Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who is Your Favorite Princess?

I have always been really ambivalent about Disney princesses - Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel and Belle. Yuck.  They reinforce the worst stereotypes about women (and men).  
A) That we (women) are passive creatures waiting for the prince to come.  
B) That men have all of the answers and are the answers to our problems. 
I’m also turned off by the fact that none of them look like me.  I’m an African-American woman.  Disney princesses are mostly white.

So, I was really excited last year when my daughter ran in the door and announced, "Mommy, mommy there is a black princess, there's a new black princess.  She's coming out in the movies next week." 

"Really?" I said.  (“It’s about time,” I thought.) "What's her name?"

"The Frog Princess."

"The frog what?"

Typical.  Disney FINALLY gets around to creating a black princess and they name her after a frog?  Ugh! 

My reaction was not unusual.  In fact, when production of The Frog Princess (the name of the movie was later changed to The Princess and the Frog) was announced in 2006, there was a lot of backlash from African-Americans.  

First, the movie title was terrible.  Second, the princess was originally named Maddy, which many felt sounded too much like mammy - an offensive term for a Black nursemaid.  Third, Maddy was a chambermaid.  Really?  Why not just make her a servant!  Finally, many people felt it was an insult to set the film in New Orleans, which had just suffered one of the worst hurricanes in American history and destroyed the lives of many black Americans. (You can’t make this stuff up!)

Thankfully, Disney listened to some of their critics and made several changes to the film.
  • The Frog Princess became The Princess and the Frog. 
  • Maddy became Tiana. 
  • Instead of working as a chambermaid, Tiana got a job as a waitress who aspires to become a restaurateur. (Better.) 
  • It's also interesting to note that Disney hired Oprah Winfrey to be a technical consultant for the film.  Winfrey eventually became the voice of Tiana’s mother, Eudora. 
I tell you this story because (in case you haven't noticed) Disney is one of the most successful marketing companies in the world and even they make big mistakes.  This post highlights the many opportunities and challenges we all face when marketing to new (and unfamiliar) audiences. Regardless of whether you like princesses or not, here are four lessons you can learn from The Princess and the Frog.
  1. If you want to reach new audiences you have to tell stories that resonate with and feature the people you are trying to reach.  Don’t believe me?  Test it.  Seriously, "like attracts like."  
  2. If you want to be taken seriously be interested in my issues and me. Your goal as a marketer is to get people to know, like and trust you.  This takes time and the right intention. 
  3. Connecting with new audiences is hard and you may need a coach to help get you there.  (If you can't afford Oprah Winfrey find other folks in your network who are also a part of the community you would like to join.)  Bring in these "translators" before your product or service or campaign is fully baked.  Let your new audiences guide development from the beginning of any project. 
  4. Be responsive to criticism.  You can't achieve consensus on every decision but pick your battles and know which boundaries you can cross and which to respect.  If you want people to trust you, you have to respect their concerns, even if it means pushing back your "launch date." 
  5. There is money to be made in marketing to new audiences and telling new stories.  Why else would Disney do it?  (The Princess and the Frog grossed $262 million dollars!) If you do it right, you can achieve great success. 
Do you have experience marketing to new audiences or joining new communities?  What has and hasn't worked for you?


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Much Money Should You Be Raising Online?

One of the key questions, I get from nonprofits is, "How much money should we be raising online?"  It’s a good question and hard to answer, especially if your online fundraising program is new and you have little data.  Still you don't need a crystal ball to steer you in the right direction. Here is a resource that can help.

Today, Convio released Convio Online Marketing Benchmark Index Study. This annual report analyzes the online fundraising performance of approximately 600 nonprofits that used the Convio platform in 2010.  A key strength of this study is that it provides aggregate benchmarks for fundraising performance and benchmarks for specific industry segments or verticals, such as Environment and Wildlife and Animal Welfare.  The study also provides data for organizations based on size of email file.  In short, Convio has sliced and diced the data to make it easier for leaders (like you!) to find the appropriate benchmark for your online programs.

