Monday, July 25, 2011

When in Rome...

My frolleagues (friends and colleagues), Moira Kavanaugh Crosby and Eliza Temeles of the fundraising firm, MKDM, have written a great chapter in a new book called, The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising, published by DirectMarketing IQ.

In Developing the Creative and a Message That Works Across Multiple Channels, they outline 7 tips for multichannel success.

My favorite is Tip #1: What You Say – and How You Say It – Depends on the Channel. 

According to Moira and Eliza, “When in Rome, approach your multichannel messaging and adapt the language and style of the medium.”  This is so important!  NO ONE wants to read a 2 – 4 page direct mail letter via email and NO ONE wants to read a 300-word email as a Tweet. (Actually, it's not even possible!)  Getting multi-channel communications right, definitely means mastering the tone, style and vernacular of each media.

Tip #3: Develop Your Issue First, Before Selecting Channels is also important. 

Too often, I see nonprofits getting excited about channels vs. messaging.  This is like focusing on the furnishing before buying a house!  Per Moira and Eliza, “At its heart, any campaign is about an issue… This means your campaign should focus on an issue that the largest number of your donors, supporters and friends are passionate about.” 

Finally, in Tip #6, Moira and Eliza encourage nonprofits to “Plan a Cohesive Campaign, Not a Series of Individual Efforts."  By doing this, “each channel and communication…adds something new to the conversation, while reiterating the primary message.”

To read the rest of their tips and review 8 real life case studies of nonprofits trying to master multi-channel communication, buy The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising today! 



Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's Your Greatest Purpose?

What is your greatest purpose in life? 

What do you LOVE about your work, employees, employer, clients, donors and colleagues?

What gets your juices flowing?

What gets you up and excited every day?

Conversely, which activities suck you dry?

What makes you want to go home and sleep?

What do you ALWAYS put LAST on your list?

This is my Sunday sermon.

Know your greatest purpose in your professional and personal life. 

It will provide the road map you need and create a laser-like focus for what you SHOULD and SHOULDN'T do.

Don't be seduced by the dailiness of life, and get mired in a million details.  You will lose your way.

Instead, LISTEN for why you are here and seize the opportunity to live your highest calling.



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Be Yourself But Just a Little Bit Better

Today I got the opportunity to talk about fundraising and communications with some great folks at the Bridge Conference.

One of the things I stressed is that BEING HUMAN is SO important in contemporary communications.

People are TIRED of corporate-speak.  We DON'T TRUST and IGNORE unclear, jargon-laden communications.  Instead, we all crave REAL, AUTHENTIC connection in our lives and REAL, AUTHENTIC connection comes from being personal and vulnerable - in short, human.

But what does it mean to be human anyway?

In my book, it means being yourself but just a little bit better.  You know what I mean.  The kinder, gentler, clearer version of You!

Check this list twice before sending outbound communications.

1. Does this sound like me?
2. Is this how I would talk to a friend?
3. Do I believe what I'm writing?

If not, rinse and repeat. 

Every word you utter, every note you sing can lift people up or break them down or worse BORE them to death.  In addition, every time you speak from your heart, you grow a little bit stronger.

Take care in how you communicate.

Warmest regards,


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Study Validates that Multi-Channel Marketing is Key to Nonprofit Success

A new study released today by Convio, called Integrated Multi-Channel Marketing: Where Nonprofit Organizations are Today and Key Success Factors Moving Forward, shows that multi-channel engagement should be the aim of all nonprofits big and small

The study also defines 5 criteria for multi-channel success.  According to Vinay Bhagat, founder and chief strategy officer of Convio,
"Today, every constituent can and should be engaged through multiple channels so that both the organization and the individual get the most out of the relationship.  In doing so, nonprofits can deepen those relationships by better anticipating needs, interests and passions, and providing relevant interactions and opportunities for participation."
We didn't use to believe this. 

