Non-profit “inside the box thinking” — Understanding change

As promised in last Friday’s post, I am dedicating today, tomorrow and Thursday to challenging proponents of “outside-the-box thinking” and examining various “inside-the-box thinking” principles. This week’s posts were determined by DonorDreams blog subscribers who took the time to voice their opinions via a poll last Friday. Thank you to those of you who voted. Additionally, the foundation of these posts are rooted in Kirk Cheyfitz’s book “Thinking Insider The Box: The 12 Timeless Rules for Managing a Successful Business.” 

DonorDreams blog subscribers voted to hear more about chapter one of Cheyfitz’s book, which is titled “The Basic Box: Some Things Never Change”.

I love how the author starts each chapter with a short sentence that serves as “food for thought”. The following is how chapter one was started:

Know the difference between what will change and what won’t, and pay attention to the former.”

Most of this chapter talks about how some economists and many pundits are flat wrong about what they see as a “new economy”. He points to the dot-com bust of 2001 and talks about how ignoring human behavior and the basic principles of capitalism will get you and your company in trouble all of the time.

This chapter got me thinking about Gail Perry’s recent post titled “Post Recession Donors Have Changed” over at her Fired Up Fundraising blog.

After reading Perry’s post about donors, I realized the following:

  • There will always be donors regardless of how good, bad or sluggish the economy is. This will never change.
  • The mindset of those donors and conditions upon which they will donate is always evolving. This is constantly changing.

Cheyfitz’s encourages us to pay attention to “what will change” because not focusing on the ever-changing landscape is what puts too many companies (both for-profit and non-profit) out-of-business.

Gail Perry tells us in her blog that post-recession donors . . .

  • trust non-profit agencies less than they used to,
  • crave more information about ROI,
  • want to see more transparency, and
  • want to contribute to fewer unrestricted fundraising campaigns.

Read Gail’s blog for a few great tips on how to use “inside-the-box thinking” to address these perceived trends in the donor community.

There are also many other interesting trends occurring in the donor community:

  • technology’s impact on giving,
  • technology’s impact of cultivation and stewardship activities, and
  • donor communications moving  from one-way to two-way communications.

Cheyfitz urges us to not focus on “the shiny object” (in this case it would be technology) and throw what works out the window for what we don’t understand (e.g. ePhilanthropy). However, he does not tell us to ignore the changes that are starting to happen. Instead, he point to the words that are chiseled above the entrance of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.:

“The past is prologue”

He ends the chapter by saying, “Paying attention to history, in short, can save a lot of time and pain and produce a lot of gain.”

The non-profit sector has seen this kind of change in communication technology before, right? I am thinking about the rise of “direct mail” and how that changed how we cultivate, solicit, and steward donors today.

I suspect that non-profits, who tossed their special events and peer-to-peer annual campaigns onto the trash heap and invested everything they had into direct mail, probably went out of business. Those who survived kept their eyes on the trend, engaged their donors in thoughtful discussions about their preferences with direct mail, and proceeded forward with caution and strategic focus.

Again . . . outside-the box thinking will sink you, and inside-the-box thinking will keep you afloat.

At the end of every chapter, Cheyfitz provides a few tips on how to “build your box” so that you can think inside of it. He offered four tips at the end of chapter one, but the last tip struck me as very appropriate for non-profit organizations during these challenging and changing times (read the word “customer” as “donor” to help with the non-profit translation):

“Use your time to focus on how your customers’ lives are changing and how you can serve their emerging needs with new products and services (delivered using the same old business models).”

Are your donors behaving different after the economic crash of 2008? What is your donor data telling showing? What are donors telling you? What kinds of “inside-the-box” best practices are you employing to thrive in this new economic climate? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share a thought or two with your fellow non-profit professionals this morning.

Here’s to your health!

