Friday, March 30, 2012

Washing (and drying) your data

It comes up on a pretty regular basis in my experience, be it from the phone program asking why we only have phone numbers for 60% of our constituents, from the VP asking how come he can't find a number on that hot new prospect he just has to talk with today, the gift processing team asking about the address updates from the phone program last night or the direct mail folks asking when NCOA was last run on the data. IT is data quality and hygiene.

We are hopefully all familiar with NCOA and the updates that provides to our mailing data and in the same fashion, we should be treating our e-data at least as, if not more carefully with an opt in process and clear compliant opt-outs as well as utilizing strategies and approaches that properly maintain the reputation of the servers that you are sending through.

Just as important however, is making sure that your constituents and donors understand what and why you need what you need. St. John's is saving almost $300,000 this year by changing all of our forms to authenticate digital transactions on the address + zip level rather than just zip as we have been doing for the past decade.
That requires asking for that information on each and every transaction. So long as you are asking for that, include email and primary phone (allows them to supply a home or cell #) along with spouse information on every interaction. Whenever possible (and it nearly always is) also collect business information - title, employer and email (you can get phone given those!.)

"Drying" your data through social media can be a huge boon as well - LinkedIn and Facebook alone can provide a ton of updates through contests, games and job posting offerings at little to no cost directly through the social media tool. This is not only getting you good data directly from the source but building affinity while doing it!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Inviting your donors to give

The vast majority of fundraising programs have had and I hope are having, success in asking folks who attend events associated with the organization to give. Typically this is done through a thank you effort and it may include a personalized note or letter from a volunteer leader.

Some places are finding success in asking folks to give prior to the event. This is the process that I follow as it has worked far better for my purposes and I call them "solicitivations." These appeals center on the event details and a reason for giving that is directly connected to why the event exists. A good recent example is St. Patrick's Day. St. John's participates as a "marcher" in the NYC St. Patrick's Day parade and we have a brunch gathering prior to the march in the city. That gathering draws around 200 attendees, many of whom are already donors by March. The invitation goes out to around 12,000 alumni who live in the area who fit criteria determined by the alumni office for invitation. We provided a case for support tied to an alum who was clearly of Irish descent who also received a scholarship named for an Irish donor and we asked for general scholarship support.

Total responses were in excess of the total number of attendees at the event and dollars raised exceeded cost of the invitation.

Our new challenge is working to do the same via electronic means. I am looking at creating not just landing pages as we currently do for each event but adding microsites for those events with strong built in participation already. Creating opportunities for folks to engage with the signer, with students and with one another prior to the event actually happening and do it with a fundraising background clearly involved. The first of these that we are looking to do is our Annual Summer concert in July - I will post links and responses to this thread as they become live.

Friday, March 16, 2012

spring is in the air

On the east coast we have been treated to a really warm winter and March has felt more like May than March thus far. The job and stock markets also seem to be heating up early this year and that is nothing but good news for those of us in the fundraising world.

For many of us, the question becomes how to maximize results from remaining resources and I maintain that this is the time of year when it is all about targeting your efforts to audiences that are most likely to respond. Looking to raise scholarship? Talk to your current year donors who gave to another area. Looking to raise brick and mortar? Talk to your past unrestricted donors with a solid example of what their dollars would do. Looking to participation? Identify who is providing you with job updates and approach them with an ask based upon value of degree.

The smell of spring is in the air (or at least around the corner) and planning out the last quarter of the year should be long since complete but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be looking at your goals, your resources and you successes and making sure that your plan still fits, you play to your strengths and that your audiences are targeted by interest and need.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Much like my absence from this blog for the past month, I find that in all things, this is true. Ask anyone who runs a phone program day in and night out and they can tell you with great detail how often and well letting a list rest does good things for the productivity of that list.

In that same vein, leaving your donors alone for portions of the year is a good thing, in fact maybe necessary. Bear in mind that I don't mean abandon them, just give them a break from you as a solicitor.

Keep in mind that simply because you are "resting" them, doesn't mean the institution is. In an ideal world you are aware of everything going out to them and even if you don't control it have the ability to influence messaging. In reality, if you are lucky, you are aware of 90% or so of the messaging. The other 10% comes from all sorts of places but at the heart of it, is institutional material and as such, looks to your donors an awful lot like you!

So what should we say to them? "Thank you" is the most obvious and as grandma always said, never comes off badly. "What can we do for you" may be a close second assuming that your not already asking them that through 10 other offices (admissions, institutional research, alumni relations and career services to name a few of the likely ones.) How about "how are you doing" or maybe "tell us about you today."

Social media can do this very cheaply but does have the downside of being obvious if your inquiry falls on deaf ears. Email is also a good value provided you temper your expectations based upon who actually reads your messages. Calls from the office can go over well to mid level donors who often don't get pursued too strongly on a personal level and new donors often like that approach as well too. A simple hand signed and PS'd letter also draws positive feedback and you or a student can do those easily enough.

No matter which way you choose to go, a short break in the middle of the year can lead to additional results down the line while also setting aside a little extra budget for that year.