Peer-to-peer fundraising, the technique that has fueled thousands of successful walk-a-thons, has expanded with social media tools. Idealware and Cathexis Partners have created Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Workbook, to help nonprofits plan what can be a complex event. The workbook is available as a free download.
I recently came across this post by Andrew Simonet, the founder of Artist U, which offers simple but incredibly sound advice about how to communicate with your friends and supporters. I recommend it highly.
If you thought Facebook was a no-cost way to reach out to potential supporters, brace yourself for a big disappointment. According to a Facebook sales presentation published by Ad Age, an organization that wants its posts to be seen by its fans had best buy advertising. Julia Campbell, blogger and social media marketing consultant, commented that Facebook marketers have been telling clients “that if you consistently post great photos, videos, questions and other interactive content, you can reach your fans. This is no longer enough.”
Bottom line: Posts that are not sponsored or promoted are currently seen by less than 15% of your followers. Facebook’s new policy will drive that down further.
Meanwhile, the philanthropic side of Facebook’s brain offered nonprofits something new last month: the opportunity to place a “Donate” button on their Facebook pages, and a guarantee that nonprofits would receive 100% of these donations.
But after the initial reaction of jubilant hosannahs and waving palm fronds, nonprofit marketing experts took a harder look at the offer and found some issues. As Beth’s Blog sums them up, nonprofits would not get any information on the donors, making further followup and engagement impossible. In light of the pay-to-play policy, the marketing mavens say what nonprofits really need is not buttons but grants to offset advertising expenses (along the lines of Google grantsl).
Now it’s your move: Several nonprofit marketing bloggers, led by Media Cause, have organized a petition drive urging Facebook to establish a grants program. It certainly can’t hurt to let Facebook know how the nonprofit sector feels.
Yes, it’s another year. When 2013 began last January, who could have anticipated that, a mere 12 months later, we would be doing this all over again? Not the news media, apparently, judging from the gusher of year-end reviews and new-year predictions filling our eyes and ears.
Can you stand one more? After thoroughly digesting the most important trends of our times, I confidently predict these developments in 2014:
- 12 new studies will reveal that Facebook is useful for engaging supporters but lousy at raising money.
- 11 newly launched social media sites will be greeted euphorically as definitely the next big thing.
- 10 newly social media sites, after their enthusiastic debuts, will be bought out by Facebook or Google.
- 9 governmental investigations will determine that Americans willingly share personal information with corporations but are shocked! shocked! that details of their private lives can be recorded by the NSA.
- 8 blogs will observe that direct mail response is declining.
- 7 blogs will observe that email direct response rates are declining even faster.
- 6 research reports will discover that a majority of executive directors don’t trust their development directors and vice versa.
- 5 golden rings!
- etc. etc.
Playing to Their Strengths
Visit The Knowledge Fountain website to find out about our latest course offering online: “Successful Fundraising with Imperfect Boards”, presented LIVE by Paul Jolly, of Jump Start Growth. Here’s a brief overview:
Ask a development director to complete the sentence “My board is –” and 9 out of 10 automatically respond, ” – not engaged enough in fundraising.” Every nonprofit wishes it had a board populated by socialites and corporate heavyweights, who write big checks and enlist their wealthy friends as donors. Sadly, no one has that board. But you can leverage the talents and strengths of the board you do have to make them effective and successful partners in fundraising. [Read more…]
The latest entry in the rapidly-evolving distance learning education market is a new online education service geared exclusively to people who work for nonprofit organizations. The Knowledge Fountain, which launched October 1, 2013, is offering a spectrum of courses online covering fundraising, communications, organizational development, social media, and productivity software.
The site pitches its product as “just in time” online learning for adults. “We’re delivering very practical information to employees of nonprofits who need it to do their jobs better,” explains co-founder Marco Kathuria.
Online seminars are delivered live, in installments of 60 to 75 minutes. The courses will also be available as archived video streams for students who register but miss the live class. “This way, if a situation comes up and you can’t attend the class on schedule, you still get the information,” Kathuria says.
Both Kathuria and co-founder Don Akchin have consulting practices serving nonprofit clients – Kathuria principally in video production and community media, and Akchin in communications strategy and implementation. The Knowledge Fountain, they say, fills a largely unmet need for a centralized online learning center in the nonprofit community.
“If you’re a nonprofit that needs help reaching your audience on Facebook, for example,“ Akchin says, “you once had three choices: classes aimed at for-profit businesses, a free webinar that attracts hundreds of attendees and stays very high level, or a semester-long college course that devotes about a week to social media. We’re filling the gap with solid information, specific to your need and specific to the world of nonprofits.”
