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Still on the Fence About #GivingTuesday?

To do, or not to do, #GivingTuesday…

With 12 weeks to go, you are hearing about #GivingTuesday everywhere. In the press, and perhaps on your team, there are advocates and skeptics.

And we get it. Year-end is a critical time, and your team has a full plate. So is #GivingTuesday worth it?

From where we sit, the answer is simple: Yes!

We are unabashed supporters and believers in the #GivingTuesday movement. For most nonprofits the question should not be ‘if’, but ‘how’, to incorporate #GivingTuesday into your December giving season.

How does #GivingTuesday work (for your organization)?

The genesis of #GivingTuesday is pretty well known. It started with a simple idea – to be a counterpoint to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. From a couple hundred nonprofits in 2012, #GivingTuesday is now an international day of giving around the globe.

Think about #GivingTuesday as disaster fundraising in reverse (Tweet this). In a disaster, the tragedy brings people together to rally around those in need by supporting organizations that can make an impact.

On #GivingTuesday, the movement rallies people around their desire to do good, to matter in their communities or their world. It’s not an obligation – it’s an opportunity to be part of something that’s big and meaningful and feels great.

And just as disaster relief organizations recognize how important it is to raise funds when there is heightened public awareness, all nonprofits can capitalize on the awareness and excitement of #GivingTuesday.

Reclaim Back to School: How to Stay Energized, Relevant, and at the Top of Your Game

Our daughter, Charlotte, recently started sixth grade, and the pumped-up energy at school that first morning really got me thinking.

“Back to school” is one of the definers of fall as we know it. It’s right up there with apples, the changing colors of the leaves, and Halloween.

Here are all these kids marching into the unknown for nine months of learning and growth. Some are thrilled to be starting again, others are longing for the pool or camp, but all have this incredible opportunity to be exposed to new content, to digest it in the context of what they know now, and to arrive on the far side with a fresh perspective and new skills. I’m envious!

Few of us have this kind of formal growth opportunity, but ongoing intellectual and creative growth is vital. It’s the only way to ensure that our marketing and fundraising content is relevant while fueling our personal satisfaction.

My call to action for you and me? Let’s reclaim back to school. Let’s schedule some learning—via conversation, reading, participating—into every day, even if for only five minutes. Learning is energizing, positive, and productive, but you have to make it happen.

Here are the five main methods I use to keep learning:

Crowdfunding: The Future of Annual Giving [Free Guide]

What’s old is new again.

The most exciting evolution of the giving economy in the past ten years is crowdfunding. But crowdfunding is simply a new name for one of the oldest forms of fundraising.

Throughout history, communities joined together to support those in need. Crowdfunding is the 21st century version of this age-old process for harnessing the power of a crowd.

Crowdfunding today sits at the intersection between communities, online, social, and giving. And it is more than just a strategy for one-off projects; it should be a core strategy for annual giving. (Tweet this)

And nonprofits are just arriving at the party.

In a recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Erin Morgan Gore & Breanna DiGiammarino shared perspective on the power of crowdfunding for nonprofits:

“Used strategically, crowdfunding helps nonprofits build meaningful engagement, inform their work, spread their messages, and expand their donor base to increase their overall funding and impact.”

Crowdfunding the Annual Fund?

What? Really? We say, Yes!

And you know what’s really exciting? You already know how to do it.

Crowdfunding leverages the skills and experience that you use everyday as a fundraiser. At its most basic level, the process of developing a great crowdfunding campaign is a lot like developing your major donor outreach strategy.

“It’s not about restricted or unrestricted; it’s about the donor, and giving annual fund donors the same quality of experience its high-level donors have—more project choices, greater ability to direct their gifts, and expanded engagement,” according to Margaret Paine, the director of advancement communications at Middlebury College.

What are the parallels between crowdfunding and major donor engagement?

LUCKY 13: Thirteen weeks to plan for the best giving season ever – starting with #GivingTuesday

Crunch time!

Can it be…Labor Day weekend is really behind us? 2014 is in the home stretch and that means it is crunch time for nonprofits.

In fact, 30% of the projected $300 billion in total annual donations to charities are made in December — and 10%, or $30 billion, come during the year’s last 48 hours. (Source: NY Post, December 2013)

For most nonprofits, it’s make or break time. And for donors, whether they are motivated by making an impact or by the tax year, December underlines the urgency of giving.

Countdown to #GivingTuesday

The movement that has changed the December giving season since 2012 is #GivingTuesday. It started with a simple idea – to be a counterpoint to the consumerism of Black Friday and CyberMonday. From a couple hundred nonprofits in 2012, #GivingTuesday has grown into an international day of giving with organizations and donors around the globe joining the movement.

