My Network for Good colleague Caryn Stein recently wrote this post. It has my all-time favorite headline. For that reason alone, it merits sharing. Enjoy. And thanks, Caryn.In a recent episode of TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” (oh yes, we went there), Honey Boo Boo* (real name: Alana) decides the family should create a lemonade stand to raise money for an upcoming beauty pageant. You might be surprised, but this popular pageant princess can actually teach nonprofits a few things about fundraising – no lemons required.Have Personality. Whatever else you might say about Honey Boo Boo, the girl has personality. Let your nonprofit’s unique quality shine through on your website, in your social media outreach and in your fundraising appeals. (Need ideas? Try these 7 Ways to Show Your Nonprofit’s Personality)Be Bold and Colorful. What color did Honey Boo Boo choose for her lemonade stand poster? Neon pink, of course! Follow suit and make your DonateNow buttons big, bold and colorful to stand out and make it easy for your supporters to donate. (Make your DonateNow button more effective with these tips.)Put Good Stuff in It. Honey Boo Boo’s lemonade recipe calls for at least five pounds (!) of sugar in each batch. Yikes. While we’re not advocating a sugar overdose, don’t forget to pay attention to your special recipe when communicating with your donors. (Make your outreach stand out with these 6 Foolproof Tips for Great Nonprofit Content.)Don’t Be Afraid to Make the Ask. Honey Boo Boo’s not shy about asking for what she wants (understatement), and you shouldn’t be either! As we head toward year-end fundraising season, practice making clear and direct calls for your supporters to make a donation. (Learn the Art of the Online Ask.)Be Grateful. At fifty cents a glass, it may take a while for Honey Boo Boo to save up for her next pageant dress, but she knows that giving an enthusiastic thank you to each patron is good business sense. It’s a simple thing, but it matters to your supporters. (Read why thanking donors is so critical – and learn how to do it properly.)*Don’t know Honey Boo Boo? Wikipedia can help.
Make it easy for people to share and connect. Finally, make it easy for people to connect with you and share your site with their friends by including buttons and links to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. When it comes to your donate button, think big, bold and above the fold. Make it easier for people to give online by helping supporters find your button in the first place. Put it on every page of your website. Stay away from vague words like “support” or “help.” If you want people to donate, say “donate now.” Determine what you want visitors do and offer a clear call to action. Think about the most important things you want a visitor to do and make the pages of your website clearly guide visitors toward those actions. Note: You may want to alter your calls to actions at different times of the year. Use more photos and video to showcase your work. The quickest way to make an emotional connection with your website visitors is to, in a sense, make eye contact with them. This is why a photo of one person or animal you are helping works much better than an image of an inanimate object. Don’t let your perceived level of quality hold you back – whether you caught a clip of a child saying thank you at your last event with your iPhone or took candid photos of volunteers helping in a soup kitchen – the authenticity will shine through. Your nonprofit website is a critical resource for engaging with three important audiences:All of your constituents, including volunteers, alumni, members and advocacy supportersAll of your donors – both current and prospectivePeople who have little to no previous knowledge about your nonprofit.Whether you plan a total redesign or just a few tweaks, a few simple changes to your website can make a big difference in how people perceive and interact with your cause. Ditch the text. Familiar with the phrase “less is more”? People do not read websites—they scan them. Think in terms of headings, bullets, lists and images. When it comes to adding text to your site, be ruthless. Eliminate unnecessary words or phrases and make the ones you do include count by making them clear and compelling.
