Helping hand

Nonprofit Content Marketing Should Help, Not Sell

Helping handWhen I think about nonprofit content marketing, one of my favorite marketing strategists is Jay Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help, not Hype.

He says the difference between “helping” and “selling’ is only two letters. But what a difference those two letters makes!

If you substitute ‘h’ and ‘p’ ( in ‘helping’) for ‘s’ and ‘l’ (in ‘selling’) in building your nonprofit content marketing strategy you’ll convince more of your nonprofit social media fans and followers to convert to subscribers or members, and more of your subscribers and members to convert to donors.

Think of it this way. If you’ve traditionally focused on selling vs. helping, you’ve emphasized ‘s’ and ‘l’ [stupidity (your customers) and laziness (you)]. You’ve acted like your customers don’t know very much, so they need you to show them the way. Yet at the same time you’ve been too lazy to gently teach them what they need to know.

Now imagine you focus on helping vs. selling. You emphasize ‘h’ and ‘p’ [humanity (your customers) and peer (you and your customer)]. You treat your constituents like individuals with specific values, needs and desires. You endeavor to learn more about them so you can meet their needs. You engage them as partners, showing you’re all in this together. You create a community of like-minded folks, welcome folks to your community, and take care of your members. Not as infants, but as peers. No one likes to be infantalized.

Sell something and you create a customer today. Help someone and you create a customer for life.

It’s human nature to fall into a ‘sales’ model when you feel so proud of what you do you assume everyone else will want to jump on your bandwagon. Yet just “doing good” is not enough. Anymore than having a good product is good enough for the soap manufacturer. You need to tell people how you can be helpful to them, their loved ones and their community. And don’t expect them to just take your word for it. Show them by offering up useful content and sharing powerful emotional stories and facts that demonstrate your outcomes. Otherwise, you keep people dependent on you to tell them what to do because “you know best.” When you keep people in the dark about the details, they feel both stupid and disempowered. Since these are not good feelings, how to you think this “sales vs. help” model makes your constituents feel?

man thinking

3 Content, Online and Social Media Venues for Every Nonprofit

Nonprofit fundraising and marketing is very different today than when I began. Yet not every nonprofit I encounter seems to have received the message.

That’s why I’m writing.  Because the road to success has changed more in the past five years than the preceding 50.

Why?

It’s been called a “digital revolution,” a “disruptive” force and the “end of business as usual.

Outbound marketing” has been proclaimed dead, making way for “inbound marketing.”

The world is networked digitally in a way that was, until recently, unimaginable to most of us.

So… what does this mean for nonprofits? Especially for small to medium-sized nonprofits who don’t have staff with titles like “Online Fundraising Coordinator,” “Digital Communications Associate,” “Social Media Specialist” or “Digital Philanthropy Manager.”

How can you compete to raise awareness and support among your likely constituents?

Clairity Click-it: Databases; Content; Leadership; Free Stuff; Learning Opportunity

 

Mouse with computer mousee
Click it!

I’ve got some really cool links for this first week of September. I try to find stuff I think you may not be seeing through your regular channels because it’s fun to get new perspectives. I especially love to find folks who come from other disciplines and see how nonprofits might apply some of their thoughts — art and science — to fundraising, marketing, management and leadership.  Plus you’ll find some free resources and a new learning opportunity (scroll to the bottom). Let’s begin…

Clairity Click-it: Looking Forward to 2015 Edition w/Board, E.D. and Staff Roles, Social Media; Content Marketing; Donor Databases

Today I’ve got my looking forward into 2015 edition with some ideas as you’re continuing to make your plans (aka New Year’s resolutions) to get you off on the right foot and assure you blast through your 2015 goals and objectives (I know, it usually comes on Friday, but I was playing hooky last week). I’ve also got some of the best posts from around the web that you may have overlooked last year.

Plus don’t miss the announcement of 40+ FREE nonprofit webinars at the end!

Before we begin, please accept my personal best wishes for a year ahead that brings many blessings, both to you and your nonprofit. May you wish upon a star… and have anything your heart desires come true for you.

Labor Day Week-end Clairity Click-it: Planning/Calendaring, Development Director Mistakes, Time Management, Writing, Psychology, Gratitude

First, some words:

  1. Time to say thank you for your labors.  And thank you for reading Clairification. Your work inspires me and truly creates a more caring community and better, more humane world. Your readership makes my days, months and year. Truly, I appreciate you. Please… rest, reflect and recharge this week-end. You deserve it!
  2.  Last chance to get your highest ROI fundraising management tool (see below). Yes, I’m charging a bit. But not too much (especially given the fact my prodigal son has returned and is eating me out of house and  home!), and way less than what you’ll get out of it. I promise. Guaranteed.

Now… on to this week’s great links…

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What App Developers Can Teach Content Marketers: 5 Tips to Energize Your Brand

Find a need and fill it. That’s Marketing 101.   Well, today some of the folks most clued in to what people want are the apps developers. Why not piggyback on their insight and research to enrich your content marketing strategy?  The key is to tie it to your brand promise (i.e., why you’re on this planet and what folks perceive your value to be to them). Find an angle that makes the trend relevant to your business.

