Friday, May 25, 2012

Back to basics: online integration with media

I spent part of the night last night watching the second half of the Heat/Pacers game. I am a casual basketball fan but my wife was watching a tivoed episode of Giuliana and Bill and I saw the "live coverage" of the game on the MSNBC home page so wandered down to our second TV in the basement and turned it on. There are a couple of interesting things in that to me - that my adding my eyeballs to that game's viewers was driven by the web, I was passingly aware that they were playing but it did not occur to me to watch the game until I saw that news item and that I did so in a time frame that was not driven by the game. How does that apply to fundraising? The major aspect of it for me is the media coverage. We all spend a lot of time working to get targeted messages to specific constituents based upon identified interest points. Yet not one aspect of that applied here in my daily life. The message was not targeted to me at all, the venue was generic at best and the coverage was not pushing me to take any action other than follow the game online. Now you can certainly add that my lack of interest in reality docu-drama had a major impact on my decision but that happens every day in every household in some fashion. So are there ways for you to get your information out there for folks who are interested in you to find? There certainly are. You have your basic press release - something that you are most likely less than confident about but your media relations office most likely knows more than a little about. Build that relationship. They may be open to it, they may view you negatively at first but Starbucks can be your friend - take them for a cup of coffee or in the summer to Coldstone Creamery as it has magic properties as well! Either way, get in front of them and ask them to work with you. Build this into your plan and ensure that you not only get coverage for the big things you do (donor receptions with major speakers or in a smaller town campus events that the paper may not know about are good starting points.) Find your alumni in the press and go directly to them asking them to help. Start with faculty relationships with reporters (they have them, trust me) and donors and ask them if they will help you develop stories directly. I would caution that you need to make a decision regarding the impact of this step on the first one - how do you involve your media relations office in this? If they are working closely with you that is an easy and needed step, if not, it may be the leverage you need to get them on board with you as well. There are many ways to get readership of blogs, twitter accounts and social media in order to increase this type of exposure as well, all of which can work to increase your exposure. Make sure that you strongly and clearly include a case for support in your materials and provide landing pages on your own site that support these efforts and make clear and concise asks with easy links to giving pages so that you can convert those who are interested into your donors.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Year over year

As each of our fiscal years come to a close, we all have a number of decisions to make - goal setting for next year, campaigns to schedule, programs to fund, maybe even staff to hire or additional dollars to allocate. It has been my experience that mail, phone and personal visits are typically best planned and implemented from campus, using campus resources and personnel. Online programs on the other hand can be, and maybe need to be more mixed at this point. Social media based campaigns are in keeping with that campus approach - assuming that the expertise and time is available on campus to keep up with and execute the work needed. Email based campaigns at very least need to utilize the services of an ESP (email service provider) to ensure delivery and the needed tracking to follow up on/with constituents based upon their actions. Anything more complex than those, most likely needs to be outsourced. While campus resources may be available and may even be able to provide the needed efforts in the near term, the ability to keep up with the changing nature of the technology is rarely dependable. As we expect to see this area continue to grow, we need to invest in it the same as we do the other aspects of fundraising. Consider putting aside additional resources now to grow that next year. Investment today will not only lead to continued growth in this arena but will allow you to develop the internal and external relationships that we depend upon to grow tomorrow as well.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quick tips: Asks and funds

My fiscal year ends at the end of May so while many of you may have another month and a half or so to go, I am in the home stretch for this year and have things for next year well under way. One of things that I find to be a huge help is to start every year off with some back end work with our database folks. I find that I can save a great deal of time and increase the consistency of our programs by taking the time to create a series of formulas based upon consistency and recency of giving that encourages participation at the lower ends of the gift pyramid, growth of giving for the most loyal donors and increased support from those at the top of the gift pyramid. I test this year over year and use this time to look at what worked - percentages of renewal, increase and growth and then project out those aspects over the areas that did not have the same success. I take a simpler approach on the funds. My primary goal is to standardize the format and names of the funds that each donor last gave to. This usually entails a large portion of the funds that you use all the time and a portion of the funds that you either never use, have closed or have renamed, along with some typos and other errors. By standardizing each of these fields for every record in the database (well almost every one - I do exclude deceased) I ensure that whether lost, committed, Board member or do not solicit status exists now, if those folks are turned over to me, found or otherwise made solicitable, I am ready to go with them. This saves a huge portion of the work on each individual appeal and ensures that I ask for the same thing and amount in every solicitation, through every effort, tool or program throughout the entire fiscal year.