Kathuria noted that The Knowledge Fountain faculty are both experienced practitioners and proven teachers. All online course designs are built on current research and best practices in online learning. “We’re only hiring instructors who have a proven track-record of working with small groups of students, either face-to-face or online,” he said “We’re maximizing personal interaction online,” says Akchin. “Classes are small, so there’s ample opportunity to ask questions.”
Another unique feature of The Knowledge Fountain is a private social network, “The Water Cooler,” whose members are limited to participants in The Knowledge Fountain classes. “Not only can you learn from the online course,” says Kathuria, “but you can learn from peers long after the class has ended. I think people in nonprofits will see that as an important added value.” Membership in the social network is included with class registration.
For more information about The Knowledge Fountain online learning center, visit the website at www.kfountain.com or email the co-founders. The Knowledge Fountain can also be found on YouTube and on Twitter at @TheKFountain.
But if both facts were that obvious, you would think people who know the side upon which their bread is buttered would work a little harder to make their websites easier for their primary beneficiaries to use. In Web Usability for Senior Citizens, Jakob Nielsen, the grand guru of computer usability studies, says websites are getting better, but not fast enough – especially with the humongous Baby Boom generation reaching Social Security Age at the rate of 10,000 per day.
Nielsen says too many website designers fail to consider the physical deficits of aging, particularly in vision, physical dexterity, and memory. His study includes scores of specific design recommendations. Blogger Joanne Fritz offers a short summary of the major findings.
Photo Credit: © sima – Fotolia.com
In a move that had absolutely nothing to do with Dan Pallotta’s viral video lambasting the demonizing of nonprofit overhead expenses, three major organizations that rate nonprofits released an open letter to donors “to correct a misconception about what matters when deciding which charity to support.” Guidestar, Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance asserted that overhead percentage is a poor measure of nonprofit performance; better gauges to consider are “transparency, governance, leadership and results.”
Guidestar, clearly showing the influence of wise public relations counsel, has gone a step further by taking lemons and making lemon meringue pie. It launched The Overhead Myth – an “initiative to improve donor choice” – a website complete with academic research to back up the notion that overhead alone does not define nonprofit character. (Pallotta’s TED talk is also linked on the resources page.)
So that’s settled. Spending on overhead is not evil. Now tell your donors and your board the good news.
The conventional wisdom on email lists is that bigger is better, but it ain’t necessarily so. According to people who are paid to know these things, it’s better to have a smaller list that is more receptive to your emails. Blame it on spam. The big email services like Gmail and Yahoo! are now identifying spammers, in large part, based on what percentage of their emails get opened. So if you send email to thousands of boxes and your messages get deleted without being opened, your reputation as a sender suffers – and you just might find yourself in very unsavory company.
Into Focus, the first-ever benchmark study of how nonprofits use video, was released in June by video producer See 3, the Edelman public relations firm, and the YouTube Nonprofits Program. Bottom line:
- 80% of nonprofit respondents think video is important to their organization today
- 91% believe it will be even more important tomorrow.
- But nearly two-thirds expect no budget increases for video production
- and 76% don’t measure the impact of video, except anecdotally.
Budget and metrics are closely related. It’s hard to justify more money for a project when you can’t prove whether it works. And you can’t prove whether it works if you haven’t set goals to measure against. Fortunately, the study shows how to work through this conundrum with excellent case studies and suggestions.
With video accounting for more than half of all Internet content, and YouTube viewers watching 4 billion hours every month, it’s hard to argue that video is not an essential communications tool.
Some people – elected officials immediately come to mind – experience a magnetic attraction to television cameras. More of us want to run the opposite direction. But when fate points its fickle finger and says it’s your turn under the bright lights, it helps to be prepared. You can’t do much better than this advice-packed two-minute video, “The Esquire Guy’s Guide to Media Interviews.”
Blackbaud’s annual Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits finds median online revenue is up 11.5% among the 500 organizations surveyed (all users of the company’s Luminate platform). The growth was driven by recurring and repeat donors; first-time gifts grew only 3%.
That was the good news. The bad news is that response rates on nonprofit appeals fell more than 18%. The average click rate on an online appeal is .7%.
“Declining response rates illustrate a saturated channel with undifferentiated messaging,” say the study authors. To lift your organization above that saturated channel, the authors suggest focusing on donor loyalty, personalized communications, and engagement. You can download a free copy of the report (or, if you prefer, a four-page synopsis with Blackbaud’s suggestions for how to respond).
When you start a new fundraising job – and in the fundraising profession, tbe question is not if but when – where should you focus in your first 90 days? On her blog, Mazarine Treyz, author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising, offers a practical blueprint for success that starts with a deep breath and also includes priority setting and key conversations with your boss.
