How do you choose a donor database that will support successful fundraising? This free audio training addresses common mistakes that can prevent you from selecting the right database and using it effectively.About Robert Weiner: Mr. Weiner’s experience includes conducting needs assessments for a variety of software packages, managing database conversions, overseeing academic and administrative computer centers, developing strategic plans for technology, redesigning administrative operations, managing enterprise networking projects, selecting and implementing library and instructional technologies, and guiding World Wide Web projects.
Recently, I caught up with Jay Gary, author, futurist and now assistant professor at Regent University in their School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship. For years Gary has conducted “Future Proof Your Ministry” workshops. I was curious to what he had to say.1. What trends are you tracking now, which faith-based nonprofits need to deal with?I have been tracking the impact on non-profits of the retirement of 46 million college-educated baby boomers by 2025. Non-profit executives have been talking about our aging donor demographics for years. For some, entire ministries will retire as their donor base does. We have been slow to realize that these workforce changes will totally redefine non-profit work in America. The U.S. labor force may have doubled over the past 50 years with the addition of women, but it will only grow at one-third of previous rates over the next four decades.This means government social services and non-profits will be saddled with enormous burdens. Census figures show that by 2030 there will be only three working adults to support every elderly person in the U.S., compared to seven back in 1950. Baby-boomers on fixed incomes will drop from non-profit donor roles and at the same time demand more mental and health care services. America will face a retirement avalanche, leaving the workforce with serious labor shortages.There will be a dearth of skilled employees in tech, science and other innovation areas, which outsourcing will likely fill. The newer entrants to the workforce by 2020, particularly women and Hispanic Americans, will not have the discretionary time or income to support the non-profit community. If you couple this with Barna’s projection of 20 million revolutionaries stepping outside the church to embrace self-managed spiritualities, then America’s faith-based non-profits, who serve the needy and the marginalized, are in for some lean decades–unless we rethink our service paradigms.2. Wouldn’t the retiring Baby-boomers boost the non-profit volunteer labor force?Yes, absolutely, in the short-run. You have a twin-trend here. While corporate America will lose the experience of millions of Baby-boomers due to retirement, and turn to global outsourcing to find skilled workers; domestic non-profits who have their ships ready will pick up thousands of highly trained retirees, who can lead mentoring, training or service programs.In reality, however, few non-profits will have the managerial ability to absorb the volunteer labor of the retiring Baby-boomers. We may have depended on their donations, but we don’t have a clue on how to leverage this wave of human capital.As a result, by 2020, older Americans, even faith-based populations, will plunge head-long into a Leisure Age, marked by travel, entertainment, and health and lifestyle enhancement services. Apart from new models of empowerment, the wealth of the largest and most educated generation in America will be consumed on itself.3. In the faith-sector there are so many changes taking place with new approaches being tried, how can you tell which ones are fads and which ones are trends?To use Jesus’ metaphor–fads are tares, while trends are wheat. You can’t immediately distinguish the two, unless you let them grow, and observe them. Only time series, or longitudinal data, can sort them out. Ideas such as the purpose driven church start off slow, gather momentum and spread quickly, but then reach maturity and level off.Every idea, every innovation has a past, a present and a future. You can track these patterns of change through forecasting. I recently hosted Graham Molitor, at Foresight 2007. Molitor’s 22-step model of change gives executives real clues on how to frame, advance and resolve issues affecting both church and society. See my blog entry on this.Of course, before a trend is named or identified, you only deal with weak signals, and it is hard to separate the signals from the noise. But after the event horizon, when a fad changes, transforms and gains staying power, you can track it as a trend, or a mature driving force.The purpose driven church appears to be part of a larger Baby-boomer drive for aspiration, meaning, focus, and service. It might be part of what Inglehart calls a shift to post materialism in the West. This shift, tracked quantitatively through the World Values Survey, shows that aging populations in Northern Europe and America are more focused on self-actualization