Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    The Recession: Is It Getting Better for Nonprofits?

    While I still am cautious about what lies ahead for nonprofits (I am anxious this December won't bring the significant spike in giving that we have seen in years past) at least one report indicates the worst of the recession may be behind us.

    Between October 19 & November 3, 2010, representatives of 2,356 public charities and 163 private foundations took the group's online survey. The following is a modified excerpt from Guidestar's release.


    The results are encouraging:
    • The proportion of participants reporting decreased contributions dropped 14 percentage points, from 51 percent in October 2009 to 37 percent in October 2010.
    • The percentage who said contributions had increased grew 13 percentage points, from 23 percent in October 2009 to 36 percent in October 2010.
    • Larger organizations, those with annual expenses of $1 million or greater, were more likely to report increased contributions.
    • For the eighth consecutive year, a majority (68 percent) of participants reported increased demand for their organizations' services.
    • Half of the organizations represented in the survey receive the bulk of contributions during the last quarter of the year, the period known as the giving season. Of this number, 36 percent predict that contributions received during the fourth quarter of 2010 will exceed those from the last quarter of 2009, 43 percent expect end-of-year contributions to be about the same as last year, and 22 percent anticipate that end-of-year contributions will be lower.
    • Nearly half (47 percent) of participants expect their organizations' budgets to increase next year.

    The last bullet is the one I find most encouraging. While giving will have its cycles, the fact half of the participants are healthy enough to predict increased budgets is great news.

    What do you anticipate happening in the months and years ahead? Is the worst behind us?

    Image courtesy of Guidestar.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Best Practice: Thanksgiving Email Illustrating Impact

    As you might imagine, I get a number of Thanksgiving messages - email, social media, mail. I thought I would highlight one or two that best caught my attention, with a few insights. The first post was regarding an email I received from Earthjustice. The second post was about the EpicThanks campaign. This third post highlights a great email from Defenders of Wildlife that does an excellent job illustrating the impact the organization and, in turn, its donors had during the past year. Here is the email:

    A few notes on the email:
    • Great focus on impact, including links to five varied stories - at least one of which is likely to appeal to the recipient's passions.
    • The three images at the top make it more likely that the reader will connect with one of those animals, if not all three.
    • I appreciate the image of the organization's president, as it puts a personal face on the message and the organization.
    • The P.S. is a nice 'gift' to the recipient, but also engages the reader on an on-going basis, if they download the free wallpaper. There are actually 33 different wallpapers to choose from. Since I've always been a fan of otters - here's a look at my favorite:

    Kudos Defenders of Wildlife!

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Best Practice: Thanksgiving Campaign @EpicChange

    The @EpicChange campaign is well documented and often cited as an early example of putting Twitter to use for social change. If you've heard the term "Tweetsgiving" you have @EpicChange to thank.

    Here is how they describe themselves online:
    Epic Thanks is a global celebration that seeks to change the world through the power of gratitude. Founded in 2008, the original TweetsGiving celebration was imagined and implemented by six volunteers in six days, and quickly became the #1 trending topic on Twitter as thousands of grateful tweets from across the globe filled the stream.

    But the truth is TweetsGiving was never about twitter or social media. It's about the gratitude in our hearts, and the transformative power our thankfulness can have when we share it with one another. It's about cultivating a deep sense of for those remarkable souls who create hope in our world. That's why this year, TweetsGiving becomes Epic Thanks.

    Over the past two years, from the gratitude of thousands, this global event has built two classrooms and a library in Arusha, Tanzania, where the twitterkids, led by local changemaker Mama Lucy Kamptoni, learn and grow at one of the best primary schools in their country.

    This year, the celebration will spread to honor even more changemakers in other parts of the world. Stay tuned here to be the first to find out whose hopeful dreams we'll invest in this year.
    This year's campaign looks great and will hopefully celebrate similar success over the next few days. Here's a look at the campaign:

    Campaign email:
    It's engaging, acknowledges that I have participated in the past and immediately encourages me to get involved again. The only negative? For some reason, the one image doesn't load in any of the browsers I tried.

