How Yucky Email Addresses – and Inhumanity — Hurt Your Nonprofit

Robotic_dinosaur_with_face_mask_-_Art_in_the_VoidThese days you’re likely communicating with constituents digitally more than ever before.

That’s terrific, but… I want you to remember one important thing, especially if you’re a small to medium-sized, local nonprofit.

Philanthropy, translated from the Greek, literally means ‘love of humanity.’

Whatever you do that gets in the way of your humanity?

Stop doing it!

I really mean it.

Why?

PEOPLE GIVE TO PEOPLE

Sure, sometimes the ‘cause’ alone is enough to drive donations. But generally this holds true only for first-time gifts, emergency response gifts, and gifts to national and international charities with large name recognition. Even in these cases, repeat gifts and major gifts are driven by human interaction.

When it comes to your current supporter base, they tend to want to engage with real human beings.

Want to know what’s not a real human being?

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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

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How long… will this be going on?

Mona Lisa with face maskIf you’re like me, chances are every other email in your inbox has something referencing coronavirus. You can’t ignore it, avoid it or wish it away.

So… what is your organization going to do?

The inimitable thought leader, Seth Godin, recently had this to say:

React, respond or initiate?

That’s pretty much all that’s on offer.

What will you do next?

The first gives us visceral satisfaction and emotional release, and it almost always leads to bad outcomes.

Responding is smarter. It requires each of us to think hard about the action and emotion we seek to create after something is put on our desk.

And the third? Initiating is ever easier and leveraged than ever before, which, surprisingly, also makes it more difficult to move up on our agenda.

In normal times, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of simply responding. Someone else setting the agenda.

When things are uncertain, it’s easy to react.

But now, right now, is the single best time to initiate. We’re in for a slog, but there will be an end to it.

Make things better by making better things.

Taking this advice to heart, I’d like to share a couple of examples of organizations who have initiated some inventive strategies to stay connected to their supporters in these challenging times. Usually I would share these in my “Don’ts vs. Do’s” feature. But both of these are big ‘Do’s,’ so I want to highlight what’s brilliant about them. You can ‘sincerely flatter’ them through imitation — and a bit of your own innovation.

Ready to be inspired?

OMG, What Will We Do About Our Upcoming Event?

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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?

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Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Donate Landing Page + Form

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoI’m continuing with my increasingly popular “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 example useful for all your online fundraising campaigns!

Today’s teaching example is a donation landing page (where you land when you click “donate” from the Main Menu) and donation form (the part a donor fills out once they click through from your landing page).

Too often, fundraising staff leave these aspects of their campaign completely up to IT, website or marketing staff.  It’s a shame, because these campaign elements can make or break you.  Everything you’ve carefully crafted will be for naught if the landing page and form are in any way off-putting or daunting to complete.

I came across this example in an effort to make a memorial donation honoring someone who had worked at this nonprofit. We’re going to evaluate every element methodically.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you click through from that landing page to learn more or to donate?
  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.

Really take the time to notice what you like and don’t like.

I promise you’ll learn a lot more this way.

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Let’s begin!

DONATION LANDING PAGE

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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!

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4 Keys to Raise Money in Today’s Social Nonprofit Fundraising Environment

keys 4 Pixabay-791641_640Wondering where fundraising is heading in our highly networked, overly saturated, noisy-as-all-get-out post-digital revolution world?

It’s a bit of a jungle out there, with so much competition for attention — for-profits, other nonprofits, political campaigns, friends, family.

It’s a wonderful time to seize the opportunity to put in place a system that values multiple voices.

Truly, if you’re able to really show people how much you value them, you’re going to rise to the top of the heap.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Today we’ll explore 4 keys to raising money in our socially-revolutionized zeitgeist.

Bad News/Good News:

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2 Smart Strategies to Build Donor Relationships on LinkedIn

In How to Use LinkedIn to Give Donors a Reason to Connect with You we looked at ways to make folks want to learn more about you. Today we’re going to look at how you can bond with folks and make them receptive to becoming more involved and invested with your cause.

What I like about these strategies is they’re relatively easy and won’t consume a lot of your time. And the payoff should be big.

LinkedIn is a veritable treasure trove of opportunity that goes largely overlooked by most nonprofits. And that’s a shame!  In addition to being super useful for finding new prospects, researching existing donors and building your brand identity, thought leadership and credibility, it’s a virtual way to build relationships with folks when you can’t get up close and personal.

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How to Use LinkedIn to Give Donors a Reason to Connect with You

Are you Linking In?

If not, it’s time to take a new look at this social platform to appreciate it for the beneficial research and relationship-building strategy it can be for you.

I find it to be a highly under-utilized tool when it comes to building your nonprofit brand, establishing authority and credibility, researching and recruiting new volunteers, donors and employees, and building stronger relationships with your current constituents.

Today we’re going to talk about how to use LinkedIn to uncover new donor prospects and build donor relationships.

Not too much. Just four no-nonsense strategies. We’ll look at two more in my next article.

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