Does your agency use email effectively as a marketing tool?

Keep your non-profit email marketing out of the Trash Can

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger
rose1Does this sound familiar? You spend hours preparing your agency’s e-newsletter. After proofreading it and perfecting it, you click send and hope it survives the delete button.
Chapter three of “The Social Media Bible” by Lon Safko did not just hit home for me, but it provided some phenomenal insight on how to increase the likelihood that your e-news will make it past the Trash Can and make an impact.
E-mail is so common, sometimes its power as a marketing tool is overlooked as the new and flashy social media trends continue to emerge.
What are the benefits of utilizing e-mail for marketing?  Let’s take a look:

  • What other marketing medium allows you to reach 5,000 to 50,000 of your potential customers for (nearly) free or a very small cost?
  • What other marketing tool allows you to count how many impressions, responses, conversations, and pass- alongs your e-mail had?

Well, there you have it! This e-newsletter is important, can make a difference, and is trackable and affordable. Eureka!
But wait . . . there are tricks to the trade that you need to learn in order to maximize the effectiveness of your agency’s email strategy.
Content is King
wiifmThe most important question in all marketing is one we broached in last week’s blog — WIIFM — “What’s In It for Me?
With e-mail you have to convert the WIIFM for your reader quickly, and I mean within seconds.
Many times, just with a glance of the subject line, you are asking your recipient to quickly calculate their investment in reading your message.
Think about your organization, and how you communicate with donors. Every time you ask them to open a piece of direct mail, look at an e-mail or visit your website, there is a transaction. It is not a one-time thing either, every time you have to convince them of their WIIFM.
This entire concept is presented by Safkow in this passage:

“Suppose for some reason, that you really wanted to read the newspaper advertisements today. Your eyes are scanning over the pages of many ads, one of which catches your eye. You decide to not turn the page, but to look at the heading for that ad. How long do you think you are willing to spend to determine if the WIIFM is worth your stopping to read further? A study showed that people are willing to invest or spend only 1.54 seconds of time to make that determination.”

Wow! As I read on, Safko unveiled some great information to help maximize my e-mail efforts.
Your subject line has to convince your recipient in roughly 1.5 seconds whether he should move on to the next stage of investment.
If they decide to continue reading, you now have a whopping 5 seconds! Although much more time than 1.5 seconds, it only allows a person to read about one sentence.
So, within the first seconds of reading your e-mail message, your reader must find WIIFM to remain engaged. If you successfully do this, you move into the third phase which is conversion.
Your reader is likely to read on and follow your call to action, or click-through to your website.
Always remember . . . your e-mail message should always be about building and strengthening a relationship with the reader.
Practice makes Perfect
segmentingAs you work to perfect your strategies, it is important to take some time to test it through what Safko calls segmenting.
Segmenting is no more than splitting your distribution list. Split the list into five and send the exact same body of the message, but with five different subject lines. When doing this, remember to:

  • Pay close attention to the nouns, verbs and adjectives you use.
  • Take your time and be deliberate.
  • Send it out and see if there was a difference in the open rates or click-through rates.

Next, test the first line, again taking care with how you craft it. See the results and keep doing what seems to work.
Finally, test some different times of the day in sending the e-mails.
Ultimately, after about a year, you will have perfected your delivery to maximize your efforts and engage your readers.
How have you worked to perfect your e-mail efforts? What challenges have you found? Success?
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Non-profit social media strategy? Quality not quantity!

Social Media Madness

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger
rose1For those that have seen the movie Julia & Julia, Julie Powell takes on the challenge of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s first cookbook and blogs about it. I too will take on a challenge to read, “The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools & Strategies for Business Success,” by Lon Safko and blog about the things that I find.
With the challenge in mind, I cracked Safko’s book opened to chapter 1, “What is Social Media?”
Safko quickly defines Social Media by splitting out the two words:

“The first part of the terminology, social, refers to the instinctual needs we humans have to connect with other humans. . . . The second part of that term refers to the media we use with which we make those connections with other humans.”

Well how logical, I thought. But was I using that logic when I was posting Facebook posts for my non-profit? Other questions started whirling in my head.

  • When I make a post, am I trying to engage my audience?
  • Do I know the people that have “Liked” our page?
  • Are they clicking through on to our website?
  • Am I just trying to get posts in without being strategic about message?

