Direct Response Fundraising

6

Jul

10 Fundraising Ideas in 20 Minutes: #1 The Dessert Cart Ask String


I recently presented 30 Ideas in 60 Minutes as part of a 3-person panel at Fundraising Day in New York 2017. It’s a fast-moving perennial favorite at Fundraising Day filled with ideas to get you thinking and quick tips you can take home and put to work in your own direct response program. If you couldn’t make it to the largest one-day fundraising conference in the world, I encourage you to add it to your budget and calendar now for next year. And check back here every week or so as I post the ten ideas I presented on the panel.

IDEA: Think of your ask string like a dessert cart.

Have you ever eaten at a restaurant and after dinner your server wheels a tray of irresistible confections RIGHT TO YOUR TABLE? And so you obviously need to have the key lime pie? Well, did you know you were twice as likely to buy that dessert because your server showed it to you, rather than giving you a menu to read?

This same approach often boosts response in email fundraising. Only instead of literally wheeling an assortment of good works over to your prospective donor’s house to choose from, you show the gift array that might otherwise be presented as text in your email as clickable images representing what the individual’s gift will accomplish.

Like this:

The approach can also be used by membership organizations to show the benefits the individual will receive at varying gift levels, like this:

 

So to boost response to your emails, explore bringing the options right to the table, so to speak, in the form of clickable visuals.

And don’t forget to test to measure the impact of your ideas.

Check back soon for Idea #2: If it works, do it again.

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3

Jul

Let’s Reach for the Peak at the Bridge Conference!


 

Bridge 15

 

It’s almost here! The 10th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference kicks off Wednesday July 8.

As Co-Chair of this year’s conference along with Deborah Peeples, and humble witness to the extraordinary talent of the committee volunteers and speakers that make Bridge possible, I can assure you there’s no end to the insights you’ll gain, connections you’ll make, and new ideas you will discover at Bridge.

To make sure you get the most out of your conference this year, be sure to peruse the schedule in advance to plan your Bridge expedition. Not sure where to begin? No sweat! Here are 10 things you can do with us to reach spectacular heights at Bridge.

1. Get the App! Simply search “BridgeConf” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Download it on your iPhone or Droid, and you’ll unlock your own virtual Bridge Sherpa to help you plan and navigate your sessions and connect with other conference adventurers.

2. Attend the keynote sessions. I’ll be blunt: You will not hear more powerful, relevant, smart, thought-provoking speakers at any professional conference you’ll attend this year, and possibly ever. In fact, we went a little overboard this year to bring you three extraordinary industry thought leaders and doers—an unparalleled lineup in the history of Bridge.

3. Step outside your comfort zone. Bridge is the time and place to stretch and learn new things. Challenge yourself to:

• Meet 10 new people.
• Discover 10 new ideas.
• Take 10 minutes to explore a new product in the Solutions Showcase.

4. Sharpen your Excel skills. If you’ve ever found yourself swearing your way through pivot tables, conditional format formulas or data filters, then drop in to the Popup Excel Classroom in the Solutions Showcase. Sessions will run throughout the day, every hour on the hour, and there’s no need to pre-register.

5. Strike up a conversation in the Solutions Showcase Smorgasbord. That’s right, with over 100 specialists in essential nonprofit services, the exhibit hall offers a BOUNTY of expert solutions to your organization’s needs—plus ways to improve your marketing and fundraising efforts that you may not have even considered. Launch an expedition to the Solutions Showcase and you’ll be glad you did.

6. Beat a path to the sessions! This year’s conference features 77 breakout sessions from leaders in the field, expertly curated by Bridge Conference Education Co-Chairs Angela Struebing and Julie Carter, along with a dozen ridiculously talented track deans. The only downside of having so many amazing sessions is you can’t attend them all. But not to worry! You can download the presentations you missed by logging in at the Bridge Conference website.

7. Get lucky … at the lunchtime prize drawings. If a fabulous lunch and the company of your colleagues isn’t enough incentive already to be there, keep these six words in mind: you must be present to win. Geoff Peters took home a Jetpack in last year’s raffle.*

8. Tune in on Twitter. The Twitter feed at Bridge is a lively and, at times, irreverent pipeline to breakthrough tests, strategies that moved the dial, food for thought, and more. Hear what people are saying and join the conversation at #Bridge15 and by following @bridgeconf.

