Friday, May 30, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Online Tools Can Help Supporters Raise Funds From Their Networks

The above title, Online Tools Can Help Supporters Raise Funds From Their Networks, was an article published May 29th in The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s online edition (I don’t read their dead tree printed version). They even have a section called “Online Fundraising.”

So you read the headline and ask yourself, “Do our supporters have networks?”

Frankly, your question is a good one and points to a big (no, make that a huge) problem for you and your fundraising organization. The truth is YOUR supporters DON’T HAVE networks, at least not in the sense that the article is describing them. Your supporters have friends and family … but not networks.

Your supporters, who were 99.9% acquired via direct mail, are mostly in their 70s and 80s with a few in their 60s sprinkled in. Most use a computer and some use tablets and smartphones. But these folks don’t have networks in the sense that the Chronicle is describing a network.

The article is describing online networks of primarily friends. It is talking about younger people who use social networks and other online channels to stay in touch with their friends daily… if not more often. It is a concept that people over 65 find hard to grasp. “Why would anyone need to connect with their friends hourly?”

The point is that this “online network phenomenon” is not remotely a part of the vast majority of your older, direct mail-acquired donor’s life experience. And that means it probably isn’t important to your fundraising team’s plan.
Yet there is the article about “networks” and supporters in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  

Whose supporters are they talking about?

Do you think the Chronicle would be writing an article about “networks” if they weren’t important?

A part of this blog’s readership has already shifted online. Many have been through our online learning program. They actually get what the authors of the article are writing about and, for them, it is valuable information. Valuable … as in, it is information they can use to grow revenue for their organizations.

But for too many reading this post, it seems unnecessary … even worthless. It just doesn’t connect to your supporters . . . at least your supporters today.

So how many more articles, association sessions, or webinars about online fundraising are you going to attend while nodding your head in agreement before you go back to your fundraising organization and actually make online growth part of your fundraising?

And sorry, being online is more than having a website, sending out email blasts and having social media pages. Come on, how does that generate new supporters and, ultimately, revenue?   

I mean seriously, today you are not only hurting your career by delaying … you are now beginning to seriously impact your organization’s financial future.
Wouldn’t it be nice to read a fundraising publication story about online fundraising and be able to say, “We’re already doing that!”

Isn’t it time to figure this online thing out?


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Always a Crisis

Seth Godin is one of the best thinkers in marketing communications who is actively writing about our changing marketing environment. He recently wrote a blog post entitled Tribal organizing (right and wrong, slow and fast).

In his blog he touches on fundraising to make a single point, but I think for fundraisers, what he is getting at is the point!

Where are fundraisers going off the rails today?

Today, most fundraising … ESPECIALLY DIRECT MAIL FUNDRAISING … is all about Crisis, Cash, and Cliffs.

Crisis: Every mail package is a mini-crisis or a full-blown crisis. “Emergency need for urgent action NOW!” There is always a reason why the benefactor must pull out their checkbook NOW!

Cash: Every crisis demands only one solution … CASH. “You can help solve this with cash … now.”
Cliffs: The organization lurches from cliff to cliff … or so it seems. There is no future, only the imperative issue of the NOW. Emotional energy is drained just reading the appeal as the organization’s mission is viewed as riding the edge.

BUT THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE. The answers are Connection, Commitment, and Conversation … communicated online.

Connection: Our mission is a journey and we want you along for the whole ride. This is about building a relationship.

Commitment: We are not just about today, but are committed to the long haul of our mission. We want you to join our commitment to the cause so that, together, we can do more over the long haul.

Conversation: Put your stories and updates out there. Keep the community and supporters “in the know” about what’s happening every … single … day.


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Monday, May 26, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Busy Being Born?

“Ability is what you’re capable of.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.”
-Lou Holtz

Successful professional fundraisers’ abilities have never been questioned until recently. But when the very foundational fundraising methodologies, the way they have done their jobs for decades, is being digitally disrupted, boards and leadership are raising questions. Yet the only hurdle for professional fundraisers is to learn something new. And, truth be told, they have been doing that throughout their professional careers.

Ah, but the rub may be motivation. If I am in my late 50s or 60s, am I really motivated to expend the effort learning something like the new online digital world that I perceive as so different from what I know today?

