Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reaching Donors Across Generations - Last Chance to Register!

This photo is by Jun.
  • Worried about your aging donor file?
  • Interested in attracting new and younger donors to your organization?
  • Wondering how to best segment donors by age to achieve greater fundraising success?
Register now for Show Me The Money: Reaching Donors Across Generations, a joint webinar by Convio and (my company) Care2 TODAY at 2PM.

In this webinar, you will learn about the differences and similarities among Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y in their approaches to giving.

You'll also hear how experts at Amnesty International USA and AARP/AARP Foundation are using age segmentation to achieve better fundraising and communications results.

Register now!  It’s FREE!

Presenters include:
  • Vinay Bhagat, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Convio
  • Steven DelVecchio, Senior Director, Direct Response, AARP/AARP Foundation
  • Milo Sybrant, Managing Director of New Media, Amnesty International USA
  • ME!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Size Matters. (Especially in Email Marketing)

This cartoon is by Courtney Gibbons.

I know.  It’s crude.  But at least I’ve got your attention.

At my organization, Care2, we spend our days helping nonprofits of all stripes grow their email lists so that they can acquire new members, donors and advocacy supporters.  At the risk of stating the obvious, I thought it might be worthwhile to explain the raison d’ĂȘtre behind our single-minded pursuit.

Here are 4 reasons size matters in email marketing.  Hopefully, they inspire you to quadruple the size of your online list!

1.  Bigger lists = More dough!  According to the eNonprofit Benchmark Study by NTEN and M+R Strategic Services, “One of the key determinants of grassroots strength is the size of an organization’s deliverable email list.  A larger list allows for greater success in just about every sphere of online engagement, from fundraising to advocacy to viral recruitment.  And, since managing a 100,000-person list takes nearly as much effort as managing a 1 million-person list, economies of scale make larger lists even more valuable.”

It’s not sexy, but online fundraising is a numbers game.  The more folks you’re able to solicit, the more donations you’ll get.  End of story.

2.  Bigger lists = More leverage with legislators.  Got 10,000 petition-signers behind your cause?  Great!  Got 100,000? Even better.

3.  Bigger lists = More opportunities for peer-to-peer fundraising.   People trust their friends at least as much – if not more than – they trust institutions.  We know this and need to encourage more donors to spread the love to their friends.  A larger list helps you do this with even greater gusto.  Imagine having the opportunity to tap into the networks of tens of thousands of donors.

4.  Bigger lists = More exposure when disaster strikes.  Don’t wait until the next earthquake, tsunami, legislative screw up or political scandal to build your list.  Start now, so that you will be ready when disaster happens.  This may sound self-serving.  It is.  Be smart.  Engage prospective donors and advocacy supporters now so that it’s easy to mobilize them when your story hits the news.

Any math majors out there?  I'll send a FREE copy of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard to the first person who can decipher the cartoon above.  Leave your explanation in the comments.


Monday, May 17, 2010

6 Reasons Your Website Sucks

Get ready.  This is a rant.  I look at at least 10 new nonprofit websites each day for work.  Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised but mostly I'm dismayed by the state of nonprofit websites.

We've got to do better folks.  Here's why.  NO ONE (Well, almost no one) is going to give you a donation online without first visiting your website.  In fact the majority of online donations in 2008 ($15 billion) came in via nonprofit websites.

I KNOW you want some of this cash!  Unfortunately, you're not going to get it because here are 6 reasons your website sucks.

1. You have NO pictures on your site or the pictures you do have are bad, stock photos of people who everyone knows are not part of your organization.  There is no excuse for this.  Go to Flickr.com or iStockphoto and buy or borrow some new beautiful photos.  (Just be sure to give proper attribution.)  Better yet, give some cameras to the people you serve and ask them to take video and photos for you.

2. You have WAY TOO MUCH text on your site.  People DON'T READ websites. (Actually, people don't read period but this is a topic for another blog post.) Use short phrases and choice words to describe your work, especially on your home page.  DO NOT include a "Letter from your Executive Director,"  unless, he or she is famous!  Instead, consider doing a 3 minute podcast or video so people can hear what your organization is all about.  Keep it short and sweet and make it good!

3. I can't find your "Subscribe" button.  News flash!  I'm not going to donate to your organization unless you ask me to.  This is why email marketing is key to your online fundraising success.  However, I may give you my email address to learn more.  THIS is the most important "ask" you can make on your site.  Invite me to engage with your organization by subscribing to your e-newsletter, so that you can CULTIVATE me into a new donor over time.  PLEASE put your e-newsletter subscribe button front and central.  Don't have an e-newsletter?  Start one!