than just survival. This is a positive trend, if the church can figure out how to see postmodern spirituality as an opportunity, rather than a threat.4. You talk about non-profits changing their service paradigms. Where do you see changes in media, like social media (web 2.0) taking communications in the future?Social networking has moved beyond just a youth phenomenon on Facebook to a core methodology for strategic alliances to gather, network and mobilize human capital. Recently I became active on a Shaping Tomorrow network of futurists. This has given me access to my professional peers in Europe in a way I could not have done three years ago. These new technologies will also create a 3-D virtual world where local activists can interact with each other and build bottom-up change initiatives.Advertising will also populate “Second Life” virtual worlds, and transform the customer to company dynamic. Instead of taking a trip to the Mall, your teenager will visit a GAP store in 3-D, interact with an avatar sales agent, and purchase goods. The same dynamic will be used to attend 3-D night clubs, jazz festivals, or art galleries. Six months ago the American Cancer Society held their first fundraiser in “Second Life.” This could have great implications for social interaction, spirituality, and religious behavior.Think of 3-D virtual worlds like Halo-3 computer gamers meeting Mother Teresa. Imagine Carlos in 2025, a Hispanic OD consultant in Los Angeles. He might forgo local congregational involvement, but participate regularly in holographic worship, populated by a youth bulge from south Asia. His volunteer service in a Google Earth replicated 3-D virtual world could be 20-hours a week through spiritual leadership and workforce training.5. How did you become a social forecaster?Very painfully. Back in the 1980s I was part of the century-end push to evangelize the world. By 1992, I realized that while the church could be called to action, it was failing to adapt and prepare its nets for the 21st century. I began to see beyond 2000, and work as a millennial consultant. I helped local communities use 1999 – 2001 to boost their triple bottom line, economy, ethics and environment. It gave me a new window on what it meant to be future-ready, and how faith, and special kairos seasons, could be used to galvanize change.I started hanging out with the World Future Society and then created ChristianFutures.com as a mentoring service for emerging leaders. I was a founding member of the Association of Professional Futurists.That led me to go back for my PhD with Regent University and launch their foresight emphasis. Now my job as a professor is to help mid-career professionals raise their game as futurists and strategists. I have up to 100 students each semester, spread out from MBA to Doctoral students. I teach them the practical skills I honed in horizon scanning, trend analysis, forecasting, and strategic change. I also help non-profit executives stand in the future and reinvent their ministries, by developing a future horizon 7 to 21 years out.About the author: Chris Forbes is a certified Guerrilla Marketing coach and founder of MinistryMarketingCoach.com. He speaks and writes on the subjects of ministry marketing, faith-based nonprofit marketing, social marketing, and Guerrilla Marketing for nonprofits.
Someone is angry at you. Somewhere, out there, a donor is miffed at their volume of direct mail. Or a co-worker feels slighted. Or a volunteer feels unappreciated. Or your significant other is simmering.What do you do when someone is upset with you? Deal with it! 1. Create ways to listen: The key to good donor relations, stellar customer service and strong human relations is to set up a dynamic where people can easily complain or raise concern BEFORE they are raving mad. Be sure you have a phone number (answered by a nice person) displayed on all your outreach, email contacts and blogs and other outreach that enable conversation. 2. Listen: If someone is venting, let them vent. Let them rant and rave until they stop for air.3. Acknowledge: Say exactly what they said back to them – it’s called reflective listening. “It sounds like you’re really frustrated with us because of x, y and z.” This makes a person feel heard.4. Thank: Thank them for telling you how they feel. Even crappy feedback is feedback. “We want to know when our donors are not happy with us, and I’m so glad you told me about this. Thank you.”5. Say sorry: Now comes the hard part. Say you’re sorry. Not “I’m sorry if this was bad/if you feel that way.” Say “I’m sorry this was a bad experience. We never want anyone to feel that way about us, and so we’re sincerely sorry.”6. Act: Say and do something to fix the problem the person is angry about. If you can’t do what they want, do the best you can. Do something.7. Follow up to show you acted: Get back to them a day later and say again that you’re sorry and how you addressed the problem. 8. Follow up again to make sure things are okay now: Check back in a week or two later. You might just win someone back (or over).
