Monday, June 20, 2011

Giving Makes a Slight Rebound. Is this the New Normal for Nonprofits?

The highly anticipated GIVING USA 2011: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2010 was released today.  It shows that over $290 billion was given to charity last year. Adjusted for inflation, this is a 2% increase over 2009.

This is mixed news for nonprofits because while giving is up 2% over last year, this gain does not make up for the two years of dramatic declines due to the recession.  According to the study, it appears that donors are still reeling from a sputtering economy and are giving less to charity.

In addition, giving is not up across the board.  Environment and animal welfare organizations actually saw a decrease in giving in 2010.  See chart below.

Of course the question on everyone's mind is, "What's Next?"  Is the downturn over?  Will we get back to pre-recession giving levels soon?  What should we do in the interim when our donors are not giving or able to give?  Is this the "new normal?"

The answer seems to lie in one word - STEWARDSHIP - or "recognizing and thanking donors in a fashion that will cultivate future giving."  Conceptually, good stewardship is such a no-brainer but it's often difficult to put into practice.

What are you doing to stay in touch with donors who are hurting?  How are you staying connected to loyal supporters?  What are your plans for acclimating to, what could be, the "new normal?"


Sunday, June 19, 2011


Tomorrow Giving USA will release it's 2010 statistics for giving in the United States.  Unfortunately, I am not on the blogger outreach list for this study, which means that I'll have to wait along with the rest of you to learn what they have to say. :(

Scoop or no scoop, I've spent this weekend thinking about the state of giving in the U.S.  (No, I don't have a COMPLETELY lame social life.) And, here is what I've come up with.

Giving to charity is counter-cultural.  Well, not always --but usually-- because in our culture we are SOOOO in love with money.  (Hell, Kim Kardashian just got a 20-carat diamond ring from her boyfriend. Imagine how many people that ring can feed!)  To give money away then is counter to the dominant narrative that says that it is VERY important to be wealthy.  Thus, giving is necessarily a deviant act.  It's not normal.  And, it often only happens under very special circumstances.

Giving to charity is complicated.  When we finally do give away our time, skills and/or money, we often expect something in return.  Of course, it depends on the giver, but for many people (including me) giving often comes with strings attached, even if it's just a genuine "Thank You."

Giving to charity can be very rewarding. (I don't want you to think I'm totally depressed.)  There are those moments in life where you experience transcendence - a sense of being bigger, larger, wiser, and stronger than you really are.  Charity can be like this.  You act in spite of yourself because you see a need.  Because you want to help.  These are life changing moment. 

Our job as fundraisers is to create these moments.  To facilitate both the impulse to give and to reward the giving.  To give people a taste of happiness and greatness.

In a culture in love with achievement, success, power, money and prestige, this is no easy task.  GIVING, it seems, is an outsider.  Let us work then to show people the glory of being more than a paycheck.  Let us share the power of reaching for other human beings in spite of ourselves. In touching our humanity. 



Friday, June 17, 2011

Is Facebook a #FAIL for Nonprofits?

 "Nonprofits are increasingly told that they need to be on Facebook, and countless gurus and experts offer them advice for maximizing their Facebook presence to get the most return.  But are nonprofits actually seeing results, or is Facebook just a bandwagon that's not going anywhere?"
This is the introduction to a new study from Idealware, called Using Facebook to Meet Your Mission: Results of a Survey.  If you're wondering how much time and energy you should invest in Facebook and how other nonprofits are and aren't finding success with The Social Network, check it out.

Based on a survey of 505 nonprofits already on Facebook, the study shows that Facebook is NOT a silver bullet but it's not a total "FAIL" either.  Here are some key results.
  • Over 70% of respondents saw the most success in attracting new event attendees.
  • Over 70% saw a significant increase in traffic to their websites because of their Facebook presence.
  • Only 36 percent of respondents had set organizational goals for using Facebook.  Yikes!
  • Just 29% of respondents saw an increase in donations from using Facebook. 

