Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Want to Grow Your Email List for FREE? Enter AdLead the Way Today!

Acquisition, or finding new donors, volunteers, or advocacy supporters for your cause, is not easy (or inexpensive) but it is something you must do if you want your nonprofit to grow and stay healthy.

There are myriad ways to prospect for new donors, including snail mail, events, banner ads and now MOBILE.

Lucky for you, the folks at Pontiflex launched a new contest, called AdLead the Way to help nonprofits build their email lists via mobile ad campaigns.

Enter today to win 1,000 new email signups for FREE!

Deadline to enter is November 15.

Here is how it works:
  1. Head on over to the contest website.
  2. Submit a mobile signup ad from your group.  See below for examples of signup ads from other nonprofits.  (You can also submit your creative by emailing!)
That's it!

The three nonprofits with the best creative will each win a free mobile ad campaign for 1,000 email signups.  Winners will be announced on November 27!

Good luck!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lose Your Gut! Get Serious About Measurement.

This is not a post about how to lose ten pounds in two weeks.  You'll have to head over to Jillian Michaels to learn more about that.  Instead, it's a post about abandoning your heart and using your head to run your nonprofit.

Yes, I said it.  You have to use your head to run a nonprofit. 

While PASSION and HEART should drive your communications and fundraising, everything you do should also be backed by data and analytics - the HEAD STUFF.  And this means creating a "data-informed" or measurement-based culture.

In their fabulous new book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine put it this way,
"Getting started on the path to becoming a data-informed nonprofit is a matter of having some important internal conversations.  It is not just about having new inspiration about measurement or working with new tools; it means thinking differently about the organization and how it works...Measurement is a formal discipline, governed by rules and processes established by academics and researchers...No matter what your program or campaign - be it an event, a Facebook page, a messaging campaign, or a donor outreach program - there are seven basic steps for doing good measurement and getting valid and actionable results."
They then continue with an illumination of a seven-step measurement process.


I'm tired of hearing that nonprofits are all mission and no measurement.  And I'm frustrated that the sector gets a bad rep because we "don't run like businesses."

But when I speak to nonprofit leaders, I'm often dismayed by the lack of rigor they apply to their programs.
Me: Why did you start this program?
Ans: We got a grant.

Me: What is the goal?
Ans: Oh, we don't really have a goal, we just want to help in the community.

Me: How much does the program cost?
Ans:  It's FREE!  We have volunteers who do all the work.
Me: How do you measure success?
Ans: I'm not sure what you mean.
This is not a rant (well maybe it is) but if we really want to run high-performing organizations that can scale and achieve results, we've simply got to get better at measurement, i.e. defining our goals, audiences, benchmarks, metrics and costs and EVALUATING our success or lack thereof.  We also need to STOP doing activities and programs that don't work!

Measurement helps us get out of our hearts and into our heads.  It can positively transform the way we work.  See A Dozen Reasons that Measurement is Powerful by Kanter and Paine below.

If you're looking for a silver bullet, if you want to improve your results TODAY, begin a culture shift at your nonprofit.  Marry your passion for your work with measurement.  And stop relying on your gut alone to drive decisions.  You should also read Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World.

Then go out and do what you do best with your head and your heart!



A Dozen Reasons that Measurement is Powerful
  1. It gives you feedback so you know you are headed in the right direction (or not!)
  2. It stimulates ideas on what to do next.
  3. It helps you document results, so, for instance, you can show your boss that you're not "just wasting time on Facebook."
  4. It gives you a credible way to report back to funders and stakeholders.
  5. It helps you learn what tools and techniques work best.
  6. It saves you time, because you're not wasting it on efforts that don't get results.
  7. It attracts success by helping you plan for it.  And it tells you when you achieve it.
  8. It helps you raise more money.
  9. It helps you work smarter.
  10. It fuels your passion for your work.
  11. It generates excitement for your mission.
  12. It helps you change the world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Learn How to Tell Your Organization's Story: Register Today for a FREE Webinar

My frolleauges at Care2 are hosting a FREE webinar this Thursday, October 18th at 2:00pm ET featuring Jonah Sachs, CEO of Free Range Studios and author of Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future. (This is one of the best books of 2012!)