Traditionally, year-end givers to nonprofits are loyal supporters or those with personal ties to an organization. Now, nonprofits can harness the energy of #GivingTuesday to engage new donors, and to extend and amplify the giving season.

We know first hand. Last year we led BMoregivesMore, the campaign to make Baltimore the most generous city in America on #GivingTuesday. Nonprofits that participated in BMoreGivesMore reported that between 20% and 60% of donors on that day were new. And more than 80% who shared their results said that they had a comparable or better December overall!

How Crowdfunding Can Transform Alumni Giving

“Over the past decade colleges and universities of all stripes have struggled with a truly stunning national decline in alumni participation rates: More than a third fewer alumni make a gift of any size to their alma mater today compared with alumni 10+ years ago.”
Cara Quackenbush of Eduventures

The cost of college, the rise in student loan debt, a weak economy, and uncertain job prospects have all contributed to the rapid decline in alumni giving.

These are issues that advancement offices can’t control.

But there are many factors that drive participation and giving that ARE in the hands of Higher Ed advancement pros and marketers.

The fix for declining Higher Ed participation rates is a reinvention of the Annual Fund.

Think (and act) like a Crowdfunder

The most exciting evolution of the giving economy in the past ten years is Crowdfunding. And Higher Ed is just arriving at the party.

Crowdfunding sits at the intersection between communities, online, social, and giving. It is more than just a strategy for one-off projects; it should be a core strategy for annual giving.

According to Andrew Gossen, Senior Director for Social Media Strategy at Cornell, “Crowdfunding is far more than just a tool for raising money online. It’s also a means of driving participation, teaching a culture of philanthropy, communicating effectively, mobilizing constituents’ networks on behalf of the institution, building and cultivating a donor pipeline, and a fantastic mode of stewardship.”

So, how can you take advantage of this new way of looking at your annual annual fund? I recently presented some ideas with Dayna Carpenter of University of Maryland Baltimore County during this year’s eduWeb conference. Download the presentation for more inspiration for transforming your alumni giving program.

Crowdfunding in Higher Ed Presentation

 

Think your data is too overwhelming? Start here.

In the recently released Individual Donor Benchmark Report, the folks at Third Space Studio and BC/DC Ideas looked at fundraising data for organizations with budgets under $2 million. The report contains a wealth of information—including insight on donor communication, recurring giving programs, and technology use—that can help small and medium nonprofits understand how to best reach potential donors.

The research also observed data practices of small nonprofits. Not surprisingly, these organizations often struggle to collect and use their own data to optimize their fundraising approach. Since this information can make a huge difference in the success of a campaign, how can fundraisers make the time to dig into their data to identify new opportunities and communicate more effectively with donors? Consider these three tips on getting started from Third Space Studio’s Heather Yandow:

1. Start small.
It can be overwhelming to think about all of the types of data you could be collecting. If you’re just starting out, focus on tracking just a few key metrics like number of donors, number of new donors, and average gift. Also consider the reports built into your database and fundraising tools.

2. Get the most bang for your buck.
Understand which metrics have the most impact on your fundraising program and start there. Are you struggling with keeping donors year after year? Take a closer look at your retention rate by type of donors (volunteers, activists, major donors) or by channel (online, direct mail, events). Are you considering moving from direct mail to online only? Try an experiment with a subset of your donors and track the results. (Try this simple worksheet to design and track your experiments.)

3. Make it easy for Future You.
Keep a record of how you define your metrics and how you measure them.  A year from now, you may not remember if lapsed members meant someone hadn’t given in one year or two – or if you counted people who bought tickets to your special event as donors. Be sure to capture those distinctions, including how you tricked your database into giving you the data you wanted, in a safe place so that Future You can calculate the data in the same way next time around.

How are you using your fundraising and marketing data to shape your approach with potential and existing donors? Share your tips and challenges in the comments below!

Are you thinking about mobile?

How many times have you checked your smartphone today? 

Whether we’re texting, reading email, or catching up on our social networks, this on-the-go connectedness is becoming a part of our daily routine. And, because we value the speed and convenience of our smartphone lifeline, we expect our mobile experience to be fast and easy. Of course, it’s the same for your donors, who are becoming more likely to read your emails and research your organization via their mobile device. Think your audience isn’t on mobile? Consider this:


The reality is this:  whether or not they give online and whether or not they give via their mobile device, a greater number of your donors will read your emails and look at your website during this year-end fundraising season. For best results, take some simple steps to make it easier for them:

Keep your content short and sweet. Remember, online visitors skim. Streamline your website and email copy, and break up text with headings, bullets, and bold treatment. Avoid long paragraphs in favor of shorter sentences and clear calls to action.

