Yesterday, I reviewed some of the reasons why engaging your event’s participants and donors in year end giving is a smart idea. Today, I’m going to give you some practical tips and tricks to help you get started on planning your event’s end-of-year campaign.
What’s typically included in a basic end of year campaign?
A basic end of year campaign includes a series of fundraising solicitations starting on the day after Thanksgiving and run through New Year’s Eve. For events, I’d recommend you use your event branding to guide the look and feel of your year end communications and that you focus on your online communication channels - Email, Website and Social Media.
Steps to Kick Start your event’s Year End Campaign:
What are your event's plans for the end of year soliciations? We'd love to hear what has worked for you or see some of your appeals, tell me about them in the comment area below or shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Last weekend Houston experienced our first “cold front” of the fall. I use parathesis here because “cold” for SE Texas in early September means the high temperatures were only in the lower 90’s, which I'll admit is not really cold. While it’s still hot here, the cooling weather is a nice reminder that fall is hear and the holidays are quickly approaching. For nonprofit orgs and higher ed institutions, cooling temps of early fall are also a reminder that year end giving is about to kick into high gear.
As an event fundraiser, I mistakenly viewed year end giving as an isolated campaign ran by our traditional giving development staff that didn’t really have anything to do with my events. Since I was leading fall event campaigns, the holidays in November & December were a nice down time immediately following the busy event season devoted to planning and a couple weeks of well-deserved vacation time. This was a huge missed opportunity for my events, like rejecting a stack of cash that was handed to me with pretty red bow. My siloed thinking blinded me to the fundraising opportunity that could have bolstered my event fundraising during the last 6 weeks of the calendar year.
End-of-year giving is critical for fundraising events for two primary reasons:
To further drive home the point that there is a tremendous amount of charitable giving that is taking place during this small window of time from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, I've pulled together a couple stats:
Bottom line… lots of people are donating lots of money during the last six weeks of the year. As an event fundraiser, you want that money to be supporting your event and your organization's mission. You are providing a unique and interesting opportunity for your donors through the P2P giving model that is different than your traditional giving peers. Additionally, by taking a proactive approach to managing year end giving communications, you can help avoid situations where your event participants and event donors feel thier contributions to your event are underappreciated.
Now that you are sold on why incorporating year end giving into your event's fundraising strategy is a smart idea, it's time to come up with a game plan to make your event the attractive option for this pool of donors. Tomorrow, I’ll be highlighting some tips & strategies to take the standard end of year giving model and flip it around to support P2P Fundraising Campaigns in a way that doesn’t compete with your participant’s fundraising efforts and also compliments the efforts of your traditional giving peers.
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?
I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a house that really prioritized thank you notes. There were other things that were stressed, but I think writing thank you notes was one of the most important lessons that my mom instilled in us. She made writing thank you notes enjoyable—good note cards, fun pens, festive stamps. And she also saved the particularly nice or well written or beautiful thank you notes she received.
I think there is a great lesson that non-profits can learn from my mom (well, there are many lessons you can learn from her, but this one is particularly fitting). If someone makes a donation of time or money to your organization, you should send a thank you note.
...Well actually they do. But lately, I've noticed an interesting trend: I post something on Facebook that I think is fascinating, hilarious, or some deep revelation into the mysterious world of Miriam Kagan, and my social sphere reacts in...dead silence. Failed in my effort to get instantaneous gratification at my own personal awesomeness through likes and comments, I am subsequently delighted and confused by friends who say things like "your Facebook status the other day made me laugh out loud" or "you know, it seems from your Facebook posts like your coworkers are really funny" a few days later, when we are say having coffee.
While my inner social addict silently pouts—"if you liked my status so much, why didn't you actually 'like' it and show the rest of my social universe how awesome you think I am?”— the fundraiser and strategist in me can't help but think how this kind of behavior and interaction applies to ways nonprofits are trying to engage with their constituents.
Advice abounds about tricks and tips for engaging the social sphere. You should use certain key words. Post your comments in the form of a question. Post photos—people like pretty things. Ask for photos – people think they are good at taking them. Respond to comments. Retweet. Pin things. Pin things in a very specific way. Make videos. Annotate them. Animate them. And all of these are certainly appropriate tactics to be found in the social marketing toolkit for constituent engagement.
The part that's still very tricky for most is measuring the impact of these activities. So we start with the industry-wide best practices: How many people like you on Facebook? How many should? Is 10K enough, too little, too many? Not sure?
Try calculating a ratio of how many people comment and/or like and/or share your posts divided by how many like your page. So maybe that gets you an “engagement” ratio. Similarly, how many retweets? Hashtag mentions? Video views? Clicks on embedded links? Conversions? If your embedded donation form isn't getting traffic, does that mean your FB page has no ROI?
A little trickier, but doable, is calculating your most engaged supporters' social media reach: if they repost your post, how big is their network? If they share your video? Retweet you? What is your followers' average Klout score? Metrics, metrics, metrics.
But there is a different kind of reach that is much harder to calculate: the word of mouth/human network reach. How do you measure the impact of motivating and activating your network offline or via word of mouth and the direct or indirect influence social media efforts are having? How do you value the actual impact of your “inactive” social media connections?
Marketers are certainly working hard to figure this out. Media mix attribution models attempt to measure the relative influence of “supporting” channels to ones where an action or purchase is actually made (maybe I saw the promotion on FB but didn't click on anything, then bought an item from the catalog). Social CRM and social media appends attempt to connect social media with constituent and consumer profiles to track integrated interactions (note: this is mostly only possible for consumers with relatively lax profile settings. As in, if you can't find me on Facebook, you can't connect me to the Miriam you have in your CRM).
While measuring the ways humans chose to spread information and WHY on any given day they chose a specific method to do so may never be a 100% data driven, there are some additional approaches to consider in trying evaluating the indirect influence of your social media efforts:
And PS: not that you asked, but my most popular Facebook post ever (generating over 30 comments and a subsequent 5 hour debate over dinner with some friends), was from a question I remembered a professor asked us during an ethics and values class in college: “If someone handed you an envelope that had your entire future written down in it, would you open it and read it?” Would you?
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