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of Facebook.  The site seems incredibly cluttered to me and I find it very difficult to keep track of the people --let alone the causes-- I care about, via my stream.  On the other hand, I am not an authority on the site.

Here is what I do know.  
  1. Regardless of the tools you use, it's impossible to determine the value of a new channel unless you set goals for success.  Set goals!  Analyze progress!  Rinse and repeat!
  2. There is an Opportunity Cost to using one tool over another.  Choice your tools wisely or you will waste a lot of time and money. 
  3. Facebook is not FREE!  (This is a corollary to the point above.)  Your time may be your most valuable asset and it's worth a lot.  Use it wisely.
Are you communicating, marketing or fundraising on Facebook?  What are your results to date? 



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Multichannel Fundraising: Magic or Myth?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that multichannel fundraising, i.e. enabling your donors to give via postal mail, your website, telemarketing, social media, etc. is the answer to all of your fundraising woes.

But what if you don’t have the budget or staff to focus on eight (or eighteen) different giving channels? 

And, what if you are “firing on all cylinders” but you’re still not seeing magical multichannel results?

We can help!

Join us on Wednesday, June 29 from 3:00 – 4:00ET for Multi-Channel Fundraising: Magic or Myth?

In this webinar, fundraising experts (and my friends!) from Union of Concerned Scientists and Blackbaud will discuss the most significant results of the newly released 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmark Report. This report analyzes data from some of the biggest national nonprofits in the U.S. and includes transactions for over 15 million donors and $1 billion in revenue.

We’ll share the facts and fallacies about online giving.  We’ll also talk about the importance of multichannel fundraising for your nonprofit. Finally, we’ll do our best to answer your questions, including:
  • Online donors?  So what and who cares?
  • How can I leverage online and offline giving for better fundraising results?
  • Where should I invest my limited budget?
This webinar is free but there are limited spaces.  Please register now!


Allison Van Diest, Internet Solutions Architect, Blackbaud

Allison has been a marketing professional for more than a decade. Over the course of her career, she has made the transition from marketing “artist” to marketing “scientist” by uncovering ways to measure the impact of marketing in the organizations serves.  Recently, Allison has been involved in marketing the Blackbaud Internet Solutions division, which provides Internet solutions, marketing strategy and creative assistance to a wide variety of nonprofit customers.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Florida State University and a master’s degree in business from The Citadel.

Karla Capers, Online Director, Union of Concerned Scientists

As the online director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Karla Capers manages the organization’s online outreach, advocacy, fundraising and marketing. She works with program staff to develop effective, creative online advocacy campaigns that support policy goals and build the organization’s base of activists, scientists and donors.  She develops goals and strategies for, and oversees implementation of, the organization’s online marketing, social media, and supporter engagement activities and works with development staff to create and implement annual online fundraising plans and budgets. Karla joined the UCS in 2005.

Prior to her work at UCS, Karla worked for nine years at Boston-based Corporate Accountability International. In her role as creative director, she oversaw the organization’s website, online advocacy and fundraising, print publications, email communications, and film production. 



Monday, June 6, 2011

Want to Improve Your Fundraising Results? Fire on ALL Cylinders!

Last week, Blackbaud released the 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report.  This report analyzes data from 28 organizations (some of the biggest national nonprofits in the U.S.) and includes transactions for over 15 million donors and $1 billion in revenue.

