Feed aggregator

How to Shift Giving: New Money for Good Research Released

Of all of the research I reference in webinar and conference presentations, the Money for Good studies are a longtime favorite. By delving into the true giving motivations and habits of donors, fundraisers can create more effective strategies and stronger appeals to inspire more giving. These are exactly the kind of insights that the Money for Good research offers.

That’s why I’m happy to share that the latest Money for Good report from Camber Collective, the result of Hope Consulting and SwitchPoint LLC’s merger, has been released today. Money for Good 2015 seeks to answer the question, “Why has giving been stuck at 2% GDP since the 70s?” and offers three key areas of focus to attempt to unlock $47B in U.S. charitable donations.

In particular, the research uncovers four key barriers that are likely preventing donors from giving more to your cause:

    1.  Donors want clearer communication with nonprofits: 49% of donors don’t know how nonprofits are using their money, 34% feel hassled, and 20% are unsure who benefits from the work they’re funding.

    Top Donor Concerns
    2.  Donors don’t know how much they give compared to peers: 75% of Americans think they donate more than average, yet 72% are contributing at a rate that’s below the national average.

    Charitable Giving Peer Comparison
    3.  Name recognition trumps impact: 61% prefer to give to well-known nonprofits but not necessarily the most effective organizations.

    4.  People tend to give the same way year after year: 67% of donors are loyal to primary causes while only 13% intend to give to different nonprofits and only 9% compare nonprofits before giving. Donor Loyalty and Habitual Giving




So, how do you break through these barriers? Camber Collective’s researchers have provided a deep dive on philanthropic segmentation that uncovers five distinct donor types and their attitudes, and offers ways to reframe giving appeals to better communicate to these giving profiles.

Want to dig into the research for yourself? Read the full report and learn more about the Money for Good 2015 segmentation toolkit.

6 Quick Behavioral Economics Lessons for Fundraisers

Last month I had the chance to listen to Professor Judd Kessler of the Wharton School during the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Annual Fundraising Conference in Minneapolis. He shared insight on how behavioral economics can affect nonprofit fundraising.

Wait, what the heck is “behavioral economics”? Think about it as simply understanding the factors and situations that influence behavior and motivate people to take action. Many researchers have tested which scenarios prompt more charitable donations, many of which are illustrated in The Science of Giving.

But behavioral economics isn’t only the territory of PhDs. Professor Kessler encourages all nonprofit marketers to consider themselves to be scientists and to use simple A/B tests as experiments in their fundraising laboratory to sort out what will drive their donors to give more.

So, what are the principles that can affect fundraising for both small and large nonprofits? Here’s a quick overview of six common concepts and how you can use them in your fundraising strategy.

1.  Accountability & Recognition

What it is:  This is the idea that if someone cares what other people think of them, they may give to appear more generous, responsible, or important.
The research:  Gerber, Green & Larimer (2008) showed that voter turnout in Michigan was affected when registered voters received a message that indicated other voters would be notified of their neighbors’ voting habits.  In a different study, donors were found to give more when they were recognized as consistent donors to a fund.
How to do it: Accountability and recognition are two sides of the same coin, with recognition being usually perceived as the more positive of the two. Offering public recognition for donors can inspire donors to give to achieve and maintain the recognition, and this same attention can influence others to give to gain the same status. Give donors a special status when you feature giving opportunities on your website, in your newsletter, and in upcoming appeals.

2.  Peer Pressure

What it is:  In this case, the peer pressure comes from the simple power of the personal ask. If someone personally asks you to do something (especially in person or on the phone), you’re more likely to go along with the request to avoid embarrassment and disappointment, or to win praise.
The research:  Meer and Rosen (2009) showed that those who were called in addition to receiving a mailed solicitation were more likely to give.
How to do it: In addition to your direct mail and email appeals, make sure you are calling or meeting with key supporters to make that personal connection and encourage them to complete their gift. Bonus: you’ll likely learn more information that will help you nurture the relationship or fix issues that may have prevented future giving.

3.  Social Information/Social Proof

What it is:  This is really peer pressure of a different kind. We take our cues on what to do to fit in (and avoid guilt) by looking to social norms—what other people are doing in the same situation. 
The research:  Frey and Meier (2004) studied the decision to give to student funds at the University of Zurich.  When students were told that historically more than half of students gave to the fund, they were more likely to also contribute. Shang and Croson (2009) also showed that when donors were told what others had contributed, it affected the size of their gift. 
How to do it: In all of your fundraising materials, make it clear that others support and value your work. Some of the easiest ways to show this social proof include: donation tickers and thermometers, testimonials and quotes from current donors, and charity ratings badges based on positive reviews of your work.

4.  Gift Exchange/Reciprocity

What it is: A gift exchange happens when people feel obligated to repay gifts or return a favor, even if they know the gifts are intended to get them to take action.
The research:  Falk (2005) found that illustrated cards from street children in Bangladesh increased the relative frequency of donations.
How to do it:   Although address labels and totebags come to mind, get more creative when it comes to using the idea of reciprocity in your fundraising. Think about how your incentives or tokens of appreciation tie back to your mission and connect your donors with the end result of their gift. This could mean an exclusive tour of your facilities, a personalized note from a beneficiary, or a custom video from your volunteers. A gift exchange doesn’t need to be expensive, it just needs to be sincere.

