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The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Nonprofit marketing and fundraising insight from Network for Good.

Published: 2015-09-01T06:33:00+00:00


How to Shift Giving: New Money for Good Research Released


Of all of the research I reference in webinar and conference presentations, the Money for Good studies are a longtime favorite. By delving into the true giving motivations and habits of donors, fundraisers can create more effective strategies and stronger appeals to inspire more giving. These are exactly the kind of insights that the Money for Good research offers.

That’s why I’m happy to share that the latest Money for Good report from Camber Collective, the result of Hope Consulting and SwitchPoint LLC’s merger, has been released today. Money for Good 2015 seeks to answer the question, “Why has giving been stuck at 2% GDP since the 70s?” and offers three key areas of focus to attempt to unlock $47B in U.S. charitable donations.

In particular, the research uncovers four key barriers that are likely preventing donors from giving more to your cause:

    1.  Donors want clearer communication with nonprofits: 49% of donors don’t know how nonprofits are using their money, 34% feel hassled, and 20% are unsure who benefits from the work they’re funding.

    2.  Donors don’t know how much they give compared to peers: 75% of Americans think they donate more than average, yet 72% are contributing at a rate that’s below the national average.

    3.  Name recognition trumps impact: 61% prefer to give to well-known nonprofits but not necessarily the most effective organizations.

    4.  People tend to give the same way year after year: 67% of donors are loyal to primary causes while only 13% intend to give to different nonprofits and only 9% compare nonprofits before giving. (image)

So, how do you break through these barriers? Camber Collective’s researchers have provided a deep dive on philanthropic segmentation that uncovers five distinct donor types and their attitudes, and offers ways to reframe giving appeals to better communicate to these giving profiles.

Want to dig into the research for yourself? Read the full report and learn more about the Money for Good 2015 segmentation toolkit.

6 Quick Behavioral Economics Lessons for Fundraisers


Last month I had the chance to listen to Professor Judd Kessler of the Wharton School during the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Annual Fundraising Conference in Minneapolis. He shared insight on how behavioral economics can affect nonprofit fundraising. Wait, what the heck is “behavioral economics”? Think about it as simply understanding the factors and situations that influence behavior and motivate people to take action. Many researchers have tested which scenarios prompt more charitable donations, many of which are illustrated in The Science of Giving. But behavioral economics isn’t only the territory of PhDs. Professor Kessler encourages all nonprofit marketers to consider themselves to be scientists and to use simple A/B tests as experiments in their fundraising laboratory to sort out what will drive their donors to give more. So, what are the principles that can affect fundraising for both small and large nonprofits? Here’s a quick overview of six common concepts and how you can use them in your fundraising strategy. 1.  Accountability & Recognition What it is:  This is the idea that if someone cares what other people think of them, they may give to appear more generous, responsible, or important. The research:  Gerber, Green & Larimer (2008) showed that voter turnout in Michigan was affected when registered voters received a message that indicated other voters would be notified of their neighbors’ voting habits.  In a different study, donors were found to give more when they were recognized as consistent donors to a fund. How to do it: Accountability and recognition are two sides of the same coin, with recognition being usually perceived as the more positive of the two. Offering public recognition for donors can inspire donors to give to achieve and maintain the recognition, and this same attention can influence others to give to gain the same status. Give donors a special status when you feature giving opportunities on your website, in your newsletter, and in upcoming appeals. 2.  Peer Pressure What it is:  In this case, the peer pressure comes from the simple power of the personal ask. If someone personally asks you to do something (especially in person or on the phone), you’re more likely to go along with the request to avoid embarrassment and disappointment, or to win praise. The research:  Meer and Rosen (2009) showed that those who were called in addition to receiving a mailed solicitation were more likely to give. How to do it: In addition to your direct mail and email appeals, make sure you are calling or meeting with key supporters to make that personal connection and encourage them to complete their gift. Bonus: you’ll likely learn more information that will help you nurture the relationship or fix issues that may have prevented future giving.3.  Social Information/Social Proof What it is:  This is really peer pressure of a different kind. We take our cues on what to do to fit in (and avoid guilt) by looking to social norms—what other people are doing in the same situation.  The research:  Frey and Meier (2004) studied the decision to give to student funds at the University of Zurich.  When students were told that historically more than half of students gave to the fund, they were more likely to also contribute. Shang and Croson (2009) also showed that when donors were told what others had contributed, it affected the size of their gift.  How to do it: In all of your fundraising materials, make it clear that others support and value your work. Some of the easiest ways to show this social proof include: donation tickers and thermometers, testimonials and quotes from current donors, and charity ratings badges based on positive reviews of your work. 4.  Gift Exchange/Reciprocity What it is: A gift exchange happens when people feel obligated to repay gifts or return a favor, even if they know the gifts are intended to get them to take action. The rese[...]