If you need help telling your organization's story (and who doesn't?), register now!

In this webinar you will learn:
  • What the story wars are and why you need to join the fray!
  • The 5 deadly sins of marketing and how to avoid them
  • 3 steps for engaging in "empowerment marketing," including identifying your organizational values, telling the truth and being interesting
  • How to create your own Story Strategy Map
Learn more and register today!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Don't Talk Trash, Use Every Communication to Connect and 8 Other Lessons for Becoming a Better Leader Today!

I had the privilege of reviewing Deirdre Maloney's second book - Tough Truths: The Ten Leadership Lessons We Don't Talk About.  (She's a powerhouse!)  You can also read another review of the book on Forbes.

It's a short monograph that you can read on the train to work next week and I hope you will because it's chock full of great (if painful!) advice on how to improve your leadership skills TODAY.

Here are my favorite truths.  Buy the book to read the rest.

Truth 10: Great Leaders Insist on Excellent, Pristine Communication

If you're one of those folks (you know who you are!) who write one word emails with no salutation or close, don't sign your correspondence, are short in meetings, etc. - Stop Now.  Communication must become your strong suit if you are going to become a great leader.  Why?  Because it is your opportunity to CONNECT with others! 

Treat every communication as special.  Say "hello" to the recipient via email, phone or in person.  Ask about a recent trip or vacation.  Say "thank you."  As a leader, you have tons of work to squeeze into a short day.  Still, don't underestimate or squander the "small" interactions.  Instead, use these moments as precious opportunities to connect with others.  It will leave a lasting and positive impression.

Truth 8: Great Leaders Never, Ever Talk Trash

If you're a processor, like me, this may be one of the hardest truths to embody, learn, and PRACTICE.  Still, you must start (or should I say stop) today - don't talk trash!

We all know folks (including ourselves!) who talk about others.  Who bond with others by trashing their colleagues, bosses, board members, etc.  It's a UNIVERSAL but BAD practice (have you seen a reality show lately?) because it makes you/me/us appear untrustworthy and leaks bad energy out in the world.  This is not helpful for anyone.  As Deirdre says,
"Talking trash makes you a trash talker.  If you've done it once, you've done it twice... and you will become known for it.  People won't trust you, won't go one level deeper with you.  Perhaps worst of all, they'll respect you less."  (Ouch!)
Aspire today to be impeccable with your speech.  Learn to be silent.  Count to ten.  Breathe.  Not talking can feel awkward, especially if you're an extrovert, but it can also be a relief to know that you don't have to comment on EVERYONE and EVERYTHING.  Plus, it's a good to pause and reflect before speaking.  It will make you a better communicator (see Truth 10 above), a better role model for your team, and add more positive energy to the world!

Truth 4: Every Single Person, Even the Greatest Leader Out There, is Afraid

Leadership is NOT about getting and doing everything right.  It's about getting better every day.  And we only do this when we stretch our wings and take risks, which is scary.

Don't kid yourself into thinking that some people are fearless.  They're not.  They just act that way.

Be brave, take heart, and follow Deirdre's advice below.
"Pay attention to the great leaders you know.  Know that they are afraid.  Watch how they act anyway.  Be inspired to do the same."
Leadership is a HARD and rewarding art.  While being a leader comes with amazing privileges and opportunities - you can effect more change in the world, you can have a lasting and positive impact in the lives of others, etc.  Leadership is NOT a bed of roses.  And the process of becoming a great leader takes a lot of work!

Thanks to Deirdre for giving it to us straight and helping us to become better every day so that we can, as she says, "do good, well."



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

PASSION: The Secret to Successful Fundraising

My church launched its annual stewardship campaign last week.

This is a time when every member of our congregation is asked to reflect on our time, talent and treasure and determine how we want to give back.  While we're supposed to reflect on the use of all of our resources, stewardship campaigns always turn into fundraising drives, because in the end of the day, churches - like nonprofits - need MONEY to pay for programs, salaries, rent, etc.

Let's not begrudge this fact.  Let's simply become better fundraisers!

So how do we ensure that our stewardship and fundraising campaigns are a success?


Say it after me.  "Fundraising is all about tapping into another person's PASSION for a cause."  It doesn't matter what the cause is - feeding the poor, finding alternative sources of energy, or healing broken hearts.  PASSION is the underpinning of philanthropy.

