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What Your Social Fundraising Campaign Is Missing

Hands In

Social fundraising can help even the smallest organizations spread their message and attract new donors. These peer-driven campaigns tap into the networks of your supporters allowing you to expand your reach beyond your list.

But the real power of turning your donors into fundraisers is not just about the multiplier effect. It's about harnessing the personal stories and passion of those who care about your work. A generic copy and paste doesn't begin to realize the full potential of a social fundraising campaign powered by testimonials, personal experiences, and emotion of individual fundraisers.

The ultimate success of your campaign hinges on one key factor: personality.

If your P2P campaign is missing this element, you're not just missing the opportunity to create something magical, you're missing out on donations.

So, how do you ensure your peer fundraising campaigns have the kind of personality that will make others take notice and be inspired to act? Here are three ideas:

  • Let go, just a little. It can feel a bit scary to let go of your message, but remember: letting your fundraisers share their own passion, in their own words, is a powerful thing. This is the kind of authenticity you can’t come up with all by yourself, especially when your goal is to reach the friends and family of your supporters, who will be moved by such a personal message. In most cases, their message in their words holds the most influence.

  • Stories beget stories. Once people start sharing their personal experiences, it often inspires others to do the same. To get the ball rolling, ask a few of your staff, volunteers, or beneficiaries to share their stories in writing, photos, or video to stoke the emotions that will draw out the passion in your donors turned fundraisers. Connect them to why they gave in the first place.

  • Give a nudge. Quite simply, if you want people to include their stories, you gotta ask. Seems obvious, but your fundraisers will need a little guidance and encouragement. Give them a few prompts or templates to work from, but remember to allow (and push) for creativity and personality. Your online fundraising tools should give your fundraisers plenty of opportunity to make their message their own.

Want to learn how the right social fundraising software can help your supporters tell their story and share their passion? Schedule a demo and see our software in action!

Your Fundraising Jargon Cheat Sheet

It’s 2015 and, yes, online fundraising is mainstream. However, many terms surrounding online marketing and fundraising can trip up nonprofits. When you’re making decisions about which software to use or campaign strategies to test, we want to make sure you and your colleagues aren’t confused when you come across a term you don’t use every day. That’s where our Online Fundraiser’s Glossary comes in! Take a look at the glossary, and tell us in the comments below if you can think of other words that should be on this list.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s in the glossary. Be sure to bookmark the full list.

The Millennial Impact Report: Q&A with Derrick Feldmann

What inspires Millennials to give and volunteer? How can an organization engage with its Millennials? We’re racking our brains trying to understand the group that’s soon to be the largest living generation in the nation. Fortunately, we’ve got help from Derrick Feldman and his team at Achieve, who recently published the 2015 Millennial Impact Report. If you have the same burning questions, I strongly encourage you to read the report here. Short on time? Read our Q&A with Derrick below:

Network for Good: How can organizations use your research to activate their Millennial donors and volunteers?

Derrick Feldman: One of the most beneficial uses of this research is that it offers an intimate look at how Millennial employees engage in cause-related activities, especially in the workplace. They are passionate supporters of causes that interest them and benefit society! This research can be used as a guide for becoming more acquainted with your Millennial employees. It is a fairly comprehensive account of the attitudes and behaviors of Millennial (and non-Millennial) employees’ approaches to volunteerism and charitable giving within diverse work settings. Many CSR professionals might glean insight into how to effectively harness Millennials’ energy and enthusiasm toward cause-related experiences. For example, the report provides valuable information about using Millennials’ skills, interests, and motivations to create opportunities of value for them as well as to make an impact in their chosen community.

NFG: What are the top three takeaways from the report that would be valuable for an organization’s board and staff?

DF: Here are the three important takeaways:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask your Millennial employees to give! Nearly a quarter (22%) of Millennial employees and more than half (55%) of Millennial managers who made charitable donations in 2014 indicated that their company solicited these donations. Millennials are charitable, and they want to make a difference in both their local and global community.

  2. Know your employees! Nearly half (45%) of Millennial employees participated in a company-wide volunteer day. While that is impressive participation, there is certainly room to increase involvement. Among those employees who volunteered, 29% did so because they were interested in the cause, and more than three-quarters (77%) said they were more likely to volunteer if they can use their specific skills or expertise. When organizing opportunities for Millennial employees to volunteer, companies should know which causes employees are passionate about, and then leverage the skills and knowledge of those employees to benefit the cause.

  3. Peer influence and relationships matter! Employees (management and nonmanagement) were most highly influenced to participate in cause-related activities by their peers. Sixty-five percent of Millennial employees were more likely to volunteer if a co-worker asked them. Meanwhile, 67% of managers indicated they would be more likely to volunteer if other co-workers, not supervisors, were participating.

NFG: You recommend having a peer-to-peer fundraising model in place to activate Millennial employees. What factors do you think are required for it to be successful?

DF: Companies need to create resources and roles for peer engagement that don’t exist today. This is where companies can take the lead from nonprofits that have been working in the peer-to-peer fundraising space for a while.

Companies should enable peer leaders to step into a leadership role, identify the cause issue they want to address, and define the methods they want to engage their team in performing. This means the company needs to provide resources for the peer to be successful. This includes the education, programming, and financial resources to activate their peers. From toolkits to training programs, companies should activate peer interest into leadership and leadership into organizing.