Ignite Action with a Powerful Data Story


[Editor's note: Today's post comes from Lori Jacobwith, founder of Ignited Fundraising. Lori is a fundraising culture change expert and master storyteller. Be sure to register for tomorrow's Nonprofit 911 webinar to hear Lori tell you all about how you can change your nonprofit's data story.] As a master storyteller people often mistakenly think I only tell stories about people. The truth is, I find stories everywhere: In a glance between a client and staff, at board meetings, and even in financial data. The question is what to do with the stories you find, especially the stories in your data? One of the best ways to use some of the data you have is to share it in a visual display that paints a clear picture AND gets people to take actions to change the data. That might mean taking action to increase your fundraising, retain loyal donors, maintain an ample cushion of cash on hand at all times or, well, you decide. The question then is: What actions do you want your staff, board and your community to take? A good place to start is to create a board activity dashboard based on the actions your board has decided will make a difference. A few metrics I like to see on a board dashboard are: Attendance at board & committee meetings Annual financial giving Participation in donor stewardship activities: story sharing, thank you calls, guests brought to events Creating the dashboards is the easy part. Deciding what to show on the dashboards is what takes time and focused conversation. Here are some simple steps to get you started: Step 1: At a retreat or during a board meeting, provide ample time for your board members to answer a few key questions. You can refer to this post 5 Questions Every Board Should Ask for some helpful questions. Step 2: Once the board has determined the ways they will be of most value AND what they want to track, the role of staff is to create a dashboard to support their actions. Step 3: Make sure your dashboard shows both what has happened in the past AND what actions you want to cause in the future. Step 4: Review dashboards regularly with time to discuss activity updates and what new actions must be taken next. Whether you use a traditional bar graph or you use something different (Blue Avocado has an excellent example), your goal is to cause new actions that support your mission and your bottom line. Simple Board Activity Dashboard On August 26 on the Nonprofit 911 Network for Good Webinar I’ll take you through a deeper dive into how to Change Your Data Story. Join me to view samples of what your dashboards should look like and how best to use them to inspire action. I’ll share six of the most common mistakes when designing dashboards and some examples of what you can do differently. ---------- A nationally recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture expert, Lori L. Jacobwith has coached thousands to raise nearly $300 million dollars from individual donors. And counting. Her proven strategies & tools teach nonprofits and their boards to share stories powerfully and easily. Lori holds a BA from the University of Minnesota, has additional training from Indiana University’s Fund Raising School and is a longtime member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Follow Lori on Twitter @LJacobwith or Facebook [...]

Master Monthly Giving (Part 2: Expert Interview)


Read Part 1 here I’m thrilled to share more monthly giving mastery with you from my recent interview with leading monthly giving expert Erica Waasdorp. Nancy: Once you have a new monthly donor in the door, what’s the best way to welcome him? Erica: If donor signs up online, make sure you get a warm, appreciative email to him ASAP. Automate that via your donor management system. In addition, I recommend that you always send a snail-mail thank you letter to new monthly donors. I’m a strong proponent of including a certificate in that mailing. Skip the premium—thank yous are not the place—but make sure to include a personal contact at the organization, who signs the communication, and that person’s phone and email so its easy for donors to get in touch. You don’t have to send a monthly thank you letter in hard copy, but monthly emails are great. In both your email and thank you letter, include the fact that donors will receive a tax statement the following January. Nancy: What are the best channels for monthly giving campaigns—email, direct mail, or something else? Erica: Nothing works better than telemarketing. The response rate is simply higher than mail or email. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have the budget for this. When that is the case, email and direct mail are the next best thing. Most important, putting monthly giving front and center in your outreach is absolutely vital. Make it easy to find on your website and other appeals. Then ask and ask again via every main channel and piece that makes sense. Nancy: I recently wrote a case study about Global Giving, which included a call to action for both monthly and one-time giving in its disaster-relief appeal for Nepalese earthquake survivors. Have you seen that kind of dual call to action work? I am a huge believer in putting out a single, doable call to action to prospects and supporters, and then following up with a second step once the first has been completed. Erica: Yes, it can work, and it ties in with the answer above—ask, ask, and ask some more. The more you put monthly giving out there, the more donors will start giving that way. I see some of the “big guys” putting monthly giving front and center. For example, they offer monthly giving first and one-time donations second. Nancy: What’s the greatest monthly donor recruitment case study you know? Erica: Where do I start? I’ve done some huge monthly donor recruitment campaigns over the years, including one that raised $13 million. Most recently, I doubled the monthly donor base for a religious organization client, and those donors now generate 50% of the organization’s annual revenue. But remember that these figures are relative, because your dollar total depends on the size of your existing donor base. Consider another client I helped get started with monthly giving: a small animal shelter with 500 donor emails. The only mechanism they had for online giving was PayPal, so we customized the PayPal recurring giving options, put it on their donation page, and directed folks there from a three-part email series asking donors to join the “Champions” program. We used a small board challenge of $5,000 with a clear deadline. Now the organization gets $2,500 a year from its monthly donors, and they also got the $5,000. We’re planning to do this again with the aim of doubling the monthly donor base every time. Cost is virtually nothing because it’s all [...]

