Monday, September 30, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Don’t Forget the Basics

We all know this. I know it . . . you know it, but most of the time we are heads-down in the trenches and moving too fast . . . and we forget.

Some things are worth taking the time to remind us. Mine came in the form of The Management Tip of the Day put out by the Harvard Business Review.

This seems so basic that it is almost embarrassing to admit how hard the words below hit me. Under the heading of “Make Good Decisions Faster,” were three points.

1. Know your ultimate objective.

Notice it didn’t say objective(s). . . plural. What is the singular objective we need most to attain? We all have multiple objectives in our organizations at any one time, but if we try to accomplish them all, without prioritizing, we will probably never accomplish any of them in any sort of efficient timeframe. What is the most important goal?

2. Get a second opinion.
Of course, you are paid the big bucks because you are such a smart, well trained, and seasoned leader. But even Albert Einstein needed a sounding board for his ideas. Another “head” that you respect the opinion of can be invaluable in helping you eliminate judgment errors.

3. Do something.

Deliberation can help you flesh out all your options, but at some point you must choose one option, even if that means letting go of five other “good” ones. I know it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. There is no decision until you decide. If you’re the decider, then you have to decide. And in most cases, the quicker you make the decision, the better it is for everyone involved . . . including you.

Why is this so timely for fundraisers? Because our world today doesn’t just seem like it is moving faster; it really is. And learning to make decisions faster is a way to keep your organizations moving forward.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

BIG’s Blog: It Takes A Village

Remember when Hillary Clinton wrote the book It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us? No matter what you thought of the book or its premise, It Takes a Village presaged the movement of people helping people in all kinds of ways online.

If you remember User’s Manuals, then you are definitely a baby boomer. Today, if you have a problem with anything, especially tech devices, there are no user’s manuals. But what we do have today is Google. And frankly, Google is better than any user’s manual.

Case in point; Apple just released their new operating system, iOS7. I have both an iPhone and an iPad so I could update both. My 20-something daughter called me and said, “Dad, I just looked at the online comments (she Googled iOS7) and there are a lot of comments about potential bugs, with many saying only tech savvy early adopters should upgrade now. Dad, that means you should wait.”

Did I listen? Well, kinda. I waited two days and then updated. I’ll share my opinion of Apple’s “new look” below, but the real question was “How did the update go?” The update on my iPhone went seamlessly. The update on my iPad . . . not so much. The update on my iPad had a glitch that left me unable to use my keypad for typing anything. There is a five second delay in my typing a letter and it showing up. Needless to say, it terminated my ability to communicate or do other functions on my iPad.

I Googled the problem on my iPhone, and apparently I had a lot of company with others reporting exactly the same glitch. The other great thing about Googling the problem was finding all those who offered fixes or workarounds. Of course I just dropped my iPad at the Apple Store for them to fix . . . but it’s good to know I had options.

Google is the new user’s manual. Only better.
So what do I think of Apple’s new look for their devices? Well, let’s just say that if Steve Jobs were still alive it would never have seen the light of day. Why do I say that? Because Steve Jobs – like me – was a baby boomer who wore glasses. He would A) not appreciate the skinny font, and B) he would not appreciate how bright the screen is . . . just way too bright!

Will there be fixes? No doubt.  After all, there are a lot of boomers with eyes and sensibilities like mine who are buying a lot of Apple iPhones and iPads.

But even with this small misstep, I’m not giving up my iPad or iPhone anytime soon. I am, however, absolutely giving up user’s manuals. I love going to “the online village” to commiserate and find answers to the problems with my stuff.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BIG’s Blog: A New Golden Age of Fundraising

When I write about a “new” golden age, you might wonder, “What was the old golden age of fundraising?”  Well, for most of your organizations, that was before 2005 and probably between 1985 and 1998. Your direct mail program was king. Your acquisition mailings were cost effectively growing your donor file, and your donor mailings were delivering solid returns.

Yes, that was the old golden age of direct mail fundraising, the likes of which we will never see again. But, of course, it was all built around a transaction-based approach.

There was nothing wrong with that transaction-based approach in its time . . . after all, we were living in the era of broadcast. That was the norm and it worked.

But for charities (and especially for faith-based charities) it was always a bit uncomfortable. I mean, how many of you referred to your direct mail solicitations as “begging letters?” Uncomfortable? Ah, yes.

But that was the methodology that we had and, uncomfortable as it may have been for members of the religious communities or organizations, it nonetheless was the accepted methodology.

But for fundraisers today, the Internet has ushered in a new golden age of fundraising. Today, the Internet allows your organization to connect with people online. And when I say “connect,” I don’t mean just looking at your Website. I mean connect, as in two-way interactive communications.
The old paradigm of “appealing” for donations is fading as fast as the Depression and WWII generations are passing.

Today people don’t want to be manipulated into a gift. People want a relationship . . . a connection . . . with the charities they support. They want to know what is happening all the time. They want to be kept informed. And occasionally they want to talk with somebody. They want to connect and feel like they have a relationship. Even if your organization is national in scope, they want it to feel local to them.