5.  Identifiable Victim

What it is:  When our minds turn to statistics or large numbers, we tend to think about problems in abstract, and feel less connection to them. To be inspired to give, donors need to be able to connect with your ask on a personal and emotional level.
The research: Small, Loewenstein and Slovic (2007) discovered that highlighting an “identifiable victim” made donors give twice as much as when donors were presented with an abstract story or “statistical victim.” 
How to do it:  We’ve written a lot about this phenomenon on this blog, but essentially it all boils down to focusing on one person to illustrate the human impact of your issue. Tell a compelling story that donors can comprehend, and they’ll be moved to give.

6. Donor Identity

What it is: We tend to think of ourselves in a certain way or with certain ties to our social groups, community, or experiences. Therefore, when we are reminded about the identity, we are compelled to act in ways that feel consistent with it.
The research: Kessler and Milkman (2015) showed that when donors were reminded of their identity as previous donors, they were more likely to give again.
How to do it: In your fundraising appeals, invoke the idea of your donors’ identity to make your ask feel more relevant and personal. This might mean underscoring their connection to a certain neighborhood in your community, a specific alumni group, or a special factor that binds them to your cause.

Want more ideas on how to implement these concepts into your fundraising communications? Check out our guide on
How to Make the Case for Giving or enroll in The Ultimate Donation Page Course.

Ignite Action with a Powerful Data Story

[Editor's note: Today's post comes from Lori Jacobwith, founder of Ignited Fundraising. Lori is a fundraising culture change expert and master storyteller. Be sure to register for tomorrow's Nonprofit 911 webinar to hear Lori tell you all about how you can change your nonprofit's data story.]

As a master storyteller people often mistakenly think I only tell stories about people. The truth is, I find stories everywhere: In a glance between a client and staff, at board meetings, and even in financial data.

The question is what to do with the stories you find, especially the stories in your data?

One of the best ways to use some of the data you have is to share it in a visual display that paints a clear picture AND gets people to take actions to change the data. That might mean taking action to increase your fundraising, retain loyal donors, maintain an ample cushion of cash on hand at all times or, well, you decide.

The question then is: What actions do you want your staff, board and your community to take?

A good place to start is to create a board activity dashboard based on the actions your board has decided will make a difference.

A few metrics I like to see on a board dashboard are:

  • Attendance at board & committee meetings
  • Annual financial giving
  • Participation in donor stewardship activities: story sharing, thank you calls, guests brought to events

Creating the dashboards is the easy part. Deciding what to show on the dashboards is what takes time and focused conversation.

Here are some simple steps to get you started:

Step 1: At a retreat or during a board meeting, provide ample time for your board members to answer a few key questions. You can refer to this post 5 Questions Every Board Should Ask for some helpful questions.

Step 2: Once the board has determined the ways they will be of most value AND what they want to track, the role of staff is to create a dashboard to support their actions.

Step 3: Make sure your dashboard shows both what has happened in the past AND what actions you want to cause in the future.

Step 4: Review dashboards regularly with time to discuss activity updates and what new actions must be taken next.

Whether you use a traditional bar graph or you use something different (Blue Avocado has an excellent example), your goal is to cause new actions that support your mission and your bottom line.

Simple Board Activity Dashboard

Simple Board Activity Dashboard

On August 26 on the Nonprofit 911 Network for Good Webinar I’ll take you through a deeper dive into how to Change Your Data Story.

Join me to view samples of what your dashboards should look like and how best to use them to inspire action. I’ll share six of the most common mistakes when designing dashboards and some examples of what you can do differently.

----------

A nationally recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture expert, Lori L. Jacobwith has coached thousands to raise nearly $300 million dollars from individual donors. And counting. Her proven strategies & tools teach nonprofits and their boards to share stories powerfully and easily. Lori holds a BA from the University of Minnesota, has additional training from Indiana University’s Fund Raising School and is a longtime member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Follow Lori on Twitter @LJacobwith or Facebook

Change Your Data Story Webinar

Master Monthly Giving (Part 2: Expert Interview)

Read Part 1 here

I’m thrilled to share more monthly giving mastery with you from my recent interview with leading monthly giving expert Erica Waasdorp.

Nancy: Once you have a new monthly donor in the door, what’s the best way to welcome him?

Erica: If donor signs up online, make sure you get a warm, appreciative email to him ASAP. Automate that via your donor management system.

In addition, I recommend that you always send a snail-mail thank you letter to new monthly donors. I’m a strong proponent of including a certificate in that mailing.

Skip the premium—thank yous are not the place—but make sure to include a personal contact at the organization, who signs the communication, and that person’s phone and email so its easy for donors to get in touch. You don’t have to send a monthly thank you letter in hard copy, but monthly emails are great. In both your email and thank you letter, include the fact that donors will receive a tax statement the following January.

Nancy: What are the best channels for monthly giving campaigns—email, direct mail, or something else?

Erica: Nothing works better than telemarketing. The response rate is simply higher than mail or email. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have the budget for this. When that is the case, email and direct mail are the next best thing.

Most important, putting monthly giving front and center in your outreach is absolutely vital. Make it easy to find on your website and other appeals. Then ask and ask again via every main channel and piece that makes sense.

Nancy: I recently wrote a case study about Global Giving, which included a call to action for both monthly and one-time giving in its disaster-relief appeal for Nepalese earthquake survivors.