Make it fast. Keep your page load times to around 3 seconds. For your mobile experience, replace popups and animation files—formats that many mobile devices can’t display correctly—for powerful single images or icons and buttons that make it simple to click.

Minimize data entry. Typing in a lot of information is a mobile turn off. Allow your donors to autofill information wherever possible, and let them complete their donation without requiring a registration.

As you think about how to offer your supporters a more mobile-friendly experience this year, we have even more tips for you. Network for Good and PayPal have teamed up to share the latest insights on mobile trends and how nonprofits can leverage them for more effective communication and fundraising. To find out how you can optimize your email, website, and donation page for mobile viewing (and why you should), download our new free white paper, “Your Mission is Mobile”.

 

What’s the state of your online giving?

In our latest Network for Good video clip, I share some key points about the state of online giving. Online donations continue to grow at a faster clip than overall giving as more of our communication and actions go online. As digital natives come into their own and as we see peer fundraising, mobile giving, and events like giving days become nonprofit staples, we expect online giving rates to climb more quickly.


To make the most of digitally-minded donors, your online fundraising strategy needs to adhere to these core tenets:

Online giving can’t be siloed.  Your online fundraising efforts should be tied to your overall fundraising strategy, and integrated with your offline marketing outreach. Make sure your website, email, and social media messages match your direct mail appeals. Your donors’ conversation with you will span more than one channel. Many offline donors will still go online to learn more about you and read about the impact a gift could have.

Online giving must be easy.  The beauty of technology is that it can make things easier, faster, and more fun. Your donation experience should work to remove any barriers that might prevent someone from giving. Remember: the fewer steps and clicks it takes someone to complete a donation, the more likely they are to give.

Online giving should encourage more gifts.  In addition to making it easy to give, your donation experience should inspire donors to give more. By offering a compelling story, suggested donation amounts, and recurring giving options, you can increase your overall fundraising totals as well as your average online gift.

Need to boost your fundraising results? These resources will help you think through your online strategy:


How are you integrating online fundraising at your organization? Chime in below to share your tips and challenges with your fellow readers.

Seeking the Killer App? You Already Have It—Your Website

Way back when, when social media was newish—let’s say 2007—I used this classic baseball analogy to illustrate how social media fit into the communications universe.

  • Your website is your nonprofit’s online home base, with email as pitcher (no hits without the pitcher).
  • Core social media platforms (now Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) as inside bases.
  • Other social media platforms as the outfield.

Then, for many organizations, social media platforms took precedence—capturing our imaginations and anxieties, if not the impact—over more traditional online and offline marketing.

In fact, social media—or at least the dream of what social media could be—eclipsed websites and email for quite a while in terms of focus and excitement. Alas, resources were seldom part of the picture. But by now, for many of us, the role of social media has moved back to the infield, with your website sticking hard at home base.

That’s because your website remains, even after all these years, the central hub for actions—giving, registering, signing a petition, and more. Social media and, yes, even email are designed to drive people to your site to act (although mobile actions are quickly growing more common).

Here are a few reasons websites live on and remain strong. When done right, your nonprofit’s website:

  • Delivers in-depth coverage of your organization’s history, work, and impact. (Multiple pages can showcase a single organization or campaign, with content that exists for the (relatively) long term vs. more ephemeral social media content.)
  • Provides access to the rich, multidimensional story of your organization.
  • Engages a significant yet diverse audience, which continues to grow as use of the mobile Web surges. Your website is now a see-anytime-anywhere platform.
  • Generates insights into visitor behavior and campaign effectiveness via well-tested, low-cost usage analytic tools.

If you needed a reason to refocus on your organization’s website, you now have several. Your website could be your organization’s killer app!

Want some tips for making your nonprofit website even better?
Join this upcoming webinar to learn how to make strategic improvements to your website that will help you better communicate with donors and raise more. You could even get a quick review of your nonprofit’s home page or donation page from the Network for Good experts.

Free Webinar: Speed Consulting! Nonprofit Websites
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 1pm EDT
Register now.

 

Why the #IceBucketChallenge works

Are your social networks full of friends being doused in icy water? You’ve witnessed the #IceBucketChallenge.

