Given that yesterday, 23 April, was both St George’s Day and Shakespeare’s birthday, it seems pretty appropriate to have a post from across the pond on this week’s Connection Café.
But while St George’s Day parades have been happening in some parts of England over the weekend, another significant event in the UK calendar took place on Sunday - the London Marathon, the largest individual fundraising event on the planet. Over the last 31 years this event has raised more than £500m for hundreds of charities and is now viewed on television in more than 150 countries.
Thanks to inheriting bad knees and limping my way through half marathons, I am full of admiration for the 37,500 runners who completed the gruelling 26.2 miles across London to cross the finish line on The Mall.
While it’s great to see the professional athletes coming through, the highlight for me, as I’m sure it is for many others, is to see the outrageous costumes and awe-inspiring personal challenges people take on each year. This year’s new feats entering the Guinness World Records include fastest time dressed as a dairy product, the fastest marathon on stilts and the fastest person in a two-person pantomime costume (all done in times that I couldn’t even get close to)!
But amidst the fun, there was also sadness, with the tragic death of one of the runners, Claire Squires. It is both heartening and humbling to hear of the donations that have been made to her personal fundraising page since – at last count nearly £250,000 and rising – most of the donations from complete strangers. To me, this just highlights the changing nature of fundraising today. Through the rise of online and peer-to-peer fundraising platforms, it is now so easy for anyone to donate to an individual, even if they don’t know them, simply through being inspired by their story. Hopefully this tribute fund in Claire’s name will provide some comfort to her family in the months and years ahead and make a huge difference to her chosen charity, The Samaritans.
But after a day of tragedy, joy, inspiration, challenges and triumphs, what of the other London Marathon participants?
Having taken part in many fundraising events over the year, I have often been surprised by the lack of follow-up from the charities I have raised money for, aside from the thank you on the day. After recovering from the initial exhaustion, straight after an event would have been a great time to get me to sign-up for a follow-up event, while the feelings of euphoria and achievement were still fresh in mind (and before the pain of the day after sets in!). And in the ongoing weeks and months, there would have been the perfect opportunity to start developing a relationship with me as an ongoing supporter, via social media and through email updates. After all, I’d already shown my interest in the charity’s cause by signing up to the event and raising money for them. That’s not even mentioning the potential of reaching those people in my network who had sponsored me. Letting me and my network know how the money raised from the event had been put to use would have been a great way of keeping us engaged. Instead, I have been allowed to drift away and been drawn into supporting other charities.
So, while it may be tempting to just pack up the last of the banners and T-shirts and have a well-deserved break after a busy weekend, I hope that for the charities represented on Sunday, this year’s London Marathon will be the start of some fantastic long term supporter relationships and not just a one-off event.
The sixth annual Convio Online Marketing Benchmark Index Study is now officially released. At a macro-level, we continue to see online engagement growing at a healthy rate. In fact, over the past five or six years, online fundraising has grown at a similar rate to retail e-commerce, good news for nonprofits.
I’m particularly encouraged by a new metric we added this year: growth in monthly giving. As monthly giving typically increases a donor’s lifetime value, this positive trend is very good news for the nonprofit sector and the causes being served.
For a summary of trends seen in the benchmark, watch my video here. For all the trends, including information by vertical, download the full Online Marketing Benchmark.
Why do we all do what we do every day? That seems like it should be easy to answer: depending on the mission of our organization, it might be because we care about animals, want to cure a certain disease, or depending on your role, maybe because you want to be the standard-bearer in the industry around social media, or fundraising, etc.
Often, it seems, however, we forget what we believe in as the minutia of what it takes to get things done every day takes over. We start to campaign for campaign's sakes. We worry about not meeting budgets because Boards will get upset. We think of donors in terms of when was the last time they gave us a gift, rather than WHY they gave it to us in the first place. And so the why we do what we do every day gets muddied.
I have been thinking about this since I watched an awesome TED talk by Simon Sinek about what he calls “the Golden Circle.” His premise is beautifully simple: companies, individuals, and organizations that succeed lead with what they believe in and why they do what they do, rather than selling products, chasing glory, etc. His examples are mostly commercial: why does Apple succeed over say, Dell or HP? Why did the Wright Brothers win the flight race when so many others were better positioned to take flight?
Simon's talk got me thinking about what we (the collective nonprofit space), do every day. We certainly give a lot of homage to mission, but how well are we communicating what we believe in a way that appeals to the WHY not the HOW? Donors and constituents may seem fickle. It's hard to tell what motivates them, so we like to throw the entire kitchen sink at them. How much we've invested in XYZ, how many people/animals we've helped, what our 5-10-15 year annual fund goal is…but how much of that do you, as a donor or constituent of your favorite organization, actually remember?
Compare this to the campaigns/causes that seem to come out of nowhere and explode, go viral, start a whole movement…and we all wonder: why? What is their secret sauce?
Listening to Simon's talk, it seemed to me that answer was clear. These campaigns communicate, with little effort and little need for explanation, what they believe in, and in a way that connects with those who believe in the same thing in a most fundamental way.
Think about some of the iconic or fastest spreading campaigns and causes of our industry:
Beat Cancer. Enough said right? We believe cancer can be beaten. (No note of how, where, what, just that it CAN be). How much more do you need to know (put your constituent hat, not your “behind the scenes marketer” hat on)?
The pink ribbon. Anyone wearing a pink ribbon communicates a simple message (regardless of which organization's pink ribbon they are wearing): Breast cancer is bad. I believe in curing it.
