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.
Posts Categorized: Marketing/Communications
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 proposals” 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.
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.
Tara George, CFRE, Senior Vice President – Lead, Search Practice at KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.), talks career advice with Cynthia Foo, Grants Manager at Environmental Defence.
CF: If you had to pick three “must have” attributes for the fundraiser today, what would you say these would be?
TG: Goal orientation – Regardless of the fundraising role, the individual has to be able to formulate goals, marshal resources, and deliver results. This takes persistence.
Communications savvy – All messages, written and verbal, regardless of channel, have to reinforce the strategy and drive results. Fundraisers have to be exceptional listeners.
Service orientation – The fundraiser has to really seek to spotlight the cause and others’ priorities, rather than one’s own. And if you do that with effective communications savvy, those three things are really fundamental and critical.
CF: How important is the role of a good fundraising manager?
TG: People can learn and model, but training is a factor. In the fundraising world I often hear people describe themselves as a “solo warrior”, or a “lone wolf”. Fundraisers who started young, and never managed other people for example, can get stuck at a certain level because of lack of opportunities to obtain diversity of experience.
So my advice to fundraisers is this: gain people and business management skills – learn about theory, and gain knowledge of best and emerging practices. You don’t become a good manager by accident: continuous learning is a key ingredient of the recipe for success!
CF: What about advice for mid-career fundraisers?
TG: This is the time to broaden your scope of fundraising, gain experience in other areas beyond your narrow field of expertise and prepare for more senior positions. You don’t get to be the CEO if you are just a specialist!
However, I don’t think of a career as a ladder, I think of it as a web. For example, someone who starts in event fundraising may need to go sideways to go up a level. Their event position may lead to an expanded role in communications which develops into learning about digital fundraising, or deeper involvement in annual giving.
I often hear complaints that employers can’t pay for all of employees’ courses and their training, but I say that you are responsible for your life and career – so why wouldn’t you invest in yourself? Don’t let these things stand in the way. I paid for my MBA myself – it was tough, but it was important to my growth, and I’m glad I did it.
CF: What are the three most common mistakes when marketing oneself in the job market?
TG: People come in ready to present their skillsets but they don’t know anything about the organization. Do the research and show your passion and knowledge about the organization and the cause. And it needs to be genuine – you can’t fake it.
The second common mistake is that people are not properly prepared for the interview process. Make sure you understand the role and provide evidence to back up your success. I’m always surprised to see people who can’t clearly identify the metrics of their success – either in percentage or numbers of donors increased. For a group of people who hang their hat on dollars, identifying numbers in their resumes is a must!
Finally, the most common mistake: Being too self-centered – not showing examples of contributing to the success of others and not recognizing the importance of team work.
No one landed their first seven-figure major gift completely single-handedly. Most likely, there was someone who did prospecting, others who did stewardship in the organization and so on. Demonstrating how you work with others is important!
CF: What do you see as reasons for high turnover in the nonprofit sector? And what do you see as the current biggest challenges facing employee retention?
TG: Generally speaking, high turnover in any position in any sector is not healthy and it’s not good for the individual: it can stain their reputation. When there’s supply and demand, the perception that the “grass is greener on the other side” heightens the sense of opportunity. I think people really should do their homework to make sure they can be satisfied and happy where they are and where they think they would like to go.
In my role, I hear people comment that money is the main motivator, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Often people move for personal satisfaction – they want to learn and grow and be challenged. Of course, people want better titles and money. But more importantly, they want to have impact and be engaged in their work, to be respected. Managers can play a huge role in making employees feel really good about their accomplishments and excited about what they’re learning – even when the organization cannot offer more money.
In today’s market, employers are showing less loyalty, so employees are doing the same. I think it’s important that employers hire for values – when that happens, the turnover rates drop. Hire people for their values and retain like-minded people who want to stay.
CF: Thank you so much for your time, Tara! As a parting thought – what are some of the fun things you do in your spare time?
TG: I love to read! I especially love to read novels and read a couple of novels a week. Sometimes I read business books: I enjoyed The End of Competitive Advantage by Rita Gunther-McGrath, which I won as a door prize at Congress. She was an excellent speaker there that year. I also read “Thinking Strategically” by Harvard Business Review, and The First 90 Days by Watkins. Every morning I also scan the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and the Harvard Business Review, in addition to a number of other sites.