End your constituents’ pain.  This is simply another way to think of taking the consumer-oriented approach that means the difference between failure and success. What’s bothering your community?  What keeps them up at night? How can you help? This is how app developers – and inventors, and successful business start-ups – think. 

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6 Ways to a Kick-Ass Content Plan for Your Nonprofit Blog: Part II of the C.P.A. series

 

C.P.A.? Yup. In my last post I introduced you to the ‘accountant’ theory of an effective blog content strategy.  C for constituent-centered. P for plan. A for accessible. You can review the C post here.  Today we’re going to talk about the P.’

For starters, you’ve done your market research and you know what your constituents care about (if you haven’t done this, look at the 6 actionable tips in the previous post). Now, take all the great topics you’ve researched and brainstormed – all the questions you’ve been collecting from your constituents – and build an editorial calendar for your blog. I’m going to give you some tips and tools that will make this really simple. Promise.

R.I.P: Top 3 Things Required for Content to be King + 17 Questions You Should Ask Before Building a Content Marketing Strategy

 

Is your content pushing up daisies?  It should be.  That’s the way to grow and blossom.   I call it  the R.I.P. Content Marketing Strategy:  (1) Relevance; (2) Ideas; (3) Plan. [Coincidentally, adhering to these principles should bring peace of mind so that you can rest easy in the knowledge you’re doing the right things (relevance; ideas) in the right ways (plan).]  So, to mimic Do,Re,Mi from the Sound of Music:

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R.I.P: Top 3 Things Required for Content to be King – And 17 Questions We Should Ask Before Embarking on a Content Marketing Strategy

Is your content pushing up daisies?  It should be.  That’s the way to grow and blossom.   I call it  the R.I.P. Content Marketing Strategy:  (1) Relevance; (2) Ideas; (3) Plan. [Coincidentally, adhering to these principles should bring peace of mind so that you can rest easy in the knowledge you’re doing the right things (relevance;…

Sign StaySafeBeKind

Nonprofit Crisis Response Tip-a-Day-DO-Dah!

Sign StaySafeBeKindResist the temptation to throw your hands up in the air because you’re hearing people are giving less now. While it may be true(ish), it doesn’t apply to everyone. And it doesn’t need to apply to your nonprofit.

Also, the fact folks aren’t giving may not be for the reasons you assume. In fact, one of the biggest reasons this is true is because nonprofits are asking less.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Recent research shows:

  • Giving is increasingly seen as good – as is fundraising. Even donors who have been hit economically are remaining remarkably generous.
  • Charities with little relevance to tackling Coronavirus will still receive support from donors that value them – as long as they ask for help (otherwise they’ll be perceived as not in need of funds).

It all boils down to a need to put together both short and long-term plans to connect meaningfully with your supporters right now, using the correct approach and tone. Towards that end, I’ve put together five ‘to-do’s – one for each day of the work week.  I suggest you put aside a little bit of time this coming week to consider how you might actualize each of these suggestions, if not in whole at least in part.

Ready for your five timely tips?

5 Winning "Today" Strategies to Raise Money Smarter

If you could only do five things between now and the end of the year to make a noticeable difference in your nonprofit’s fundraising results, what would you do?

I’ve been writing recently about five subject areas – key priorities for success this year, and beyond.  Today I’d like to offer one BIG “to do” in each area to help you hone in on some actionable steps that will move the needle and have a transformative impact on your results.

#ClairityClick-it: Major Gifts, Donor Retention, Online Social Fundraising + Free Resources

Mixed #nonprofit links and free resourcesHope you enjoy these links, free resources and training opportunities. Usually I publish this on Friday, but it’s Spring Break and holiday week for many, so I’m on a wacky schedule. Again, I’ve organized according to three of the top 5 areas I’m hoping you’re working on improving this year.  This week it’s

  1. Major Gifts
  2. Donor Retention
  3. Online Social Fundraising

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Why We Stopped Building Pyramids: What Nonprofits Can Learn

 

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

The pyramids were built in Egypt. On the backs of slaves.  It took a very, very long time. The cost, in human terms, was untenable and unsustainable.

That’s why you don’t see many pyramids being built these days.

Except in nonprofits.

Where building the donor pyramid is still the holy grail.  Get ‘em in. Move ‘em up. Acquire through direct mail. Convert to monthly donor or sustainer. Acquire through events. Convert to mail. Up, up, up…. to the pinnacle of major and planned gifts!

Except for one tiny thing.

Proven Strategies to Climb the Year-End Fundraising Mountain

Mountain climberHave you started working on your annual appeal and year-end fundraising plan?

It’s time!

I worked for 30 years in the trenches, so I know exactly what this time of year feels like.

It feels like you’re at the base of a mountain you’re about to scale.

  • Exciting, but also scary.
  • Exhilarating, yet also daunting.
  • There will be good days, and bad days.

And this particular year, you may feel you’re taking two steps forward and three steps back.

That’s to be expected during times of great uncertainty.

Expected or not, I know you’re still anxious and thinking “What if we don’t reach the top?”

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

This year you may need the equivalent of a few extra granola bars for energy. And maybe an extra tool or two to help you get a grip.

Right now I want to give you a few specific, timely tips you might not be thinking about.

Here are some strategies I hope will give you a leg up, so to speak.

Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forwards?

