If you want to feel happy – and wonderful about yourself – science has the answer. Do something for someone else.Researchers Lalin Anik, Lara Aknin, Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn have shown that people who commit random acts of kindness are significantly happier than those who don’t, and spending money on others makes you happier than spending money on yourself. They also have discovered happier people help others more, and they give more. A positive mood makes you nicer! This makes a circle: giving makes you happy, and when you’re happy you give more, which makes you happier, which makes you give more.I bring up this selfess circle of happiness now because Tuesday is #GivingTuesday, a national day of giving. Black Friday in stores and Cyber Monday for online shopping are behind us, and we’ve arrived at the day to do something for others.Here are two ways to celebrate.1. Go into work today feeling like a star of the movement. If you read this blog, you are making the world a better place in some way, and you live #GivingTuesday every day of the year. You are wonderful, and so you should take a moment to feel joy at the difference you make. I, for one, am so happy for what you do.2. Encourage others to support your cause – or whatever cause they love – today. For example, give and get your gift matched here! (Thanks to partners the Case Foundation, Crowdrise and Six Degrees.)Thanks for being a part of #GivingTuesday – and the circle of happiness – with your great work for good.
To follow up on yesterday’s post – the number one quality of a great presenter – I wanted to share the number one quality of a great presentation.(Both of these pieces of advice are from The Art of the Pitch from the legendary ad guy Peter Coughter, now at VCU Brandcenter. The book includes excellent stories that remind us how just how critical it is to master persuasion and presentation skills.)What makes a fantastic presentation? One point. Before you say a thing, you have decided upon a single goal. Everything you say leads to that conclusion. Everything else gets edited out. This is far harder than it sounds. In fact, if you had to quickly scribble on a notecard the one, clear overarching point of your last pitch, could you do it in seconds? If not, you probably didn’t have the overarching story pinpointed. Stick to that sole truth and sell it with great passion. It’s how we connect – and how we get remembered.
As the so-called Snowquester flakes fall outside my window here in Washington, DC, I thought I’d share a timely piece of research about storms.The wonderful team at Influence at Work this week covers a study with surprising findings about inspiring disaster relief donations.Apparently, people are more likely to donate to storm relief efforts if their name sounds similar to the name of the storm. I am not making this up: “People were more likely to donate if the initial of their first name matched the name given to the hurricane. For example, those whose names began with the letter R, such as Robert or Rosemary, were 260% more likely to donate to the Hurricane Rita relief appeal than those whose name didn’t begin with the letter R. A similar effect was noted after Hurricane Katrina with folks whose name starts with a K significantly more motivated to donate.”*In addition, says Influence, Adam Alter, a Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern Business School, suggests, “If people are more likely to donate to hurricane relief programs that share their initials, then the World Meteorological Organization which is responsible for naming hurricanes has the power to increase charitable giving simply by giving hurricanes more commonly occurring names.”Anyone have contacts at the WMO?This research reminds me of studies I read that people choose professions close to their names. There are apparently many dentists named Dennis.So maybe it’s impractical to start naming hurricanes John Smith, but in all seriousness there is a lesson here. As Influence points out, we always pay more attention to anything involving our name. You’ve experienced this in a noisy room where you’re tuning out conversation – until you hear your name mentioned. I think it’s therefore useful to test using people’s real names in fundraising appeals (better than Dear Valued Supporter) or naming initiatives or campaigns after common names or initials. It’s easier to try out than naming storms!(By the way, I donated to Katrina but not Rita relief so there you go.*)
UNICEF Sweden has launched a new campaign that tells people who Tweet about their cause or like their Facebook page fail to make a difference – and could put a life in jeopardy. It’s essentially a shaming campaign, as outlined in this Atlantic article.I don’t like to single out campaigns, but this one troubles me since it relies on emotion in a way that I don’t find constructive. Here are some examples of the campaign messages. The gist is, if you spread the word instead of donating, a boy could die and a child won’t be vaccinated. How does that make you feel? Maybe Swedes enjoy this kind of message and approach, but I am skeptical. Here’s what I don’t like about the campaign.1. Shame rarely inspires action in any culture. It just makes people feel bad – and turn away. Ask Brene Brown.2. Mocking the action of spreading the word about a cause discourages one of the most powerful forces anyone can put to work for a cause – word of mouth.3. It ignores the fact that social networks are supposed to be about relationships. It seems to be demanding a transactional mentality in a social setting.4. I am not sure the organization did their audience research. A lot of assumptions are inherent in this approach. Are they sure people on social networks have never given to UNICEF? Do they have data suggesting social networking and giving are mutually exclusive (doubtful)? Are people active on social networks their best target audience for giving? Is forcing an either/or choice better for fundraising than letting people do both?I bet this campaign will get people talking, but I doubt it will inspire giving. Which is deeply ironic given its message.For a smarter way to look at so-called slacktivism, watch this. As Julie Dixon says, based on this body of research, “Influence is important.”
