Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Will You Use Mobile in 2012?

Are you going to integrate mobile into your fundraising and marketing strategy for 2012?  If so, how?

My frolleagues at Smart Online want to know.

Take this 4-question survey and I'll share the results.



Monday, August 29, 2011


We've been without power for approximately 36 hours, 15 minutes, and 2 seconds.  But who's counting?

In case you are wondering, these are the things that I miss most.

The microwave.
The coffee-maker.
The Internet!
My flat iron.
Did I mention light?

Over the past almost two days, it's been interesting and enlightening to reflect on what I LOVE about electricity.  (I didn't know that I LOVED electricity.)  As you can tell, most of what I miss is pretty innocuous stuff.  But, my higher level beef about this powerlessness is that it makes me feel OUT of CONTROL.  

I have to THINK about the smallest tasks.  I have to rejigger my brain to build new habits.  For example, I have to pee, put my contact lens in, brush my teeth and wash my face in the dark! :(

What does this all have to do with fundraising and marketing you ask?


According to The She Spot: Why Women are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them, women in particular crave a feeling of being in CONTROL.

And it's easy to understand why.  We're so busy!  We have kids to care for, jobs to do, meals to make, and laundry to fold and only 24 hours in each day. 

If you want us to DO MORE for your nonprofit and connect with you, you'd better make it EASY and you'd better let us do it on OUR TERMS!

One of the gifts that you can give your donors is the feeling of having more POWER and CONTROL in their lives.  Here are some suggestions for how to do it.
  • Provide lots of ways for us to get involved with your cause.  Think in person and online volunteer opportunities.
  • Hold meetings in the evenings and on weekends.  Provide child care or create family-friendly events!
  • Offer options for how and when to give.  
  • Offer options for email frequency, i.e. when and how much to hear from you.
  • ASK your donors why they give and try to be responsive to their motivations
  • Make engagement a 2-for-1.  For example, if we can donate time AND hang out with our friends this saves time and allows us to accomplish two tasks at once!
As I've recently learned, POWER is a PRIVILEGE.  (Thanks, Irene!)  Find ways to give your donors the power and control that they crave.  This will bond them to you.



Do You Miss Me?

My daughter’s martial arts school has mastered the art of customer service. 

It’s not one big thing that they do well.  It’s lots of little actions, which make us feel like her school is more of a community than a business and keep us coming back and PAYING more!

Here is an example of Black Belt Martial Arts Center’s customer service in practice.  

When Talli misses class for a week, we often receive a simple communication, such as the email above or a handwritten postcard signed by one of her instructors to let us know that they miss us! 

These communications serve three purposes.  1) They remind us that we actually missed class!  (Sometimes I get so scattered that I can’t even remember if we made it to class last Wednesday!)  2) They serve as mini-guilt trips (small doses of guilt can be motivating) to make sure that we are fulfilling our obligations as parents to ensure that her training stays on schedule.  3) They make my husband and I feel like we’re still getting our money’s worth even though Talli isn’t training.  Wow!

In sales, we would call this an effective touch point – a quick but deliberate communication – to stay top of mind.

It’s also good business.

Remember: Good customer service is not an end in itself.  (Although, it sure does make work more fun!) It’s actually a critical business function, which if executed correctly will increase the strength and the financial VALUE of your relationships with donors.

What can you do to improve customer service at your nonprofit?  In other words, how can you delight your current donors and make sure that they stay happy and keep investing in your work?

As we head into year-end fundraising season, try improving your customer service. 

Answer the phone CHEERFULLY, send a handwritten note to your donors, create a homemade video of your staff, send a fun, light and kind email focused on ME! 

You may be surprised to find that the small stuff goes a LONG way to strengthening your relationships with your donors and increasing their loyalty to you.



Friday, August 26, 2011

Put Your Cause in the Eye of the Storm

You cannot prepare for a disaster. 

Sure, you can buy bottled water and batteries for your flashlight.  You can even lock up your valuables and hide under the covers for a while.  But in the last instance, you can't guard against disease, divorce, or death. 

