Thursday, March 31, 2011

fiscal year end targets part 2 - acquisition

So now that you have your loyal donors covered, how and what do we say to those folks who have not shown that loyalty to us as donors?

Step 1: Identify those who are connected. One of the biggest things that we can gain from the now completed transition to an electronic communication delivery system is the ability to quickly and easily identify who is interested. Through the vast majority of e-communication delivery systems, you now have the ability to identify at the very least, who is reading your communications. In many you can identify click through rates, and then track that prospect on into your web pages to identify areas and length of interest. Given any of this data, create a simple list of those folks whom you know have been engaging with you and prioritize if possible based upon clicks - the more interaction, the higher the value of the prospect.

Step 2: Create a case for support that either includes the fiscal year end as a meaningful component or ignore it altogether. In general, I lean toward the second - you care about your fiscal year, is there any reason that someone who is not a donor (or for that matter someone who is) would care about it?

Step 3: Share that case specifically with the folks who have levels of interaction and provide them with a direction - what do you want them to do, why, how and what impact will it have? You know that these folks have been interested in you and your message but that doesn't mean that they will all give. When folks do give, send them a personal thank you email from your own account. Recognize that they have stepped forward to help you.

Step 4: Go back to your loyals and ask them to help. Share the case for support and ask them to share it with their friends who have a connection. Maybe they don't pay attention to your messaging but they just might read and respond to it when it comes from their friend. If you want to get really ambitious you can create a contest for the loyals to see who can have the biggest impact. Take a page out of little league, make it an annual contest and provide a trophy to the winning person with a new name added every year at reunion - fun, cheap and motivating!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Northeast Annual Giving Conference 2011

I think we can say that the Northeast Annual Giving Conference that took place last week at Marist College was a success from our perspective, and I am sure the attendees would agree. We kicked off the conference by hosting a cocktail reception the night before. The turnout was so great I am sure we exceeded capacity for the space we were in! Everyone seemed to enjoy mingling and talking with folks from different schools. I know we did! It was certainly a fun, relaxing evening before a busy day.

Bob Burdenski started the day as the keynote speaker with his talk on “Making Room In Our Annual Giving Thinking” leaving us all thinking about how much Annual Giving has and is changing. Throughout the day the conference speakers covered a range of topics from Annual Giving Strategies to Social Media to Young Alumni Fundraising. It was a day packed with valuable takeaways and some time for sponsors (like us!) to showcase some of our work in fundraising to the conference attendees. Thanks to all who came by our booth to learn more about MainSpring. We enjoyed meeting and talking with all of you.

The conference chair this year was Jeanine Thompson. She and the entire committee proved to be extremely helpful and accommodating. Thank you from MainSpring for letting us be a part of the conference. We are looking forward to NEAGC 2012, and we hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

fiscal year end targets part 1 - loyals

Most of us are either in or about to enter the final quarter of the 2010-11 fiscal year. For those of you luck enough to be on a calendar year for your fiscal year "Huzzah" for you! The rest of us are just going to have to settle for creating a sense of urgency in our donors to match that of our own.

The good news is that employment continues to get better, the bad news is that it needs to get better. We each have a list of donors who give every year no matter what - pull that list up and review it, who are you still missing? Do they typically give at the end of the fiscal year? Those are easy. Who is missing from the list of donors well after they usually give? Even the best programs have a short list of folks who drop off every year from their very most much loyal donors (yes I did say that) but you can really limit the damage done by reaching out to them now. Split the list into those who missed the 2010 calendar year and those who just have not given in the 2011 fiscal year.

Folks who missed 2010 altogether but had given for 5 or more years consecutively prior, pick up the phone and call. There is a reason for the lapse - if you don't know what it is, find out. Fix it if you can. If you can't be compassionate and help connect them to whomever or whatever you can to address the situation. Follow up a month later with a personal email checking in on them (this is soft shoe work - no hard ask) and ensuring that everything you can do has been done. Follow this if appropriate to their situation with a handwritten appeal a couple of weeks before the end of the fiscal year soliciting their participation at an individually appropriate level while making a basic case for why this will matter.

Folks who gave last year but missed this year include in a simple email campaign - reach out and ask why they lapsed, give them your name and number and ensure your phone is answered either by you or a support staff person for the week or so after this goes out - listen to them and respond as best you can. Follow up with a similar fiscal year end effort as above. Simple steps, taken from grandma with a modern twist that will cut your donor loss from this population dramatically.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What not to do - lessons from the inbox

Short story today. Earlier this week it was announced that St. John's would be in the NCAA tournament for the first time since a vacated appearance in 2002-2003. This is a huge deal at the NYC school that has one of the oldest and richest round ball histories in intercollegiate athletics and has suffered through the worst decade in the schools 100 years of basketball since the 19 rolled to a 20.

