Posted by & filed under Congress, Donor communications, Marketing/Communications, Speakers, Special Events.

By Mo Waja

 

For many nonprofits, ‘marketing’ has been­ — and remains — a support tool for fundraising; its purpose, mainly to serve as a medium to get the fundraising message out there to as many prospective donors as possible, via social media or otherwise. But this limited use fails to capitalize on the opportunity of marketing. For nonprofits making more robust use of marketing and communications, the act of ‘marketing’ becomes everything from a branding exercise to a recruitment tool, to a way to connect with key stakeholders, to community engagement, to profile building, to storytelling.

 

But it’s that last, storytelling, that sits at the core of good marketing. No matter what message your organization is looking to put out into the world, the story you tell is the heart of how you express the need of your population, how you connect with your community of supporters, and how you show the continuous positive impact your organization has. The question is, how do you tell that story well?

 

 

The thing is, ‘telling a story well’ encompasses more than simply telling a good story that (hopefully) raises fundraising dollars. Why? Because every charitable organization owes a duty of care to the population they serve that goes beyond the good work provided.

 

This, how to market, advertise, or tell a nonprofit story well, has been a topic of much debate. While, broadly, we can agree that tapping into empathy and, from that, compassion, is a key component of generating giving behaviour through storytelling, the real question is how do we get there. One common way is the use of ‘shock’ campaigns depicting imagery of people in desperate circumstances. Yet this strategy has been used so frequently that it has almost become a cliché, while simultaneously becoming an unfortunate standard by which many fundraising campaigns are set, particularly those for international aid (think your classic imagery of impoverished, starving Africa). While, even today, these shock campaigns — often more harshly labeled ‘poverty porn’ — can undoubtedly be effective in soliciting short-term donations, the problems with this approach are multifold. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Donor communications, Marketing/Communications, Stewardship/Donor Relations.

By Freddie Tubbs

 

How you ask for donations often makes a big difference. You are asking people to donate their money and you have to be compelling when doing this. You also have to be transparent.

Asking in person is difficult, but what may be even harder is writing effective fundraising e-mails. You only get that one chance to make a good online impression and to ask for a donation from your potential donor. There isn’t much space either so you have to be concise.

Here are just a few tips on how to write effective fundraising e-mails:

 

Tell a good story

In order to get the emotional response you want, you have to tell a really interesting story. Of course, it has to be relevant to your cause. Start your e-mail with a few sentences describing the problem at hand, but in a way that will immerse readers. You’ll probably have to rewrite this section a few times, but it will be worth it when it comes to getting readers to take the next actionable step.

Another thing you should do is be as specific as possible. This means adding real numbers and percentages into your story to make it even more realistic and compelling.

 

Make it short

Your fundraising e-mail can’t be long. You need to say what you have to say quickly, without flowery prose or elaborating the issue for too long. Dedicate the first few sentences to telling your story, another few sentences to what is being done at the moment to help the cause, and a few more to explain where the money is going. Then, finish strong with a polite, yet compelling call to action. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Donor communications, Inspiration, Leadership/Management, Marketing/Communications.

By Mo Waja

With AFP Congress arriving in a short 2 months, burgeoning and tenured thought leaders alike are preparing themselves and their talks to bring new, ambitious, and exciting ideas to the world of fundraising. But ‘thought leadership’ as a marketing activity isn’t something done just once a year or even once a month. It is not exclusive to large scale speaking events or even to a single guest blog post. Thought leadership as an activity or, more accurately, as a result is something that individuals and organizations commit to as a regular piece of their marketing mix.

 

Now, the idea of thought leadership is not new. In fact, ‘thought leadership’ as a marketing strategy has been in vogue for a number of years now. The challenge is that many individuals and organizations, particularly smaller organizations, can find the concept of taking on thought leadership daunting, particularly in the face of many larger organizations or more tenured leaders out there leveraging their much more developed content machines to pump out a near-continuous stream of articles, interviews, blogs, podcasts, and talks.

