Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Balloons at the Beach

Imagine that you were to go to the beach on a Sunday and, as you walked out onto the beach, there were 500,000 people to your left within a half a mile and 500,000 people to your right within half a mile. Now, further, you have not come to the beach to sunbathe or swim . . . but to sell balloons. You have a hundred balloons that cost you a penny a piece and a tank of helium that works out to another penny a piece per balloon. You need to sell your hundred balloons so that you can make it through the next week, so you charge $1 per balloon. Then, next Sunday, you plan to come back to the beach and sell balloons again.

Now the next Sunday you may see the familiar faces of those who have purchased your balloons the previous week. They become your regular customers who like you and your balloons.

You do this Sunday after Sunday.

Then one Sunday you come to the beach and you’ve got a hundred regular customers. You have to decide whether you sell your hundred balloons to your regular customers, go home early, and take it easy the rest of the day, or go home and get some more balloons and bring them back to the beach so you can sell more. By bringing more than a hundred balloons to the beach, you can do better than just make it through the week; you can buy some extra things or save your money. Now, though you feel good about selling more balloons week after week, it never occurs to you that you will ever reach all the people on the beach because that is not the point of selling balloons.

My above story is an allegory of how you think about and practice fundraising today. Isn’t it all about the organization? The focus of all your actions (telling your story or selling balloons) is about increasing the number of transactions. It’s very transaction and organization-centered.  

But what about a different story… a different allegory?

Let’s go back to the beach.

Let’s say that instead of selling your hundred balloons, you came to the beach with a thousand balloons with the intent to give them away. They still cost you essentially two cents apiece. When people ask you why you are giving them away, you tell them that your mission is to bring smiles to everyone on the beach. Then you ask them if they would help you give away the balloons. Every third person you talk to agrees to pass out balloons, and one out of ten people insist that you take 50 cents so they can support your mission of bringing smiles to everyone on the beach.

Pretty soon, you have an army of helpers who are spreading your balloons, as well as a small percentage of the people on the beach donating 50 cents a week to reach all the million people on the beach.

Now my story has completely changed, hasn’t it?

My story is still an allegory, but now it is about how you “do Development” on the Internet.

Now it isn’t about your organization, but rather the relationship with people who support your mission to reach the world. The beach represents the world. On the Internet, theoretically you can reach all the people in the world… but not by yourself. You enlist lots of people who are like-minded to spread the balloons of your mission, and a few will financially support your work.

The Internet is a new thing. There has never . . . ever . . . been anything like it. And as my second story illustrates, you must change the way you think about and practice Development on the Internet. But in doing so, you can reach the world.

Oh, and by the way, do the math from my second story and see how the cents add up. I think you will also see the financial advantage of the Internet.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Tell Ten Friends

ALWAYS give credit where credit is due. I unabashedly stole this idea from the blogger Seth Godin. But what a great idea it is!

You pay zip, nada, zero for this blog. And some of you might say, “that’s all it’s worth!” But hopefully, and from the growth trends we are seeing, your fellow fundraisers are finding “something of value” in these missives.

This blog, as I stated above, costs you nothing and, in addition, we don’t ask for donations, place advertising, or product placements. We do, from time to time talk about the services of Browne Innovation Group, but only within the context of the subject matter of the blog, and we also point out other services that are similar to BIG.

So today, I am asking you to send out our link …copy and paste the below into an email to ten of your friends or peers with the Subject head: “Check this out!” Or, just forward this blog.

I’m only asking you to send it to ten of your friends and peers [ten is enough].

If your friends and peers demand to know why they should pay attention to this blog, ask them how their fundraising is going. Ask them if it is way harder than it was in years gone by. Tell them that maybe something more fundamental than the lingering effects of the last recession is at play. And while they have been “heads-down” diligently trying to turn the tide, they have failed to look up and missed the realignment of the sun, moon, and universe of philanthropy.

Tell them that’s what we talk about in the blog.

Tell them that the change that is going on isn’t just affecting fundraisers or nonprofits, but the entire economy. Tell them they are not “getting” how big an impact the Internet really is in the lives of their current and prospective donors. Tell them they need a new model of fundraising that is 100% Internet-based, not just assorted digital and social media arrows in their existing fundraising quiver.

Ask them to join you on the journey!

Ask them to…

Join us.
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Friday, July 26, 2013

BIG’s Blog: You CAN do this

To those of you who are regular readers of my blog, and even those of you who have attended one of our education Webinars … but … just … can’t … seem … to make the move to shift your Development business model, you can do this!

I know you think that your Development group is modern if you’ve updated your Web site, set up Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, and are even using some services like Tumblr.

But you’re not seeing online growth in donations that even come close to direct mail.

So you wonder . . . can we really do this?

Let me give you something to ponder. Suppose you started a charity from scratch in 2007. By the way, that was right before the great recession! Now, if I told you that a charity actually did start from scratch in 2007, and since that time they have raised $100 million dollars from 400,000 donors worldwide … not just in the U.S., would you believe me?