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

Email is the foundation of your non-profit resource development program

A few days ago, while vacationing in Michigan for the Labor Day weekend, I started reading “The Social Media Bible” by Lon Safko. As the pages turned and I read about marketing within a social media framework (including tactics, tools and strategies), I can’t tell you how many “ah-ha” and “hmmmm” fundraising moments that I experienced. On Tuesday, the book inspired me to post about the costs associated with bad word of mouth and how this should evolve into a “generative question” around which to organize your board meetings. Yesterday, the book had me wondering how many of your donors are “lurkers”.  Today, we end this week’s series with a tip of the hat to the importance of email.

Safko reminds readers on page 62 that email is a lot older than you may remember. Sure, the first email was sent “around 7:00 pm in the autumn of 1971 as a test . . .”  However, when you stop to think about it, many of us have actively and heavily been using email as an information tool (and many times inappropriately as a communication tool) for two decades.

On page 63, Safro shares a chart comparing direct mail to email marketing. I’ve tried to re-create that chart for you below:

Table 3.1

Direct Mail versus E-Mail Marketing

(Source: The Social Media Bible 3rd edition, page 63)
Measurement Direct Mail E-Mail
Development Time 3 to 6 weeks 2 days
Cost per Unit $1.25 $0.10
Response Rate 0.1 to 2 percent 5 to 15 percent

In the table underneath this one (table 3.2), Safro lists a number of primary goals that businesses reported in a benchmark survey on

Can you guess which primary goal topped the list for companies email marketing programs?

If you guessed “Build relationships with existing customers,” then you are correct!

So, I suggested in today’s blog post title that email is really the cornerstone of most non-profit organization’s resource development programs. I came to this conclusion (kind of like those old forehead slapping V8 commercials) after reading the last few data points. Let’s do the math . . .

  • It takes less time to develop a stewardship piece that you email compared to the one you drop-off at the post office.
  • Communicating ROI to donors via email is significantly cheaper than a paper newsletter or mail piece.
  • More people will read your email piece; whereas, your letter or newsletter is likely bound for the shredder before it is even opened.
  • Our for-profit cousins (who have all of the money and calculate every ROI angle) have determined that email marketing programs are great for “building relationships”.

As I think back to my days on the front line, I start counting how many emails and html email documents I sent donors compared to stewardship letters and paper newsletters. From a pure “tally ’em up” perspective, it is now obvious to me how important email has become to most non-profit organization’s resource development programs.

So, here is the kicker . . .

When I speak to the average small non-profit organization about how many email addresses they have in their donor database and the size of  their email house file, it is typically very small.

  • Are you asking donors to provide their email addresses on your annual campaign pledge cards? Maybe.
  • Are you including an email field on your special event registration forms? Not typically.
  • Are you asking donors to provide their email as part of an eNewsletter request on your website. No.
  • Do you use online donor surveys as a way to capture donor email addresses? Huh?
  • Do you run online contests to secure donor email addresses? Never.
  • Do you flat-out just ask donors to provide their email address to you? No.

If email marketing is a relationship development tool according to the for-profit industry, then non-profits need to focus their efforts and start catching up.

In fact, email is more than just a cornerstone for your organization’s resource development program . . . it forms the foundation of your agency’s social media strategy (which is the funnel you need to get donors to the info on your website and that coveted “Donate Now” button).

Before some of you burn me at the stake for this blog post, please understand that I am not advocating elimination of your more traditional marketing and mail strategies. I am suggesting that the future is all about cross-channel communication and putting the decision-making into the hands of donors. THAT is what I call being “donor-centered”!!!

How many email addresses does your organization have in its house file or donor database? How did you acquire them? What strategies worked better than others? Have you tracked and compare your donor retention rates between donors who receive ROI info via email versus other traditional methods? Do you see a difference?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Social media ROI — Non-profits shouldn’t make it difficult

At the end of Tuesday’s post titled “Are non-profits yelling at their donors using social media?” I promised that I’d share a few revelations from a social media conference that Marissa and I attended last week hosted by SkillPath Seminars. Yesterday, I posted “Answers to the two most popular social media questions asked by non-profits,” and today we’re talking about that thing that for-profit companies are obsessed with and non-profits seem to struggle with . . . RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI).

“43% of current social media marketers haven’t measured ROI.”