Have you seen that kind of dual call to action work? I am a huge believer in putting out a single, doable call to action to prospects and supporters, and then following up with a second step once the first has been completed.

Erica: Yes, it can work, and it ties in with the answer above—ask, ask, and ask some more.

The more you put monthly giving out there, the more donors will start giving that way. I see some of the “big guys” putting monthly giving front and center. For example, they offer monthly giving first and one-time donations second.

Nancy: What’s the greatest monthly donor recruitment case study you know?

Erica: Where do I start? I’ve done some huge monthly donor recruitment campaigns over the years, including one that raised $13 million. Most recently, I doubled the monthly donor base for a religious organization client, and those donors now generate 50% of the organization’s annual revenue.

But remember that these figures are relative, because your dollar total depends on the size of your existing donor base.

Consider another client I helped get started with monthly giving: a small animal shelter with 500 donor emails. The only mechanism they had for online giving was PayPal, so we customized the PayPal recurring giving options, put it on their donation page, and directed folks there from a three-part email series asking donors to join the “Champions” program.

We used a small board challenge of $5,000 with a clear deadline. Now the organization gets $2,500 a year from its monthly donors, and they also got the $5,000. We’re planning to do this again with the aim of doubling the monthly donor base every time. Cost is virtually nothing because it’s all done online. For this organization, starting monthly giving is huge.

Nancy: What’s the biggest monthly giving mistake you see fundraisers make again and again?

Erica: That’s an easy one—the biggest mistake is not starting and not asking. And the second-biggest mistake is asking too high.

If you want to start asking for monthly gifts of $50 per month, you’ll be disappointed if you see that the average gift is $23 per month for the first group of donors. Ask high and you’ll get a low response.

Instead, ask low and you’ll get a high response. In the case of monthly giving, you can absolutely upgrade monthly donors later. The key is to get them used to giving monthly first.

Nancy: What’s your most vital advice for fundraisers hoping to grow their organization’s monthly donor program?

Erica: We’re all overloaded. That’s why it’s vital to organize and systemize your monthly giving program before you promote it.

If you don’t set all steps up before you start recruiting, including assigning all roles and responsibilities, something’s going to fall through the cracks.

That’s why I’m so excited to have co-authored the ready-to-roll templates and tips in the no-charge Monthly Giving Starter Kit. It’s a great help in getting started and keeping your monthly giving strong.


To learn more about monthly giving, download our free eGuide! download recurring giving guide

About Erica Waasdorp

Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly (aka sustainer or recurring) giving. She is the author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant and co-author of the DonorPerfect Monthly Giving Starter Kit. As president of A Direct Solution, she serves nonprofit organizations in their fundraising and direct marketing needs with a focus on monthly giving, annual funds, and grant writing.

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.

Master Monthly Giving: Q&A with Erica Waasdorp

I’m thrilled to share this monthly giving mastery with you, drawn from my fascinating interview with leading monthly giving expert Erica Waasdorp.

In her unequaled guidebook, Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, Erica walks you through recurring giving, step by clear-and-doable step. “Historically, U.S. fundraisers have focused on major gifts. I’m thrilled that organizations are widening their focus to include monthly giving and small to medium gifts. There’s huge potential there,” says Erica.

What do fundraisers need to know about how monthly giving has changed since the release of Sleeping Giant in 2013?

Erica Waasdorp: What’s changed most dramatically, especially in the past year, is that monthly giving has exploded.

I think the main reason for this growth is fundraisers’ laser focus on donor retention. That focus, already there for some, was further fueled by results of the 2013 AFP Fundraising Effectiveness study, which highlighted the fall of donor retention rates to 39%. That was a real wake-up call for all of us.

There are two more factors that I think have added to the monthly giving boom. First is the emergence of reliable, thorough monthly giving guidance—from me, Network for Good, and others. This abundance of content triggers interest and provides reliable results-based guidance for fundraisers. Fun features, such as Network for Good’s monthly giving challenge, reinforce interest and skills.

The second factor that’s boosted monthly giving is the ease of adding, processing, and managing monthly donors via many donor database and online donation systems. Despite these widespread improvements, automating this process remains one of the biggest hurdles for fundraisers.

Why should an organization convert its donors from annual to monthly? Is there any risk of losing existing donors?

EW: No, there’s absolutely nothing to lose—as long as you target the right group. In other words, I do not recommend you ask your $250-plus donors to join monthly giving. Unless a donor at that level requests to be a monthly donor, don’t ask. You risk decreasing her gift level.

But for those who make gifts of $100 and less annually, there’s no way not to gain by converting them to monthly donors. You’ll retain them as donors and increase their total gifts per year. Plus, monthly donors are six to seven times more likely to make your organization a beneficiary in their wills. Win-win all around, if you ask me.

What’s the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for monthly donors?

EW: The WIIFM depends on which donor group you’re talking to. For example, monthly giving is a fantastic way for donors on a fixed income to make gifts to favorite organizations. It’s easy and convenient, and they can’t forget it.

That’s a perfect lead-in to my next question. Are all existing and new donors ripe for conversion for monthly donors, or is there a specific segment where fundraisers should start?

EW: Well, it depends on how many donors you have who give $100 and less annually. And it depends on how many times you ask your donors for money now—that is, how many times they can give.

