Imagine this. You’ve had a bad day at work. For months, you’ve been trying to persuade everyone to recycle. No one is complying. In frustration, you send out a mass email. “Only 5% of staff is putting paper in the recycling bins. We need to do better,” you say.Bad move.Why? When we are deciding whether to do something, we typically look to see what others are doing (“social proof”). As Robert Cialdini has thoroughly documented, we’re compliant creatures. If we see everyone else is ignoring the recycling bins, we’ll ignore them too.If you lament that no one is listening, no one will listen. By emphasizing inaction, you discourage the very behaviors you’re seeking.If you want action, make people feel they are are part of something positive: “We’re aiming for 100% of paper recycled by Friday – and we’re on our way there.”If you’re at a nonprofit that’s attracted hundreds of donations when you wanted thousands, don’t say, “Fewer people have supported our cause this year. So many kids are going without lunch. We really need your help.”Say: “Your donation will provide a school lunch to Jason every day this year. Join the hundreds of donors supporting kids like him.”Here are three tips for turning your frustration over what isn’t working into a message that compels action – instead of more inaction.1. The number one thing you can do to overcome resistance is to celebrate and publicize the people who are taking action. It will help inspire the ones who aren’t.2. If you don’t have enough people to highlight, try getting just one – preferably a person who people respect (or who has authority). Ask that person to explain why he or she is taking action. Maybe you’re not the best messenger and that person would be better.3. Last, if you can’t succeed on those fronts, try to convert just regular one person. Then ask that person to explain why they changed their mind. Converted skeptics are the most motivating of any messenger for the people who have failed to act. The people who aren’t on your side are more likely to relate to someone who once felt like them.Bottom line? Accentuate the positive if you want a positive reaction.
One of the worst things we can do when making decisions is to frame them too narrowly. This can lead us to the wrong thought process – and false choices.As Dan Heath puts it in his new book, “The first villain of decision making, narrow framing, is the tendency to define our choices too narrowly, to see them in binary terms. We ask, ‘Should I break up with my partner or not?’ instead of ‘What are the ways I could make this relationship better?’ We ask ourselves, ‘Should I buy a new car or not?’ instead of ‘What’s the best way I could spend some money to make my family better off?’”Or – to put this in nonprofit terms – we ask, “Should we have an event or not? Should we blog or not? Should we get rid of that board member or not?”Dan’s new book Decisive is all about this kind of problem. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work provides practical ways to beat narrow framing and other villains of decision making. Here are two of his tips (and I quote):1. Consider opportunity cost. If you are considering an investment of time or money, ask yourself, “What is the next best way I could spend this time/money?” If you can’t come up with any other combination that seems enticing, you should feel more confident that you’re making the right investment. 2. Multitrack your options. Always try to think AND not OR. Can you avoid choosing among your options and try several at once? For instance, if you’re deciding whether to invest time in Spanish lessons or ballroom dancing classes, do both for a while until one of them “wins.” Or, rather than hire one employee out of three candidates, could you give all three a 2-week consulting project so that you can compare their work on a real-world assignment?For more tips, join a free Network for Good webinar with Dan today at 1 pm Eastern. Register here.PS for fun, here is one of Dan’s great teaching videos on giving better presentations. It draws on his book, Made to Stick.
We know it’s hard to tackle the never ending list of tasks associated with building an online presence. Lucky for nonprofits, pro bono professionals are ready to help boost your online image via social media, online fundraising, email marketing, and SEO Because of organizations like the Taproot Foundation and Catchafire it’s much easier to find pro bono consultants who are willing to provide their talents at no charge to a nonprofit like yours.If pro bono is new to you, projects that are compartmentalized—photography, newsletter design, and copyediting—are great places to start. Projects like designing an entire website or creating a communication strategy are more complex and best approached when you are prepared to invest the time and staff resources to work with a pro bono consultant over a longer period of time. Although these projects are more advanced, they often result in long-lasting relationships with your consultants and can create invested champions for your cause.To start planning how you can use pro bono to maximize your online presence, download our chart to assess what pro bono projects your nonprofit is ready for.Once you’ve identified your projects, check out how you can secure pro bono help at the Taproot Foundation’s website.
I’m a huge fan of case studies. They’re an incredible tool to showcase your nonprofit’s work, demonstrate social proof, and gain more supporters. Jay Baer’s Youtility explains the power of case studies in greater detail, but here are a few ways you can use this approach to support your fundraising and marketing efforts: 1) Get testimonials. Tell the story of why people support your organization. Ask questions such as:Why are you passionate about this issue?When did you start learning about this issue?Why do you choose to support our organization?By gathering this information, you’ll not only have endorsements for your cause, but you can also use responses to inform your marketing and donor recruitment strategies.2) Document how you spent money. Did you dedicate a large portion of funds to operational expenses? Why? What impact did it have? Once you explain that to donors, they’ll better understand how you fulfill your mission, and why it’s important to have operational expenses. Every penny of your budget doesn’t have to go to on-the-ground work, but you do have to demonstrate how operations are vital to ensuring the services you provide are making a positive change. 3) Survey those you help. Ask your constituency how they’ve found your services. Do they see your nonprofit as a vital member of their community? Would they be able to get where they are without you?If those answers affirm your work, ask respondents if you can use a quote in your case study. Most will be happy to help. In some cases, if you provide them with links and social media messages, they’ll share the study with their network, too. If the answers bring up questions or poke holes in your work, pay attention to that. That’s a great opportunity to take feedback and turn it into something positive.Have you created a case study before? What were the results? How did you share it with supporters?