Here are 11 tips I’ve learned over the years.

How to Rock Donor Thank You Calls

7 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors

You’ve got to make donor retention more of a priority to survive and thrive in today’s competitive nonprofit marketplace.

Research shows the average nonprofit in the U.S. loses 81% of donors after the first gift!!!!!

In and out a revolving door is too expensive to be sustainable.

To make matters worse, the probability a donor will make five consecutive gifts is only 10-15%. These numbers are just not sustainable for most organizations. By the time you’ve added a new donor most of your previous new donors are out the door.

And, by the way, did you know donor acquisition costs you money?  Yup. On average, it will cost you $1.00 – $1.25 to bring in a new donor dollar. So… the value of a new donor to your organization is wrapped up in the concept of donor lifetime value. Once you have a new donor, the cost to renew them is much less expensive than the cost to acquire them. Just like in for profit marketing, keeping a current customer is easier than finding a new one.  But… you have to actively engage in customer cultivation and renewal strategies.

If you don’t energetically renew and upgrade donors over time, you may as well never have recruited them.

Allow that to sink in a moment.

Might you effectively be wasting a lot of time, energy and money on acquisition? Could some of your resources be more effectively deployed to donor retention?

I’m going to go out on a limb and wager the answer is a resounding YES.

Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you do, there’s hope for you to improve it. Read on.

If you don’t, you don’t even know there’s something that needs fixing! Read on.

R.I.P. Donor Pyramid?

Swirling fractalThe modern model is more like a vortex — an energized circle where everyone is equal. People move in and out as needed, and your job is to keep the energy flowing.

NOTE: My article on the topic of moving away from the donor pyramid model for donor acquisition, cultivation and major gift solicitation recently resurfaced on social media dialogue, so I thought it was time for a reprint.

Why do we always think of donors with pyramids? The pyramids were built in Egypt. On the backs of slaves. It took a very, very long time. The cost, in human terms, was untenable and unsustainable.

That’s why you don’t see many pyramids being built these days.

Except in nonprofits, where building the donor pyramid is still the holy grail. Get ’em in. Move ’em up. Acquire through direct mail. Convert to monthly donor or sustainer. Acquire through events. Convert to mail. Up, up, up … to the pinnacle of major and planned gifts!

Except for one tiny thing.

It doesn’t work.

Pyramid building is so 2630 BCE. Nobody’s got 100,000 workers (aka direct-mail donors) building a solid pyramid anymore. Many so-called pyramids really look like hourglasses. Or upside-down pyramids. Or plateaus. Even the pyramid-shaped ones are resting on shaky foundations of donors who move in and out, in and out — eight out of 10 newly acquired bottom-of-the-pyramid donors leave — making the “foundation” more like a river than a solid, secure slab of mortar. The days of the donor pyramid model are gone!

Digital toppled the donor pyramid. Actually, it crumbled it … slowly, surely … until there was nothing left but an empty frame. A triangle on paper. The donors no longer fit inside of it.

R.I.P. donor pyramid. You had a good run.

The donor pyramid (sometimes call the donor ladder) was a great model for linear thinkers like me. It was neat and orderly. Engage folks from the bottom up, level by level, one step at a time. It was stable.

Or so we thought,

trust sign

Wrong Ways to Woo Nonprofit Donors

trust signWhat do you most need to sustain your nonprofit through thick and thin?

A steady, reliable source of income – natch!

For most nonprofits this means loyal donors.

How do you get them?

Alas, too many nonprofits act as if all they need to do is acquire the donor; then, magically, that donor will stick with them forever.  Sadly, the data shows otherwise. On average only 20% of first-time donors renew; only 43% of all donors renew. And there’s a very good reason this sorry state of affairs exists.

Most nonprofits woo donors the wrong way.

It may not happen all the time. But it happens enough. Too often, in fact.  Does this look at all like the trajectory of how you handle a newly acquired gift?

  • You badger the donor for gifts.
  • When they give, you warehouse them in your database.
  • You then send a form letter (pretending it’s personal because you use their given name and indicate their gift was earmarked for a particular purpose; in reality, most of the time you don’t know them from Adam nor do you try to get to know them beyond what they wrote on the flap of the remit envelope).
  • Next, they get on your newsletter list and receive mass mailings.
  • Before you know it – or know much about them — they’re getting another appeal letter.

There’s a better way.

Actively show donors love and trust. This is the best way to get them to love and trust you, and the two most important aspects of donor loyalty. Relationships that last are reciprocal. Penelope Burk, the queen of donor-centered fundraising, famously found through her research that donors’ number one desire is … please, please “show me that you know me.” If you want donors to trust you and be loyal to you, you have to trust them and be loyal to them.  Simple, yes?  Actually, no.

To earn trust and loyalty takes strategy.  And it takes work. Mark Schaefer makes a brilliant analogy

Hope mural

How 13 Nonprofit Donors Yields a $1 Million Philanthropic Legacy

Hope mural13 happens to be my lucky number. I want it to be lucky for you too.

Today, I’m going to reveal to you how you can make this happen.

A recent survey of wills reported on by the Chronicle of Philanthropy reveals the average bequest by everyday donors is $78,630.