This number was shared with Marissa and me by our lovely  SkillPath Seminars trainers at last week’s social media conference. They cited this information from King Fish Media in 2010.

Well, if I were a betting man, I would guess that this number is much, much higher when you just look at non-profit organizations using social media.

Let’s be honest. Most non-profit organizations are stretched too thin. So, asking employees to track a lot of stuff as it relates to your social media presence just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Right?  However, it is important to measure something. Right? After all, resources are tight and you are dedicating time and resources to this thing called social media. If the ROI is very poor, then you probably have 101 ways to better spend those hours and dollars.

Additionally, keeping an eye on certain metrics also helps you evolve your social media presence and approach because when you see that something isn’t working then you stop and when you see something is working you do more of it.

This brings us to the big question . . . “What can non-profits easily measure and how should they do it?”

Looking across the fence at our for-profit cousins, I can tell you that they start by asking “What is most important to the success of the company?” It usually boils down into one of four things: conversion rates, generating sales leads, increased site traffic/number of new customers, and brand awareness.

Once they narrow their focus, they then pay a visit to their social media analytics buffet and look around at all of the yummy things that you can track including:

  • web traffic
  • viral video activity
  • bounce rate
  • page views
  • comments
  • social bookmarks
  • inbound links to your website
  • ratings
  • number of new followers
  • comments / mentions
  • leads generated
  • downloads
  • uploads
  • engagement activity

As we discussed in yesterday’s post — “Answers to the two most popular social media questions asked by non-profits“–  your organization probably uses different social media platforms to achieve different objectives in your resource development plan (e.g. Facebook = stewardship; Twitter = cultivation; etc). So, it makes sense that what you measure might look a little different for each of the platforms your agency uses.

If I were using Facebook to steward donors and didn’t have enough time or money, then I would simply track: 1) how many Friends does my Facebook page have (and how did that number change in the last year), 2) how many “likes” and comments did my posted content generate, and 3) how many Facebook friends remained a donor to my agency in the last year (e.g. donor database loyalty report cross referenced to Facebook Friends list)?

If I were using Twitter to introduce and cultivate new prospective donors, then I would track: 1) how many Followers does my Twitter account have (and how did that number change in the last year), 2) what is my Klout score and level of online influence with my Twitter followers, and 3) how much traffic back to the agency’s website comes from Twitter (e.g. Google analytics from your website will tell you this number and much more).

As I’ve just done in the last two paragraphs, I suggest you do the same for each of your social media platforms: 1) determine your target audience and main objective for each platform and 2) select a small handful of metrics from your analytics program (e.g. Facebook Insights, Google analytics, etc) that make the most sense for what you’re trying to accomplish.

But wait . . . there’s more!

Measuring data for the sake of measuring data is a waste of time. You need to turn your data into something “actionable“. Here are just a few thoughts:

  • include it an annual performance plan for the employee who is responsible for managing your social media communities
  • build a social media dashboard and share with your marketing or resource development committee every month
  • place it on committee meeting and staff meeting agendas and facilitate conversations around the questions: “What does the data tell you?” and “What should we do differently with our content?”

Here are a few links that you might also want to read on this subject from me, Marissa or others:

Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard. And whatever you do, make sure you use the data.

Does your agency use social media? Are you measuring stuff? What are you measuring? Why are you measuring it? What are you doing with it? Has it made a difference in anything you do online or offline? Please scroll down and share answers to these questions or whatever else is on your mind in the comment box. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Answers to the two most popular social media questions asked by non-profits

At the end of yesterday’s post titled “Are non-profits yelling at their donors using social media?” I promised that I’d share a few revelations from a social media conference that Marissa and I attended last week hosted by SkillPath Seminars. Today, we’re talking about two of the most popular social media questions that I’ve been asked by non-profit organizations:

  1. Which social media platforms should your non-profit organization use to speak to donors and supporters?
  2. How can your agency do a better job at engaging its supporters using social media and gain more traction?