How many of your first-time donors go on to give again? What kind of impact would it have on your fundraising if you could retain more donors each year? We’ve asked two of the best fundraising experts to share their secrets. Join our free webinar on Tuesday, September 24 at 1pm EDT to learn from Jay Love and Tom Ahern as they show you how to create a communication plan that will help you retain more donors and raise more money. Register here.If you’d like to see more long-term benefits from your year-end fundraising and donor acquisition efforts, you do not want to miss this session.Turn First-Time Donors Into Repeat DonorsTuesday, September 24th 2013 1 pm EDT
1. Look for trends in recent response data.As you’re brainstorming your email strategy, spend some quality time digging into data on what’s been the most and least effective for you over the past few months. For example, if you notice that click-through rates are higher in your graphic-rich emails, design extra-visual appeals for year-end. If supporters don’t click on links at the bottom of your emails, make sure you keep all links in the first part of your message (especially your DonateNow button!).2. Consider your sending frequency and target your outreach.Carefully think about your email frequency—every fatigued subscriber who opts out in December is someone who won’t see your emails at all next year. Start ramping up your email frequency now and keep a close eye on the open and unsubscribe rates, then adjust your year-end campaign email frequency accordingly.3. Keep your emails social.People stay busy during the end of the year, but not too busy to keep up with their social networking. Make sure your subscribers have an easy way to share your emails with their friends and followers, and include easy-to-spot links to your organization’s social networking sites, too.4. Welcome new subscribers right away.When someone signs up for your email list, they’re probably interested in hearing from you right then and there. Build a strong relationship with new subscribers right away with an automatic welcome note. If you can set a great foundation now, you’ll have more loyal subscribers during prime giving season. Even though your donors might procrastinate, you can’t! Start planning your year-end email campaign now. Photo Source: The Digital Giving Index Did you know that year-end donations make up 30% of giving for the entire year? Because year-end fundraising goals are often so big, it’s important to start planning your year-end campaign now. When mapping out your email appeals, keep the following four topics in mind:
Network for Good is once again providing year-end giving data for The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 2013 Year-End Online Giving Tracker. You can use this resource to see how online giving is stacking up each day of December and to compare those numbers with the last few years. To supply the data for the tracker, we looked at a set of 14,300 charities who received donations through Network for Good’s online giving platform. You can view this data by month, by week, or look at the entire span of information from November 1st through the end of the year. Check it out by visiting The Chronicle’s site, and let us know how the trends compare to your own year-end fundraising results.
The good news is that giving continues to grow. The bad news is that donor retention rates aren’t what they should be. Think about the donors who came into your organization’s ecosystem during the past year. Will they give again?You can improve the odds of keeping more of your supporters by declaring this year the Year of the Donor. What this looks like for your organization may be different than for your nonprofit peers, but here are a few basics to get you started:1. Have a solid plan.The biggest way to ensure your donors remain your top priority is to create a well-organized plan for cultivating your organization’s supporters throughout the year.To do: Create a comprehensive donor stewardship plan that complements your overall marketing strategy and retention goals. Your plan should include a timeline, messaging guidelines, and who will be responsible for each component of your donor outreach. For more planning tips, take a look at Network for Good’s donor stewardship checklist.2. Send an amazing thank you.Of course you’re thanking all your donors. Right? (Right?) But are you making it an amazing experience of effusive gratitude? Is your thank you so awesome that donors will tell their friends all about it? Even tell strangers? If not, there’s always room for improvement. Your goal: Express to impress!To do: Take the time to write a series of really great donor thank you letters. Make them personal, memorable, and full of gratitude. Your thank you letters should reinforce the projected impact of a donor’s gift and open the door for an ongoing relationship. If possible, hire a professional copywriter to polish your thank yous.3. Keep the conversation going.Your thank you note is really just the start of a new conversation with your donor. Keep this conversation flowing by updating your supporters on your work and how their gift has helped make it possible. Update supporters on what’s new in your community, your work, and how they can continue to be involved. As you build on this communication, you’ll have earned the opportunity to invite them to give again.To do: Create an editorial calendar to plan your outreach and news you’d like to share. Use your email marketing tools to segment your lists so you can separate donors from those who’ve yet to give. Communicate to these two groups differently when sending updates to tailor your message to reflect donors’ special status.4. Clearly articulate your impact.One of the main reasons donors don’t go on to give a second gift is because they’re not sure how their money was used to create real impact. It’s your job to make sure supporters know exactly how their gift is being used and how it makes a difference. Get in the habit of making this a part of everything you do—from fundraising appeals to your monthly newsletter.To do: Illustrate a donation’s impact through photos, testimonials, and quantifiable results that are easy for donors to understand. Incorporate these elements in every piece of donor communication you send. Build a collection of stories that are organized by program or locality so you can easily match these with the profiles of your donors.5. Invite donors for their feedback.More and more donors don’t want to just give and run—they want to be an active part of your cause. Because they’ve been moved enough to donate, they can offer valuable insight on what went into their decision and how you can continue to reach them and others in their network.To do: Regularly invite your donors to provide you with feedback. Add this to your donor thank you phone script and conduct periodic donor surveys to collect their input on everything from your newsletter content to how you contact them. Making them feel more invested in your work will bring donors even closer to your organization.6. Regularly test and improve.It takes a lot of work to acquire new donors, so it’s crucial that you do everything you can to keep the ones you’ve got. One way to do this is to find and fix any leaks in your process. Once you’ve fixed the obvious problems, optimize your donor retention strategy by testing new messages and acknowledgement techniques.To do: Track and measure every interaction with your donors. If you don’t have Google Analytics on your nonprofit website or donation form, that’s one place to start. Identify where donors may be falling off by looking at your website bounce rate, form abandonment, and email unsubscribes. Use A/B testing to see which calls to action and content types work best for your audience.7. Create feel-good moments.Everyone gives for different reasons, but we all want to feel good about our charitable gifts. To keep this positive vibe flowing, it’s important to create moments of connection and with your donors. Ronald McDonald House Charities does just that with this simple thank you video that puts the donor at the center of the experience and in the embrace of those who feel the impact of their donations every day:To do: Commit to making your ongoing donor outreach unique and personal. Get creative with photos, video, and perks for your donors to help your cause stay top of mind. Recruit volunteers and beneficiaries to help keep your communications authentic and original. (Want more ideas on using images to stand out? Read these 10 ways nonprofits can use visuals.)How will you make this year the Year of the Donor? I’d love to hear your plans, and I know your donors can’t wait to see what happens next.