Master Monthly Giving: Q&A with Erica Waasdorp


I’m thrilled to share this monthly giving mastery with you, drawn from my fascinating interview with leading monthly giving expert Erica Waasdorp. In her unequaled guidebook, Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, Erica walks you through recurring giving, step by clear-and-doable step. “Historically, U.S. fundraisers have focused on major gifts. I’m thrilled that organizations are widening their focus to include monthly giving and small to medium gifts. There’s huge potential there,” says Erica. What do fundraisers need to know about how monthly giving has changed since the release of Sleeping Giant in 2013? Erica Waasdorp: What’s changed most dramatically, especially in the past year, is that monthly giving has exploded. I think the main reason for this growth is fundraisers’ laser focus on donor retention. That focus, already there for some, was further fueled by results of the 2013 AFP Fundraising Effectiveness study, which highlighted the fall of donor retention rates to 39%. That was a real wake-up call for all of us. There are two more factors that I think have added to the monthly giving boom. First is the emergence of reliable, thorough monthly giving guidance—from me, Network for Good, and others. This abundance of content triggers interest and provides reliable results-based guidance for fundraisers. Fun features, such as Network for Good’s monthly giving challenge, reinforce interest and skills. The second factor that’s boosted monthly giving is the ease of adding, processing, and managing monthly donors via many donor database and online donation systems. Despite these widespread improvements, automating this process remains one of the biggest hurdles for fundraisers. Why should an organization convert its donors from annual to monthly? Is there any risk of losing existing donors? EW: No, there’s absolutely nothing to lose—as long as you target the right group. In other words, I do not recommend you ask your $250-plus donors to join monthly giving. Unless a donor at that level requests to be a monthly donor, don’t ask. You risk decreasing her gift level. But for those who make gifts of $100 and less annually, there’s no way not to gain by converting them to monthly donors. You’ll retain them as donors and increase their total gifts per year. Plus, monthly donors are six to seven times more likely to make your organization a beneficiary in their wills. Win-win all around, if you ask me. What’s the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for monthly donors? EW: The WIIFM depends on which donor group you’re talking to. For example, monthly giving is a fantastic way for donors on a fixed income to make gifts to favorite organizations. It’s easy and convenient, and they can’t forget it. That’s a perfect lead-in to my next question. Are all existing and new donors ripe for conversion for monthly donors, or is there a specific segment where fundraisers should start? EW: Well, it depends on how many donors you have who give $100 and less annually. And it depends on how many times you ask your donors for money now—that is, how many times they can give. Those donors who have given more than once are more likely to convert. But recent monthly giving stats indicate that even nondonor supporters, such as those who have signed a petition, can be converted. You do have to ask them, though. If you have a robust email list, start there. Focus your first direct mail campaign to donors who give by credit card. Targeting is essen[...]

