Thursday, March 31, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Why Strategic Planning Now?

Even if your fund raising group has never developed a strategic plan and your fund raising has been fairly successful for the last 40+ years, why go through this exercise now?

Great question; why indeed?

Questions to ponder:

• What is the age of your average donor?
o Is the average age getting older?

• Fewer donations, but larger average gift?
o Actually this is a negative sign. While we want to see our average gift be larger than last year, we want to see more donations year-over-year. Fewer donations and larger gifts is usually a sign that your older base of donors are starting to give their money away as they approach end of life or loss of control over their checkbook.

• More competition?
o In 1987, there were 460,000 nonprofit corporations as designated by the IRS codes. In 2010, the number was over 1.5 million.

• Are you attracting younger donors?
o Younger donors are not as direct mail oriented as older generations. What is your plan to engage them?

• Cumulative effect?
o All the above and more!
Fund raising is fast approaching an inflection point where the tried-and-true fundamentals are changing rapidly. Maybe now is a good time for a new strategic plan?


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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What is it That You Do Again?

Last week, I was in Chicago on client work when I ran into Pete Tulipana at Midway Airport. Pete is a long-time professional in the nonprofit sector and had been to the AFP conference in Chicago that week. Pete is the new Executive Director of the Columban Missionary Society’s U.S. Province based in Omaha. When I started my consulting practice, the Columbans were one of my first clients.

Though we have gotten to know each other, Pete did not work with me at the Columbans. As we were sitting in the airport waiting for our flight, Pete asked me, “I know what you did with the Columbans before I arrived, helping us with updating our donor information systems, so in a nutshell, is that what you do for fund raising groups like the Columbans?”

Great question.

I am guessing that the reason Pete asked me that question is that we had just finished a discussion of other work we are doing for fund raising organizations that Pete was familiar with, and he kept hearing me say Strategic Planning over and over. At the Columbans, like every engagement of ours, the client determines the focus of the engagement and that is as it should be.

50% of the time, we begin by developing a new strategic plan and most of the time this is the first strategic plan the fund raising group has ever done.

The remaining 50% of our engagements are focused on issues that the fund raising group is struggling with. They need outside expertise for a limited time to help them work through problems like:
  • launching a charitable gifts division;
  • selecting a new donor management system software;
  • acquiring donor intelligence or analytic tools and services, or
  • reviewing their annuity program
But, whether we start with developing a new strategic plan or start first with focusing on an internal issue, we always come back to the primacy of having a written strategy for every fund raising organization.

While most nonprofit organizations have created strategic plans, for whatever reasons, the fund raising groups within those organizations – for the most part – have never created their own strategic plan. This is a clear problem since fund raising groups within their organizations are a very different category of work from the mission of the organization at large. Simply put, they need their own plan. And, the larger the fund raising group, the more pronounced is the need for a detailed strategic plan.

The fund raising group’s strategic plan becomes the documented roadmap for how they accomplish their goals in raising the revenue that helps the larger organization achieve their overall mission.

As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.”

Without a written overall strategic fund raising plan with goals, objectives and timelines, then adding personnel, capabilities or even new departments becomes merely a budget exercise without tying it to the context of a larger multi-year plan.

Thanks, Pete, for asking the question!


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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Reaching the Younger Generations

A long time ago, growing up in the Midwest, I learned a simple hunting adage, “If you want to shoot ducks, you have to go where the ducks are.”

Erik Sass posted a short, but eye-popping, article in Social Media and Marketing Daily last week entitled: Four Out of Five Kids Ages Five and Under Are On the Web. He knew it would sound so outrageous to older readers (like me) that he began the first sentence of the first paragraph with, "No, this is not a joke."

Now, let’s get real, fellow fund raisers; it’s going to be a long time before we worry about the Philanthropic habits of today’s five-year olds, but, the point is that Internet usage is very much a part of everyone’s life today and will be the future.

Start planning for your future donors today.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What do Happy Employees have to do with Happy Donors?