As a busy organization, it’s rare that you have time to even think about testing your nonprofit email marketing. You’re focused on getting your newsletter or announcement out the door so you can get back to what you do best.But what if running an email marketing test didn’t need to take a ton of time? What if, instead, it could fit in with the work you’re already doing and still provide the insight you need to improve your results?It starts with understanding what you want to test.Focus on testing one thing at a time. If you test more than one element in the same email, it is challenging (and sometimes impossible) to determine exactly what influenced the response.Here are some easy and telling tests to start with:Subject lines: Create two different subject lines for the same email communication. For example, if you’re planning a fundraising event, you may want to test if adding the event date or name to the subject line influences open rates.Long versus short copy: Create a shorter version of your newsletter with teasers and links to your website or blog and another that includes more content within the design of your email.Experiment with CTAs: The call to action (CTA), is one of the most important parts of any email. To help perfect your CTAs and see what’s working, you can test different copy and even experiment with different buttons within your email.Other tests could include the time of day or day of the week you send, with an image or without, and the placement of a CTA button or link.Now, decide how you’ll measure your results. For subject lines, your most effective metric will be open rates. This will tell you how many people saw your email in their inbox and took the next step to open it.For tests within the copy of your email, focus on clicks. This will tell you how many people not only opened it, but who also viewed your content and took some action within the email.Think about what you’re trying to learn. If your goal is to find out how the length of your email or the type of content you include influences donations or registrations, you’ll want to track donations and compare them with previous results. If you’re driving traffic to your website or blog, you can use a tool like Google Analytics to track referral traffic to your site.Once you know what you want to test and how you’ll measure your results, now you can put the test in motion. When it comes to who you’ll send your test to, you have two options: You can either split your entire nonprofit email list in half and send one version to each, or take a random sample and do a pre-test.A pre-test is an excellent way to find out what works before sending an email to your entire list. This knowledge can greatly improve your overall response rate. It also protects you from sending a poor performing email test to a large portion of your list and wasting your efforts. To pre-test, choose a random sampling of 100 people from your master nonprofit email list, then split that group in half and send each half one of the two test campaigns.Once you have everything ready, send your test emails. The great thing about email is that you get your results quickly. Within a 24- to 48-hour period, you’ll know which email communication got a better result. (It takes weeks when testing with direct mail!)Declare your winner, send that email to the remaining members of your list, and watch the results come in.It’s really that simple.Testing your nonprofit email marketing is about listening to your audience—something nonprofits know better than anyone! Let their actions tell you what’s working, what’s not, and what you could be doing differently. This will not only help improve your email marketing but will let you better connect with the people who matter most to your organization and attract more donors, supporters, and volunteers.As Constant Contact’s Content Developer, Ryan Pinkham helps small businesses and nonprofits recognize their full potential through marketing and social media.
Music has been one of the most powerful ways causes, celebrities, and communities can connect to raise money for serious issues. We recently caught up with Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, who shared his insight on why these events can be so successful for nonprofits of all sizes.Legacy of Aid: August is the Anniversary of the Benefit ConcertFor over forty years, the benefit concert has served as one of the most popular, easily recognizable forms of aid for charitable organizations. It all started back in August 1971 when George Harrison called a few friends—Ringo, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, to name a few—to play at the world’s first benefit concert. The Concert for Bangladesh played from Madison Square Garden with ticket and recording sales helping to raise $18 million. These stars likely didn’t realize they were forever changing charitable giving in time of a disaster. Concerts are now a popular vehicle for causes around the world to raise visibility and funds—often targeting a younger crowd or introducing their campaign to an audience not yet familiar with it. “Music is a universal pleasure that cuts across cultures and backgrounds,” says H. Art Taylor, president of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Music is a unifying experience—it’s a natural choice for charities to turn to benefit concerts as a means to raise funds.” Star power can play a big role but doesn’t always spell success. In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Wyclef Jean’s charity, Yele Haiti, came under scrutiny about its finances. This controversy underscores the importance for charities to make sure they are fully transparent and accountable before implementing a benefit concert which can attract a lot of media attention. And star power isn’t the only way to go. Charities across the country have seen great success with smaller scale benefit concerts ranging from high school bands to regional bands. The principles and watch-outs apply regardless of your headliner. 7 Do’s and Don’ts when planning a benefit concert for your organization:1. Know your partners. If you are co-hosting the benefit concert with another charity, take a moment to investigate them by pulling their report at Give.org. Don’t assume it is well managed just because it has a 501(c)(3) charitable tax exempt status. 2. Pay attention to regulations. Make sure any state regulatory requirements have been met, including verifying your ability to solicit. 3. Check tax deductibility disclosures.If the benefit concert tickets are sold in a charitable fundraising context, seek out a tax advisor to find out about tax deductibility disclosures that may need to be made. 4. Beware of cheaters. Take reasonable measures to reduce ticket scalping. Examples might be: limiting the number of tickets sold to a single purchaser and ensuring computer safeguards are in place to avoid someone “snatching” all the tickets as soon as they are made available. 5. Practice your FAQ.Make sure answers are readily available for reasonable questions about your mission, target amounts to be raised, and how collected funds will be used. 6. Be clear. If the intention is to collect funds restricted for a specific purpose (i.e., disaster relief) make sure that all charity participants agree to this restriction and are able to carry out this work as soon as possible.7. Be transparent about finances. Share information on the total amount collected, the cost to hold the concert, and how much went to the cause. Post this information on the charity’s and concert’s websites. The Future of Benefit Concerts“Charity benefit concerts will continue to play a role in generating funds and advocating issues,” says Taylor. “Large events work well in times of major crisis or when a big star has a personal stake in a cause. Smaller, targeted local events can be successful as well.”Whether packing a large event venue or a local concert hall, organizers should be creative and coordinate effectively to ensure that benefit concerts are a useful tool for raising awareness and charitable dollars. A benefit with local bands and resources combined with a coordinated effort between multiple nonprofits may be a good option for some charities. Whether large or small, however, the expense and coordination efforts for events can be prohibitive and should be considered carefully in terms of the investment of time and resources. Often charities will measure ROI through funds raised as well as impact to the audience. For more helpful tips on nonprofit collaboration, including information on accreditation, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org. For advice on planning a successful fundraising event, download Network for Good’s guide to Hosting Your Most Fabulous Fundraising Event Ever.