In days of old (back in 1998), many predicted that donors would be "single-channel," i.e. if they came in online, they would only give online and if they came in via the mail, they would only give offline.  New research and COMMON SENSE shows this is not true!

As human beings we don't limit ourselves to just one means of communication.  Sure, we have our preferences, but even us old folks (like me) use mail, email, social media, phone, etc.

The challenge for nonprofits is MANAGING, COORDINATING and RESPONDING to all of the inbound and outbound communication whizzing through and around our organizations.  Tracking all of these conversations, so that we can reinforce our brands and offer our donors a seamless and fruitful experience every time they engage with us, is SO important.  Alas, it is no small feat.

Again, from the study,
"While the concept of integrated multi-channel marketing is logical, moving toward an integrated approach is ANYTHING but trivial.  The two factors that tend to have the greatest impact on advancing integrated marketing and communications are (a) an organization's/leadership's commitment to the philosophy and (b) investing in the mechanics (business processes, measurements and software tools) to make it happen.  The absence of these becomes a real barrier to effective integration."
Struggling to move to the next stage of multi-channel marketing?  You may need to start at the top and check out the report.  It offers some great food for thought.



Monday, July 18, 2011

Miss Manners is Coming to Bridge Conference: Will You Be There?

If you're in DC on Thursday, please stop by the 2011 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference.  Miss Manners won't really be there but Katya Andresen, Sarah Durham and I will.  And, we'll make her proud!

Here's a sneak peak at our session on Online Communication Etiquette.
  1. Katya will share new research which shows that customer service should be one of your chief concerns if you want to keep your donors happy. 
  2. I'll be talking about the 6 Social Norms that fuel all online communication, including RECIPROCITY and RESPONSIVENESS.  
  3. Sarah will "bring us home" with some tactical reminders of what TO DO and what NOT TO DO in online communications.
Hope to see you there!  Register now.

Gaylord Convention Center
Thursday, July 21, 2011
2:00 - 3:15pm


Friday, July 15, 2011

Hell Yeah or No

A little Friday inspiration for you from Derek Sivers, founder of CD baby and author of the great manifesto Anything You Want. (It only takes a minute to watch.  Check it out!)



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Getting to Value

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

One woman's trash is another woman's treasure.

Price is what you pay.  Value is what you get. - Warren Buffett

What is Value?  It's an important question.  Whenever you are selling anything, and as a fundraiser you are selling something, the only way to "move your product" is to understand how it is valued in the marketplace.

According to, value is the relative worth, merit, or importance of something.  According to me, it's the importance that an individual assigns to your product, service or experience.

Value is different for different people.  For example, while you may place a high value on a FREE sundae with a cherry on top.  More syrupy, sweet stuff may not hold any allure for me.

Here is the mistake that companies and nonprofits make.  They assign value to the wrong things! 

Technology companies do this all the time.  Developers build cool new features that THEY dig but which have no value to the end user.

Nonprofits highlight programs, services and experiences that have very little interest for donors, members, clients or volunteers.

The trick is to be responsive to your "customers'" needs vs. promoting, selling, marketing, pitching, etc. what YOU think your stakeholders need or what YOU really like.

Getting to value means being curious about your work and OBSERVING how it impacts others.  It also means setting aside your ego and looking at your organization through someone else's eyes.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that you know or can intuit what other people want, dream about, value and desire.  Instead, do the hard work of LISTENING to understand what truly makes them tick.  And, then act on that!



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How do you define success?

How do you define success in your personal life?
  • Is it making a million dollars?
  • Growing a great a kid
  • Eradicating malaria
  • Following through on your commitments to family and friends
  • Reconciling with your ex
How do you define success in your professional life?
  • Is it being a great boss?
  • Becoming CEO
  • Delighting your clients, volunteers and donors
  • Doubling your individual fundraising goals
It goes without saying that knowing how you define success and establishing clear goals for achievement, will help you know where you are going and pave the path to get there.

But it's also true that goals sometimes get in the way of seeing other opportunities as they emerge and responding to the organic changes in your business and life.