Recently, I visited, the online retailer based in Henderson, Nevada, with the fund raising management team of a large South Dakota faith-based nonprofit. We had read the CEO’s book Delivering Happiness as part of our work together and thought that there might be more we could learn from this online retailer that touted Customer Service above all else by actually seeing their business live and in person.

It turns out there is a lot nonprofits can learn about Customer Service from Zappos, although it was a surprise to learn that the focus of management at Zappos is not on Customer Service. The focus of Zappos management is workplace culture. The CEO of Zappos and the author of the best selling book about Zappos is Tony Hsieh. Tony understood that a customer’s impression of Zappos comes down to the one time in their life that they may call with a question or a problem. If the Zappos person on the other end of that call doesn’t help them or make them feel good about their decision to shop at Zappos, then everything else they do is for nothing. The focus of Zappos management is to make certain that they do all they can to make their employees happy. In turn, this emphasis of happiness is passed down to customers from the happy Zappos employees. And, in the end, it’s not just about delivering shoes or apparel; it’s about delivering happiness.

As you can imagine, there a lot of people that want to work for Zappos. In fact, they have 2,000 applications for every job opening. The number one reason people leave Zappos is because a spouse gets a job in a different city, which is why it was a surprise to learn that one of the Zappos people that was showing us around was actually leaving Zappos. His story was somewhat unique. He had come to Nevada as a church youth pastor, but, with the recession of 2008 which hit Nevada very hard, he lost his job. He answered a job post for Zappos and was hired. Today, he is torn about leaving, but, his heart was always in ministry and he has been recruited by a church on the east coast.

He told me that he really loves working at Zappos. He told us that the culture of caring for the people that work at Zappos isn’t fake; it is the real deal. He said every single day he gets up he cannot wait to get to work and he knows that virtually every single employee feels the same way. They are all passionate about Zappos and delivering for their customers. But, then he said something that gave our whole group something to really think about, “Why is it that a for-profit company like Zappos has a happier and more upbeat environment and culture with people that really care about each other than most churches?”

We all came away from the trip to Zappos understanding that we had just witnessed something very unique, but also something with lessons that applied to nonprofit fund raising groups as well. While we all know that taking care of our donors is very important to the long term financial success of our organizations, we also need to (day in and day out) learn to take care of the people that take care of our donors.

Tony Hsieh asks the question, “Are we in the shoe business to take care of people, or are we in the people business to sell shoes?” Then he answers his own question by saying Zappos is in the people business which is why delivering happiness is so important.


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Sunday, March 27, 2011

BIG’s Blog: I’m Tired of Talking About the Post Office

I was lamenting to one of my clients last week about how tired I get talking about all the “issues” the Postal Service is going through, even though all of my clients (and most of my prospective clients) are overly dependent on direct mail fund raising.

While the U. S. Postal Service isn’t going away anytime soon – if ever – it is going through the pain of adjusting to the Internet age. Examples of the latest news: Postal Regulatory Commission divided on five-day delivery, and Postal Service to cut 7,500 positions. And this is just the news from one day!

I was talking to one of our consulting clients last week and said, "Frankly, I am tired of writing about the woes of the U. S. Postal Service when there is so much new information about digital and Internet marketing that I could be writing about."

This client happens to be a Sister and is the Develop Director for her community in the United States. She told me that the biggest influence on her thinking about non-direct mail, alternative fund raising marketing (and even beginning to offer credit cards) were her nephews. She quoted one of them as saying to her, "Auntie, I love you, but there is no way I’m donating to your group unless I can do it online."

"Mike," she said, "If the people you’re talking to are like me and don’t have children, have them talk to the kids of people that work in their office or their nephews and nieces. Ask them how they pay their bills and donate to other organizations."

It was an eye opener to me and that was ultimately what moved us to start talking to you.

Thanks to Sr. Mary Ann for that insight and wisdom.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Is Customer Service Important?

I read blogs too and some that I read are even written for the nonprofit fund raising world. One that I follow is The Agitator.