#GivingTuesday Success with a Staff of One: Q&A with CASS


Last year, Network for Good customer Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) had a great #GivingTuesday campaign and won our prize for Best Social Campaign. The organization raised more than $17,000, came in fourth on our leaderboard for number of donors, and exceeded its original goal by 43%. Because I experience and witness street harassment in Washington, DC, I can see the immediate importance of CASS’ mission. CASS mobilizes the community, through online and offline activism, to end public sexual harassment and assault in the DC metropolitan area. The campaign caught my eye and I was inspired to donate to it on #GivingTuesday. After I became a donor, I was delighted to receive some of the best post-donation communication ever! CASS has become one of my favorite nonprofit customers that we serve in DC. Because CASS had such great success on #GivingTuesday 2014, I wanted to do a Q&A with Zosia Sztykowski, the nonprofit’s executive director, to find out how they put together an amazing campaign with just one paid staff member. How did you plan and set goals? Zosia Sztykowski: We set a very ambitious goal for our end-of year-campaign—triple what we had done in the previous year—and based on our experience, we knew we’d have to get a strong start on #GivingTuesday for that to work. #GivingTuesday and New Year’s Eve are always the best giving days for us. How did you reach out to donors before, during, and after? ZS: We started reaching out to donors four weeks in advance with soft touches via email. A week or two before, we gave all of them a call and asked folks to pledge. During the campaign, we reached out via email and social media. Afterward, everyone who donated received a special thank you email and a handwritten card. What surprised you the most about #GivingTuesday? ZS: It’s amazing how generous everyone is even when every other organization is asking for donations at the same time. There’s something very touching about that. It really is a day about giving in the broad sense of the word. In 2014, we managed to quadruple what we raised in 2013 on #GivingTuesday because of this generosity. What is the number one piece of advice you would give to nonprofits doing #GivingTuesday for the first time? ZS: Plan, plan, plan. Read about others’ successful strategies. Get your emails and your social media materials ready well in advance. Know that you’ll need all hands on deck on #GivingTuesday. Have a schedule—but be prepared to throw it out the window if you come up with a better idea at the last minute. How did you manage it all with very few paid staff members? CASS only has one paid staff member, right? And how did you make sure volunteers followed through with their commitments to help make it great? ZS: Yup, just one—me! Needless to say, I had some pretty serious tunnel vision going in late November/early December. But our volunteers are one of our strongest assets. They get the word out and solicit people in their networks. Every time we run a campaign like this, we don’t just reach multiples of our dollar goal, we also multiply the length our donor list, and I think this is directly attributable to our grassroots strategy. If a volunteer team is well organized and engaged—trained, prepared with all the materials they need, and knowledgeable about the organization and its fiscal needs—then they will follow through. Better yet, they’ll make it fun. It’s really about starting a conversation with volunteers that continues throughout the process. [...]

The Key to Raising More This Year


You might have a marketing plan, a shiny new website, and a fundraising appeal that has been triple-checked, but the key to raising more this year will come down to really knowing and understanding your donors.

When you truly understand your donors, you can communicate more effectively with the best timing, more relevant messages, and the right ask. And the only way to get smarter about these critical elements of donor communication is to be able to collect, manage, and efficiently analyze your fundraising data.

Not sure how to accomplish this? We can help.

If you want to get more out of your fundraising and donor relationships this year, tomorrow’s free Nonprofit 911 webinar is for you. My colleague Jonathan Gibbs, Network for Good’s VP of Product, will share the best practices in selecting, implementing, and getting the most out of a donor management system. Jonathan will also offer some smart tips on overcoming the common challenges nonprofits face in managing donor data. 

Register for this free session now.  (Can’t attend the live session? Go ahead and register and we’ll make sure you get the slides and the recording in your inbox shortly after the webinar.)

Don’t Forget the Why



On a recent family vacation, I loved seeing these stickers on trash cans along the boardwalk and on the beach. As part of Virginia Beach’s “Keep It Beachy Clean” campaign, messages like “Thanks for not littering! You just kept a pelican from making bad choices.” or “Thanks for not littering! You just made a whale want to come back next year.” added a bit of humor to a reminder of why the message mattered.

It’s also a good reminder for all nonprofit marketers:  when asking someone to do something—whether that’s making a donation, volunteering, or putting trash in it proper place—don’t forget to tie your ask to why it matters. Why should they care? Why will it make a difference? Connecting a simple anti-litter message to the easily identifiable wildlife that would benefit from that action kept the “why” top of mind for all beachgoers.

How are you keeping the “why” front and center for your donors?


How to Set a #GivingTuesday Goal


Are you ready for #GivingTuesday 2015? This annual day of generosity continues to grow, and we expect this year’s event to be even bigger. According to a recent webinar poll, 30% of nonprofits are planning to participate in #GivingTuesday for the first time and 39% are planning to do more for #GivingTuesday than they did last year.