Thus, a first step for all fundraisers is to LEARN what makes our donors feel great!
  • Why are they excited about our work?  
  • What makes their hearts' sing?   
  • What inspires them to be more generous?
In the for-profit sector, we conduct market research to understand what people want, how they want it, when, and why.

We need similar analyses of donor motivation in the charitable sector.

Money for Good: The U.S. Market for Impact Investments and Charitable Gifts from Individual Donors and Investors by Hope Consulting is a great start.  Check out this excellent report to learn more about what motivates donors and use this information to segment your database and create relevant communications, activities, and events that inspire more giving.

Here's the point: Don't fly blind when it comes to understanding why your donors give.  Instead, ASK about and LISTEN to your donor's concerns and fill your appeals with more PASSION!

Happy Fundraising!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Make Year-End a "Yes!" Instead of a "Yuck!" Answer These 4 Questions in Every Appeal

You already know this but Year-end is THE MOST IMPORTANT time for fundraising.  It can make or break your annual budget. 

According to Blackbaud, 20% of giving happens in December.

According to Network for Good, December giving can be as high as 33%!

How do you ensure that Year-end is a "Yes!" instead of a "Yuck!"  Answer these 4 questions in every appeal.
  • What for?
  • Why me?
  • Why now?
  • Who says?
What for?

It sounds obvious but EVERY appeal you issue (at Year-end and all year long) must describe the purpose of the donation - the more specific the better.  People want to know what their donation will DO in the world and how it will effect change. 

Why me?

People also want to know why they are being solicited and why they should care about making a donation.  This question is not easy to answer because different people have different motivations for giving.  For example, some folks are looking for a tax deduction, especially at Year-end, while others are motivated by altruism.  You need to approach "Why me?" as an empirical question.  Learn about your donors and ask them why they give to some charities vs. others.  Then use this data to tailor your appeals and make your Year-end messaging relevant.

Why now?

By it's very nature, Year-end offers a perfect answer to the question - Why Now? Because Year-end is all about a specific time of year - Giving Season!  Your donors know that it is Year-end.  (They see all the decorations at Target too!)  Still, it's OK to remind them.

Who says?  

In fundraising, the messenger is often more important than the message.  Want to lift response rates?  Give donors examples of who else gives and why.  Donor's Choose does a great job of this.  See below. 

"Social proof" helps donors to feel confident about supporting your charity.  It also helps them feel like they are part of a generous community!



Friday, October 5, 2012

Who Inspires You?

Who inspires you?

Who encourages you to have an open heart, take risks, speak your truth, and keep going...

Inspiration is one of the best qualities in ourselves and others, no?  We need it.  Especially when  working in tough situations and with people who are suffering.

It's HARD to stay positive and enthusiastic and engaged in life.  That is why it is so important to seek out others who make us smile, relax, and REMEMBER that even though life is full of struggle it is also so good!  It's also why it's important to practice inspiring others!

Here are a few of the women who inspire me.  Some I know IRL (in real life).  Some I only FEEL I know because their writing and work has touched my heart.

Who inspires you to get up every day and do the life-giving work that you do?  I look forward to your comments.

Warmest regards,

  • Jackie Coyle, Executive Director of Shepherd's Table - a Silver Spring institution - leads the team to feed 100+ homeless people every night of the year - rain or shine.  Her philanthropic spirit, i.e. her love of humankind comes through every time I see or hear her speak.
  • Sarah Miles, author of Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead and Founder of the Food Pantry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, California, is also a feeder.  Under her leadership, the Food Pantry provides fresh, wholesome and FREE food to over 1,000 people every week.  I love her irony and her practical wisdom.
  • Pemo Chodron, author of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times and many more books and CD's is a Buddhist nun and Director of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia.  I appreciate her wisdom and teaching on how to transform our suffering into "good medicine" by becoming more compassionate toward ourselves and others.
  • Finally, I'm inspired by Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection and researcher and writer on the power of vulnerability.  Her talks on how to live with a WHOLE HEART have touched millions people and remind us that the only way to connect deeply with others is to share all of who we are.  I appreciate her vulnerability!  