NFG: What can we look forward to in the next phase of the Millennial Impact Report?

DF: In the next phase of the Millennial Impact Report, we will be moving from attitude and intent to investigating behaviors and factors that impact that behavior. We really want to understand how and why some workplace cultures are successful in cultivating an engaged workforce while others are still struggling to establish successful cause-related initiatives or programs within their companies. We also want to delve more deeply into which relationships, and associated characteristics of those relationships, yield the most engaged employees and how this engagement can be sustained into the future. We plan to release our next update report in October. Stay tuned.

A big thanks to Derrick for chatting with us! For more great research from Derrick, check out our recent webinar with him, Millennial Alumni Study: Key Takeaways for the Nonprofit Sector.

A New View of Grant Resources

Cynthia Adams

A truly sustainable funding model is the holy grail of nonprofits. A great way to achieve that goal is by making sure you have a diversified revenue stream that includes individual donations, fees for service, and grant funding. A healthy organization can stack up these funding sources for a strong foundation that supports their mission. Grant seekers ask us for lots of advice, so we chatted with Cynthia Adams, president and CEO of GrantStation and a longtime friend of Network for Good, about a new way of approaching grant funding, including a recently launched resource called the PathFinder.

NFG: Cynthia, what have you found to be the biggest hurdle for nonprofits looking to secure grants?

Cynthia Adams: Actually, there are three significant hurdles. First you have to thoroughly identify what you need the funding for, which isn’t as simple as it sounds! Second, you have to identify the right grant makers to approach for the funding. And third, you need the skills to develop and write compelling grant requests.

Most organizations are familiar with the tried-and-true grant makers, but what are some overlooked sources of grant funding?

CA: I am very fond of looking outside the box when identifying potential funders for a project. For example, I like to look at national and international associations. These groups, especially those associations representing companies that manufacture goods, can often be fabulous sources of support. The Toy Industry Association offers literally thousands of donated toys via the Toy Industry Foundation.

What do you recommend to organizations that don’t have someone on staff who can take on researching, applying for, and managing grants? Does this require a full-time person?

CA: It depends on the size of the organization and the number of grant proposals you expect to submit. At GrantStation, we’ve just launched a new free resource called the PathFinder. It includes tons of resources in a searchable database to help everyone from novices to the most experienced individual in the areas of grant research, grant writing, and grant management.

We talk a lot about storytelling and reporting on impact for individual donors. Where does this fit in with grant funding?

CA: Storytelling is an integral part of the grant-writing process. You want to engage the person reviewing your proposal right off the bat, so opening your request with a true-life story is a great way to do that. I often include a case study or “story” in the statement of need as well.

What’s the smartest way for fundraisers to combine grant funding with making the most of gifts from individual donors?

CA: I had this rule of thumb when I was working as a development director for nonprofits: I would use any significant gift from an individual to leverage any grant proposal I was working on. So, if someone came by and made a $1,000 gift, and I was working on a proposal to upgrade all the office equipment, website, etc., I would ask that donor if I could use their gift to help leverage the grant. It worked for me!

Thank you so much, Cynthia, for sharing your insights on new ways to approach grant funding. For more help with expanding your funding base with grants, download our archived webinar with Cynthia Adams, Getting Started with Grants: How to Make Your Requests Shine.

What’s Your Ask: One-Time or Monthly Giving?

Did you donate to the relief effort for victims of the Nepal earthquake a few months ago? I contributed via GlobalGiving, thanks to the on-the-ground guidance of a friend living there.

Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund Image

Here’s the donation page I encountered, and I have to tell you, I was confused.

Take a close look. You’ll see that GlobalGiving asks donors to choose between one-time and monthly giving. In fact, rather than finding the emphasis on asap funds that I anticipated, the matching gift opportunity for monthly gifts motivated me to give that way.

My expectation of the emphasis on right-now, one-time donations was pure assumption, but the double ask spurred my curiosity on what the expert GlobalGiving fundraisers were up to. So I was thrilled to learn their take on the importance of monthly relief giving in the thank you email I received shortly after my gift:

Making a recurring donation is an easy way to ensure that your favorite projects receive ongoing support. … In the coming months, you’ll receive authentic progress updates as they are posted by the projects. You’ll know how your contribution is being put to work and the results that are being achieved.

A few days later, I came to understand even more via this project report email:

Thank you for being part of an incredible global community that is deeply committed to building and supporting a community of local nonprofits, who, after disasters, are often best positioned to provide the long-term recovery work that communities need long after the news stories have faded from the headlines.

Thanks so much to these fundraising experts who opened my eyes to the value of long-view disaster-relief funding. Not to mention the matching gift.

How do you decide whether to ask for a one-time or monthly donation or both? Please share your responses in the comments section. Thank you.

P.S. GlobalGiving’s twofold ask for a one-time and a monthly donation did confuse me. As a rule, I recommend making one ask—a single call to action—at a time. Nobody can do two things at once. Pushing your people to sequence two steps or to decide between two alternatives is work. It’s likely to diminish response.

But this example is tricky. The time sensitivity of disaster fundraising limits the opportunity for a series of one-at-a-time asks. The matching gift offer for monthly donations was time limited as well. However, many folks, like me, think of relief giving as a one-off. What would you have done?

