Thursday, October 28, 2010

The mail effect

Working on your online fundraising plan? Did you include the direct mail solicitation in the appeals? What direct mail solicitation you ask?

Think about it. What is your response rate to e-appeals? With only a tiny number of exceptions, it is less than 1%. What is your response rate to direct mail appeals? I would expect for many of you it is over 2% (if it isn't call me - I am happy to provide you with some consulting services to get you upwards of 2% for the year.) Thus, we have a gap.

So what to do about it? The best part of online fundraising is the feedback that you are able to gather about interests. There is a common phenomena in online fundraising regarding clicks - no matter how clear the link or how good the giving form, a substantial number of folks click links to giving forms but don't convert into donors. Thus, we have a gap.

You have the ability to produce small, targeted direct mail appeals going to folks who provide indications that they are interested in particular aspects by clicking, opening or reading information centered on particular areas of your institution. These may be measurable in tens or hundreds and you need to work to avoid the "big brother" appearance that will freak out donors so careful planning is appropriate. The best part of this is that you can plan for this set of appeals as a follow up to every electronic appeal or even communication that you send so it is quick, easy and cheap - most of us can do it from our office or at very least through school resources rather than an outsourced vendor.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

social sharing

We have all done it. We all like to do it. What is it? "liking" something via a social media outlet. Are you "liked"? I am sure that your family and friends do. But that isn't really the important answer to the question. Do folks consistently like your social media comments?

Popularity of your statements matters - SocialTwist recently published a study results demonstrating the common sense result that folks are more likely to click on links supported by peers "likes" than not. Realizing that this seems like an obvious statement, I will take it the next step - how do you create content that is "likable"?

1. Keep your audience in mind - we all have many folks who clicked the fan link but how many of them and who among them consistently pay attention to you? Know who those folks are and be sure to aim your messages at them.

2. Keep it simple. Social media is immediate, now and gone. A short simple statement supported by links or opportunities to learn more is going to go further and last longer than a doctoral dissertation will - if your writers are academically centered, use some students as a filter - if they won't read it, neither will a good part of the audience - see #1.

3. Make it fun. Even better if you can get some humor included but at least keep it light, fun and enjoyable. With rare exceptions folks don't want to hear about your troubles. People achieving success is far more fun and entertaining to read about.

4. Ask them to like it. It seems self evident, but we tend to shy away from asking folks to do this. Your donors will happily share your content but you may need to give them a little push to start doing so - it matters to you and increases your reach - tell them, thank them and remind them and they will step up and spread your message.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dr. Doofenshmirtz

Sitting in my living room tonight watching Phineas and Ferb - with my 6 year old son (not sure which of us came up with the idea first as I love that show) and it occurred to me that we all need a bit more Dr. Doofenshmirtz in the stories that we tell about our institutions. Technically Dr. Doofenshmirtz is the antagonist of the show - running a company named Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated (with a very catchy jingle) but what he adds to the story is what makes the show unique. Without his line of plot manipulations (he is evil and trying to take over the world - albeit with a fog machine in the current episode) this cartoon would be essentially the same as every other cartoon on the air for elementary aged children. Granted the show has really good writing (don't take my word for it - Disney channel at 7 est every night) and incorporates much adult humor and double meanings to punch lines but it is the addition of the completely out of the box character of Dr. Doofenshmirtz that makes it pop.

What is your Dr. Doofenshmirtz? Who on your campus can you use to help demonstrate what makes your institution unique? Keep in mind that the average college graduate has at least 3 different institutions seeking their support not to mention the countless other not-for-profits seeking their investment. Find something and someone that helps to tell your story and play that out throughout the year. This can (and needs to be) woven through the general themes of support and case for support but by carrying a character through the institutional story, you help to bring the institution to life and produce more of the feeling of the "face to face" than you otherwise get from letter text.

Let me know if you have a great Dr. Doofenshmirtz that I can feature next week or are stuck for a character and we can talk through who you could use to help provide a road map for others - hope to hear from you!