Last week, Tom asked the above question, “Is Customer Service Important?” This was based upon the publishing of some research conducted by Harris Interactive entitled: The Retail Consumer Report which surveyed individuals who made online purchases during the Christmas season.

Tom had some interesting “takes” on the report vis-à-vis underscoring the importance of communicating with disgruntled customers and drew comparisons to how nonprofit organizations should think about interacting with donors and members.

However, I want to ask a more basic question that really gets to the heart of how you and your organization look at your donors. "Do you look at your donors as ATMs or friends?"

REALLY a big difference, isn’t it? For instance, buried in your donor file are your bothers, sisters, other relatives and friends. If they called in, first, would you want to know about the call and second, would you want to know how they were treated? Of course you would and that’s the crux of my question.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit, the online retailer. Zappos has no retail stores so the only way for you to connect with them is to go to their Web site or call their 800 number and talk to a live person in customer service.

Zappos understands that they can advertise to get your attention and make their Web site the easiest and most convenient to use, but if there is a problem...or even a question...your entire perception of Zappos comes down to the Zappos person taking your call.

Literally everything that Zappos does as a company comes down to that call. I’ll be writing more about Zappos in future blogs, but for today, let’s just center our attention on how focused Zappos is on making certain that their customers or prospective customers are happy and satisfied before they hang up.

Zappos treats everybody that calls like their best exceptions. Zappos representatives are taught to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy and satisfied. When you call Zappos, it is not about making money, it’s about making friends. By the way, this customer centered philosophy took them from zero sales to a billion dollars in sales in less than eight years.

Today or tomorrow, go sit near your donor services area that takes calls from donors and listen. ATMs or friends?


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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What Part of Free Don’t You Understand? – Part Seven

Over the course of last week and this week, I have been driving home the point that there is a very big change in how technologies that you and your organizations use is accessed and paid for. The “big news” is that it is becoming very inexpensive to acquire very powerful software. This change will “level of the playing field” for fund raisers, especially smaller fund raisers.

With this new world comes new terms and one term you are going to be hearing a lot about is Cloud Computing.

Cloud computing is accessing through the Internet a variety of programs, services or applications from your computer. These programs, services etc., reside somewhere on a server or a group of servers. This group of servers is called “the Cloud.” This cloud allows very inexpensive distribution and use of software that before was only sold on disks that needed to be installed on your computer or server.

In the past several blogs, I have been detailing the reasons why certain software programs, services or applications can be as inexpensive as “free.” This new business model of making very powerful software applications available for low monthly fees or even free is fundamentally reshaping the technology industry. But, more important for you and your organization, is the fact that this same shift to the industry can fundamentally reshape your fund raising organization...if you learn how.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What Part of Free Don’t You Understand? – Part Six

Over the course of this week, I am going to try to finish up driving home the point that there is a very big “leveling of the playing field” for fund raisers going on through new technology.

How can multi-billion dollar technology companies essentially give away what they used to charge hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for? If you’re not asking that question, then you haven’t been reading my blogs closely enough.

How indeed?

Do you want the long answer or the short answer?

I’ll assume the “short” answer will do, since this is a blog and not a novel.

The short and “simple” answer is that the Internet has changed their business model.

When you hear people talking about disruptive technology and you wonder, “disruptive to whom?” the answer is disruptive to the market leaders in a category. Remember installed software? Remember??? Installed software is still the majority of software operating on most computers. You know, you go to Best Buy and buy a package that contains a disk that you install on your machine. But, all of that is changing fast.

Interestingly enough, however, the change is happening fastest at the small and mid-sized organizations.


Because free or very inexpensive fits their limited budgets. And there are lots of small and mid-sized organizations.

The CEO of the fastest growing CRM database (donor management system) company in the world recently asked the question, “Why install, maintain and upgrade your software, instead of just using it right over the Internet?”

Let’s see...more powerful software than I currently have that plugs into email and social networks and costs me little or nothing and is as powerful as the largest fund raiser’s software out there?!?! Hummmm, let me think about that.