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

Watch this Brilliant Second-by-Second Storytelling Masterpiece

After Caryn’s webinar on Tuesday, Storytelling with the Emotional Brain, I came across this video in my Facebook feed. It was posted last year, so you may have already seen it. Watch it now:

Wow. I mean… WOW. Doesn’t it hit you hard? This is storytelling to the max, revealed in one-second intervals. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s happening in every shot. I watched it four times before I noticed the news broadcast’s grim report and the newspaper declaring martial law.

This just great storytelling in general, but it also hits the eight essential storytelling ingredients that we recommend nonprofits include in their appeals. Here they are:

Emotion

1. Emotion

Lots of emotions run throughout the entire video. In the beginning, the girl is happy, cheerful, and silly, and then she’s scared, heartbroken, and defeated in the end. I’m sure you’re also scared for her and her family, right?

2. Compelling Opening

It’s a birthday party. Nothing special, but the plainness of the event makes you wonder what’s going to happen. Why is the birthday important?

Compelling Opening
a relatable protagonist

3. A relatable protagonist

This little girl could be your neighbor. Her grandma embarrasses her with cheek pinching. She plays in the park with her dad. Her schoolmate tries to sneak a kiss. She’s practicing her musical instrument. These are all totally relatable experiences for all ages in all pockets of the world.

4. Desire

It’s obvious that her family is trying to get to safety. You can tell they’re motivated to get out of the war zone they have been thrust into.

Desire
Ample conflict

5. Ample conflict

If the gunshots aren’t ample conflict for you, I don’t know what is.

6. Compelling imagery

Since the story is told with the face of a little girl, her experiences (both happy and scary) keep you watching.

Compelling imagery
Real details

7. Real details

There are just enough details in her typical day that we understand this girl lives a happy life and we see where her life takes a huge turn. The level of detail within each second is just enough for us to grasp the situation without making us take in too many ideas at once. The details in her face and in her expressions alone, regardless of the sounds and picture around her, are enough for us to figure out what’s going on.

8. What happens next?

This is where the video is a little unclear. Luckily, there is a call to action box on the YouTube video throughout the video displaying the text-to-give phone numbers.

What happens next?

If you missed this week’s webinar, no worries: Just download the archived version. You’ll get an in-depth explanation of these eight ingredients that were brilliantly illustrated by Save the Children’s video, as well as mistakes to avoid and the science behind storytelling’s impact on our minds (and hearts).

Storytelling for the Emotional Brain

Fundraising Data That Keeps on Giving: The IDB Report Is Back!

Heather Yandow

Editor’s note: This post was written by Heather Yandow of Third Space Studio and founder of the Individual Donor Benchmark Report.

What is the fundraising potential for small and mighty nonprofits? How can organizations expand their individual donor programs and see increased success? For nonprofits with budgets under $2 million, the guide to more strategic and successful fundraising is available now!

Download the 2014 Individual Donor Benchmark Report.

Record Year for Data

The 2014 Individual Donor Benchmark (IDB) Report, developed by Third Space Studio and BC/DC Ideas, is back with new data and resources tailored to a special kind of organization: small and mighty nonprofits with budgets under $2 million. Growing to a record-setting 87 participating organizations in 2014, the project continues to empower small and medium nonprofit organizations to understand their donor potential and enhance their fundraising strategies.

2014 IDB Infographic Universal Truths of Fundraising

“The IDB Project is unique to the nonprofit sector because no other survey offers this kind of in-depth fundraising analysis to benefit nonprofits of this size,” said Heather Yandow, of Third Space Studio. “This year’s report uncovered some fascinating trends and offers vital resources every nonprofit can utilize to empower their fundraisers and see even greater success.”

Four years of data have been collected, and we’re starting to see trends emerge. From this year’s IDB Project, several “universal truths” were identified that will have a huge impact on how small and mighty nonprofits expand their fundraising:

  • The single most important thing you can do to strengthen your individual donor fundraising is create a plan.
  • The average small but mighty nonprofit raises 36 percent of its revenue from individual donors.
  • The average gift for nonprofits of this size is about $400.
  • About 16 percent of individual donor revenue is generated online.
  • About half of individual donor revenue is generated from donors giving $1,000 or more.
  • Fewer than half of all board members play a significant role in individual donor fundraising.
  • Higher-paid development staff = more donations. If you have a fundraising plan, for every $1 more you that pay your primary individual donor fundraiser, you are able to raise another $4.25.
  • More donor meetings = more donations. With a plan, each donor meeting yields more than $5,000 in increased donor revenue.

Yandow added, “Seeing such a huge increase in participation this year shows that smaller nonprofits find value in the IDB Project and have a proven need for this level of tailored data and established best practices. It’s exciting to see organizations so committed to understanding their data and learning new strategies to effectively increase their individual donor fundraising success.”

“It’s an exciting time to be a small and mighty nonprofit, and the IDB Project is further proof that your budget doesn’t have to be outstanding to create real, positive impact in your community or to set new goals for your organization’s fundraising achievement,” said Dawn Crawford, principle communicator of BC/DC Ideas.

Next Step to Successful Fundraising

Are you ready to get empowered? Fundraisers and leaders who take the time to participate in this survey are interested in making their nonprofit more successful, moving their cause forward, and building better relationships with activists, donors, and supporters.