What do I mean by “relationship?” I mean that they want to know the people and the work of the organization. Young people in their 20s and 30s might even want to get involved in your mission. There must be a human connection.

Some of you reading may think that I am overstating this. After all, your organizations continue to raise money the old fashion way. To that I say, “Thank God!” But very quickly . . . if you haven’t already seen it . . . you will start to see donations falling off. One look at your donor file will tell you what is wrong. Your donors are mostly over 68 years old. Why do I pick 68 years old? Because that is the youngest age of the WWII generation. The youngest !

So, what is the real story here beyond the “cutesy” phrase of the “New Golden Age of Fundraising?”

The “real story” is the light bulb going on in your head with the realization that things have now shifted to a point where the old isn’t working so well. And if there weren’t an alternative . . . in fact a great alternative . . . the situation would be dire. But in fact the proverbial “old” door closes and the “new” door opens up. And what a door it is, especially for those of you who desperately want to move beyond “begging letters.”

The Internet is opening doors that didn’t exist before, and now the Internet and Internet-based tools aren’t just opening up doors; the doors are being blown apart.

This is the real story here. And the sooner fundraisers quit holding on to what they know . . . as if it is a safety net . . . the sooner they begin to reach new and younger potential supporters by building relationships with them.

You need to reframe the conversation of where you are going. It is about transformation. Eliminate the word “concern” from your personal lexicon. Roll up your sleeves and look at new technologies and ideas of where fundraising can change and how relationship-focused Development/Advancement is better and more in synch with the people and the mission of your organization.

Quit making assumptions until you have looked and examined it yourself. Withhold judgment until you have formed your own opinion.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Elton John

Your base of donors has aged 17 years in the last 17 years. What does this mean? In 1996, your typical supporter (“typical” is defined as your average supporter across several demographic traits) was a woman, age 65, born in 1930, and was of the Depression era generational cohort. Today, your typical supporter is still a woman, age 82, born in 1930 and was of the Depression era generational cohort.

Huh? That’s the same person!

That’s right. Your current supporters are just 17 years older. Your donor base has aged.

But you say, “How is that possible?  I’ve added hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of new donors over the last seventeen years!” Yes . . . but they were all the same demographic profile . . . WWII or Depression era with a smattering of older Baby Boomers.

The question is this: “Where are the bulk of the Boomers, plus the Gen X and Millennials?”

Well, they aren’t on your supporter file. Nor are they on the donor files of your peer organizations. If they were on other files that you exchange for or rent, you would have potentially lowered the age of your file. BUT THEY ARE NOT THERE.
By the way, this problem is unique to charities in general, and faith-based charities in particular. It is not an issue with institutions of higher education, health related nonprofits, and several other nonprofit sectors.

So, then, how do you learn to reach younger potential donors so you can begin to bring more age balance to your base of financial supporters?

Well, I could say “Just sign up for one of our online programs,” but that would be crassly commercial . . . even though that is exactly what we teach in our online courses.

Another alternative is to ask anyone in your Development organization under the age of 30 if your mission connects to them. Of course this assumes that you have someone in your Development organization under the age of 30. Then ask them if your communications would connect to their friends. Then do the same with someone 31 to 40. And, finally, do the same with someone 41 to 50.  

I guarantee it will become quickly apparent why your supporter base has aged 17 years in the last 17 years.

Last week I attended a faith-based Development association conference. I talked to roughly 50 different Development Directors. Every single one of them . . . without exception . . . admitted that their donor file had aged over the last 15 to 20 years. EVERY ONE!

What are they going to do about it?

I don’t know for certain.

The more pressing question is “What are you going to do about it?”

Since 1996, Elton John is 17 years older too.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Do you get Google?

Sorry, this blog is only for those aged 45 and older who are in Development/Advancement leadership.

Here’s what you need to know: “GOOGLE IS THE NEW MARKETING.”

There, I said it. You desperately need to read and hear that statement and believe it’s true . . . because it is.

Look, six years ago I didn’t get this. I didn’t get Google. I knew it was a successful “tech” company, but then so were Microsoft, Apple, IBM, and Oracle. I wondered why anyone would spend time on YouTube watching cat videos . . . Google owns YouTube.

I didn’t get Google.

You’d have to live under a rock not to have heard of Google . . . but what makes them special AND so important to fundraisers??
When I meet with individual Development Directors I ask them, “How big is Google?” I did this just last week at the National Catholic Development Conference in Texas. The typical responses range from $1 billion to $13 billion. Good guesses considering Google, as a company, is only 16 years old. I’ve got jeans older than that! But those guesses were way off. Last year, Google reported $53 billion in revenue.

$53 Billion in Revenue!

So, then the next question is: Where did those sales come from? That is, what is Google selling? The answer is that their primary income stream is from Search.

We all know what Search is. You go to Google and type in a query. The words in your query hit Google’s Search engine and almost instantly it gives you results.

Words are very important in Search, so important, in fact, that virtually every commercial company in America and the world spends money with Google on “key words.” For instance, if you are Dell and someone types “PC computer” into their Google query, if Dell doesn’t show up in either the paid or organic Google listing, they will soon be out of business.