Next time, we will talk about Cloud computing.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What Part of Free Don’t You Understand? – Part Five

Over the course of this month and next, I am going to try to drive home the point that there is a very big “leveling of the playing field” for fund raisers going on through new technology.

Free can be tricky...or not.

How many large, direct mail oriented fund raising organizations use premiums by the hundreds of thousands, even as the list universe is shrinking and response rates are dropping?

Whereas a small...very small...nonprofit fund raising group uses no direct mail, but, is all over the Web actively engaging prospects; even offering a premium (free) for learning more about its organization.

Who is in the cultural conversation?

Who is using free?

Who is going to grow?


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What Part of Free Don’t You Understand? – Part Four

Over the course of this month and next, I am going to try to drive home the point that there is a very big “leveling of the playing field” for fund raisers going on through new technology.

If you buy a smart phone with touchscreen features, you suddenly have access to gazillions of applications or “apps” for short. These are functioning mini computer programs that reside on your phone and provide a very narrow utility or service. Want to find a restaurant?...use this app. Want to find a dentist or play a game on your smartphone while waiting in the dental office?...there’s an app for that.

Do these apps cost you money? Some do, but many are free. Essentially, there are two types of apps: those that set out to make money and those that are about marketing.

We all understand charging for an app to make their owner money; but what about the free app? These free apps are about trying to get you...the do something else. Something else might be finding a doctor, watching a movie or buying a car. This is about advertising. It is also about getting people – millions of people – to pay attention to your cause, organization or ministry.

You don’t have to have a big budget to create a unique app for your organization. Just another way technology is leveling the playing field for nonprofit fund raisers.


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Thursday, March 17, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What Part of Free Don’t You Understand? – Part Three

Over the course of this month and next, I am going to try to drive home the point that there is a very big “leveling of the playing field” for fund raisers going on through new technology.

We’re on a mission to essentially save established charities, especially faith-based organizations. For years, the world of fund raising has been pretty status quo; meaning that if you took over as Development Director ten years ago from someone that had been Development Director for 15 years, with slight modifications and tweaks, you pretty much raised money in the same way; your strategy stayed the same.

While there are lots and lots of charities that still raise money the same way they did 50 years ago, these fund raising groups are feeling the pinch.

Where is the pinch coming from? It is really a convergence of three major trends. First, technological change; and since this is the subject of this series of blogs, I will obviously be talking more about this in coming blogs. Second are the generational changes; the oldest Baby Boomers turns 65 this year and the oldest GenXer turns 45. Are you talking to them? And finally, the third major trend is the explosion in the number of nonprofit organizations essentially doubling in the last 15 years. This is significantly raising competition for dollars.

While most of our practice is working with larger fund raising organizations, we are also looking at methodologies to help small and mid-size organizations get their head around these changes and develop new strategies and tactics. Let me know if you would be interested in learning more about that.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

BIG’s Blog: What Part of Free Don’t You Understand? – Part Two

Over the course of the next month, I am going to try to drive home the point that there is a very big “leveling of the playing field” for fund raisers going on through new technology.

If you wanted to build a Facebook-like social network utility, what do you think it would cost? $100 million? $400 million? A billion dollars? Point is no one company or organization could afford to create this utility for their organization. And what does it cost your organization? Yep, pretty close to zero.

We understand that Facebook and other social networking sites and even Internet services like Google search make their money from advertising. Although some folks are raising privacy concerns, what is going on with these Internet tools isn’t that different from the information services business that has existed around direct mail for years.

So, if your fund raising organization raises $100,000 a year or $50 million, you are essentially using the same Facebook tool. What you do with the tool has more impact than the cost as there is no inherent advantage for larger fund raisers versus smaller.

That is the point isn’t it? Cost advantage is fading for Internet-based tools, so the “advantage” is how you use it.

What is your plan for social media?