Some people will leave less; some people will leave more. What this survey reveals, however, is you only need 12 to 13 donors making a provision for your organization in their will to reap $1 million.

If a major gift for your organization is $1000 (or even 5000 or 10,000), I imagine this sounds off the charts to you. Guess what?

Legacy giving is off the charts!

In fact, bequest marketing produces the highest ROI (return on investment) of any fundraising activity.

The first step to making this happen for your organization is to encourage bequests. Actively.

Promote Charitable Bequests, or Else

If you don’t actively encourage charitable bequests, people are unlikely to make them.

Why? There are three primary reasons:

Why Donor Wooing Requires WOWing

cashier-Pixabay1791106_640The Unfair Exchange Bernadette Jiwa, The Story of Telling.

That will be eight dollars,’ the woman, who is carefully weighing and wrapping two serves of freshly made fettuccine for us to take home, says.

As my husband is about to hand her the cash, she takes another handful of the pasta from behind the glass and adds it to our package.

She doesn’t announce that she’s giving us twenty per cent extra for free.
She doesn’t even invite us to notice the gesture at all.
It’s enough for her that she knows she has added value.

We think of value as a hard metric—the anticipated fair exchange of this for that.

But value can be a surprising, generous, unfair exchange.

Something that is given because we can, not because we must.

Ah… value.

Wow, wow, WOW!

This is what all fundraising, fundamentally, is about.

A value-for-value exchange.

Yet one side of the exchange is a hard metric: The donor’s cold, hard cash.

While the other side of the exchange is something decidedly less tangible: Freely given gratitude from you and your organization.

Or at least that’s how it should work.

The Difference between ‘We Must’ and ‘We Can’ 

What does your donor love and loyalty plan look like?

Do you even have such a plan?

If the only reason you acknowledge donations is because you feel you ‘must,’ it’s likely your donors aren’t walking away from the encounter feeling much more than matter-of-fact. The transactional receipts many organizations send out are registered by the donors as “Ho, hum. Guess I’ll go file this with my tax receipts.”

This kind of exchange is fair, sure.

But it’s not generous.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE TO GIVE?

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9 Things Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About Monthly Donations

It’s the time of year when nonprofits are evaluating their recent fundraising results and making plans to bring in more contributions in the coming year. But… how?

What will move the needle for you this year?

This question came up in a recent call I was on, and the subject turned to this organization’s monthly giving program. It was doing okay, but they weren’t persuaded it was worth the time and effort compared with focusing on major donors. What I tried to tell them was that many monthly donors are major donors or major or legacy donors in waiting!

If you’re not thinking about your monthly donor program this way, this year is your opportunity to reframe how you think about it.

CONSIDER THIS: A $50 monthly donor is a $600 donor. A $100 monthly donor is a $1,200 donor. PLUS… monthly donors are exceedingly loyal. One-time donors renew, on average, at a rate of 45%. Monthly donors renew, on average, at a rate of nearly 90%. And the fact they give consistently over time means they truly identify with your charity. You are so important to them you are like one of their children to whom they give a monthly allowance! So there’s a good chance they may also leave you a legacy gift.  Wouldn’t it make sense to double down this year to try to grow and cultivate more of these loyal supporters?

On my recent call with the charity feeling uncertain about how much resources to devote to monthly giving, I remembered this conversation I had a few years back with expert, Bill Sayre, CEO of Merkle RMG. Since he works with hundreds of organizations to help them build and manage their sustainer programs, I’d asked him to give me his thoughts on what you can do to begin and/or better manage your monthly giving program.

Chances are you already have some sort of monthly sustainer program.  But… is it the best it can be?  Could it do more heavy lifting for you?

Today I’m re-running this article in the hopes it will help you plan for the year ahead. You’ll learn not only why monthly donor programs are a good idea, but how you can put management systems in place, grow your revenue, keep donors happy and maximize return on your investment.

roaring lion

7 Things Nonprofit Major Gifts Programs Need to Succeed

Every nonprofit should have a major gifts program.

That’s where the lion’s share of the money is.

It’s a rare organization that has a mailing list large enough to raise a million dollars from a million different $1 donors. But most nonprofits do have major donor prospects hiding in plain sight.

It’s up to you to find them; then move them along a cultivation path that prepares them – and you – to make an ask that results in a win/win values-based exchange.

Let’s review 7 secrets that will guarantee your major gifts program is a success, whatever your size.

December 2020 calendar page

Last Minute Strategic Year-End Email Appeal Tips

December 2020 calendar pageYou are a philanthropy facilitator. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to persuade people to act now, during the most giving time of the year.

Studies show nearly one-third of all charitable giving happens in December. While you absolutely should be using multiple fundraising channels to get best results, right now whatever you’ve got planned for offline is pretty much cooked. So your best bet for boosting year-end results is digital.

What do you have planned between now and December 31st?

Network for Good and True Sense Marketing found a third of all online giving occurs in December, and more than 20% of all online giving for the entire year occurs on the last two days of the calendar year. And, among digital strategies, email rules. According to M+R’s Benchmarks Study, email was responsible for 16% of all online revenue for nonprofits.

For at least the last decade, the last week of the year – and particularly the last day of the year– have been huge for online fundraising.

To boost your year-end fundraising success, you need to craft an email offer your donor can’t refuse.