And then there’s my attitude. Which will it be in learning new things?  Reluctantly and begrudgingly or, enthusiastically?

Here is some motivation, because …
“He’s not busy being born is busy dying.”
-Bob Dylan

And those words apply to both people and organizations.


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Friday, May 23, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Remember on Memorial Day

When I was growing up back in the 50s and 60s, Memorial Day was about going to the cemetery and placing flowers on loved ones’ graves. We would see the flags on veterans’ headstones, but it wasn’t exclusively a remembrance of those who had served in our armed forces.

People still decorate family and friends’ graves, but Memorial Day has taken on more of a focus on the fallen from our recent and past wars since 9/11.

In America, we are still free. If this isn’t driven home to you everyday as you read or listen to the news from places like Thailand, Ukraine, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and on and on … then you aren’t paying attention.

This Memorial Day, remember that it is those men and women in our armed forces who have secured our freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and even freedom to demonstrate.
If you see a man or woman in uniform this long Memorial Day weekend, remember to thank them for their service.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

BIG’s Blog: The Way to a Donor’s Heart (and Data) Is Trust

Natasha Smith, the Senior Editor of the online publication, Direct Marketing News, wrote a good article last week entitled: Trust: The Way to a Customer’s Heart (and Data). Obviously, you can see from my title that I totally ripped off her core idea … even though I am personalizing it to the fundraising world. Why did I jump all over her article? Because what pertains to customers of commercial enterprises pertains to nonprofits as well.

Her arguments about trust leading to brand loyalty for products we buy is spot on … if a bit obvious. But the real process that fundraisers need to pay attention to is connecting trust to sharing data.

People understand that there is a heck of a lot of data that organizations (commercial or nonprofit) can obtain for “marketing” purposes. And, just like the commercial world, if people trust the brand (commercially, Apple remains #1 in brand loyalty), they will allow their data to be shared. If they trust … they share.  This is only going to be more important moving into the online world.

And you think that just because you are a charity or even a faith-based ministry or mission that you don’t have to worry about gaining people’s trust?

Think again!

Open … Honest … Transparent … Accountable. These are the new bedrocks that make up Trust to younger generations (starting with the boomers) that are online.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

BIG’s Blog: It's How We Learn About Stuff

You're no different than me. You're out at dinner with friends or family, and someone brings up a subject (anything, trivia, etc.). This has been happening forever. We used to just argue who was right and the whole process dissolved into shouting and laughter and then we moved on.

Not today.

Someone reaches into their pocket or purse and pulls out their smartphone and "Googles" it. (Yes, the noun Google has become a verb!) And, voila, we have an answer. Life is changed, behavior is changed, and we are all the "smarter" for it. WE GOT THE ANSWER.

We still dissolve into laughter, except for Uncle Morty who swore on his mother's grave he was right about the answer when, in fact, he was wrong. But he'll just order another drink and all will be fine.

So what does this have to do with fundraising?

Come on, do I have to paint you a picture?

First of all, the people you want and need to be talking to are online. And when I say they are online, I mean THEY ARE ONLINE. Just like you, their habits and ways of doing things have changed with the invention of the Internet and digital personal tools like smartphones, tablets, etc.

Second, everybody ... and I mean everybody ... carries within him or her a mental list of what is important to them. We say things like “Aunt Judy has a ‘heart’ for kids with mental disabilities,” because her son was born with Down syndrome. So, with the advent of the Internet, at any moment or on a whim we can look up Down syndrome or anything else, INSTANTLY! Do you know what a "keyword" is? Google will let you buy (for a period of time) any word or word couplet. Then when someone queries that word, your Website URL pops up. THEY CAN FIND YOU!

Third, have you heard of Kickstarter? It is a Website for raising funds and there are lots of sites just like it popping up. People go to these sites to invest money in startup efforts, like people raising money to start a business, or getting funding to make a movie or a record. But some nonprofits are using them to raise money for a project.  PEOPLE BY THE MILLIONS ARE GOING TO THESE SITES.

So what does this have to do with how you raise funds for your mission or ministry today?

Probably not a darn thing!

