Monday, August 30, 2010

fundraising season (somewhere between summer and fall)

So fundraising season has started. Not here in NY state where kids start school somewhere around thanksgiving but in most of the country children are either back to school or going back this week.

To me that is the bell ringing on the start of educational fundraising season. Shortly children will be bringing home those absurd bags containing "fundraising" sales items - short for load of junk that you need to convince your family and neighbors without children of their own that they really need to buy from your child to support schools on top of what they pay in taxes. I may be a bit jaded here as I would sooooo rather that my child come home with a pledge card and a reason for me to give or ask others to do so. In any case - it is the start of fundraising season!

I think that we all recognize that we make hay in the fall. How are you incorporating your online giving and more importantly online asks into that process? Recently, I have talked about tying the phone program to online support and online support to the phone program. Are you doing the same with direct mail? Lead a piece with an email or follow it up with a second or supporting ask? Do you know what works best for you? If not here is my suggestion:

Split the file for your fall appeal with email in two. For half the file send a lead email providing a simple, direct informational message with an ask. Think elevator conversation - you find yourself in the elevator with a donor and they ask you about the school, what do you say, and how do you make the ask before the doors open and the donor gets off. For the other half of the file modify the message slightly to reinforce the letter. Track results from each. Which did better? Which letter did better? Which campaign did better?

Have you done this yet? if so what worked best for you? For me it has depended upon whom the letter is from. If from a volunteer, pre email works better, when from a Dean or the President the post email works better. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

phoning in online gifts

Is your phone program promoting and supporting your online giving? Most likely the answer is yes - if like most folks you end the call with a credit card ask I strongly suggest use of an online giving option for folks who are not comfortable providing a credit card either to a random caller, to a student or on the phone no matter who called. At least a portion of these folks who are nervous about supplying a credit card can be convinced to make an online gift - establish a phone program site on the annual giving portion of your main web site. Provide "commiters" with pictures of your callers, a link directly to a pledge payment page and a clear and direct confirmation number to reach in order to confirm that the call did originate with you.

Push out emails at the end of the calling shift confirming commitments providing a link to the payment page and to the caller site with merged fields providing the details of the call signed by the caller. That alone will increase the connections between the alum and the caller and result in additional payments plus some very interesting follow up comments from the alum to the caller - especially if the callers are students.

That is all great when the contact starts with a call. What if the contact starts with an email? Unlike precall letters where we we have to assume they are read, with emails we can know - create two different scripts, one for those who opened the email, one for those who did not and update the calling software daily as part of the caller assignment process. This allows you to identify who has read information and can have a follow up "what questions do you have" and who either didn't see it or chose to ignore it and needs a bit more information. As a more advanced version, this email can provide multiple links based upon past giving and you can use that to help identify and focus conversations within the opens scripts. Those who opened the email and clicked a link can have an ask that is based upon that link as the first ask and then based upon either their last gift or area of giving as a second.

This is just a quick overview of how you can target and focus your efforts on the both sides of a phone program utilizing online communications.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

promises, promises

I know that I promised last time that I would follow up with a post about the use of a pig and social media to engage current students and I will do so in the very near future but I was sidetracked with an interesting presentation today. In the interest of fairness, I will call today's presenting company Vision but that is not their actual name.

The heart of the presentation was centered around appeals based in where the constituents are - getting something in front of them that they have the opportunity to use where, when and how they are most interested. Consider someone who uses facebook, an iphone and a laptop. Do you have any tools that would interact with them in each environment, placing giving opportunities in front of them that match their activity on their terms?

While Vision was providing a great deal of this interactivity, they are by no means the only option that could do that, it was just a very eye opening set of options - think of an application that sits on a smart phone, is integrated to a database that shares information with a version of the same app that connects to facebook while also providing the opportunity for a traditional web login. It is fun, interactive and plays/functions much like a game application on a mobile device, while providing options to collect sports team scores and information to keep it current and valuable.

The key to this working is making it valuable to the user - provide them with usable content that is tied to you but doesn't need to be based upon you - what do they actually want and how do you provide that connection? By providing that connection, you retain the right to possess that small piece of important space on the phone, facebook and bookmark that makes you relevant and meaningful every day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Social Seniors

When you saw my title, did you assume that I meant seniors as in senior class gift? That post will be up shortly as we are clearly entering "that" time of year to begin the annual conversation about what a senior gift is, what it should support and how you go about soliciting it.

At this time, I want to talk about the other seniors - folks who graduated into the school of life more than 60 years ago. We all assume that social media are primarily for the young but the numbers clearly show otherwise with last year's third and fourth most visited pages on the web for folks 65+ being facebook and youtube (read the complete article supporting this point at mashable: )

Take a look at your presence on those sites through those eyes - are you providing content that would be of interest? For the vast majority of schools that I looked at (including my own) the answer is a definitive no. Yet for most of us in the fundraising world, this group remains the bread and butter of our donor base. As the fastest growing age group - looking at you boomers - this is something that it is in our best interest to address, but how?

I suggest creating a simple ad on facebook soliciting that information and then target it through the ads tool to your alumni in that age group - link it to a page that provides a unique experience and survey for them, including asking for them to serve as a volunteer base for building this further. Simple, cheap and engaging, social media is not just for the young, but for the young at heart.