Research studies in the United Kingdom suggest that the most effective nonprofit organizations spend more on administration than less effective counterparts. Says Caroline Fiennes, one of the authors of the study: “Assessing a charity by its admin spend is like assessing a teacher on how much chalk they use, or assessing a doctor on how many drugs they prescribe. They’re easy measures, but they don’t relate to performance.” The studies add fuel to the fire ignited by Dan Palotta’s viral video in March (See April’s “Trickle Down Lives On at Nonprofits”), which calls the emphasis on low overhead self-defeating and a barrier to building the capacity to solve major social problems.
Popular fundraising consultant and blogger Gail Perry has run down 10 trends affecting major donors and what you can do to stay abreast of them. A few highlights: they’re Baby Boomers, female, all over social media, and interested in making an impact.
Blogger Joanne Fritz gives voice to the question that is surely on the minds of every small nonprofit that lacks a 24-year-old social media whiz on staff. Her answer may not be comforting: social media is not going away. “We are at the same point we were some years ago when there was still considerable doubt about setting up websites,” she adds. Here are seven more reasons to be on Facebook.
Here is one brilliant example of audience targeting. To reach abused children, who may be accompanied by an adult who is also their abuser, a Spanish child advocacy nonprofit has created a billboard on the street with a secret message. Adults see a photograph of a cute boy. But children who are less than 4 feet 5 inches tall see a photograph of an abused child (above) and the telephone number of a help line.
This time it was Ben Carson, world-famous pediatric neurosurgeon, humanitarian and male role model who learned the impact of loose words in the wired world of news when he put homosexuality and bestiality in the same sentence. Last month it was two female journalists at CNN, speculating sympathetically about the terrible impact that a conviction for rape will have on the young men (without showing similar concern for the rape victim). In each case, words instantly triggered a hailstorm of public condemnation on social media.
The moral of both stories, says author and blogger Allyson Kapin, is people are not prepared for the crisis public relations challenges that can blow up instantly on social media.
A study by eBay has concluded that buying keywords in Google Search had negligible effect on its search rankings or its results. Most people find their way to websites through organic search, with or without advertising, according to the study. Google earned almost $37 billion in online advertising in 2011 in the U.S. alone.
The report did not speculate on the value of advertising for sites that are not household names such as eBay.
The annual eNonprofit Benchmarks Study from M+R Strategic Services and NTEN had good news and bad news. On the plus side, the survey of 55 national nonprofits found a 15% increase in email list size, online fundraising revenues were up 21%, and social media is reaching more supporters than ever (with Twitter followers up 264%). On the other hand, email response rates dropped, especially on fundraising appeals (-21%).
Why? The authors note that the response rate decline is a long-term trend, in part a reaction to nonprofits that keep sending email to unresponsive addresses. Then there’s Pale Shadow Syndrome, a theory I just concocted on the spot, which holds that successful innovators attract imitators who are but pale shadows of the originals, and audiences just get bored.
If you haven’t yet seen Dan Pallotta’s 18-minute TED talk, the viral video of the month with more than 1.2 million views, here’s your chance. Pallotta, who founded AIDS Ride and raised $581 million for AIDS and breast cancer research over nine years, argues that philanthropy is being undermined by our beliefs about it – in particular, the belief that low overhead is worthy of praise. He contends that overhead – including investments in fundraising and marketing capacity – is the only way to grow nonprofits large enough in scale to tackle society’s most intractable problems. What makes more sense, he asks: 94% of a small pie, or 60% of a pie 100 times larger?*
Palotta argues that in a capitalist economy, nonprofits are restricted from playing by the same rules as every other type of organization. While others feast, nonprofits compete against one another for the crumbs – for four decades, a consistent 2% of Gross National Product. Or, it seems to me, nonprofits may be the last Americans who act as though they still believe in the Trickle-Down Theory.
*For the math-impaired: 94% of $1 million = $940,000; 60% of $100 million=$60 million.
Roger Craver, whose blog isn’t called “The Agitator” for nothing, has laid out a provocative question to fundraisers: Are you making the same demographic mistake as the Republican Party? If, in fact, minorities (and particularly Hispanics) are increasing faster than whites, have nonprofits made the right moves to tap these potential donor pools?
Two key members of the Obama campaign’s online fundraising team recently offered surprising insights on what worked and what didn’t to their former colleagues at M+R Research Labs. Their bottom line: Keep testing, because what works one week might not the next. The campaign had the staffing, the technical chops and the money to try anything that would get fundraising results.
Here are highlights of what they discovered:
- The only segmentation that made a difference was on donor behavior. Action talks…etc.
- New approaches worked – until they didn’t.
- Even the experts couldn’t predict the approaches that performed best. Test and test again.
- Appeals that worked best also had the highest unsubscribe rates – but it was still worth it.
- Length of email didn’t make a difference, until the very end of the campaign when short messages did better.