Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best of 2010?

It's that time of year when we reflect on what we've done and resolve to do things a little differently... a little bit better. If I've learned anything from my previous new year's resolutions, it is that working in a team makes it much easier to keep the resolution. Also, as tempting as it may be to make your list a mile long (at least that's tempting for me!), in order to really make a change we should probably focus on one or two professional and personal goals. I can't help much with the latter except to wish you good luck, but I can help with the former. If more effective fundraising is a goal of yours like it is mine, then let's try to work on that together. I think we have a lot that we can learn from one another, and so I'd like to compose a "best of 2010" list.

Let me start by sharing one of our "best" appeals from 2010. We developed an interactive micro-site for Spelman College's Founder's Day challenge. Spelman secured 3,612 donors in the 23 days that the micro-site was live for the challenge. And as you might guess, it was the combination of an integrated solicitation strategy using mail, phone, email, Twitter, and Facebook AND the interactive micro-site to serve as the "campaign headquarters" that facilitated Spelman's success. To read more about this campaign, go to my post from April.

So let me ask you - what was your best appeal from 2010 and why was it the best? Submit a comment to this post, and let's help one another start 2011 with renewed energy and enthusiasm. (Scott... maybe you can go first? :)

Best wishes to all of you for a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

5 things you can still do to help ring in a happy 2011

#5 - Make sure your giving site is up and working. Check for broken links, errors on pages, talk to the gift preprocessing team and make sure that they are getting and seeing everything that they need to. Make a small gift and check all of your post gift communications - serves two purposes, helps make sure that everything is in order now and allows you to see how your gift processing and receipting processes are working in this very busy season - maybe a need to make a change or two before 12/31/11.

#4 - Ensure that everyone who has their name and number out there for all to see puts up a message letting donors know what to do and who to call if they want to make a gift up to 11:59 PM on the 31st - odds are nobody is going to use it but the perception is great and chances are that if someone does call, they are not going to be looking to make a $10 gift.

#3 - Send a simple text based email from you personally (use a tool to send it) to anyone with a pledge thanking them for the commitment and reminding them that the calendar (and tax) year ends Friday night. Make it friendly, casual and sound like a service.

#2 - Voice broadcast messages. Try it - simple, short and direct. Ask that donors remember you in the next couple of days and thank them for helping you achieve a great 2010.

#1 - 33% of all online gifts will be made in the next 48 hours. Make sure that you ask donors to send some of that in your direction via all electronic channels - have an alum post something on social networking sites - odds are good your constituents are wishing each other a happy new year and will see your message.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

under the snow, the flowers grow

You may not yet be done with the end of calendar year solicitations - as per my last post, I am officially not - my final ask of 2010 will be delivered between 8 and 10 am on the 31st to 6,000 or so alumni who have strong history of support without a 2010 gift (note that I am focussed on the donor centric calendar year, not my fiscal year construct.)

But that being said, it is completed, scheduled to send (along with an email tomorrow am with a more christmas centric giving message) and as of the middle of this afternoon, we are all on break until January 3.

While I am not at work, I am thinking about what I planned in our office retreat last February for us to do this spring. My own personal assignment to me over the next week and a half is to analyze what worked (I have access to reports and the Email Service Provider that we utilize from home) and so I will spend a couple of hours looking at what worked and what didn't work. I will make some changes to what we have planned based upon those results.

In executive summary format, what is working for me is simplicity - text based emails, messages from people rather than accounts and multi-platform messaging. The plan includes more and stronger reporting on where people are coming to the giving form from along with some smaller more targeted campaigns for specific funds. I will be working with on and off campus "signers" to center more around text messages from people rather than accounts to take advantage of what has been effective to date.

By taking advantage of this time to step back from the every day for a few days, I can plant those bulbs that will blossom into flowers as the spring unfolds. Fiscal year end is right around the corner - make sure that you are prepared.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

calendar year end donor behavior

Recently the Network for Good released The Online Giving Study: A Call to Reinvent Donor Relationships it covers a wide variety of online giving behavior and interactions, essentially pointing out that people give to people. The greater the level of the "personality" of the organization exhibited online, the greater the chance and size of the donation.

Of more relevance to the current time of year, 33% of online giving is processed in December with just over 20% within the 48 hours of the 30th and 31st. Donors who give online typically provide a larger gift and are typically more comfortable with recurring gifts - ultimately leading to a larger lifetime contribution.

The end of the year is a great time to encourage that type of gift for all of next year - "make a commitment today that will help us for all of 2011."

Message timing is perhaps the most crucial component - create a "year end" version of the homepage (or your portion of the website if that is not possible) for the last couple of weeks of the year. This focuses on giving and placing your best case forward - emphasize to the folks who visit you online that giving at this time of year is crucial to your success and as someone who values you, they matter.

Create a countdown effort - provide a goal, a measure of the progress to it and a clear expectation that your donors are going to make a difference for you. Utilize social networks, identify a series of supporters who can do grassroots work to support your cause and encourage them to encourage others.

Time your emails to be effective - early in the morning/at the start of the workday. Get it in on top of the rush of the day but avoid being bucketed with the overnight spam. This is especially important on the 31st - get your message in early in the day - remember that over 10% of online gifts will be made that day - keeping your needs and cause on the top of the list keeps it on top of mind and the money flowing through your page.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Postal Tracking Intelligent Mail Barcodes

One of the more interesting features of the current offering from the USPS is the ability to track deliver dates on mail. If you are like me, you currently do so by seeding yourself and your staff in the mailing and then "know" that folks got the mail because you got yours. While that does give you a pretty good idea of the general arrival of the piece and may allow you to send follow up communications shortly after the arrival of the mail, you are aiming at a middle of the road delivery date and are assuming that the mail arrived.

That is going to change by May of 2011 as the implementation of this new feature becomes the standard for the USPS. This provides a new service to fundraisers, you know that the message was delivered and when it arrived on a single address level. Thus, if I send out mail to 10,000 people all over the country, I know that they won't all arrive on the same day but with this tracking capability, I know what day they are delivered to each and every one of the 10,000 addresses.

Ok, now what? I can now really target my communications to follow up on the mail message. I can set triggered emails to go out based upon the arrival of that mail - that day, the next day, a week later - whatever time frame fits your program.

Have a phone program doing precall pieces - how great would it be to be able to time it so that your call arrives a preset number of days after the mail is delivered?

Want to increase the number of pieces that are opened? Try an email that provides a WIFM (what's in it for me) based upon an action taken from the mailing. ie the email arrives the same day as the mailing and requests that they go to the that is contained in the letter and enter the code word from the email in order to be entered into a drawing for an organizationally branded ipad.

Have cell numbers and a text outreach tool? How about being able to text your supporters and tell them to look out for a letter from you today - on the day that letter is going to arrive!

No matter what the cross market combination, this new option will quietly herald an additional set of options for marketing that can change how we utilize direct mail.