Sally Heaven is a lead account manager at Convio. She works with a variety of clients, helping them to make the most of Convio's tools and services. Previously she worked at a nonprofit organization, the Human Rights Campaign, leading the organization's online advocacy efforts for 7 years. When not working or blogging, Sally spends her time trying to keep up with her 1-year-old twins, Lily and Henry.
We're just 9 days away from the start of bbcon! I already told you what to expect on the advocacy front, so now it's time for a little self-promotion. Yours truly will be co-presenting a session on Sustainers, called Leave No Recurring Revenue on the Table along with David Glass from World Wildlife Fund.
Sustaining giving is the most valuable investment your organization can make - it's cost-effective and encourages retention and engagement. In Europe, it's all about monthly bank drafts for supporting charities. But in the USA, the emphasis is still on acquisition of one-time gifts, and first-time donors churn all too often. This makes the cost of fundraising too high. A sustaining giving program, if it exists at all, is promoted weakly as a special thing off to the side.
David and I think that USA-based nonprofit organizations need to turn this paradigm on its head. We should make sustaining giving the norm. In addition to World Wildlife Fund, there are other nonprofits who are doing just that. We'll take a look at some examples of how, and David will show us a program that WWF invested in and promoted that has yielded great results. We'll also discuss some trends in recurring giving and take a peek at segments.
That's all the spoilers you're going to get from me, so make sure to attend our session at bbcon. It's on Sunday, September 30 at 4:15pm. Our session is in the "Interactive" track, so we'll also focus heavily on online sustainers and we'll take a look at some configurations in Luminate Online that you should make to maximize the ROI.
There are other awesome sustainer sessions too in addition to ours:
Attracting Loyal Donors through Sustainer Giving Programs presented by Carol Rhine, Principal Consultant at Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company - this session is also on September 30 at 4:15pm. Carol's session approaches sustainers from the analytics side - why you want to have them, how to find them in your file and how to effectively solicit them. If you're conflicted about whether to attend my session or Carol's, I say go to both - send your online person to ours, and your direct mail manager to Carol's.
Same Time Next Month: Building a Multi−Channel Sustainer Program presented by Steve Kehrli from PETA, Amy Day from Dumb Friends League, and Chas Offut from Blackbaud - on October 2 at 11:00am. Steve, Amy and Chas are going to look at sustainers through the lens of a multichannel approach, and will focus on both online and offline programs.
And if you tell me that you're not yet registered, then I'll shake my head in disbelief, and point you to www.bbconference.com to register today. See you there!
Spam. Nobody likes receiving it, nobody likes being considered a spammer. But as users of any email marketing tool can tell, sometimes constituents will mark your messages as spam anyway.
Why? Well, it goes to constituent perception. You may have heard the expression "Spam is in the eye of the beholder." If someone doesn't believe that they signed up for your list - even if they did - and it's too hard to find the unsubscribe link, then they're just as likely to hit the "REPORT SPAM" button.
As numerous procedural crime dramas have noted, the human memory can be notoriously faulty. Someone who signed themselves up for an email list can forget they did it - especially in the year 2012 when electronic and web signup forms are pervasive.
In the interests of staying out of the spam folder, here are some tips:
Problem 1 - long lag time between paper signature collection and welcome email. If you're collecting signatures on a paper petition, make sure you data-enter those names right away. If you send them to a data entry firm, they key them in upload them to the donor database and sync to your email system, 4-8 weeks can pass between the time of signature and the first welcome email. That's way too long - who will remember signing the petition at the street festival two months ago?
Solution - do data entry the next day directly into the email system. Even though it's harder to do diligent data entry every night, it will go a long way to reducing your spam rates. And you might even see an uptick in engagement and donations by the prompt followup if you strike while the iron is hot!
Problem 2 - generic welcome message that doesn't trigger the memory of having signed up. Many organizations put a lot of time into designing their welcome series, and want to get the most mileage they can out of it. When faced with a large number of new names from a specific event or online channel, it's tempting to just dump the names into the generic welcome message stream. But if the person is already having memory problems, a generic message won't help.