Tara George, CFRE – Senior VP Lead, Search Practice, KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.)
As the Lead Consultant for KCI’s Search Practice, Tara has successfully led more than 150 recruitment assignments for a range of non-profit clients across Canada. A respected advancement professional with extensive networks in Canada and beyond, Tara has a clear sense of the strategic vision, leadership skills and business acumen necessary to succeed in the nonprofit arena.
Cynthia Foo – Grants Manager, Environmental Defence
Cynthia Foo is the Grants Manager at Environmental Defence,a national environmental charity that just celebrated its 30th anniversary. She helps strategize, secure and steward foundations’ giving to help her organization grow. She also currently sits on the AFP Toronto Ethics Committee, and serves on the Board of the West-End Food Co-op and the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto.
Digital Fundraising Consultant, b.bold
People like me always tell you you are losing money by not optimising your web page for mobile, making better forms and clearer content and calls to action. But do you know just how much? I’ve seen some real world-examples lately, and even I was shocked at the sheer amount of money left on the table.
I worked with several appeals for different charities over Christmas, but let’s focus on two of them. Traffic sources where quite similar, and the call to action was pretty much equal, and both campaigns where very successful, and the landing pages where both as close as possible to the actual payment.
One charity managed to get 8% of its mobile visitors to pay. The other only managed to convert 2,5% of its mobile visitors. I did the math. If charity two also managed to convert 8% of their mobile visitors, they would have raised CAD $56.000 more. That is some serious money to walk away from!
Even if we take a lower estimate, like 5%, they would have raised CAD $22.000 more.
So what does this mean for you?
It means that if on a dedicated landing page, you are converting less than 5% of mobile visitors, you are leaving money on the table. Lots of money. I strongly encourage you to find out.
These are some of the things you should look into fixing:
- Make sure forms work for mobile visitors. Even if they make up a small share of your donations today, that might just be because you are scaring them away.
- Don’t ask unnecessary questions. Yes, it’s nice to know how old your donors are, or how they found you, but is it crucial to processing the donation? If not – get rid of it. Every extra field in your donation forms lower your conversions. You can always ask follow-up questions later.
- Does your layout indicate clear paths forward for the user? Pressing the wrong button and having to start over might just make someone give up. This is especially true on mobile, where horisontal scrolling suddenly has to happen to find action buttons.
- Remove distractions. Does the landing page for donations have banners leading elsewhere? Is the form hidden far down the page, under menus, copy and unnecessary images? Make it front and center.
Good landing page design is an art and requires expertise, but the tips above should get you started pretty good! Think about the donor first – what are his or her needs in this situation? Make sure you fulfill them – and you’ll see your digital donations climb steadily.
Beate is a well-known international public speaker, who runs digital fundraising consultancy b.bold. She has more than five years of digital fundraising expertise, most of which is from the Norwegian Cancer Society, where she among other things doubled the digital fundraising return. Her special interests are user experience, landing page and donation form design, content strategy and using social media for donor stewardship. You can follow her on Twitter @BeateSorum
Laura Champion, Donor Relations Coordinator – Direct Response
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
I am bad with confrontation. My face turns red, I stare at my feet and my first instinct is to run and hide in the corner. It’s a good thing I’m on the phone!
But as fundraisers, we have all been there. The phone rings and on the other side is a very displeased donor. Someone has issued the wrong receipt, sent too much mail or not enough mail. Perhaps they were excluded from a guest list. The donor is unhappy and they want you to know it.
As a millennial, I have easily avoided phone calls most of life. Call display, voicemail, texting and email have made it all too simple for me to go through my whole day without actually speaking to anyone. This has made my conflict resolutions skills mostly text based.
But one of the reasons I am a fundraiser and more specifically, an annual giving fundraiser is that it gives me the chance to speak to so many people. Most interactions are positive and cause my heart to soar! But every once in a while they are not the same type of inspiring.
Since I have met quite a few text based millennials among my fellow fundraisers, I have put together a few thoughts on how to maintain your composure and ease that pit in your stomach:
1) My motto both in the workplace and out is “Be a person”. Remember the reason that the donor is upset could be heightened by something else going on in their lives. It is a reminder to be kind, be honest and be present for those around you. A kind word from me may be all this donor needs to get through a tough situation.