You’re still stuck in the mindset of lists, advertising, mail, making calls, and on and on … "It's how we have always done things!"

Meanwhile millions of people are on the Internet looking for you (they may not know they are looking for you), but because they have a "heart" for your mission or ministry, they are LOOKING FOR YOU ... AND YOU ARE MAKING IT SO HARD TO BE FOUND.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Your Story

Politicians ultimately only have one thing to sell to the voters and that is themselves . . . but the voters want to know what a politician stands for. Sometimes the issue and the politician’s position are straightforward and simple, but other times the issue is complex. The most successful politicians know how to connect with their constituents by simplifying the most complex issue into a story . . . a story of how the issue and the politician’s stand on it will affect the lives of their constituents. They tell stories, and in the end, it is the narrative (the story) the politician lays out that people actually vote for … under the guise of voting for the politician.

Not-for-profits in general and charities in particular need to act in the same way. A politician’s “issue” is the charity’s “mission or ministry.” The charity must tell their story about how they “do” mission or ministry and what it means to the person listening or reading their story. Their story either connects or doesn’t … when people hear it. People will support a charity if they connect to its story.

Stories used to be passed by word of mouth around the fire.  Stories were then passed through the written word and, later, the printed word. Then came the technology of capturing sound, and finally film. Today our digital-based Internet world is “all the above,” and stories are carried through all kinds of channels.

But it still comes down to the story.

When people hear about your organization for the first time, what they really want to know is this: What is your story?

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

BIG’s Blog: How Do You Scale Without Mail? (Part 2)

Do you really believe that you CANNOT replace direct mail revenue using the Internet?


Okay … okay … I can identify with some of you. I can get so stuck in my ways in some areas of my life that I don’t consider other options … because I’ve always done it this way!

The #1 Reason we cling to direct mail is that we don't see an online method of fundraising that generates significant dollars today … let alone one that is scalable.

Yet there are some fairly sophisticated fundraising organizations that are gaining email addresses from mail-generated donors and beginning email solicitation programs that are growing, but this is merely shifting the transaction mode from check to online. Still, it offers a glimpse into the growth of online.

So HOW do you grow online? Well, first you have to recognize that the Internet is a different thing. HOW we do something on the Internet today is different than HOW you used to do something.

Success on the Internet is DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY.

We used to go to the car dealer and pick from his stock on the lot and, though we tried to haggle price, the dealer knew the value of the car. Now we go online to check out exactly the make, model and color of the car we want and, since we’ve priced the car, we tell the dealer what we think it’s worth.

We used to buy all our books at Barnes & Noble or Borders. These book superstores had great selection and cheaper prices than the Mom & Pop bookstores. Now we go online to Amazon where we get even better prices, plus reader recommendations and e-books instantly.

We used to go to our local insurance agent for home, car, and life insurance. Now we go online to Geico or Progressive to get quotes in minutes, and our insurance is cheaper and our service is better because all customer service is instant and online.

We used to get our news from TV at 5 & 10, or from our local newspaper. Now we go online 24/7 to get instant news, sports, and weather.

We used to have to go to the doctor or call Ask-a-Nurse to find out what illness we had based upon our symptoms. Now we go online to WebMD or other healthcare or wellness sites to get informed medical information.

You know I could go on and on – but you get the point. Growth in all these sectors is online.

So, those sectors that now have online alternatives, or that have been completely transformed by the Internet are just flukes? And nobody could possibly figure out how to scale online support for nonprofit organizations?

Except that some nonprofit organizations have abandoned direct mail as their growth vehicle (American Cancer Society) and are moving online, while other new start-up nonprofits are starting up without mail (Charity: Water and The Missionary Benedictine Sisters) and are growing dramatically.  

Charity: Water launched in 2007, and by 2013 raised over $34 million dollars. The Missionary Benedictine Sisters have a long history, but never had a Development group until they launched their online program in March … keep an eye on them!

Growth is online.

Growth is online.

Growth is online.

Scalable means growth … and growth is online.

Are you ready to scale (grow) online?

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Monday, May 12, 2014

How Do You Scale Without Mail? (Part 1)

The greatest innovation that helped nonprofit charitable organizations develop a consistent annual base of financial support (as well as a growing base of supporters) came on the scene about 80 years ago ... and that was direct mail.

