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Meet @ConvioHelp

Posted by Kent Gilliam at Jun 01, 2011 09:22 AM CDT
Categories: Fundraising, NPtech, Productivity, Social Media, Technology

Usually when people hear that I’m the “Community Manager” for Convio, they assume that means the password protected, client-only website full of really useful resources is my baby. And that’s true, it is. But I have other babies too, like user groups and any other resources that contribute to the larger community of Convio clients. Today that community of resources is growing to include @ConvioHelp, a Twitter account fully dedicated to helping Convio clients like you use technology more efficiently and effectively.

Once you follow @ConvioHelp…actually, go ahead and do it now. I’ll wait….

OK great, now you’re following us. You’ll notice that every day we’ll be sharing links to best of the best articles, discussions, webinars and more from the online Community. Check these out. They’ll help you leverage your technology better and at the end of the day, help you serve your mission more effectively.

In addition to sharing best of the best links to the online Community, @ConvioHelp has a whole team of senior support experts behind it. A whole team committed to answering your questions. In fact, I have a video from them on that subject exactly. Check it out.

That’s it. Pretty straight forward. Start tweeting and DMing us and we’ll see you in the twitterverse.

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Behind the Scenes: America Supporting Americans

Posted by Emily Goodstein at May 30, 2011 05:00 AM CDT
Categories: NPtech, Volunteerism

As you gear up to BBQ hop today, spend some time thinking about the brave folks who lost their lives protecting our country.  Yes, I am feeling patriotic at the moment.  I’m thinking about my grandfathers, both of whom were proud of their military service, my friends who have returned from their fourth and fifth tours, and the recent NPR piece I heard about a couple who deployed to Iraq together but didn’t return that way.

At the wise suggestion of my colleague, Cheryl, we thought we’d observe this holiday of freedom, respect, pride, and appreciation here on the Connection Café blog with a behind the scenes interview.  This time, we're behind the scenes at America Supporting Americans (ASA), an organization working to improve the lives of men and women in the military through their three signature programs: Adopt-A-Unit, Foster-A-Unit, and the Youth Civic Action and Awareness Program.

This is where Linda Patterson, the president and founder of ANA, comes in.  Linda has been hard at work since the Vietnam War to connect active military servicepeople with supportive organizations back home.  She first got involved in this important work while visiting troops in Vietnam in 1968 (where she met and married her husband who was serving as her military escort)!

Here’s her interview with Connection Café:

CC: What’s your elevator pitch about what America Supporting Americans does?
LP: We build strong supportive, sustaining relationships between our military forces and their assigned America Supporting Americans civilian sponsors (cities and youth, athletic groups, private business, and civic organizations). America Supporting Americans has supported and maintained long term relationships with our active military servicemen and women reaching back to the Vietnam War.  We’re still in contact with those veterans today!

CC: Of Convio’s online tools, what have you found most useful? 
LP: ASA’s online forms are so convenient for troops and sponsors to register with us through our site. The forms are also so easy to use for online donors.

CC: What are you most proud of regarding your use of Convio with your organization? 
LP: I think Convio allows us to effectively network and outreach to constituents.  I receive tons of positive feedback on the layout of our website, too.  We’re a small organization with a very professional web presence because of the Convio tools. I’m always proud of our Adopt-A-Unit events.  Here’s a recent article showcasing plans for an event in Kentucky.

CC: If you had advice to share for a new Convio admin, what would it be? 
LP: Remember that leading a non-profit organization is a roller coaster ride, but having a vendor like Convio helps you through those low dips with their professional consultation, advice, and supportive staff. Also, communicate to show genuine examples which inspire and motivate others to think outside the box.

CC: Thanks for telling us about your work! 
LP: Here’s a photo of our troop support program bringing together our active units of today with their brother warriors of yesterday (the same unit, only 43 years apart, Vietnam veterans, soldiers who served with A Company 1-327th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division visit during Week of the Eagles at Fort Campbell, Kentucky 2009).    


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Volunteers of America: Getting Results

Posted by Cheryl Black at May 27, 2011 08:00 AM CDT
Categories: Email Marketing, Fundraising, Nonprofit Trends, NPtech

Guest blog alert: Donna from Charity Dynamics (a Convio Solution Provider) is sharing an real-life example of how integrated marketing and fundraising helped a nonprofit increase online revenue by more than 100%. Wow! If ever there was a doubt in your mind about the multichannel approach, this will dispel it. Thanks Donna for contributing this excellent example of multichannel success!


A couple of weeks ago I shared some insights on integrating online and offline fundraising channels for strong results. While that’s all well and good, there’s nothing like seeing an organization put these tips into practice and learning from their example.

In 2009 Volunteers of America looked to get more out of their online fundraising program by tapping into the power of integrated online and offline fundraising.  As a result, online revenue originating from direct mail integration increased from 12% to 28% from 2009 to 2010!

How’d they do it?

  • Strategic Plan: Charity Dynamics worked with Volunteers of America to create an online strategic plan inclusive of engagement and fundraising campaigns, benchmarks and online fundraising goals for twelve months. Key issues of integration included:
  • Keep a consistent message in front of donors. In online and offline messaging we presented similar design elements, including images, colors and stories. (Check out the graphic, that's an example of an email we sent as part of an integrated campaign.)
  • Introduce online landing pages in the direct mail pieces to encourage donations be made through an additional channel.
  • Provide shorter, more direct asks in online appeals.
  • Varying online appeal messaging to either notify donors of an impending arrival ("you'll soon be receiving") or as a follow up ("you recently received") of a direct mail piece.
  • Online Fundraising Calendar: Volunteers of America’s online fundraising campaign closely reflected the annual direct mail plan. Though not all campaigns were replicated online, major testing was replicated.
  • Opportunistic: Despite the prescriptive nature of the online fundraising calendar, Volunteers of America adjusted the appeals calendar in response to natural events that captured local and national news coverage.
  • Segmentation & Testing: With assistance from Charity Dynamics, Volunteers of America is increasingly utilizing list segmentation and testing to improve response rates across campaigns. Testing considerations include subject line, message content, and text versus graphic links.  The opportunity to text-to-give has been introduced to supporters of $10 or less to test the introduction of an additional channel. The initial test doubled the number of text gifts to the organization. Local messaging has been introduced to test impact on number of gifts and gift size.    