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 Steps for Goal-Setting Success

I had a fascinating conversation with a friend last week who runs a very successful company.
"I hate setting goals," he said.

"Why?" I replied.

"If I set a goal for 10% annual growth and we hit 8% I'll be disappointed.  But 8% growth is nothing to sniff at, especially in this economy.  The thing with goals is that they can set you up for failure or success.  And how you set goals is as important as the goals you set."
The conversation got me thinking.

Goal setting is one of the most critical keys to success both personally and professionally.  Any change management book or program from Jenny Craig to Couch to 5K to Finding Your Soul Mate will tell you that having and articulating a concrete goal is critical to success.  Still, my friend is right that goal setting, while critical, is not easy.  And, in fact, if done poorly it can backfire.

How many times have you given up on your personal goals because they were too aggressive?  How many businesses tank because they set and fail to meet unrealistic projections?  It's important to realize that goal setting is both science and art.  Here are my tips for how to set and ACHIEVE your organizational goals!

Step 1: Understand the Past

Every goal setting exercise should begin with an intimate understanding of the past.  What have we done before?  How much can we move the needle?  When we've raised the bar in the past what good and bad happened?  I'm not saying that you have to be wedded to past results or that the past determines your future but you do have to a sense of realistic optimism about what can and cannot be achieved and this comes from having a deep understanding of how the organization has performed in the past and WHY.

Step 2: Involve the People Who Do the Work

In almost every context, the achievement of goals is dependent on many people.  Even a "personal" weight loss program is not a singular endeavor.  For example, in order to lose weight, you need to change your eating habits and exercise more.  This means working with your partner and kids to budget for and buy different foods and make time to get to the gym.

In organizations, goal setting and achievement is even more complex because it involves many people and systems.  This is why it is critical to INVOLVE the people responsible for goal achievement in the goal setting process.

For example, before setting your annual fundraising goals, ask your Database Associate what it will mean to increase the size of your database three-fold.  How will this affect her workload, processes and the timing of Thank You gifts?  Ask your Communications Manager, what it will take to increase traffic to your site and what she needs to do it.  Ask your Major Gifts Officer how many more prospects he can successfully steward and close.

These insights, driven by the people who do the work, will help you accomplish three things.  First, as a leader, you'll gain a greater understanding of the possibilities and challenges inherent in moving the needle.  Second, you'll gain the respect of your team for involving them in the process.  Third, you'll help ensure that your team feels OWNERSHIP for achievement of results.

Step 3: Understand and Budget for Critical Dependencies

In addition to understanding how goal setting affects the people in your organization, you must understand the structural changes that will make your goal a fantasy or reality.  For example, if you want to launch a new online giving program to diversify and increase giving, you may have to purchase technology to enable donation processing and build ongoing relationships with your new donors.  If you want to develop a new event, you'll need to understand expenses for space rental and electronic ticketing.

Step 4: Don't Set it and Forget It

One of the critical mistakes we make when setting goals is setting and then forgetting them.   New professional and personal issues arise and we get distracted.

If you want to achieve your goals, you have to be a good goal setter and you also have to be good at EXECUTING and MONITORING your progress.  Create milestones on your route to the end of the rainbow.  For example, if you want to increase your annual fundraising goal by 10 percent, this means that you'll have to increase your donor base too.

Use these milestones to evaluate progress and be willing to increase or decrease goals based on an audit of your performance.

Remember goals are projections aka guesses.  And stuff happens.  Projects get delayed, people get sick and go on vacation, etc..  As a leader, you have to be willing and able to change course when plans go awry.

Step 5: Plan for Success

Several years ago, I ran a very successful award program to recognize nonprofits making innovative use of technology.  It was so successful that we tripled the number of applicants for the program.  This was GREAT and HARD because I didn't plan for success.  As a result, the night before the summaries were due to the judges, I was up until midnight processing applications. :(

In addition to setting good goals, remember to plan for success.  What will it look like when you double the number of individual donors to your organization?  How will you manage your new giving circle?  These are great problems to have but they are problems nonetheless.

The bottom line is that goal setting is all about change and change is hard and does not happen in a void. Use the steps above to become a better leader and manager and ensure you hit your targets every time!