Want more insight on how online giving is growing? Stay tuned! In February, we’ll release our Digital Giving Index, which will take a closer look at online giving trends. We’ll share where, how, and how much donors gave across our digital channels in 2014. How did your year-end fundraising campaigns perform? Chime in with your experiences in the comments and let us know what you plan to build on—or change—in 2015! It’s no secret that year-end giving is an important source of donation dollars for most nonprofits. Last year was no exception and we saw a lot of “generous procrastinators” giving big online in December 2014. When we looked at organizations who received donations on the Network for Good platform in both December 2013 and December 2014, we saw an 18% increase in total donation volume year over year. A few other important notes about year-end giving results:The total number of donations also grew year over year. In December 2014, 22% more donations were made to charities through Network for Good compared to December 2013.As expected, #GivingTuesday was a big driver of December donations on the Network for Good platform in 2014, with over $4.5M raised on December 2. This represented a 148% increase over total donation volume on #GivingTuesday 2013.December giving also accounted for 30% of all online donations made to nonprofits through Network for Good in 2014, with 10% of all annual giving happening on the last three days of the year. This stat has remained consistent for the last 5 years, underscoring the significance of year-end giving on overall fundraising results.The average gift size for the month of December also increased by 6.5% compared to 2013.
Running a successful fundraising event is easier said than done.You put in weeks of planning with the ultimate goal of getting as many people as involved as possible, and you want to make sure your hard work pays off.One of the most important tools you have to promote your next fundraising event is email marketing.With email campaigns, you can reach your audience members directly and send targeted messages that build enthusiasm and provide the information they need to get involved.Here are 5 ways you can use email to drive participation at your next fundraiser:1. Save-the-dateA successful event relies on advanced planning. Once you have a date nailed down for your event, make sure you get the word out so your guests can add it to their calendars ahead of time.This initial email doesn’t have to include all the details — the point is to give some notice and get your audience excited early so you can build on that interest in the weeks ahead.If the event is open to the public, you can also post about the date on your social media accounts. Encourage your social media fans to join your mailing list so they won’t miss any future details.2. Send a formal invitationAs more of the specifics come together, you’re ready to let your contacts know all about the great things you have planned.The more personalized you can make your invitation the better. For example, if your fundraiser is an annual event, start by following up with last year’s attendees with a “Hope to see you again this year!” themed message.Or, if you’re sending the event to media contacts, consider sending them a press release rather than a general email invite. Think about how you can deliver the right message to the right people for best results.Make sure all the information is clear, concise, and easy to read from a mobile device. Your invitation should also link to a landing page for more extensive details. This landing page can be hosted on your website, or you can build one through your Constant Contact account.3. Make your emails socialEmail and social media marketing work best when they’re working together. Each email you send out should include social share buttons that make it easy for your contacts to share your email and invite others.You should also encourage your contacts to forward your email to anyone they think might be interested in attending.4. Send last-minute remindersEven if you feel like you’ve been building up your event for weeks, don’t underestimate the power of a last-minute reminder. Even an email 24-48 hours in advance can drive some last-minute registrants.Make sure you’re subject line reflects the timeliness of the message by adding the event date or a countdown.This is also a good time to remind people that there’s more than one way to support your event. You can add a line to your email like: Can’t make the event? We’ll miss you! Consider supporting our event goal by making an online donation.”Hopefully some of your audience members that have a scheduling conflict will take you up on your offer!5. Follow up after the eventDon’t let the momentum of a successful event end when the event is over. Sending a thank you email or a quick recap will extend the life of all your hard work.If you didn’t quite hit your fundraising goal, this is also a good time to encourage contacts to help you out.Try to include multimedia in this email where you can. If you took pictures during the event, link off to an album. You want your registrants to relive the good times, and motivate those who didn’t attend to make it a priority the next time around!Incorporating these 5 tips into your email marketing strategy will ensure your fundraising event generates real results.Add these ideas to your calendar when promoting your next fundraiser and see which emails receive the highest opens, clicks, and registrations for you.Have any advice we didn’t cover? Let us know how email boosts event involvement for your organization by Tweeting to us: @Network4Good and @ConstantContact
Whether you’re starting from scratch or have been building your email list for years, you know it’s important to actively promote your email list and encourage your existing contacts to engage with your organization.After all, a dedicated email list can have serious payoffs for your nonprofit — including everything from better event attendance to increased web traffic and larger donations at your next fundraiser.The key to successful email list is to see your contacts as people. Grow your list — one name at a time— and once they’ve subscribed provide them with a quality experience, just as you would in-person.Here are 4 tips for growing and sustaining your email list:1. Choose a reliable email providerThe first step of building a loyal email list is making sure you have a safe place to store your contacts’ information and an easy way to send them mailings.If you’re just getting started, take a look at what other organizations are using, and think about what kind of tools and features will be important for your organization. Will you need access to reports to see how your emails are performing? What about support to help with any technical questions you have?You may also want to think about what solutions work with products you are already using. Constant Contact easily integrates with Network for Good so that you can launch campaigns, organize contacts, and manage your campaigns from a central location.2. Make sign-up simpleMost people aren’t going to seek out your mailing list on their own; it’s up to you to encourage them to sign up and make it easy for them to do so.Here’s a great example of a website sign-up form from Canadian nonprofit, The Local Good. Not only do they make sign-up super simple, they also provide a useful description of what their newsletter will include and how often they send.Subscribers will be more likely to sign up if they know what to expect from you.There are also