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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Japan’s Earthquake as a Lesson for Fund Raisers

Japan is not Haiti. Japan is a First World, modern, sophisticated country, whereas Haiti is as close to a failed state as exists in the world. The Japanese know the imminent dangers they face from earthquakes and they are so far ahead of the rest of the world in their building codes and disaster preparedness that they make other earthquake prone areas of the world – like California – look backwards by comparison.

That is why what happened off the coast of Seidei, Japan with the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting Tsunami gives us pause to wonder if any country can fully prepare for the “big one,” whatever the “big one” is for a particular area of the world.

Regular readers of my blog and attendees of our seminars know that I raise the issue of increasing postal rates, increasing mail production costs and the contraction of lists as signs that direct mail cannot be the work horse for fund raisers that it has been for the last 50+ years. My raising these facts gets me unfairly tarred as anti-direct mail. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But, the facts of direct mail's inevitable decline in effectiveness means that our focus today should be on preparing for the time in the future when the “event” happens. And that event is when the lines cross and mail can no longer produce a margin of profit for fund raising.

Preparing today means developing a new plan that includes new tactics and strategies that build in and incorporate more and different communication touches with donors as well as prospects. This also means assessing our organization's structure to accommodate these changes. In fact, this is the time to look at all aspects of your fund raising.

Although Japan has been devastated by this disaster beyond comprehension, nonetheless, Japan will survive and prosper again because they plan for disasters.

For fund raisers, is your model Japan or Haiti?


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Monday, March 14, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What Part of Free Don’t You Understand? – Part One

Over the course of the next month, I am going to try to drive home the point that there is a very big “leveling of the playing field” for fund raisers going on through new technology. By-the-way, this is good news for small fund raisers and not-so-good news for larger fund raisers.

In case you haven’t noticed, the prices of computers and services through the Internet have gone down over the past twenty years. Somebody said that if the price of a new car followed the price of computing power in your PC or laptop computer, that a new car would cost 50 cents. Remember long distance bills twenty years ago? Now we get unlimited calls for $20 and some calling services over the Internet are free.

Free...what’s with that? How do they stay in business?

Why is this bad news for large fund raisers; especially those that have large direct mail fund raising programs? Mail is about economies of scale. If you are a small organization and you mail 10,000 pieces of mail, you are going to pay a much higher cost per piece than someone who mails 100,000 or one million pieces. Scale works for the large direct mail fund raising organization.

But now let’s talk email. A small organization can send out 10,000 emails to their supporters for virtually the same price as the large organization sending out one million. The larger organization will still reap more donations, assuming both have similar response rates, but, the larger organization has lost its economies of scale advantage.

What are the implications? We’ll talk more about those in the next blog.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

BIG’s Blog: It’s Not About You

For the last several years, thought leaders, thinkers and pundits in the nonprofit fund raising world have been talking about the move from organization-centric to donor-centric approaches for fund raisers trying to reach out to younger generations.

The basis of this thinking is rooted in the changing attitudes towards giving and being involved as well as the reality of how our consumer society influences expectations. For example, more and more successful retailers recognize that “success” comes from being customer-centered rather than being business-centered. It’s about the customer.

Real world examples of Customer Friendly versus Customer Un-friendly service:

Customer friendly – Zappos – an online retailer. Zappos have people to talk to you about anything dealing with their merchandise or orders 24/7/365. Zappos customer service will do whatever to make their customers happy.

Customer Un-friendly – Time Warner Cable – a provider of cable services. Time Warner mostly has monopoly municipal contracts to deliver cable television and other services. Have a problem; just try getting the right person on the phone for even the simplest fix. And if you are trying to terminate service – forget about it! One wonders if their customer service is by intent. But one thing is sure; it is certainly not about the customer.

In other words, is it about what your organization does for the target of your mission (it’s about you), or is it about what your constituent donors can do (it’s all about them)? Big difference.

The easy part is changing your message. Today’s younger generations want to be a part of something bigger than themselves; they want to “feel” they are a part of the mission or the movement of change. This comes through in how you talk and communicate with your constituent donors. But what shows the real commitment to be constituent donor-centered is how you handle the access – mostly through technology – you give to younger more tech savvy prospective constituents. This demonstrates that you “walk the walk” not just “talk the talk.”

