Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wanted: Your E-Opinions

Let me first apologize for my prolonged absence from MainSpringBoard. It has been a busy September at MainSpring and like the saying goes here - time sure does fly when you're on the road! As we turn the corner from planning to executing on year-end e-appeals, I'd like to take a minute to ask some questions of our readers to get your opinions on e-campaigns - after all we fundraisers do share information. So take a look at these questions and tell us what you think. We've developed quite a following for this blog - perhaps it's the brilliant commentary or that Scott just has a lot of friends - in either case, other fundraisers reading this will benefit from your answers. So comment away!

  1. Is email the best communication tool for online engagement? How does generational data impact that opinion?
  2. How many electronic solicitations do you send a year?
  3. Do you prefer html or Flash solicitations? Or a combination?
    If a combination - what's your ratio of email to Flash?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Alumni Relations Communications

For so much of what we do in the online world we tend to focus on the fundraising aspect of the communications. I would like to suggest that inclusion in a linked, comprehensive campaign of pieces and communications that are strictly Alumni centric rather than part of an engagement effort driven by the annual giving program is a critical portion of creating the online community that we are all seeking to aquire.

As someone who has programmatic responsibility for both areas, I am a huge believer in tying them together and combining the communications into an "institutional stream" rather than trying to build up two distinct individual branches on the same tree. I do this in the phone and mail programs through integration of event information and invitations into the phone calls (every record loaded in the phone program has the unique set of events that individual will be invited to over the next 3 months loaded with it) and in the mail program through what we have come to call solicitivations - invitations that include a clear, direct ask and a reply slip for making a gift.

Online, we should begin to take that same approach - use of microsites that provide engagement with the institution but just as importantly with other alumni can play a huge role in providing the connections that help to build and sustain a successful alumni program. The use of email and crossing the platforms into social networking as a way to get folks to pay attention allows for communications to reach folks who are already engaged with you. Just as important though is inclusion of these efforts in print materials - provide links and stories in the magazine, include buckslips in your mailings pushing folks toward these communication channels.

At the end of the day, our alumni are becoming increasingly savvy to our efforts to engage and drive them into making a gift. The best and most effective way to work with that is to coordinate our programs and tools such that we are providing them with a single stream of communication that contains multiple opportunities and options for engagement at many levels and in many ways. Please keep in mind that for most of us, the stated goal of the advancement shop is to provide and maximize the resources available to our students from external audiences, doing so does not always mean cash in the door.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leadership Annual Giving communications

So you have your plan for the year - you know what you are sending, who you are sending it to and when it will go out - if you are where we really should be (and this is a do as I say, not as I do item right now) you should have at least a three year plan with goals and expectations and some form of outline on how you expect to meet those objectives.

Within that, I would expect that you have established a process for your mailings, phone solicitations and electronic fundraising efforts. Some of us are lucky enough to have internal assets in place to handle these, some of us are lucky enough to have an established vendor who provides the services that are needed and many of us need to establish who we are going to use on a case by case basis.

No matter the process, in online pieces and process I am a big believer in consistency. Create a look, feel and style that you really like and use a single production process for the entire year. If you are planning to use video, audio or other media files (and you really should be) line up the pieces, people and assets that you need to make that happen and get more recorded than you think you need. Then record a whole bunch more!

The title of this post is Leadership Annual Giving communications so if you have gotten this far, I am sure that you are asking how that ties in. I am putting the final touches on a webinar on leadership annual giving at the end of the month and as I work on that and think about this, it occurs to me that we tend to leave our leadership annual donors out in the "cold" from an online fundraising standpoint. I have seen a couple of pieces aimed in that direction but they have tended to be the same piece that was sent to other audiences with a higher ask and maybe a couple of minor edits to the imagery to make them look "classier."

I would suggest that we need to rethink that entire process. I have several ideas - v-flash, video thank you messages from students who benefited from your support, virtual campus tours, customized HTML - segment your donors by area of support and create segments that are merged into the message based on designation, custom messages from volunteers, messages from deans or other campus leaders, integration with the news feeds - get your leadership donors information at the same time that the press gets it - when they read it in the paper the next day they will feel a part of the inner circle.

What do you all do? What is working for you - it can be associated with stewardship, solicitation, informational, or other communications.