    The website:
    You can post to Twitter or Facebook and immediately show gratitude and promote the campaign. You can also personalize your own thank you card (see below).


    Thank you note generator:

    Best Practice: Thanksgiving Email

    As you might imagine, I get a number of Thanksgiving messages - email, social media, mail. I thought I would highlight one or two that best caught my attention, with a few insights. This first post is regarding the email I received from Earthjustice. It was simple, to the point and linked to an impressive video. Here's the email:

    My only complaint is that the
    unEARTHED component asking what I am thankful for is not more prominently featured. It looks like an afterthought at the end of the message... which could be interpreted as Earthjustice not caring what I think (NOTE: I don't think that's what they think).

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    How The Rules of Dating Apply to Your Donor Relationships, Part II

    It's no secret that there are parallels between wooing a donor and a date. So how well do the rules of dating apply to your donor relationships? Here's a two-part #ThroughNonProfitEyes look at TopDatingTips.com's dating rules. Part I was about the Do's of dating and Part II dives into the Don'ts (a few of which did not have good fundraising parallels and were, therefore, excluded):

    Part II: Dating Rules -- Don'ts

    1. Don't call, text message or email someone you've just started seeing more than once a day unless they reply (or in the event of an emergency).
    Just like a new love interest, a new donor should be treated as if they may disappear for someone better at any second. Smothering a new donor with too many appeals or emails can be a big turn-off, but so can no communication at all. Say thank you, illustrate impact, but don't ask too much too often.

    2. Don't date the kind of people who've hurt you in the past.
    Like in the "Do's" section, where I suggested using data models to find those most likely to support your organization, you can do the same to find those least likely to give. You can then remove them from your appeals, if you need a way to limit your costs.

    3. Don't be late for a date.
    A friend of mine once discussed having made gifts to her and her husband's three combined alma maters on the same day. One sent them a thank you note in less than a week, one in two weeks and one in six weeks. Don't be late with your stewardship efforts.

    4. Don't lie to your date or about any aspect of your life, even if the truth isn't as sexy or you're worried they won't like it.
    This should go without saying, but be honest and transparent in your communications. Imagine a donor giving to an annual fund and thinking that she is supporting student scholarships or food for a soup kitchen and later learning that the funds were actually going to fund a fancy board meeting - not the news your organization would be looking for.

    5. Don't be rude or get drunk on a date.
    If you do make a mistake in your constituent communications, own the error and be polite. Courtesy and manners will get you everywhere - on a date or with donors & prospects.

    6. Don't give out personal information like your home phone number or address on the first date.
    Okay, on this one I am actually going with the opposite - make sure your appeals, communication pieces... everything, has contact information for your organization available for the recipient.

    7. Don't have sex on a first date.
    I have worked with nonprofits that celebrate every gift. It is good & important to appreciate every gift. However, if you steward your $10 donors like they are $10M donors, you are going to create extremely high stewardship expectations or - worse - make the donor question your use of the charitable support. So... don't give everything you have in your stewardship toolbox away to donors right away.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    How The Rules of Dating Apply to Your Donor Relationships, Part I

    It's no secret that there are parallels between wooing a donor and a date. So how well do the rules of dating apply to your donor relationships? Here's a two-part #ThroughNonProfitEyes look at TopDatingTips.com's dating rules. Part I is about the Do's of dating and Part II dives into the Don'ts. Part II will be posted later this week.

    Part I: Dating Rules -- Do's

    1. Do try to always look your best and be punctual.
    Don't be sloppy with your appeals and engagement efforts. Make sure you are double- and triple-checking your copy. If you are in a decentralized environment, swallow your pride and do everything you can to break down the silos and coordinate the timing of mailings, emails and other communications. Nothing can turn off a prospect like overlapping, clearly poorly coordinated or timed appeals and messages.

    2. Do try to enjoy yourself on dates.
    For a lot of nonprofit practitioners, the work of soliciting donors and prospects becomes, well... work. This is okay and understandable, but it can often blind us to the positive work our organizations do - and the joy we should feel in helping move our organizations forward.

