Is your non-profit ready for the homestretch of 2013?

yearend5Don’t look now, but we are seven weeks away from drinking champagne and celebrating the end of 2013 and the start of a Happy New Year 2014. It is this time of the year when non-profit organizations are super busy. Many of you are closing out your fiscal year, and almost every non-profit with a pulse is executing its year-end giving strategy.
According to a survey by Charity Navigator, respondents reported that they expect to raise 40% of their annual revenue budget between Thanksgiving and New Years.
Holy Cow! Year-end giving is a big deal for many non-profit organizations, which is why I’m dedicating today’s post to just a few giving strategies I see being employed or talked about by my friends.
Traditional year-end appeals letter
There are many different “schools of thought” on how to craft the perfect year-end appeals letter. I’ve seen all of my favorite bloggers weigh-in on this subject. The funny thing is that each and every one of them have a slightly different take on the same subject.

  • Long letter vs. short letter
  • The importance of cross-channel promotion or not
  • Send the letter early or closer to Thanksgiving

mailboxesI just finished helping a client with their year-end mail appeal. The executive director called on Friday to report the letters were delivered to the post office and we both did a little happy dance. The next thing on his year-end fundraising task list is preparing for the phone-a-thon follow-up the week of Thanksgiving.
If you are like most non-profit organizations, you are doing something traditional like sending a letter. Hopefully, you’ve already sent it or are very close to doing so, but here are just a few thoughts of my own on this very popular subject:

  • The letter must be emotional and pull at heart-strings
  • The letter must tell a story about impact and not focus on your agency’s needs
  • A matching gift is a tremendous incentive that sets you apart from lots and lots of other appeals
  • Go light on the stats and data . . . let the story be the feature and sprinkle outcomes data into your story sparingly
  • Don’t be overly fixated on restricting your letter to one page . . . tell your story
  • Use lots of white space, pictures and graphics
  • Keep in mind how readers read . . . write your letter accordingly (e.g. personalized salutation, ask for a specific contribution in the first paragraph, influential signature, catchy post script)
  • You need to design a great outer envelope . . . entice people to open the envelope and read your request or your awesome letter is worthless (e.g. handwritten names and addresses on the outside envelope)
  • Follow-up . . . organize your board members in a phone-a-thon and send a follow-up postcard or another appeal before New Years Eve

If you don’t like my suggestions or are looking for more advice, here are a few additional links to bloggers who are amazing:

Amazon-Smile-300x300Holiday shopping appeals
Perhaps you didn’t notice, but there are lots and lots of people spending lots and lots of money on gifts for family and friends. Something about “’tis the season“.
With this is mind, there is a big year-end giving trend that has materialized over the last decade or so where non-profit organizations try to tie their year-end appeal to those shopping habits. It is typically rooted in cause-related marketing efforts as retails try to differentiate themselves from their competitors, seize the halo effect and drive foot traffic through their doors using charitable goodwill.
I can almost hear those cashiers asking, “Would you like to donate a dollar to . . .”
A good friend of mind and fellow blogger — Dani Robbins — just informed me via Google+ that has a new charitable giving program called AmazonSmile. In a nutshell, Amazon shoppers will be able to donate 0.5% of their purchase to a charity of their choosing (as long as that charity can be found on Guidestar AND is registered with Amazon).
Is your agency participating in AmazonSmile? Click here is you want to learn more.
giving tuesday#GivingTuesday
What?!? You haven’t heard of #GivingTuesday?
I guess you get a pass because last year was the first time the non-profit sector attempted to get this “national day of giving” off of the ground.
In a nutshell, there were 2,500 giving partners located in all 50 states. More than 50 million people worldwide helped promote this day by posting, tweeting and generally talking about it on social media. Both Blackbaud and DonorPerfect reported an increase in giving resulting from these efforts.
Will your non-profit organization participate in the second annual #GivingTuesday this year? If so, then . . .

  • Mark your calendars for Tuesday, December 3, 2013
  • Start developing your online giving strategies to promote this opportunity to your donors
  • Get registered as an official partner

For more info, click here to read the #GivingTuesday FAQ page.
You might also want to do a little research on #GivingTuesday best practices. Hubspot published a great post titled “12 Ways to Amplify Your Giving Tuesday Campaign” that you may want to check out.
What does the homestretch look like for your non-profit organization’s fundraising efforts? Please use the comment box below to share. Why? Because we can all learn from each other, and it is the season of giving, of course!  😉
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Those shiny fundraising tools in your resource development toolbox

personal pagesJeff Bezos has been on my mind lately. Of course, he is the 49-year-old owner of, and this internet pioneer recently purchased one of the iconic old media newspapers — The Washington Post — for $250 million. It was no more than a few days after this announcement that I was talking to a non-profit board volunteer about fundraising when I was reminded of this famous Jeff Bazos quotation: “A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last.