9. Pack a sweater. Our fantastic conference center works hard to keep 1,700+ Bridge adventurers comfortable at all times (no small task in DC in July!). But sometimes we are a little, shall we say, overzealous in the endeavor. Stash a light sweater in your conference tote and you’ll be equipped to reach for the peak no matter what climate conditions you encounter in your ascent.

10. Have fun! Most of all, enjoy yourself! Revel in the company of your tribe. Pick up a souvenir in the Solutions Showcase. Step out with friends to ride the Ferris wheel. Oh, and be sure to mark your calendar for July 13-15 2016 to take it to 11 with us!

Can’t wait to see you soon!

-Moira

*Okay, Geoff did not really win a Jetpack at Bridge. But we do have a a very sharp looking Kindle Fire and half a dozen other excellent raffle prizes this year.

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8

Feb

In Fundraising, Beauty is Results


duckling

Like “make it bigger” in graphic design, good direct response fundraisers are well served by a refrain of our own:

“Make it plainer.”

It’s counterintuitive like so much of direct response fundraising, but it couldn’t be truer. In head-to-head tests, the simplest, least “fancy” email/direct mail/web campaigns almost always win.

Like this envelope, for example …

plain_high_line_envelope

… which drove better results than this one:

colorful_high_line_envelope

Or this email …

plain_railstotrails_email

 

… which generated 4 times the results of its more visually attractive counterparts.

Susan Paine of Human Rights Campaign hit the nail on the head a few years ago when she said, “If you love it, it will fail.” If your direct response creation is exceptionally pretty and colorful … if you find yourself dismissing possible strategic changes to it because they might sully the perfect design symmetry or a poetic turn of phrase … if you’re really in to how radically “different” it is … then you have probably veered into dangerous territory, and your results are at risk.

Keep your eyes wide open and see those ugly direct response ducklings for what they really are: imminent beauty, imminent results.

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16

Jul

Inspiration, Bloody Marys and other Takeaways from the 2014 Bridge Conference


BloodyMarys

Hats off to the DMAW and AFP-DC for another stellar Bridge Conference. Kicking off with pre-conference workshops and the Maxi Awards on Wednesday July 9, through 70+ presentations Thursday and Friday, through the powerful closing session from the founder of Free the Children, #Bridge14 delivered 3 days of nonstop information and inspiration.

What happens when you get 1,700 nonprofit do-gooder marketing types together?

1. Steve Nardizzi from the Wounded Warrior Project tears into charity ratings watchdogs calling them out as “ineffective and misinformed” at best and at worst “outright misleading to the public.”

2.We soak up everything we can on on the how and why of monthly giving from Erica Waasdorp, the Red Cross, Defenders of Wildlife and others.

3. Paralyzed Veterans of America shares compelling case studies in giving their program a digital facelift.

4. Catholic Relief Services and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation boldly share their “Oh %@*#***!” direct marketing mishap moments, and how they turned those occasional lemons into lemonade.

5. We get Bloody Marys from Madeline Stanionis! And a song from Marc Ruben! Plus a wealth of digital testing data and their online expertise.

6. The Nature Conservancy and Lambda Legal fill us in on the vast, and still largely untapped potential of face-to-face fundraising, including pretty compelling stats on acquisition costs and retention.

7. Over 100 Bridge Conference volunteers see to the quality of the educational content, help us find Baltimore 3, give us advice on sessions to attend, and take care of approximately 1,000 other things to help us get the most out of the conference.

8. American Farmland Trust along with John Graves and Alia McKee, remind us that donors aren’t ATM’s and show us how to really care for and cultivate our contributors.

9. Scores of talented, passionate, dedicated fundraisers generously share case studies and expertise in their organizations’ development programs for the benefit of all of us attending, and the work of our nonprofits.

10. And at the end of the whole thing, Craig Keilburger of Free the Children makes us cry, think about what the heck WE were all doing at age 12 (he was fighting to free children from poverty and exploitation internationally), and re-inspires us to go back to our desks on Monday and work harder than ever to change the world.

I have always wished the excitement and inspiration of Bridge didn’t have to end after 3 days. Turns out, I’ve found a way to make it last year round: as Co-Chair of the 2015 Bridge Conference.

Along with Deborah Peeples of the Alliance for Justice, we’re already getting started on #Bridge15. If you’d like to get involved, sign up to volunteer. If you’ve got expertise and case studies to share, keep an eye out for our Call for Papers next month. And if you have ideas for the conference or just want to shoot the breeze about Bridge, drop me a line. I can’t wait to see you at #Bridge15!