Charity: water. Why the success? Because the founder fundamentally believes in his ability to make a difference and his network believes in him.
This kind of “belief” messaging is even more important for social media: there are short attention spans, limited characters, competing media, and so much clamor. Communicating WHY you believe rather than what and how you are going to go about doing about it can be the key to capturing someone's attention.
So what do you believe? And, more importantly, how many times a day do you, your co-workers, your organization, say that out loud, post it in the office, start meetings with this in mind?
Today’s "Behind the Convio Admin Curtain" installment is full of juicy Convio best practices, and even a restaurant recommendation for stellar chocolate chip pancakes right outside Boston. Read on to learn how Jamie-Alexis Fowler pushed fundraising goals to bring in more dollars for Pathfinder International and leveraged the services of Convio’s Strategy team to amplify her organization’s message.
PS—We call ourselves Convions, but I’ll take Convio-ers too!
EG for CC: What’s your elevator pitch about what Pathfinder does?
JAF: Pathfinder provides women, men, and adolescents with a range of quality reproductive health services—from contraception and maternal care to HIV prevention and AIDS care and treatment. Reproductive health is critical to giving people everywhere the ability to make choices about their lives. When a woman has access to reproductive health care, she can make choices about her body and her future—and that leads to more choices about staying in school, starting a business, or perhaps pursuing a role in local government.
EG for CC: How do you describe your role at the organization to friends at parties?
JAF: I handle our public relations and online communications. So pretty much anything online--website, Twitter, email--as well as our outreach to media.
EG for CC: Of Convio’s array of online resources, what have you found most useful?
JAF: Pathfinder has been a Convio client for many years and having worked at Pathfinder for nearly five of those, I've used quite a few of Convio's resources! I've found the survey tool quite useful for Pathfinder's online work, whether for building our 'Contact Us' section of the website, or establishing RSVPs for events. I'm also a fan of the email tools. From setting up an email send, to running reports, to establishing various email series (ie, a Welcome Series), I've always found it pretty easy to use and effective in meeting our needs.
EG for CC: Please share a few random (unrelated to Pathfinder and Convio) facts about yourself (a fave destination in Boston, perhaps?)...
JAF: I absolutely am obsessed with chocolate chip pancakes from the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, MA (near Pathfinder's office). Not only have they formed the basis of many post-training run breakfasts, they have also become an integral part of our weekly website overhaul breakfast meeting.
EG for CC: What are you most proud of regarding your use of Convio with Pathfinder?
JAF: Two projects using Convio that I'm most proud of are: Girl2Woman.org, a microsite that we developed on Pagebuilder, and our online fundraising. Girl2Woman.org started as a small idea to raise awareness about the importance of sexual and reproductive health care throughout a woman's life. It turned into our most successful constituent engagement and list-building campaign. Outreach utilizing Girl2Woman.org skyrocketed our organic registration rates drove our Facebook following to record numbers.
In terms of online fundraising, Convio's tools have helped Pathfinder meet goals that a few years ago, many on our team would have thought impossible. For instance, our 2011 end of year online fundraising campaign brought in what we raised over the course of the entire year in 2007. We have a long way to go, since Pathfinder has a smaller individual donor base than other groups of our size, but we're pretty proud of what we've accomplished so far!
EG for CC: Share an anecdote about a project or specific campaign you worked on through Convio that was particularly exciting or interesting or productive.
JAF: We did our first online matching gift campaign, 'Two Months, Twice the Difference,' in 2009 with a goal of reaching $25,000. Some staff were nervous that we had set our goal too high and were worried we wouldn't be able to do it in only two months. We ended up raising nearly $25,000 one month in and raised the goal to $35K! In part, the success of that campaign was due to the great help we had from Convio providing strategy and advice. Based on that initial success, last fall, we held our third online matching gift initiative, raising a whopping $80,000, not to mention that the match was a $2 for $1!
EG for CC: If you had advice to share for a new Convio admin, what would it be?
JAF: Save, save, and save! I learned early working in Convio products that if you're in the midst of something--an email, a page edit, etc--that if a colleague pops by your office, or a Skype chat distracts you for a few minutes, you will likely lose your work! Convio's security is great to protect access to your information, but it can also spell trouble if you don't save early and save often!
EG for CC: One secret tip or trick you’ve picked up along the way related to the Convio platform…
JAF: That Convio staff are among the best. Any time I have ever had a concern, needed help, wanted a new product feature, or am curious about the best way to do something, I know I can always reach an amazing Convio staff person. It is a treat to catch up with Convio-ers (if that's a word!) at the Convio Summit or even just a friendly chat on the phone. Their enthusiasm for helping nonprofits achieve their missions, and their friendliness in helping us all do it, are pretty much unparrallelled in my experience!
Spring is in the air. (Breathe it in.) Can you hear the pattering of feet hitting the pavement, or smell the Gatorade as it splashes into rows of cups at the “fuel stations”? That’s right – event season is well upon us! While your participants are airing up their tires or breaking in their new pair of running shoes, there may be some tune-ups you can make to their experience with your event website.
If you are gearing up for an upcoming event, there are five essential elements you should have on the homepage of your event website. Check out the list and then check out your event homepage. If you don’t have these items front and center, add them. It will make things easier for your participants AND you.
If your event is just around the corner and you don’t have these items on your event homepage, I would still urge you to add them. There are plenty of folks who will register last minute or, like stated above, wait until the last minute to check for details on where to go and at what time.
Happy running, walking, cycling, swimming, climbing and jump roping!
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