I realize that each of these questions seem to haunt many of us.
I was excited to recently attend a local celebration for Philanthropy Day coordinated by the Fox West Philanthropic Network. During this wonderful event, I attended a roundtable focused on Social Media.
One of the first questions the facilitator asked was what types of social media we took part in for our non-profits.
We went around and rattled them off — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, etc, etc. Without a doubt, there was a sense of burden in each person’s voice.
Yes, burden!
I could identify it because I too have felt it.
With the laundry list of things on our to-do list along with countless other projects, how could we focus on keeping relevant posts going up on Facebook, or ensure we are on LinkedIn?
As the conversation continued, the questions for the expert facilitator began about the most popular social media site that we all used, which of course is Facebook.

  • How often should we be on Facebook?
  • What day and time of day is best to post?
  • How much staff time should we spend with Facebook?
  • What should we be posting?

The facilitator summed it all up with the following simple piece of advice:

Quality not Quantity

Safko also uses a very logical analogy to make a similar point and makes a distinction between conventional marketing approaches and the new marketing approach being used on social networks.
rose2Safko explains that social media marketing is like going to a networking event, a party, a trade show, church, or anywhere large groups of people gather.
Using a conventional marketing approach, you walk into the group, interrupt everyone, and start announcing your name, and telling everyone what you do for a living, what you sell and that they should buy it from you!
In real life, what do you suppose would happen if you did that?
Now consider the new marketing approach. You enter the room, choose a group, walk up to them and say nothing. You listen first. You understand what has already been said; you consider how you could add value to the conversation, wait for a break and politely share your ideas. You now become part of the group, the network, and you have credibility and trust.
In this simple analogy, it is clear that there is so much more I could be doing to maximize my agency’s Facebook and social media presence. By focusing on quality of posts, not quantity, I am able to think strategically at how to engage those that have trusted us enough to “Like” us.
What does this analogy stir in your experience?
Are you currently scrambling to post quantity in your social media outlets?
Share your approach to social media marketing using the comment box below.
Oh yeah, you can also visit Lon Safko’s website to learn more about social media.
Stay tuned. Next Monday I’ll read a little more of The Social Media Bible, try it out and let you know what I learned from a non-profit perspective.
(Disclaimer: I am not getting paid by anyone to promote this book, and I am not profiting from these blog posts. I encourage everyone to buy a copy of this book and start the hard work of improving your agency’s social media presence.)
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Do you value your non-profit brand?

halo3Your non-profit brand is powerful. It is coveted by major corporations. It doesn’t matter if you are a major non-profit juggernaut like Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or if you’re a teeny-tiny rowboat out there in the vast ocean of non-profit organizations. You are still valued. The mere fact that you are a non-profit organization, regardless of your mission, in and of itself is valued by corporate America.
These are all things that started rolling through my mind in the last few weeks primarily because of a Walmart ad I saw on television. I’m sure you’ve seen it, too. It is the ad featuring a number of different Walmart employees who list off all of the great things about working for this retail giant including:

  • education reimbursement benefit
  • health insurance as low as $40/month
  • career path opportunities (e.g. from the stock room to the boardroom)
  • matching gift program for every charitable gift made by an employee

It is this last bullet point that keeps sticking in my brain. In fact, it has bothered me for weeks. I knew in my gut there was a blog post somewhere in that commercial, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it . . .  until this morning.
walmartThe following are all facts (OK, they are facts according to Wikipedia so you may want to take them with a grain of salt):

  • Walmart is the world’s second largest publicly traded corporation
  • Walmart’s 2 million employee workforce makes them the largest private employer in the world
  • Walmart is the largest retailer on planet Earth

It would be fair to say that when Walmart sneezes, everyone catches a cold. This 800-pound gorilla of the retail sector is so big, they set prices for certain products in the many different marketplaces.
So, you’re probably asking what does any of this have to do with you and your non-profit brand.
Think about for two seconds. Here is one of the world’s most valuable and recognizable brands, and they’ve woven this message into their sale pitch:

Walmart is a good place to work because they match their employee’s charitable giving

In effect, Walmart is telling consumers the following things through this simply statement:

  • Walmart is a good corporate citizen
  • Walmart is charitable
  • Walmart’s strategy for keeping their philanthropy local is focused on their employee’s giving

halo1Have you heard of the “Halo Effect“?
In simple terms, the halo effect is when one brand affiliates itself with something the public considers “good,” which by effect means they are also “good“.  For example . . .
Charity is good. Walmart gives to charity through its employees. Therefore, Walmart must be good.
I believe my high school geometry teacher would’ve classified this phenomenon as “transitive properties“.  I think?
The fact that Walmart is shouting from the mountaintops that they match their employee’s charitable giving is a sure sign they believe the your non-profit brand is seen as a force for good in your community.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve talked with a non-profit professional who doesn’t see the value of their generic or specific non-profit brand. To those of you who think you are too small or insignificant, I point you in the direction of Walmart as proof that you have something to offer businesses and corporations in your community.
Of course, there is a catch . . .
If you are abusing your non-profit brand, you will never be able to take advantage of the halo effect and integrate it into your fundraising plan as a cause-related marketing or sponsorship strategy.
halo4You may be wondering what I mean by “abusing your non-profit brand“. Here is just a short list of neglectful things:

  • running programs that don’t generate positive outcomes or impact
  • hiring poor employees and not training your employees
  • recruiting board volunteers who won’t and don’t advocate for you when circulating through the community
  • recruiting board volunteers who are seen as dubious by the general public (e.g. criminal, too political, or just simply a gadfly)
  • not investing in capacity building or organizational development, thereby increasing your liability and exposure
  • not having (or implementing) a written marketing plan and consequently being the “best kept secret in town

The mere fact you are a non-profit organization puts you in a very special public light. I really believe this is what the Walmart commercial tells us. However, what you do from that point is up to you.
Do you want to invest in your non-profit brand and position your agency to take advantage of cause-related marketing and corporate sponsorship opportunities? Then I suggest you pull together a small task force of smart marketing people in your community and ask the following questions:

  • How are we communicating with donors? How do they perceive us?
  • What does the community at-large think of our organization?
  • What are we doing online and through social media? What are our strategies? Are they working? Are we reaching the audience we intended to reach?
  • What is our case for support? Is it written down? How are our board members and volunteers using this resource? How is our staff using this resource? Is this message being heard by our supporters?
  • What stories are we tell? How are we telling them? How old are those stories? Are the people we ask to tell those stories good storytellers?
  • If there was such a thing as a “marketing toolbox,” what tools are in that toolbox? How are we using those tools? What is missing? What needs to be added?

Whoa . . . I could probably go on all day with questions for your marketing task force, but this is a good start.
How are you investing in your non-profit brand to make it more valuable? Please use the comment box to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Does your non-profit use shiny objects?

IMG_20131016_135643_455As I said in an earlier post this week, I am currently in Reno, Nevada at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Pacific Leadership Conference. The conference is being held at Silver Legacy Resort & Casino. Of course, in order to get from the hotel to the conference sessions, you need to walk through the casino where you are bombarded by all sorts of “shiny objects”.

By shiny objects, I mean:

  • Slot machines
  • Bars
  • Blaring music & P.A. announcements
  • Gaming tables with dealers
  • Alarm bells announcing winners
  • Restaurants and delicious smelling food
  • Distracting blinking lights
  • Interesting decorations

I literally found my eyes darting all over the place. I’m not a gambler, but I was definitely tuned in and engaged with what was going on all around me.

When you consider how much money casinos make, it is hard to argue with all of these shiny object  tactics.

As I sat in my exhibitor booth, I kept watching the salesperson at Markel Insurance spinning a “Wheel of Fortune” type of prop. As the minutes and hours ticked by slowly, I couldn’t help focus in on how this wheel worked its charm on conference attendees. Someone could be wandering by the Markel booth with no intention of stopping, but the moment that wheel started clicking and whirling people stopped to pay attention.

Shiny objects . . . human being like them. A LOT!

All of this got me thinking . . .

What types of shiny objects do non-profit organizations use to capture the attention of donors, clients, and volunteers?

IMG_20131016_135832_525In an effort to make the time pass more quickly, I started making a list. Admittedly, I started thinking way outside of the box, but here is some of what I came up with:

  • newsletters
  • websites
  • Facebook pages
  • Twitter feeds
  • Various other social media platforms (e.g. Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Texting
  • Newspaper stories (e.g. earned media)
  • Newspaper advertising (e.g. public service announcements)
  • Outdoor advertising (e.g. billboard)
  • Cable advertising
  • Phone calls to donors
  • Announced challenge gifts
  • Radio ads
  • Special event fundraisers
  • Press conferences
  • Town hall meetings
  • Constant Contact e-blasts
  • Online advertising (e.g. Google ads, Facebook ads, etc)
  • Sending your executive director out in public (e.g. speaking at city council, Rotary meetings, etc)
  • Hosting small cultivation or stewardship events in board members living rooms
  • Direct mail
  • Health and community service fares
  • Cause related marketing campaigns

I suspect the list could probably go on and on and on.

As I stepped back and started contemplating how many shiny objects I had identified, I suddenly realized the problem with the road I was walking down.