How do you define success?  And, how do you stay open to the fact that chaos is the new normal?


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Internal Marketing

Internal marketing is just as important as external marketing.

Never forget that your boss and your boss's boss and your colleagues are also your audience.

Make the same effort to connect with them as you would with a new donor.

1. Determine what's in it for them.
2. Speak to that.
3. Be respectful, responsive and direct.
4. Say "Thank You."



Monday, July 11, 2011

Google Tools for You!

What would we do without Google?

It's hard to imagine a world without this search engine which allows us to find information on ANYTHING.

Just this weekend, I used Google to navigate to the Splash Park, figure out what time it was in Hawaii (I'm time zone challenged) and research scooters.  (Can you tell I'm a mom?)

And yet, Google is MUCH more than a search engine, it's also a great platform for:

1. Collaborating on projects and keeping everyone in your organization organized. - Google Docs
2. Staying abreast of important news and following other thought leaders in your field. - Google News and Reader
3. Starting your new blog. - Blogger
4. Hosting and sharing video. - YouTube
5. Advertising your nonprofit. - Google Ad Words
6. Analyzing the performance of your website so that you can make it work better. - Google Analytics

And, soon it may be a great platform for social networking! - Google+

HubSpot, the company that helps small businesses, including mine, do inbound vs. outbound marketing has put together this very helpful FREE white paper to help you get the most out of Google.  It's called 7 Google Tools to Improve Your Marketing Effectiveness.  You should read it.

To learn more about how Google can help your organization be better, faster and more efficient, check out Google for Nonprofits.



Friday, July 8, 2011

Social Proof in Action: Why I Give

The Nature Conservancy has taken a lesson from the essential marketing playbook - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

In addition to soliciting donations via their website, they're also asking people to share the motivation behind their giving.  This is their way of generating "social proof." 

I first learned about the concept of social proof from my BFF Katya Andresen.  (She's been writing about it since 2007!)

According to this post on her blog, "social proof is the powerful idea that if we think everyone else is acting in a certain way, we’re likely to act that way, too."

Why I Give is a classic example of using things people say about you and your organization (also known as testimonials) to generate more giving.

Again, from Katya, "Quotes from people talking about why they support you are powerful.  Other people are often your best messengers."

In addition to demonstrating social proof, Why I Give is also a great way for The Nature Conservancy to:

1) Engage current donors by soliciting and highlighting their feedback; and
2) Do FREE market research to better understand donor motivations for giving.

What are you doing to show prospects that others are giving and they should join in too?!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

If the Dalai Lama was a Fundraiser

Yesterday, July 6th, was the Dalai Lama's birthday.  This amazing man who has inspired the world with his compassion, humility, strength and humor turned 76.

Of course the Dalai Lama is not a fundraiser. He's a prophet and a spiritual teacher.  To some he may even be God. 

But, if I may be so crass, he also embodies what is best about this crazy profession we call fundraising because he's an advocate for true happiness. 

Not the short-lived happiness that comes from buying new shoes, taking drugs, winning a lottery or eating chocolate cake. 

The happiness that comes from living in the here and now, reconciling with old friends and new and recognizing that we are all human beings with a desire to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives

In my book, good fundraising is about developing this kind of kindness and compassion toward yourself, your clients and your work. 

It's about exercising a desire to make the world a little better off than you found it and inspiring others to join in!

We will never end the pain in the world.  Pain, it seems, is part and parcel of our basic humanity. 

But we can end suffering. 

We can reach for each other.  We can set aside our egos.  We can listen more and talk less. We can give more than we take.

Join me in wishing the Dalai Lama a happy 76th and be kind to yourself today. 

Remember that you are a gift to the universe.  You are loved and cared for and deeply needed.

Warmest regards,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Online Fundraising Open 24 Hours!

Southwest Airlines charges me more to buy a ticket via the phone vs. via their website.

Ann Taylor Loft offers me special discounts ONLY when I shop online.

My bank can't stand sending me monthly statements and is always urging me to manage my account online.