Pursuant to my post yesterday, I want to show two wonderful examples of establishing the trust triangle with unlikely yet completely authentic messengers for an important cause.Read these stories and ask yourself, “Who should be my messenger?” No matter your marketing talents, there is probably someone better than you to speak to your cause – especially someone helped by it!STORY ONE – MEN BY THE SIDE OF THE ROADDavid Stoker of Ashoka wrote me today to say:Read your post today about trust and the power of trust between friends in combination with a cause. That is really the underlying mechanism that drives the idea of, what we call, a Citizen Base. When citizens own, operate, and market to other citizens, the cause becomes rooted in the community at a level of connectivity that makes it more likely to succeed and grow. A great example we’ve seen in this regard is Men on the Side of the Road in South Africa. The personal connection they forged between individuals was the key to their success. I find it quite compelling in terms of building trust between segments of the population that would perhaps look at each other with suspicion. Here’s the story, in Ashoka’s words, about this project:MSR was created when Ashoka Fellow Charles Maisel devised a way to employ the 18,000 males who gather at roughly 180 sites throughout South Africa waiting for a day’s labor. Through a national marketing campaign, MSR initiated a massive tool drive for old, unused, and even broken tools, which can then be repaired and used by the day laborers. Instead of having to go to anonymous drop-off points to donate, citizens are asked to call MSR, who then sends out these day laborers to pick-up these tools directly from the community, thereby building a human connection. Imagine if the next time you donated something, a person who was benefitting collected it from you! Wow.STORY TWO: THE DOG WITH A BLOGPets for the Environment has a brilliant new spokesperson — a dog. Here is Eddie’s story (he has a blog, too, natch):I’m a dog on a mission.When nonstick chemicals from a frying pan killed my buddy Feathers, and my feline friend Cleo and I found out that we’re full of chemicals too, I was barking mad. Did you know that the humans’ government doesn’t make companies test chemicals for safety before they start using them in our toys, furniture, or even our food? And where do you think all those flame retardants, mercury, and perfluorochemicals end up? In us! And I know because I was tested. The chemicals in me are the same kinds of chemicals in people, and scientists think that other cats and dogs—and horses and birds and bunnies and snakes—around the country are full of them, too.That’s why I started Pets for the Environment. The humans have made a mess, and they aren’t doing anything about it. I need your help educating our humans and getting their government to pass toxic chemical reform legislation. They’ll never listen to just one pet, but all of us barking and meowing and cawing and squeaking together can make a lot of noise. Join Pets for the Environment and help me make a difference!Check out the site, where you can find the blog, a wall of cute (dog photos sent in by fans) and other great examples of messaging with the right messengers.Trying to reach pet owners? Speak through a pet.
Launching a new donor database system can be a daunting task for many organizations. Strong preparation and effective system implementation strategies can help avoid the never-ending or failed project launch. Eric Leland, a 13-year veteran of database technologies in the nonprofit space and founder of Leland Design (lelanddesign.com), leads us through effective paths for preparing organizations for new systems, and managing donor database projects to successful outcomes.Download the presentation slides below.
I declare this week nonprofit marketing haiku week. Best haiku gets a copy of my book. Submit via comments by Sunday COB:) Here is my rather snarky submission for today.Donor Haiku aka “Oh Well”Cyclone drowns BurmaEarthquake follows, so much needBut gas is four bucks
It had to happen sooner or later – reality TV for fundraisers.This is a really fun idea that my frolleague Alia called to my attention:Seattle, WA (PRWEB) July 9, 2008 — On Wednesday July 9, 2008, interns from across the nation will assemble in The Borgen Project’s office and in 60-minutes try to raise as much money as possible through a live broadcast. Unlike a traditional closed-door fundraising session, this one will be viewed live via the Internet. By mixing reality TV, Dialing-for-Dollars and Web 2.0, The Borgen Project is trying to make fundraising more interactive and informative. “This is fairly groundbreaking,” said Clint Borgen, President of The Borgen Project. “As a donor, you can watch live via the Internet as you talk to a volunteer inside the boardroom.” In addition to speaking with volunteers, donors can also chat with other supporters who are watching the live broadcast. Through this live broadcast, The Borgen Project is aiming to break down the walls between donor and fundraiser by creating a relationship that is less intimidating and more interactive. “Wednesday will be rough around the edges,” Borgen said. “But I think it will be a good starting point for a new fundraising method that nonprofits and political campaigns will begin to adopt.” The live broadcast can be viewed at here on Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 10 a.m. PST. The Borgen Project is a campaign to bring U.S. political attention to severe poverty. The Seattle-based organization operates on a national level meeting with congressional leaders and mobilizing public support for poverty-reduction legislation. Learn more at http://www.borgenproject.org.