Those donors who have given more than once are more likely to convert. But recent monthly giving stats indicate that even nondonor supporters, such as those who have signed a petition, can be converted. You do have to ask them, though.

If you have a robust email list, start there. Focus your first direct mail campaign to donors who give by credit card. Targeting is essential to boost monthly giving campaign results, just as for other types of fundraising campaigns.

What’s the most reliable way to convert one-time or annual donors to monthly donors?

EW: There are three components of a reliable monthly giving strategy:

  • To deliver the most cost-effective and effective monthly giving campaign, launch an email appeal series based on a deadline-driven challenge (matching gift or otherwise).
  • To generate the highest response from your monthly giving recruitment campaign, include calls to your media mix. Email, direct mail, and phone all work, but a combination of all three works even better.
  • To ensure monthly donors stay with you as long as possible, ask donors to give through electronic funds transfer (that is, via their bank accounts).

Thanks, Erica!

About Erica Waasdorp

Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly (aka sustainer or recurring) giving. She is the author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant and co-author of the DonorPerfect Monthly Giving Starter Kit. As president of A Direct Solution, she serves nonprofit organizations in their fundraising and direct marketing needs with a focus on monthly giving, annual funds, and grant writing.

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.

#GivingTuesday Success with a Staff of One: Q&A with CASS

Last year, Network for Good customer Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) had a great #GivingTuesday campaign and won our prize for Best Social Campaign. The organization raised more than $17,000, came in fourth on our leaderboard for number of donors, and exceeded its original goal by 43%.

Because I experience and witness street harassment in Washington, DC, I can see the immediate importance of CASS’ mission. CASS mobilizes the community, through online and offline activism, to end public sexual harassment and assault in the DC metropolitan area. The campaign caught my eye and I was inspired to donate to it on #GivingTuesday. After I became a donor, I was delighted to receive some of the best post-donation communication ever! CASS has become one of my favorite nonprofit customers that we serve in DC.

Because CASS had such great success on #GivingTuesday 2014, I wanted to do a Q&A with Zosia Sztykowski, the nonprofit’s executive director, to find out how they put together an amazing campaign with just one paid staff member.

How did you plan and set goals?

Zosia Sztykowski: We set a very ambitious goal for our end-of year-campaign—triple what we had done in the previous year—and based on our experience, we knew we’d have to get a strong start on #GivingTuesday for that to work. #GivingTuesday and New Year’s Eve are always the best giving days for us.

How did you reach out to donors before, during, and after?

ZS: We started reaching out to donors four weeks in advance with soft touches via email. A week or two before, we gave all of them a call and asked folks to pledge. During the campaign, we reached out via email and social media. Afterward, everyone who donated received a special thank you email and a handwritten card.

What surprised you the most about #GivingTuesday?

ZS: It’s amazing how generous everyone is even when every other organization is asking for donations at the same time. There’s something very touching about that. It really is a day about giving in the broad sense of the word. In 2014, we managed to quadruple what we raised in 2013 on #GivingTuesday because of this generosity.

What is the number one piece of advice you would give to nonprofits doing #GivingTuesday for the first time?

ZS: Plan, plan, plan. Read about others’ successful strategies. Get your emails and your social media materials ready well in advance. Know that you’ll need all hands on deck on #GivingTuesday. Have a schedule—but be prepared to throw it out the window if you come up with a better idea at the last minute.

How did you manage it all with very few paid staff members? CASS only has one paid staff member, right? And how did you make sure volunteers followed through with their commitments to help make it great?

ZS: Yup, just one—me! Needless to say, I had some pretty serious tunnel vision going in late November/early December. But our volunteers are one of our strongest assets. They get the word out and solicit people in their networks. Every time we run a campaign like this, we don’t just reach multiples of our dollar goal, we also multiply the length our donor list, and I think this is directly attributable to our grassroots strategy. If a volunteer team is well organized and engaged—trained, prepared with all the materials they need, and knowledgeable about the organization and its fiscal needs—then they will follow through. Better yet, they’ll make it fun. It’s really about starting a conversation with volunteers that continues throughout the process.

What will you differently this year?

ZS: We’re planning to reach out to more big donors way in advance to build a lot of momentum for #GivingTuesday.

Thank you, Zosia, for sharing these details with us! If you want to put on a great #GivingTuesday campaign in 2015, we can help. Sign up to get Network for Good’s #GivingTuesday resources sent directly to your inbox.

The Key to Raising More This Year

You might have a marketing plan, a shiny new website, and a fundraising appeal that has been triple-checked, but the key to raising more this year will come down to really knowing and understanding your donors.

When you truly understand your donors, you can communicate more effectively with the best timing, more relevant messages, and the right ask. And the only way to get smarter about these critical elements of donor communication is to be able to collect, manage, and efficiently analyze your fundraising data.

Not sure how to accomplish this? We can help.

If you want to get more out of your fundraising and donor relationships this year, tomorrow’s free Nonprofit 911 webinar is for you. My colleague Jonathan Gibbs, Network for Good’s VP of Product, will share the best practices in selecting, implementing, and getting the most out of a donor management system. Jonathan will also offer some smart tips on overcoming the common challenges nonprofits face in managing donor data. 

Register for this free session now.  (Can’t attend the live session? Go ahead and register and we’ll make sure you get the slides and the recording in your inbox shortly after the webinar.)