Wait a minute. Did you think I was just talking about Gen X and Millennial generations? Actually, all the above applies to the Baby Boomers as well.


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Thursday, March 10, 2011

BIG's Blog: Something to think about...

"The central problem of our age is how to act decisively in the absence of certainty." - Bertrand Russell

"After all is said and done, more is said than done." - Anonymous

"It's always helpful to learn from your mistakes because then your mistakes seem worthwhile." - Garry Marshall, 'Wake Me When It's Funny'

"When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity." - John F. Kennedy

These quotes should spark some thought. Ask yourself the question, “How can nonprofits address the strategic challenges brought on by new technology, changing demographics and a world in financial uncertainty?”


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BIG’s Blog: The Silver Bullet Approach cont . . .

Last Tuesday, (March 8), I wrote about how easy it is to buy things...I called them Silver Bullets for fund raisers. Rather than first doing the heavy lifting of developing a well thought out plan leading to a strategic solution, instead, we tend to buy something that we hope will solve our immediate problem.

The other day I was talking to a Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a large missionary organization and he said, “We think we know what the problem is, but, how do we get the answer?”

Don’t we all do that? Don’t we all want to jump to the answer as if it is a cookie cutter tactic or thing that will solve our immediate pain?

I don’t think this is a Baby Boomer instant gratification reaction; rather, I believe it is an emotional reaction by really good people to the speed of change that is coming at us and the pressure to have immediate answers.

But, here is the deal...RESIST with all your might the pressure to jump to Silver Bullets.

What is coming at us today is WAY bigger than anything you have experienced in your fund raising career. Or, for that matter, way bigger than anything to hit fund raising since the inception of your community or organization.

Think I am kidding? How about the biggest change in over 550 years...since the Gutenberg printing press.

We are quickly moving out of what they call the “analog” world (printed ink on paper) and into the “digital” world of electronic forms of communication.

It isn’t that we don’t know this is happening; the problem is we really don’t know all of the IMPLICATIONS for our organization of this shift. And it is those “implications” that can lead to unintended consequences of the bad kind...unless...we thoughtfully draw back and develop a new strategic direction incorporating the best of what we do today with the new technological opportunities that are all around us.

Has your fund raising group updated its strategic plan in the last five years? Have you ever done a strategic plan in your fund raising group? Well, my take is that if a 550-year event doesn’t call for a new strategic vision of how you fund raise...I don’t know what does.


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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

BIG's Blog: Beatles or Disco - Who are you?

It is interesting when you look at the Baby Boomer cohorts. Their births span 18 years. Fundraisers should take this statistic into consideration when developing their communication to these cohorts. Marketing and fundraising efforts may need to be different.

Let’s look at their life experiences. Baby Boomers born between 1946-1954 remember the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, “Cold War” bomb drills, the Vietnam War and Watergate. Many Boomers of this group were personally involved in some way with the Vietnam War. These events led Boomers to soul searching on moral and ethical topics.

And who could forget the Beatles coming to America and Woodstock? These events changed the world of music and the lives of many early Boomer cohorts.

Even with all the life changing events during this period, Boomers still held onto traditional values.

Baby Boomers born in 1955-1964 did not face the same challenges as their earlier cohorts. Many are too young to remember the assignations, the wars and political scandals.

On the other hand, those born in the later years of the Baby Boomer era were raised on disco and “rock & roll” music. The use of recreational drugs and having casual affairs became more prevalent. Birth control, along with the Women’s Rights Movement, changed the life for women of all ages. Women were now thinking about careers and putting off having children.

For Baby Boomers who identified themselves as Roman Catholics, the Vatican Council profoundly changed the way they practiced their faith. Many Roman Catholics of this cohort and those that follow don’t actually believe (or even know) what Catholic theology states. This same trend is seen in other religions as well.

