hope harkening back to Chavez and resonating with Latino voters, a group she calls aspirational in nature. Maya Enista talked about calling her mother the night of the election at 11 pm and asking her, “Mom, is this the reason you immigrated here?” Her mother said “yes” through her tears.It’s all about personal relevance. So learn it from the campaign trail: It’s the audience, stupid, and it always will be. An appeal to your audience’s values is the only way to get and keep momentum.Second, you need the engine behind, around and underneath that audience. The panelists identified one obvious engine: community-based organizations. That’s the human, organizational part of the engine. If those community-based organizations work together, which is hard to accomplish in our sector at a time where everyone is fighting for grants, you get a super-engine. (Maya suggests we need not only more cooperation but some mergers as well.)They also discussed a second engine: online engagement. That’s the technological part of the engine. The Obama campaign may not have invented Facebook, as Maya reminded us, but they sure knew how to tap into the platform and all social media to mobilize a younger generation. This is an era when you can enable someone to learn the location of their polling station via Twitter. Online tools put word of mouth on steroids. They also do wonders for your outreach, your fundraising, everything. They enable you to do less with more, as well as to reach new audiences. It’s the audience and the engines you tap. No matter how small your cause or how puny your pocketbook, you can accomplish much if you keep that in mind.More to come from the conference – stay tuned!last_img read more