How will you best convey your offer?

In a nutshell, you need three things for any fundraising offer:

  1. Problem you’re addressing — made real and relevant to the prospective donor.
  2. Solution you’re proposing to address the problem – with your donor’s help.
  3. Ask showing how the donor can help– the specific purpose and amount of the gift you’re requesting.

1. How to describe the problem.

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year:

So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!

Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.  Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for blessings.

Who, and what, do you count among yours?

I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgivings, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends… loving family…. and for being together sharing the warmth of good company. This year the company may be virtual, but the gratitude for shared connection will be the same.

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

woman waving magic wand

Magic Wand to Wave to Keep Nonprofit Donors Close Virtually

It’s a scary world out there.

Is there a magic wand you can wave to keep your donors close while living in a socially distanced world?

Getting up close and personal with donors has always been the gold standard killer strategy for generating passionate gifts and keeping donors loyal.  But we didn’t take the term “killer” literally!

Today it’s simply too dangerous for folks to leave home.

So… what can you do instead? Plenty!

Thanks not only to digital technology, but also to familiar tools like the telephone and snail mail, it can be pretty easy to stay attuned and in touch even when practicing social distancing.

Your ‘donor love’ wand still has an abundance of fundraising and donor stewardship magic in it, if you just think a bit creatively. And it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money.

Today I want to share with you some of my favorite ‘wand wave’ tricks for end-of-year fundraising season. Depending on who you connect with, and how you tweak your message, they work to:

  1. Acquire new donors
  2. Retain existing donors
  3. Upgrade existing donors

Consider your goals first. Then pick from among these strategies.

Even if you just do one of these things between now and the end of the year, you’ll boost your fundraising results.

Heart graffiti

How to Help Donors Give Astutely Before Year-End

I’ve written about some of the new charitable deduction opportunities included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed on March 27, 2020 before. But a recent post shared by Greg Warner of Market Smart — Dr. Russell James’ tips to help donors give wisely before this year ends — plus a recent conversation with a financial advisor, reminded me it’s a very good time to share with you again.

You see, there are several things that will impact donor deductions – THIS YEAR ONLY. It’s good for you to be aware of these as a fundraiser, because making your supporters mindful of these opportunities may lead to them making more, and larger, gifts to your organization.

Of course, you’re not in the business of offering legal, tax or financial advice.  And it’s easier to tell yourself donors’ own advisors will likely tell them about these new provisions. And that “this isn’t really your responsibility.” Yet…

Not all of your donors have their own accountants or financial advisors.

And not all tax advisors are up to snuff, especially when it comes to charitable deductions. Do you want to risk not receiving generous gifts you could have otherwise received, just because you’re too lazy to share this useful information?

The Genuine Job of the Philanthropy Facilitator

Sorry about using that “L” word, but too many fundraisers (IMHO) don’t 100% understand their job as a philanthropy facilitator. Do you?

Your job is to do everything within your power to make giving easy, joyful and meaningful for your supporters. Everything. Doing everything means

Elvis

You Deserve to Rock Nonprofit Email Subject Lines!

Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

— David Ogilvy, advertising legend

Your email subject line matters. A lot.

So this article is all about learning how to rock your online ‘envelope’ – which is really what determines if your email will get opened.

When you stop to think about this, it makes a lot of sense. Your email subject line has a function! And its form should follow that function.

  • First, it must capture attention.
  • Second, it must convince people to open your message.

People’s inboxes are increasingly cluttered, so you need to stand out. Big time!  Really, you’ve probably got no more than two seconds to make an impression.

Do you think carefully about purpose when you create your email subject line?  Do you even craft it at all, or do you delegate this essential function to someone else, perhaps an assistant or someone in your marketing or digital communications department? Someone who perhaps doesn’t really understand the email’s primary purpose as well as do you?

If you’re like most nonprofit fundraisers and marketers, you likely spend a lot of time crafting the perfect email body copy, selecting images and figuring out just the right design that will entice someone to respond to your call to action.  Then, at the last minute, you’re ready to send it and hastily come up with a subject line.

Before Sending a Fundraising Appeal Do This, Not That

Hands forming heart pexelsHold the presses! If you haven’t yet sent your year-end fundraising appeal, you’ve time to give your message a once over.

I’ve got just the checklist you need.

If you’ve already sent your appeal off to the printer, you’ve still time to rethink your copy before sending your December follow-up or preparing your year-end series of emails.

Either way, taking the time to look at your fundraising message with a critical eye can help you raise a lot more money.

You see, there are right and wrong ways to talk with prospective donors. You’ve likely read a lot on this topic (I know I’ve certainly written a lot on this topic – for starters see here), yet it bears repeating. Especially as we enter the most giving time of the year. If you fail to put your best foot forward during the last quarter of the calendar year, you’re going to end up shooting yourself in that foot!

Many charities will raise a huge percentage of their annual fundraising goal during the next three months. There’s plenty of data out there to support this. Just check the infographics below.

Let’s make sure you don’t blow your chances and get your full share of the philanthropy pie.

Do This, Not That

Me wearing a mask

Plan ‘Random Acts’ of Nonprofit Donor Kindness, Especially Now

There’s a pandemic out there killing people.