The hope is that these nonprofits, armed with data tailored for small- to medium-size organizations, will feel empowered to take their fundraising to the next level of success. -

Results of the annual survey have been compiled into a specialized report and infographic to serve as a multimedia resource and guide to empower nonprofit fundraising success.

Third Space Studio, based in Durham, North Carolina, collected and analyzed the survey. BC/DC Ideas, a Raleigh-based communications firm, designed the report and infographic. Both organizations specialize in nonprofit strategy, communications, and fundraising.

Thanks to the generous partners of the Individual Donor Benchmark Project: Third Space Studio, BC/DC Ideas, Network for Good, NeonCRM, Delve Analytics, Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training, Little Green Light, and AGH Strategies.

Summertime Shifts: Keep Connecting Through Fireflies, Fireworks, and Family Vacations

 Keep Connecting Through Fireflies, Fireworks, and Family Vacations

Nothing is more important than crafting content that’s relevant to your readers. But it’s challenging when they’re distracted by the delights of ice cream, the beach, and after-dinner badminton.

Summer is just different. Even though schooldays ended eons ago for most of us, our focus, attitudes, and readiness to act change as the weather warms. Over the years, I’ve heard from many of you that you feel the same, as do your supporters and prospects. And you’ve asked me how to connect in the context of sizzling summer distractions.

Here are three ways to up your summer communications game:

  1. Change timing and/or frequency. A quick poll of nonprofit communicators found this to be the most common summertime shift.
    • No Friday sends.
    • Send less frequently.
  2. Shift your topic, tone, and/or language to make it seasonally relevant and fun.
  3. If you know your people are on email less and Facebook more, follow them where they are. This applies whatever the season.

Here’s more summertime shift guidance from some of the best fundraisers and communicators I know:

  • Make your content more fun, light, active, and short attention span friendly, advises Kivi Leroux Miller from Nonprofit Marketing Guide.

  • Craft your asks to be short, sweet, and personal, like this creative appeal from Food for the Poor, suggests fundraiser Pamela Grow.

  • Be aware that you’re communicating to people who are on or just back from vacation, says John Haydon. That could mean sending an email twice (with a fresh subject line the second time), with round two going to those who didn’t open the first, and extending a campaign period into early fall.

Whatever summertime shifts you consider, it’s ideal to base them on what you know about your people, anecdotally and/or via data on last summer’s responses. If possible, measure before and after each shift, and make only one change at a time so you know what does or doesn’t work.

What summertime shifts do you make in your fundraising campaigns and communications? Please share in the comments section!

More Summer Stuff

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

3 Musts for Better Stories

Everyone knows that storytelling is a win for nonprofits, but not all stories are created equal.

To truly resonate with your readers, your story needs to have three essential ingredients:

A strong emotional pull. Stories should make us feel something. Happy. Sad. Outraged. Inspired. All of these emotions can make an impact, but above all else, an amazingly effective message needs to make your reader feel, then act. Not think, then act. Not think, then feel, then act. FEEL, then act. Don’t disconnect these two steps. Lead with a strong pull of emotion, engage your reader’s senses, and then ask them to take action.

A singular focus. Resist the urge to pack everything into one story—you’ll only confuse your reader. Stories work best when they are rich, yet simple, and are laser-focused on one message, one issue, and one person. You likely have many stories to tell, but focus on telling one distinct story at a time for best results.

A clear tie to the reader.  Your audience should quickly and clearly understand why your story matters to them. Does it tap into something they have experienced? Does it affect the community they love? Think about how to incorporate details that are meaningful to your supporters, then underscore your donors’ role in the story. Are they the hero? What can (or did) they make happen?

There are many components that come together for an amazing story, but without these core elements, your message will fall flat. How are you incorporating all three into your donor communications?

Need some help writing more effective stories for your nonprofit’s outreach? I’ve got your back.

In our next free webinar, I’ll walk through a simple framework for more compelling stories that will help you connect with donors, raise more money, and retain supporters by reporting your impact in a highly memorable and relatable way. Register now to save your seat for Storytelling with the Emotional Brain. (Can’t attend the live session? Never fear. Go ahead and register and I’ll make sure you get a copy of the slides and the recording.)

Make ONE—and Only ONE—Call to Action (Case Study)

Remember when you were 15 and your mother would tell you to clean up your room, call your grandmother, and come down to dinner all within the same five minutes?

Remember how frustrating that was? How even if you wanted to do everything your mom asked—not every teen’s desire, for sure—there was no way you could, so you just didn’t do anything at all.

I was thrown back there when someone handed me this card during a recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I think you’ll see what I mean:

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Count the calls to action featured on this small postcard:

  1. Share your memories and photos online, tagged with #Met145. Or is it @metmuseum?
  2. Celebrate with a 145th anniversary cocktail, dessert, or menu.
  3. Donate at this extremely long URL to build the future of the Met.

By presenting three calls to action and two ways to approach one of them, the Met confuses us—or at least me—rather than spurring us to act. And it’s frustrating! Assuming we want to support the museum’s mission, we don’t know which action is the priority.

As much as I admire the Met’s marketing finesse and programmatic commitment and love visiting its provocative, refreshing galleries and special exhibits, this card campaign could be easily improved by reducing it to just one call to action.