When creating your year-end email appeals, remember these six key ingredients:1. An easy to find donation button.Some donors will be ready to give as soon as they open your nonprofit email. Don’t make them hunt for the link to your DonateNow page. Make the donate button big, bold, and above the fold.2. A specific call to action.Vague calls to action like “support us” are more likely to confuse than to motivate. Make sure your calls to action are highly specific and feasible.3. A sense of urgency.A sense of urgency will give your donors that extra nudge they need to take action. As year-end nears, let your supporters know when there are only a few more days left to meet your annual goal.4. Contact information.Linking to an effective contact page that answers how people can contact your nonprofit and why they should want to contact your nonprofit can help donors find the right way to get in touch if they have an important question. It’s also important that you put in an easy way for readers to opt-out of your nonprofit emails (and if you’re not sending from a email service provider like Constant Contact, be aware of CAN-SPAM laws).5. Mobile-friendly design.Because the decision to donate is often impulsive, smartphones make it easy to act in the moment. Make sure your emails are mobile friendly so you don’t miss out on connecting with donors who want to give on the go. Download our free eGuide for more on why mobile matters.6. The case for giving.Simply asking for a donation is not enough. Especially in year-end appeals, fundraisers must make a compelling case for giving by using stories, building credibility, and packaging your message.
In honor of Social Media Week, I asked a few of our favorite nonprofit experts to weigh in with their personal picks for nonprofits who are hitting it out of the park on social media. Here’s what they had to say:Mark RovnerPrincipal, Founder & CEO, Sea Change Strategies National Audubon SocietyWhere I follow them: Facebook and TwitterWhy they’re so awesome: Social media manager Elizabeth Sorrell knows her audience and feeds them a generous supply of bird photos, interactive challenges, and conservation news. She’s made the Facebook page incredibly fun and lively, and the extremely high level of engagement is testimony to that.Darian Rodriguez HeymanCo-Founder, Social Media for Nonprofitscharity:waterWhere I follow them: TwitterWhy they’re so awesome: Everyone talks about how amazing charity:water is at outreach, but one specific thing they’ve done on Twitter to get to over one million (!) followers is their “photo of the day” campaign. They use the assets they have incredibly well, and that’s the key to their success.Alia McKeePrincipal, Sea Change Strategies and founder, LifeboatAmnesty International Where I follow them: Facebook and Twitter Why they’re so awesome: They are timely, relevant, authentic. They use engagement data to optimize their social media communications. They use social media as a listening tool to tap into what their supporters are thinking and feeling about human rights. That info gets communicated to the fundraising and advocacy teams and informs integrated campaign opportunities. David HartsteinWired ImpactNo Kid Hungry Where I follow them: Twitter, Facebook, and Google+Why they’re so awesome: From the name of the organization to the information they share, No Kid Hungry does an awesome job of communicating their mission in a clear way. On social media, they vary the content they share to provide a wealth of value to those interested in ending childhood hunger in America. Despite their sizable following, they take the time to engage with individuals, responding and thanking supporters publicly. No Kid Hungry sets a great example for all types of organizations.Joe WatersSelfish Giving and author of Fundraising with BusinessesGeorge Washington’s Mount VernonWhere I follow them: Twitter and PinterestWhy they are awesome: They do a wonderful job creating unique content for their site and promoting it on social networks. For example, in October they really captured the macabre spirit of Halloween. They had a great post on people who had claimed to see Washington’s ghost through the years. Thanks to their activity on Twitter, I recently discovered a detailed post on how Mount Vernon looked when Washington lived there in the 18th century. Finally, Mount Vernon doesn’t restrict their content to text. They also have an active YouTube channel. Check out this video on Washington’s dentures! As a guy who follows and loves history, Mount Vernon really makes it come alive!Want to improve your organization’s social savvy? Download our free social media guide.