What can your nonprofit organization do to offer a remedy?

Kill ‘ em with kindness.

I’m talking about your supporters, of course.

In order for people to do good they have to feel good.

Seriously, philanthropy takes energy. It takes the ability to step out of one’s day-to-day grind and think about someone, or something, else. And it’s more difficult than usual for folks to find this generous space right now.

You can help.

Make this the giving season.

I often say “If you want gifts you must give them.”

Maya Angelou says “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Let’s talk about what you can give – as nonprofit staff and board — to create happier supporters.

Notice a lot of folks saying “2020 is a bad year?” People can use a bit of cheer.  They’re tired of doom and gloom.

Remember when “random acts of kindness” was a thing? People would buy a coffee for the person behind them in line. Or they’d pay the bridge toll for the next car. Their reward was simply imagining the unexpected delight their gift would give to someone that day. Ever have it happen to you?  Ever try it?

Now’s your chance!

I’d like to suggest practicing some creative planned (not random) acts of kindness.

Something to bring your donors and volunteers a bit of good cheer. It can be as simple as letting them know what they did to change someone’s life for the better. Or it can be a modest, human gesture showing them how grateful you are for their support. This is something you can have fun with.  And the rewards will be huge, both for you and your donors.

10 Acts of Donor Kindness For a Pandemic, and Beyond

'Wearing is Caring' Street art

Fool-Proof Nonprofit Crisis Fundraising Communications Templates for Every Audience

'Wearing is Caring' Street artDuring a crisis is no time to be passive. Build a list of audiences, prioritize contacts among those lists, and develop a step-by-step written PLAN to reach out. With updates, engagement opportunities, little gifts of content folks can use, and opportunities to contribute and make a demonstrable difference.

Sharing is caring too.  Do you have a plan in place to regularly share what you’re up to, and offer opportunities for donors to engage?  Are you communicating with donors as if they’re a part of your family or favorite group of friends? If not so much, what are you waiting for?

Establish templates with talking points in advance of your communications; then let the reaching out begin. First determine your purpose.

  • Do you want to say thank you?
  • Do you want to simply check in to see how your donor is doing, and whether they have any questions about your organization’s status and work right now?
  • Do you want to ask them to volunteer their time?
  • Do you want to ask for a philanthropic gift?
  • Do you want them to complete a survey?

Figure this out first, because the more you know where you’re going the more likely you are to get there! If you’re light on staff right now, ask your volunteers and influencers for help.

These communication templates can be used for phone (or other online) conversations and emails. Got that? Conversations! Merriam Webster describes a conversation as “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.” In other words, you want to prompt two-way participation on some level. This is not about you delivering a monologue or formal dissertation. Think of your communication as you raising an issue for discussion. You want to pique your donor’s interest and ask open-ended questions that invite their engagement.

Start with your top priority donors who have the highest likelihood of making an additional gift to get you through this crisis. I suggest

Two bears wearing face coverings

10 Top Nonprofit Strategies to Get Through this Crisis

The times we’re in are extraordinary, and ‘business as usual’ isn’t.  Having strong coping skills today are truly important. As is being more thoughtful and strategic than usual, because you can’t rely on the ‘normal’ playbook.

I recently happened on a thoughtful article I want to share from the University of Colorado, Something for Everyone: 25 Tips to Get Through Your Day. I’ve selected what I believe are the Top Ten Tips for nonprofits.

Use these tips to help you make the most of this time into which we’ve been thrust. See if you find anything that speaks to you. Apply to both your personal and professional life to the extent you can. I’m quoting from the author in the highlighted segments, and following with a number of targeted fundraising and donor communication strategies you may want to consider.

Not Today Covid 19

Anatomy of a Coronavirus Nonprofit Email + Thank You

Not Today Covid 19Last week I shared a number of real-life examples from innovative nonprofits taking creative steps to connect meaningfully to their supporters during these trying times. While staying connected, some organizations are succeeding in stepping up both their marketing and fundraising communications to the next level.

Sometimes this means virtual events, online conference calls and hang-outs and, yes, asking for the philanthropy needed to respond to urgent needs and stay in business for the longer haul.

I promised today I’d share an example of a straight-up email appeal.  Actually, it’s more than an appeal.

Because every communication you have with folks today must be more than business as usual.

It’s got to be empathic.

Let’s face it. All folks are thinking about today is coronavirus. If you ignore this fact, you’ll come across as out of touch and even insensitive. So begin every communication with some acknowledgement of what people are going through. Not just you. Them.

Check in with people and ask them how they’re doing.  This is actually always a good way to begin. We do it more in our personal lives (oddly, particularly with strangers).  You ask the clerk at the counter “How’s it going?” You leave the store saying “Have a nice day.” In fact, one of the hallmarks of a culture of philanthropy is you’ll find staff always asking each other “How can I help you today?” [See “Fundraising Bright Spots”]

Silver lining of this pandemic? Rediscover the power of empathy.  Take this opportunity to connect the dots between the problem you lay out and the solution with which the donor can be helpful. This is solid, basic fundraising – the way it should always be practiced but too often is not.  Use this opportunity to be better.

It’s got to be innovative.