It's depressing but true. 

If we're honest, there are some events that catch us ALL by surprise. 

- 9/11
- Earthquakes in New England
- The debt crisis
- Challenges to climate science
- Threats to women's rights

Most disasters are a SURPRISE.  It's only in retrospect that we create coherent narratives for their prediction.

What's a nonprofit to do?

Be aware and be ready.  

Read the news and follow current events so that when a hurricane strikes, an earthquake hits or Congress decides to defund your mandate you are prepared to STRIKE BACK. 


During disasters we are LISTENING.  We're finally taking time out of our busy, distracted and distracting lives to SEE what will happen next.

Too many nonprofits squander these public awareness opportunities for fear of appearing self-serving. 


Instead USE THE NEWS CYCLE to your advantage.  This is your moment.

Tell your story about inadequate funding for emergencies, about the woman who depends on your clinic for reproductive health care, about the need for better housing for military families.

Disasters are NOT a time to be silent.  On the contrary, disasters are a time to tell the truth about the way that the world is not working for all of us.

Put your cause in the eye of the storm.  We're WAITING.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Can You Merchandise Your Mission?

I mentioned on Friday that one of the four trends in fundraising is to learn how to merchandise your mission.

I want to say more about this topic because I think it's an important trend and one that more nonprofits should master.

First, let's get our definitions straight.  According to Wikipedia, "merchandising refers to the variety of products available for sale and the display of those products in such a way that it stimulates interest and entices customers to make a purchase."  

If you've shopped at GAP and Macy's (sorry Macy's) then you know the power of good merchandising.  Good lighting, clear signage, and the ability to EASILY understand what is on sale and what's not is really important to the shopping experience.  Merchandising can make or break a sale.

Traditionally, charities have been wary of "merchandising" for two reasons.  First, we don't usually think of ourselves as being in the business of sales (although in many ways we are).  Second, it's often hard to translate what we do into a discrete product or service.  Third, we're (understandably) loath to encourage more restricted giving.

However, more and more nonprofits are getting into the act because according to the online consulting firm, HJC New Media, good merchandising, also known as symbolic giving, can bring new and younger donors into the fold!

So how do you do it?

First, think about the work that you do and see if you can turn it into a discrete product or service.  For example, if you work on family planning, can you offer your donors a chance to purchase condoms as a gift?  Or, if you work for a homeless shelter can you offer donors a chance to purchase a turkey dinner for a family of four?

Second, benchmark others.  Oxfam Unwrapped (see above) is great at merchandising their work and offering symbolic giving opportunities.  Notice that in addition to making a general donation to help lift people out of poverty, you can also give to Oxfam by buying a pack of seeds, art supplies and soap.  Heck you can even purchase poop!

Global Giving is another charity that has mastered the art of merchandising.  They offer myriad giving options for donors.  See below for an example of a HeroRat gift.

One caveat: If you do decide to offer specific gifts to your donors be sure to be VERY CLEAR about the fact that they aren't really making restricted gifts.

I hate to burst your bubble but when you buy a heifer from Heifer International, they are not really shipping a brown cow across the globe.

Adopt clear language like that used below to ensure that you are transparent with donors about where their gifts go.

"As a donor, you are given the opportunity to designate gifts to specific country programs or for specific animals. Gifts are deposited into various animal accounts, such as "llama/alpaca," "tree seedlings" or "bees." We have different accounts for every type of Heifer International animal. When any animal fund becomes depleted and there is still a need, monies from any other animal fund can be used where needed most. Meeting the needs of hungry families always comes first, but we do our best to accommodate your wishes, too.

Every gift to Heifer International represents a gift to our total mission of purchasing and transporting food and income-producing animals, as well as providing intensive training in animal husbandry; environmentally sound, sustainable farming; community development and global education. Again, gifts designated for a particular project or animal are used as requested until that need is fully met. Any remaining money is put to use where it is needed most."
Again, finding discrete ways to merchandise your mission may bring new donors into the fold.  People are looking for fun and imaginative ways to give.  In addition, they want to know where their funds go.  Help them help you by enabling them to to give in new and unique ways!