2) Do not take it personally. It’s easy to internalize the criticism, especially if the mistake was your own. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. When you’ve completed the call with the donor, take a walk or get a coffee and settle back in. It is too easy to carry negativity – be careful not to let it burn you out.
3) Donors want to be heard. Whether it is a compliment, a complaint or a story, people want to feel heard. It is our job as fundraisers to understand that donors are giving to our organization because of a connection. When they take the time to call you – hear them. They are telling you what you can do to retain them long term.
4) Donors do not call unless they care. They do not want to leave your organization – they just want you to make it right. These crisis calls are an opportunity to learn more about these individuals and their motivation for giving.
5) Tell me about a time when… Remember you are always learning and growing in your role. These crisis calls may be difficult but it is important to think of them as an opportunity to improve your skills and gather material for the next interview!
With so much talk emphasis on being donor-centric and taking donors through their journey, we need to remember there may be some wrong turns or road blocks. Ensuring that everyone in your organization understands how to deal with dissatisfied donors without taking it to heart will lead to a healthier organization and a healthier donor base. Retention is the new acquisition.
And keep in mind – you are not alone. We have all been through a crisis – it is part of what forms a great fundraiser. Relationship management means working with donors when they are happy and when they are not.
Laura Champion is Donor Relations Coordinator at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. She has a thirst for fundraising knowledge and is always open to discussion. You can find her on twitter @charitablelaura.
Jessica Lewis, Fundraising Innovation Consultant, hjc
November is here, the leaves have changed colours and the air is crisp and cool. Most people are starting to think about the holiday season and shopping. Not fundraisers, many of us have been thinking of the year-end holiday season for the past few months. As a fundraising consultant at hjc, my office is in full swing helping our clients launch their holiday campaigns.
If you haven’t started planning yet, don’t fret! Here are 5 tips to help you get started:
Determine your goals for this year. Start by looking at last year’s results. Was your holiday campaign a success? What worked well and what didn’t? Establish benchmarks this year, so you can measure your results and improve year over year.
Develop your creative concept. What is the main focus of your campaign? Create your key messaging and calls to action. Don’t forget to make it personal and leverage stories, imagery and video content to illustrate the mission of your organization.
Leverage symbolic giving. Symbolic giving is an easy and interactive way for people to support you, give gifts and send cards to their loved ones during the holidays. Do you have an existing symbolic gift program? There are multiple ways that you can transition your traditional giving program to online, either with a simple campaign landing page and custom donation form or a more robust e-commerce microsite like The Redwood’s Safe Haven Store.
Integrate your campaign across channels. What is your DM team planning? How can you integrate your offline and online holiday program? Make sure you have consistent messaging across your end of year DM letter, email appeals and social media communications.
Promote your campaign online. Invest in online advertising. Have you thought about Google AdWords, Facebook Ads or blogger outreach? Leverage your Google Grant, but also invest in paid ads as the holiday season is a competitive time of year for popular key words.
The best thing about symbolic giving is that it’s the gift that keeps on giving! You can change up the design and messaging and use the catalogue all year-round. For more helpful tips on symbolic giving and how to launch a new program online check out my session with Wendy Bray from The Redwood at Congress called “Small Shop Success: Traditional Gift Giving Program Transitions to Online Symbolic Gift Store.”
Jessica Lewis is a Fundraising Innovation Consultant at hjc, a global consulting agency in the nonprofit sector. She helps her clients us web technologies to market, fundraise, advocate and build brand awareness. Jessica will be presenting at Congress 2014 and you can follow her on Twitter @jessklewis.
Digital Fundraising Consultant, b.bold
1. Not having clear, prioritized goals
If you ask around your organization why you have a website – the answers may be embarrassing. A lot of the time it’ll be “just cuz”.
The first step in any successful strategy is to set goals. Web strategies are no exception. How does your webpage tie in with your organizations overall goals? Define 3-4 objectives in prioritized order, with measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).
The objectives should be decided by high level management to give you mandate to operate. Business objectives can be different; raising money, improving retention, providing a service to the public, raising knowledge of a certain problem etc.
2. Not knowing your users needs
It is really hard to attract users to your page if you don’t know what they want from you.
Invest in research to find out. From extensive surveys, to talking to a few users or potential users – anything is better than nothing. The more complex your webpage, the more research you must do.