What does this mean for fundraisers? Your nonprofit’s mission should find ways to address their unique generational values and shared life experiences and correlate them with your need for support. Ensure the messages you send resonate with their life experiences.


Monday, March 7, 2011

BIG’s Blog: The Silver Bullet Approach

From the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, the definition for 'Silver Bullet' is as follows: "In folklore, the silver bullet is supposed to be the only kind of bullet for firearms that is effective against a Werewolf, witch or some other monster."

What’s your biggest monster in fund raising today?

In the world of nonprofit fund raising, we are familiar with the Silver Bullet concept too. It goes like this . . .

“My donations are down, but if we just had a better Web site.”
“My donations are down, but if we just had an up-to-date database.”
“My donations are down, but if we just used email blasts.”
“My donations are down . . . " Okay, you get the point.
The nonprofit fund raising world is so chronically overworked and understaffed that there is little time to:
S-T-O-P, take a breath and look at the big picture.

Rather than a silver bullet, a better approach is to find a trusted advisor that can help you work through some long-range and focused questions like . . .
1. With all the technology changes, how does that affect your fund raising?
2. How does the current generational shift affect your fund raising?
3. How will increasing competition affect your fund raising?
It is so easy to buy things . . . Web sites, databases, etc.

But if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

Don’t substitute silver bullets for a plan.

First, develop a plan.

Then buy what you need to make the plan work.


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Sunday, March 6, 2011

BIG's Blog: Can religious nonprofits create a dialogue with cohorts on a limited budget?

The answer is “Yes!” And, research is one key to your success. We all know that testing is expensive. And, now there are many new options for reaching out to constituents. So where do you start?

Begin by looking at corporate marketing efforts. See the images they use in magazines. Watch TV and visit websites to see how others portray the generational differences. Make note of them. Then take what you have seen and complete a review of your organization’s communication and fundraising materials.

Do your ministry's brochures, website and fundraising materials need a facelift? Has your organizations' ministries changed its look and feel over the years? Will this next generation of constituents understand the value of your ministry to their lives through your current communication tools?

Use the visual concepts you see in your daily life and apply them to your ministry. As you create marketing strategies for your organization, test some of the imaging you have seen. Monitor your results. Remember imaging is just one part of the message. Test copy with the next generations of non-traditional religion cohorts.

Though our biggest challenge today is reaching out to Boomers for support, do not forget to communicate to the younger generations who may be willing to give to the nonprofit in other ways.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

BIG’s Blog: A Big Email Week!

Since our email message earlier this week that the National Catholic Development Conference had joined The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers in opposing the Postal Service's plan to eliminate nonprofit preferred mailing rates, our email box has been flooded with questions. Many NCDC members and others were completely shocked that the fund raising work horse of direct mail--as we have known it--could be at risk. We found no fund raisers who said they could take a 100% + increase in postage.

In one of my seminars last year, I told the group about a situation I saw play out in the 1990s that I find very similar to what nonprofit direct mailers are facing today with their direct mail efforts.

In the 1990s, I owned a database marketing agency that only dealt with large banking companies. And more particularly, we only dealt with what they called the “retail” sides of bank business, meaning individual customers of the bank. So, if you as an individual opened a checking account, you would fall into the retail side of the bank.

Speaking of checking accounts, all through the 1990s, the banks were issuing bank debit and credit cards as their customers asked for them since A.) they were more convenient for their customers to use rather than writing checks, and B.) it was less expensive for the bank to process.

My company had 13 of the top 25 largest banks in the country as clients, so we could clearly see the huge number of customers that were signing up for debit and credit cards. By the late 1990s, almost 95% of all bank customers had bank-issued credit and debit cards.

Seeing this trend, every year from 1995 on, we would expect that the companies that printed checks would finally see their check printing volume begin to decline. Right? But every year through 2000, we were proved wrong as check volume went up; maybe only two or three percent, but up nonetheless.

But then in 2001, the volume slid 4½%. In 2002, the volume slipped another 7% from the previous year. And in 2003, it fell another 14%...and then it just plunged!