The suggestion was made to the athletic development folks that an email should be sent to alumni asking them to support basketball at this time. They created an email that was simple and direct and then sent it from the annual giving account.

The results? 56,000 emails sent, 17 unsubscribes, 6 complaints, 57 clicks on the make a gift link - 2 gifts.

In case you missed that, I said 2 gifts. That works out to a response rate of 0.00357% - and yes that is % - already multiplied by 100. Incidentaly my complaint rate was 0.01% sounds great until you realize that it is 3 times the rate of response I am looking for.

What went wrong? The message is clear. Just off target. It needed to say thank you. Thank you for staying with us. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you to all of our donors over the last decade. Thank you to all of our donors over the next decade - is that you?

The men's team lost to an outstanding performance by a Gonzaga team last night that had more of everything than they did. Every fan of St. John's will tell you (maybe in a day or two) that the season exceeded expectations. If you told them in August that this is how the season would end, they would have been thrilled. Once the women's team looses, I will send out an email congratulating both teams on seasons that ended in the NCAAs. It will contain an ask, a case for support and a thank you. It will generate more than 2 donors. More importantly it will be inclusive of all and will keep in mind who it is going to not just what we want from it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Short post today - I have spent a good part of the last couple of days watching the various conference basketball tournaments. One theme runs through almost all of them - pride. For a small number of schools that pride will lead to a national championship every few years. For the vast majority of schools, and there are 350 or so Division I Men's basketball teams that pride is associate with making the NCAA tournament. For most of those schools, be they winners of the Patriot, Horizon, WAC, Mountain West or one of the many other smaller conferences, there is a huge opportunity and value associated with that TV time created by the tournament.

That pride doesn't lead directly to gifts - but it does lead to interest. It likely is the difference between the next mailing hitting the circular file unopened and landing in the basket of mail to be checked this weekend with the bills. So how do you leverage that pride? Social media ads would be one easy, quick and cheap way to do so, as is email or a voice broadcast message. Make sure that your constituents are aware of the success - and pair it with a message that connects back to your mission. Make sure everyone knows when your team will be on national or regional tv and in that message, let them know that your team completed 1,000 hours of community service in the off season working with the elderly or that your coach has created a scholarship for disadvantaged youth who are academically qualified. Whatever your mission message is tie it into the story of the team.

Their pride has their attention, your mission will get their money.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NEAGC 2011 next week!

MainSpring is headed to the Northeast Annual Giving Conference next week at Marist College. This is our third year as a sponsor for this conference – it’s a great one-day conference with informative sessions, knowledgeable speakers, and plenty of opportunities to network with colleagues in Annual Giving. Lindsay (our director of sales) and I will be attending from MainSpring. We’ll be talking with attendees and sitting in on the sessions; we’re even hosting a cocktail reception the night before! Should be a great time all-around. Stay tuned for our takeaways and maybe a few photos. To learn more about the NEAGC conference, go to:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

jobs equal gifts?

You may have seen some of the headlines from earlier today regarding the job outlook - in short for the first time since 2008, there are substantially fewer people looking for work and the general feedback from industry is that the orange is juiced - productivity capacity has been reached so the next step to increase revenue is to hire additional employees.

As most of us who work in Annual Giving know, jobs = income = confidence = disposable income = gifts. While I think that competition for dollars means that we will continue to see slides in participation, I do see that same formula continuing and overall giving at the bottom and middle of the gift pyramid picking up.

The opportunity that I see right now goes back to the career services sector. For the last couple of years many of us have been leaning on career services to provide us with "go to" people when we speak with folks who are out of work. The opportunity now is to get in front of the job opportunities with a proactive career services push.

I called the Associate Director of Career services that I work with today and asked her for some case studies - provide me with some stories to tell about folks getting jobs by working with them. Internally, I have been able to sell it as additional exposure and possible funding, externally, I am putting together a campaign of e-stories that will positively highlite what the university is doing and demonstrate what we might do for other unemployed or underemployed alumni. The key is to be relevant now. If jobs are going to be available, I want and need to be a resource. Helping someone find a job today provides real, current relevant value. That leads to gifts.

How cool would a microsite shared between Career Services and Annual Giving be - something that provides consistent updates on the stories and impact that the university is having on folks and allows your biggest fans (thinking folks you connected to a job here) to promote you on social media to the rest of your alumni. Simple, direct and immediate. Jobs will equal gifts if you make them.