Here is how the fundraising conversation with the board member went:

  • Board member:  “Erik, I am so happy with our agency’s foray into online fundraising. I especially LOVE these ‘personal pages’ where I set-up my online page and email a link to everyone in my email address book.”
  • Erik:  “Why do you like this new fundraising strategy so much?
  • Board member:  “For starters, it is so easy and doesn’t take much time. Who has time to do fundraising the way we used to do it? Chasing down friends — who also don’t have time — and ask them for money when they don’t really want to be asked.”
  • Erik:  “Ummmm … well, hopefully there wasn’t a lot of ‘chasing’ and ‘forcing’ going on. Fundraising should be more about connecting people’s philanthropic wishes with opportunities. We’re not stalking people and stealing their money.
  • Board member: “Well, I just hated sitting down with my friends. It was so uncomfortable. Now, with these new ‘personal pages,’ I don’t have to do that anymore.”
  • Erik:  “Ummmm … that can’t be entirely true, right? I mean you should still be sitting down with large donors because it isn’t very respectful to ask donors of a certain size to simply ‘click and give,’ right?
  • Board member:  “I guess, but I’m not really focused on ‘those donors’. Staff can take care of those individuals.”
  • Erik:  “How do you ask donors to consider making a specific sized contribution that is commensurate with their capacity and willingness to give to your agency?
  • Board member:  “I really don’t worry about that either. I just ask them to give whatever they feel like donating, and the contributions rolled in! I can’t believe it, but my response rate has been approximately 30%. Many people are giving $25 and $50. A few people even donated more than $100. The biggest contribution was $200. I just can’t believe it!
  • Erik:  “I have some concerns about taking the personal touch out of your organization’s resource development program. Hopefully, these personal pages are simply one small strategy focused on the very bottom rung or two of your range of gifts chart. Or is it your agency’s new ‘donor acquisition’ strategy… like direct mail?
  • Board member: “Oh Erik … this is the future of fundraising!

I’m not going to provide too much commentary in today’s post because I suspect you can read between the lines.

unintended consequencesI am a huge proponent of using technology and integrating it into your non-profit organization’s fundraising program, but it shouldn’t be introduced in a way that undercuts the other best practices embedded in your resource development plan.

If your board members are ultra-reluctant fundraisers and you can’t introduce something like “personal pages” into your fundraising tool box without killing your annual campaign, then I suggest taking a pass on those opportunities for now. Timing is everything. Right?

Moreover, the Jeff Bezos quotation reminds us that shiny objects don’t remain shiny forever. So, what happens when those personal pages (or whatever the new online fundraising tool you’re using) become burdensome to volunteers and they resist using it?

My suggestion is that you fix the underlying problems and stop trying to deal with symptoms. If your volunteers are reluctant fundraisers, then help them overcome their fears or recruit additional board members who aren’t reluctant. Don’t just paper over their fears or blind them with shiny objects.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I am not opposed to online giving. I am not against peer-to-peer web-based personal pages. I am concerned about misuse and unintended consequences.

Has your agency started using personal pages to support board volunteer’s peer-to-peer solicitation with their circle of influence? If so, what has been the result? Have individual board members raised more, less or about the same in year-to-year comparisons? Have you seen any ill effects of introducing a shiny new object into your fundraising tool box?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Follow-up: Is ePhilanthropy the future of charitable giving?

predictions2At the end of 2011, I predicted in a year-end blog post that we would see an “increased focus by non-profit organizations on pursuing and securing charitable contributions by using online strategies and tactics resources“. Last week, I thought it would be fun to look back and determine if my prognostications where off-the-mark and by how much.

Here is some of what I found:

  • online giving continues to climb . . . in fact, the growth numbers continue to be double digit;
  • more people are turning to online ways to donate at the end of the year; and
  • according to surveys more non-profit leaders are saying they believe online is the future.

In reality, I didn’t need to do much clicking around to find evidence that ePhilanthropy is a real long-term trend. All you need to do is open your eyes and look around. In just the last few days, this is some of what I saw:

  • A St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital billboard driving home last night, and it simply told me to go online and make a contribution.
  • An advertisement in a city bus vestibule for the Red Cross, and it simply told  me to go online and give.
  •  My email inbox continually gives me stuff from non-profit organizations, and everything I read simply says “click here and donate now”.

If you trust your eyes, you know that online giving is a trend and will go on to become a very important part of every fundraising professional’s toolbox.

However, you may want to take careful note of what I just said and how I said it.

I did not say that ePhilanthropy is the future. Nor did I say that ePhilanthropy is how we will fundraising in the future. I deliberately used the words “a very important part“.

Some of the data that I’ve seen indicates that online giving tools (e.g. email, website, social media, crowdfunding, etc) are simply an “acquisition strategy“. For example, Steve McLaughlin at Blackbaud, points out that one-third of donors who make a donation online actually go offline the next year to renew their support.