Let me first say that I highly recommend this SkillPath training conference to all non-profit professionals who are responsible for managing their agency’s social media communities. You can find more information at the other end of the link that provided above. (No, I was not paid to say this)

When looking through the conference materials on this subject, they list more than 20 different platforms that companies are using to market their efforts. However, it came as no surprise that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were the top three “networking platforms;” YouTube was the most popular “promotional platform;” and various blogging platforms (e.g. WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr) were the most popular “sharing platforms”.

Our trainers suggested that a company should give serious consideration to developing a presence on all three platforms and five sites. While that might sound easy enough, it becomes more complicated when you consider that you’ll be saying different things in each of these places. You need to figure out who your target audiences are and which social media platforms are best at communicating with them.

As I sat through many of the sessions, I found myself trying to translate the training curricula into non-profit speak. Assuming that my universal translator is working well, I concluded the following:

  • Facebook looks like a great stewardship tool where you can engage donors and show your “friends” how their contribution is being put to good use.
  • Twitter and its 140 character limitations could be an awesome cultivation tool where you catch the attention of prospects and drive them to a place where they learn more about your mission.
  • LinkedIn is more than a human resource tool. It is a place to build relationships with potential corporate supporters and identify special event sponsors.
  • YouTube can be a multi-purpose resource development tool and used in many different ways. However, it might be best used for raising brand awareness and developing a pool of interested prospects who you are positioning for cultivation activities.
  • Your blog is a friendly online place to engage in conversations with supporters and potential supporters. You can establish yourself as a “thought leader,” advocate and engaged listener.
  • All of these social media tools should be used to drive traffic to your website where there is more information, volunteer forms, donation pages, etc.

Yes, this is a lot of work and at some point you’ll need to frame your agency’s strategy in a written social media plan. While it is easy to think that it might end up on the fundraising department’s plate, I think there is an opportunity for thoughtful organizations to transform their agency into a “social company” and share the workload and transform your workplace culture.

Enough on platforms.

What about building momentum? Gaining traction? Engaging more deeply?

The following are just a few of the suggestions offered by our SkillPath trainers:

  • Write content that is interesting to your reader. (If you don’t know what that is, then go ask them)
  • Host contests
  • Offer coupons
  • Make your content interactive
  • Include links to things that your audience will find interesting and useful

Perhaps, one of the best ideas I heard was that a picture is worth a thousand words. Write less and post more pictures of your mission, your programs, your volunteers, and your donors. This one simple idea that will probably result in increased traffic, more content sharing, and deeper engagement.

Is your agency using social media? How’s it going? Do you feel like it is working? Why or why not? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Are non-profits YELLING at their donors using social media?

For a moment this morning, please picture this fictional situation.

You are sitting at Starbucks enjoying your favorite beverage. The music is soothing. The place is buzzing. The smell of baked goods is in the air. Perhaps, you’re engaged in a little people watching. You might also be eavesdropping on an interesting conversation at the table next to you. Ahhhhhh . . . this is a great place to be.

Suddenly, a wild-eyed person bursts through the door and makes a beeline right over to your table. They are loud. They are obnoxious. This mild acquaintance is talking at you, and there is seemingly no place in the conversation for you to get a word in edgewise. You focus in on what they’re saying (in an effort to find a way into the conversation):

  • Hi, my name is ________
  • I was born in Anywhere, USA.
  • I am ___ years old
  • I like cookies
  • I won a silver media in the fourth grade during field day
  • I like shiny objects

You think to yourself, “Why do I want to know all of this?” You also get annoyed because your peaceful and serene happy place quickly evaporated because of this person who you don’t know very well.

Believe it or not, this story might describe how your non-profit organization is behaving on social media platforms.

Many of your donors go to places like Facebook to find “fun” and “love”. They are relaxing, catching up with friends and family, and just chillin’ out. When out of the blue you (and other agencies) start shouting various things. Let’s look at some real Facebook posts from non-profits who I follow (I won’t attribute names in order to protect the innocent).