 

The first step is to recognize that ‘thought leadership’ or becoming a ‘thought leader’ is not a strategy. It’s not even a tactic. It is the result of consistent, quality content that is useful to your audience. To become a thought leader and create thought leadership content is to become an authority on a certain subject, within a certain field. Just as not everyone who picks up an instrument is a musician, not everyone who puts fingers to keyboard (feet to stage, voice to podcast, etc.) is a thought leader.

 

Thought leadership is something that must be established, not simply done. While one talk, interview, or piece of writing might put you on the map – it’s the cumulative work, experience, and expertise that brought you there that builds your foundation as a thought leader. For an organization seeking to become a thought leader in their industry, that becomes the collective work, experience, and expertise of all of your contributors. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Donor communications, Marketing/Communications, Stewardship/Donor Relations.

By Mo Waja

Telling your story is harder for some nonprofit organizations than others, particularly when you, the nonprofit, are working with a vulnerable population.

 

Why? Because, depending upon the specific characteristics of the population in question, there are often strict ethical, and sometimes legal, guidelines we must adhere to that dictate how a story can (and should) be told – for instance, in the case of an organization working with children. In other cases, perhaps the population that your nonprofit serves cannot be shown in media at all – for instance, when taking into account the safety and security needs of survivors of domestic abuse.

 

Through the lens of an organization working with a vulnerable population, marketing can seem at best difficult and at worst an insurmountable challenge; for how can you market the good your organization does when you cannot show the positive impact you have on the population you serve? How can you market the good without showing the good? Read more »

Posted by & filed under Campaign, Donor communications, Marketing/Communications.

Going Beyond the One-Story-Fits-All Approach

By Mo Waja

 

Storytelling to drive “giving” or donations can feel a little repetitive. A common example is the classic profile piece featuring someone whom the nonprofit has impacted. This is the written, video, or audio piece that introduces an individual, describes a barrier, and then states how the organization helped that person to overcome the barrier. It’s straightforward, it’s easy, and it’s a tempting format to gravitate towards. What this generates is a one-story-fits-all approach where the central character may change, but the general storyline remains the same.

 

The challenge with this approach is twofold. Firstly, on the donor side of the equation, this format speaks only to a specific, results focused donor and often fails to resonate with or impact emotionally focused or outcomes driven donors. Secondly, swapping out the face behind a repetitive storyline fails to embrace what is unique about each story or to illustrate the full breadth of your programs’ impact.

 

When you’re selling a product, displaying your value proposition by way of a consistent story that showcases the scale of your impact (the number of people that your product helps or has helped) in the most efficient way possible is certainly a strategy that works; however, when it comes to your nonprofit story you’re not simply selling a product. Similar as systems like monthly giving may seem, you’re not even selling a subscription service. What you’re selling is an outcome and the emotion that goes along with it. So, for people to really connect with your organization, empathize with your population, and commit to giving, they need (and want) to understand the full scope of your positive impact – not solely on the direct beneficiaries of your organization’s mission, what we can call your primary population, but on all the people that surround and are connected to them. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Crowdfunding, Digital, Marketing/Communications, Mobile Giving, Next Generation Philanthropy, Social Media, Special Events.

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Jessica Lewis, Fundraising Innovation Consultant, hjc

With all the buzz surrounding the Boston marathon this week, it brings back memories of my last race in New York in November. I caught the marathon bug a few years ago, running my first one in Toronto in 2012 and then Chicago the following year. After running Chicago, I decided that I wanted to complete another major marathon and was determined to run New York.

You can get into the New York marathon by either gaining entry through the lottery system, qualifying with extremely fast race times (speedier than Boston) or signing up with a charity team. I decided to sign up to run and fundraise for Team for Kids, which is the New York marathon’s partner charity that supports New York Road Runners by offering health and fitness programs to children in under-served schools across the United States.

I chose to run with Team for Kids for two main reasons. One, I felt a connection to the cause. Two, the minimum fundraising goal was $2,620 which seemed achievable in comparison to other participating charity requirements. It might not seem like a lot of money, but I knew that I would likely depend on the support of my peers for micro-donations of $25 on average. Breaking down my total goal meant that I would need to get over 100 people to donate to my personal fundraising page. According to The Next Generation of Canadian Giving, 64% of Gen Ys are 1-2 times more likely than Gen X, Boomers and Matures to support someone else raising money on behalf of a charity. Most of my peers fall within Gen Y, so at least I had a better chance at gaining their support!