I believe we should all look at this data point and double-down on cross-channel communication and promotion of our fundraising efforts. Tell people online where to mail a check. Tell people in your direct mail letter how to go online and make a contribution. In both your emails and letters, tell donors who they can call to talk to a real person or set-up an appointment.

Are you interested in learning a lot more about online giving? The following are just a few links that I came across while clicking around online:

What do your eyes see around you in your community when it comes to online giving? Here is a fun game that you can play today. Keep your eyes open for evidence in the world around you for evidence of this ePhilanthropy trend. Make a mental note of it, and then circle back around to this blog post and share one or two examples of what you saw in the comment section below.

Here’s to your health!

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

2012 Non-Profit Trends and Predictions: Rise of the Machines

This week I’m looking back upon 2011 for major trends, and then looking forward to 2012 with an eye towards making a few predictions. Today, we are looking at non-profit online giving and ePhilanthropy.

Back in late July and early August, I focused my blog posts on the various faces of ePhilanthropy including: Twitter, Facebook, online videos, website, and email. Ever since writing those post, I’ve kept my eyes open for evidence of this trend, and I must admit that I see indicators everywhere pointing to:

2012 will continue the long-term transition towards online giving.

Every year at this time, I read blogs predicting that the upcoming year will be “The Year of ePhilanthropy,” and every year I look back and fail to see the big transformation. Well, I am being a big ‘ol dummy because the transformation isn’t going to be dramatic and sudden. The change (as is the case with most trends) will take place over time, and in fact it has been taking place for years.

The proof can be found in the data and analytics provided by Blackbaud who publishes a monthly index of online giving that compares year-over-year online giving statistics. Take a look at the last 12-months and let me know if you see can see the proof in the pudding:

While the overall gross revenue from online giving is still relatively small (between $5 and $10 billion), the trend arrow is pointing up-up-up and has been for many years. Additionally, this trend is not just being fueled by large, multinational health and disaster relief organizations. I was surprised when I saw how much year-over-year growth in online giving came from small non-profit agencies and organizations in the non-profit human services sector. If you have some time, I encourage you to click here  and dive into Blackbaud’s treasure trove of data.

Of course, what gives me the most confidence in predicting this trend is what I see going on with our “for-profit cousins” and e-commerce. Click here to check out some very cool e-commerce infographic at “Next Widgets” blog. If my eyes aren’t deceiving me, I see parallels between e-commerce and ePhilanthropy.

More and more people are spending time and money online, and this reality can mean only one thing for non-profit organizations. As a matter of fact, this trend isn’t just confined to non-profit and for-profit businesses. Just last night Rock Center with Brian Williams featured a news segment on individuals who are using crowdfunding sources like Kickstarter to secure financial resources for things ranging from start-up projects to catastrophic healthcare expenses. Click here to read and see more.

Unfortunately, this trend is not as simple as it seems. The online world is constantly changing . . . what seemed as easy as building a website with a “donate now” button is now more complicated with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, WordPress, and email marketing (e.g. Constant Contact). All of these things work together like little cogs in a complicated machine.

More distressing is how quickly the landscape changes. I can still remember when AOL was the future of all cyber-things (and it wasn’t just me who thought this to be true . . . go talk to our friends over at Time Warner . . . LOL), and today it is all about Google and Facebook. Well, just wait because in no time we might just find ourselves saying the same thing about these new digital overlords as we ohhhh and ahhhh over the next greatest thing.

It sounds like 2012 will be the year that Facebook finally takes itself public with an IPO designed to raise $10+ billion dollars. I suspect that 2012 will be the “Year of Facebook,” and non-profit organizations who haven’t figured out how to use Facebook to talk AND listen to their supporters, donors, and volunteers will be starting on that project very soon. Click here to read a few interesting statistics about online giving via social media vehicles.

You might want to re-think your online giving plan if your strategy is “wait-and-see”. If you want to “get the lay of the than land,” I suggest circling back and reading my posts from July 25 – August 2 about ePhilanthropy (see links at top of this post). I ended that blog series with a post titled “ePhilanthropy: Mission Possible” that provided a few small steps for getting started.

Let me end with these cautionary words: online giving and the internet will NOT overtake traditional fundraising strategies and tactics such as face-to-face solicitation, direct mail, special events, grantwriting, etc. ePhilanthropy and all of its tactics are just more tools that you need to add to your resource development toolbox if you want your non-profit agency to thrive in the 21st Century.

So, please don’t run out there and invest tons of money and hours in ePhilanthropy in 2012 and expect that you’ve solved all of your revenue issues. However, please stop procrastinating and get to work on engaging your existing and future donors online.

This trend is starting to look like an out-of-control freight train, and you want to make sure you are on board and not standing in its way.

Does your agency have a written ePhilanthropy plan? If so, what does it look like? If not, what are your plans for tackling this emerging trend?

Here’s to your health!

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