Most important, I urge you to use this example as motivation to review your organization’s calls to action. Ask people to take just one action at a time, because that’s all any of us can take. Put these individual calls to action together in a series, like steps in a staircase, to create the bigger action your organization wants. It works!

What are your challenges in crafting calls to action that engage your people and motivate them to act? Please share them in the comments section and I’ll respond. Thank you.

Peer Pressure for Good

After I read this article in Chronicle of Philanthropy and this one in the Huffington Post, I couldn’t get this song out of my head. “Under pressure…” Queen’s lyrics aren’t really describing the type of pressure featured in either of these articles, but the main theme is clear: Pressure changes things—it makes action happen.

What kind of pressure does a fundraiser need to use? Peer pressure. Peer pressure can make action happen. Here’s how: We are strongly influenced by our family, friends, and networks. When someone we know makes it clear that they support an organization or when we see them volunteering or donating, we are more likely to do so too.

The Millennial Impact Study found evidence of this in its research, specifically in how peer pressure affects workplace giving. Younger donors are more likely to be influenced to give by their colleagues and peers and not by those in leadership.

“Nearly half of the young people surveyed for the 2015 Millennial Impact Report said they were likely to donate if a coworker asked them to, while only a fifth said they’d probably do so at the request of their companies’ chief executives. Sixty-five percent of millennials said they were more likely to volunteer if their coworkers participated, while 44 percent said they were more likely to if their supervisor participated.”

A study featured in the June 2015 issue of the Economic Journal found that the average donation on a social fundraising page pressures donors to align their gifts with what seems to be the norm.

“[C]ontributors were more likely to give bigger sums when the average donation spiked, and their decisions had little to do with their feelings about the cause.”

How can fundraising professionals leverage peer pressure for good? Here are a few ways:

  • Try social fundraising. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to host an event to launch a social fundraising campaign. Social fundraising is simply empowering your supporter base to fundraise on your behalf. Social fundraising is also known as peer-to-peer fundraising, P2P, or personal fundraising. When you equip your supporters to raise money on your behalf, you’ll not only expand your donor base, you’ll also create a deeper bond with those who serve as social fundraisers. Win-win!

  • Be sure your donation pages include a sharing feature. Make it easy for donors to spread the word about your organization. After donors give through Network for Good donation pages, nonprofits can draft suggested tweets, email text, and more, and all the donor has to do is hit “share.”

The Secrets of Social Fundraising Success

The Two Absolute Requirements for #GivingTuesday Success

When I’m not wearing heels, I’m all of 5’1” tall. I like to think of myself as “small but mighty” and I have developed a bit of an independent streak. (This might also be due to the fact that I was born on the 4th of July.) I feel this urge to prove to myself and the world that I am capable of tackling even the most herculean tasks … all by myself. Dragging an area rug into the office for an upcoming conference? Easy. Loading a U-Haul van full of furniture and a big screen television? No sweat. (Ok, maybe a little sweat.)

I’m mostly proud of my independent nature, but it all comes down to balance. By being a DIYer, I sometimes miss the opportunity to tap into the rich support and expertise that I have in my network of friends and colleagues.

Unfortunately, this is also what many organizations fail to do when planning events or considering new initiatives. But tapping into your network and empowering your people is how the magic happens (especially with big fundraising events like #GivingTuesday). Even if you are a small and mighty nonprofit who is used to doing things on your own, let’s agree to do it differently this year. It might feel a little uncomfortable, but it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. There are two things you absolutely must do for a truly successful #GivingTuesday campaign:

Identify your team and activate your community.

Even if you are the smallest organization, it is so important to consider the collective impact of your network and the expertise you can tap. A strong team with a dedicated leader will help you organize your efforts and move your campaign forward. These champions may be your staff, or they may be volunteers, board members, or other partners. And, without a passionate and active community, the energy and contagious enthusiasm of a great #GivingTuesday campaign is quickly lost. Beyond technology, your marketing message, or your fundraising goal, you simply cannot succeed without these two key pieces.

There are 153 days until #GivingTuesday. Now is the time to create a plan for identifying your team and activating your community. Need some help? Download the Guide to a Successful Giving Day, then register for our free webinar later this month, where I’ll help you think through your strategy for #GivingTuesday, from assembling your team to writing effective appeals.

No Kitties or Puppies. HELP! (Step Two)

Review Step One

Okay, your organization is one of many that can’t use kitty or puppy photos to raise money or recruit volunteers. So what can you do to quickly and effectively connect with the emotions of prospects and supporters?

In Step One of this two-part post, I shared my take on why this type of emotional candy works so well to raise money or recruit volunteers. I cited a reliable litmus test for photo impact—would you share it with your own family and friends, and would they “like” or share it?

Step 2: Make emotional connections and compelling content—if not candy—even without the supercute.

If your organization is not an animal rescue or somehow directly related to puppies, kitties, or babies, these alternatives will be far more effective in helping you forge connections and motivate giving. Most important, they are authentic, relevant expressions, rather than manipulative clickbait.

Here are some recommendations, with examples:

For all causes and organizations: Highlight the similarities between your audiences and your organization’s clients, participants, or beneficiaries.