  • Oh! Oh! Look at me, look at me:  “School is back in session!  Let’s make this year GREAT!!  Welcome back the kids!”
  • Oh! Oh! Look at me, look at me: “As you watch the Olympics this week, 1-get psyched up for our week-long competition next week, 2-admire how the font you see on TV for the Olympics is the exact same we used on our summer flier!”
  • Oh! Oh! Look at me, look at me: “Please vote many times.  Takes seconds to do.  Click.  Enter info.  Vote.  Done.  Round 1 almost over.”

Many of you might be wondering, “What’s the point?” After all, isn’t social media the place that your agency is supposed to engage and cultivate new prospective donors and steward existing donors?

Yes, social media is a place to engage people. It is even a place where you can promote yourself. However, too many non-profit agencies in my opinion have the proportions way off. There are three specific goals that your written social media plan should have:

  1. Networking
  2. Promoting
  3. Sharing

Chris Abrams wrote a great blog post over at Marketing Conversation titled “Stop shouting and start listening to your social media fans“. While his audience is for-profit companies, I think he is right on target for non-profits as well when he says: “. . . social media is two-thirds defense and monitoring — listening — and only one-third promotion and publicity — speaking.”

Think of it this way . . . social media is a “conversation” between you and your donors, and you need to do at least as much listening as you do talking (if not more).

When I started getting more active in social media, the one person who I read a lot of was Beth Kanter. One of the most important things I once read in her blog was that it is OK for a non-profit organization to start their social media efforts slowly by setting up their platform, connecting with friends, and just listening for the first year.

Click here to read a little bit more about listening from Beth and her guest bloggers on the subject of “listening”.

I suggest that you revisit your social media strategy and stop YELLING things about yourself to your supporters. Here are a few quick suggestions:

  1. If you haven’t written a social media plan yet, gather a few donors and supporters and get to work.
  2. If you don’t have written social media policies, then ask the same group of donors and supporters to help.
  3. Post more pictures of what you do because a picture is worth a thousand words.
  4. Ask more questions and use fewer declarative sentences.
  5. Use social media as a funnel by capturing someone’s attention and sending them to your website if they want to learn more.
  6. Engage your donors and supporters in a conversation about what content they would like to see.

Last week, Marissa (the person you read on Mondays at DonorDreams blog) and I attended a social media conference. I will share a few things that we learned over the next few days. So, please stay tuned!

Does your non-profit organization use social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blog, etc)? If so, what has been your experience so far? What challenges are you running into? Please share your thoughts and question in the comment box below. I will “listen” and attempt to “engage” you in a conversation.   😉

Here’s to your health!

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

Saying ‘NO’ to donors and minimizing how often it is done

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, we’re focusing on a post that John titled: “I Disagree. Now What?“. In that post, he describes “the sound of righteous indignation hitting managerial prerogative,” and the lessons learned about when it is right to disobey and when it is not.

John’s post could send me off in a number of different HR directions this morning, but I am in a resource development mood and want to talk about donors — those investors in your mission.

When I read  “I Disagree. Now What?” it got me thinking about all of those times I’ve seen donors throw their dollars around. They want you to develop and launch a new program. They only want their contribution to support certain programs or certain activities.

Thinking back upon those situations reminds me a lot of the boss character in John’s post. This got me wondering: “Is there ever a situation when a non-profit organization can say ‘NO’ to a donor and use their contribution in a manner that is inconsistent with the donor’s wishes?”

To be honest, I can’t think of any situations where you can take someone’s money and disregard their expressed intent. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say ‘NO’ . . . you just need to do it by declining to accept the contribution.

While it is hard to say ‘NO’ to money, especially in today’s philanthropic environment, non-profit organizations need to know when it must happen. If you’re having a hard time thinking of when this might be appropriate, the following are a few examples of when I might do so:

  • When Bernie Madoff calls and wants to write me a big check.
  • When a company whose brand is inconsistent with your non-profit image wants to contribute (e.g. Hooters, local bar, strip clubs, the tobacco industry, etc)
  • When a donor’s wishes are not compatible with your mission.
  • When a donor’s wishes are not compatible with your strategic direction.

In my experience, the first two examples are easily identifiable and actionable for most non-profit organizations. It is the last two examples that are very challenging.

