Sunday, August 25, 2013

Keep your friends close

Most of us are lucky enough to have a strong group of good donors, be it folks who have given at the leadership level for years, consecutive donors who have given at some level every year for decades or those folks who had not given for a long time and then had a realization that they should be supporting you.  These are the folks who give even when the appeal is not great, is late or otherwise misses the mark because they understand, value the work that you do and give because they believe in your mission.  

We all tend to take these folks for granted for many obvious reasons.  We shouldn't.  Ask them to do more, in the process not only pulling a segment of them closer to you but showing all of them that you value them and recognize their dedication.  This is a win-win-win strategy and can be executed relatively simply.  Begin by identifying the pool of donors whom you wish to engage in this fashion.  No right or wrong here, just a need to select a segment that you can provide appropriate outreach to and support of.  Once you have done so - create a simple thank you letter that asks them to volunteer by reaching out to 10 other alumni of their choice.  Outside of other folks within their segment, any constituent will fit.  Donor already? Have them ask for an upgrade, Never given? Ask for a participation gift.  Potential major gift prospect? Use the call to get in the door.  Assigned prospect?  Work with the gift officer to use this call as a move.  

The ask is a combination of a letter and a follow up phone call.  Don't lose sight of the goal here - to cultivate your most loyal donor pool so make sure you do what you say you will do and do it with the perspective of the donor.  This needs to be something that is both useful and fun and allows those donors to feel good about the efforts.  It may not make a huge inroad into any particular effort but won't require a huge investment of time or energy on your part either and it will make those who are already close to you even closer and that is always a worthwhile effort.

Friday, August 9, 2013

vining your video

For those of you not familiar with it, Vine is the video tool that Twitter launched last year.  It provides 6 seconds of video on a mobile device with sharing and following and reshared the same way that tweets are. The opportunities here are tremendous from an engagement standpoint - how to get it started is the challenge.

Our approach to getting this started is going to be based upon our study abroad program this fall.  We have traditionally done study abroad blogging, starting 5 years ago with a standard blog.  2 years ago we switched to a photo blog and that took off in terms of audience engagement and interest in the blog.  What I am implementing this year is to tie that photo blog into the launch of the vine blog.

One of the biggest challenges that we face in the course of generating money for the study abroad program is educating our constituents regarding the value of studying abroad.  The vast majority of them did not have that opportunity as students and seem to respond with something between ambivalence and questioning why we are sending students on a weeks to months long vacation on their dime as donors.  The photo blog has helped and hurt in that regard because while the students do a great job taking images and sharing them, it is hard to distinguish in an image between the tourist viewing landmarks and the student learning about those same landmarks.

Vine provides the capability to change that conversation drastically. By allowing the student to not only show where they are but to include a short video of what they are doing there, the student can show the class they are with, the faculty and guest speakers who are providing the education and some version of their own thoughts on the trip.  In addition, the ability to interact with them in the similar fashion to twitter means that folks can ask questions and we can encourage video conversations.  As any of us who work in higher ed fundraising find, the more chance our potential donors have to speak with our students, the better the results become and vining your videos certainly provides that opportunity.