4. You are still using Flash and this means it takes way too much time for your your site to load.  I'm busy and I'm not interested in your "clever" intro.  Just take me to the meat of your site.

5. This is corollary to point 4.  Your website is old and by old, I mean built on an outdated template.  This is BAD for your branding.  It is an automatic flag that you are not web savvy.  Unfortunately, this perception may also translate to what you do, i.e. make me feel like your mission/theory of change is out of date.  There is no excuse for using old, cheesy website templates.  Contract with a student at a local university studying web design and development and PAY him/her to build you a new website on Wordpress or another blogging software.   You will update your look; you'll also make it easier for everyone on staff to update your website on the fly.  Blogging software is super easy to use.

6. Your content is out of date.  This is a no-brainer.  Don't serve up news items from 2008 on your homepage, even if your Executive Director was quoted in The New York Times.  Archive them somewhere else on your site.  I want to know what you've been up to lately, as in - this year!

I don't have the heart to show you bad websites.  Besides, you know who you are! :)  So, here are some example of good websites.  Note: These are not brand name charities with tons of money. (Sorry you'll have to stop using lack of money as an excuse for your bad website.)   

Your website is your window to the world.  Care for it.  Make it beautiful, clean, functional, and clear.  You only get one chance to impress!  

Pilgrim Africa - This is a beautiful site.  I'm drawn in by the photos.  Notice that the photos take up almost all of the real estate that is "above the fold."  This is good design.

Architecture for Humanity - This site is really easy to navigate and I love the tone.  Note that the e-newsletter sign-up box is at the top of the page on EVERY page of their site.

Push for Peace Corps - I like the use of BIG fonts on this site.  And, the logo is great.  It helps me visualize the organization's goal, i.e. to get more funding for Peace Corps.

Got any examples of great websites from smaller, less well-known nonprofits?  Please share them in the comments.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Do You Like What You Do Each Day?

This photo is by wageslave.

Do you like what you do each day?  This is the central question in, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. The book, which covers a ride range of Gallup research, delineates the most essential ingredients to "creating a life that's worthwhile, not just for ourselves but for those around us."

Back to the question - do you like what you do each day? According to the authors, only 20% of people can give a resounding "yes" in response.  Yikes!  This is problematic, since being happy at work is the most essential element in overall wellbeing, outranking even, physical and financial wellbeing. 

I guess it makes sense.  We spend SO much time at work.  And, our feelings of job satisfaction or dissatisfaction permeate all other aspects of our lives.

This got me thinking... As nonprofit leaders are we doing all we can to make work satisfying for our employees?  Are we giving direct reports the autonomy they need to get the job done?  Are we ensuring that people have the opportunity to use ALL of their skills EVERY day, i.e. do we have "the right people on the bus" doing the right jobs?  As managers, are we attentive to our employees?  Do we pay attention to people and care about them as individuals vs. treat them as cogs in a wheel?

Also, as nonprofit leaders, are we creating opportunities for people in our communities to realize their ambitions through fulfilling volunteer assignments?  Nonprofits arguably have a unique role to play in terms of creating spaces where people can use their strengths, and discover and engage their passions, regardless of whether or not they get paid.  This is good for our organizations and for the people who serve.

Finally, as charitable organizations are we helping people (namely our donors) to increase their overall wellbeing by giving them an outlet for their altruism.  According to Wellbeing, "spending money on others...appears to be as important to people's happiness as the total amount of money they make."

According to one experiment, "participants who spent money on a gift for someone else or who gave it to charity experienced a significant boost in wellbeing by the end of the day, while people who spent money on themselves did not."  There is a lot of research on this topic.

In short, as institutions and leaders, we have a unique opportunity to help people live more fulfilling lives. This is a great honor! When it comes to the people we serve, we've always knows (or hoped for) this.  But research also shows that we also have an opportunity to make our employees, volunteers and donors happier. 


Friday, May 7, 2010

Register Today for Show Me the Money: Reaching Donors Across Generations

  • Worried about your aging donor file?
  • Interested in attracting new and younger donors to your organization?
  • Wondering how to best segment donors by age to achieve greater fundraising success?
Register today for Show Me The Money: Reaching Donors Across Generations, a joint webinar by Convio and (my company) Care2 on May 25th at 2PM EST.

The webinar will build on the new report of the same name by Convio, Edge Research and Sea Change Strategies.