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What sweet moments, when the kids at the Shelter get one of the adults to whisk them away into a book. Among many other...

Posted by Findlay Hope House on Wednesday, June 3, 2015
  • Findlay Hope House does a great job of this on its Facebook page time and time again. Consider the post above, showing kids without homes living in Hope House’s transitional housing.

  • Clearly, we never want anyone to be homeless, much less our own family. The cause has the potential to scare off supporters because of their fear that it could happen to them. Stigma!

  • However, by photographing an older resident (like your grandma or mine) reading to a couple of kids, Hope House busts through and connects us with the residents in a positive way. (I remember when my grandma read to me.)

For policy and intermediary organizations: Connect the dots between your work and the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries.

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Have you visited the Children's Museum of Findlay yet? BIG NEWS! The Community Foundation just approved a two-year grant totaling $35,000 to fund a museum educator.

Posted by The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation on Friday, May 22, 2015

Organizations like yours have it even harder when building relationships and motivating action, be it giving or something else. That’s because your work is indirect.

You’re working on legislation related to a cause or supporting other cause organizations. This makes it challenging for prospects to connect emotionally. It takes your audience time and thought to make the connection between your impact and people, which is always a deterrent.

But there is a great method of speeding that vital connection—make the message for your prospects and supporters. Connect the dots between your organization’s work and impact and your ultimate beneficiaries, even if there are layers in between.

  • The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation does a great job of this on its Facebook page, as shown in the post above. Here, the foundation makes it easy to make the connection between its work and the individuals who benefit from its grants for a real “aha!” moment.

  • Get detailed and personal in words and/or photos. The close-up (bottom left) of the little girl focused on drawing is compelling!

  • The details are what sticks (or doesn’t) and make your story memorable and more likely to be shared.

How do you make your organization’s content compelling—beyond kitties, puppies, or babies? Please share your recommendations in the comments!

Review Step One

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

Why Your Donors Want to Remain Anonymous

It never fails.

When there is a large scale natural disaster, such as the Nepal earthquake, or an event that inspires charitable giving, my media alerts for Network for Good go through the roof. Many donors come to Network for Good’s giving portal to search for nonprofits and quickly make donations online, and reporters often list Network for Good as a way to easily give to charities responding to crises on the ground. We’re proud to facilitate giving to nonprofits across the country, including $1 million in donations for Nepal earthquake relief efforts.

In some cases, though, the press also features our giving portal as a good option for donors who wish to remain anonymous. Of course, there are many reasons a donor might want to remain anonymous, but the reason most cited in these articles is because these donors want to avoid getting on a nonprofit’s email list and being “spammed” by the organization, or worse, by other organizations who have purchased the list.

Ugh.

Friends, if this is a primary reason for our donors’ anonymity, we’re doing it wrong.

As you collect, grow, and manage your donor list, think about how you communicate with your donors. Are you welcoming them into a personal relationship with your organization or causing them to run and hide?

Let donors choose how and how often they hear from you. Give your supporters control over how they get information from you and the frequency of those communications. Many times, the fact that you are offering this control will make donors more likely to want to be on your list. And yes, if they decide to opt out or remain anonymous, you must respect that decision.

Let them know what to expect. When donors give or when supporters sign up for your newsletter, let them know what’s in it for them and what they can expect from your organization. These are important pieces of your nonprofit’s brand promise and will affect how people feel about your organization.

Have a strategic communication plan.  Many nonprofits make communications missteps because they haven’t taken the time to think through their strategy for reaching out to their constituents. Before you send another email, sit down and figure out your organization’s rules around communication frequency, content, and segmentation. If it doesn’t meet your criteria, don’t send it.

Be mindful of your thank to ask ratio.  This should also be part of your outreach strategy. Lynne Wester, The Donor Relations Guru, has a smart post about this very concept.

Keep donor information sacred. It’s not just good list hygiene and, in most cases, the law—it’s the right thing to do. Do unto others’ email addresses as you would have them do unto yours.

Being transparent and respectful in your communications will encourage more of your supporters to share more of themselves with you. Plus, you’ll help the rest of us look good, as well.

Recurring Giving Challenge Lessons Learned: Storytelling Wins

A great story puts your kid to bed at night and makes you watch that next episode as you confirm, bleary-eyed, with Netflix that, yes, you are indeed still watching. Stories are what connect us to other people and, most important, motivate us to act. As a nonprofit, stories are the best tool in your arsenal to connect with supporters and empower them to act.

We see it time and again that the organizations raising money and finding new donors are the ones that have mastered the art of storytelling. The winners of our Recurring Giving Challenge proved this with unique stories and a commitment to telling them authentically.

Take a look at the great stories three challenge winners used:

Raju the elephant

Wildlife SOS: Perhaps the most famous story from our leaderboard is that of Raju. Last July, Wildlife SOS made international headlines when it rescued Raju the elephant. The videos of the Raju rescue went viral, and Wildlife SOS saw a huge influx of interest and supporters. Donations remained strong during our challenge period, which resulted in Wildlife SOS bringing in the most new monthly donors!