The study confirms much of what we already know (and why you should care) about online donors and online acquisition!  It also highlights the interesting opportunities and challenges posed by multi-channel giving.  Here are some key findings.
  • Online-acquired donors are younger. 
  • Online donors tend to have higher household incomes than mail-acquired donors. 
  • Online-acquired donors tend to give much larger gifts and to give more in total revenue each year than mail-acquired donors. 
  • Online donors become multi-channel donors. According to the study, “Every year, large proportions of online-acquired donors switch from online giving to offline sources — primarily to direct mail. The reverse is not true, however; only a tiny percentage of mail-acquired donors give online in later years.”
  • Finally, and this may be the most important point - Online-acquired donors have much higher lifetime value than traditional mail-acquired donors.  See chart below.
That said there is a catch.  According to the study, it’s challenging to retain donors online, particularly if you don’t have a direct mail program in place.
“Robust direct mail programs drive up the retention and long-term value of new donors acquired online. Without the ability to become multichannel givers by renewing their support via direct mail, this group of donors would be worth far less. Other than monthly recurring giving programs, established direct mail programs are the best method for gaining repeat gifts from online- acquired donors.”
We’ve seen this multi-channel challenge/opportunity with several of our clients at Care2.  Namely, after working with hundreds of nonprofits, we’ve learned that the only way to significantly improve your fundraising success is to “fire on all cylinders” vs. keeping donors in silos.

For example, check out this recent case study we did with Human Rights Campaign, an organization that works for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.  You’ll notice that by employing a multi-channel fundraising approach, which included email, telephone and mail, they were able to significantly increase the lifetime value of Care2 leads to $11 per subscriber!

Don’t have a true multi-channel giving strategy in place?  Get one now.  This may mean enhancing cross-department communication and dealing with database integration issues. 

To learn more and read other observations on this report, download it now and read the posts below.


P.S. Thanks to Marc Rovner at Sea Change Strategies for talking through the implications of this research with me!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Do You Have My Number? has got my number.  Here's a quick story.

On Saturday, I received the email below.

"Jocelyn, We have recommendations for you.  Are you looking for something in our Business & Investing books department?  If so, you might be interested in these items."

Wow! I just finished reading both of these books!  The interesting thing is that I did not purchase them from Amazon.  However, I have shared hyperlinks with two friends and clearly they are recording every move I make in their massive database.

The email continues. 

"Jocelyn, you might also be interested in these titles."

Well, what do you know - they're right!  These books are right up my alley.

So guess what? I purchased both books via my phone. Two minute transaction. Two NEW books coming in the mail.  Done!

Contrast this stellar experience with a communication I received yesterday from a nonprofit.  It included a form letter and an annual report thanking me for being a "strategic supporter" and encouraging me to review the photos and stories enclosed.  No specific "ask."

Here's the problem.

1. I haven't donated any money or time to this group.  Thus, I'm definitely not a "strategic supporter." (What is a strategic supporter anyway?)
2. There was nothing in this communications that benefitted ME!  

"Hey Jocelyn, look at what we accomplished last year."
"Hey Jocelyn, read our stories of impact."
"Hey Jocelyn, look at how much money we raised."
"Hey Jocelyn, meet our new ED."  
3. There is nothing for me to DO with this communication.

My first feeling was disappointment.  Why waste so much money on this mailing?  Then I just got mad.

Now I know that even the most sophisticated and well-endowed nonprofits will never rival Amazon.  Being able to target your communications by INDIVIDUAL is VERY expensive.  That said, a short personal note penned by Executive Director, with a link to the annual report on their site, would have made a bigger impact on me and saved them money to boot!

Also, talking at me vs. to me is SO not compelling.  NOTE: Amazon does not have the corner on customer-centric communications.  Make the choice today to ensure that every communication that leaves your desk makes an effort to build a RELATIONSHIP with someone.  Don't make people feel like bystanders at your main event.

Here are some ideas:
  • Write handwritten notes.
  • Invite donors to a special teleconference with your Board Chair or Executive Director.  Better yet, invite donors to hear directly from a volunteer or someone your organization serves.
  • Send a survey asking your donors how, when and what they want to hear from you and then act on this information.
  • CALL your donors and thank them for their loyalty and support.
Finally, in addition to donating money, give people something to DO with your communications.  Offer some sort of benefit exchange.

Do you have my number?  Do you know what MOVES me and what turns me off? 

Hint: I'm not that complicated.  Collect data on what I read and what I ignore.  Notice when I give and when I don't.  Also, talk to me in a personal way.  Let me know that you value my contributions and how we are making history TOGETHER.  This is the only way to bond me to your nonprofit and encourage me to be more hopeful, generous and engaged.