Whether you’re launching your first #GivingTuesday campaign or planning a triumphant return, the first step in planning your success is to set your sights on a clear goal for your team and supporters to rally around.

Total dollars raised is an obvious metric to measure, but it shouldn’t be your only goal, as a giving day like #GivingTuesday is a unique opportunity to boost donor acquisition, re-engagement, and retention. Here are a few other important goals that you may want to work into your plan:

  • Number of donors
  • Number of new donors
  • Number of volunteers/hours (if you are including an activity)
  • Number of recurring donors
  • % Participation among key groups – like staff, board, alumni, clients

Think about what kind of campaign you’d like to run this year and which goals make the most sense based on your approach.

Where Do You Start? Build a Pyramid

If you ran a #GivingTuesday campaign last year, you have a benchmark you can use to make 2014 plans. If you’re in your first year, you’ll need to base your goals on what you know about your past campaigns and donors.

Another way to plan your overall donation goal by using a giving pyramid. A giving pyramid allows you to visualize and breakdown your donation goal by donor level. Creating the pyramid helps you sanity check your goal by plotting it out, rather than just guessing.

Here’s an example of a giving pyramid for #GivingTuesday:

  • Dollar goal: $8,000
  • Existing donors in your database: 1,500 donors
  • Achieving a 3% response rate: 45 donors

Map out a giving pyramid using your dollar goals and your number of donors. If it feels ambitious but achievable, then it is a great place to start with a first year goal. If it seems too easy to achieve, boost the dollar amount. Too much of a stretch? Dial back.

Want to build your own #GivingTuesday donor pyramid? Download our template and input your goals, number of current donors, and expected response rate and we’ll do the calculations for you.

An Inside Look at The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations: Q&A with Author Lynne Wester


Today, donor relations expert Lynne Wester will join us for a free Nonprofit911 webinar: Donor Retention Isn’t Speed Dating. You don't want to miss it! Register now! Lynne is not only an expert on donor retention; she has spent her career in donor relations and is known as the Donor Relations Guru. Earlier this year I published a Q&A with Lynne about her new book, The Four Pillars of Donor Relations. Enjoy this encore blog post and don’t forget to register for Lynne’s webinar! If you aren’t familiar with Lynne Wester’s work in donor relations, you are missing out. Last year she presented an amazing webinar (one of our highest attended!) on donor relations and ever since then I’ve been hooked on the topic of donor relations and Lynne’s wise words on this important work that many fundraisers don’t (unfortunately) know much about. Since the webinar, Lynne has published a book, The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations. It’s a great resource for any fundraiser who wants to increase their donor retention rate (aka everyone). I did a quick Q&A with Lynne so you could understand what the book is all about. BONUS: She shared the names of a few organizations who are excelling at donor relations. If you want to see what a great donor experience looks like, consider giving a small gift to one of the organizations she mentions. How did you first get interested in donor relations? Lynne Wester: I guess you could say I’ve been in donor relations since I was a child and my mom made me write thank you notes before I could play with my Christmas and birthday presents. But in reality, as a career, it came at Rollins College where I got my start writing thank you notes for leadership and my career blossomed from there. I am so blessed to be able to spend a lifetime helping others express gratitude. Of the four pillars of donor relations (acknowledgement, stewardship and impact reporting, recognition, and engagement) where do you see nonprofits struggle the most? LW: By far, it’s in stewardship and impact reporting. Nonprofits don’t take the time to tell the donor the impact and power of their gift, where the money went, and how it was spent. Instead, they’re too eager to obtain the next gift which leads to horrific retention rates. We have to make the donor the hero and tell a story, not overwhelm them with news and information about the organization or ask them for more money. First we have to thank them, and then tell them the impact their money had. It’s a simple formula, really. We get this question all the time and I think you’re the right person to weigh in: what is a GOOD donor retention rate? LW: If the average first-time donor retention rate is 27%, and that’s the average, I would want to keep at least HALF of my first-time donors. It has nothing to do with the size of the organization, but rather the mindset and the attitude of gratitude that one possesses. Large or small, holding onto half of the people that invest in us shouldn’t be too high of a goal. If your “team” that is responsible for donor relations is just one person, or 50% of one person’s workload,  what do you recommend they focus on first? What has the potential to have a big impact in a short amount of time? LW: The first thing is thanking without an ask. There is NO such thing as a soft ASK, that’s like being partially pregnant. So, sincerely thank [...]