You'll learn about the differences and similarities among Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Y in their approaches to giving. You'll also hear how experts at Amnesty International USA and AARP/AARP Foundation are using age segmentation to achieve better fundraising and communications results.

Learn more and register now.  It's FREE!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Benchmarks. Don't Leave Home Without Them!

This is a guest post by my frolleague, Catherine Algeri, Senior Account Executive, InfoGROUP Nonprofit.

I spend a good amount of my “free time” time working on the board of a small, local, grassroots nonprofit.  It’s 100% volunteer driven and each board member is recruited for her own area of expertise.  Usually we respect each other’s skills but when it comes to email marketing – the opinions roll-out!  Our last online marketing discussion went a little like this: 

  • “I’m afraid to send another email because people unsubscribed to the last one.”
  • “I think we’re emailing people too much.”
  • “If we don’t update people often enough, they’ll become disengaged!”
  • “Do people even like e-newsletters?” 
Without benchmarks, or a guide to best practices in email marketing and fundraising, it’s tough to chart a smart course.  Luckily, the annual eNonprofit Benchmark Study by M+R Strategic Services and NTEN helps put an end to these drawn-out conversations.

    The 2010 eNonprofit Benchmark Study was released last week and can be downloaded here.  That said; let’s review some key stats from the report and what they mean for your nonprofit.

    Open, Clicks, Unsubscribes and Churn

    1. Annual email file churn, i.e. the rate at which email addresses go bad, was just under 17%.

    What this means for your nonprofit: You have to replace 17% of your email addresses annually!  Make it a part of your plan or your list size will shrink.

    2. There is NO correlation between the number of emails sent and the unsubscribe rate.     

    What this means for your nonprofit: You know that conversation “I’m afraid to send an email because some people unsubscribed to the last one?” You can stop having that.  There’s no evidence to back it up.  Besides, the point of your email list is to communicate with people. Take this finding as a license to keep fear out of your communications planning.

    3. Smaller nonprofits (organizations with 100,000 email addresses or less) have:

    • The highest open rates at 19.80% vs. the average of 14.09%.
    • The highest click through rates at 4.10% vs. the average of 2.55%.
    • The highest unsubscribe rates at 0.41% vs. the average of 0.23%.

    What this means for your nonprofit: If you work for a small nonprofit, like mine, people may opt-out more quickly.  On the other hand, you may have a “more attentive list," which is positive.

    4. The average nonprofit sends 4 email messages, per subscriber, per month.

    What this means for your nonprofit: Don't be afraid to send email! However, the report also segments message volume by type of organization and size and you should be sure to follow the benchmark for your type of organization.  For example small organizations average 2.38 emails per month and health organizations average 2.07.  In the case of my nonprofit, we’ll stick to 2-3 as the sweet spot, for now.

    Email Messaging: What You’re Talking About Impacts Results

    1. Advocacy:  Click-through rate is more critical to your campaign’s success then open rate.

    What this means for your nonprofit: In campaigns with high action rates, click-through rate was seen as the key factor.  Make sure that you focus on testing copy that compels people to click through in addition to worrying about the subject line.

    2. Fundraising: Depending on your mission, your donors are more likely to make monthly or one-time gifts.  Again, be sure to follow the benchmark for your organizational mission.  For example,

    • For Environmental Organizations 95.67% of online donations are one-time gifts.
    • For Health Organizations 39.79% of gifts are event-driven.
    • For International Organizations 25.58% of online donations are monthly gifts.
    • For Rights Organizations the large majority of gifts are one-time only, but 9.32% are monthly gifts.

    What this means for your nonprofit: Be sure that your fundraising asks and tactics match your mission! In our case, our mission is a combination of health and human rights.  According to the study, health organization receive about 40% of their donations from “other” categories like events and walk-a-thons.  My organization used this information to set up a bowl-a-thon; the event rose more than all of our FY 09 monthly revenue and one-time gift revenue combined!

    Are You and Apple or An Orange?

    As mentioned above, organization type impacts your fundraising and advocacy performance.  It's all about context.

    What this means for your org: When setting goals for your organization, use benchmarks with an eye to performance for your mission.  Otherwise, you'll end up patting yourself on the back for a sub-par performance or flogging yourself when you're actually doing well!  

    Benchmarks give us an opportunity to assess our strengths and weaknesses and provide a gauge for what we can expect from our online fundraising and advocacy programs. Most important, they help us chart a course BEFORE we launch a campaign.  Thanks to NTEN and M+R Strategic Services for providing us with the 2010 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study!