What were the results?

  • Online revenue from 2009 to 2010 increased 148%
  • Year-end online revenue, the most active in terms of number of gifts and revenue, increased 146% from 2009 to 2010
  • Online revenue resulting from direct mail integration as the source increased from 12% to 28% from 2009 to 2011.

See more of our work with Volunteers of America.

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Getting Personal...with Congress

Posted by Sally Heaven at May 25, 2011 07:01 AM CDT
Categories: Advocacy, NPtech

personalizationI wanted to build on Michelle's post last week, Congress: Do They Hear You Now?, by zeroing in on something you should definitely be doing if you're at all serious about effecting policy change.

You should be doing everything that you can to make sure your constituents personalize their messages to Congress.

Michelle let us know that congressional staffers have software to sort identical messages into buckets - and that the Hill prefers that you identify your organization when facilitating citizen comments.  It makes it easier for staffers to manage the ever-increasing flow of communication to legislators and to ensure that constituents get timely responses from their elected officials.

This means that if you have constituents that are sending the form letter that your organization wrote on your Action Alert, then at best they are getting sorted into two columns - Yes and No.  Effective to a point, but only groundbreaking  if you can generate a truly massive number of communications.

Let's look to the Congressional Management Foundation for some pointers here.  In January, CMF published a report called Communicating With Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill.  One of the key findings was that the delivery method doesn't matter so much as the content.  Email and postal mail aren't viewed differently on the Hill anymore, as they once were.  Instead, it's what the letter actually says.  Go figure.

In fact, 20% of the staffers surveyed said personalized letters would have a LOT of influence over an undecided Member of Congress, compared to 1% for identical form letters.

helpful_tipsHere are some suggestions for how constituents can personalize their letters:

  • Describe the impact that a bill would have on the district or state
  • Provide reasons they support or oppose the issue at hand
  • Tell a personal story

Stories are golden.  So how can you encourage your members to personalize their messages?

First, when designing an Action Alert in Convio Online Marketing, make sure that you choose the setting that allows constituents to edit the text of the message to decision makers.  Some organizations choose to have a fixed header and/or footer for the message and allow the middle body of the message to be edited to include a personal story.  Others allow the entire text of the message to be edited.  It's up to you - just make sure there's a place for your constituents to tell their story.

Second, make sure you tell your constituents how important it is to personalize the communication to their Senators and Representative.  You don't have to give them the link to the CMF report to make the case for it, but do make sure that they know that personalized communications make a 20:1 impact on the Hill.  Heck, their story could be the thing that causes the elected official to decide to support your issue!  People do things because they're asked to, and that includes personalizing a letter.

A third way is to profile someone else's story in your Action Alert email, or show them video of a Representative reading someone's story on the floor during debate.  If you have permission to share their story on your website, then this could encourage others to be brave and share their story as well.  Reading somebody else's experience can help spark a person's imagination to visualize sharing their own story.  It can help to generate a "Me too!" effect and drive home the point that real people are affected by policy decisions. 

What are some other ways that you get your constituents engaged in advocacy?

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Haters: What can you do?

Posted by Cheryl Black at May 23, 2011 03:15 PM CDT
Categories: Nonprofit Trends, NPtech, Social Media

Guest Blog Alert: You’ve finally convinced your boss that you need a social media presence, even if it means relinquishing some control. And then you get it – a mean, nasty anti-organization post from a hater. What do you do? Carie Lewis, Director of Emerging Media for the Humane Society of the United States shares her two cents on the situation.

Carie LewisI sincerely don’t think there’s anything you can do to deter people from saying stupid and downright nasty stuff on Facebook (or any other social media platform for that matter). People are ruthless and this is where they go to say whatever they want. They think they have the right to be rude, hateful, and inappropriate. But at HSUS we decided that we weren’t going to allow that to happen on our organization’s page. And that’s why I think it’s important to develop a reactive strategy that works for you.

Our page can get downright controversial. But as you’ll see if you visit our Facebook page, we don’t simply delete disagreements. We only delete violations, which are clearly laid out (see commenting policy). This has saved us so many times from accusations that we are censoring. (One tip: screenshot those things you delete.)

We also go back to the community and say, “we deleted x’s comment because it violated x rule on our commenting policy. Please be sure to adhere to the policy to make sure this is a safe and meaningful place for all fans. Feel free to repost your comments without the violations.”  The transparency helps build loyalty, and those people will begin to trust us and even defend us. People are free to express themselves on our page no matter what their beliefs are, but they MUST do it without profanity, personal attacks, etc. You get a warning (response) the first time, and the next time you get banned. Being strict on this has really helped control the madness.

Finally it is SO important to step back and separate yourself from the negative feedback, though I still find it incredibly challenging. Personally I get worked up when I work on dogfighting campaigns, being that I have a rescued pitbull. One time I told fans that this was a page for supporters of the HSUS, and the “unlike” button was right below our photo if anyone wanted to use it. I quickly learned after that to get my personal emotions in check. Live and learn right?

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