    3. Do compliment your date on how he or she looks.
    Yep... complimenting your donors can go a long way to renewing them - tell them how great they are and how much it impacted your organization that they gave their time and resources to your organization, before asking for another gift.

    4. Do be interested and interesting.
    From the original Dating rules: "Ask questions, share insights and pay attention when your date is telling you what they like to do, read, watch, listen to, etc." This is virtually dead-on for your donor relationships. You need to ask questions (focus groups & surveys), share insights (keep your prospects & donors informed) and pay attention to what you're being told (respond to requests, apply research findings to your messaging, timing and strategies).

    5. Do tell someone directly if you're not interested in seeing them again.
    Okay... I'm not exactly sure how to parallel this one, to be honest. I would advise you not to tell your non-donors you want nothing to do with them.

    6. Do date only people you're attracted to, no matter what your friends say.
    Low on resources? Use data-modeling to find the prospects most likely to give, a.k.a. most attractive to you.

    7. Do stay positive, even when dates don't end well.
    If prospects ask you to be removed from your lists or appeals... or they simply reject your appeals, take the high road. Respect requests to be removed from lists, follow-up to disgruntled prospects with sincerity, and make sure you have data processes in place to ensure donor requests for communication will be honored.

    8. Do plan ahead.
    Almost any appeal - email, phone, mail, face-to-face, events - will be less successful if you do not plan ahead. And in most cases, your audience will be able to tell your planning was lacking.

    9. Do be proactive about finding people to date.
    Make sure you are putting aside time to reconsider your approach to acquiring new donors. Ask your non-donors why they don't support you. Better yet, ask your previous donors who didn't renew why they failed to do so. Look at various parts of your program and think about unique sources of prospects you haven't considered before. (Ex: University of Texas soliciting Gone With The Wind fans)

    10. Do surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who are dating, too.
    One of the best resources you have available to you are peers across the globe who face similar challenges. Benchmarking and peer-networks can be critical to helping you brainstorm new ideas, escape the creative vacuum of your office, and have a resource to call when faced with a challenge. Don't have any current peer connections? Conferences, community meetings and social networking can help you take the first step. If you aren't sure where to start, let me know and I will do my best to introduce you to a handful of resources.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Get Your Whole Team To Say Thanks This Week

    There's going to be a lot of talk this week about saying and giving thanks this week. But rather than just talk about it... randomly assign 5, 10 or 15 donor names to all of your staff - all of your staff - and have them call these folks to say "thank you" or leave voicemail messages with a message of thanks.

    A few thoughts:
    • I mention that it should be all of your staff. It is easy for the "back room" staff that are a few degrees of separation away from face-to-face donor interaction forget that they are an important part of the fundraising team. If only your gift officers do the thanking, it will only entrench this mindset.
    • Pick some random donors that are from lower gift levels and different demographics (ex: younger donors) to thank. It will go a long way with those donors you call and those doing the calling to remember that it isn't just about the major gifts.
    • Resist the urge to turn this into an immediate ask - this should be about saying "thanks" and listening to anything else the donor cares to share.
    • It should go without saying, but make sure you have the donors' information in front of you when making the calls - you should know where the donors' respective gifts went and what impact you can report.
    Side note: If you're the boss of your organization or a team - make sure you take a minute to share a sincere thanks with your employees this week. Along those lines - thanks to all of you who work to make the nonprofit sector successful. You make the world a much better place.

    Are you an Idealist? Are you on Idealist? Do you follow @idealist?

    I imagine most of you are aware of Idealist.org, but I was fine-tuning some of my email alerts and was reminded just how many tools are available for anyone and everyone involved with philanthropy. Therefore, it's our #FollowOfTheWeek.

    You may fit a few of these categories, but here are the cliff-notes on what you can do on the site:

    Organizations: You need to make sure you are listed on the site and use it to recruit volunteers, find consultants, promote campaigns & events, and post job openings.

    Job Seeker: Check out the job listings, Idealist's guide to nonprofit careers, - also worth considering volunteering to get a foot in the door at potential employers.