Email + Social = SuccessRemember that whether someone is a fan on Facebook or a subscriber on your email list, they’re a member of your online community. These are people who have opted to receive updates from your organization and are eager to show their support.By combining the power of social media and email marketing, you’ll be able to grow your community and get more from your marketing efforts in the years to come! 1. Make it easy to connect on your websiteThe first step to combining your social media and email marketing is making it easy for supporters to sign up for your mailing list or find your social networks directly from your website. Put buttons on your homepage for both so that when visitors find you, they can decide how they want to be engaged. Hopefully they’ll choose both!Tip: Need more help perfecting you nonprofit website? Check out this free eguide! As Constant Contact’s Content Developer, Ryan Pinkham helps small businesses and nonprofits recognize their full potential through marketing and social media. 5. Get more from your newsletter contentSharing your email newsletter content on Facebook or Twitter is a perfect opportunity to fill your social media content gaps.It’s also a chance to make better use of the content you’re already creating and get it the exposure it deserves. Sites like Facebook and Twitter will enable you to open your newsletter up to a whole new audience—not only your current fans, but also their friends who’ll see your content when someone else engages with it.And if the content in your newsletter isn’t time sensitive, you can wait a few days before you share it. This gives your emails a longer shelf life before you send another.Tip: If you’re thinking about taking your newsletter from print to digital, follow this guide. 4. Use consistent brandingWhether someone is visiting your website, connecting with you on Facebook, or seeing an email in their inbox, the experience they have with your content needs to be consistent. Not only in the quality of the content, but in the look and feel of your marketing materials.One way to do that is by using the same logo on Facebook and Twitter as you use in your email newsletter. That way, when someone does click through to become a fan or to read your newsletter, they immediately recognize that they’re in the right place.You should also pay attention to the colors you choose. The color scheme on your website is likely the scheme you’ll want to use in your email newsletter and, when possible, on Facebook. Color Cop is a free and easy-to-use tool that enables you to pull the exact colors from your website so you can implement them on other marketing content. 3. Demonstrate your valueIf you want fans and followers to sign up for your email list, you need to make sure you’re demonstrating the value of doing so.In addition to having a clear call to action like Join my List!, you also want to include a description on the sign-up form telling people exactly what it is they should expect to receive. What type of content will you be sending them? How frequently will they get it? Is there any bonus or discount for subscribing? Tell people exactly what you plan to deliver and highlight why it’s great.The same applies when linking your newsletter to your social networks. Don’t just ask people to Like us on Facebook, explain why! If you’re already using email marketing and social media to promote your nonprofit, it’s important to unite your online communities—giving supporters the opportunity to stay connected with all the stuff you’re doing online and giving you the opportunity to better engage your target audience. Start by having your digital tools work together, here’s how: 2. Bring your audiences togetherEven if you’ve already connected your website to your social media pages or email sign-up form, it’s likely you still have some people who are seeing your content only via social media or are only receiving your newsletter.It’s crucial that you’re able to bridge that gap and bring those audiences together. One way is to include links to share content in your newsletters. Much like with your website, this will help turn readers into fans.On the flip side, you’ll also want to make it easy for fans to sign up for your announcements. Do you have a way to sign up for your newsletter on your Facebook page and in your Twitter bio? When someone sees all the interesting content you’re sharing through social media, don’t make them search for a way to sign up.Tip: If you’re a Constant Contact customer, you can easily add an email sign-up form to your Facebook Page.