P.S. Thanks to Mazarine of Wild Woman Fundraising for encouraging me to write more on this topic.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do You Have a Personal Board of Directors?

Do you have a personal board of directors?

Do you have 5 - 10 friends and/or colleagues that you can rely on to tell you the TRUTH about how you're doing in your work and personal life?

We've all heard of the concept of mentoring but I came across the idea of a having a personal board of directors while reading Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton this weekend.

I like the idea of have a posse that you can go to for frank advice about your career, leadership style, work challenges and opportunities, etc.  What a gift to have a few people who you can talk to about ANYTHING!

Do a quick audit of your current colleagues and friends and consider asking a few folks to engage in a more formal relationship with you.  Then, start checking in with these folks quarterly or twice a year to share updates on your life and get feedback.  This will enhance your leadership skills and give you a great sounding board for what's next.


Friday, August 12, 2011

4 Trends That are Changing the Face of Philanthropy

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of giving the keynote presentation at the 2011 AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) NC Philanthropy Conference.

The main goal of my presentation, which you can see above, was to encourage this dynamic group of fundraisers to start thinking about ways to UNLEASH the GENEROSITY of new donors vs. engaging in a "fundraising smack down" with other nonprofits.

There are 4 trends in particular that I highlighted, which will enable us to ENLARGE the donor pie.  They are:
  • Embracing the changing demographics of our country.  In particular, finding ways to engage more people of color, women and young people in philanthropy.
  • Using technology - STRATEGICALLY - to achieve and exceed our fundraising goals. 
  • Embracing technology-driven Social Giving or Peer-to-Peer Giving as a new way to raise funds and friends online.
  • Finding ways to personalize giving by MERCHANDISING your cause.
Unfortunately, you cannot read the full transcript of my presentation, but do take a look at the "Questions for You" which are sprinkled throughout.  I hope they spur your thinking about how to take your fundraising program to the next level while having more fun!



Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Future of Fundraising

Here is my new column in Fundraising Success. 

It's a bold move to try to predict the future. Five years ago, who would have guessed that Facebook would have more than 600 million members or that we'd be talking to each other in 140-character tweets — LOL, BTW, TTYL? 

That said, I'm going out on a limb to predict the future of fundraising. Here's my take on four key trends that will dramatically change our field in 31 years. 

In 2042, fundraising will be profoundly multichannel 
Giving through one channel will become the anomaly vs. the norm as media continue to proliferate and millennials mature. Whether it's texting a donation, giving through a mobile website, responding to an e-mail, writing a check, organizing and giving via an event on Facebook, tweeting to donate, rallying gifts from your tribe on social fundraising sites, giving through the phone or because of a DRTV appeal, the idea of the single-channel donor will be dead. Smart nonprofits will learn the fine art of communicating via multiple channels and meet donors where they live. This will require a focus on analytics to track donor engagement. It also will require nonprofits to reorganize their fundraising departments. 

In 2042, fundraising will be profoundly multi-ethnic
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2042 may be the year that the U.S. becomes a "majority-minority" country, i.e., people of color will outnumber non-Hispanic whites. I predict that this demographic reality will set the stage for a renaissance in fundraising.

Signs already point to the increasing wealth of minorities. For example, according to the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency and the Census Bureau, "the number of African-American-owned firms in the United States increased by 60.5 percent between 2002 and 2007 to 1.9 million firms. African-American-owned businesses also drove job creation over the five-year period, with employment growing 22 percent, exceeding that of non-minority-owned businesses." 

There's also the issue of remittances, or the flow of money from people of color in the U.S. to people in their home countries. According to the World Bank, remittances to developing countries were $250 billion in 2006! This compares to just more than $300 billion in giving to all charities in 2010. Imagine how remittances will grow and how nonprofits and causes will be affected if they can tap into these dollars. Smart nonprofits will get to know these new audiences and become more culturally competent. They will also hire diverse leadership and welcome diverse board members.