At hjc, we have been doing a lot more work with our clients around mapping optimal donor journeys, which has often led to improving the overall experience (and conversion rates) for event participants. It got me thinking about my journey running with Team for Kids – from the first touch point of creating a profile online to receiving the alumni newsletter.

If I were to map out my own journey with Team for Kids it would look something like this:

  • I created a profile with Team for Kids and received a confirmation email
  • I received multiple confirmation emails, including an acknowledgment of my self-pledge, a summary of my registration payment and a fundraising agreement outlining my commitment to raise $2,620 by October 1st
  • I received a fundraising kick-off email with ample resources to kick start my fundraising and sent out my first donation e-appeal asking friends and family for support
  • I received the first donation to my personal fundraising page!
  • I received weekly coaching emails over the 5 months leading up to the event, which included both fundraising and training tips, and inspired me to host my own fundraising event
  • I posted a link to my personal fundraising page on Facebook asking my friends for support
  • There were other emails, videos, conference calls that included multiple resources for both fundraising and running. These resources were inspirational and connected me to the cause.
  • I hosted a cocktail party to raise money for Team for Kids and reached my fundraising goal!
  • I got race day reminders (e.g. transportation, pre marathon breakfast) and started packing for my trip to New York
  • I ran the New York marathon!
  • After the event, I received a congratulations email
  • I received a post event survey
  • I am now subscribed to the Team for Kids alumni newsletter

In addition to receiving email communications from Team for Kids, I followed their charity page on Facebook to connect with other participants. Because of this, on the day of the marathon I got the VIP experience and was able to jump on the charity bus to go to the starting line and huddle inside the Team for Kids tent to stay warm. Not to mention, the charity had also arranged for access to hot water for my pre-race ritual meal of oatmeal and a banana. After crossing the finish line, I was welcomed by a nice volunteer who helped me stumble over to the finisher’s tent to rest my tired legs after a grueling 42 kilometers through all 5 boroughs of the city.

My journey from start to finish was fantastic – from the first Team for Kids coaching email to the post-race tent. This could have been dramatically different if the charity didn’t provide me with resources to help me reach my fundraising goal, such as social media banners I could re-purpose for my efforts, or inspirational stories that were shared with me along the way to build my connection to the cause. Not to mention, the race day support like hot water and a cozy post marathon tent. These were moments that mattered to me.

Putting on my consultant hat, they did everything right. Team for Kids provided me with the tools and support to reach my fundraising goal. We know from our work with non-profit clients that journey mapping is effective in increasing donor conversion rates and building more personal relationships with constituents.

Does your organization personalize and optimize the experience for event participants? What does your current journey look like for participants from the time they register to the day of the event? Do you know what your supporters would consider the ‘moments that matter?’

Jessica Lewis is a Fjessicalewisundraising Innovation Consultant at hjc, a global consulting agency in the nonprofit sector. She helps her clients use online technologies to fundraise, advocate and build brand awareness. If you want to chat further about this topic you can reach Jessica at jessica.lewis@hjcnewmedia.comYou can follow her on Twitter @jessklewis.

 

Posted by & filed under Marketing/Communications, Opinion, Stewardship/Donor Relations, Volunteers.

Marc Ralsky, Director, Community and Donor Development
Ontario SPCA

“We paid our dues from back in the day.”

“I am 10 or 20 years into my career.”group-conversation

“I don’t have to talk to donors or see them or call them.”

“We can just shoot them an email.”

My sense is a lot of us in the sector have forgotten some of the basic components of making a connection and raising money:

  • Talking to people in the flesh, or a novel approach – on the phone!
  • Writing a handwritten note (have you seen your handwriting lately?)
  • Speaking to a donor or potential donor face-to-face, even if we are not the major gift officer or planned gift lead

We have all embraced the digital age – integrating this, integrating that, adding SEO and SEM to optimize and measure clicks and visits. We have multi-channel campaigns that are supported by social media, emails, maybe some telemarketing and then followed up by a reminder email or two. We have organizational websites that rarely link to people – though some in the sector have now added a “Click here to speak to a live person!” – a new experience!