Have you ever felt like you were being watched in the supermarket? In a new study from Cornell Food and Brand Lab, researchers found that characters featured on kids’ cereal boxes make incidental eye contact with children and cereals aimed at adults make incidental eye contact with adult shoppers. Cereals presumably marketed to children (think Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Trix) were found on lower shelves, and the gaze of the characters on these cereal boxes look downward at an angle of 9.67 degrees. This is probably not too surprising, but they took things a step further. Researchers asked a group of volunteers to rate their feelings about a brand based on the character featured on a cereal box. Study participants were randomly shown one of two versions of a Trix cereal box. One version featured the rabbit looking straight at the individual, in another, the rabbit had a downward gaze. Can you guess what happened?People expressed a stronger connection to the brand when the rabbit made eye contact. Brand trust was also found to be 16% higher. Participants even stated they preferred Trix, compared to another cereal, when that silly rabbit made eye contact. So what does this have to do with nonprofit fundraising? Here are a few important reminders from the cereal aisle:Know your target audience.Think about the people you are trying to reach. Everything about your marketing efforts should speak to their unique experiences and values. One size does not fit all, so if you have multiple audiences, segment and tailor your approach accordingly.Position yourself in their line of sight.Are your cereal boxes on the right shelves? Understand the habits of your target audience and how to find them when they’re most likely to take action. If your target audience commutes via carpool each day, placards on the train aren’t going to make much impact. That’s somewhat obvious—the trick is having a deep understanding of where and when to reach your prospects. If you don’t have this intel, make it a priority to get it.Make eye contact.Are you looking your donors in the eye? Do this both figuratively and literally with your fundraising materials. In your emails, in advertisements, and on your website and donation pages, feature strong images of faces looking directly into the camera. Strike an emotional chord with your donors and make it easier for them to connect with your campaign.How are you making eye contact with your donors? Share your ideas in the comments below, and—just for fun, tell us which cereal is your favorite. (Confession: I’m partial to Apple Jacks as a guilty pleasure.)Want to learn more about the science behind effective fundraising? Download our free guide, Lisa Simpson for Nonprofits.Image courtesy of Cornell Food and Brand Lab
I recently had the chance to host a webinar with two of Network for Good’s DonateNow customers, Renee O’Donnell from SIFF and Katie Matney from The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. Our goal was to understand how they’re retaining more donors through recurring giving at their respective organizations. With 70% of donors never returning to make a second gift, we were eager to learn from two peers who are building and retaining a large sustaining network of recurring donors.While SIFF is primarily membership-based, The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio takes a more traditional view of recurring donors through their 1,000 Women campaign; however, during our Q&A session we uncovered four common themes despite the different approaches.Here are four takeaways for executing a successful recurring giving program for your organization:1. Start donors as recurring donors. A small, monthly recurring gift is an easy entry point for donors. A gift of $10 or $15 a month is easier to budget for than a gift of $50, and with services like DonateNow, those donations can be automatically processed—no extra effort for you or your donors. Our data shows that recurring donors give 42% more over the course of 1 year than a one-time donor does. In addition, your recurring donors will likely do more than just make a recurring gift. For both SIFF and The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, recurring donors make additional one-time gifts throughout the year, attend events, and encourage their networks to support and donate. In short, these recurring donors are the most loyal and generous supporters over time.2. Thank donors within 48 hours. In addition to any automatic tax receipts you send after every donation, thank your donors for every gift within 24 to 48 hours. A thank-you letter, hand-written note, or phone call within that time frame is one of the easiest things you can do to keep a donor giving. However, for recurring donors especially, listen to the donor’s feedback. If a donor doesn’t want an acknowledgement every month, don’t send one. Listening and responding to a donor’s wishes makes him or her feel heard and appreciated—and more likely to give for longer! Both Katie and Renee suggest that fundraisers make thank-yous a team effort and involve everyone in their organization. Remember, it’s your donors who