About Don Akchin

Don Akchin brings to clients the benefits of more than 30 years’ experience in
communications and marketing, much of it on behalf of nonprofit organizations.

In the 1980s and early 1990s he ran an independent communications practice, serving a wide variety of corporate, nonprofit and governmental clients. Don has also been a prize-winning newspaper reporter and a magazine editor.

Don Akchin Strategic Communications is part of the Nonprofit Marketing 360 Coalition,
serving nonprofit organizations in Washington DC, Baltimore, and New York City.

Resource: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Workbook

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.

Communications: Uniquely You, and From the Heart

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.

Facebook To Nonprofits: Pay to Play

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.

Nonprofits to Facebook: Make Grants, Not Buttons

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.

Oy, Another Year. Who Knew?

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.

#LiveClass: Successful Fundraising with Imperfect Boards

Don-finalPlaying 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...]

#PRESSRELEASE: The Knowledge Fountain Launches Online Learning Website (Live Instructors) Aimed at Nonprofits

The Knowledge Fountain LogoThe 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.


Make Your Websites Friendly to Seniors (a.k.a. Donors)

Active retirement, senior woman and laptop computerThis will probably seem obvious: older people have a harder time using the Internet. This, too, may seem obvious: the people most likely to be major donors to nonprofits are older older people.

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

Rating Agencies Surrender and Pivot Into Campaign Against “The Overhead Myth”

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.

Building Your Email List May Backfire

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.

Love the Video, But What Does It Do For Us?

BC 251 - Video Production 2012

Photo credit: wcn247

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.

10 Tips for Mobile-Friendly Emails

This is the year, industry wizards predict, that more people will open emails on mobile devices than on desktops. Even if your email hasn’t evolved to mobile-friendly  “responsive design,”  you can still employ a few tricks to sharpen how your emails look on mobile phones and tablets. Among them: narrower margins, fewer words, bigger type. 

Are You Ready for Your Closeup?

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.”


Online Benchmark Study: Good News, Bad News

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).

Your First 90 Days in a Fundraising Job

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.