Interestingly, these numbers put nonprofits ahead of their for-profit counterparts in the small business world: “Ninety-six percent of nonprofits said they were on Facebook vs. 90% of small businesses. And 80% of nonprofits on Facebook reported posting on the site multiple times per week, vs. 66% of small businesses,” says eMarketer. Nonprofits said they were increasing their marketing spend on social media by 10% this year. Though to put matters in perspective, that may not be a lot in real dollars. Studies last year found 43% budget $0 for their social networking activities (aside from staff time).I think that the embrace of social media is wise for nonprofits for several reasons. While it may not drive big return on investment in fundraising dollars, it’s a relatively inexpensive and effective way of raising visibility, generating social proof around a cause and inspiring future actions in support of a cause.At the end of the day, most people come to learn and love a cause via friends and family. Through social media, nonprofits can facilitate and amplify that natural word of mouth. No wonder droves of nonprofits are doing just that. While nonprofits may be behind the curve in some matters, we’ve done a swift job of adopting social media. As I’ve noted here before based on past surveys, the vast majority of nonprofits are actively using Facebook and Twitter.Some new research featured in eMarketer bolsters that view:
When we think about what motivates people at work, some cliches come out. Money? Maybe. Power? Perhaps. But as someone working for a mission you know it’s something else — altruism.But what may surprise you is this isn’t just a truism in the nonprofit sector. It works in most places.This past Sunday, the New York Times had a fascinating magazine profile of Adam Grant, the youngest-tenured and highest rated professor at Wharton. Grant focuses on workplace psychology and the effects of altruism in your career. His research shows generosity at work is a strong motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity. Helping others, it seems, helps ourselves. (As a person, Grant is radically generous, spending hours a day helping students, colleagues and strangers for the sake of being useful to others.)Early in his career, Grant worked with a demoralized call center to show the positive effects of altruism. Since one of the center’s purposes was funding scholarships, Grant had a student who benefited from the fundraising efforts speak to the telemarketers for ten minutes. The student told the callers how the scholarship had changed his life – and how he was headed off to work for Teach for America. A month later, the call center reported workers were on the phone 142 percent more and raising 171 more. A follow up found revenues had rocketed up 400 percent. Grant concludes the greatest untapped source of motivation is service to others. This reminds me of Daniel Pink’s writing on a higher purpose being a powerful professional motivator.Maybe that’s why there is research suggesting that the first instinct of humans is to contribute to the greater good at their own expense. We’re wired to do what motivates us to do our best.In my own work at Network for Good, where we not only support nonprofits like yours but also seek to help companies bring philanthropy into the workplace, we find these ideas hold true. Allowing employees to do good for others builds loyalty, increases job satisfaction and boosts morale. Giving rewards to employees like charity vouchers have been documented to make people happier and more satisfied with their jobs. We know giving makes us happy. Maybe it makes all of us more motivated – and successful – too.
Over the past year, researchers Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang have sought to answer the question, how can truly great fundraising flourish?It’s a timely question given that half of fundraisers want to quit – and a quarter of bosses said they fired their last fundraiser.The report – commissioned by the firm Clayton Burnett Limited – is out, and I wanted to share the findings. (You can get the report and executive summary for free at the firm’s website – just give a it a day or two for them to email it to you.)One answer was that organizations with incredible growth in fundraising have achieved that with the right people. Successful organizations have strong fundraising managers who achieve desired change through a combination of will and personal humility. They “devote considerable attention to what they regard as the critical building blocks of success, namely building an exceptional team, structure(s) and culture.”I’m going to highlight here some of the ways high-performing organizations built their teams. For additional findings, check out the full report.1. The manager built or retooled the fundraising team members and focused on a few, small early wins. This led to “improvement in confidence and morale, which became self-sustaining as individuals began to recognize their own potential to succeed. Technical expertise on the part of team members was important, but so too was conscientiousness, a willingness to support others, and a propensity to engage in appropriate levels of risk-taking.”2. The researchers note this shift in culture addressed turnover woes. “After the right team had been built, none of the organizations we examined suffered from the high turnover rates that otherwise pervade our sector. Being a part of a successful team appears to engender high levels of loyalty and our all our leaders were personally invested in their teams. The loyalty thus cut both ways. It was also interesting to note that those who defined their team more broadly, to include external agency personnel also exhibited a high degree of loyalty to that agency. Some were maintaining relationships with suppliers that had existed for over a decade.”3. Once a strong team was in place, they focused on the big picture in the right ways. Says the report: “We also found evidence in goal setting, that our outstanding leaders aligned their organizational metrics with the longer term drivers of donor value. Their objectives were couched not in the short-term minutia that typically pervade our sector, but in the standards and behaviours they identified would add value forsupporters and thus pay-back in the longer term. Their appraisal and reward systems were similarly aligned, to focus team member ambitions on the things that mattered most to longer term growth.”That said, the researchers also emphasized the system in which these people work: “Great systems are often more important than great people. A well-designed system filled with ordinary but well-trained people can, according to academic research, consistently achieve well above average performance.”I wish we saw more of these approaches. What works at your organization? Which of these ideas resonate with you? Who are your people and what are your systems?