These companies are smart because 1) they know that I "live" online and 2) e-commerce is cheaper than offline commerce.  Thus, by shopping and engaging with them online I'm saving them money!

Here's my question: Is it possible for us to do something similar with nonprofit fundraising?  Can we actively encourage more of our donors to give online?  Are there incentives that we can offer to make online giving irresistible?  Can we penalize donors who give offline vs. online?  (I know.  Sounds crazy.  But has anyone tried it?)

Why? Online fundraising costs less than offline fundraising!  By lowering the cost of fundraising we can increase our Return on Investment.

Please email me at if you know of any organizations that are actively encouraging offline donors to give online.  I'm looking for some good case studies. 



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Want to Reach More People of Color? Maybe You Should be on Twitter.

A report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which tracks trends in Internet usage, shows that young adults, minorities and urbanites are more likely to be on Twitter than other groups.

While only 8% of adults overall use the micro blogging service, this is pretty interesting information for nonprofits who want to be responsive to the changing demographics of the U.S. and are trying to reach more people of color.

Is your nonprofit on Twitter?  What are you using it for?  And, how do you measure your results?



Monday, July 4, 2011

Who Are You?

We’re building a new website at work and we’re having trouble finding our unique corporate VOICE.

According to Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite You Business, “voice is about how you write…but in a larger sense, it’s also about how you express your brand.  It’s about the tone you take in all of your communications and publishing.  It’s about figuring out what’s unique about you and your perspective [my emphasis].”

Our problem is not unusual.  Choosing the right personality or voice for an organization and, by extension, for all of your content is hard work and unfortunately it’s often an afterthought.
In Content Rules, co-authors Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman suggest that the key to finding your voice is figuring out Who You Are.  I couldn’t agree more!

Charity: Water is an example of a nonprofit with a distinctive voice.  (Even their name is unique.)  Check out this image on their homepage, which touts the pleasure of new bathrooms in Bangladesh.  It's clever and clear and immediately gives you an understanding of how much water means to people living in poverty.  From here it's a small step to realizing that a donation to Charity: Water can make a BIG difference in someone’s life.

Big Duck – a communications agency for nonprofits – is another organization that knows who they are, nails their content every time and thus, stands out in a crowded marketplace.  Check out this image from their homepage.  What do cleaning products and dried fruit have to do with nonprofit communications?  Who knows?  But aren't you dying to find out?

According to Content Rules, there are 7 steps for determining your voice and defining your nonprofit's unique personality.  Get ready, set, go!

Be human. Hmmm.  This sounds sort of obvious because how can you NOT be human?  But have you looked at your website lately?  Does it sound like any humans actually work at your organization?  Most websites don't sound human at all!  This equals bad because people don’t connect with organizations, they connect with PEOPLE!  Stop talking and writing in the corporate WE.  Instead, write as if you're writing to a friend.  Seriously, try it.  You might like it! 

Lighten up. This is hard for nonprofits.  We're humor-challenged.  Maybe it’s because the issues we work on, like ending violence against women, halting climate change, and feeding the poor are very serious.  Maybe this makes us averse to using any humor in our content.  We fear that people won't take us seriously.  Worse, they'll think we're making light of a bad situation.  What's so funny about human trafficking anyway?  Here’s the problem: Donors want to feel happy.  That's why they give!   You’ve simply got to find some way to get away from all the gloom and doom or people will see you as a downer and won’t want to be affiliated with you or your work.

Be appropriate for your audience. That said, no one is suggesting that you act like a clown or try to imitate Jon Stewart.  You still have to "speak" so that others can hear you and this means making sure that your content resonates with your core audience(s).  Here's a tip: The best way to know if you're hitting the mark and making sense to others is to ASK.  Do a quick survey of your donors.  Ask them what they think of your materials, your marketing and your brand.