For example, it might make sense for you to accept money to develop a new intergenerational program that brings kids and senior citizens together, but it might not be a strategic priority for your organization. As a matter of fact, it might distract from other more important and pressing strategic initiatives.

Declining a donor’s contribution is really hard and should be done rarely, which is why having the right mindset, approach and tools in your fundraising toolbox is important. John does a really nice job addressing this issue in his post:

  • When John says, “Pick your battles” . . . I read this as: “Don’t over-solicit. Be very thoughtful about when and what you ask your donors to support.”
  • When John says, “Some things I can’t control, but I can influence” . . . I read this as: “Cultivate new prospects and steward existing donors significantly more than you solicit them, and only solicit when it feel right.”
  • When John says, “Craft my argument, with data and facts” . . . I read this as: “Develop an amazing case for support and train fundraising volunteers to use it as the foundation of their solicitation.”
  • When John says, “Make my case in a compelling fashion” . . . I read this as: “Convince donors to support your mission and the agency’s strategic direction. Demonstrate how doing so aligns with their philanthropic wishes and dreams.”
  • When John says, “Take my hits; the pain is temporary” . . . I read this as: “Once in a blue moon, you will have to politely turn down a donation. It will not be the end of the world.”
  • When John says, “Seek to understand even while I strive to be understood” . . . I read this as: “The listening-to-speaking ratio involved in donor interactions needs to significantly favor listening. Doing so will improve the odds of understanding, which in and of itself should minimize the number of times you have to say ‘NO’ to a donor because you are able to align the solicitation with their known interests.”

Non-profit organizations should strive to never be in the position of having to say ‘NO’ to a donor, but they need to be prepared to do so.

Have you ever been in a position of having to say ‘NO’ to a donor? If so, how did you go about doing it without damaging the relationship? What mindsets, approaches and tools are in your fundraising toolbox to ensure that you are rarely in this position? Please use the comment box below to share your answers.

If you are responsible for HR at your organization or are currently at odds with your boss, I encourage you to click over to John’s post titled “I Disagree. Now What?” and read it from that perspective, too.

Here’s to your health!

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

Marketing your organization’s volunteer program

This morning I woke up to a very nice email in my inbox from Helene Schmidt. She had read the three-part blog series on non-profit degrees and certifications, liked what she read, asked me to read an article that recent published titled “12 Reasons Community Service Should Be Required in Schools” and share it with the DonorDreams online community.

So, I did read the article and can honestly say it is very good. As you can see, I’ve already shared the link in the first paragraph and you should totally go read it.

I didn’t decided to share this post on “why volunteerism should be required in school” because I agree with the policy position. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not for it. I’m not against it. However, I do think that making volunteerism “required” feels antithetical to the entire idea of volunteerism.

The reason I am sharing this article is because after reading it I thought, “Wow! These are all great selling points for any non-profit organization’s volunteer program.”

You might want to incorporate some of the “12 reasons” offered in the  article in your volunteer marketing materials.

Speaking of volunteer program marketing materials . . . you do have marketing materials for your volunteer program, right?

Uh-oh. Well, if you are like many of the organizations with whom I’ve worked, then you have volunteer opportunities and not-so-actively “hope” volunteers walk through your doors. Many of the programs I’ve seen lack structure such as:

  • volunteer coordinator
  • written volunteer plan
  • written volunteer job descriptions
  • orientation and training opportunities
  • evaluation opportunities

I just haven’t seen many agencies actively marketing their volunteer program. Perhaps, your agency is different; however, have you looked closely at who and who you are marketing your volunteer opportunities?

I’ve read a lot recently about how the retiring Baby Boom generation is looking for volunteer opportunities. I’ve also read a lot about how the Millennial generation is really into volunteerism.

It doesn’t take a marketing professional to conclude that what motivates a 20-something-year-old to volunteer is probably very different from what motivates a Baby Boomer. So, targeting your marketing message might increase your effectiveness and bring many more volunteers through your agency’s front doors.

If the recent economy has your non-profit organization turning to volunteers to fill gaps and get things done, then you will need to do more than cross your fingers and hope volunteers find you. You need to invest in a volunteer program.