Today, check volume is a fraction of what it was in 1999. The ease and convenience of debit and credit cards PLUS the change in behavior finally caused the “worm to turn.” And when it turned – it was a huge fall-off.

The point of my story is that we can’t predict when the “tipping point” will come for direct mail...but it will come.

Start planning for it today!


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

BIG's Blog: “I Just Know” – Boomer Response

Some individuals are born with a strong intuition. They will tell you that there are times when you “just know,” that your “sense” is right. And, as you age, life’s experiences come more from an emotional response (intuition) versus reasoning. Life experiences have taught you that your sense is right.

My intuition tells me that there is a market for religious nonprofits; but, how we reach out to the Boomer market will need some thought. The spectrum of how they believe is large. Finding your organization's “niche” with this market will take some effort.

In 1978, a Gallup poll stated that 39% of Boomers said religion was very important to them. That is good! At least over a third of this group thinks about religion.

In 2007, an AARP study found that 85% of Boomers rank themselves as either “somewhat spiritual” to “very spiritual.” But, what does that mean to religious nonprofits trying to find support? How can we build a relationship with the “Boomer” generation whose religious belief is so broad?

Having a consistent message for your mission across all marketing efforts is a start. Make certain that all efforts stimulate either an emotional and/or rational experience. This is the first step in building a relationship with a “Boomer” cohort.

Compared to WWII and Depression cohorts, researchers have shown “Boomer” cohorts to be the best educated which means they will want to understand why the mission is important to them. It could be for numerous reasons such as: family belief, the search for faith, love of Church or a need to take care of the world in need. Take the time to think through how your message resonates with this generation of cohorts. They will not respond like their parents.

They will also look for fiscal responsibility. They will question, “Is the nonprofit using their gift in a responsible way?"

Give cohorts of any age an opportunity to learn about your mission through visual, verbal and auditory experiences that stimulate an emotional response. If your marketing efforts are able to do this successfully you will benefit from their support. Trust me, “I know.”


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What this Article Means for Nonprofit Fund Raisers – Part Five

Over my last few blogs, I have been examining the implications from the article in the Direct Marketing News – Direct Daily that two-thirds of all purchases and half of all transactions would be done over mobile devices by 2015.

As I close out this blog series on this important article, I can’t close out this series without addressing the last two paragraphs of the article. The breakfast forum at Google’s offices in New York was a DMA event for the Google executives to share this information about the coming growth in transactions through mobile, and in attendance was the CEO of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Mr. Lawrence Kimmel.

I am not going to paraphrase Mr. Kimmel’s remarks as they were reported in the article, rather I am going to lay them out verbatim and then comment on them.

Mr. Kimmel urged the attendees (attendees at the DMA event) not to abandon direct mail for digital. He said that direct mail spending increased 2.2% in 2010 and predicted it will grow anywhere from 3% to 5% this year. “Everyone moved away from direct mail because digital was the new kid on the block,” Kimmel said. “But direct mail is a $47 billion business. It’s incredibly important and it still works.”
Did you read anywhere in the article that anyone said 'stop' using direct mail?

We live in a world where speed of change is accelerating. If Google’s Mr. Shapiro is only 25% right in his prediction of transactions through mobile, that is a sea change in how the vast majority of people do transactions, not to mention how they get their information. How many paper checks do you write today versus ten years ago?

Poor Mr. Kimmel of the Direct Marketing Association; he is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On one side are all of the marketing organization members of the DMA, including nonprofit fund raisers, who need to take this Google information very seriously and try to figure out how to alter their marketing strategies to deal with the fast changing landscape. But, on the other side are all of the DMA corporate direct mail partners that are underwriting the DMA. Did Mr. Kimmel not make the point that direct mail is a $47 billion business?

Of course, direct mail is not going away tomorrow or next year or the year after that, but nonprofit fund raisers that are dependent on direct mail for a majority of their donations today need to seriously consider the implications of the changing marketing communications environment and adjust their strategies accordingly.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.