Build on your brand. Speaking of brands, you already have one.  It's your identity in the marketplace.  And, whether you like it or not, people already have an opinion about you.  This "identity" is based on your written word but it's also based on more tangible things like how you treat people, what kind of work you do and your results.  Your VOICE, the tone of all of your communications, should reflect this brand or something will feel off and people won't get you.

Differentiate from the pack of bland.  How many nonprofits are in existence today?  I think Guidestar reports that the number is about 1.5 million.  Yikes!  How in the world are you going to compete for the time and attention of would-be donors, board members and volunteers in such a crowded field?  Answer: BY BEING DIFFERENT - not as a gimmick - but by clearly expressing what makes you, you!

Know who you are taking to and how to talk to them.  In addition to knowing the strengths and challenges of your organization, know who you are trying to reach and what's in it for them.  Your goal is to find the intersection between who you are and who I am and speak to that. See also graph below. :)
Take a stand. Not having a point of view, not taking a stand for SOMETHING will kill your brand faster than anything else.  Don't be wishy-washy.  Stand up for what you believe in.  Say what's on your mind.  Be willing to go out on a limb.  Some people will get pissed off but many won't and at least you'll be in the conversation.



Friday, July 1, 2011

Just Text Me!

This photo, called Text Girl, is from uberculture's Photostream on Flickr.
  • Are nonprofits investing in mobile technology?
  • What is mobile good for – fundraising or engagement or both?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges with this new medium? 
  • Should you invest in SMS/text, the Mobile Web or both?
A new study called, New Directions: Survey Findings on Non-Profit Adoption of Mobile Media and Mobile Giving by Ron Vassallo, CEO of Kaptivate seeks to answer these questions and more.  The study was conducted in collaboration with AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals).

As always, you should read the study yourself, but here are the highlights.
  • Mobile’s adoption continues to grow.
  • Nonprofits are shifting away from SMS/text and are moving toward the Mobile Web.  More on that below.
  • The motivation for developing mobile capacity is now increasingly focused on audience engagement vs. donations.
I was so interested in this study and frankly know so little about mobile marketing for nonprofits that I decided to go straight to the source.  See my interview with Ron Vassallo, author of the study and CEO of Kaptivate, a firm that does research and helps nonprofits develop mobile strategy, below.

Me: Ron, let's start from the beginning.  What's the difference between SMS/text and the Mobile Web?

Ron: SMS is true to its label.  It stands for Short Message Service and allows friends, family, colleagues - anyone - to send text messages between mobile phones.  SMS is everywhere! There are estimates that SMS has 90% market penetration.  It's a super easy and fast way to communicate. 

The Mobile Web is simply a website on your phone.  It allows you to use a browser to look at a particular website that’s been formatted for your smart phone or web-enabled feature-phone.  We estimate that 65% of the market is web-enabled.

While SMS is ubiquitous, there are some problems with it because the business requirements for use of SMS/text for fundraising were defined by the mobile carriers not nonprofits.  Specifically, there are a lot of constraints with text-based fundraising.
  • First, the phone carriers only allow you to solicit $5 - $10 gifts via text.  This is because they don’t want their subscribers to get a bill for $200 and get "sticker shock" and think it's from the carrier vs. a donation.  
  • Second, there is no recurring gift option with text.  
  • Third, to participate in mobile giving via text you have to meet a revenue requirement.  According to the Mobile Giving Foundation, your nonprofit has to have gross revenues of $500K or more. 
  • Finally, and this is probably the biggest issue for nonprofits, if you do text based fundraising, you will receive very limited donor data from the phone carriers. This severely limits your ability to follow up with and cultivate your mobile donors.
The Mobile Web, on the other hand, is a MUCH more attractive option for nonprofits.
  • First, there is no third-party intermediary to contend with.  
  • Second, you can engage constituents on your own terms.  
  • Third, you can ask for any denomination of gift and you can provide your donors with recurring gift options.  
  • Fourth, users are familiar with the process for giving via the Mobile Web.  It's the same as giving online.
I think that in the future we will see a decline in text adoption for nonprofits and a rise in nonprofit adoption of the Mobile Web.