allow you to continue your mission.3. Have a plan to engage donors once they get in the door. I love how Katie from The Women’s Fund described planning for the relationship you want with your recurring donors: How are you going to pick up these donors and take them with you on this ride towards social change? Keep your donors involved with frequent email updates, but pepper in personal touches. Take your recurring donors to coffee, write them a quick email, hold special events for them, and ask them for their feedback.Giving is highly personal, so make sure you understand what inspires your donors to give.4. Make it manageable. The above advice may sound like it requires a lot of effort. While that can be true, both Renee and Katie offered tips to make this work at your organization:Have a plan. Recurring donors are your most loyal supporters and they should be treated like it! Map out how your organization interacts with recurring versus one-time donors. Those with recurring gifts should receive more frequent communications. It’s easier to save time if you’re following a thought-out strategy and process, so set aside some time upfront for planning. Make sure your plans allow you to achieve success. Don’t promise you’ll send hand-written thank you notes to each donor if you don’t have the resources. Instead, strive toward a signed letter from your executive director within 24 hours. Make small but regular progress. By making a habit of doing something small every day to improve either the number or loyalty of your recurring donors, you’ll create a habit that allows you to be more effective and successful over time. Check out the article by Gretchen Rubin: “Best Advice: Make A Habit of Something Every Day.” Katie credits it for helping her start and maintain her donor acknowledgement program.Thanks to both Katie and Renee for sharing their stories with the Network for Good community! For more tips on making recurring giving a part of your fundraising strategy, listen to the full recording of this webinar, Getting Donors to Give Again and Again: The Secret Recipe.
The Playoffs are like the year-end giving season for NBA players. Just like your nonprofit’s staff in December, during Playoffs, athletes are busy, tired, and they have their eye on the prize. What can nonprofits learn from the 16 teams that are competing for the championship title? Here are 4 takeaways you can share with your colleagues: Every little victory matters.In the Playoffs: The Charlotte Bobcats went from having the second-worst record last season to playing the two-time defending champion in the first round of the playoffs this season. Talk about improvement! Takeaway: You may be disappointed because you came so close to hitting your big fundraising goal. However, there are definitely some small wins that you can celebrate. Were email open rates better than last year? Did you have a higher percentage of recurring gifts? Use this as an opportunity to analyze what worked and what didn’t. Learn from it and leverage that knowledge to improve future campaigns. That amazing jaw-dropping campaign element needs to fit in with your overall strategy.In the Playoffs: There were seconds left in the fourth quarter of game 2 against the Grizzlies. Kevin Durant gets the ball, loses his balance, and shoots mid-fall. Those three points got everyone excited! But, the Thunder lost. It sure was a memorable shot, but in the end, it didn’t earn the points they needed to win. Takeaway: Does your professionally produced video with a local celebrity or that beautiful photo shoot of your new facility enhance the story you’re telling in your fundraising appeal or confuse it? Even though you might want to share those “wow” elements as many times as possible, consider saving your snazzy elements for a campaign that makes sense and use it when it fits in with your overall strategy. Let your personality shine. In the Playoffs: The Wizards’ Bradley Beal makes 79% of his free throws. But during game 1 against the Pacers, he shot an air ball. How did he react? He showed that he was human and laughed it off. Takeaway: Donors like a little personality in the communications they receive from your nonprofit. You’re human, your organization helps humans (or animals) and donors are human. Humans like to laugh and they want to feel connected to your cause through stories. Step away from the standard writing format for a few moments and inject some personality into your writing. Say thank you.In the Playoffs: This year’s NBA MVP was Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. His acceptance speech was a big thank you to his entire team, his coaches, his mom, and so many others. You could tell his teammates were touched by his gratitude. Takeaway: The work your nonprofit does is amazing. It changes peoples’ lives. But don’t forget who helped you accomplish the work: donors. Your donors are the superheroes. Make them feel special by saying thank you early and often. Are you rooting for a team in the Playoffs this year? Have you noticed anything about your team’s performance that could apply to fundraising? Share in the comments below. (Image source: MVGL /Tumblr)