The casino throws their shiny objects at their customers all at once. It is like an amazing fireworks finale that never stops. Most of the non-profits I could think of that do messaging well, use an eyedropper to carefully measure out their marketing efforts.

I am hard pressed to think of many examples of cross-channel messaging by a non-profit organization. The few that come to mind might used two or three different channels to cross promote their message. For example, a year-end direct mail appeal referencing a website address along with volunteers following up with a phone call solicitation.

This is not exactly comparable to my experience at the Silver Legacy Resort & Casino this week.

Let me end this post by asking for your help:

  • Please help me add to my laundry list of shiny objects used by non-profit organizations.
  • Please highlight communications efforts that utilize more than a few channels to engage supporters.
  • Please weigh-in with your suggestions on how non-profits can get better at lighting up the world around them.

You can share your thoughts and experience by using the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health! (Enjoy additional pictures I’ve included from the conference that I’ve pasted into this post below my signature block)

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

IMG_20131016_135554_679   IMG_20131016_135942_889   IMG_20131016_135741_658

IMG_20131016_135921_679   IMG_20131016_135603_946   IMG_20131016_135814_197

Cause related marketing saved Tina’s life

nfl1Over the years, I’ve urged non-profit organizations to exercise tremendous caution when contemplating a cause related marketing strategy as part of their resource development plan. There was the December 2012 post titled “Cause related marketing 101: Educate, educate, educate!” Then there was the February 2013 post titled “Bad cause related marketing is offensive” based on my personal experience with buying a new pair of glasses at the mall. Most recently, there was “Non-profits must be careful with cause related marketing,” which was based on another personal experience with an internet vendor.

Some people have called me a skeptic of cause related marketing, which is not true. I just strongly believe that media is powerful and employing this strategy wrong can do lots of damage very quickly to your brand. So, when I saw the NFL’s newest “A Crucial Catch” public service announcement during yesterday’s games, I knew I just had to blog about it today.

The commercial opens up with a woman telling us that her name is Tina; she is a New York Jets fan; and she is a breast cancer survivor. As she tells her story, you get pulled in and emotionally connected which is when they drop the bomb. Towards the end of the commercial, she credits the NFL with saving her life. It was because of the NFL’s awareness efforts and cause related marketing campaign that Tina performed her first self examinations. These initial self exams resulted in a visit to the doctor and early detection.

Haven’t seen the commercial? Click here or on the image below to check it out. Trust me . . . it is worth the click!

breast cancer CRM

First, let me say that I forgive Tina for being a Jets fan.  😉

Second, let me congratulate Tina for beating breast cancer and having the courage to tell her story to millions of people.

Finally, I encourage all non-profit organizations who are looking for a benchmarking project, prior to jumping into a cause related marketing campaign, to look at this campaign. It is rock solid and everyone can learn from this textbook example.

The American Cancer Society has raised millions of dollars primarily through two funding vehicles: 1) the sale of pink NFL merchandise and 2) an auction of sports related items by the NFL.

nfl2If you want to know more about this campaign, Forbes magazine’s Alicia Jessop did a nice job in an October 2012 article titled “The NFL’s A Crucial Catch Campaign Raises Millions for the American Cancer Society” of summarizing the essence of the campaign.

I really love the mutually beneficial relationship between the NFL and the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society gets:

  • Revenue
  • Exposure for its brand
  • Awareness of its issue

The NFL gets:

  • Positive exposure for its brand (e.g. The Halo Effect)
  • Awareness of its product (e.g. football) by a powerful segment of consumers — women

The thing I love most about this cause related marketing campaign is the contrast it creates, which in and of itself makes people pay attention to an important issue. What I mean by this is that football is a uniquely masculine product with lots of testosterone, and breast cancer (in most people’s minds) is a uniquely feminine issue (even though there are a small number of men diagnosed with this cancer ever year and countless men and boys are devastated when the women in their lives are diagnosed).

If you want to learn more about cause related marketing, you may want to check of some of the following resources:

To all of you who follow the DonorDreams blog, let me be one of the first to wish you a happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please practice and promote prevention.

I also want to take a moment to congratulate my sister-in-law who was diagnosed in her early 30s with breast cancer and has been cancer-free for more than 10 years. You’re a fighter and inspiration, Anne! Now please take your brother to a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving. I’m tired of hearing him whine about it.

Is your organization looking at a cause related marketing campaign? What are some of the obstacles in your way? What are you doing to overcome those obstacles? What does your planning process look like so that you can avoid the bad campaigns I’ve previously written about and referenced in the beginning of this post?