Key Findings:
  1. Online is the fastest growing fundraising channel for nonprofits!  In 2010, Convio clients raised $1.3 billion online - an increase of 40% over 2009.
  2. Online giving is growing fastest for small organizations.  This is an interesting finding.  According to the report, organizations with less than 10,000 email addresses grew online giving by 26% vs. a median growth rate of 20% for all nonprofits.
  3. The median donation across all verticals increased from $83.44 to $91.94 in 2010.
  4. Email files continue to grow and email continues to be the key driver of online fundraising for nonprofits. The median total email file grew 22% to 48,700 constituents.
  5. Advocacy supports fundraising. In 2010, 6.42% of advocates were also donors.  This compares to 5.97% in 2009.
  6. Web traffic grew slightly but website to email sign-up conversions decreased to 2%.  We have to do something about these LOW conversion rates.
  7. Email open rates for fundraising appeals fell slightly to 17.67% from 18.55% in 2009.
  8. Email click through rates for fundraising appeals rose slightly to 1.76% from 1.72% in 2009.
  9. Response rates for fundraising appeals remained steady at .16%.  This means that if you send an email to 10,000 people 16 will donate.  Yikes!
OK, what do all these numbers mean to you?

Good grief, if you’re not online.  Get online today!   This means building a website first not launching a fan page on Facebook.  Note: Online fundraising grew most for the smallest organizations (26%).  Clearly the online channel is an important fundraising tool for ALL nonprofits.

Grow your email file organically.  Do this by optimizing your website so that you can easily convert website browsers into registered users of your site.  Tactics such as Search Engine Optimization and use of social media can drive more traffic to your site.  Also, be sure to offer compelling content about your cause so that prospective donors SEE THE VALUE in giving you their email address and engaging with you online.  With website to email file conversion rates at 2%, this is clearly an area for growth. 

Go beyond organic growth and invest in paid acquisition to build your email file.  Consider tactics like Google Ad Words, Facebook Ads, and Lead-Acquisition through companies like mine - Care2.  And, remember to track the performance of your new “leads” so that you can determine the cost and value of different tactics and optimize your program accordingly.

Don’t neglect your file.  Use segmentation strategies to ensure that you know what content donors and prospective donors want and respond in kind.  For example, if a new prospect joins your file via a Google ads word campaign to “Save the Turtles,” continue to send this prospect additional content about your turtle-recovery program before introducing them to other aspects of your mission.

Invest in online acquisition.  As mentioned above, managing your online program will require you to deal with email churn.  Consider replacing hard bounces by doing an email update, i.e. working with a third-party vendor who can match your file and find new email addresses for your constituents.  In addition, budget for ongoing acquisition.  If you don’t take care of and continue to grow your email file you will significantly lower your chances of raising more money year over year.

Last, but certainly not least, focus on creating compelling content.  I know you’re tired of hearing it but content is QUEEN!  Without smart, creative, clear and compelling content you’ll never be able to attract, retain or convert your donors online or offline.

To find out how your online fundraising program compares to the benchmarks, download the full study today.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Time is Your Biggest Competitor

I listened to a fascinating interview today on NPR with Tina Brown, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Beast/Newsweek.

The interviewer asked Ms. Brown if Time magazine was still Newsweek's biggest competitor.  She replied, "our biggest competitor is not Time magazine it's people's time." Here is a quote from the transcript of the interview.
Brown says her goal for Newsweek isn't for it to beat its longtime rival Time magazine, but instead to compete with the many media outlets that vie for readers' attention.

The goal, she says, is to be "a must-read."

"That has always been true, actually, of everything I've edited," Brown says. "I've always felt it's not about this particular publication 'scooping' us.'

"It's really about, 'How do I make people want to pick this up at all?'"
Ms. Brown's pronouncement has big implications for nonprofits, especially the ones with the smallest budgets.

  • How do you ensure that your website, annual report, snail mail and emails are a "must-read?"
  • How do you actively compete for the attention of all of your prospective donors, volunteers, members and advocacy supporters?
  • How do you WOW your donors and capture their time and interest on a consistent basis?  
These are very difficult question to answer in our time-starved, always-on culture. Still, they must be addressed. 