(Credit: United Way, Source: Peter Panepento/The Chronicle of Philanthropy)Social media is a fantastic tool to make your presence known online. But are you using it correctly? Many nonprofits are using it to promote themselves, but often in the wrong ways, said Peter Panepento, assistant managing editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, at the Washington, DC, edition of the Social Media for Nonprofits conference. He often sees nonprofits tweeting links to press releases or posting them on their Facebook page, trying to hijack their social media pages as an “official communication channel.”“Don’t use social media to be bureaucratic,” Peter told the conference. Social media is the perfect tool for PR, but only when the emphasis is on personal. Nonprofits should put a human face on everything and use social media to humanize your organization.” “You don’t need a big budget or to be particularly photogenic,” Peter said, you just need to be human. Here are three rules we learned from Peter on how to humanize your social media and tell a great story:1. Think like a reporter.Use your social media accounts to feature someone in your community that your group engages with such as donors, beneficiaries of your work, and local businesses that support you. Seek out someone that can answer the question, “Who cares? Why should this matter to me?” Remember that stories are about people, so feature the people who matter to your cause.2. Share your #fail.In 2010, the organization charity: water posted on Facebook for its September Campaign Live Drill. From Central African Republic, they produced a live broadcast when they attempted to drill for clean water-and failed. Peter highlighted charity: water because instead of trying to hide that something went wrong, they made it public, even writing a blog post about it. For every success, there is failure. “Followers really responded to seeing things that don’t work, you seem more genuine to your followers.”3. Give your supporters the megaphone.Think about how your supporters can help tell your story over social media. Invite them to talk about your work just like the United Way did for their 160th anniversary (as seen above). You can even encourage volunteers to be reporters by rewarding them: retweet them, call them out, and thank them. If you bake it into the volunteer experience, Peter said, “you’ll get more genuine language from people than you could otherwise compose.”For better social media engagement, follow these tips from Peter to humanize your organization. “If you can show the work that you’re doing and the people you’re serving, even if it’s not in a mud pit somewhere in Alaska but at your desk, that can be really helpful.”The Social Media for Nonprofits conference is coming to Austin, TX on August 13, 2013. Check out the conference agenda, and follow SM4Nonprofits on Facebook for the latest updates. Heading to Austin? Use our “N4G” discount code to save $20.
We write a lot about how to inspire supporters with compelling stories and clear calls to action, but even the most well-crafted messages are worthless if no one sees them. In addition to your outreach via email marketing or direct mail, it’s equally important to ensure your cause is well-represented through press outreach, social media, and search. Tomorrow, Network for Good is hosting afree webinar for nonprofits to learn more about effective publicity tactics from our friends at PR NewsChannel. This is a great opportunity to get your questions answered and pick up some practical PR tips from the pros, just in time to put them into place for your fall events and year-end fundraising campaigns.Register now for the live webinar on Tuesday, July 30 at 1pm ET. (If you can’t attend the event at that time, go ahead and register — you’ll receive an email with the playback recording of the session, plus the slides.)
In Ctrl Alt Delete Mitch Joel issues a wake-up call for those that may find themselves lost in a rapidly evolving landscape of technology, media, and marketing. Joel, president of the digital marketing agency Twist Image, offers sharp insights on how these changes affect the way we learn, shop, communicate, and work. It’s an important reality check for nonprofit marketers because these factors directly affect how supporters and partners will interact with your cause. Organizations that understand and adapt to these new opportunities will thrive, while those who resist will find themselves struggling to connect with donors in the years to come.The book starts off with one of the most critical lessons for any marketer, especially those working in the nonprofit sector: embracing the shift toward more direct relationships with your consumers (donors), is no longer optional. People now have more access to information about your nonprofit, your impact, and *you* than ever before. Organizations and supporters are at each other’s fingertips, so it’s impossible (and unwise) to avoid direct contact with those who are interested in your work. Online or off, focus on creating and building relationships to succeed in raising money, spreading your message, and serving your cause. By the way, these relationships should be the two-way street kind. If you’re only broadcasting messages focused on your organization’s needs, you may need a reboot.Here are four tactics Mitch Joel recommends for building those direct relationships, and what they mean for your nonprofit.1) Deliver value. Stand out and earn loyalty by first providing value to your supporters. Of course, you’re doing great work for the people and communities you serve, but if you’re not building long-term relationships with potential supporters, you’re missing out on a bigger opportunity. How do you do this? Start by focusing more on providing valuable resources to the people you’re trying to reach, instead of only talking about your needs. 2) Be open.You can’t build meaningful relationships without trust and transparency. This is paramount for nonprofits. Donors won’t fork over their hard-earned cash to support your cause if they aren’t sure where the money goes. Show that you are an organization they can trust by being open about how your organization is run and how you use donated funds. Welcome questions and be upfront and honest if you make a mistake. Hiding in the shadows only makes people nervous, which is not a great relationship-building vibe.3) Be clear and consistent.Do donors know what they can expect from your nonprofit? Can they count on you for all the right reasons? Review your organization’s outreach to make sure you’re saying what you think you’re saying. Consistency also includes communicating with your donors on a regular basis to help them feel involved in your work. This means not waiting to reach out to supporters when you’re looking for gifts in December. 4) Focus on fans. Joel says, “The majority of people do not want to friend or like your brand. They use their social graphs for friends, family, and those they made fun of in high school.” Ouch! My guess is that many nonprofits may have it a little easier than most corporate brands, but it’s important to remember. Rather than working to get as many “Likes” as possible, focus instead on providing value through your social media content and focus on your truly passionate superfans. Put these champions to work spreading the message about what you do and why it matters. Of course, these suggestions are just the tip of the reboot iceberg. Ctrl Alt Delete delivers plenty of juicy nuggets for all marketers to heed. What aspect of your outreach or fundraising strategy would you like to reboot?