In 2042, fundraising will be decentralized
In 31 years, I predict, the traditional fundraising department will be less a driver of donations and more a facilitator of philanthropic impulses. The growth of social fundraising sites like Crowdrise, Jumo and Razoo and the massive sums of money raised from peer-to-peer fundraising events like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure are indicators that people don't need organizations to raise money. In the future, we will see more friends, families and colleagues coming together at will to pool resources and raise funds on their own.

Of course, this behavior is not new. Peer-to-peer fundraising has been practiced forever. However, its growth will be encouraged by new technologies. Smart nonprofits will leverage the charitable impulses of these donor-fundraisers by getting out of their way instead of trying to control the passions of these networked individuals. They will also develop killer strategies for cultivating donors who are not formally affiliated with their organizations. 

In 2042, fundraising will be even more hampered by restricted giving 
This is not a welcome trend, but I'm afraid that restricted giving will become even more prevalent in years to come as our hyper-local, hyper-individualized consumer culture bleeds into our philanthropy. If I can customize the color and style of my new Nikes, why can't I customize my philanthropy — i.e., only give to specific individuals, locations and projects that I like? Rather than lament this reality, smart nonprofits will communicate within the worldview that says, "I am unique." They will find creative ways to make fundraising feel special, fulfilling and deeply personal. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What Makes People Happy?

Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame, has shared some great information about the psychology of happiness in his newish book - Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose.  You should read it!

This online shoe store turned consumer goods marketplace, which "got married" to Amazon in 2009, has been lauded for it's exceptional customer service and employee relations programs.

While there are MANY differences between selling Nike sneakers and selling social change, a lot of Tony's ideas about how to create high-performing and HAPPY teams are applicable to nonprofits. 

Here are the highlights.  Steal away!

According to Tony, people need 4 things to be happy.

1. Control - People need to have a sense of authority over their work.  What this means for you. Set clear guidelines for what needs to get done, why and when and then get out of the way!

2. Progress - People need to feel like they are moving the needle.  What this means for you.  Do quarterly instead of annual reviews, be curious about and responsive to your employee's dreams.

3. Connectedness - According to Tony, "studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive and that the number of good friends an employee has at work is correlated with how engaged that employee is." What this means for you. In addition, to ensuring that new hires have the right skills for the job, ensure that they are the right culture fit!  Also, create opportunities for your employees to connect inside and outside of work. 

4. Meaning - People are motivated to create MEANING in the world.  You already know this, but once their basic needs are met, "humans are more motivated by other non-materialistic needs such as social status, achievement, and creativity."  What this means for you.  Keep the VISION of your organization front and center for you and everyone else.  While achieving fundraising goals, recruiting new supporters and getting covered in The Times is great, in the end of the day, most of us are motivated by making REAL CHANGE in the world. Don't forget to make meaning!



Monday, August 1, 2011

Should Nonprofits Say "Goodbye" to Government Funding?

The intense politicking and drama in Washington, DC over the past few weeks has left many seriously disturbed by the governing abilities of our Congress.  It's also left many wondering if it is truly the end of "The Empire."

While I'm thankful that a deal has been made, we will not default on our debts, and my elderly neighbors WILL receive their Social Security checks this month, I'm very worried about living in a society where, according to our President, "we will now have the lowest level of domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was President."

I am not an Economist, but I am CERTAIN that one trillion dollars in spending cuts coupled with NO increases in taxes will not bode well for nonprofits.  This ax will fall particularly hard on those charitable organizations that rely on government funding for a significant chunk of their budgets.

There are no easy answers, but it is clear to me that ALL nonprofits must do everything in their power to develop INDIVIDUAL giving programs NOW!  

An individual giving program will allow you to:

1) Continue to provide vital services to the communities you serve.
2) Build your base of grassroots support, if you decide to engage in political advocacy.
2) Become more empowered financially and less reliant on government support over time.

These are dark days ahead for nonprofits. 

What are you doing to say "goodbye" to government funding?