handy tools you can use so that subscribers can sign up on social media or even through a mobile device.3. Deliver a personal experienceBuilding a list is half the challenge, sustaining that relationship is just as important. To build long-lasting relationships with your subscribers, you’re going to have to think beyond your organization and think about how you can deliver a great experience for your contacts.Start by answering a few questions like:Who are your contacts?What are they interested in?How often do they want to hear from you?The more information you can collect and store about your contacts the better. For example, if you collect email addresses at an event, make note of that so you can reach out to them with a targeted follow-up soon after.The timing of your emails is important — you want to make a good first impression on new contacts so that they read your future messages. You can also use this information to reach out to them if you are holding a similar event in the future.4. Don’t send carelesslyThis includes sending with a set schedule and goal in mind, but also checking back in to see how each mailing performed, and making changes when necessary. Using email reports, you have access to important information like open and click-through rates, which will show you what messages are attracting interest and getting your readers to interact with your content.You don’t want your email marketing strategy to become static. Spend some time thinking about little tweaks you can try. What happens to your open rate if you ask a question in your subject line? Does your click-through rate increase if you link to a YouTube video?Seeing what works best for your audience will ensure you are getting the return on investment you’re looking for from email marketing. Taking a few extra minutes to try something new could mean reengaging contacts that have fallen out of touch.
Content for your social media channels is sitting right in front of you. Really! Your website, donor appeals, and newsletters are just waiting to be translated into a Facebook post, tweet, or YouTube video. Repurposing content can take some time, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll start thinking of ideas to feed your social channels in your sleep. To help get your creative juices flowing, here are some quick tips and content ideas for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: Try experimenting with videos and picture slideshows. Quick tips: Do share candid images. Don’t share stock photos. Ideas for posts: Quick tips: Don’t be afraid to retweet. Share content that is relevant to your audience. Repurpose a success story from an appeal letter. Do some research on hashtags. Does your issue area or local community have a hashtag? Post images of your team prepping for an event. Ideas for posts: Twitter Quick tips: Invite people to join your email list. Think visual. Studies show that posts with images perform much better than posts without. Post a photo from an past year’s event for #tbt (Throwback Thursday). Which posts have done well in the past? Try to repeat what works well but with a fresh twist. Facebook Share opinion pieces from your staff or experts from your issue area. Even more than on Twitter, hashtags can help you connect with new audiences. Share stats from your annual report. Instagram Don’t be afraid to be fun. Organizations are made up of people, and your Facebook fans know that. Step outside the box every once in a while and let your personality shine. Create an image of your mission statement. (We like Canva for projects like this.) Share a photo of your volunteers in action. Post pics of the thank you notes your organization sends (or receives). Live tweet an event, rally, or staff luncheon. Share a glimpse into the day-to-day life of staff, clients, and volunteers. Remind everyone what a $25 donation will accomplish. Ideas for posts: Follow back. You can’t have a conversation if you aren’t following your followers. Get more ideas (101, in fact!) for social media posts by downloading 101 Social Media Posts and watching our archived webinar The Art of Social Media, with social media expert and author Guy Kawasaki. And if you aren’t following us on our favorite social channels, what are you waiting for? TwitterFacebookInstagram
A truly sustainable funding model is the holy grail of nonprofits. A great way to achieve that goal is by making sure you have a diversified revenue stream that includes individual donations, fees for service, and grant funding. A healthy organization can stack up these funding sources for a strong foundation that supports their mission. Grant seekers ask us for lots of advice, so we chatted with Cynthia Adams, president and CEO of GrantStation and a longtime friend of Network for Good, about a new way of approaching grant funding, including a recently launched resource called the PathFinder.NFG: Cynthia, what have you found to be the biggest hurdle for nonprofits looking to secure grants?Cynthia Adams: Actually, there are three significant hurdles. First you have to thoroughly identify what you need the funding for, which isn’t as simple as it sounds! Second, you have to identify the right grant makers to approach for the funding. And third, you need the skills to develop and write compelling grant requests.Most organizations are familiar with the tried-and-true grant makers, but what are some overlooked sources of grant funding?CA: I am very fond of looking outside the box when identifying potential funders for a project. For example, I like to look at national and international associations. These groups, especially those associations representing companies that manufacture goods, can often be fabulous sources of support. The Toy Industry Association offers literally thousands of donated toys via the Toy Industry Foundation.What do you recommend to organizations that don’t have someone on staff who can take on researching, applying for, and managing grants? Does this require a full-time person?CA: It depends on the size of the organization and the number of grant proposals you expect to submit. At GrantStation, we’ve just launched a new free resource called the PathFinder. It includes tons of resources in a searchable database to help everyone from novices to the most experienced individual in the areas of grant research, grant writing, and grant management.We talk a lot about storytelling and reporting on impact for individual donors. Where does this fit in with grant funding?CA: Storytelling is an integral part of the grant-writing process. You want to engage the person reviewing your proposal right off the bat, so opening your request with a true-life story is a great way to do that. I often include a case study or “story” in the statement of need as well.What’s the smartest way for fundraisers to combine grant funding with making the most of gifts from individual donors?CA: I had this rule of thumb when I was working as a development director for nonprofits: I would use any significant gift from an individual to leverage any grant proposal I was working on. So, if someone came by and made a $1,000 gift, and I was working on a proposal to upgrade all the office equipment, website, etc., I would ask that donor if I could use their gift to help leverage the grant. It worked for me!Thank you so much, Cynthia, for sharing your insights on new ways to approach grant funding. For more help with expanding your funding base with grants, download our archived webinar with Cynthia Adams, Getting Started with Grants: How to Make Your Requests Shine.