Face it.  People have VERY LITTLE time or attention for you and the work you do.  Thus, you must be ruthlessly focused on giving them GREAT REASONS to engage again and again.

Here are four tips for competing against time. 

1. Know thy audience!  This is a no-brainer, but unless you know your donors, volunteers, members, etc. intimately you'll never know how to COMMUNICATE with them.  What do they need/want/desire?  Why do they work with you?

2. Enhance your creative.  Start by de-cluttering your website.  Make it really EASY for people who don't know anything about you to GET IT and FAST.  When it comes to writing copy, spend some time developing really interesting prose and perfecting your subject lines.  Keep your online copy short and get to the point.  Don't be afraid of humor. 

3. Ask why?  Have a dialog vs. a monologue (Boo!) with your best fans and members.  Invite them to comment (heck, even drive) your work.  And, when they do respond immediately!

4. Be first.  Follow the news cycle and stay abreast of political discourse and popular culture.  Take advantage of the times when your issue(s) are in the news by making your own news, quickly.  Do not let your "golden moments" get hijacked by a laborious editorial and content approval process.

People don't have time to waste and neither do you.  Time is your biggest competitor.  Can you beat it?


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more!"

Do you ever feel like the world is changing so quickly that it's hard to keep up?  Like you are in an alien land, with strange people who speak a different language?

This is an experience I have REGULARLY with my lovely, eight-year old daughter.  Like Dorothy, she amazes and confuses me!  Her nighttime narratives about Selena Gomez, Miley Cirus, and (yikes!) Lady Gaga make my head spin.  I don't know or want to know about any of her icons.  So I nod my head, ask questions and do my best to pretend that I can relate. 

The world is changing for your nonprofit too.  Disruptive technologies, like social networking, email and mobile, have permanently reshaped the landscape of fundraising, marketing and communication.  Broadcast marketing is losing it's power and soul.  Our donors are not even our donors.  They are individual people with desires, habits and dreams of their own.  It's safe to say that we are experiencing a profound paradigm shift. 

Let's be honest.  This new world is both exhilarating and frustrating.  It means that there are new means for doing our work and for connecting with people in fascinating and rewarding ways.  But it also means that WE ARE NOT IN CHARGE (if we every were).

Anyone can become a publisher.
Anyone can become a fundraiser.
Anyone can start a movement. 

What are you waiting for?

We don't need institutions to tell us what to do, what to think and where to turn.  With a little moxie and education and some technical chops, we can use the Internet (and all of our traditional ways of communicating) to devise a different way of working together and changing the world.  

This is what I want to say to you today.

Make the most of this REVOLUTION.  Don't hide or stick your head in the sand.  Don't say that you can't learn to use new tools.  That you're not tech-savvy.  Don't sit and wait.

We are living in a remarkable time.  Embrace the CHANGES that you face.  Acknowledge your fear and then MOVE through it.  The world is waiting for YOU!



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Write a Poem and Win a Grant?

The CTK Foundation is launching a great award today called the Heart & Soul grant program.  To win, you have to channel your creativity and write an original four- to eight-line poem or stanza that reflects the work or mission of your nonprofit. 

I like this exercise.  It's a great opportunity to step back and reflect on your mission. It also forces you to quickly, cleverly and concisely capture the essence of what you do.

No poets on staff? Ask your supporters to write a poem for you.

What you can win

The winning nonprofits will receive one of the following awards:
  • The 1st place winner will receive $10,000 (US) or it's value in foreign currency and will have their submission turned into a song to be used in public education or awareness. The song will be written and recorded by songwriter Bill Dillon -- who was recently exonerated after 27 years in prison thanks to Innocence Project of Florida -- and produced by Jim Tullio of Butcher Boy Studios. 
  • The 2nd place award is a cash grant of $5,000 (US) or it's value in foreign currency
  • 2 steel-stringed guitars, signed by all members of Los Lonely Boys (which you can auction for fundraising) 
  • Up to 20 technology grants, valued at $10,000, to nonprofits that indicate an interest
Nonprofits in the United States, Canada and the UK are eligible to apply.

Deadline is March 28, 2011 and winners will be notified on April 10, 2011.

Visit www.communitytech.net to apply today.