Don’t Forget the Why

Keep it Beachy Clean Stickers

On a recent family vacation, I loved seeing these stickers on trash cans along the boardwalk and on the beach. As part of Virginia Beach’s “Keep It Beachy Clean” campaign, messages like “Thanks for not littering! You just kept a pelican from making bad choices.” or “Thanks for not littering! You just made a whale want to come back next year.” added a bit of humor to a reminder of why the message mattered.

It’s also a good reminder for all nonprofit marketers:  when asking someone to do something—whether that’s making a donation, volunteering, or putting trash in it proper place—don’t forget to tie your ask to why it matters. Why should they care? Why will it make a difference? Connecting a simple anti-litter message to the easily identifiable wildlife that would benefit from that action kept the “why” top of mind for all beachgoers.

How are you keeping the “why” front and center for your donors?

 

How to Set a #GivingTuesday Goal

Are you ready for #GivingTuesday 2015? This annual day of generosity continues to grow, and we expect this year’s event to be even bigger. According to a recent webinar poll, 30% of nonprofits are planning to participate in #GivingTuesday for the first time and 39% are planning to do more for #GivingTuesday than they did last year.

Whether you’re launching your first #GivingTuesday campaign or planning a triumphant return, the first step in planning your success is to set your sights on a clear goal for your team and supporters to rally around.

Total dollars raised is an obvious metric to measure, but it shouldn’t be your only goal, as a giving day like #GivingTuesday is a unique opportunity to boost donor acquisition, re-engagement, and retention. Here are a few other important goals that you may want to work into your plan:

  • Number of donors
  • Number of new donors
  • Number of volunteers/hours (if you are including an activity)
  • Number of recurring donors
  • % Participation among key groups – like staff, board, alumni, clients

Think about what kind of campaign you’d like to run this year and which goals make the most sense based on your approach.

Where Do You Start? Build a Pyramid

If you ran a #GivingTuesday campaign last year, you have a benchmark you can use to make 2014 plans. If you’re in your first year, you’ll need to base your goals on what you know about your past campaigns and donors.

Another way to plan your overall donation goal by using a giving pyramid. A giving pyramid allows you to visualize and breakdown your donation goal by donor level. Creating the pyramid helps you sanity check your goal by plotting it out, rather than just guessing.

Here’s an example of a giving pyramid for #GivingTuesday:

  • Dollar goal: $8,000
  • Existing donors in your database: 1,500 donors
  • Achieving a 3% response rate: 45 donors
Donor Chart

Map out a giving pyramid using your dollar goals and your number of donors. If it feels ambitious but achievable, then it is a great place to start with a first year goal. If it seems too easy to achieve, boost the dollar amount. Too much of a stretch? Dial back.

Want to build your own #GivingTuesday donor pyramid? Download our template and input your goals, number of current donors, and expected response rate and we’ll do the calculations for you.

An Inside Look at The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations: Q&A with Author Lynne Wester

Today, donor relations expert Lynne Wester will join us for a free Nonprofit911 webinar: Donor Retention Isn’t Speed Dating. You don't want to miss it! Register now!

Lynne is not only an expert on donor retention; she has spent her career in donor relations and is known as the Donor Relations Guru. Earlier this year I published a Q&A with Lynne about her new book, The Four Pillars of Donor Relations. Enjoy this encore blog post and don’t forget to register for Lynne’s webinar!

Lynne Wester

If you aren’t familiar with Lynne Wester’s work in donor relations, you are missing out. Last year she presented an amazing webinar (one of our highest attended!) on donor relations and ever since then I’ve been hooked on the topic of donor relations and Lynne’s wise words on this important work that many fundraisers don’t (unfortunately) know much about.

Since the webinar, Lynne has published a book, The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations. It’s a great resource for any fundraiser who wants to increase their donor retention rate (aka everyone).

I did a quick Q&A with Lynne so you could understand what the book is all about.

BONUS: She shared the names of a few organizations who are excelling at donor relations. If you want to see what a great donor experience looks like, consider giving a small gift to one of the organizations she mentions.

How did you first get interested in donor relations?

Lynne Wester: I guess you could say I’ve been in donor relations since I was a child and my mom made me write thank you notes before I could play with my Christmas and birthday presents. But in reality, as a career, it came at Rollins College where I got my start writing thank you notes for leadership and my career blossomed from there. I am so blessed to be able to spend a lifetime helping others express gratitude.

Of the four pillars of donor relations (acknowledgement, stewardship and impact reporting, recognition, and engagement) where do you see nonprofits struggle the most?

LW: By far, it’s in stewardship and impact reporting. Nonprofits don’t take the time to tell the donor the impact and power of their gift, where the money went, and how it was spent. Instead, they’re too eager to obtain the next gift which leads to horrific retention rates.

We have to make the donor the hero and tell a story, not overwhelm them with news and information about the organization or ask them for more money. First we have to thank them, and then tell them the impact their money had. It’s a simple formula, really.

We get this question all the time and I think you’re the right person to weigh in: what is a GOOD donor retention rate?

LW: If the average first-time donor retention rate is 27%, and that’s the average, I would want to keep at least HALF of my first-time donors. It has nothing to do with the size of the organization, but rather the mindset and the attitude of gratitude that one possesses. Large or small, holding onto half of the people that invest in us shouldn’t be too high of a goal.

If your “team” that is responsible for donor relations is just one person, or 50% of one person’s workload,  what do you recommend they focus on first? What has the potential to have a big impact in a short amount of time?