 

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25

Oct

Habits of Nonprofits with Highly Successful Direct Response Fundraising Programs


Possible

Having a relevant mission that people want to support is the #1 prerequisite for direct response fundraising success. But it’s not the only one. In fact, it’s not even the most important one when it comes to dollars raised. So why do some nonprofits sail to success in their direct response fundraising efforts when others with equally compelling causes struggle just to leave the dock?

Simple: culture.

How a nonprofit thinks, acts and operates has everything to do with the ultimate effectiveness of its direct response fundraising efforts. What can your nonprofit do to be more effective? Consider these habits of nonprofits with highly successful direct response programs:

  1. Nonprofits with highly successful direct response programs have rapid and uncomplicated approval processes.
  2. They have experienced staff and they empower them with meaningful decision-making authority.
  3. Their leadership is accessible and supportive of their direct response program.
  4. They stay abreast of industry trends and invest in ongoing professional education for their direct response team.
  5. Their development, communications and program departments actually like one another and work well together.
  6. They keep a close rein on their budget.
  7. They test. A lot.
  8. They have strong database management and analytics capacity.
  9. They hire good consultants or in-house direct response teams and they listen to them. Most of the time.
  10. They have informed expectations for their direct response programs.
  11. They are also ambitious. They take calculated risks and they never stop challenging themselves to do better.
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27

Feb

Branding + Direct Response Fundraising = Love, Actually


Jack Lemmon Pointing At Walter Matthau

Much has been said about the tension between good nonprofit marketing & communications and good direct response fundraising. Good nonprofit marcom thrives on brand consistency; good direct response thrives on brand inconsistency.

But when you get right down to it, good nonprofit branding/marcom is actually an essential prerequisite to good direct response fundraising.

That’s because an organization must have a clear sense of self to communicate effectively. A strong voice, confident look and feel, a structured communications program, clarity on priority messages, a personality…. These are all things that come out of good marcom – not direct response – and get better defined over time.

If they’re any good, your organization’s direct response staff or agency will lobby to break from all that at times for better direct response results. They’ll argue for less perfect and more human. But rest assured, they only want to depart from brand technically. Agents of good direct response are deeply loyal to true brand.

In fact, we are lost without it.

So if you want your direct response fundraising to thrive, begin with a well developed brand. Then break it, but not really.

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18

Feb

4 Reasons Your Nonprofit Needs a Monthly Giving Program


At the DMA Washington Nonprofit Conference earlier this month, I got the chance to speak about one of our favorite things – monthly giving.

Yet from some corners, I still heard this:

How did you convince your [board / boss / staff ] to invest in monthly giving?

For sure, monthly giving isn’t always easy. It takes an additional investment of time to implement a monthly giving program, to ensure gifts are processed correctly, to report on and fully understand your program metrics. But despite the challenges, your organization can’t afford to ignore it. Here’s why …

1. This is the donor climate we’re all working in …

TA_Index_ResultsSummary_Q3_2012

Source: Target Analytics donorCentrics™ Index of National Fundraising Performance.

For years now, the universe of donors has been shrinking, and the number of new donors has been declining even faster. Although this trend was certainly not improved by the recent recession, declines in donor numbers began as early as 2005 and there’s no strong evidence that we’ll soon see a dramatic turnaround in this trend.

2. At the same time, we’re seeing more and more donors acquired online. While there are some benefits to online donors – they’re often younger, richer and give bigger gifts – donors acquired online are harder to retain, even controlling for age and income level.

WhitePaper_MultiChannelGivingAnalysis

Source: 2011 donorCentrics™ Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report

Together, the picture that emerges is that it is harder than ever to get new donors … and harder than ever to hold on to those new donors.

As development professionals, our mandate is two-fold: to do whatever we can to retain donors, and focus on upgrading donors to higher levels of support, so that as we’re spending more on those ever-harder-to-acquire donors, we can be sure that our investment will pay off.

And this is exactly where monthly giving can help.

3. Monthly giving improves retention. Although rates vary by organization, retention for one-time donors is around 41%. In contrast, retention of monthly givers is 70% to 80%. Acquire a prospect as a monthly donor, or convert a new donor to a monthly donor, and you’ve immediately improved your long-term expectations.