Direct mail had the ability to scale. This means that once you have created the unique design and copy for a direct mail package that proved it could generate a profitable response rate, that package could be replicated over and over again. And the really good news was that the more packages you produced, the cost per package actually declined. In fact, direct mail was so productive that in the early years, the only problem was finding enough names to mail to.

Direct mail really began to grow in the 1960s when a number of enterprising individuals created a business around nonprofits sharing each other's list of donors. They were known as list brokers and managers. This list rental business combined the donor files of all nonprofits and made them available to all other nonprofits. Within a few years, the organizations mailing hundreds of letters before list brokers were now mailing thousands, and those that were mailing tens of thousands were now mailing hundreds of thousands, and those that were mailing hundreds of thousands were now mailing millions.

Almost without exception, the nonprofits that were the first to develop significant direct mail programs many years ago are the largest nonprofit organizations today.

But that is all about to change.

Direct mail, the engine of new donor acquisition and significant annual revenue for the last 80 years, is in decline.

In fact, the only ones who continue to sing the siren song that direct mail will never die (Direct Mail Is Alive and Well) are those printers, list brokers, and direct marketing agencies and their in-the-tank, sold out Direct Marketing Association with its Executive Director who rakes in a $700,000 a year salary by spouting misinformation about the decline of direct mail even as costs escalate and response rates decline. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the fundraising sector from believing that their historic engine of growth is declining.

But then if direct mail is dying, what takes the place of direct mail?

Actually, you already know the answer.

The answer is, of course, the Internet.

The only question is "How does the Internet replace dollars generated today by direct mail?"

We'll cover that next time in Part Two of: How Do You Scale Without Mail?

Drip, Drip, Drip.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Has the Worm Turned???


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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Is it the Best of Times … or?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,”

No, we’re not going to rehash Dickens,’ A Tale of Two Cities, but the title pretty much sums up how fundraising leaders are feeling today.

How do I know? This is the time of year when all the proposals we have sent out for our summer term e-learning program get read, sifted through, and people start calling and emailing. Plus we are still getting proposal requests. So, sorry if we have been hard to get ahold of … busy time.

But this gives me a lot of good-quality phone time with fundraising leaders.  

Okay, so where does “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” fit in?

There is not a single Development leader I talk to who doesn’t understand that “online” is their future. But most believe NOBODY has figured out how to generate significant dollars online. Oh, online donations are up year-over-year, but that’s just the transaction mode. We send them mail appeals, but instead of sending us a check, they go online and donate at the Website. It’s just more convenient to donate online.

But back to “best of times, worst of times.” You’ve probably already figured out where I am going with this.
It is the “best of times” because our average dollar gifts are up and because we are setting yearly bequests records. You are setting yearly bequest records aren’t you???

But our “worst of times” come from the fact that our donor files are growing older and shrinking. Outside of a handful of organizations that are fairly sophisticated with their mail analytics and can actually continue acquisition mailings, the vast numbers of direct mail fundraising programs that continue acquisition mailings are getting older and older first-time donors.

And as Bill Jacobs of Analytical Ones points out, “when you take the lifetime out of lifetime value … well, you get the picture.”

Simply put, you need a new fundraising business model that is, first, built for the Web and, second, designed for younger generational cohorts, beginning with the baby boomers.

The Internet is a “new thing.”

Sometimes we lose sight of that fact.

There has NEVER been anything like the Internet.

Yet we always look at something new through the eyes of what we already know. And, by the way, everybody does this. Case in point: roll back 110 years to the year 1904. There was this smelly, noisy contraption rumbling down streets and country roads.

What did people call it? Exactly, they called it the “horseless carriage.” Only later as more and more of these contraptions showed up did they start calling it the automobile.

I was talking to a Development Director this morning who reminded me of the definition of insanity. You know, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome …” He told me straight-out that he had to change the way he was doing fundraising to connect with younger generations. So why did that Development Director move? He said, “I’ve always believed that what you don’t know won’t hurt you, but I’ve come to understand that isn’t the case with the Internet and I’m counting on your program to get me there.”

It will.

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