One such investment will be in how you market your volunteer opportunities. The article that I shared at the beginning of this post provides 12 great selling points that you might want to share with young people. Click here if you want to read more about how to more effectively market your volunteer opportunities to Baby Boomers.

Does your agency have a volunteer program? If so, what investments have you recently made and have they paid off? How do you market these opportunities and recruit volunteer? Please use the comment box to 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

How Nonprofits Can Use Tumblr

Before there was Pinterest, there was Tumblr. Without Tumblr, there would be no Pinterest.

As if there weren’t enough social media sites to manage these days, today we are going to take a look at Tumblr and see if it is a good fit for your non-profit organization.

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a short form blogging site that allows users to post photos, videos, blog posts, and audio recordings into what is called a tumblelog. (Yes, it’s a real word. Stick with me here.) Users can follow tumblelogs and re-blog or “like” posts . . . just like on Pinterest.

Who is Tumblr’s Audience?

Every social media site has an audience. Facebook and Twitter’s are the broadest, and they are the most popular. However, sometimes finding a niche audience can be very effective when it comes to reaching more people. The average Tumblr user is under the age of 25. While they probably aren’t big money donor prospects due to their young age, Tumblr users can be very powerful online advocates for your cause. According to Wikipedia, “as of June 8, 2012, Tumblr has over 58.9 million blogs and more than 24.7 billion total posts.”

Young people who may not be able to contribute to your organization today, might be able to do so tomorrow and don’t you want to be on the top of their list? In the meantime, these individuals can be talking about what your organization is up to or become a volunteer.

To put it in fundraising terms, asking these young people to advocate on your behalf will have a “self-cultivating” effect and build a very strong donor base for your organization in the future.

What is a successful Tumblr post?

Just like with most social media sites, you want to create a post that users will want to share with others. (Sharing really is caring.) On Tumblr, most users will like a post if it is short. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of long posts out there in the Tumblrverse, but they are usually by people who have an established and large audience.

Photos, lists, videos, and questions do well, and I think it is helpful if you include links citing original sources so that if your post is interesting I will be able find more to read on the subject. Additionally, you can use Tumblr to drive traffic to your agency’s website by creating a short post with a link back to an article on your webpage. You might also consider sharing a photo from your latest event on Tumblr.

Tumblr also has a feature that allows users to ask the tumblelog’s owner a question. Posting answers to those questions is a great way to interact with your followers.

How do I get started on Tumblr?

Sign up.

  • Take a look at what other nonprofit organizations are doing on the site. See what type of posts work best for an organization like yours.
  • Follow tumblelogs in your community and actively reblog and like their posts.
  • Tell your volunteers, supporters, and donors that you are now on Tumblr.
  • Write a few posts and see which ones your audience responds to most.

If you are looking for a younger audience with whom to share your content, Tumblr just might be the place for you. If you find that Tumblr is not a place for you, I still recommend signing up and claiming your organization’s space on the site so that no one else does. I also recommend using Tumblr as another source for finding out what is going on in your online community.

For more Tumblr tips, check out this Mashable article.

Does your organization already have a tumbleblog? Post a link in the comment section below and let us know what works best for you on this platform.

Jazz up your non-profit agency’s annual report using online video

Every once in a blue moon I will scroll down to the very bottom of someone’s email. It has become fairly standard practice for people to tuck all sorts of things into the signature block of their email. A few days ago I received an email from Jonathan Trapp who is a Vice President at Assurance Agency, which is an insurance brokerage company. At the bottom of his email was a YouTube link to a company video they developed last year to celebrate their 50th anniversary of being in business.

I’m dropping a copy of this online video into this morning’s blog post because after watching it I had one of those “Oh-Wow” epiphany moments:

Click here ===> Assurance Agency 50th anniversary video

So, did you see it, too? Did you have the same epiphany ?

I don’t know about you, but after watching that video I immediately flashed back to those days as an executive director when I struggled at the end of every year to develop content for my agency’s annual report. It always felt like I was doing the same thing every year. There was always:

  • content about the agency’s Youth of the Year,
  • last year’s financial summary,
  • a list of the agency’s big accomplishments,
  • a letter from the executive director and board president, and
  • of course . . . the long and boring donor honor roll.