The past has no power over the present

LW: The first thing is thanking without an ask. There is NO such thing as a soft ASK, that’s like being partially pregnant. So, sincerely thank your donor in a timely manner and then, once you’ve spent their funds, tell them the story of the impact their funds had on the people your organization serves.

I always tell my clients the amount of the gift is the LEAST important thing. The behavior is the MOST important thing. To have bottom line ROI impact focus on two groups first:

  1. first-time donors
  2. loyal or consecutive donors

This will really move your needle. You have to hold onto your first-time donors, otherwise they will never become loyal donors.

What is the most meaningful message you’ve received from an organization after a gift was made?

LW: I would have to say that the most meaningful messages I receive in a consistent manner come from the folks at charity:water. They make me feel important, they show me the impact of my donations, no matter how large or small and they make me feel very valuable and essential to the process.

Do you have any good examples of monthly giving programs that were branded as a “society” or “member” vs. a monthly giving program that had no separate branding? Do you know of any research that shows this works well or not?

LW: I give monthly to two organizations that do a great job of this. I’m a member of charity:water’s Pipeline, their monthly giving program, and I think this does a great job of keeping me informed, telling me why my support is important, and making me feel inextricable to their mission. Also Make-a-Wish does a great job with their monthly program and it has a brand. They call it the “wishmaker” club.

But honestly, being a part of a club is not why I give monthly. Just as powerful is my monthly gift to Livestrong, as a cancer survivor, they don’t need to brand me with a moniker or anything like that. They do a great job ensuring I have a sense of belonging and importance to them. Their donor relations and impact communications are spot on and I’m so proud to support them.

If we want to see what a great donor relations experience looks like in reality, who should we make a small donation to and experience it ourselves?

LW: charity:water, Whitworth University, Livestrong, and Kalamazoo College

Thanks to Lynne for giving us a peek into the topics covered in her book and for sharing her recommendations with us. For more of Lynne’s thoughts on donor relations, follow her on Twitter.

Dig Into Your Donor Database

Editor’s Note: This post comes from Barbara O’Reilly, founder of Windmill Hill Consulting. We’re excited to partner with Barbara so she can share her extensive knowledge of strategic development planning and donor-focused fundraising with the Network for Good community!

The Giving USA 2015 Annual Report on Philanthropy, released in July, announced that charitable giving, while growing steadily over the past five years, has reached its highest level since the Great Recession—an increase of 7.1% over 2013 totals. Donors of all kinds—individuals, foundations, and corporations—are back, baby! They have recovered from the economic setback of 2008 and are feeling more confident than ever to invest in charitable causes across the country.

The future has never looked better for the nonprofit sector, right? After all, the study shows that more donors than ever are making gifts. You may be wondering how to start building your donor base to welcome these new donors to your mission. “If only more donors knew about us, just think how much more money we would be raising” may very well be crossing your mind right now. As tempting a thought as this may be, the truth is that the grass is not greener with a whole new set of donors. It’s greener exactly wherever you are watering it.

Renewing Donors Chart

Let’s drill this down a little bit further: 43%. That’s the median donor retention rate that the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) calculated from the 2012–13 fundraising results of its survey respondents. This means that, on average, many organizations are losing almost 60% of their donors each year. Why? Many reasons. Some, like changes in personal circumstances, are out of the control of any organization. On the other hand, according to the 2014 Burk Donor Survey, nearly 50% of respondents cited reasons like over solicitation, overhead costs, and the lack of demonstrated impact as influencing their decision to stop giving. These lie squarely in the hands of how organizations communicate with and to their donors.

The solution to this attrition issue isn’t getting new donors. Quite the contrary. Getting new donors is:

  • Expensive: Raising $1 costs anywhere from $.25 to $1.50.
  • Inefficient: It has a very low ROI ($1).*
  • A short-term solution: Only 23% of first-time donors ever give a second gift.

That seems like an awful lot of work to nearly break even or incur a slight loss each year. On the other hand, it is worth looking at how to grow and retain the 64% of loyal donors who have been supporting you over multiple years. After all, fundraising costs to raise $1 from renewals are very low ($.20 to $.25), and these donors offer the highest ROI ($4).*

First, identify your donors’ behaviors.

What are the past giving levels of your donors’ gifts? By comparing gifts over the past few years within levels such as $1 to $499, $500 to $999, $1,000 to $2,499, and so forth, you’ll be able to see where you’ve had the greatest growth and losses. What is your own donor retention rate, both generally and for first-time donors? What is the average gift rate for each of the years you are comparing? Knowing these data points can ground how you solicit your donors in a way that will encourage growth. For example, you may want to focus on donors within a certain gift range to tailor higher asks. You might also segment a group of lapsed donors or higher-level donors and personalize outreach to them by phone, mail, and in-person communications.

Second, understand who your donors are.

Which donors have given for multiple years? Who previously supported you but has lapsed? Identify the top 50 to 100 of your longest donors, your largest donors over their lifetime, and newest donors (with a particular eye to those who made large first-time gifts) last year and this year. If you have the resources, it’s helpful to run capacity screening of these three groups to understand where there is greater gift potential. In starting or expanding your major gifts program, these are the donors who will comprise your major gift pipeline. They rarely bounce around from organization to organization. Your next major gift will likely come from one of these donors who has capacity and has supported you for a long time (and not giving at particularly high levels) and may also have been a volunteer. It’s important to get to know this group to understand what motivates their giving and interest in your organization.