4. Monthly giving will upgrade donors.  Consider the following example …

One-Time / Monthly Comparison

We’d all be thrilled to have the donor on the left on our file; she’s a dedicated supporter who makes nice gifts several times a year. Yet by accepting a far smaller monthly contribution, we can increase this donor’s value by $85 annually – a more than 48% increase.

So next time someone asks if you think your organization can afford to do monthly giving, ask the opposite – can you afford NOT to?

Stay tuned! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing the seven steps your organization needs to consider to start – or improve – your monthly giving program. Many thanks once again to Matthew Rojas of Lambda Legal and Sanaya Kaufman of Friends of the High Line who joined me to talk about monthly giving at the 2013 Washington Nonprofit Conference and so generously shared their time and expertise!

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4

Feb

8 Ways to Get the Most Out of the Washington Nonprofit Conference


The DMA Nonprofit Federation’s annual Washington Nonprofit Conference kicks off on Thursday. With information-rich sessions from leading direct response fundraising minds in the field, it’s well worth making time in your calendar and budget to attend.

For the past 10 months, Craig Zeltsar, Tricia Reyes and I have been working behind the scenes with an incredible planning committee to ensure that the 2013 conference is no exception. In fact, I’m blown away by the originality of the session topics, the caliber of the content, and the networking opportunities that the Washington Nonprofit Conference has in store this year.

Whether you’re a new or returning visitor, here are recommendations for what to do and see when you’re here to get the most out of the conference:

1. Check out the “Not-Your-Usual-Roundtable” discussions. This year, we turned the tables on the usual roundtable format and energized them with new topics to rev up the conversation and get your ideas flowing, like … Help! My Board Totally Doesn’t Get Direct Response Fundraising, 50 Shades of PMS 429, and I Am Not Sorry To Call You During Dinner.

2. Get to the ballroom at 9am sharp for the keynote address from Katya Andresen (Network for Good, Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog). Katya will be talking about what technology can and can’t do for fundraising. Plus toast and butter.

3. Use your networking stickers. Be sure to stop by the information desk and pick up a set of networking stickers. Who do you want to meet at the conference? What’s your favorite movie? Put it on your sticker, wear it, and strike up a conversation with a colleague.

4. Go for an early morning run (or a walk). Join your colleagues on Thursday morning for a scenic 4-mile run/walk in the nation’s capital for a healthy start to a big day of learning and networking.

5. Soak up the sessions. Welcome messages that work, risky fundraising stunts, crisis communications for nonprofits, thinking beyond premiums … This year’s conference offers 24 sessions filled with valuable case studies and tips from leaders in the field. (And if you’re thinking of starting a monthly giving program – or want to improve the one you have, drop by Monthly Giving and Your Organization: 7 Steps to Success at 3:45 on Thursday with Friends of the High Line‘s Sanaya Kaufman, Matthew Rojas from Lambda Legal, and MKDM‘s Eliza Slone.)

6. Check out the Gallery of Breakthrough Fundraising Campaigns. During the conference, you’ll have a chance to view innovative multichannel fundraising campaigns – and vote for your favorite. Voting ends at Midnight February 7 and the winner will be announced at the closing luncheon on February 8.

7. Go to the networking reception at The Carnegie Library (6:15-7:30pm, 2/7). Wind down after the conference and catch up with colleagues at the Carnegie Library networking reception (pre-registration required).

8. Join the conversation. Share what you learn and keep up with the conference by following the DMANF on twitter @dmanf and via hashtag #DCNP2013.

Be sure to check out the full list of sessions and networking opportunities. Hope to see you there!

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30

Dec

5 Fundraising Resolutions You Can Really Keep This Year


The start of a new year is a great time to weigh up your membership program’s strengths and challenges and set a course for new and improved direct response strategies.

But just like resolutions that people make, it’s all too easy for nonprofits to set unrealistic goals and, worse, neglect to build the necessary foundation for achieving those goals. It’s great to want to raise more money online, for example, but unfortunately good intentions alone aren’t enough. You need a plan.

When making resolutions for your new and improved direct response program, the key to success is choosing things that a) can really make a difference for your bottom line and b) you can implement. That means stay away from vague resolutions with unpredictable impact (e.g “let’s do something online that goes viral”). Focus instead on specific, implementable opportunities for building donor relationships and raising more funds for your organization’s important work.