What surprised you the most about #GivingTuesday? Because I experience and witness street harassment in Washington, DC, I can see the immediate importance of CASS’ mission. CASS mobilizes the community, through online and offline activism, to end public sexual harassment and assault in the DC metropolitan area. The campaign caught my eye and I was inspired to donate to it on #GivingTuesday. After I became a donor, I was delighted to receive some of the best post-donation communication ever! CASS has become one of my favorite nonprofit customers that we serve in DC. Thank you, Zosia, for sharing these details with us! If you want to put on a great #GivingTuesday campaign in 2015, we can help. Sign up to get Network for Good’s #GivingTuesday resources sent directly to your inbox. ZS: We started reaching out to donors four weeks in advance with soft touches via email. A week or two before, we gave all of them a call and asked folks to pledge. During the campaign, we reached out via email and social media. Afterward, everyone who donated received a special thank you email and a handwritten card. Zosia Sztykowski: We set a very ambitious goal for our end-of year-campaign—triple what we had done in the previous year—and based on our experience, we knew we’d have to get a strong start on #GivingTuesday for that to work. #GivingTuesday and New Year’s Eve are always the best giving days for us. Last year, Network for Good customer Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) had a great #GivingTuesday campaign and won our prize for Best Social Campaign. The organization raised more than $17,000, came in fourth on our leaderboard for number of donors, and exceeded its original goal by 43%. ZS: We’re planning to reach out to more big donors way in advance to build a lot of momentum for #GivingTuesday. ZS: Yup, just one—me! Needless to say, I had some pretty serious tunnel vision going in late November/early December. But our volunteers are one of our strongest assets. They get the word out and solicit people in their networks. Every time we run a campaign like this, we don’t just reach multiples of our dollar goal, we also multiply the length our donor list, and I think this is directly attributable to our grassroots strategy. If a volunteer team is well organized and engaged—trained, prepared with all the materials they need, and knowledgeable about the organization and its fiscal needs—then they will follow through. Better yet, they’ll make it fun. It’s really about starting a conversation with volunteers that continues throughout the process. Because CASS had such great success on #GivingTuesday 2014, I wanted to do a Q&A with Zosia Sztykowski, the nonprofit’s executive director, to find out how they put together an amazing campaign with just one paid staff member. How did you plan and set goals? ZS: Plan, plan, plan. Read about others’ successful strategies. Get your emails and your social media materials ready well in advance. Know that you’ll need all hands on deck on #GivingTuesday. Have a schedule—but be prepared to throw it out the window if you come up with a better idea at the last minute. How did you manage it all with very few paid staff members? CASS only has one paid staff member, right? And how did you make sure volunteers followed through with their commitments to help make it great? What is the number one piece of advice you would give to nonprofits doing #GivingTuesday for the first time? What will you differently this year? ZS: It’s amazing how generous everyone is even when every other organization is asking for donations at the same time. There’s something very touching about that. It really is a day about giving in the broad sense of the word. In 2014, we managed to quadruple what we raised in 2013 on #GivingTuesday because of this generosity. How did you reach out to donors before, during, and after?