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health! (And think pink)  😉

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Is your non-profit agency using Twitter wrong?

twitter1A few months ago, I had a horrible experience with my favorite airline. Long story short . . . delay, delay, delay, delay, loaded on the plane, equipment malfunction, delay, delay and finally up-up-and-away. A whole day was lost. However, in that catastrophe, I was able to learn something about Twitter and the new age of customer service. In the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded of this experience when two bloggers talked about Twitter. So, I thought I’d we’d look Twitter a little more closely today, especially as it relates to non-profit organizations.

Tweet: Customer service

As I sat on that airplane for hours with cranky passengers and screaming babies, I remembered something I had read in The Social Media Bible about a similar experience that the author — Lon Safko — had on a Continental Airlines flight. In his example (found on page 8), his assistant used her smartphone and tweeted about her experience making sure to copy the airline on her tweet. No sooner had she taken her seat and a flight attendant was bringing her a glass of champagne with an apology.

With this story in mind, I whipped out my cell phone and started tweeting my displeasure.

Sure enough, the airline’s customer service representatives were paying attention and asked me about the situation. They checked into other flights. They tried to help, and when they couldn’t do anything, they apologized and compensated me with some rewards points.

The point of this story? Twitter is a TWO-WAY communication channel that for-profit companies are learning to master.

I recently read a blog post from Rachel Sprung at Social Media Examiner titled “4 Examples of Excellent Twitter Customer Service“. If you have some time this morning, I encourage you to click-through and read Rachel’s post. She shared additional good stories about Jet Blue, Nike, Seamless, and Comcast. It is worth the click!

Tweet: Donor communication

twitter2I am on Twitter every day. I’m not there very long. I’m not a Twitter expert. I’m sure that I am doing lots and lots wrong in the eyes of social media experts. However, I do see lots of content and most of those who I’m following are non-profit organizations.

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a non-profit organization with a Twitter account engage in a discussion with a donor, client, or almost anyone. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never seen it and I’m following 1,808 people/agencies.

I recently read a blog post from Steven Shattuck, who is the VP of Marketing at Bloomerang. The post was titled “11 Mistakes Nonprofits Make On Twitter And How To Avoid Them“.  And oh yeah . . . does he hit the nail on the head! Here are just a few of the mistakes he points out:

  • Broadcasting instead of engaging
  • Talking too much about yourself
  • Neglecting hashtags
  • Not tracking results

I won’t share all 11 mistakes, and I also won’t tell you how to avoid those mistakes. Why? Because you need to click-through and read Steven’s post. As with the previous post by Rachel which I mentioned in the previous section, Steven’s post is also definitely worth the click!

Tweet: How should your agency use Twitter?

twitter3This is a tough question to answer because I suspect it may vary slightly from agency-to-agency. However, some of the better non-profit organizations are tweeting the following:

  • picture of the day (demonstrating impact of their programming)
  • sharing stories about clients, donors, volunteers and board members
  • thanking followers for sharing content (e.g. “thanks for the RT” or “thanks for the MT”)

Back in the stone age before there was Twitter, I knew non-profit professionals who would dutifully read the newspaper every morning. When they saw an article or something about a volunteer, donor or board member, they would clip the article and send it to the person with a kind note.

What is stopping your agency from clicking through a few of your Twitter followers profiles and re-tweeting or mentioning something about their content/tweet? After all, it is akin to clipping something out of the newspaper, right? And it sends the message — loud and clear — that you care enough about them to read what they are tweeting. Just a thought!

If you want to read more about what other agencies are doing with Twitter, here are a few good online articles that I’ve found:

How is your agency using Twitter? What is working? What isn’t working? How are you using Twitter to engage board volunteers? Donors? Clients? Volunteers? Please use the comment box below and share your experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Cash back for non-profit donors? Hmmm … Ah-ha!

laughing1Sometimes I see things at just the right time and in the right place, and it results in me seeing something differently. Usually, when this happens it results in an AH-HA moment. This is exactly what happened to me yesterday when I opened an email from my friends at Non-Profit Humour featuring their latest piece of satire (reminiscent of the Onion newspaper) titled “Charity offers cash to get people to donate“.

Here is the part of the post that caught my attention and almost had me fall to the ground in laughter:

The charity started the program quite by accident when a donor event turned ugly. A frustrated fundraiser couldn’t get key donors to make extra pledges.

“Sara just lost it at our wine and cheese party a month ago, and asked out loud what it would take to get our donors to give. She pulled out a $10.00 bill and waved it around just to make a point and sure enough all of our donors started signing pledge forms,” said Snidely. “That’s when we realized that all the stuff we were doing was all wrong.”