Third, consider how you communicate with your donors.

These current and lapsed donors already know you and are more likely to give more generously if you ask and demonstrate your impact. If we think back to Penelope Burk’s survey results, two of the three top reasons donors stop giving are tied to an organization’s impact and effectiveness. More than ever, donors want to understand how their gift is making a difference in your work. They are giving through you to address a societal need that has meaning for them. Is their gift helping you make a difference? Bring them closer to your work by sharing a personal story of a beneficiary, a measurable accomplishment, or a plan to solve a seemingly intractable problem. As you qualify the major gift potential for those top 50 to100 donors you identified earlier, your ultimate goal is to build meaningful relationships so it naturally leads to sustained and increased support. Get to know their motivations, interests, and philanthropic goals. Use this information to lead your discussions about investments in your work. Remember, it’s not about you.

Tied closely with programmatic impact is how effectively your organization operates through costs for program delivery and administration. You don’t necessarily want to skimp on administrative expenses to seem “lean and mean” when it compromises—and even hinders—your ability to scale, deepen, or improve the quality of your work. Without unrestricted operating support, which includes enough funding for your fundraising efforts and staff, you can’t deliver and grow the services of your organization. Build that message about capacity into your donor outreach. Do your donors come away with a strong understanding of what you do, your plans for the future, and why their continued support (unrestricted and restricted) is important?

Finally, using the green grass analogy, after you’ve watered and fed your grass with your current donors, it’s still important to plant seeds for the next pipeline of donors. These aren’t the names you rent from mail houses. They can be, but as you saw from an earlier statistic, that’s not a cost-effective solution in the long run. The potential new donors I’m suggesting are people who self-identify in some way. Perhaps you find them through a sign-up on your website or a visitor book if prospective donors can visit your facilities. They can and should also be from the networks of your board and other volunteer leaders. Adding even 10 new names a month can yield up to 120 new donors—if you communicate with and engage them through a relationship model as described above.

How can you make the grass you’re standing on greener? By grounding your fundraising approaches on a good understanding of your donors’ giving patterns and interests, creating strategic communications that invite donors into your work, and planting seeds for new supporters in the future. This will strengthen all of your fundraising—annual fund, major gifts, planned giving, and events—and create opportunities for donors to partner with you in bigger and better ways.

*From the 2013 DMA’s Response Rate Report

Barbara O’Reilly, Principal and Founder of Windmill Hill Consulting, has more than twenty years of fundraising experience at major non-profit organizations including Harvard University, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Oxford University in England, and the American Red Cross.

Barbara helps non-profit organizations create impactful donor-focused relationships through strategic development planning and coordination of annual funds, capital campaigns, individual and institutional major gifts, and donor engagement.

Bring-’Em-Close Welcome Packs

I just donated to your organization for the very first time. So what kind of welcome am I going to get?

Will you respond ASAP with a quick, impersonal email and never be heard from again? Or will I receive that generic email or letter a few weeks or even months later, when I’ve totally moved on, and that’s the last I hear from you—until you ask me for more money?

I think you see what I mean.

There’s nothing I hear more of from you than complaints about donor drain. You’re not alone. Donor attrition is a perennial struggle for most nonprofits, despite the fact that retention rates are slowly rising.

But there is a proven, doable path to plugging this deadly donor drain.

Just imagine your organization welcomes me like this:

  • I receive a brief, warm, conversational thank you email within a few hours of my donation. It’s from an individual, who “signs” it.
  • Within the next week or two, I receive a warm, personalized (beyond just my name in the salutation), and in-depth welcome pack.
    • Format is not set in stone, but hard copy can be effective for baby boomers and beyond.
    • Your executive director or a program staffer tells me how my donation is going to make a difference.
    • You also share a clear, easy to remember and repeat story of one or two of the organization’s clients or beneficiaries, and I get to know them a bit more via their photo.
  • I get your organization and start to feel like part of the family.
  • I’m pleased to be appreciated, respected, and making a difference.

You can do it, too!

No matter how small your new donor’s gift, making this early post-thanks communication warm, personal, and motivational (to do more—volunteer, participate, give again—at least in time) is key. It becomes the first step across the bridge to donor retention.

This welcome pack from the Stickley Museum gets five stars.

Stickley Museum Welcome Pack

Take the welcome pack I received following my family’s recent donation experience to the Stickley Museum. The museum is just 30 minutes away and, as the home and workshop of arts and crafts movement designer Gustav Stickley, a place we’d been meaning to visit for years.

We finally got there, arriving just in time for a walking tour (free with admission). We quickly computed that we could join for the price of family admission plus $10 or so. I have to say that both the place and the folks who ran it—mostly volunteers—took us, and we joined.

I thought that was that. I never expected to hear much again from the museum. It’s a tiny organization with just a couple staff members. So I was delighted to receive a juicy welcome pack in the mail a week later. The pack included:

  • A hand-signed thank you/welcome letter from the acting executive director, telling me the difference my donation is going to make. I’m a sucker for real ink.
  • An overview of member benefits, most of which I wasn’t aware of and generated an “a-ha.”
  • A listing of upcoming walking tours on a range of topics I had no idea the museum would address. Who knew this place was even more interesting than I thought?
  • The most recent newsletter, 12 pages in full color. Don’t get stuck there. Yours can be four pages if that’s more doable. The point is to showcase the range of your organization’s impact via words and graphics, and to put varied opportunities for further engagement in front of your new donor.
  • A brief invitation to volunteer with a couple of specific, ultra-short-term opportunities. Finally, an organization that tries to get me more involved at the moment I’m still paying attention. I’m in love!