Having a large, generous chunk of matching-gift funds can be an exciting-though daunting-campaign to get off the ground. Here are a few tips to keep the campaign alive from kick-off to wrap-up:Set goals. Participation in a campaign toward an attainable, but still challenging, goal is much more feasible than a campaign that flounders until an indefinite or distant end date. To say you’d like to raise as much as possible is not nearly as compelling as, “We’d like to raise $16,000 for school supplies that will supply X students with the materials they need.”Keep fundraisers updated. Let supporters know where their donations are going and what the terms of the campaign are. Keep your website information up-to-date as often as you can and conduct an ongoing email campaign.Create urgency. Because many supporters will wait until the last minute to donate, you can consider either moving up your deadline or creating intermediate goals (weekly, daily, etc.). Also, think about chunking your goal into reasonable sizes, such as 400 donors giving $40 to attain the $16,000 goal.Create social proof. People tend to do what other people are doing, so a member of your list may be thinking, “Wow. That is a big goal. Not a lot of people are paying. I’m not sure they’re going to get there or not.” By contract, if they think a lot of people are jumping on board, they’re more likely to do it. This gets back to creating smaller goals and sharing information that makes sense in the context of the network. For instance, if your Facebook thermometer only shows a fraction of overall giving, be sure to incorporate Facebook-only goals and information about the overall campaign success.Grow your pool of potential donors. Focus some of your energy beyond hitting your supporters over and over again by finding a way for the people who have supported you to recruit their friends, family and their circles of influence to benefit your campaign. The best messengers for your cause are the people who feel passionate about it.Source: Adapted from the Nonprofit 911 Presentation “The Experts Are In! Your Online Fundraising and Nonprofit Marketing Questions Answered.”
Tom Cullinan, president of Tom Cullinan Charitable Giving Counsel in Omaha, Nebraska, shares his thoughts on assessing the performance of charity gift planners. The article orginally appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of The Journal of Gift Planning.The article can be found in the Attachments section below.
I get a lot of inquiries during speeches and here on the blog about good websites. Which websites do I think are effective? Who has the right stuff?These are hard questions to answer, because most nonprofit websites fall prey to “all about us disease.” They fail to be laser-focused on the audience. They forget to answer the question “how we can help you?”Today, I was alerted to a website that does all these things right – and it’s from the government, no less. Bravo.The newly launched healthfinder.gov has all the things a home page should: -A big engaging visual focal point-Clear calls to action (in this case, ways to get fit that are easy, clear and rewarding)-A clear set of benefits for taking action-Tools that help me-Clever information-gathering mechanisms for the site owner – they are going to get great audience data from the quizzes on hereThe only thing that’s missing is a way to take these cool tools and share them or post them on my blog or Facebook page. But I’m told they are planning widgets soon.This is great stuff. Unlike the dreadful redesigned food pyramid, which I panned in my book, this is health advice I understand and want to use.Follow this model. It’s going in my next speech.Hat Tip to Dan Jeffers for the site information.
Download Seth Godin’s free eBook “Flipping the Funnel: Give Your Fans the Power to Speak Up“ Network for Good has been extremely privileged to host marketing guru, author and world-renowned blogger and presenter Seth Godin as a guest in our Nonprofit 911 webinar series. His books have been featured on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com and Business Week bestseller lists—not to mention his wildly popular ebooks including “Unleashing the Ideavirus” which more than one million people have downloaded. He holds an MBA from Stanford, and was called “the Ultimate Entrepreneur for the Information Age” by BusinessWeek.Access the archive of this training opportunity to:Learn the tricks and common pitfalls of nonprofit marketingGet practical tips for creating messages that compel actionMeet Squidoo, and learn how and why to use it as part of your nonprofit organization’s marketing and fundraising plans
Jeff Brooks has a great roundup. The Agitator and Fundraising Success provided the tips. It’s a must-read.
