Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekly Quote: What Fundraisers Should Give Up for Lent

Jeff Brooks shares two things he believes nonprofits should "give up for Lent" (from his excellent Future Fundraising Now blog). Here is one of them:

"Educating Donors

If your donors knew more about you and your cause, they'd give more. It doesn't follow that the way to increased giving is to bludgeon donors with facts and educate them into 'getting it'.

Giving is not a rational act. It's relational. When you try to educate donors into giving, you are at cross-purposes with this important fact. Instead, build a relationship. Some donors will seek 'education' about your cause as the relationship deepens. Others won't. But both kinds of donors will give more because of the relationship-- because you respect them and are aligned with them. Not because you filled their heads with more and better facts."

Click here and see Jeff's other Lenten recommendation. (Hint: It's not how great we are, it how great the donor is!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Super CRM

My wife and I listen to only a few radio stations on a regular basis; national public radio, a political affairs talk station, and during the football season, a sports station. Listening takes place mostly in the car dropping the kids off at school or picking them up later in the afternoon.

We had our preferred programs and looked forward to hearing from our favorite hosts. One day, to our dismay, a favorite radio talk-joc was missing. We waited a couple of days to determine if this was just a temporary situation or to see if she was assigned to a different time-slot. Nope. She had totally vanished.

My wife fired off an email inquiry to the station with little expectation of receiving a reply. Low and behold, within three minutes she received this reply:

Thanks for the note (my wife's name),

It was very  tough to part with (radio personality).  She is a personal friend and has been part of the station for almost 10 years.  But, we have been asked consistently by the listeners for more live and local coverage.  This does that.  Also, (replacement personality) has a national profile and we will be increasing the amount of national guests on her show.  Also, (another personality) will be doing more issues based content, especially in the 3pm hour. Things won't be the same without (radio personality) for sure, but we hope they are better over time. 

Thanks for listening, I really appreciate it.
Program Director

Wow! Great customer relationship management (CRM).

Following are some of the outstanding aspects of this reply:

  • My wife's email received a response in three minutes!
  • It was personal. Note the phrase "She (the radio personality) is a personal friend..." The Program Director recognizes that this radio personality was important to the us and wants us to know that she was important to him as well. This establishes a nice "bridge" of empathy.
  • He provided a cogent rationale for the change and attempted to relate it as a benefit to the listener.
  • He concludes with another personal comment - "Thanks for listening, I really appreciate it." This seems genuine, sincere.
Strive to be timely, personal, genuine and empathetic in your communications with supporters. You're likely to get a wow response too!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Generosity Day: A Valentine Reboot

Last year, a couple of days before Valentine's Day, Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer for Acumen Fund launched an effort to completely change the nature the 14th of February. He and his friend Katya Andresen, of Network for Good, came up with the idea of turning Valentine's Day into Generosity Day. As Dichter stated, "We wanted to reconnect (the day) to the core ideas of love and human connection."

Sasha says it started as an idea with him when he decided to spend the month of December saying "yes" to everyone who asked him for money -- a homeless person, a street musician, a nonprofit. Soon he posted on his blog that "I want all my readers to hear first. This Monday (Valentine's Day in 2011), is going to be rebooted as Generosity Day: one day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying "Yes." Let's make the day about love, action and human connection -- because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly."

The results were heartening. "We reached a few million people last year through blogs, Facebook, Twitter. Our hunch was spot on: People are hungering for something more in their lives -- more connection and more meaning", said Dichter.

What are you doing for Generosity Day? Have you thanked your donors, staff, friends?  Have you thought about the transformative nature of gratitude? Are you so focused on need -- your need,  that you have overlooked the power of reciprocity? 

I have included two videos below. One describes the concept behind Generosity Day, the other was created by the Jubilee Project and poses the question "What is love?" to a variety of people met on the street. (The Jubilee Project was born out of the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and creates videos for good causes.)