The visual of some fundraising professional reaching her breaking point and waiving around cash for pledge cards was hilarious to me. However, I know that I’ve been close to that breaking point and many of you probably have, too.

And by “breaking point” I, of course, mean being flummoxed and absolutely frustrated by what more it will take to engage donors in a manner that inspires loyalty. Just yesterday in my post titled “Uh-Oh: ‘The only time I ever see you is when you’re asking me for a donation’,” I rattled off a long list of things many non-profits employ as part of their donor communications program. If you missed yesterday’s post, here is that list:

  • newsletters
  • bulk email / eNewsletters
  • annual reports
  • impact bulletins
  • computer generated gift acknowledgement letters
  • handwritten letters
  • donor recognition societies (featuring stewardship activities)
  • donor receptions
  • donor surveys and focus groups

I went on to talk about how important it is to add a Moves Management component to this laundry list that involves engaging your agency’s volunteer solicitors in reconnecting periodically with those who they solicited for your annual campaign.

laughing2So, the title of today’s blog post had the word “AH-HA” in it, which implies that my friends at Non-Profit Humour inspired a light bulb of some sort.

The thing that struck me while reading their satirical piece was that maybe non-profit organizations would do better with inspiring donor loyalty if they STOPPED looking at the aforementioned laundry list of tools/tactics as a “Donor Communications” program and STARTED looking at it comprehensively as a “Donor Loyalty” program.

The second part of my AH_HA moment was that there are soooooo many great examples of “loyalty programs” that work in the for-profit sector, this situation surely screams out for some young, entrepreneurial non-profit agency to engage in a benchmarking project.

I am literally at no loss of benchmarking ideas when it comes to loyalty programs. Consider this initial list:

  • Hilton’s HHonors program
  • Holiday Inn’s Priority Club
  • United Airline’s MileagePlus
  • National Rental Car’s Emerald Club (e.g. pick a car from any aisle)
  • Starbucks’ My Starbucks Rewards (e.g. their gold card)

laughing3Yes, yes, yes . . . I know what you’re thinking: “Our agency doesn’t have things like hotel rooms, flights and cups of coffee to give away like these for-profit corporations.” But are you sure about that? Because I’ve attended many charity auctions in my life.

You’re already spending money on donors all in the name of “loyalty,” right? After all, those newsletters and special donor receptions cost you money — both direct and indirect costs.

What if some creative marketing genius told you that you could bundle up many of the aforementioned engagement tactics/tools and create a multi-level donor recognition society? In such a brave new world, newsletters, special tours of your facility, receptions and phone calls from board members might be seen as “rewards“.

I’m sure some of you aren’t biting on this idea yet, but you should check-out what the Indiana University Foundation is doing with its donor recognition societies. For example, if you give a combined $2,500 to the foundation in one calendar year, then you can join the prestigious 1820 Society. And membership has its privileges! Just check out these “rewards“:

  • Invitations to campus and regional events
  • Insider communication from IU leaders
  • Other opportunities to stay connected with IU

Some of you are probably worrying about those donors who tell you to: “Save your money and stop sending me stuff and fussing over me! I don’t make a contribution to your agency for you to spend it on recognizing me!

Ah, yes! Those donors exist. And those donors are loud. However, many of those donors are the same ones who stop contributing because they don’t see their contribution being put to work or having the impact they envisioned.

Your mission — if you choose to accept it — is to engage your donors in a way that inspires loyalty and doesn’t irritate them.

I wonder if there is a for-profit company in your town that will give special discounts to members of your donor recognition society? Oh wait . . . I suspect your National Public Radio (NPR) station has blazed this trail. I’m particularly fond of WBEZ’s High Fidelity monthly giving program (aka loyalty program).

Does your non-profit organization provide donor recognition societies? What types of “courtesies” do you offer those donors? If you’re not buying into today’s big idea about “loyalty programs,” please share with us what you’re doing to inspire donor loyalty. Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Does your non-profit agency need to re-think its online strategy?

commmgr1As you can probably imagine, I subscribe to a lot of things — everything from eNewsletters to blogs — and I do a lot of reading. It helps me be a better non-profit consultant, and equally important it helps me be a better thought-leader / blogger. This brings me to an article written by Cody Switzer in The Chronicle of Philanthropy titled “75% of Young Donors Turned Off by Out-of-Date Web Sites“.