Of course digital fundraising and all its associated activities provide us with great tactics that work. They raise money efficiently and effectively. I know they do – my team has won international integrated marketing awards. So, am I contradicting myself? No. But I realized there is a piece that was missing.

It ‘clicked’ for me during a visioning session with our vendors in a meeting before the holiday break. We came up with a key value in the animal welfare sector: the human-animal bond.  It got me thinking while walking my dogs before work on these past cold dark mornings: What about the human to human bond? What are we doing with that in our nonprofit charitable sector? Where did it go?

We rarely hear about our sector holding events that are not fundraising events anymore – events that plainly are designed so people can talk to others with interest in the same cause. Instead we invite our stakeholders to join a Facebook page or a private password protected microsite where people can download materials to read about their cause of interest, alone in their own space. We have removed the human bond obtained through direct in-person interaction.

I recently suggested the idea of holding education open house events in one of our centres that wants to re-invigorate its connection to the surrounding community. The response I received was WOW – what a great idea! They will come to us? Yes, I thought, just like they did before. Remember when people called into to charities asking for educational brochures to learn about various diseases and treatments? I think it’s now called inbound marketing…

We all attend conferences or breakfast meetings and more than 75% of the sessions talk about creating a relationship with your donors. Usually, the presentations focus on how to email them or get them to like and share your social media page. We spend more time at conferences with like-minded colleagues then we probably do talking to and mingling with donors and stakeholders at all levels of our organizations. And yet, we have somehow decided that it is no longer efficient to meet and interact with our donors in person.

People love people. Our worst fear as humans is being alone or feeling like we are the only one with a specific problem or interest. We like affinity groups! How about making strong in-person connections with people and keeping them on file longer?

My challenge to our sector is this: let’s get back to basics. Let’s integrate some real human to human bond back into our integrated inbound marketing strategies. Imagine what will happen if we do all the digital channels and add in some real opportunities to talk to our donors, stakeholders, clients and the public. Try chatting about why your charity was originally established and how the work you do is made possible each day. Think about the opportunities that will present themselves when people meet and find others who have the same issues or challenges or likes. Doors will open. People will see the faces behind the names and endless emails and texts they receive from us.

As our moms told us: Try it, you will like it!

Ralsky_MarcMarc Ralsky is Director, Community and Donor Development at Ontario SPCA. He is a seasoned fundraiser with close to 20 years experience working with organizations and volunteer groups to achieve successful outcomes.His practical streetwise common sense approach to peer to peer, event management and fundraising in general allows him to innovatively offer knowledge and experience to develop insights and recommendations that will help not for profit and volunteer groups to achieve measurable growth.

Posted by & filed under Advocacy, Crowdfunding, Digital, Ethics, Leadership/Management, Marketing/Communications, Next Generation Philanthropy, Opinion, Social Media.

The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Often, it starts with a tragedy, illness, or fueling an ambition. Then it goes viral, raising thousands of dollars for someone in need or for a particular cause. This is the new world of direct giving. But as we see more personal crowdfunding, questions are raised about why we give, how the funds are distributed and what we expect of the role of community and the state in supporting one another. The Agenda takes a look the state of charitable giving in the age of disruptive technology. This program features Caroline Riseboro – AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Board Member and  Senior VP of Development with CAMH Foundation.

Posted by & filed under Grant Management, Marketing/Communications, Stewardship/Donor Relations.

Cynthia Foo, Grants Manager, Environmental Defence

As a contract and full-time fundraiser who has specialized in both giving and soliciting grants, I’ve come across a few misconceptions on what encourages foundations to give. Here are some common mistakes and what you can do to correct them:

1. I shouldn’t contact the foundation to pitch our work because it says “no unsolicited propflower-22656_640osals” on their website.

Most foundations make this advisory as they lack the staff to handle application questions from the larger public. However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to find a point of contact where possible—especially if your work is a close fit with the foundation’s interests and granting history.