This is a scary time for fundraising – perhaps the most terrifying that most of us have ever experienced. The economy is tanking. Everyone is fearful about their financial future. And here we are – on the verge of fundraising season.It’s tempting to panic. Yet that would be the easiest – and worst — thing we could do.Here are some thoughts on what you should do instead:Don’t curl into a fetal position. In other words, do not stop doing things that are important or even risky to raise money. The same old same old isn’t going to cut it this year. This is not the time to be steered by fear. You need to be aggressive about acquisition and creative, new and different in your asks. (Check out bad habit #6 to see why change is important for your nonprofit.)Set realistic goals. The numbers are likely to be down. So manage to that. Do what you can to make them go up, but also be responsible and help everyone in your organization plan how you’d react to various fundraising scenarios, from decent to mediocre to dire.Don’t abuse your existing donors. If fundraising isn’t going well, the temptation may be to go back to the well again and again, hitting up your donors left and right. Yes, you should ask them for money. But not every five minutes. You should spend more time thanking them and making them feel great. Then they’ll tell their friends about you. Which gives you new donors. Remeber to practice good customer service–i.e. don’t treat your donors like ATM’s.Get online today. If you’re not already online, GET ONLINE and ask for lots of SMALL DONATIONS, including recurring monthly gifts. That’s the way the younger folk like to give, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to raise money via the Internet than any other way. Now more than ever it really makes sense: new audiences, less cost to raise a dollar. Do it.Don’t undersell yourself. In an era when so many investments look like they’re offering low returns, you are priceless. Remind your donors of their amazing ROI with you. For a few dollars, they get a helper’s high. They feel good because they did good. It’s cheaper than therapy. Their investment in your organization doesn’t yield paper profits. It changes lives. Always. Be passionate and persuasive about your emotional ROI – and your human ROI. Those who can afford it will get it and give.Admit to donors that it’s hard. While explaining that you’re a great investment, admit that your numbers – and the numbers on your donors’ investment portfolios – are down. Everyone feels the pain. Share the pain. Note that every tiny bit helps, however tiny the bit. It’s harder to turn down someone who is understanding of constraints and asking for even the smallest of donations. It’s a great time to ask for recurring gifts – just $10 a month. Ask now, because things are going to get worse before they get better.
Is your website a design glutton? Does it lust after unnecessary rich internet applications? Here’s how to get it on the path to redemption.In his epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” Dante Alighieri outlined — based on earlier religious writings — what Christians call the “seven deadly sins,” a classification of vices to educate and instruct followers due to man’s tendency to stray from the righteous path. Centuries later, these sins — gluttony, envy, lust, pride, sloth, anger and greed — still remain front and center in theology and have also been a source of inspiration for writers, artists and filmmakers.But webmasters as well? Over the years, I have seen my fair share of websites, both good and bad. Interestingly enough, there’s often more to be learned from “sinful” websites — those that violate clear principles of good website design, create frustrating experiences for visitors, drive customers away and damage their overall brands or businesses. Although the consequences of website sins may not include eternal damnation, many businesses are committing these same seven deadly sins online, thereby diminishing their ability to connect with prospects and customers.Let’s take a look at how each sin applies to the fundamental do’s and don’ts of website design.GluttonyGluttony is the overindulgence of anything to the point of waste and is often used in the context of eating. Although web businesses may not have an eating disorder, they often become gluttons of content. All too often, websites feature too much stuff — a cluttered design, too many links or a layout that looks like it was designed by committee.Every page on your website should have a goal — a purpose. If you can’t clearly articulate that purpose, then maybe you shouldn’t have that page. Crowded sites usually distract visitors from getting to that goal, which may be reading the most important information, clicking on the essential link, registering for the email newsletter, buying your product and so on.In most cases, less is more. Identify the most important value statements, and then layer additional content so that visitors who want extra information can click to access. Time and time again, multivariable experiments have demonstrated that reducing the amount of copy, reducing the number of required forms in a field or just generally de-cluttering a site can improve conversion rates.EnvyEnvy is about wanting what others have. In business, this often translates to the temptation to imitate other companies, including competitors. Certainly, there may be sites that you admire, and online design and marketing practitioners should always seek out best practices. However, you need to resist the urge to copy or use similar design principles or incorporate every cool new widget that others are employing. Trying new ideas is always good and should be encouraged, but remember the fundamentals:Who are your visitors?What are they looking for?What content and technology helps them walk down a certain path?Not all companies need to be on the bleeding edge. In fact, we’ve seen instances where companies have added Web 2.0 functionality, only to see their conversion rates actually drop after implementation.It is best to keep in mind that what works for other companies, including your competitors, may not work for your audience. Very often, winning designs and elements are counterintuitive. For example, my company worked