Ethel Kennedy Ice Bucket challenge

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has taken the world by storm, prompting people across the nation to take note of, promote, and donate in support of research and assistance for those diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Challengers throw down the gauntlet to their peers:  dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate to support the ALS Association. It’s an unusual request that has a lot of people taking notice. Ethel Kennedy even challenged President Obama to join in, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has dared Bill Gates to do the same

How has any of this helped the charity? The ALS Association shares how this viral hit has helped to grow their audience—and their donation totals (over $4M so far). This represents a 1,000% spike in donations compared to the same time period last year.

So, why do campaigns like this take off? How do they tap into the part of us that shares, supports, and acts? Here are seven basic reasons why the Ice Bucket Challenge is so successful. (Note: These factors can also help make your next campaign more effective.)

It’s social. We’re social creatures, and we tend to do what other people are doing, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s who we are. We look to social norms to guide us. It’s peer pressure…for good.

It’s personal.  There’s just something about hearing and seeing your family, friends, colleagues, and public figures speak and take action. This powerful personal trigger combines with social norms to inspire action. It wouldn’t have the same effect if a complete stranger (or an organization) asked you to take the challenge.

It’s simple. The ask is pretty clear: dump a bucket of water on your head or give. That’s the choice. There’s not too much to think about there, which is the hallmark of an effective marketing message. Some may argue that an even simpler choice would limit the option to only one:  give. In this case, the ask is important, for sure, but the reason this has spread so quickly (and, in turn, raised so much money for ALS) is due to the stunt. Your ask may be easy, important, and necessary, but remember that it still needs a vehicle to reach your audience.

It’s slightly irrational.  Sometimes we are more likely to give when a stunt is more unusual, painful, or downright weird. Want proof? Look to Christopher Olivola’s experiments from The Science of Giving.

It’s direct.  Instead of issuing a blanket plea, the challenge is built around publicly calling people out. By name. When you want people to pay attention and take action, it makes a difference when you identify an individual vs. asking “everyone” to help.

It’s consistent.  Instead of deviating from the script, each participant in the Ice Bucket Challenge focuses on the same challenge and specifically supports the ALS Association. This provides a common experience and goal, which helps build momentum and community. The same wouldn’t be true if the actions or causes were randomly selected.

It’s different.  Let’s face it. It’s hard to stand out on social media, but we know that photos and videos of our friends make us linger for more than a few seconds. And people doing silly things like dumping freezing water on themselves? America’s Funniest Home Videos can’t even compare!

With all of these things going for it, the challenge does have some critics who say the stunt is merely slacktivism and doesn’t represent a real avenue for fundraising. I’m glad to see some good conversations around this, as I think it’s important for fundraisers and marketers to understand the opportunities—and the limits—of these types of campaigns. That said, as Justin Ware (The Social Side of Giving) points out, if an effort leads to 7-figure fundraising results, it’s difficult to dismiss this example of “slacktivism” as a dead-end street. Justin also smartly clues in on the real opportunity: being able to further engage and retain these new supporters. In his recent Selfish Giving newsletter, Joe Waters underscores the importance of leading with engagement before making the ask. This is where these types of social campaigns really shine.

What do you think of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Love it, hate it, or getting your bucket ready while you’re reading this? Chime in below and share your thoughts!

3 Tips for the Ultimate Donation Experience

Each year, our Digital Giving Index shows that the online donation experience matters. Donors are more likely to give (and more likely to give larger donations) when they are presented with a donation page that keeps them in the moment of giving. In this video, Annika Pettitt from Network for Good’s Customer Success Team shares three key elements that will make your online donation page more effective and help you reach your fundraising goals.

For expert guidance on creating a donation page that inspires donors to give more, register for the free Ultimate Donation Page Course.

 

How the Benefit Concert is Shaping Philanthropy

Music has been one of the most powerful ways causes, celebrities, and communities can connect to raise money for serious issues. We recently caught up with Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, who shared his insight on why these events can be so successful for nonprofits of all sizes.

Legacy of Aid: August is the Anniversary of the Benefit Concert

Benefit Concerts

For over forty years, the benefit concert has served as one of the most popular, easily recognizable forms of aid for charitable organizations. 

It all started back in August 1971 when George Harrison called a few friends—Ringo, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, to name a few—to play at the world’s first benefit concert. The Concert for Bangladesh played from Madison Square Garden with ticket and recording sales helping to raise $18 million. These stars likely didn’t realize they were forever changing charitable giving in time of a disaster. Concerts are now a popular vehicle for causes around the world to raise visibility and funds—often targeting a younger crowd or introducing their campaign to an audience not yet familiar with it. 

“Music is a universal pleasure that cuts across cultures and backgrounds,” says H. Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Music is a unifying experience—it’s a natural choice for charities to turn to benefit concerts as a means to raise funds.”