Be prepared to dig deeper within your organization: find out the Board connections between your organization and theirs; work out relationships which may get an in-person meeting with the foundation’s steering committee; or if all else fails, send a polite, short (1-2 paragraph) e-mail to the contact on your proposed targeted approach, and ask whether the foundation would be interested in finding out more.

2. I shouldn’t contact a foundation in advance of my grant application because it will just annoy them.

As someone who has worked for both a corporation disbursing grants and for a charity soliciting foundations grants, my first-hand experience is that no foundation actively soliciting grants has ever expressed annoyance at an initial call or e-mail, especially if it’s an opportunity to offer insights on what can be improved.

When I worked for a disbursing organization, I spent an inordinate amount of time reviewing applications that were just not a good fit, or were truly puzzling in their approach. Some of the applications that came across my desk demonstrated no overlap with the mission of the funding organization, no explanation of how the work would enhance the funder’s mandate, and had no indication of how the grant would help the charity succeed if they received funding. In most cases, these were grant proposals from organizations which I knew and respected.

I would have been glad to have saved their grants officer and their staff the time and hassle of submitting a flawed application if they had just called or e-mailed me at the outset. And I would have been more than happy to try to strengthen the application before it went up the ladder for review. If an organization is in the business to give out grants, they are motivated to see applications succeed.

3. When creating interim or final reports, I should write to the foundation with the same friendly tone that I use in my newsletters and general communications with individual donors.

Most foundations are interested in metrics, not only in heartwarming stories. While funders are keen to find out the effects of their granting in compelling narratives, foundations’ structures require greater demonstrations of returns-on-donation than individual donors may demand. What did the grant help advance? How many did it help your organization serve? How did it help change people’s lives? The foundation’s board will ask for these facts as it will help them determine their own measures of success in the community, and will help them set clear strategic directions in the future.

4. I should follow all of my foundation funder’s instructions and only submit applications online and submit reports when they say to do so in the grant agreement. Any other attempts to contact them will be seen as a nuisance.

This is the most common misconception I hear when talking to grant writers or other fundraising staff. Most foundations are sophisticated organizations which appreciate being treated as partners in funding. In this respect, stewardship techniques when dealing with foundations are very much akin to those used when dealing with major donors—share your results early, and often; make sure you trumpet your wins, and most of all, make sure you alert your funder early if a proposed course of work ends up being derailed and you realize you won’t be able to do what you said you’d be able to in your proposal. Most funders understand that the work they are funding is at risk of the inevitable chaos of life—someone leaves for another job, someone gets sick, or someone just plain forgets to do something because they didn’t read the application properly.

Making sure that clear communication is established with the foundation funder all along the way—not just at the time of reporting or proposal—is key in ensuring long-term, rewarding relationships. In fact, this approach generally helps create opportunities to increase giving from these foundations in the long-run as your own organization grows.

5. When a foundation rejects my grant application, I should file it and/or not bother reapplying.

Most foundation funders want to see applications succeed. If they reject your grant application, chances are there are good reasons why. Perhaps your budget needed to be weighted differently. Maybe your approach didn’t fit their priorities this year. Or perhaps it was just bad timing and they’d already allocated funds to another charity. Any of these reasons would allow you to alter your approach and resubmit your application next year.

Best of all, contacting the foundation to ask for feedback on what could be improved helps nurture the budding relationship between the potential funder and the charity, which is always helpful when asking for support. It’s easy to be disheartened, but it’s better to learn and reposition for the next round.

CynthiaFoo

Since 2010, Cynthia Foo has helped charities increase their foundations grants funding. She has worked for Human Rights Watch (NYC) and is currently employed as the Grants Manager by Environmental Defence Canada, a national environmental charity. She also currently provides foundations fundraising assistance to Hincks-Dellcrest Foundation and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. In the summer, she teaches kayakking and stand-up paddleboarding and loves to spend lazy afternoons in the sun with her dog Chauncey. You can follow Cynthia on Twitter at @cynthfoo or connect with her on LinkedIn.