Take a hard look at the Stickley Museum’s welcome pack components. What’s relevant to your new donors? What else would you add? What’s not a fit?

Shape your welcome pack to your donors’ wants and habits, including format, contents, tone, look, and feel. Do it right, and it’ll feel like a welcoming hug from a newish friend or family member. There’s nothing better!

Tell us: Does your donor welcome pack—traditional or not—bring new donors close? Please share your tips in the comments section.

More on Welcome Packs

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.

The Quick and Dirty Guide to A/B Testing Your Donation Page

Your landing pages are important, and your donation pages are no exception. Do you ever wish you could know which messages, suggested donation amounts, or photos are the best at inspiring your donors to give?

Enter A/B testing.

Although testing might seem a little scary if you’ve not done it, there are simple tests you can perform to ensure you’re getting the most out of your online donation pages. Basic A/B testing helps you decide which images, calls to action, and suggested donation amounts perform best by comparing the effectiveness of two versions of your donation page.

Here’s how it works: a randomly selected half of your audience is served one form (the control), and the other half gets another form (the test). The test version has just one variable changed: the layout, image, copy, or headings.

Over time, monitor which donation page has the higher completion rate, calculated as follows: number of donations divided by the number of people who landed on your page.

Not so scary after all, right? Here’s a simple step-by-step guide from my friend (and super-smart fundraising pro) Alia McKee of Sea Change Strategies:

  1. Set up a control donation page.
  2. Decide which variable you want to test (see “What to Test” below).
  3. Set up a second donation page with that variable changed.
  4. Make both pages live and drive traffic to both forms. (You can split your email list and include a different page in each email.)
  5. Track completion rates across both pages, calculated by the number of donations divided by the number of people who landed on the form.
  6. Monitor your results (depending on the traffic to your pages, your test may need to run for a longer period of time).
  7. Check your results with a statistical significance calculator like this one.*
  8. The winner of this test becomes your control.
  9. Now, start the process all over again to get even smarter. Test another variable against your new control to learn what elements improve your conversion rate and lead to more donations.

* What’s a statistically significant result? This just means that you can rest assured that your results did not occur purely by chance.

When to Test

The best time to test is when you think you’ll get a significant amount of traffic to your donation page. These moments might include:

  1. A specific email campaign.
  2. In December, when a majority of online giving occurs.
  3. A high-profile event or during media attention

Higher traffic volumes mean you’ll have a better chance that you will get statistically significant results. If you have low traffic volume, you must test for a longer period of time to get significant results.

What to Test

So, what should you test? Here are a few ideas that typically yield useful insights:

  1. Photos: Does a puppy beat a kitten?
  2. Layout: Does a one-column form beat a two-column form?
  3. Testimonials: Does a testimonial from another donor increase completion rates?
  4. Donation amounts: Does a lower suggested donation amount increase completion rates?
  5. Copy: Does shorter intro copy beat longer intro copy?
  6. Premiums: Will offering a thank you gift increase completions?
What Not to Test

On the flip side, there are a few things that aren’t worth the effort. Here are a few tests you can avoid:

  1. More than one variable at a time: you won’t know which element made the difference.
  2. Elements that are outside your nonprofit’s branding: this different experience will likely cause donors to be confused, affecting your completion rates.
  3. Images that are too similar: it’s unlikely this will have significant results, and therefore not worth your time.
  4. Copy that is too similar in tone and length: your donors likely won’t notice the nuance.
How to Read Your Results
  1. After a period of time, run your results through the significance calculator. If you have statistically significant results, you can name the winner and move on to another test.
  2. If you don’t have a statistically significant winner, keep the test live for few more weeks to collect more data.
  3. If you still don’t have a statistically significant winner (and this sometimes happens), try testing a different variable.
The Ultimate Donation Page Guide

Now is the time to start thinking about testing your pages, if you’re not in the habit of doing so already. If you can work in a few tests in the next few months, you’ll be in prime shape to greet an onslaught of donors come December. What do you plan to test? Let me know what you’re testing in the comments and share your results!

Want more tips on improving your donation pages? Grab a copy of the Ultimate Donation Page Guide!

Nonprofit Love: A Music Playlist to Inspire You

Sometimes nonprofit fundraisers and marketers need to take a deep breath and then...rock out. Ok maybe not "rock out," but listening to music can help spark creativity, help you relax, or pump you up.

I reached out to some of my nonprofit friends on Twitter and asked them what they listen to at work to get them "in the zone." You can see who contributed song ideas in this Storify.

Nonprofit Pros! Share with me: what's your fave song to get you in the "zone" at work?

— Liz Ragland (@lizragland) July 28, 2015

The responses were varied: some prefer quiet background music, others want something a little more groovy or fast paced. Whatever your music tastes might be, I think you'll enjoy the playlist we crafted just for you!

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Nonprofit Love playlist. Thanks to everyone who answered my call for suggestions!

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
Syndicate content
HR