Here are 5 practical resolutions that can help make a big difference in your program in 2013:

1. Ask for money less often relative to the number of times you communicate with your supporters. What? Ask for money less? Of course not. But DO communicate more. If you want to strengthen your fundraising program, you have to strengthen your communications program. Take a hard look at your fundraising to issue-based communications ratio and resolve to improve it in 2013. Ideally, for every one fundraising communication, you should be generating at least three to four issue-based communications. In addition to helping build stronger relationships with your constituents, more communications online will give your organization a bigger online footprint and drive more traffic to your organization’s website.

2. Build a better home page. Take a long, hard look at your home page. Is it a welcoming living room or a no-touch museum? If you want to build a better foundation for fundraising, resolve to renovate your home page this year to better welcome and engage your visitors. Among the many purposes your website should serve, signup and giving should be top priorities in the design of your home page. Be sure your home page offers clear and varied opportunities for visitors to sign up for your communications, give and get more information. And after you hone your communications and home page strategies over the next 11 months, be ready to leverage your increased web traffic in December with a lightbox and year-end ask on your home page, like this one on the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center‘s home page:

 

 

3. Make time in your calendar and budget for key fundraising conferences. For ideas, information and case studies for improving your direct response program in 2013, get up from your desk and get out to the conferences. I still think the best information and ideas can be found at the NTEN, Bridge and DMA conferences, and are well worth the time and budget. And if you are short on budget, the DMFA has just launched an excellent scholarship program that might be able to help offset or even completely cover your costs of attending these or other excellent educational opportunities.

4. Start a monthly giving program. In an era of higher new donor acquisition costs and shrinking donor prospecting universes, it’s important to tend your relationships with existing donors even more carefully. Monthly giving is one highly effective way of curbing attrition and increasing long-term value of donors – and an increasingly important component of a successful direct response membership program. For specifics on launching or improving your own monthly giving program, stop by Eliza Slone’s session at 3:45pm on February 7 at the DMA DC Nonprofit Conference. (And don’t worry if you can’t make it – check back here after the conference for a recap.)

5. Make data analysis a priority. To make meaningful strategic resolutions that will move the dial for your program, you first need to understand your donor file and trends. Roll up your sleeves and look closely at your data. Are you losing donors at a faster rate than you’re gaining them? Are fewer donors giving more or vice versa? Get a strong grasp on what’s going on with your file to set meaningful goals for how to improve results – and don’t forget to measure your results to see if your strategies worked.

No matter what your organization’s unique fundraising resolutions may be for 2013, keep them bottom-line oriented and realistic and you’ll be sure to make an impact. Here’s to your fundraising success in the year ahead!

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6

Sep

Fall Fundraising Don’ts


fall-leaves-cropped

If you’re on track with your year end calendar, it probably feels like November at your office – which means you are BUSY!

Here’s a quick list of common fundraising pitfalls to avoid in order to create stellar year end campaigns.

  1. Don’t focus an appeal on your organization’s anniversary, or your founder’s birthday. Talk about your mission, the people you help, and the people who make your work possible.
  2. Don’t be all me, me, me (or us, us, us). Your appeals should be about what your donor has accomplished and will accomplish with her support.
  3. Don’t write a one-page letter because your boss says she doesn’t read long letters. Don’t be afraid of a four-page letter (or longer, if you need it).
  4. Don’t write for yourself … or your Board.
  5. Don’t write by committee.
  6. Don’t say “Dear Friend” if you don’t have to.
  7. Don’t have dual signers (in most cases). Do have a consistent voice.
  8. Don’t ask again before saying “Thank you” for a previous gift. Remember that a receipt is not an acknowledgment.
  9. Don’t spend a lot on full color, fancy design or special printing. Do invest in elements likely to lift response, like more personalization and first class postage for your best donors.
  10. Don’t forget who your best donors are. Your current donors are your best ones – not your prospects. The donor who just gave to you is most likely to give again. Focus your resources here.
  11. Don’t be intimidated by writing your appeals. After all, it’s the thing you love – talking about the great work you’re doing to the people who already understand and support you.
  12. Don’t send your appeals late. Late appeals affect response. Remember, 90% perfect, 100% on time.
  13. Don’t sacrifice your fundraising to your brand. Your brand is about you. Fundraising is about your donors.
  14. Don’t worry about things that are not response-affecting. (You have enough to worry about already!)

 

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