After reading the article, the first thought that ran through my head was “It certainly is a ‘brave new world’ when it comes to non-profit fundraising.” Attached to this conclusion were memories of conversations I’ve had with countless numbers of board members and fundraising volunteers over the years about what support materials should look like for an agency’s annual campaign.

Perhaps, some of these discussions sound familiar to you:

  • Glossy campaign literature vs. something that looks less expensive
  • Video vs. no video
  • Content focused more on client stories vs. focused more on agency information

When I close my eyes after reading Cody’s article, I can almost see him reprising the role of Paul Revere but this time riding a keyboard and yelling:

The Millennials are coming!

The Millennials are coming!

Sure, they are just starting to trickle through the front door of your fundraising program, but you better start getting ready. Why? Because their expectations are very different.

Forget about the traditional questions that I shared above about glossy literature, support video and content. While the Chronicle of Philanthropy story does a good job of telling us that Millennials want to see your webpage, it really goes much further than just having an online presence. Right?

commmgr2Cody’s article about the Millennial Impact Report is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, I bet your agency is already asking itself questions such as:

  • How often do we refresh our website content?
  • Is the content on our website the right balance between showing donor how we’re putting their money to work vs. showing donors that our agency is healthy and a good investment?
  • Are there too many words on our site? Are there too few pictures and videos?
  • Is our website mobile-friendly?
  • What does our online community look like beyond the website? (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blog, etc) And how often do those platforms get fresh content?
  • What target audiences and niche groups are each of your online platforms focused on? And how does this impact your content creation?

Of course, ALL of these questions beg one big question . . .

Who is doing all of this for your agency?

The simple answer to this question is . . . your organization needs to look at hiring what is now commonly being called a “Community Manager“.

commmgr3This person isn’t a “technology person” working in your IT department. In fact, they don’t need to have many of those skill sets because you either already have an a) IT person on your payroll, b) relationship with an IT consulting firm or c) utilize “in-the-box” technology (e.g. Press Publisher,, etc) that comes with a toll-free help desk when things get dicey.

Yes, I know . . . You don’t have any money.

My response? You better figure it out and find some money soon to hire this person.

Why? Because “The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming!

The days of tossing lots of text about your agency online are over. Let me bottom line it for you like my partner does for me all the time . . .

Fundraising is evolving . . . adapt your online strategies.

Some of you are probably saying “Wait! Tell me more about that community manager position. What do they look like? What type of skills should they possess? Where do I find them to build an applicant pool?

The following links will take you to great online resources that speak to the issue of what you should look for when hiring your Community Manager:

Does your non-profit organization current hire a community manager to handle your online strategy? If so, what skill sets do you think are more important than others? Do your fundraising program have an online fundraising plan that spells out strategies and tactics including how your fundraising professional(s) interact with your community manager?

Please scroll down to the comment box and share a few of your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Non-profits must be careful with cause-related marketing

cause marketingEarlier in the year, I wrote a post titled “Bad cause-related marketing is offensive“. It was inspired by an incident when I was solicited at a cash register and the employee couldn’t tell me the first thing about the charity. They couldn’t even point me to a kiosk or brochure containing more information. A few weeks ago, I was confronted by a different situation that evoked a similar reaction and reinforced my strong belief that your agency needs to be careful (and diligent) when entering into cause-related marketing arrangements.

I’ve been playing chicken with my website provider recently. They’ve been sending me weekly reminders that I need to give them more money because their service will expire in two months. I’ve been really busy lately . . . so I’ve been ignoring and deleting those email reminders. However, they caught me in the right place at the right time a few weeks ago, and I ended up clicking through and renewing my agreement with them.

When I clicked the check-out button, they asked me if I wanted to “round-up my fee to the nearest dollar and donate that pocket change to  one of three charities they’ve partnered with“.

Unfortunately, I was going too fast and what I read versus what I “thought I read” was two very different things.

round up for charityThey wanted me to round my total up to the nearest dollar. What I thought I had read was that they would donate (out of their pocket) the amount of the rounded sum.  (You can see the screenshots of the information they provided me to the right of this paragraph)


The first thing that came to mind was Ben Franklin who famously said, “Haste makes waste.”

The second thing that came to mind was “Hey, wait a minute! That was vague and some people might even think a little deceptive. Moreover, who are these charities and how can I find out more about them?”

Needless to say, I started having a deja vu moment and finally realized that I blogged about this many months ago.