Send Regular UpdatesAfter you’ve thanked your donors, send them regular updates detailing the ongoing impact of their gift. They’ll be pleased to know that their donation is being put to good use and might even be inspired to give again! If yearly holiday appeals are the only time you contact your donors, chances are good that they aren’t feeling needed or cherished. So stay in touch—very close touch. Here’s how:Send AppealsWhen you first make the ask, let your supporters know why you need them. You can ask your donors to help in any way that they can and let them know how their help will lead to the achievement of your mission.Send Thank You NotesMake sure your thank you letter is timely and lets donors know what they can expect from your nonprofit in the future. Consider sending a second thank you note that asks for feedback and shows your continued appreciation. Send NewslettersNewsletters are a great way to describe what your organization has been doing. You can report on the impact of all donor contributions and help maintain your supporters’ interest. Don’t forget to remind your fans how important they are to you.RepeatRepeating this cycle of communication won’t annoy your supporters-it will make them feel involved in what you’re doing. To learn more about staying in touch with your supporters, check out our webinar Nonprofit 911: Turn First-Time Donors Into Repeat Donors with Tom Ahern and Jay Love.
Donors feel they have no connection to your charity.For your appeals to be effective, you must answer the question of “Why me?” Your need alone is not enough. You are competing with many messages and many appeals. Think about why your cause is personally meaningful to your audience. Here’s how to do it:Understand why your donors give. Invite them to tell you their stories to gain insight on what motivates people to support your programs. In-person events, thank you phone calls, and online surveys are all easy ways to collect this information.Segment and target appropriately. Don’t use the “spray and pray” method of marketing to win support for your cause. Segment your audience and tailor your messages to speak to each group. (Learn how you can appeal to your audience’s sense of identity.) In a recent review of U.S. Trust’s Insights on Wealth and Worth report on wealthy donors, The New York Times shared three key reasons why donors don’t give. While the report focused on those who have at least $3 million in investable assets, it’s not hard to imagine that these reasons are similar for donors of all income levels. Here are three reasons donors may opt not to give to your organization this December, and some ways you can address their concerns:Donors are concerned their gift will not be used wisely.If a donor is unsure about how their gift will be used or if there is any question that their gift will be put to good use, they’re not going to respond to your fundraising appeal. It’s critical that you let donors know the impact their gift will have. Here’s how to do it:Be clear about how their gift will be used. Give would-be donors tangible examples of how their donations will be used to address the problem you’re trying to solve. Let them know how their dollars will make an impact and be clear about the expected result. (More ideas on how to show the impact of a donation.)Show your results. Highlight what results have already been made possible by other donors and continue to report on your organization’s work. If it’s not easy to find stories and photos that illustrate your progress, donors may assume you have none to share.Share your ratings. Include your ratings and endorsements in your fundraising appeals, on your website, and in printed materials. These ratings reassure donors and let them know that you’re a reputable organization.Make your information readily available. Make your ratings, annual reports, program information and other financial reports easily accessible from your website. Don’t make potential donors have to hunt for the information that will help them make a decision about your cause. Be sure to also update your information on 3rd-party sites, like Charity Navigator and Guidestar, where many donors will go to research your charity. Donors don’t want to be on a “solicitation list.”I’ve heard many donors of all giving levels echo this sentiment, which means we’re not doing our jobs as fundraisers and marketers. It’s our responsibility to balance our fundraising asks with updates and other messages that give back to the donor. This ultimately goes back to the first two points: by being good stewards of donors who feel a connection to your cause, you’ll be creating a community of supporters who will welcome your updates, and even your next fundraising appeal. Here’s how to do it:Have a solid stewardship plan that focuses on building long-term relationships with your supporters. Go beyond a standard thank you letter to keep your donors up to date on the impact of their gift and make donors feel like part of your community. Pamela Grow has some great advice on how to create “wow” experiences for your donors that will make them look forward to hearing from you.Set clear expectations. Let donors know what to expect once they donate. Will they hear from you monthly? Should they expect to receive a newsletter in the mail? Be upfront about your communication frequency—and then make good on your promise.Put the control in the hands of the donor. Obviously, no one ever wants to have a donor opt out of their communications, but you must make it easy for them to do so if they come to that decision. By highlighting the fact that they can easily control their contact preferences, you’ll actually make donors feel more at ease about giving you their contact information. For more tips on connecting with donors this holiday season, don’t miss out on our next free webinar. I’ll be leading a session on how to create an effective appeal for the last few weeks of the year. I’ll share some great examples and take your questions. Here are the details:Free Webinar: Create Amazing Last-Minute Fundraising AppealsTuesday, December 10, 2013 at 1pm ESTRegister Now(Can’t attend the live session? Register anyway and we’ll send the recording of the presentation straight to your inbox!)