Remember, this is not ‘business as usual.’ Already every nonprofit and their dog are sending out messages related to this crisis.  What will get your messages to stand out? Lots of things come to mind, including great subject headlines, compelling images and graphics, engaging stories and an authentic tone. All the basics apply.

Practice solid fundraising, of course, but try to add in a little bit of something extra. Novelty. Fun. Inspiration. Prayer. Social action.  Whatever is best suited to your particular brand and community.

Silver lining of this pandemic? Many of your familiar, tired strategies were probably due for a change anyway. This is an opportunity to reject the status quo, develop new skills and consider fresh initiatives that may, ultimately, serve you far better than the ones you’ve been using.

TIME TO SHARE AN EMAIL EXAMPLE: APPEAL PLUS

How Nonprofits Can Connect Virtually During Trying Times

Virtual meeting PixabayConnection is essential, especially during challenging times. When the going gets tough, we yearn to commune with people who will support us… teach us… commiserate with us… empathize with us… calm us… distract us… … entertain us… enable us to support them… and more.

Without connection, people can feel isolated. Yet today, as we prepare for the spread of coronavirus, we’re contemplating doing less of the things we normally do in person with others. And nonprofits are not immune.

What are you doing to reach out to your supporters when they need connection most?

Here are just a few messages received from local nonprofits in San Francisco within just the past two days:

Canceling a popular fundraiser that we depend on to cover the costs of keeping Public Glass open is not a decision we came to lightly, but it is critical that we do our part in helping to ensure that our Bay Area Community remains as safe as possible.

UNDER ADVISEMENT AND RESPECTING THE NEWLY ISSUED AGGRESSIVE RECOMMENDATIONS ANNOUNCED TODAY BY THE SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH TO REDUCE THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19), THE MARCH 12, 2020 SFIC MONTHLY BREAKFAST IS CANCELLED.

We are very sorry to announce that, due to public health guidelines from the Mayor’s Office, our 2020 Benefit Art Auction, hosted in a city-owned building, must be cancelled. This event is a massive effort, involving over a hundred contributing artists, a dream-team of volunteers, and many beloved business partners. We were ready to create a wonderful celebration of creativity! We will continue to explore innovative ways to connect our community, but right now, this is the best way to take care of each other. 

How about this haiku from my cousin, who is hosting his son’s wedding this week-end (at least as of this moment):

Last year seemed so bad

COVID-19 is now here

How I miss last year

While apt, missing last year and wringing your hands won’t help. As in-person gatherings are indefinitely postponed or canceled, as public spaces are closing, and as people are working from home, what can you do to make lemonade — and quench your supporters’ thirst?

heart with votive candles

Super Strategies to Spoil Your Supporters

Do you have some major donor prospects you’re trying to woo?

Of course, you want to start with your overall donor love program. You know, the one where you plan to communicate regularly with all your supporters – 4 to 7 purely grateful, meaningful touches for every 1 inspiring ask.  You do that, right?

  • Thank you letter, email and phone call
  • Donor welcome package
  • Newsletter with stories about outcomes
  • Blog with stories about outcomes
  • Token gifts (e.g., ‘how to’ lists; recommendations; new research results; recipes; discount coupons, etc.)
  • Invitations to free events

Good!

However… just the basic stuff won’t do it with major donor prospects.

You need something extra.

Something to really grab folks’ attention.

Something unexpected.

Something personal.

Without a little something, you’re left with just a dumb thing… like automated group mailings. Or really big ‘moves’ you never quite get around to. Or stuff, let’s face it, which just isn’t particularly thoughtful.

Winningest Ways to Woo 

Legacy-227x300.jpg

Easy-to-Implement Legacy Giving Strategies for Small Nonprofits – Do’s and Don’ts

A society grows great... legacy quotationYou’re stretched thin.

Competition for philanthropic dollars has intensified. You know long-term survival depends on strengthening revenue streams.

What are you doing about it?

If you’re like too many nonprofits, you’re missing what’s right in front of your eyes: legacy giving.

The lion’s share of philanthropy in the U.S. comes from individuals. Nearly 70% of people make gifts to charity during their lifetimes; only 10% leave a bequest. Why? No one asks them!

It turns out that the act of asking makes a huge difference. And don’t tell me you can’t ask because you’re too small or understaffed.

Just because you can’t afford (or aren’t quite ready yet) to mount a full-on legacy giving campaign is no excuse to avoid the basics.

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Giving Tuesday Email +Donation Landing Page

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoIt’s not too late to use these tips to help with your year-end fundraising.

This new “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature is popular, so I thought I’d share another one that seems like a good ‘teaching opportunity.’ It’s a twofer, as I’ll discuss both the appeal and the donation landing page to which it takes folks — should they be inspired to click through.

Please note: Sometimes I can’t omit the name of the charity in the examples I use. Please know I’m coming from a place of love, and don’t mean to shame anyone. As with almost anything you can think of, there’s good AND bad in the examples I share. We learn both from mistakes and stellar efforts. Our own, and others.  Kudos to all who put things out there and make an effort. The only way you learn is by trying. Believe me, I’ve sent out some real clunkers in my time as a development director! If I ever use you as an example, and you disagree or want to clarify, feel free to contact me directly.

Okay. Let’s move on.