Solution - state the event or channel in the welcome message. Luckily, if you have a solid welcome message, you can alter it slightly. Just add an introductory paragraph - sometimes called a "love note," if it's located above the email stationery - that states "Thank you for signing up for our email list at the Earth Day 2012 Celebration in Sioux City" or "Thanks for joining our email list through the signup box on our coalition's website."
Problem 3 - can't find the unsubscribe link. Most organizations make their unsubscribe link a sutble design in the footer of the email stationery, and that's okay. But it can be hard to find, and if someone's in a hurry, they might not bother looking.
Solution - add an unsubscribe link in the body of the first paragraph. Add a sentence to your love note: "If you changed your mind and don't want to be on the list, just click here to unsubscribe." Yes, you don't WANT them to unsubscribe - but do you want an unhappy person on your list, or for them to hit the "Report Spam" button?
Put these methods into practice and monitor the results for 3-6 months. I'll bet that you'll see improvement!
What are some other ideas you've tried for reducing spam complaints?
We are just 40 days away from bbcon 2012, can you believe it? Since advocacy as a topic and a career are both near and dear to my heart, I wanted to give you a preview of some awesome advocacy content that you can expect to see.
First, my colleague Emily Goodstein will be presenting Out of the Box - Advocacy Superheroes. Here's the description of the session:
Use the power of Luminate Advocacy, right out of the box! During this panel discussion, we’ll feature three super heroes changing the world using Luminate Advocacy. We’ll talk about creating a smart strategy which makes the most of the Advocacy module, and allows your message to really shine. Join us for case study goodness, best practice gems, and strategy ideas too. Beltway insiders (and beyond) are welcome and encouraged to attend.
I took a page out of Emily's book and did a short interview with her so I could bring you all the details!
SH for CC: Tell me about this session at bbcon, "Advocacy Out of the Box." It sounds so interesting!
SH for CC: Who will be with you on the panel?
SH for CC: What have clients been able to achieve with Luminate Online Advocacy?
SH for CC: Why did you think this session was important?
SH for CC: What is your favorite thing about bbcon?
SH for CC: Sounds great! So when is your session?
See you there, indeed, Emily! I can't wait!
Another advocacy session not to be missed is the entertainingly-titled Screaming Monkeys, Roaring Lions: Making Noise vs. Making a Difference on Capitol Hill, presented by Bradford Fitch, President and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation. This one is Monday, October 1 at 10:00am. Here's what it's all about:
Despite the amazing growth of the advocacy in the last decade – in scope, tactics, and resources – little research actually exists on Capitol Hill’s perspective on what is effective, and what is counterproductive, in interactions with Congress. Add to the mix the rise of Social Media, and advocacy experts face a myriad of choices and challenges. Is your group seen on Capitol Hill like ROARING LION, motivating legislators to move quickly in a desired direction? Or, are you a SCREAMING MONKEY, just annoying your targeted lawmakers (and leaving a mess behind)? This program is based on research from the Congressional Management Foundation, which has a unique 35-year relationship with Congress. The CMF research is drawn from surveys of congressional staff; focus groups with congressional staff; and interactions and consultations with Members of Congress and staff.
Last year I co-presented a webinar with Brad, and I can assure you that he's a really knowledgeable and informative speaker. If you're trying to use online advocacy to make a real difference in Congress, then you should definitely attend this session.
Are you excited yet? Well, there's more! There will be well over 100 sessions at bbcon that span the range of advocacy, fundraising, analytics, professional development, CRM, financial management, and much, much more. You can read all about the other sessions at bbcon here. And if you haven't yet registered, there's still time! Just visit www.bbconference.com.
I don't know about you, but my colleague Emily Goodstein mentioned that one thing she wishes was that organizations asked her more often about why and how she decided to get involved. Emily is my bellwether for how millennials think and behave. Me, I'm GenX, which might make you think I'm a slacker, but in fact I'm more likely to make a monthly gift to your organization than any other demographic segment. As GenX and millennials increase their giving over time, knowing more about us and better personalizing communication to us will be paramount.