Once you know what the users want, you know why they come. Focus your energy on the pages where business goals and users needs overlap. Make sure these are updated, prioritized and have clear ways forward to other actions you’d like them to take (like donating).
3. Violating best practice in donation forms
Since digital income is still a small part of our total income, we tend to forget about all the money we’re losing out on by not paying proper attention to usability and interaction design. The other day, I went to make a donation to a big international charity, only to find a non mobile-friendly page
that asked far too much information, and eventually crashed. No money for them.
Forms should be mobile friendly, ask as little information as you can get away with (need-to-know basis only!), field lengths adapted to the information that go in them, fields that belong together grouped (like name-fields, address-fields and electronic addresses), remove buttons that hurt more than help, clearly labelled buttons – just to mention a few.
Have an interaction designer look your forms over.
4. Presenting your donors with the paradox of choice
We want everyone to engage in our cause, no matter their level of commitment/income. So we heap on with ways to support us. Make a donation! Recurring donor! Become a member! Like us on Facebook! Post to instagram! Join the newsletter! Run a marathon!… you get the picture.
It’s nice that we want to allow anyone to support us. But then we’re not telling anyone what we need them to do. Your donors are confused. They want to help, but don’t what you need help with. Studies have shown that when presented with too many options, we don’t make a choice at all.
Have one preferred action prominent as the «normal» thing to do. Then by all means present all other ways to support, below. People who don’t want the default action will look for the others. People who just want to support you, will know what to do. Win-win-win.
5. Relying on your “Donate Now!” button
We write compelling impact stories, showing how we make a difference in the world. And then at the end of them – nothing. We expect people to go look for the donate now-button to give if they are so inclined.
What’s the number one rule of fundraising? Ask! Attention is on the content. Making the donate now-button bigger is just like making web banners flashier. They still won’t work. Studies show that we don’t see them. It’s not that we ignore them – if it looks like advertising, we don’t see it at all.
So ask in the content. “Would you like to make a donation to help us do more work like this?” Not only are you asking – you are also not averting peoples attention by having them start thinking logically to find how to give. Giving is an emotional decision – not a rational one. Making people think loses you the gift.
Even better than a text link, is including the donation form itself. Then you can keep people in the same emotional context as when they decided to give.
6. Not testing
The only way to know what works is to test. Think another default amount will give you higher donations? Test it. Think a different wording in your ask will be more effective? Test it! Think people are not finding things on your page? Test it.
There are many ways to do user testing, from looking at web statistics, to lab research with eye-tracking. Somewhere in the middle sits my favorite – guerrilla-testing. Grab a mobile device, go to the nearest shopping centre and ask people to do the tasks you’ve set up, from donating to finding information. You’ll learn lots from observing users trying out your product.
7. Not following up on your objectives and KPI’s
Once you’ve set your goals – how will you know if you’re reaching them if you’re not following up? Be sure to follow up on the right statistics, and making adjustments where you need to, to reach your goals.
If you avoid these 7 deadly sins, I see a bright web future for you! Come to my Congress session in November to learn more about all of the above.
Beate is a well-known international public speaker, who runs digital fundraising consultancy b.bold. She has more than five years of digital fundraising expertise, most of which is from the Norwegian Cancer Society, where she among other things doubled the digital fundraising return. Her special interests are user experience, landing page and donation form design, content strategy and using social media for donor stewardship. Beate will be presenting at Congress 2014 in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter @BeateSorum
Amy Eisenstein, MPA, ACFRE
Consultant, Tri Point Fundraising
Are you as happy as you could be at work? Do you have good work habits? Think of how much more you could accomplish (and raise) if you adopt a few proven strategies to not only to survive, but to thrive at your organization.
Two Key Strategies
There are two strategies that will help you lead a happier life AND excel at raising major gifts. Two birds with one stone.
- Think Happy Thoughts
- Build Better Habits
.Happiness, Habits, and Major Gift Fundraising, one of my sessions at Congress, covers these key strategies.
1. Think Happy Thoughts
It has been well documented that meaningful work, happiness, and productivity are all interconnected. In other words — if you’re doing meaningful work you’ll be happier, and if you’re happier you’ll be more productive. But as you know — perhaps even from your current job — sometimes even the most meaningful work can be stressful, tedious, and discouraging.