VETPAW

VETPAW: The only organization to place on both of our leaderboards, VETPAW tells the story of its founder and his dual passions for animal conservation and national service. With equal commitments to providing meaningful employment for U.S. veterans and conserving critically endangered wildlife in East Africa, VETPAW has the challenge of telling two stories—that of Ryan Tate, the organization’s founder, who witnessed his fellow veterans being underemployed after their service, and the story of rangers in East Africa who risk life and limb to protect wildlife. These two powerful stories are not immediately similar, but they shine when linked by the founder’s passion and the organization’s ability to tell them in compelling ways.

Friends of Refugees

Friends of Refugees: Join the story. That’s the simple call to action from Friends of Refugees. The simple conceit is that refugees are not statistics—they’re people with stories; people who, when empowered with opportunities, become so much more than numbers in a news report. By telling the organization’s story powerfully and visually, Friends of Refugees gives a face to masses of international refugees and empowers donors who are far removed from the mission to see their role in the renewal of these refugee communities. Take a look at their simple yet powerful video asking supporters to join the story.

Need some inspiration to tell your organization’s story? Download our Storytelling Guide now!

Storytelling eGuide

No Kitties or Puppies. HELP! (Step One)

cats

View Step Two

Ooh! Aah! Who can resist the cuteness of kitty or puppy photos like this one?

Don’t feel silly for loving them. It’s human nature. In fact, photos like the one on this page are such tasty emotional candy that every bite takes folks one step closer to a donation.

But if your organization can’t rely on kitty, puppy or baby photos most of the time (and that’s most of us), what can you do?

Here are two practical, proven steps:

Step 1: Consider what makes kitty and puppy photos so delicious and so effective for nonprofits.

I’m no psychologist, so I turned to the Interwebs for the answer—and I learned absolutely nothing. That’s right. I couldn’t find any definitive research behind the why.

What I do know is this:

People share photos of their pets. It’s just what we do, the same way we share photos of our kids or gardens.

  • We’ve been sharing these photos for a long time, way before Facebook and Instagram.
  • Our families and friends share the same kind of photos with us.

Even if you don’t have pets or kids, it’s easy to appreciate the cuteness of someone else’s. These images are upbeat and nonthreatening.

Which leads me to this why-didn’t-I-think-of-it litmus test for compelling content from ActionSprout founder and CEO Drew Barnard:

“Before you post anything, ask yourself, ‘Would I share this? Would I want this piece of content associated with my Facebook persona?’ If the answer is no, go back to the well and create or curate something new.”

So, make sure your photos are something you’d share with your family and personal friends. And put this at the top of your “compelling content” checklist!

View Step Two

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

5 Ways to Recruit Passionate Fundraisers

Giving is social.

Study after study shows that people are more likely to give when asked by someone they know. Social connections and personal ties are strong drivers of behavior, and charitable giving is no exception. So how do you inspire your supporters to spread the word and raise funds on your behalf? Try these five ideas for recruiting passionate fundraisers who will help you reach new donors and bring in more donations.

Tap into your board. Help your board fulfill their give or get commitment by making it easy for them to launch their own personal fundraising page. Your board members are passionate about your work, and they likely have the most influence over a larger network.

Leverage your volunteers. Ask your volunteers to help you spread your message via social media and their personal connections. Their dedication to your work is the kind of inspiration that will make others want to join in.

Let donors do more. Once a donor gives, invite them to share your work with others and encourage them to create a personal fundraising page to help reach your goals. In most cases, the contributions they bring in will far eclipse their original donation. The trick is to make it super simple for them to do.

Turn your events into challenges. Whether you host a large annual event, an open house, or are just celebrating a milestone, give event attendees the ability to raise funds before and during the event. Everyone likes a little healthy competition: offer special incentives, recognition, or access to those who bring in the most dollars or donors.

Encourage personal stories. Most of your supporters have a personal connection to the work you do. Offer the opportunity for them to share what your cause means to them with a personalized fundraising page. These stories are likely more powerful than your existing marketing materials and will go a long way in breaking through the noise in a crowded inbox or Facebook feed.

Ready to put these ideas into action? I’ll help you make sure you have a solid plan in place in this week’s free webinar. Tomorrow, I’ll share more tips on creating an effective social fundraising campaign that will help you turn your donors into fundraisers. 

Register now to join the session. (Can’t attend? No worries. Register anyway and I’ll make sure you get the slides and the recording.)

Making Meme Magic: Q&A with Smile Train

Isn’t the Internet a magical place? We sure think so. And it just got even more magical thanks to #seriousbaby, a new campaign recently launched by Smile Train.

In the campaign, you meet baby Walter. Walter is standing in solidarity with kids who have unrepaired clefts and can’t smile. He’s serious about not smiling. And Walter’s call to action is clear: Donate to Smile Train. Do it. He’s serious.

I had the opportunity to find out more about this campaign from Shari Mason, senior director of integrated marketing at Smile Train.

What was the motivation to launch a new campaign for Smile Train?

Shari Mason: Smile Train is always exploring new, out-of-the-box ways to convey the importance of our cleft repair work and engage new and current supporters alike. We launch awareness campaigns at regular intervals throughout the year to enhance engagement with our donors and maintain momentum for the cause.

Walter #seriousbaby

As we approached this newest campaign, we had the idea to depart from traditionally “serious” charity tactics and, instead, use humor as a tool for driving awareness around the serious condition of cleft lip and palate. The use of video and visual memes allowed us to tap into the sharing culture that defines the social and digital Web and bring our global vision to new, younger audiences.