There’s a lot out there about how to convert prospects to donors. Direct mail has it down to a science. Email used to be the wild west, but over the last decade has generated its own list of best practices and golden rules, which are in turn enthusiastically broken by lead-edge innovators. The question is – how can you do it better and more efficiently?
The answer may lie in data. When I speak of data, in my mind I divide it up into two parts. The first is demographic and psychographic data, which is the kind of data you can buy. Think about things like age, sex, income, political affiliation, interests, the type of car you drive. In the long run, if you have good tools and good methodology, you can test different messaging on different segments and find pockets of profitability. Maybe people who drive a Prius who were born prior to 1985 are more likely to become a monthly sustainer, for example.
But that won’t tell you WHY a donor decided to give to your organization. To find out what motivated the donor (or better yet, what will motivate similar prospects), you usually will have to ask. Thanks to online systems and social media, it’s easier than ever to ask questions and collect responses online. Maybe even too easy – as anyone who has collected a lot of data and then had to cull through the results can tell you.
So it’s best to begin at the end. Before you jump in to write the questions and answers and set up the survey, think about how you will use the answers that you collect. Every single question should have an application that will help you better communicate with this potential donor. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and theirs. Don’t collect data that you’re not going to use.
Where can you collect this data? One of the easiest places is via your website in the place where people can join the email list. Best practices recommend that you keep the email signup form brief – if it’s too hard or seems like it will take too long to fill out the form, people might abandon it. But I think that it’s worth testing out including one very simple question. For-profit websites often ask “How did you hear about us?” They’re trying to gauge the effectiveness of their advertising spend. For a mission-driven nonprofit organization who wants to ask this potential supporter to make a gift, the question is a little different, and there are plenty of ways to ask it.
The format of the answer could vary – multiple choice, with “Other” if the person’s reason doesn’t fit one of your pre-written answers. Or just a text box, so they can state the reason in their own words. Or anything else you can dream up. Make sure you actually read the answers, or scan them for keywords, and make a meaningful attempt to understand what the person means. In fact, for essay questions I'd argue that it's worth the time to have a real live human person read every single answer and categorize or tag the person somehow in your CRM system so you can use their answers for segmenting.
Wondering where I got my information about generational giving patterns? You don't have to take my word for it - you can download our study about generational giving. It's a fascinating read, and important to boot, because it's where the future of giving is headed.
Amber and Emily gave us Five Tips and then Five More Tips for election year planning efforts. I'm scampering onto the bandwagon to continue the conversation with a look specifically about making sure your organization can stay relevant between now and Election Day.
An election year in the USA - especially a Presidential election year - always takes up a lot of bandwidth. On TV, in the mail, on the phones, in the inbox, not to mention in your Facebook and Twitter feeds. And people actually speaking to each other - aka word of mouth. That means your organization is competing for attention, and you’ll have to work even harder to make sure your messages are relevant and engaging. The goal is to be heard above the noise.
Of course, while the entire USA is affected by election seasons and their outcomes, the actual election itself will impact some organizations more than others. Depending on the type of organization you are, your activities will necessarily take one direction or another. Here's a brief list of the most common types of nonprofit organizations:
A good resource for more information about the different types of nonprofits is the Alliance for Justice, an organization that works with nonprofits to provide guidance about electoral and lobbying laws.
In general election cycles are becoming longer and longer, and that means the most creative and engaging content delivered at the right time is key to grabbing people's attention. If your issues are front and center and the candidates are talking about them, then you have additional opportunity to engage your constituents. That means you need to be ready to engage in rapid response.
So not only do you need to have engaging and relevant content, but you also need to be able to deploy quickly. Online channels, including email, text messaging and social media, are the best way to respond rapidly to the 24-hour news cycle. Allow me to mix some metaphors: look before you leap, then grab the bull by the horns and strike while the iron is hot.
How does your organization make sure you're heard above the noise? Tell us in the comments!
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