The good news for us is that a study called the Happiness at Work Survey showed that people who work in caregiving or direct service are 75% more likely to be happy. That includes a lot of people in the nonprofit sector. Of course, as fundraisers, we’re not always on the front lines, but we’re pretty close. So how can we change to make ourselves as happy as the people on the front lines?
- It starts with positive thinking
I am a true believer in the power of positive thinking. If you think you can, you can. I assure you, this is not a case of “wishful thinking” — there’s actually science behind it. So, what if when we’re asking for a major gift, we expect the best, instead of assuming the worst? How might you act differently if you expected the very best?
- Happier people are more generous
Another reason to “Think Happy Thoughts” is that happy people give more to charity. That’s pretty important information for you to have as a fundraiser. Harvard Business School produced a working paper called Feeling Good About Giving, which showed: “Happier people give more and giving makes people happier.” Incredible! The more you give, the happier you are, and the happier you are, the more you give. How awesome is that? And doesn’t it make sense that happy people would want to be around other happy people? So if you’re happy, it’s more likely that your donors will want to be around you. That’s pretty important for major gift fundraising.
2. Build Better Habits
According to current research, in order to break an old habit and create a new one, you need to find a reward to help you feel happy about whatever you’re trying to create as your new habit.
- Make a habit of meeting with donors
One of the bad habits many development directors have is working from their desks, instead of being out, meeting with donors. How can you have relationships with your donors from behind your desk? You may feel stuck at your desk and overwhelmed with work. But being stuck at your desk is only a habit or work pattern — and it can be broken. Once your make getting out and meeting with donors on a regular basis a top priority — that will become your habit. It’s not easy, but the long-term payoff is huge.
- Properly train your board members
Another bad habit your organization may have is recruiting and training board members without any expectation of fundraising. It’s something I run into all the time. It makes me sad when board members haven’t been recruited properly or trained, and then are expected to raise funds. So if one of your organization’s bad habits is recruiting board members without the expectation of fundraising, or not providing your board members with ongoing fundraising training, I strongly encourage you to replace your bad habits. Change the culture of your board and organization by starting to recruit and train your board members properly. Download this board member expectation form from my website.
- Reinforcing your good habits
As I mentioned, in order to eliminate bad habits and reinforce good habits you need to reward yourself. So, after you get out and meet with your donors or recruit a new board member with a good understanding of their roles and responsibilities, what can you do to reward yourself and reinforce the new habit? It doesn’t have to be big: It can be a walk around the block, listening to your favorite song or even dancing around the office. Of course, we’ll go into much more depth at Congress, so I hope to see you there.
You’ll find more super-useful tips for becoming a better fundraiser and building a better board in my complementary eBooks – Simple Things You’re NOT Doing to Raise More Money and 6 Essential Secrets for Board Retreats that Work.
Best wishes for your fundraising success!
Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is a respected author, speaker, and fundraising consultant, as well as the owner of Tri Point Fundraising, a full-service nonprofit consulting firm. Her specialty is simplifying the fundraising process for her followers and clients. She will be presenting at Congress 2014 in Toronto.
Philip King, Founder, The Donation Funnel Project
You’ve probably heard about the new Apple watch, but don’t plan to buy one soon. Unless you’re super geeky, and if so please see me after one of my presentations at this year’s Congress!
But I’ll bet you’ve upgraded your smartphone in the past 18 months.
Did it hit your radar that Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion earlier this year? Wonder why a social networking company would pay so much for a messaging app that is popular in Africa and India? The world is changing, particularly from a marketing and communications perspective, and it is becoming harder to get anyone’s attention, including donors.
Let’s consider your new smartphone: I’ll bet you spend more time on it than you did on your old one. In fact, I’ll bet you read your email pretty easily now on that small screen. You may even spend more time on Facebook than you did when Facebook was a desktop/laptop-only experience for you. And with recent upgrades to the cellular data speeds you spend more time using your mobile browser to visit websites, often linked from your email or Facebook.
If you’re having this experience, it’s not hard to imagine that your donors are too. Of course you’ll have all sorts of demographic tribes in your donor base: young/old, male/female, rich/not-so-rich. And these tribes will all behave in slightly different ways. But one thing is for sure: they’re all going mobile!