    Gift Officer: Broaden your base by volunteering outside your circles, but in similar organizations to yours. Also, recruit volunteers and board members through the page.

    Consultant: Did you know you can list yourself in a searchable database? This allows "one-stop-shopping" for orgs to find you as their perfect match.

    Aspiring Student: Thinking about graduate school? Check out the Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center.

    Teacher: On the other side of the educational equation? Visit the resources for teachers.

    Everyone Else: Are you a practitioner who doesn't fall into any of these categories? You still can gain from the Idealist page - Visit the general resource page to learn more.


    Idealist on: Web / Twitter / Facebook / MySpace / LinkedIn

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    The Key Personality Traits of a Successful Fundraiser

    Adam Grant, Ph.D. is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School... and he's an all-around great guy with unmatched energy and passion for his work. (Note: I have not seen Adam in person since he became a father, so it is possible sleep-deprivation has robbed him of some of this energy, but I doubt it!) He has conducted extensive research on the motivational factors and personality traits that influence a fundraiser's success.

    A few years ago, I had the good fortune of working with Adam on such research as related to student callers employed by the University of Michigan's fundraising programs. Here were the two key questions of the research:

    1) Are there key personality traits we could seek when hiring student callers that would make their success more likely?

    2) Would hearing the story of scholarship recipients motivate student callers to make more calls or raise more funds?

    This post explores the findings behind question #1. So what traits initially come to mind for you when asked the question:

    Here's one common answer:

    Other common answers, when Adam and I have presented these findings, have included:

    - Agreeableness
    - Altruism
    - Conscientiousness
    - Emotional stability
    - Extraversion
    - Open-mindedness
    - Self-confidence
    - Self-esteem

    And you know what? None of these matter when examined individually. However, two of them matter when simultaneously present in a fundraiser:

    Conscientiousness + Extraversion = Improved Results

    In the first week on the job, look at the difference between the conscientious extraverts and the other callers:

    That's a significant difference, obviously. So have you considered applying personality trait tests to your hiring practices? It is a common practice in the for-profit world. For more on this research and its findings, see a full presentation on the topic here.

    UPDATE: Please note - I am not necessarily suggesting that these two traits are the best for all development positions, but rather that the science of personalities could be a successful tool for using in your organization's hiring practices.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Nonprofits: Using a Web Toolbar?

    The use of web toolbars like Wibiya's have become more popular lately (If viewing this page on a computer, you can see an example at the bottom of your screen). I have seen them on many blogs and various other pages. However, I have not yet seen many nonprofits using the idea to engage visitors. Have you? If so... share in the comments section.

    How could your nonprofit use a web toolbar to further your cause? Let's take a look at this toolbar from GoPSUSports.com:

    Note the following items (Click on the image if you need a larger version of the picture):

    1) Logo
    2) Schedule of events
    3) Buy Tickets
    4) Get Gear
    5) Social Media links

    Now let's consider what those applications could be for your nonprofit?:

    1) Logo: You could use your current logo, a campaign-specific logo, or - for the more daring organizations - the likeness of your leadership, beneficiaries or a prominent supporter. Example ideas:
    • Robert Redford or Bono at the bottom of the NRDC.org and One.org pages, respectively;
    • A local Habitat For Humanity's president, in her construction gear, on the home page;
    • A scholarship recipient on a university annual fund page; and,
    • Campaign lead-donor or honorary chair at the bottom of a capital campaign page.

    2) Schedule: What a great way to engage visitors and keep them involved with your organization - a scrolling schedule of events, which you can click upon for more information.

    3) Buy Tickets - Translation: "Make a Gift": What a great way to have a giving button on every page, prominently located in a you web toolbar.

    4) Get Gear - Translation: "Volunteer / Get Involved": You may sell shirts, DVDs and other items, in which case a store link may work. That being said, a "get involved" link would be a great way to get visitors who aren't making a gift engaged with your organization.

    5) Social Media Links: This is a given. At least I hope it is. This is a great way to keep people engaged with your organization on media where they already spend a lot of time.