Give it  a try. Let's reclaim Valentine's Day. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Old Charity. New Technology.

According to the Associated Press, the Salvation Army set a record for donations generated by their ubiquitous "Red Kettle" fundraising efforts this past holiday season. Bell ringers attracted $147.6-million dollars eclipsing the $142-million dollar record set in 2010. More than $41-million dollars were collected outside Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores alone!

The Salvation Army has been collecting donations with their red kettles since 1891, but don't think they are stuck in the past. Recently, they have launched two "virtual kettle" programs. Now, individuals, teams, or corporations can host their own Online Red Kettles. Using Salvation Army web-tools, supporters can build a personal Online Red Kettle page, upload an address book, and send email invitations that encourage friends and family to support the cause.

Additionally, the charity introduced an option to make credit card donations on-the-spot using mobile payment technology through a Salvation Army representative's smartphone. The Salvation Army is the biggest nonprofit to adopt mobile payment technology offered by Square Inc. 

There are a couple of interesting lessons that can be learned from these initiatives:
  • A 147 year old organization can learn "new tricks", particularly if they focus on the needs of the donor.  Major George Hood, the charity's spokesman stated, “A lot of people just don’t carry cash any more. We’re basically trying to make sure we’re keeping up with our donors and embrace the new technologies they’re embracing.”  Three cheers to the Major and his associates!
  • A lot of small donations sure add up! Don't underestimate the impact of volume. Considering that the average kettle gift is less than $2.00, amassing $147.6 -million is an achievement that might understandably be considered totally unrealistic if a charity hadn't just gone out and done it
I look forward to seeing what the Salvation Army does next.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mega-Donors Gave More Last Year.

According to an article in today's Chronicle of Philanthropy, America's top 50 donors gave over $7-billion dollars more in 2011 than they did in 2010 ($10.4-billion vs. $3.3-billion). 29 individuals gave $50-million or more to their foundations or causes, up from 22 in 2010. The list was topped by the estate of agribusiness heiress Margaret Cargill, followed by deceased steel executive William Dietrich II,  co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen, financier George Soros, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It also appears that larger, more well-known charities are receiving the bulk of the larger charitable gifts. 36% of the dollars went to higher education, 35% to private foundations, 15% to hospitals, medical centers, and medical research, and 7% to museums, libraries, and historic preservation. Additionally, the concentration by larger donors on higher profile, well established institutions may be in part because donors are worried that some of the newer and smaller charities may not be around in 25 or more years.

Should smaller nonprofits consider soliciting large or even "mega-donors"? Some consultants and charity heads believe they can. But big donors certainly won't consider an organization they don't even know exists. It is therefore critical that each charity consider the following:

  • Consistently get they word out on the work of your organization. Court the media, create compelling print and electronic communications, utilize social media, involve community leadership, share successful outcomes.
  • Provide an informative, inspiring website. Many donors research institutions on their website prior to making a gift.
  • Connect donors directly to your programs and beneficiaries. Have them visit a classroom, take them to a project site, invite them to join your board. Don't just tell them about your good work show them.
  • Be realistic. The number one ranked billionaire may have loved cats but she is likely already connected to a favorite charity. Don't allocate all your resources for that one big donation "hit". Like anything else diversify your cultivation. 

Although 2011 experienced a significant increase in large donations in comparison to 2010, giving was still well below pre-recession contributions. Moreover, many believe corporate support has been permanently changed by the bad economy.

Those charities that fared better in 2011 such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), invested heavily in often overlooked but lucrative revenue sources such as monthly credit card or direct debit donors. They have also concentrated on building connections with donors through social media where they have obtained a million Facebook supporters.

Be creative. Toot your own horn.
Be persistent. Your cause is worth it.
Be aspirational. Shoot for the stars.
The only thing that ensures failure is not trying!

Check out this info-graphic from the Chronicle of Philanthropy article: Link to info-graphic