Me: What is the cost to invest in mobile?

Ron: To do SMS/text giving you'll need to invest $13,000 to $25,000.  There are also recurring fees of approximately 1/3 of the initial set up cost.  This covers licensing of short codes and key words, as well as the service fee for the number of messages to be sent.

Mobile websites will run you $5,000 to $30,000 depending on what you are trying to achieve.  There are recurring costs as well, such as maintenance and hosting.

The good news is that increased competition is making it more accessible to develop a mobile site.  I've seen multi-media packages, just for fundraising, that are coming down to $1,000 or less.

Me: Ron, According to New Directions, "over 50% of nonprofits are disappointed with their [mobile giving] fundraising results."  Why is mobile fundraising still such a challenge for most nonprofits?

Ron: I think there are two key reasons.
  • First, they don’t know how to market and promote the channel and awareness tends to lag as a result. American Cancer is beginning to crack the code on this.  They are integrating mobile into other channels and their overall brand strategy.  For example, they use social media to promote mobile engagement and then send a text that says, “Take this action on your phone to make your voice heard or meet us at the event today!" 
  • Second, user adoption is low because we’re still early in the technology adoption cycle. 
That said, mobile is revving up like no other technology before.  According to The Truth About Mobile Donations by Jenifer Snyder in Mobile Marketer
"In 1998 the first year after online donations first became a viable fundraising channel, $350,000 was raised via online donations. Compare that to this number: In 2009, the year after mobile donations were first introduced, more than $1.5 million in funds were raised via text-based giving.

In 1999, after people had been donating funds online for three years, $1.1 million was raised via the online giving channel.  In contrast, in 2010, the third year that donations could be made via mobile phones, a whopping $42 million was raised.

So three years after text-based giving first became available, the mobile donation fundraising channel has already raised more than 30 times as many dollars as the online channel did when it was in its infancy."
Me: In New Directions, you say that, "The motivation for developing mobile capacity is now increasingly focused on audience engagement vs. donations."  What exactly does that mean?  Engagement to what end?

Ron: I'll give you an example.  On June 24th, Stephanie Strom wrote a great article in the New York Times called, Charity Goes Mobile to Appeal to Young.  The nonprofit she profiled - Do Something - targeted lapsed teens with a text message.  Within 9 minutes they reconnected with 20% of the target audience.  That's an outstanding result!  

A lot of political campaigns and advocacy groups are also successfully using text to organize rallies and drive action, etc.  What they are doing is driving a rapid response.  That’s where engagement becomes so powerful.  Your phone is personal, always with you.    

Me: Tell me about it!  I practically SLEEP with my phone!

Ron: That’s what makes it such a powerful tool for engagement.  When you reach people via mobile, you can make your organization more relevant to their lives.

The Humane Society of the United States is another organization that is finally figuring out mobile.  They are providing constituents with tips on pet care.  They don't just go right after donations.  First, they are adding value by sharing good content and then they are asking for gifts. 

Me: As fundraisers, we would call that having a plain old, good cultivation strategy. 

Me: What tips would you give to groups looking to get started with mobile?  

  • First, don’t see mobile as a stand-alone channel.  It has to be integrated into your overall marketing mix.  Ask yourself, "How does mobile fit with our digital strategy?"  We are an increasingly mobile society and this is one way to ensure that your nonprofit/cause stays relevant.  
  • Two, determine if a "mobile play" is aligned with your overall marketing goals.  If not, it may not be a good time for you to invest.
  • Start with the mobile web.  Define a powerful user experience as opposed to a text based campaign and it will deliver the most audience reach for the buck.  With a Mobile Website you'll have a strong foundation for integrating social media and embedding SMS/text and you can still communicate short messages and alerts to your audience.
To learn more about how nonprofits are using mobile to achieve their fundraising, advocacy and programmatic goals, download New Directions: Survey Findings on Non-Profit Adoption of Mobile Media and Mobile Giving today!