Cleft is far more than a cosmetic issue: It also impacts eating, breathing, and speaking; leads to social isolation; and can prevent a child from leading a full and productive life. Baby Walter, the nine-month-old protagonist of the campaign, emerged as a humorous, relatable voice for reinforcing the severe impact of cleft on affected children and rallying audiences to help share smiles across the world.

I noticed there isn’t any Smile Train branding on seriousbaby.org. Why is that?

SM: We decided not to include branding on the campaign site to create as organic and seamless an engagement experience as possible. Our goal was to put the campaign and call to action around our life-changing cleft repair work front and center.

Walter #seriousbaby

How have current donors responded to #seriousbaby?

SM: We have received nothing but positive feedback from our donors so far. The catchy, humor-driven approach to awareness, combined with the use of sharable videos and memes, has enabled our donors to substantively engage with the campaign and maximize sharing across their own platforms. Our donors have been wonderful advocates for the campaign and continue to positively engage with the seriousbaby.org landing page and share campaign assets far and wide. In particular, we’ve noticed that our younger supporters, including members of Students for Smile Train and our Young Leadership Circle, have strongly embraced the campaign—a testament to its success in engaging millennials around the cause.

How are you promoting the video?

Walter #seriousbaby

SM: To promote the video and drive audience views, we are continuing to widely share the Tumblr campaign page across Smile Train platforms, spanning Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and have seen a ripple effect of sharing and posting via our supporter networks. In addition, we have featured the campaign and a link to our donation landing page on the home pages of our global websites and have employed digital banner ads to garner eyes across the Web. We have supplemented social tactics with direct outreach and email communications to our donors and supporters.

Our integrated approach to communications has touched all channels, enabling us to maximize outreach to current and prospective donors around the campaign’s call to action in support of cleft-affected children worldwide.

How are you measuring success for this campaign? Do you have a goal for views, clicks, new donors?

SM: Our goals for the campaign are twofold: 1) Engage existing and new audiences with shareable content, and 2) test out-of-the-box ways to raise donations. To measure success as it relates to both goals, we are focusing on the following metrics:

  • Video views
  • Site visits
  • Content shares
  • Campaign mentions
  • Social reach
  • Donations

We are thrilled with the positive engagement Serious Baby has inspired so far and cannot wait to see how many new smiles—and transformed lives—Walter’s “Smile Strike” and call to action help create for children in need.

Thanks for the insights into your newest campaign, Shari! I hope the video continues to reach a wide audience and that #seriousbaby inspires donors to give big!

How the Fundraising Game Has Changed Forever

(Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from our friends at the National Council of Nonprofits. Jennifer Chandler, Vice President and Director of Network Support & Knowledge Sharing, offers insight on new legislation that will allow nonprofits to own their true costs.) Jenny Chandler

How the Fundraising Game Has Changed Forever – and Four Steps Your Nonprofit Should Take to Benefit

A “game changer.” It will “transform the landscape ... for generations to come.” No, these aren’t ads for a new car or reviews for movies coming to a theater near you. They are descriptions of the impact brought about by new federal rules for many grant awards—impact that just may make life less stressful for nonprofit fundraising professionals and development directors everywhere.

For the first time, the federal government is acknowledging what nonprofits have known all along: to deliver effective services in our communities, nonprofits must incur basic costs to keep the doors open and the lights on. The federal government, through the new Uniform Guidance issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), now requires that any government using federal funds—whether local, state, tribal, or federal—to hire a nonprofit to deliver services must pay its share of indirect costs (sometimes called overhead or administrative costs).

For fundraising and development professionals, this reform can mean less stress and urgency chasing down private donations and grants to fill in the large gaps left unfunded by governments. With government now mandated to pay for these “indirect costs” when the initial funds flow from the federal government, it will ease pressure on private philanthropy to fill all-to-common gaps left unfunded by governments. Not only that, but with this historic acknowledgement from government that indirect/overhead costs are essential to service delivery, some private funders are revisiting their policies and coming to a similar logical realization.

To put the impact of this new rule in perspective, consider the size of the gaps that governments historically have left unfunded. According to a recent Urban Institute survey, 53 percent of nonprofits reported that governments capped reimbursement for indirect costs. Of those, 76 percent reported that governments imposed caps of 10 percent and below – and 24 percent reported zero reimbursement for indirect costs. Just imagine the effects on the fundraising climate if all of these nonprofits received just the 10 percent minimum mandated by the Uniform Guidance, much less the full amounts that far exceed that floor.

Limits on Overhead Costs

What Should Go On (and Off) Your Donation Page

When a potential donor lands on your donation page, you want to make it extremely easy for them to give. But if your donation page has a complicated form, too many ways to leave, or doesn’t keep the donor in the emotional act of giving, you could be missing out on donations!

We know you aren’t a Web page optimization wizard, and you shouldn’t have to be. However, there are a few things that you, as a nonprofit marketer or fundraiser, can do to make your donation page super donor-friendly.

Here’s what should always go on your donation page—and what you should leave off.

If you’re in a donation page mood (I mean, who isn’t?), check out even more resources on how to get your donation page in tip-top shape:

 Nonprofit Website Hotline
The Ultimate Donation Page Guide
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