I’ll jump straight to the punchline: take out your smartphone. Go to your charity’s website. Make a $5 donation.
How did that feel? For most of you not so great. Still using only your smartphone try registering for that run/walk next month, or buying tickets to the gala dinner. You get the point. Our websites haven’t kept up with our donors’ handheld technology. Even websites that are “responsive” can be clumsy to use and result in “bounce” or an “abandoned visit”: two of the most dreaded terms for online fundraisers.
Now fast forward to the not-too-distant future and imagine when donors start reading their email, checking Facebook and visiting websites on their watch… Last year we could comfort ourselves and say “that’s OK, most of our donors visit our website or Facebook page on their laptops or desktops.” But for many fundraisers this changed in 2014. The mobile tipping point has already passed, or will happen sometime in the next 12 months. Try this: get your team to estimate which month your “tipping point” will occur for your organization: the month at which most of your website audience will view you through a mobile device.
If you’re interested in topics like this I hope you’ll join me for one of my sessions at Congress, and we’ll discuss questions such as:
- How much lower are average smartphone donations compared to laptops and tablets?
- Who is doing a great job with mobile communications, and what does that look like?
- What opportunities will mobile give us to find new donors and new dollars?
Philip King is the founder of The Donation Funnel Project: an experiment in online and mobile fundraising. Prior to that he has a long and successful track record as a digital fundraiser as the President and CEO of Artez Interactive, VP of Mobile for Cornerstone, and VP of E-Business at the United Way of Greater Toronto. He has worked with some of the world’s leading fundraising teams including Comic Relief in the UK, Leukaemia Foundation in Australia, UNICEF and SickKids Foundation in Canada, and the Humane Society of the United States. Philip will be presenting at Congress 2014 and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilipKingIV
Siobhan Aspinall, CFRE
Senior Manager, Major Gifts, Junior Achievement of British Columbia
At Congress this year, I’m going to talk about involving non-fundraising staff in donor stewardship. You’d be crazy not to! So let’s think about who to take on that next donor visit and how to make them successful.
In the past, I was guilty of defaulting to the chiefs. I’d automatically bring along a board member, maybe even the chair or my CEO.
But if donor stewardship is about showing people the impact of their gift, then why not go straight to the source and bring along a person who actually delivers your programs? They might not be as polished as the CEO, but I bet they’ll be more interesting – mainly because they are so much closer to the work.
Don’t get me wrong – I know this approach can backfire. There’s maybe a very good reason that we don’t often invite the programs team along for sensitive visits as you can’t possibly prep them for every question or comment that might come up. However, I think it’s worthwhile to try. Start with these tips to set up your colleague for success on a donor visit:
- Book your program colleague for an informal briefing a couple
of days before the donor meeting.
- Tell them about the donor – how much they’ve given, what their interests are, and above all, what kind of personality they have.
- Emphasize more than once that the visit is informal and that we’re not going to ask for money.
- Do a bit of a role play. The fundraiser should start, as she has the relationship. Then let the donor talk, then cue up the program person.
- Have a signal for your colleague to let them know when they’ve said enough on a given topic. Let them know this is
necessary because it is SO important to let the donor talk too. (I had a system with one scientist where I’d put my pen down on the table. He stopped so abruptly the first time we did it, it was like someone had punched him in the neck. We improved over time!)
- Figure out a “leave.” What’s the follow up we will offer when we close the meeting? An advance look at a pending report? A promise to send along an event invitation? Make sure it’s never just “goodbye.”
- Write a thank you for your program colleague to send from her email address (with you cc’ed) encouraging the donor to get in touch directly with any questions or comments. This creates a nice value add where you’re giving your best supporters exclusive access to the change-makers of the organization.
And don’t forget to tell your colleagues why this is so important. At the end of it all, we are looking to secure more funds for their work!
Siobhan has been fundraising for over 15 years for organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society, the David Suzuki Foundation and United Way. She is currently the Senior Manager of Development at Junior Achievement working primarily in grant-writing and major gifts. She teaches fundraising courses at BCIT, consults, and is a board member for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She holds a BA in from UBC and an Associate Certificate in Fundraising Management from BCIT. She writes for her fundraising blog at siobhanaspinall.com and surfs in Tofino. Siobhan will be presenting at Congress 2014 in Toronto.