Oh, and they are only online.

Scott Harrison is the Founder and CEO of charity: water. I recently read an article about how he started charity: water and what he learned in the process.

The article was in Forbes, which is a business publication, so you would think that the interview would focus on marketing tactics of his success. Well, they did talk about some marketing, but what he spent the most time talking about might surprise you. Here's an excerpt of Scott Harrison talking about charity: water’s values…
“Our organizational values are probably not dissimilar to many other companies (Integrity, Respect, Excellence, Innovation, Generosity and Passion), but we created “ISMS” that help bring them alive. For example, there’s an Ism around never pirating software or using music without permission – another about telling the truth to a fault “no white lies” – and others around the importance of designing everything (even keynote presentations given to small groups internally), about embracing new technology, giving generously of our money to our cause and others (eating our own dog food), and even one about working together to create a profanity-free environment that respects all.
We’re passionate, optimistic and hopeful people, and I hope that’s communicated through the images, videos and stories we share with our supporters.”
Isn’t that something your organization can emulate? Maybe you are already there. The online and digital tactical details are a given and, frankly, if you need help with those, you can turn to our company or others. But what’s really important is the environment and generous culture . . . in other words, how the organization’s values are lived out every day.

And you thought it was about tactics!

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

BIG’s Blog: How Many Apps?

The other day a friend caught me off-guard by asking me how many apps I had on my smartphone. I had no idea. In fact, I actually had to stop and count them . . . 27. Interestingly, I have twice that number on my iPad tablet.

But for my smartphone, my number is low compared to most people I know. According to industry sources, the average smartphone user has 41 apps.

Apple launched its AppStore in 2008, and since then 850,000 apps have been created for the AppStore with 50 billion downloads. And, of course, apps cover news and information, games, productivity tools, weather, location, health information, and so much more.

Of course, Android users have Google’s Play store, and their downloads of apps will probably exceed Apple’s by the end of the year.

These are staggering numbers.

So, can we say that we are in an app economy yet?

What does an app economy mean? Well, there are the dollars and cents of transacted business using the apps as well as what the apps cost. But more and more, IT departments are switching to using their employee devices to spread critical business applications for their company or organization. Many organizations are actually building their own app stores consisting of corporate-okayed apps for their employees to use on both computers and mobile devices.

So if you are personally already downloading and using apps on your smartphone or tablet device but not thinking about how they could integrate into your Development work…maybe it’s time.

How is the growing app economy going to connect to your grand Development strategy?

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Monday, July 22, 2013

BIG’s Blog: The Internet

Is there any other invention in your lifetime that has more profoundly changed people’s actual behavior and that of society as a whole than the Internet? It is, without question, one of the most significant inventions in our lifetime.

Combined with digital technology, The Internet is literally transforming our economy. No industry sector is immune to its disruptive effects…including fundraising.

At some point you have to decide whether you keep tweaking your current model of fundraising (that is essentially unchanged over 80+ years) in the hope that somehow modernizing it will turn it into a growth model…or you can shift to a new model that is built on the new reality of the Internet.

Yet the pull of the status quo is immensely powerful. Day to day, it is so much easier to keep our heads down and do exactly what we have always done. Or worse, make incremental changes and convince ourselves we are “modernizing.”

Change is hard, but so is running out of money.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Natives and Immigrants

No, this isn’t about the immigration bill winding its way through Congress.

My daughter explained something to me the other night. She said, “Dad, in the Web world, you’re an immigrant while I am a native.”


The conversation came up as we were talking about some new feature on Twitter. She is my “go to” person for answers on new changes that are constantly coming out on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Most Millennials get this quickly and intuitively. Boomers? Let’s just say we are new to this foreign country. We are NOT natives.

Think about it.  20-somethings have always known computers in the classroom and, to them, the six-year-old iPhone has been around forever.

A secret for your success in online fundraising? Target Millennials. By building your online fundraising to target Millennials, you will capture Gen-X and Boomers because they follow the lead of Millennials online. Millennials will carry your message, so appeal to them.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Is Charity: Water a new fundraising model?

I watched the film documentary Downloaded, which is the story of Napster, the peer-to-peer music file sharing online company that was sued out of existence by the music business. The music executives didn’t want free music. Shawn Fanning was the programming genius behind Napster. Fanning lost Napster, but his genius carried him to start other tech companies.

And what about free music? How about Spotify or YouTube etc.? Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back. Today’s teenagers don’t know anything different than essentially free on-demand music. It has shaken the music business to its knees, but instead of adapting to the new reality (you can never go backwards), today’s music executives continue to hold onto the old business model.  

But what about fundraising? Is there an analogy that can be drawn to fundraisers? Are there lessons to be learned? Check out Charity: Water. Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity Water, didn’t have a nonprofit fundraising background when he started Charity Water. But Scott is a pragmatic fellow, and he didn’t want to recreate the wheel, so to speak, so he looked at how today’s charities raise money for their organizations, and concluded that their fundraising systems were antiquated and breaking down. So he went his own way… 100% online.