with an online retailer that insisted that its order buttons be a certain color — not because of branding reasons, but because of assumed best practices. The company thought green would be the best color because “green means go, and red means stop.” Well, through an optimization experiment, we indeed learned that the red button actually performed better and increased conversions.LustIt’s hard to imagine a website being lustful (assuming you are not in one of those industries). However, sites often attempt to be “sexy” — trying really hard to get your attention, perhaps by being overly flashy. Like the sin of being envious of the next cool technology, we have found that many sites tend to overuse, or improperly use, technologies like Flash and video. Rich internet applications (RIAs) are certainly the wave of the future, and if used well, they can provide a truly engaging and informative experience for your customers.Unfortunately, more often than not, these “rich” applications can distract visitors from the true goal of the site. For example, we’ve seen companies insert video in the middle of the shopping cart path. Imagine standing in a check-out line at the grocery store, anxious to get home and cook dinner, and the clerk tells you to “watch this short movie before checking out.” Before implementing RIAs, ask yourself, “Does this help move the visitor along the intended business path?” Like the “less is more” principle outlined in the sin of gluttony, often simpler navigation and simpler presentation of content maximize conversion rates.PrideIn religious references, pride — the excessive love of self — is often considered the most serious of the seven deadly sins. This is actually consistent with one of the long-time axioms of marketing: understand your customers and speak from their point of view. Yet despite this axiom, many companies have a self-focused web presence that talks about their own businesses, not about their customers’ issues. Successful websites are not purely about the company but rather should speak from the visitors’ perspective.If your mission statement starts with something like, “We strive to be the best at… ,” then you are already off base. Don’t be in love with what you already have, and don’t assume your customers know what you know. Many seasoned web designers would be surprised to learn how often customers claim it is difficult to find crucial information on websites — information that designers always thought was in an obvious location.Another example of pride is a bit more literal. Have you visited a website that prominently displays the CEO’s photo on the homepage? Fortunately, this is not done often, but when it is, the marketer likely has little political recourse. (“Hey boss, you’re great, but let’s get your ugly mug off the website.”). However, in multiple experiments that we have conducted with clients, every time the CEO’s picture was removed, visitor conversions went up. Unless the CEO is famous and recognizable and the association with him or her adds credibility to your business, lose the ego and the photo.SlothAlthough this sin is my personal favorite — particularly on a Sunday afternoon during football season — there are a number of ways sloth manifests itself online and hurts your business. First and foremost is the technical side of sloth:Does your site take a long time to load?Does the design of the site, including the inclusion of rich applications, create a slow, frustrating experience for your visitors?Sloth can also be fairly literal, as in laziness in responding to your customers. Recently, I sent an email to the customer service department of a big online retail chain through a link on their site (a link that was difficult to find, by the way). By the time the company responded, four days later, I’d already deserted its site and purchased my item from one of its competitors.But perhaps most important — and certainly most prevalent — is the lazy tendency of businesses to treat online visitors as if they are all alike. Today, excellent technologies exist to provide a targeted, relevant experience to visitor segments. Visitor segments can be defined by a host of criteria (e.g., how they got to your site, demographics, location, time, day, etc.). It is frankly just slothful not to take the relatively small amount of time, energy and money required to provide the best experience for all of your visitors. Improving customer targeting and engagement alone will make a dramatic improvement in your online business.AngerWhile it is fairly self-evident that a company should not show anger toward its customers, we sometimes see companies patronizing or scaring their visitors. The former often manifests when a company’s site is too pushy or tries to hard-sell its visitors. For example, the website of Lenox Financial Mortgage proudly states, “It’s the biggest no brainer in the history of mankind.” Really? I’d hardly call a mortgage the biggest no brainer in the history of mankind. Even before the current financial meltdown, this was a ridiculous statement. Never talk down to your customer. Once a visitor sees a headline like this, the company immediately loses credibility, and the visitor goes elsewhere.In the context of scaring customers, website optimization experiments have shown that negative assurance language (e.g., “no spam” or “no spyware”) often decreases conversion rates. This negative assurance language may only inform visitors of a problem they didn’t know they had and make them think twice before buying. By the way, our website optimization tests show that positive assurance language like “satisfaction guaranteed” tends to work.GreedIn the movie “Wall Street,” Gordon Gekko famously declared, “Greed is good.” The impact of this mindset may be particularly acute in the context of the current financial crisis, and as you can imagine, greed is often “bad” on the web. This may manifest itself in websites asking their visitors for too much information. For example, we’ve seen many website forms asking for a fax number. Do you really need a visitor’s fax number? If you can cut down on the information you require the visitor to provide, conversion rates will almost always go up. For example, Delta Air Lines made some simple changes to a web form on its