Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Micro Campaigns

As I start the process for planning next fiscal year's solicitation calendar, I am working to identify ways to integrate multi-channel efforts as consistent and easily functional portions of our program.  What is slowly coming to the fore is that we need to run a series of micro campaigns, covering the year from June to May like the scales of a fish, overlapping slightly all along.

Each micro campaign is comprised of a mailing, an electronic communication and a phone program effort.  In many shops personal visits can be used to replace one of the efforts or to add onto it, I currently do not have the flexibility to make that work in mine.  Each of these pieces offers the ability to make a gift and they are tied together visually and textually.

Each piece has multiple options, the mailing can be a postcard or a letter, a self mailer or an invitation.  It just needs to contain a call to action and a way to reply.  The electronic communication can be an email or a text message and it may be accompanied by a social media post,ad, a tweet or other indirect communication.  The phone program call is targeted and connected to the audience and is distinguished by a lead message and a closure message - "this is why we are trying to reach you" at the front end and "sorry we missed you but still need your support" at the back end and both ask for an online gift to a landing page or site dedicated to the micro campaign.

Each major and minor appeal contains these elements creating the "scales of the fish" and increasing the opportunities to give via the most preferable method while also increasing the chances that your message gets time with constituents eyeballs, maybe even more than once.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Story telling not reporting

I review letters every week, some from direct reports on my staff, some from other offices and departments looking for feedback or opinion.  One of the most consistent trends I see is letters that read like excerpts from the New York Times.  They provide the facts, figures and case for support but do so in a manner that reflects Joe Friday's "Just the facts."

This works great for meeting a one page letter length goal and gets the job done.  It does not however motivate or move constituents who are not already on board with you.  To do that requires a completely different approach - one based upon story telling not reporting.

The story can be the same but how it is worded and told makes all the difference.  It is hard to tell a first person story effectively - you need a narrator and that can be a fellow alum, student, administrator, parent, really anyone who the audience is likely to identify with.  Just as importantly, that person needs to be a donor - can be a first time donor, a long time donor, a leadership donor or a low level donor but they need to be demonstrating the behavior that you wish for the recipient to emulate.

By using a narrator, you can "brag" about the accomplishments of the subject without creating a negative impression.  This tale needs to be told in a similar fashion to that of a story in People magazine - provide details about the people and their impacts, not about the dollars and the results.  Make a big deal out of the people impacts, who benefited and what that led to.  This works in mail, email and even in phone and personal contacts.  Make the donor identify with the beneficiary and feel they can have the same impact as the narrator - that motivates folks to give even if your cause is not on the top of their list - yet.

Friday, January 18, 2013

record review

Every January I find myself looking at the same reports and data from summer and fall efforts and thinking the same thoughts - how come I have all of these records that gave in the last couple of years whom I can not reach.  Some are relocation based, some we still have parent addresses for, others never had a phone number or email address, limiting our contact.  In the modern communication methods, and I am seeing this more and more, all we really have is the parent address and phone number and the younger (may be 30, so no longer young) alum following us on social media and giving through text to give so we don't even know they are a donor.

My approach is to start off going old school - print out all of the information that you have for the prospect on a trifold self mailer and send it to them with a request for updates.  If you know that it is going to the parent address, or at least to the same address they used as a student, then add a note to the mailing explaining why it is important that we have updated information on the alum and asking that it either be returned with mailing information or forwarded along.  That typically returns 25-35%.

Follow up with an intensive research process, we use alumni finder and for address location and phone number look ups.  If we are unable to find either, or only able to find an address, we send the data out for a cell number append.  Once we get the cell back we call and text it asking for an update.  This does irritate a small number of folks but we are prepared to manage that and feel that the long term benefits outweigh the short term issue.  It has yet to have a negative impact on giving overall and many of those who were upset initially, have given in the interim so clearly it passed as a concern.

This is the time of year to do this work - giving tends to be slower and you can gather a great deal of this in time to use on a fiscal year end push, adding some "new" prospects in as you push and prod the population toward the end of your year.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Now What?

If like me, you have a fiscal year that operates in the shadow of the academic year and have just spent the last 2 months building up to a calendar year end ask, you may now be finding yourself dead in the water in terms of momentum.  With charitable giving flattening out (lots of theories on why, I believe that it is a result of lower dollar donors continuing to give but to an ever larger number of causes and higher donors becoming less willing/able to continue to drive growth after a half decade of doing so) it is becoming harder and harder to get that momentum started again.

I advocate 3 segments to focus on now; long lapsed and non donors, Parents, and donors who give at this time of year (define as you wish.)

Be aware that constituents who have not supported you have no tax or fiscal year focus, makes them a good audience now.  They may well be philanthropically active so have just given to other causes, that said, they are likely to tell you such, especially on the phone.  Make sure you get that recorded in a way you can pull it and come October, appeal to them again based upon that knowledge - you don't know where they give, but you do know when so put together some focus groups, get a strong effective message created and get it in front of them before they make their calendar year end giving decisions.

Parents are sending their child back to you - in most cases kind of grateful they are leaving again - that first break home from college is usually a rough transition.  That said, a message regarding career services or maybe the library can often support conversations that they had with their own child over the break and that can create a good combination of messaging for getting additional support.

Donors who give at this time, at any time, is always one of my favorite audiences.  While we call what we do annual giving, it is really annual asking and there is often a reason that folks make gifts when they do, especially if they have done so multiple years at the same time.  If they do so ever year, in a similar window, look at the vehicle and give them multiple opportunities to take that action ie: phone program donors should get a call from a student and then if that does not produce the correct result, have a staff or volunteer call them.