Star power can play a big role but doesn’t always spell success. In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Wyclef Jean’s charity, Yele Haiti, came under scrutiny about its finances. This controversy underscores the importance for charities to make sure they are fully transparent and accountable before implementing a benefit concert which can attract a lot of media attention. 

And star power isn’t the only way to go. Charities across the country have seen great success with smaller scale benefit concerts ranging from high school bands to regional bands. The principles and watch-outs apply regardless of your headliner. 

7 Do’s and Don’ts when planning a benefit concert for your organization:

1. Know your partners. 
If you are co-hosting the benefit concert with another charity, take a moment to investigate them by pulling their report at Give.org. Don’t assume it is well managed just because it has a 501(c)(3) charitable tax exempt status.

2. Pay attention to regulations.
Make sure any state regulatory requirements have been met, including verifying your ability to solicit.

3. Check tax deductibility disclosures.
If the benefit concert tickets are sold in a charitable fundraising context, seek out a tax advisor to find out about tax deductibility disclosures that may need to be made.

4. Beware of cheaters.
Take reasonable measures to reduce ticket scalping. Examples might be: limiting the number of tickets sold to a single purchaser and ensuring computer safeguards are in place to avoid someone “snatching” all the tickets as soon as they are made available. 

5. Practice your FAQ.
Make sure answers are readily available for reasonable questions about your mission, target amounts to be raised, and how collected funds will be used.

6. Be clear.
If the intention is to collect funds restricted for a specific purpose (i.e., disaster relief) make sure that all charity participants agree to this restriction and are able to carry out this work as soon as possible.

7. Be transparent about finances.
Share information on the total amount collected, the cost to hold the concert, and how much went to the cause. Post this information on the charity’s and concert’s websites.

The Future of Benefit Concerts

“Charity benefit concerts will continue to play a role in generating funds and advocating issues,” says Taylor. “Large events work well in times of major crisis or when a big star has a personal stake in a cause. Smaller, targeted local events can be successful as well.”

Whether packing a large event venue or a local concert hall, organizers should be creative and coordinate effectively to ensure that benefit concerts are a useful tool for raising awareness and charitable dollars.

A benefit with local bands and resources combined with a coordinated effort between multiple nonprofits may be a good option for some charities. Whether large or small, however, the expense and coordination efforts for events can be prohibitive and should be considered carefully in terms of the investment of time and resources. Often charities will measure ROI through funds raised as well as impact to the audience.

For more helpful tips on nonprofit collaboration, including information on accreditation, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org. For advice on planning a successful fundraising event, download Network for Good’s guide to Hosting Your Most Fabulous Fundraising Event Ever.

This Book Could Change Your Life: Great Summer Reads for Fundraisers

When I asked nonprofit experts in a range of fields, from fundraising to programs, to share their summer reading lists, I had no idea what to expect.

I was thrilled to hear so many passionate stories about books that have made (or are likely to make) a huge difference in these folks’ lives. I’m sure that you’re reading all the time—blogs, Facebook, e-newsletters—but my colleagues told me that, for them, reading a book is something different. The process of immersing oneself in a work that is longer, richer, and typically experienced in a distinct format, be that hard copy or on an e-reader, is a unique experience. This immersion outside the day-to-day is highly engaging, energizing, and refreshing on the creative and intellectual fronts.

With that potential in mind, consider these top picks for your end-of-summer reading list. One of them could change your life:

Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream, Earl Swift

Sally Kirby Hartman, vice president of communications at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, adored this pleasure read about a ’57 Chevy and its various owners. Sally’s a superstar communicator and extracted a valuable marketing insight: “Auto Biography is a great reminder that a good observer can bring any topic to life by writing about real people,” she said.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell

If you know the work of fundraising scribe Tom Ahern, you won’t be surprised by the passion he brings to this recommendation. When Tom likes something, he really likes it. So when he told me that Blink was “blowing his mind,” I had to know why.

“Try this one,” said Tom. “A psychologist administers a test to college students. There are 10 questions. Scattered through the questions are words such as ‘worried,’ ‘Florida,’ ‘old,’ ‘lonely,’ ‘gray,’ ‘bingo,’ and ‘wrinkle.’ When the students arrive to take the test, they act their age. When they leave after taking the test, they act old, walking slowly. What you read when taking the test affected the way you behaved.

“OMG, Nancy,” exclaimed Tom. “The great unknown for copywriters (me) is the human mind and how it actually works, not how we guess it works. That’s why Blink is blowing my mind: it’s all about recent psychological research, as told by a fabulous journalist.”