    So what are your thoughts? Have you put anything like this to work? Or do you now plan to do so?

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Best Practice: Creating & Revealing An Event's Logo

    Those that follow this blog know that I have a special place in my heart for Penn State's Dance Marathon - a.k.a. THON. My second semester of undergraduate studies I was introduced to THON and it changed my life, literally. It introduced me to philanthropy which has been my career focus since finishing my degree at Penn State.

    What is THON? Well... it's not your everyday dance marathon. I know the phrase 'dance marathon' conjures up visions of 30 kids in a high school gymnasium. At it's core, that is what THON is, but on a much larger scale.

    It is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world and raises significant funding for The Four Diamonds Fund, which helps children with cancer and their families.

    Summary of last year's event from thon.org: THON 2010 saw record participation in the 5k, record traffic to THON.org, and all-time high interest being a THON volunteer. With the theme of "Love Belongs Here," more than 300 Captains, 700 dancers, 3300 Committee Members, and 15,000 student volunteers made it THON's most successful year yet. THON 2010 raised $7,838,054.36 For The Kids!

    One of the exciting parts of the THON year is when the new logo is revealed. This is a great example of engaging volunteers for talent (the logo is designed by graphic design students), using the logo itself to engage participants, supporters and beneficiaries, & promoting the event through work that the organization would be doing anyway. As you know by now, I have incorporated some of my favorite logos from over the years throughout this post.

    Check out this video to learn more about this year's logo:

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Best Practice: Engaging Volunteers to Illustrate Impact

    As some of you know, I like the work the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation do to fight for a cure for spinal cord injuries. @ReeveFoundation tweeted Saturday:

    Which led to a great example of using a volunteer's point-of-view to illustrate your organization's impact. Here is the story from the link:


    Suzan Schumacher (pictured here with her family) sent this to us. She can't wait to run 26.2 miles on Sunday. Go figure!

    Why I Run the NYC Marathon with Team Reeve 2010:

    The mission is close to my heart. I am the Mama Bear of a wonderful pack--son, Eric (left), daughter Tina (right), and son-in-law Josh (center).

    Here are my top 10 reasons:

    10. I love running

    9. I love my husband, Gary

    8. I love running with my husband Gary

    7. New York City is cool

    6. Running with my husband in New York City is cool

    5. I love my kids, & my son-in-law who is paralyzed

    4. I love to do things that make a difference in my kids' world

    3. Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is making a difference through their research for 6 million people who are paralyzed

    2. I want to increase awareness about spinal cord injuries and raise money for research, treatment, & technological advances to assist the paralysis community

    1. If it weren't for technological advances, we would be running with boom boxes on our shoulders instead of ipods

    Thanks Suzan! Good luck.

    If you want to show your support, make a contribution to Suzan's Team Reeve page now.


    It's simple, direct and powerful. It let's you know why this person is willing to run 26.2 miles for the organization. Have you done anything similar? Any other examples to share?

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Planning Ahead: Dec. Holidays Your Nonprofit Can Use

    As many of you know, there is a page on this blog dedicated to holidays nonprofit organizations may be able to use for creative awareness or fundraising campaigns or internal management - such as getting your team behind National Write A Business Plan Month (December). I'm going to try and do this about a month in advance every month, to give you a little time to plan ahead. If you're interested in planning further ahead or reviewing some of the guidelines on making these holiday campaigns successful for your organization, make sure to visit the original page.

    Here's a quick snapshot of some of December's holidays you may be able to use:

    Coats & Toys for Kids Day
    Day With(out) Art Day
    Human Rights Day
    International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
    International Human Solidarity Day
    International Volunteer Day for Economic & Social Development
    National Write A Business Plan Month
    Special Kids Day
    Tolerance Week
    Universal Hour of Peace Day
    Universal Human Rights Month
    World Aids Month
    World Peace Day/Winter Solstice

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Adopt a Nocturnal Creature. No really.

    Yep, it's a week late... but I had made note of this email when I was on the run and didn't want to not give it kudos simply because my busy schedule and travel got in the way.