site, including removal of the “suffix” name field, and those changes drove a dramatic increase in revenue.Always ask yourself if you are requiring visitors to commit too much before being allowed to work with you. For example, do they really need to register before viewing some of your content?Another way that businesses demonstrate greed online is the obsessive pursuit of search engine optimization (SEO). Although a strong SEO strategy should be a cornerstone of your web presence, very often businesses load up their site with content for SEO purposes. Greed for the Google spider often creates a bad experience for the humans visiting your site.The path to heavenMost companies that step back and honestly evaluate their websites quickly discover that they are bigger sinners than they had realized. Redemption is often only achieved by a comprehensive program of website optimization through multivariable testing and content targeting. This helps you discover what works for each of your customer segments, provides an engaging experience for all visitors and supports your online business goals. Whether you are a religious person or not, walking the righteous road and avoiding these deadly — yet common — sins will ultimately lead to website design salvation.Seth Rosenblatt is vice president of product marketing at Interwoven.Seth’s BioAs Vice President of Product Marketing for Interwoven’s Web Solutions business, Seth leads the team responsible for understanding the intersection between technology solutions and the need for modern businesses to transform and grow their online presence, build and strengthen customer engagement, and drive a truly global business.This article first appeared on www.imediaconnection.com.
Becoming pessimisticThe top fundraising professionals are some of the most optimistic people alive. The minute they start being gloomy, people begin holding on to their wallets. Ever wonder why the stock market drops when pundits prophesy uncertainty? No one wants to invest in a questionable deal. It’s the same with fundraising.As development professionals, we’re inviting people to invest in our mission. Our cause makes the world a better place regardless of the economy! That’s not going to change. We need to continue to shed light on the good things happening around us. We don’t need to be Pollyanna, but we do need to continue to see the silver lining. Turn on any news show and you’ll hear analysts and pundits forecasting economic doom and gloom. Their reports are filled with words and phrases like “economic downturn,” “soft economy,” and the dreaded “recession.” While the jury is still out about whether or not we’re really in a recession, now is a great time to recession-proof your fundraising effort.Weak economies can be very helpful for nonprofits. During such times, organizations are forced to be leaner and more efficient. When the economy rebounds, they’re in a much better position to take advantage of it.But economic downturns can also be perilous times for nonprofits. When faced with a recession, many nonprofits make bad choices that limit their growth. Some of these mistakes can prove fatal.How will this economic climate affect your favorite nonprofit? Will you fulfill your mission or will you fold? That depends on whether you make these deadly mistakes:spend less on fundraisingbecome pessimisticapologize when you’re asking Spend less on fundraisingWhether we like it or not, asking for money costs money. When you’re looking for budgets to trim, costly mailings and fundraising activities will seem like obvious opportunities. But exercise extreme caution.Most fundraising efforts can be tweaked to improve their effectiveness. These tweaks can either reduce cost or increase money raised. But I’ve never seen a fundraising effort raise more money by being eliminated.In a recent study I did, I discovered our organization’s direct mail program raised more money during the years we sent out more letters. This was counter-intuitive to me. I’d worked for a couple years to eliminate mailings and focus exclusively on the people deemed most likely to make a gift. But in that time, our annual fund dropped by around 30%! This year weâ€TMve increased our mailings and have already raised as much in six months as we did the entire previous year.Spending less on fundraising can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Less investment can result in less being raised which leads to further cuts and even less raised. Tighten budgets where necessary but be very careful when making cuts to fundraising programs. Apologizing when you’re askingWhen we keep hearing how bad things are, it’s easy to get awkward about asking for donations. Timidity is a sure-fire way to not raise money. We need to continue getting out from behind our desks and inviting donors to give. I’m certainly not advocating being brash or arrogant. We do need to understand that many of our donors may not be able to give at the same level. This is where we can be compassionate and understanding. And our relaxed understanding of people’s financial realities can make them even stronger proponents of our organizations in the future.But there’s nothing compassionate about not asking.Whether the economy is soft or strong, one sure way to raise less money is to stop asking for it! The best way to recession-proof your fundraising is to keep doing the things that raises money and to do it in a way that strengthens relationships with donors, helping them become evangelists for your cause:keep on making wise investments in fundraising efforts,stay upbeat, andcontinue to compassionately raise support.Combine these ingredients and you have an excellent recipe for strengthening your nonprofit independent of the economy!Marc A. Pitman, CFCC is the author of Ask Without Fear! and the founder of Fundraisingcoach.com. He specializes in helping fundraising executives reconnect with their passion. An executive coach to nonprofit leaders, Marc is an expert in helping people identify their natural abilities and providing down-to-earth information that will decrease stress and put the “fun” back into fundraising!To get Marc’s 5-part e-course on how he helped raise $100,000 with e-mail solicitation, sign up for his free ezine at: http://fundraisingcoach.com.