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal

Nonprofit Web mastermind Seth Giammanco, of ModLab, is digging into Nir Eyal’s model that can be used to help products stand out in a world of constant competition for attention. He outlines that model here. It’s useful guidance and great inspiration for shaping your programs and services and positioning your organization’s fundraising and marketing campaigns for the strongest results.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk

Kevin Martone, technology program manager at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, is just digging into this one now. It’s the latest (maybe greatest?) from social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, who shares secrets on connecting strongly with customers—donors and other supporters to us. Sounds worth a read!

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Dan Pink

In his breakthrough book, A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink broke through traditional perceptions on success drivers, suggesting that right-brain skills are a huge success factor. Celeste Wroblewski, vice president of public relations at Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is eager to read his latest. Celeste, I’ve read To Sell Is Human, and you’re in for a treat.

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington

Fundraiser Amy Eisenstein got a jump-start on her summer reading, finishing and enjoying Thrive even before the solstice. She then raved about it to me.

What’s heading your end-of-summer reading list, or what book tops the list of those you’ve already finished? Share your picks in the comments below!

 

6 Simple Steps for Successful Campaign Planning

Whether you’re you looking to win support for an issue, impact policy, or inspire donors to take action and give, a campaign rarely succeeds without a solid, thoughtful plan. At Network for Good, we’ve always been big fans of Spitfire Strategies’ original Just Enough Planning Guide as a primer for doing just that, and have featured the Spitfire team in our Nonprofit 911 webinar series. We’re happy to announce that the folks at Spitfire are back with an interactive road map to successful campaign planning with their Planning to Win: The Just Enough Guide for Campaigners™. The new Planning to Win toolkit builds on the original concept and provides nonprofit changemakers and campaign organizers with a nice set of resources to create an effective strategy.

Planning to Win

Inspired by the new guide, here are six key steps to putting your campaign plan together:

1. Define the Victory
It’s important that everyone agrees on the core goal or goals of your campaign. You also need to make sure the definition of your campaign’s success is specific and actionable. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? How will you know that you’ve hit your goal?

2. Evaluate the Campaign Climate
Once you clearly define your campaign win, it’s time to evaluate the climate in which you’ll deploy your outreach. When you understand what’s going on around your issue or audience, you can plan to maximize the positives and strengthen any weaknesses. Identify what’s already working in your favor and what obstacles might cause your message to get lost or be misunderstood. Some questions to help you evaluate your issue’s climate:

  • Is your issue hot on the agenda or stuck in limbo?
  • What is the current conversation around your issue?
  • Who is the opposition and what is their agenda?
  • Who else is working on this issue?
  • What current events or opportunities can you use to your advantage?


3. Chart the Course
Lay out the series of milestones that you must hit on your way to reach your goal. Ideally, these steps should build off each other and indicate that your campaign is gaining momentum. Focus these milestones on the desired outcomes, rather than the tactics themselves. For example, if your campaign will reach out to local businesses to gain sponsors, your milestone should not be pitching these business owners. Rather, it should be that you reach your desired number of confirmed business partners for your cause. 

4. Choose Your Influence Strategy
Along with each step, understand the decision makers who will determine your success. These may be voters, business partners, or public officials. Then, find out who will have the most influence on these decision makers. These are the people you want to reach and activate to help your initiative gain momentum. Warning: avoid naming broad groups such as “the general public,” “voters” or “women.” Just as you did with your campaign goal, get very specific about your influencers so you have clear picture of the kind of person you need to reach to achieve victory.

5. Message for Impact
All campaigns benefit from a message platform that provides everyone in your organization with a consistent positioning statement. Keep in mind that a message platform doesn’t need to be rigid, nor does it need to be memorized, but it should provide the core concepts and talking points to serve as a guide for your spokespeople. A good message platform includes the following four points:

  • explain the problem/need that currently exists or the situation that you are working to change
  • specify what your campaign is working to accomplish
  • describe how you recommend addressing the need or problem, along with the with specific actions that decision makers need to take
  • explain the result that a campaign victory will have and how it solves the problem you noted at the start


6. Manage Your Campaign
Once you outline the main tactics to achieve your goals, you still need to plan the day-to-day details to get it done. Each assignment should have a deadline/timeline, owner, metrics including outcomes, and a budget. When it comes to metrics, it’s important to think of ones that lead to outcomes. Once your campaign is underway, don’t forget to celebrate the small victories with your team to keep everyone motivated.

For a step-by-step guide to building your campaign strategy, check out Planning to Win: The Just Enough Guide for Campaigners™.