Can there be any doubt that the typical non-profit annual report needs to be “jazzed up”???

In reality, the annual report is super important. It is the perfect stewardship piece because it speaks to the return on investment that donors received resulting from the contributions they made to your agency. Additionally, it can be a great cultivation piece because it shows prospective donors what they might expect your agency to do with their future donation.

I think human beings are very visual creatures, which is what intrigues me about using online video to tell the story about where your non-profit organization has been in the last 12 months. If I were in your shoes I don’t think that I’d totally get rid of the paper version, but I would be very tempted to produce a much smaller document that is supplemented by an online video.

You’re probably asking: “How would that work, Erik?” Well, I could see a one-page, double-sided annual report with key content including:

  • financials
  • major accomplishments
  • thank you message to supporters
  • lots of pictures of your happy clients

At the bottom of the abbreviated annual report, I would print the YouTube link with a message encouraging donors to view the annual report video online. If I were in the habit of distributing the agency’s annual report at a special event, I might consider handing out the abbreviated paper report along with a CDROM or USB flash drive with a copy of the video on it.

You could easily post a copy of the annual report video on your website and Facebook page.

You could also do what Jonathan Trapp of Assurance Agency does and include a link to the video in the signature block of every email you send out for the next year.

While doing some research for today’s blog post, I came across a similar post by the good people at Socialbrite. Click here to view their post on this subject and you will see four sample non-profit annual report videos.

If today’s post generally got you excited about jazzing up your agency’s annual report, then visit Kivi Leroux Miller’s website. She is selling an e-book on this subject. She also offers webinars. You’ll also find a link to her free annual report wiki page with a few resources that you might find useful.

Are you happy with your annual report? What do you put in this critical document? Have you tried using online video as part of your annual report process? If so, how did it work out for you? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Donor Loyalty: Inspect what you expect

Tuesday’s post titled “Time in the office versus time with donors” begged more questions than it answered. Today, we’re going to zoom in on one of those questions and examine it more closely.

How do you measure relationship building
and the success of such activities?

It was suggested in earlier posts that a weekly contact report is one tool that can be used to track relationship building activities; however, there are other tools that you should consider using in conjunction with a contact report.

  • Dashboard
  • Scorecard
  • Annual performance plan
  • Weekly or monthly reports
  • Donor database reports
  • Moves Management reports

If you want to learn more about organizational dashboards, click here to check out a BoardSource book titled “The Nonprofit Dashboard: A Tool for Tracking Progress“. If a dashboard isn’t appealing to you, then you might want to look into a balanced scorecard approach. Click here to see what Bernard Marr at the Advanced Performance Institute has to say about this tool.

Of course, choosing the tool is probably the easiest part of this decision. The more difficult thing is determining which relationship building metrics to track. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Number of cultivation meetings with prospects
  • Increased contribution size – maintained – decreased
  • Number of face-to-face stewardship meetings
  • Number of prospects converted into donors
  • Donor loyalty rate
  • Donor satisfaction survey score
  • Renewal rates for year two, year three, year four, and year five donors
  • LYBUNT and SYBUNT renewals

There are no right or wrong answers to the question of what you should track. I believe that it really boils down to the title of this post: “Inspect what you expect”.

I suppose the best advice I can give to you is “don’t try to make decision by yourself”. I encourage you to engage fundraising staff, resource development committee volunteers, board members, fundraising volunteers, and even donors. There is nothing wrong with pulling together a small focus group, ordering a few pizzas, and engaging them with a few thoughtful questions.

If you are looking for a few good samples, the following are a few links that I think are worth looking at:

Using tools and metrics like these should help you answer the difficult question posed in Tuesday’s blog post: “How much time needs to be spent outside of the office compared to behind your desk?”

What tools does your non-profit organization use to track relationship building and resource development activities? What metrics do you hold your fundraising professionals and executive director to? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

Here’s to your health!

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