    As you might imagine, I am on a number of nonprofit email lists. That being said, it takes something for me to really dig an email. This was one of them - I like the idea of adopting a bat for Halloween (as much as a kid might not like getting that at your doorstep!). Enjoy - Kudos Defenders of Wildlife (@Defenders)!

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    How Active Is Your Nonprofit's Leader on Social Media?

    A couple of weeks ago, a Weber Shandwick study concluded that 64% of the CEOs at the world's largest companies were not social online. How about your nonprofit? Is your CEO/Executive Director/President/etc. active on social media? Well... let's start with the basics... Does he/she have an account with any of the big boys (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)?

    If he/she does have one or more of these accounts, what is he/she doing with it? Is he/she using it or is there a random intern who "gets" social media that manages the accounts? Is the CEO blogging anywhere? The level of social media use among nonprofit leaders is this week's poll question. I will follow-up with results, thoughts and best practices once the poll closes.


    In the meantime, here are some of the findings from the Weber Shandwick study:

    • Over nine out of 10 CEOs in the world’s top 50 companies (93 percent) communicated externally in traditional fashion: 93 percent were quoted in the major global news and business publications and 40 percent participated in speaking engagements to an external, non-investor, audience.
    • Online communications did not fare as well among this executive set. Most CEO online visibility is limited to what is said about them on Wikipedia, the web-based collaborative encyclopedia which CEOs and their communications teams are not responsible for. Removing Wikipedia leaves the online CEO space rather barren—only 36 percent are engaged through their company websites or in social media channels in any way (e.g., CEO messages on company websites, video/podcasts on company websites or company YouTube channels, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, company-affiliated blogs).
    Who Is a Social CEO?
    A sample of the characteristics of Social CEOs as identified by the research:
    • Social CEOs are multi-users. When they engage online, social CEOs employ more than one channel, with 72 percent using more than one channel (on average, social CEOs use 1.8 channels).
    • Social CEOs are more tenured. Newer CEOs (3 years or less) are less likely than those in their middle (3 to 5 years) or later period of their tenures (more than 5 years) to engage online—30 percent vs. 38 percent vs. 43 percent, respectively.
    Original version of title photo (without icons) from Heliotrop3's Flickr photostream.
    CEO graph from Weber Shandwick press release.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    The Nonprofit Ferris Bueller Experience

    So about six months ago there was a buzz created on Twitter & Foursquare when someone setup fake accounts for Ferris Bueller and some of the other characters from the classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The exciting part about this "event" was that the person behind the accounts paid special attention to live out the day on Twitter as if Ferris & Co. were tweeting the day away during the movie. Tech Crunch (@TechCrunch) provides a good summary of the event.

    Ever since, I've had an email from my sister with the TechCrunch link in my inbox, trying to think about how this fun form of engagement could be used to benefit a nonprofit. I finally have a few ideas to share:
    • If you're in the arts sector, have key members of your performance (conductor, musicians, actors & actresses, lighting director, etc.) tweet throughout the performance. On top of this, encourage attendees to - GASP! - tweet during the show! At the end of the performance, post some of your favorites from the audience on a screen and giveaway a few prizes for fun.
    • In education? Have characters tweet throughout the first day of classes, the start of finals week, spring break, graduation, etc. - In a similar fashion to the art example, you can post favorites at various events. You can also promote these feeds to parents & families to engage them in what their sons & daughters may be experiencing.
    • And then there's my idea for any nonprofit, provided the resources are in place to support this communications effort - Have your CEO/President "take the day off" and parallel Ferris Bueller's adventures... just enough of a parallel to be recognizable as a play on the movie, but working in tidbits about what is great about the organization. A food bank CEO might get Abe Froman (sausage king of Chicago) to donate food to the food bank. A youth group executive may be excited about heading to a Cubs game, only to lament not being able to take some of the kids from the group.

    What are your ideas?



    Post your ideas in the comments section below.

    Buy How To Become a Nonprofit Rockstar Now!

    As I previously reviewed, Rosetta Thurman & Trista Harris have a new book and it is out today! You can purchase How To Become a Nonprofit Rockstar here.