Current status dashboard: Answers the question, “What’s our current status?” If you’re working on a capital campaign or have a specific target for your fall appeal, your dashboard can show your progress by date and the trajectory of where you need to be so your team doesn’t get complacent. For example, they’ll quickly see that they’ve raised $10,000 and have just three weeks to raise another $10,000. With this knowledge, the conversation at the staff or board meeting might revolve around “What action will we take?”Image Source: Mashable Blog: Is Give2ogether a Google Analytics for Philanthropy.Accountability dashboard: This one might feel scary! Let’s say you want at least 80% of your board members attending board meetings. Your accountability dashboard shows names, dates, and who attended. It gives you some one-on-one discussion points without making everyone feel bad: “Hey, Lynn, how can we support you? What’s keeping you from attending, because your board seat is really important and we want to make sure you’re able to do your duties as a board member.”Now that you know the value of dashboards for presenting important data quickly and sparking people to take action, why not try creating one that’s relevant to your organization’s numbers? For more in-depth guidance, examples, and useful resources, download a recording of the webinar for free.If you don’t have the ability to collect data to make a dashboard worthwhile, we can help! Do your hear crickets when you ask for help with donor engagement tasks, cultivation, or thank you calls? Are eyes glazing over when your board and staff review spreadsheets and donor lists? Fear not, there is hope!In our Nonprofit 911 webinar Change Your Data Story, Lori Jacobwith, president and co-founder of Ignited Fundraising and co-author of the Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits, shared how you can transform otherwise dull data into attractive and easy-to-understand dashboards that inspire everyone to action.What’s a Data Dashboard?The dashboard in your car gives you an at-a-glance update on some really important factors, like if you should slow down or stop for gas. Similarly, a data dashboard shows the important information your organization needs to know to achieve its strategic goals. The data should be arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored as easily as the dashboard in your car.Data dashboards often show financials or various kinds of giving information, presented by day or month, year over year, zip code, and so on. Less common are board dashboards, but you’re likely to see a big jump in board engagement when you share data visually with this group.Why Use Dashboards?Good visual displays cause people to take action. Data dashboards:Bring attention to your priorities and help you reach your goals.Monitor performance and create accountability.Simplify information, such as complex financials.Fact: Humans are visually wired. Half of our brain is involved with visual processing. We remember 80% of what we see, 20% of what we read, and 10% of what we hear. Color increases our willingness to read something. In social media, for example, you know images are everything. The same is true when we present lots of numbers.You have just two goals when presenting any kind of data:Convey your story.Establish credibility.Some stories you might convey with data: Are we tracking adequately toward our goal? Do we need to fill our fundraising event with more people? Can we improve attendance at our board meetings? Dashboards drive these messages home quicker and more effectively than columns of numbers.Tip: Visual data displays should show information over time, not just year to date.3 Types of Nonprofit DashboardsThe varieties are endless, but here are a few dashboards to get you started.Business intelligence dashboard: Presents facts about your organization. The Indianapolis Museum of Art’s website features a live dashboard showing current totals of Facebook fans, endowment size, and active memberships. “Today’s Attendance” brings up a live tally of how many people passed through the main entrance, gift shop, special exhibitions gallery every two hours.Source: http://www.imamuseum.org
Founded in 2005, Ovarian Cancer Connection (OCC) is no stranger to fundraising success during its 11-year history. In fact, this Ohio-based nonprofit has raised $36,000 just for their program that provides financial assistance to women undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer.This fundraising success, however, came with its own challenges. Without the right tools in place, the OCC’s system for tracking donors and donations ended up being a lot of manual work.Gini Steinke, OCC’s founder and executive director, knew that there was a better way to track OCC’s donor data. Gini decided getting a new database, known as donor management software or a donor management system (DMS), would help the OCC get all their donor data in one location. After exploring different options, OCC migrated their donor data from spreadsheets into Network for Good’s donor management system.Gini recently shared how she manages OCC’s donor information and fundraising now that they have a system better equipped to get the job done.Tracking Individual FundraisingLike many small nonprofits, the OCC raises most of their funds through individual gifts. These donations either come in through events or donations from individuals who have a personal connection with organization. Currently, the OCC has more than 3,000 donors in their database.Before Network for Good’s DMS, the OCC’s donor database was a detailed spreadsheet with tabs representing each year’s gifts. Although it’s not ideal, this system for tracking gifts is pretty standard among many nonprofits. Network for Good’s donor management system brings it all together. The primary problem with this practice is that a spreadsheet isn’t ideal for accessing donor information. If Gini was looking for a specific donor, she’d have to search through multiple tabs to find the donor’s complete giving history over the course of his or her relationship with the organization. According to Gini, transitioning to a system built to manage donor information has made this process much easier:“We did track donations through spreadsheets, but I’d have to go through all the tabs to find a donation. But now, Network for Good’s donor management system brings it all together.“Transforming Online Giving Gini estimates that she saves about 2 hours of work a day by using Network for Good’s donor management software. The Ovarian Cancer Connection has an incredible mission and is fortunate to have a savvy executive director like Gini who has created fundraising strategies that work. Gini estimates that she saves about 2 hours of work a day by using Network for Good’s donor management software. And during events season, she estimates she’ll save 3 hours of manual work every day.Now that they have the tools to help save time, keep donor records organized, and raise more money, the Ovarian Cancer Connection can focus what matters most: their mission.Are you ready to make the switch from spreadsheets to a donor management system that will save you time and help you streamline your fundraising processes? Schedule a demo and see Network for Good’s donor management software for yourself! Our easy-to-use system that’s helping organizations like Ovarian Cancer Connection save time everyday can help your organization too. Schedule a demo today! I went into the donor management system and the online donation was right there. Everything was already entered. It was like a miracle! It was wonderful! Before using Network for Good’s online donation page and donor management software, OCC was collecting online gifts through PayPal, which made tracking a very cumbersome process:“Donations would come in through PayPal. We’d get an email notification and transfer the money to our bank. Then, I’d input the donation in QuickBooks and enter it into a spreadsheet. It was time consuming to make sure everything was recorded accurately.” Now, online donations are automatically added to OCC’s DMS. Using Network for Good’s donation page and donor management system together means there’s no manual lift required:“I went into the donor management system and the online donation was right there. Everything was already entered. It was like a miracle! It was wonderful!”Gini is especially excited to use the donor management system and donation pages during the organization’s big events.