I’m off to Independent Sector, which I’m attending in a different way than my normal roles at conferences (speaker, marketer, Network for Good rep). I’m covering it as a blogger! I get to resume my old career – journalism – for a few days. Stay tuned for my blog posts from the conference Sunday-Tuesday!
I saw a couple of people today and wanted to give them a shout out.A blogger here covering Independent Sector: Heather Carpenter.Another blogger to check out: Katrin Petra Ivanovic. I met her and Monica Montgomery in the halls of the conference and heard about their great work as community activists. Update: you can find Katrin here! You go, girls.
A member of the “Community Empowerment through New Media and Innovative Journalism,” session at Independent Sector (moderated by Ben Binswanger of the Case Foundation), just asked the above question.I’m going to answer that question here. The problem with this question is that it implies an either/or choice. In my opinion, the answer is all of the above with a third piece the questioner left out. This is NOT about your organization setting up a nice website vs. setting up a nice Facebook page! It’s about not just having a website, but also ensuring your champions have the tools they need to take action wherever they want, including Facebook. It’s about having little satellite presences in those places, IF YOUR SUPPORTERS HANG OUT THERE.Here’s what I mean:ONE: A nonprofit needs a basic website that has key information on why anyone should care about you, why your work matters, and how to engage with you. TWO: In addition, you need to provide portable elements on your website so people who find you online can spread the word about you in other places online. Don’t have a “what’s news” page, have a “what’s news” RSS feed. Don’t just have a donate button. Enable people to fundraise for your cause anywhere they want. What will happen then is those champions will start spreading the word all over the place, creating the Flipped Funnel phenomenon. THIRD: Build toward a few hubs around the Internet where your audience tends to congregate. If you take step #2 AND regularly explore online where people are talking about your issue, you’ll know where to go.
Thanks for being a loyal reader this year!By way of thanks, I wanted to give you a link to the eBook I just helped put together with my colleagues here at Network for Good. It’s a downturn survival guide for online fundraising.Here’s what it’s about:During these uncertain economic times, having an online fundraising strategy is the perfect medicine for a bad economy. Download Network for Good’s free downturn survival guide to learn how to market and fundraise more effectively during a downturn. The guide features 12 real-life strategies nonprofits are using right now to succeed during the downturn, in addition to tons of great tactical advice, creative samples and other resources. And we’ll also include a coupon to save 50% on Network for Good’s online fundraising services. GET IT HERE!Enjoy!Thanks everyone.
Here are some of the things I did today in addition to working all day, doing carpool and writing sixth grade school applications:I removed gum from my older daughter’s hair (mayonnaise works). She has “no idea” how this happened. I listened to my five year old read her first book start to finish. Wow.I found out a $100 gift card I sent my dad never arrived so I tried to call customer service at the company but they’re not open.I worried about my bank account post-holiday.All of this unfolded to the musical accompaniment of an iDog playing Rihanna.So what’s my point here? This is daily life. Doing an Internet search for gum removal, smearing Hellman’s on a child’s hair, handling the daily inconveniences, watching a child cross a massive developmental milestone, listening to your preteen’s music selections, thinking about what’s important and (unfortunately) about what’s not important.Your audience is living daily life.They are NOT sitting in an empty white room with no stimulation whatsoever awaiting your message.I know this sounds obvious but maybe it isn’t.Look at whatever you were about to say to your audience. Would it have gotten through to me while I was doing any of the above? Does it break through all the exciting and distracting and incredible things unfolding around the average person?Or would it only work if I was seated alone in a blank space awaiting your message with bated breath?If the answer to the second question is yes, start over.Remember: people have lives. Make them want you as part of that life. Work hard to do that. You have to. Because dried up gum, sadly, is more pressing than the direct mail sitting on my table.