Since most of my audience is of the baby boomer generation, let me ask you, have you heard any really good music lately? Maybe Mumford and Sons a couple of years ago and then Adele came out of nowhere . . . that’s about it. The rest seems to all sound the same. It seems the music business is bankrupt creatively. We all remember the British Invasion of the early 60s and the Motown factory of hit after hit. Today?

So Scott Harrison of Charity Water went his own way. No direct mail, no major gift officers. He just put out his message online and got about spreading it. How’s he doing? Over $27 million raised in 2011, up from $1.8 million, that they raised their first year in 2007. Oh, and wasn’t that during the great recession?

How does that compare to your organization’s results?

Isn’t your mission just as worthwhile?

ANSWER: Yes it is!

So what’s the problem?

If the music industry is bankrupt creatively due to trying mightily to hold on to their old business model in the face of a Napsterized world… maybe the nonprofit fundraising world is bankrupt strategically in trying to hold onto transaction-focused fundraising. If all you’re chasing is money . . . people in the online world are on to you, and they will flee or never show.


Because the new online model of fundraising has to be about Relationships and Transparency. Look at Charity Water’s financial page. It’s all there and an 8 year old can understand it!


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Monday, July 15, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Can Nonprofits Break Through Online?

People are looking online for real. They are looking for answers and to connect with something bigger than themselves . . . something they can be a part of.

People are also looking for trusted filters. Why is this happening? What does this mean to me?

And as a wise person recently said, “those who they trust will not be those with engineering degrees, but humanities degrees.” People are drawn to people who care and know how to communicate.

Do you think social media is your answer? The social media platforms are just the way stations for looking and checking out what individuals and organizations are saying. But the hook is the content of your message.

If all you’re looking for are numbers on Facebook or Twitter, you will go nowhere. Superficial leads nowhere except to a longing for real. There is so much c**p out on the Internet. And then there are charities that continue to attempt to manage their image as if it’s 1952. Can they get by with this with my 86-year-old mother? Yes. Can they get by with this with my 50-something wife? Not on your life!

Starting with the cynical Baby Boomers, you had better be real online. And if you have any thoughts of connecting with 20-somethings, remember, they can smell fake a mile away.

Trying to pretend you’re something you are not doesn’t work anymore. People will Google you, check out what you are saying versus what others are saying about you online. If it smells bad, some will call you out on it.

If you want to build a base of followers online, quit worrying about the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) and instead have something to say that really matters.

So can nonprofits break through in the digital online world? Absolutely, but you must have something to say and it must be REAL.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Mail bag and comments

RE: Monthly Giving

WTTW public TV in Chicago is also pushing for monthly credit card giving.  As a donor I can see the advantage from my point of view.  e.g. if I pledge $5/month (which I can afford), I will be increasing my yearly support by $20.  However, there’s a caution here for the development offices.  I tried this with WTTW once and they made such a mess of it by charging my card twice in one month and when I tried to call to have it corrected, they didn’t have an easy way for me to contact them.  Very frustrating and I cancelled the gift and have gone back to the $40 once a year gift. 

The moral of the story:  plan well before initiating this system.


There you go…Joyce “wanted to give them $60” through monthly giving rather than a once-a-year $40 gift. That’s the point! What organization out there doesn’t want to grow revenue 50% in one year?

So the point for savvy fundraisers isn’t getting the program execution right…that should be cake for your organization. No, the “hard part” is getting them to switch to monthly giving. Turns out the hard part (or so you thought) is not so hard.  

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BIG’s Blog: The Game is Changing

The game is changing but YOU CAN STILL PLAY!

But make no mistake about HOW MUCH it is changing.

How about “attitudes” changing among the younger generations?  These changing attitudes are altering the way even organizations run by the same younger generations think and operate.

Mark Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Facebook. Before they went public as a company, he wrote in a letter to prospective shareholders saying “We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.”

Translation: It’s the service, stupid! If you don’t offer world-class services, NOBODY will show up to use your service. Focus on the service!

So as a nonprofit fundraiser trying to get in sync with younger potential supporters, doesn’t it make sense to sync up with the thinking of the new zeitgeist? After all, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook aren’t just adding Gen-X and Millennials to Facebook, but millions of Baby Boomers as well.

But you are totally comfortable keeping your focus on “transactions” as the way to make revenue goals on into the future???

Pretend that Mark Zuckerberg, instead of founding Facebook, had gone to work in fundraising. How would he think? What would he do?

I’m pretty sure he would say something like, “In our Development department, our main goal isn’t to raise revenue; we raise revenue by developing relationships online.”

Translation: It’s the relationship, stupid! Everything . . . including revenue . . . flows from the relationships.

Your fundraising business model of going after transactions is passing away with the Depression and WWII generations.

The new fundraising business model is about building relationships of like-minded individuals, some of whom will become financial supporters. And you will do that 99% online. The MISSION becomes the tie that binds your work and your network of supporters. And money (revenue) is a byproduct, not the main goal.

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