“This is going to be great when it comes time for our major events! More and more people are getting comfortable with online giving. This is great because it makes it easier for [donors] and it saves us money.”Managing Offline GiftsDonor management software isn’t just for tracking online donors, it can track offline gifts too. If Gini gets a check handed to her at an event, she can easily log the donation in the DMS and track specifics like the gift’s designation or if the gift is made in someone’s honor or memory. Notes on why the donor gave can be attached to a donation too.Making Segmentation EasierSmart fundraisers like Gini use segmentation to send more relevant (and more effective) messages to different groups of supporters.And, because of the nature of their work, they need to be especially diligent with keeping track of those supporters who are survivors of ovarian cancer.Using the group feature in Network for Good’s donor management system allows the OCC to track survivors easily. When Gini is inviting survivors to a luncheon, she can seamlessly send the email through the system by simply selecting the group labeled “Survivors.” There’s no need to sort through a list, run a filter again, or import/export a spreadsheet.Ovarian Cancer Connection’s executive director saves 2-3 hours of work a day after switching from Excel to Network for Good’s donor management software.Keeping Track of Donor NotesGini truly understands that fundraising is about relationships, not transactions. For this reason, Gini needs to keep notes on every donor she speaks with. But with thousands of donors, details about important donor conversations can’t be kept organized with post-it notes or in someone’s memory. This is why Network for Good’s donor management system’s notes feature is so important to the OCC and Gini in particular:“In the donor management software, I can pull up the [donor’s] records and see my notes so the next time I talk to them, I can ask them ‘how was your son’s move?’ Otherwise, it would be in a paper file. But now, everything is right there in the donor record.”Reporting Success to the Board Network for Good’s donor management system offers built-in dashboards that are easy to understand and can help people like Gini explain the organization’s financials to those who aren’t digging into the numbers on a regular basis:“At board meetings, I plan to give a snapshot of our fundraising efforts so far. The dashboard clearly explains to everyone, especially to those without a finance background, the most important information: average donation and giving to date. I think our Board will be surprised with what our average donation really is!”Saving Time by Getting Out of Spreadsheets
Since 2002, donors increasingly believe that charitable organizations “waste” money—on staff salaries, fundraising expenses, or other core costs considered administrative or not directly benefiting programs. Furthermore, nearly half of those polled were mostly concerned about how organizations use their money. This was also the top concern in the Money for Good study released last year. Since 2002, donors increasingly believe that charitable organizations “waste” money—on staff salaries, fundraising expenses, or other core costs considered administrative or not directly benefiting programs. You know what comes next: Donors favor organizations with low administrative and fundraising costs. In fact, 54% of donors like charities that get good ratings by validators like Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau, which seem to reward the “lean and mean” organizations. And now we are squarely back in the thick of the Overhead Myth.Quite a bit has been written and discussed about the Overhead Myth and the charity “watchdogs” or validators, so I won’t add to that debate here. Without a doubt, the measure of nonprofit performance has gotten stuck on financials. This is only one part of the story of an organization’s effectiveness. Nonprofits that have the resources to invest in talent, systems, and infrastructure are more likely to be successful, which is directly seen in their programs’ impact and results.So, if we know donors are scrutinizing charities more than ever and questioning how nonprofits are using their money, how can we restore donor confidence? Change the conversation. Share your vision and plans for the future. Celebrate your successes, and be honest about your challenges and how you are addressing them. Quantify your results and impact, both in numbers and stories.If donors see that you are doing good work with visible results, then the “administrative” costs and how you spend money on staff and fundraising, for example, fit within a broader context of organizational effectiveness. It then makes sense that having the financial resources to pay competitive salaries to hire talented and experienced staff will lead to stronger programs and results. Fundraising expenses become part of your organization’s overall strategy for growth and reinvestment of revenue to create a stronger foundation for innovative and expanded breadth of services. You get the picture.Donor trust should never be assumed. It’s earned. While you may not be able to shift your donors from restricting their gifts to specific programs, you can inspire greater investment by positioning everything you need—from vision to staff to resources—to continue doing your work well. The 2015 Giving USA report announced that giving levels across the United States returned to record highs, finally restarting the philanthropic pause triggered by the 2008 recession.If donor confidence seems to have been restored and all is right in the charitable world again, why does a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy poll point to stalled levels of confidence in nonprofits? Of the 1,000 or so people surveyed, 64% said they had a great deal of confidence in charities. More than 50% is pretty good, right? So what’s the problem? Donor trust levels have stayed about the same since 2002, when Paul Light, a professor at New York University, started studying donor confidence.
The secret to better campaign results, more engaged donors, and board buy-in is a thoughtful and clear fundraising plan. While we all know we need a plan, sometimes it’s not always easy to make time to create a realistic plan and in many cases, we may not have the information we need to make the right strategic decisions. If you’re like most small nonprofits, it’s likely that your plan is missing a critical element—clean, accurate fundraising data.Your Fundraising Plan Must Be Based on Accurate Fundraising DataHaving the right data on your campaign performance, funding sources, donor history, and giving patterns will allow you to make smarter decisions on how to spend your time and resources going forward. Why is this so important?You’ll know what’s working, and what’s not.Sounds obvious, right? But most nonprofits are surprised when they see their aggregated fundraising results and campaign data. As trends emerge, you can make better decisions on what to do more of…and what to stop doing in the coming year. You can double down on the tactics and messages that work best for your supporters.You can identify donor segments and create strategies for them.Once you understand who your new, major, recurring, lapsed, and event donors are, you can develop tailored outreach to best reach and convert them. (Just getting started with donor segmentation? We have a simple planning template that will help you maximize your communications.)You’ll have more credibility with your board.You can feel more confident presenting your plan to your board when you have the data to back it up vs. relying on a hunch or opinions. Having a data-backed plan will also help you answer questions and fend off “creative tinkering” from well-meaning board members.You’ll know what you need to spend to meet your fundraising goals.Armed with the data about your past fundraising results and donor opportunities, you can project how much you’ll need to spend (and which resources to allocate) to make the plan happen.Need some help getting a better fundraising plan in place and figuring out how to collect, compile, and understand the data you need? Check out this upcoming webinar to learn simple steps for quickly creating a solid plan that will allow you to reach your small nonprofit’s funding goals this year.Register for this webinar now and learn How to Create Your 12-Month Fundraising Plan!