Bad cause-related marketing can have a negative impact on your brand. So, I have three simple requests of those of you reading today’s post:

  1. Please go back and read my previous post. It has some nice links to Joanne Fritz’s post on this subject, and hopefully it raises some thought-provoking discussions around your resource development committee table.
  2. Click here or on the Cause Marketing for Dummies graphic at the beginning of this post. I am a big fan of people who commit themselves to becoming a “lifelong learner“. Consider purchasing and reading the book if your agency is even giving a little consideration to jumping into a cause-related marketing venture.
  3. Read the few questions that I pose at the end of this post. Then scroll down and share a few thoughts with your fellow fundraising professionals. Why? Because we can all learn from each other!

Has your agency played around with any cause related marketing efforts? If so, what did you do? More importantly, what did you learn? What would you do differently?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Fewer statistics and more stories, please?

dataAs someone who blogs every day, I find it necessary to read a lot of other people’s blogs, too. Every one in a while, I come across something that gets me thinking. If it is really good or cuts against the grain of something I believe, I might mentally chew on it for days. Two bloggers, who I respect and read a lot, are Jeff Brook at Future Fundraising Now and Marc Pitman (aka The Fundraising Coach). Both of these guys have had me chewing on something recently, and I must admit that my jaw hurts from all that macerating. The topic in question? Should you include statistics in your fundraising appeals?

In recent years, the non-profit sector has been hyper-focused on things like:

  • measuring program outcomes
  • measuring community impact
  • benchmarking projects
  • analytics

I must admit that I’ve bitten into this trend as hard as anyone. I am a bit of a data geek, and I love information. If I were being truthful, I’d even admit that sometimes the old expression “paralysis by analysis ” defines my work (even though I fight hard not to fall into this trap).

The logical extension of these tendencies is to include data and statistics in fundraising appeals, which is something I’ve done for years.

So, when I recently read Future Fundraising Now and The Fundraising Coach, it felt like nails on a chalkboard for a moment. However, I try to read with an open mind, and I must admit that they have a point. Here is how I did an about-face on this subject . . .

hurricane katrinaHurricane Katrina

 As I thought back upon this devastating  natural disaster, I remembered being glued to the radio listening to NPR deliver the blow-by-blow description of what was happening on the Gulf coast. I have very clear memories of my attention waning when the reporter started saying things like:

  • 1.2 million evacuees
  • $81 billion in damage
  • 1,833 deaths

I also remember being glued to my radio as the reporter interviewed individuals who had survived the storm as they told their stories:

  • I remember one woman telling a reporter about climbing into the attic with her family as she watched the water levels fill the first floor of her home and start to consume the second floor.
  • I remember a gentleman talking about how long he had to wait on his roof for rescuers and how hard that ordeal was.
  • I remember  a public official talking about the national guard’s efforts to evacuate trapped senior citizens from a nursing home.

Statistics . . . .Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Stories? Please continue … I’m listening!

campfireBefore the written word

There is a lot of debate about how long the written word has played a role in human culture; however, I think it is fair to say that literacy rates only started significantly climbing in the last few hundred years.

So, how did humans communicate to each other important things like:

  • How to appropriately behave?
  • What to value and what is important?
  • Who should do what and by when?

It was storytelling. Sitting around a campfire and telling stories. Passing lessons along from one generation to the next generation by word of mouth in the form of a story with a moral to every story.

Fundraising conclusions

I still believe that measuring community impact and program outcomes is important. Please don’t stop doing this hard and arduous work. It is important to measure for accountability, stewardship and quality control purposes, but . . .

Please stop sharing all of that data with me during the solicitation process.

I want to hear warm fuzzy stories about your clients and how my contribution has contributed to those success stories.

Please train your volunteers to be good storytellers because there is nothing worse that having to sit through lunch with someone who can’t tell a good story. This is an art form. For some people it comes naturally and for others they need substantial training on how to do this.

So where should you put all of your data?

Well, I still believe that this information is an important part of being a good steward of donor dollars.

  • Upload it to your website . . . those donors who love data can find it there, and this sends a strong message about your commitment to transparency.
  • Share some of it in your annual report.
  • Create an impact report and send it to your donors every quarter.
  • Sprinkle some of it into newletter stories.

BUT . . . whatever you do, please don’t share this with me when you’re asking for my money. And if you do, please forgive me for the yawning and vacant blank stare.

If I’ve intrigued you with today’s post, then you may want to check out the blog posts by Jeff and Marc at the following links:

What does your agency do with its data? How much to your share with your donors? How and when do you share it with your donors? Do you include it in your written case for support document and training your volunteer solicitors to use it when soliciting contributions? Do you include it in your direct mail appeal? What has been your experience when using a storytelling approach to fundraising?

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847