How are you applying these steps to your campaigns? Share your current efforts in the comments below and add in your tips for fellow campaigners.

 

Simple, Timeless Social Media Tips

As of September 2013, 73% of online adults use social networking sites. If your nonprofit isn’t active on at least one social network, now is the time to get moving! A quick Google search will provide you with tons of best practices and tips for using social media but in this video, you’ll find that I stuck to actionable tips that go beyond the latest fad or algorithm to help your nonprofit excel (and have fun) with social media.

 

Take your social media outreach to the next level. Download our free guide, 101 Social Media Posts, for content ideas that you can use for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

 

8 Ways to Make Social Media Matter

Pressure.

You feel it. I feel it. Every nonprofit communicator and fundraiser out there feels it. Social media pressure, that is.

Whether the source of this anxiety (Am I keeping up? Do I have a billion Facebook likes or Twitter followers? Is my Instagram strategy driving action?) is your immediate boss, board chair, or colleague in programs, it’s there. The pressure to generate a social media miracle.

Breathe—There Is a Solution

You can boost marketing and fundraising impact, and you can deflate that pressure. Here’s how:

1.  Get to know your people. Research, via online survey or calls, where your current supporters are when it comes to social media.

2.  Use your marketing/fundraising plan to remind yourself exactly who your prospects are (the people who are most likely to take the actions that will drive your marketing or fundraising goals forward). Then, use your supporter research to project where similar prospect groups are on social media.

Millennials on a Mission: Idealism, Impact, Innovation

Editor’s note: I’m pleased to introduce Network for Good’s Chief Giving Officer, Jamie McDonald, as a contributor to The Nonprofit Marketing Blog. Jamie will be sharing her insight on philanthropy and trends in giving, as well as updates from the field.

During this year’s Millennial Impact Forum (also known as MCON), thousands of leaders in philanthropy, social enterprise, and technology joined together for two days of inspiration from our next generation of leaders. MCON takes place on the heels of the release of the Millennial Impact Report, an annual look at the Millennial generation and the ground they are staking out as they mature into adulthood.

Derrick Feldmann, President of Achieve, the researchers behind the Millennial Impact Project, said in his opening remarks, “We don’t study Millennials because they’re a part of the culture. We study them because they’re defining the culture.”

Here are a few juicy facts from the report:Millennial Donations

  • By the year 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce
  • 91% of the female Millennials surveyed donated money to charities, and 84% of the male Millennials had donated
  • Nearly half (47%) of the Millennials surveyed had volunteered for a cause or nonprofit in the past month.
  • 22% of Millennials surveyed gave more than $500 to nonprofits in 2013 and 12% gave more than $1,000.

Transforming the Nonprofit Culture

Millennials CycleDuring MCON, transformational young leaders shared their perspectives on giving—and living meaningfully—in a connected world. The conference centered on the key lessons learned since launching the research in 2010:

1. Millennials engage with causes to help other people, not institutions. And, they prefer to perform smaller actions before fully committing to a cause.

2. Millennials are influenced by the decisions and behaviors of their peers. Peer influence plays an important role in motivating Millennials to volunteer, attend events, participate in programs, and give.

3. Millennials treat their time, money, and assets as having equal value. Millennials view both their network and their voice as two additional types of assets they can offer a cause. Aided by technology, an individual who donates his or her voice may still give skills, time, and money.

4. Millennials need to experience a cause’s work without having to be on site. In 2013, more than 60% of respondents said they felt most invested in a cause when the nonprofit shared a compelling story about successful projects or the people it helps.

Throughout the conference, I noted three other key themes that should get you thinking:

  • Millennials are seeking authenticity, and they are skeptical of ‘press-release’ good news, without human stories and data to back it up.
  • They believe in the power of technology to drive real community change.
  • Millennials do not see boundaries between work/play/family. As Jean Case related from a recent conversation with a Millennial, “I want to bring my full self to everything I’m about.” So employers, nonprofits, brands and Millennials are joined together in a cycle of engagement that unifies them in a way that did not exist in prior generations.
The Future of the Social Sector

As a nonprofit leader, why should you focus on Millennials, whose resources are small relative to their older counterparts? It’s simple. They have the power to generate passion, engagement and donations for your cause. (And, in less than 5 years, the oldest among them will be moving into major donor income levels.)

The strategies for engaging Millennials are no longer just preferences. They have become the norm for effective communication with all ages. As Derrick Feldmann puts it, “It is not overstating to say that a big part of the nonprofit sector’s future relies on its ability to respond to these young people’s charitable inclinations.”