We’re going to evaluate every element methodically.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you open that email?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about it?
  5. What looks not so good?
  6. Would it inspire you to give?
  7. If so, why?
  8. If not, why not?

First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Let’s begin!

Do you think this email is a “Do” or a “Don’t?”

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Year-End Donor Retention Email

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoI’m continuing with my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature which I began last spring.  I promised whenever something arrives in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity,’ I would share it with you. I hope you find this timely example useful for your year-end fundraising ‘clean-up!’

Clean-up?  Yes. That’s exactly what I want you to do right now.

Get. Everything. In. Order.

Tie up loose ends so you assure nothing slips through the cracks before the calendar year closes.

Take a look at all your sources of support last year.

Who’s given this year already?  Who hasn’t?

Important: Don’t let any of last year’s donors lapse!

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year:

So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!

Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.  Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for blessings.

Who, and what, do you count among yours?

I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgiving, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends… loving family…. and for being together sharing the warmth of good company.

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

Thanksgiving table

Not all Holiday Fundraising is Created Equal

Thanksgiving tableWho doesn’t love a holiday?

The very word conjures up notions of celebration, warmth and love.

If you’re a donor-centered fundraising practitioner, you’d be a fool not to take advantage.

Why not tap into pre-existing positive vibes to increase the chances your appeal will be warmly received?

After all, if you can channel something positive that’s more or less universally felt, this gives you a leg up.

It puts your donors in a giving mood using familiar symbols and traditions.

Except when it doesn’t.

A true holiday fundraising story

Why Donor Wooing Requires WOWing

cashier-Pixabay1791106_640The Unfair Exchange Bernadette Jiwa, The Story of Telling.

That will be eight dollars,’ the woman, who is carefully weighing and wrapping two serves of freshly made fettuccine for us to take home, says.

As my husband is about to hand her the cash, she takes another handful of the pasta from behind the glass and adds it to our package.

She doesn’t announce that she’s giving us twenty per cent extra for free.
She doesn’t even invite us to notice the gesture at all.
It’s enough for her that she knows she has added value.

We think of value as a hard metric—the anticipated fair exchange of this for that.

But value can be a surprising, generous, unfair exchange.

Something that is given because we can, not because we must.

Ah… value.

Wow, wow, WOW!

This is what all fundraising, fundamentally, is about.

A value-for-value exchange.

Yet one side of the exchange is a hard metric: The donor’s cold, hard cash.

While the other side of the exchange is something decidedly less tangible: Freely given gratitude from you and your organization.

Or at least that’s how it should work.

The Difference between ‘We Must’ and ‘We Can’ 

What does your donor love and loyalty plan look like?

Do you even have such a plan?

If the only reason you acknowledge donations is because you feel you ‘must,’ it’s likely your donors aren’t walking away from the encounter feeling much more than matter-of-fact. The transactional receipts many organizations send out are registered by the donors as “Ho, hum. Guess I’ll go file this with my tax receipts.”

This kind of exchange is fair, sure.

But it’s not generous.

Cookie Monster when his name is misspelled

Donor’s Lament: You Didn’t Thank Me Properly

Cookie Monster when his name is misspelled

Everything I learned about saying “thank you” I learned from:

According to Burk’s research from Donor-Centered Fundraising, more than 80% of thank you letters start with “Thank you for your generous gift of…” or “On behalf of the Board of Directors, thank you for your generous gift of…”

Y  A  W  N

  • Want to stand out?
  • Want your donor to actually read your letter?
  • Want your donor to feel good about the decision they made to invest in you?
  • Want your donor to feel warm and fuzzy inside?
  • Want your donor to say “Aw, that’s SO nice!”
  • Want your donor to feel the opposite of bored?

Overwhelmed office worker

How to Calm ‘Busy’ Nonprofit Overwhelm Syndrome

When I managed a nonprofit team I inevitably had staff who struggled to meet deadlines. So I’d ask them to keep track for a week of how they found themselves spending their time.  My boss, generously, even made funds available to send folks to time management courses.

It seldom worked.

Because most traditional time management advice involves cutting out unnecessary activities. Some of this is possible, but many nonprofit workers simply have too much to do in too little time. The “unnecessary” is sometimes hard to find.

Recently I happened on an article in the New York Times by Adam Grant, Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management. In it, he talked about someone who couldn’t find any tasks to drop from his calendar:

This is going to sound like a joke, but it’s not,” he confessed. “My only idea is to drink less water so I don’t have to go to the bathroom so many times.

Oh, dear.

But Grant offered an interesting solution; a reframing of the conundrum.  He suggests that time management is actually part of the problem, not a solution.

2 Secrets to Prepare for a Fundraising Job Q & A

In my last article I offered 7 out of 9 interview secrets to prepare for your next fundraising job. Today I’ve got 2 more biggies!

 

  1. Pump yourself up
  2. Ask others to pump you up
  3. Strike a Super Hero pose
  4. Refresh your research and review the job description
  5. Prepare talking points
  6. Demonstrate how you’re a good cultural fit
  7. Avoid talking salary at first interview
  8. Prepare ahead to answer common questions
  9. Prepare ahead to ask important questions

 

Together, these 9 secrets are all you need to ace your next interview and land the job of your dreams.

Let’s begin!