But, of course, Dell wouldn’t let that happen, nor would any of the millions of companies worldwide that spend advertising dollars with Google today. 53 billion dollars worth! And, each year, Google’s revenue grows as marketing people . . . like you . . . figure out how important Google is to their business. They finally get it!
This isn't just another form of marketing . . . it is becoming THE form of marketing that drives business.

How much does your organization spend with Google?

By now you might be thinking, “Maybe we should be looking at re-allocating marketing dollars to Search.”

But how?

What does Search have to do with the methodology of fundraising you are employing today? Answer . . . little to nothing.

So, then, how can you make Search work for you?

Oh, it will work at the most elemental level in that people looking for your organization will find it easier, but you are probably already getting that level of attention organically anyway. That won’t move the fundraising needle.

Search is a part of a new set of online tools that can help you grow your base of supporters in a whole new way. Social media is another huge component. These tools, however, don’t operate by the old broadcast marketing rules of which direct mail is your key component today.

It isn’t just your organization, but virtually all nonprofit fundraising organizations’ bases of donors have aged in the last fifteen to twenty years. Why? Because you are not attracting younger supporters. Do you think that fundraisers are any different in needing the support of people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s than are commercial companies in selling their products or services to people in that same age group? Of course not!

But here is where commercial companies are different from nonprofits. Commercial companies can’t afford to ignore people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s; they need customers of all ages to make a profit. Nonprofits, by comparison, have virtually ignored younger people for the last 15 to 20 years while the Internet was changing society. Nonprofits didn’t mean to ignore younger people . . . they just did it by default through not understanding the significance of Google.

. . . but it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

BIG’s Blog: The Ideal

Frequent readers of this blog know that I describe the major generational cohorts in philanthropy as the Depression-era cohort, World War II cohort, Baby Boomer cohort, Generation X cohort, and Generation Y (also known as the Millennial) cohort.

Depression cohort: born 1912 to 1921
WWII cohort: born 1922 to 1945
Boomer cohort: born 1946 to 1964
Gen X cohort: born 1965 to 1981
Gen Y cohort: born 1982 to 2001

These generational cohorts represent the following (approx.) percentage of the population.

Depression & WWII cohorts: 12.8%
Boomer cohort: 24.5%
Gen X cohort: 19.0%
Gen Y cohort: 27.0%

For philanthropy today (based upon each cohort’s life-stage which most closely corresponds to disposable income, hence giving and grouping the Depression and WWII cohorts into a single category called Matures), the below graph represents the closest to the “Ideal” of what a healthy donor file should look like.

  Graph – courtesy of Target Analytics

The above graph takes into account the size and life-stage of each cohort and the potential giving each should represent.  Matures represent only 12.8% of the U.S. population but represent an outsize proportion of giving, hence 26% of the Ideal donor base whereas Gen Y represents 27% of the population, but only 11% of the giving. Today the Boomer population ranges from age 49 to 67, and most Boomers have established giving patterns, but because of their numbers in the U.S. population (24.5%), in the Ideal, they represent the single biggest share of giving at 43%. This is obviously the Ideal, but in representing the Ideal, it is also an excellent indicator of a healthy and well-balanced support base.

If you don’t know how your organization compares to this Ideal, please reach out to my friends at Trinity Direct (click on the logo link below) and they will do an age overlay of a representative sample of your file. They charge a modest fee for this service, but it is worth it. This is the best way to see how your file compares to the Ideal.  

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Friday, September 13, 2013

BIG’s Blog: What is Marketing Today?

I have said many times that if I were back in the commercial world running a company that had to sell its product or service, I would honestly be stymied by how to use the new array of digital tools and social media to sell my product. I say “stymied,” because with the power of information now in the hands of the consumers, commercial companies face worldwide competition which constantly pushes products and services to commodity status. And once all you sell is a commodity, it’s only about price.

But for fundraisers, the digital tools and social media are a dream come true. Why? Because nonprofits aren’t selling something. Charities, health organizations, and colleges are all about (or should be) building relationships.

Yes, the end product is that enough Supporters will financially support the organization and its work . . . but today our communications with constituents and donors are focused around constant appeals or fundraising events. Don’t take my word for it, ask your donors or, better yet, have an independent research group ask them.  

Unfortunately, most commercial companies are still figuring out how to use today’s new marketing tools to build their business. And again . . . unfortunately . . . many seem to be getting it all wrong. Here is a recent rant from another blogger I follow that makes my point:

“That’s what’s wrong with today’s marketing, it doesn’t allow for percolation, it doesn’t allow for growth, it believes the instant smash is more powerful than the long-term build, that if everybody knows your name right away you’ve made it, when the opposite is true.”     - Bob Lefsetz

Bob Lefsetz has it right for commercial companies as well as for nonprofit organizations. It is all about building relationships for the long-term. Relationships create “value.”

Take a breath. Take a step back. Has your fundraising organization become a churn and burn machine? Be careful, the insidious part of churn and burn is that it can work in the short term . . . but with disastrous consequences as time goes by.  

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Web-based tools and social media were made for building relationships. Social media . . . social . . . get it?

But, first, your strategic direction has to change to focus on relationships FIRST . . . not second, or third, or . . .

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