Ready to recruit and engage Millennial talent for your organization? Download our free guide.

Nonprofit Spotlight: June

Across the country and around the globe our nonprofit partners are changing the world every day. Our Nonprofit of the Week series helps us spotlight the great things these organizations are doing to serve their mission. Take a look at how this month’s featured organizations are improving their communities:

Maryland Zoo in Baltimore isn’t just a place to come and visit lion cubs Zuri, Leia, and Luke, and a growing community of African penguins—it’s an organization working hard on behalf of wildlife and wild places worldwide. By focusing on participating in global wildlife conservation efforts and creating dynamic educational opportunities in Baltimore, the Maryland Zoo is working hard on behalf of wildlife and wild places worldwide.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ohio Valley provides a home away from home for the families of children receiving critical medical treatment at local hospitals. By creating a place of community and respite the RMHC of the Ohio Valley truly cares for families in times of crisis.

Families First of the Greater Seacoast is a community health center offering high-quality care for all members of New Hampshire’s Seacoast, regardless of their ability to pay. For the past 30 years Families First has been expanding their mission and services to create a healthier and happier community.

Join us in celebrating and thanking these amazing causes!

Why your nonprofit’s URL matters

As someone with a common name that’s spelled a bit differently, I’m all too aware of the confusion and errors that happen because of a unique moniker. When people are expecting Karen with a K, I’m forever spelling out C-a-r-y-n. For me, this typically only causes minor inconvenience and some interesting conversations about names. For your organization, though, an unusual name, unconventional spelling, or indistinguishable acronym could negatively affect your marketing efforts.

The same can be said for your nonprofit’s domain name. Having an easy-to-remember (and difficult to mess up) domain name can help supporters quickly find your organization online and reduce confusion when you’re telling folks about your nonprofit on the phone, in person, or in print.

How do you choose the right URL for your nonprofit? Marc Pitman of FundraisingCoach.com offers these tips on choosing a good domain name:

1. Keep it simple.  Make sure it’s easy to remember and understand, especially when saying it out loud.
2. Avoid numbers when possible. When you substitute numbers for words, it’s more difficult for your supporters to remember if your web address contains the numeral or the number spelled out.
3. Also register variants of your name. If there are common misspellings or typos that might lead your supporters astray, consider registering those domains as well, so you can point those visitors in the right direction.
4. Get the .com, and other extensions. Most organizations will want to get the .org of their chosen domain name, but cover your bases and register other extensions of the same domain name. Soon, you’ll also be able to register .ngo and .ong thanks to the folks at Public Internet Registry.

Network for Good is partnering with Public Internet Registry to help get the word out about the new .ngo and .ong domains. These domains will give nonprofits and other non-governmental organizations worldwide an opportunity to secure a new top-level web address. Since Public Interest Registry will manage a validation process to ensure that only genuine NGOs are granted these new domains, having an .ngo or .ong address will help organizations reinforce trust and credibility.

The new domains will be available early next year. So, what can you do now? Sign up to submit your Expression of Interest—you’ll receive updates about these new domains and be the first to know when .ngo and .ong are available. For more details on submitting your Expression of Interest and to sign up, visit www.globalngo.org

Do you plan to secure an .ngo/.ong domain name for your organization? Share your domain name questions and experiences in the comments below to join the conversation.

The 4 qualities of powerful visual storytelling

Power of Visual Storytelling

Content syndication outlet NewsCred has teamed up with Getty Images to create a new site, The Power of Visual Storytelling. The online guide (and accompanying whitepaper) boils down the essentials of effective imagery into four principles:

  1. Be authentic.  With stock images and Photoshop, it’s easy to be fake. Allow your readers to connect with the human side of your work by highlighting candid photos that show the reality of your work. Your images don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to stir emotion.
  2. Excite the senses.  Don’t avoid the gritty details that bring a story to life. Generic or too-glossy photos remove the personality from your subject. Choose or create images that make your audience feel like they can almost hear, smell, and touch the world you’re inviting them into.
  3. Evoke a familiar archetype.  Tap into what resonates with your audience by creating a persona to connect with their experiences or aspirations. Remember: powerful characters are a must for any great story.
  4. Be relevant.  To really connect with your supporters, your images and stories need to reflect the things that are immediate and real to them. This means that your outreach must be current and culturally sensitive to make an impact.


The Power of Visual Storytelling offers more insight on each of these components, complete with stats and examples. As you’re creating your next campaign, try incorporating all four elements to command attention and draw your audience even closer to your cause.

Want more storytelling ideas? Download our free guide: Storytelling for Nonprofits.

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