Why You Need the Wired Wealthy

first_imgA growing number of people are giving even bigger bucks online.  A new study, “The Wired Wealthy” by Convio, Sea Change Strategies and Edge Research, looks at these major online donors in depth.  Read the full study below, or just check out these key points from the study:Major and moderate donors are generous and onlineThe e-mail files surveyed represent one percent of the membership but 32 percent of the revenue for this sector80 percent of the wired wealthy made donations both online and offline72 percent say donating online is more efficient and helps charities reduce administrative costs51 percent said they prefer giving online and 46 percent said that five years from now they will be making a greater portion of their charitable gifts onlineMost charity Web sites are missing opportunities to fully engage wealthy wired with their organizationOnly 40 percent said that most charity Web sites made them feel personally connected to their cause or missionOnly 40 percent said that most charity Web sites are inspiring48 percent felt most charity Web sites are well-designedEmail shows signs of lost opportunities to connect with various donors74 percent said it was appropriate for the charity to send an email reminding them to renew an annual gift74 percent said that an email from the charity about how their donation was spent, and what happened as a result would make them more likely to give again65 percent said they always open and glance at emails from causes they supportThree distinct groups of donors emerged based on the extent to which the donor sees the Internet as a source of connection between themselves and the causesRelationship seekers (29%) – the group most likely to connect emotionally with organizations onlineAll business (30%) – not looking for a relationship or emotional connection, but a smooth and simple donation processCasual connectors (41%) occupy the middle ground, showing some interest in sustaining an online relationship, but also wanting a smooth and simple processNonprofits should create and provide options that let the wired wealthy customize their online experience with the cause, says the study.last_img read more

How to Start a Website for Your Organization

first_imgYour nonprofit organization needs to have a website. Period. It need not be flashy, overly colorful or even all that pretty-it just has to do its job. Your organization’s website should provide doormats for the major types of visitors, have relevant and timely information, and provide interested parties with your contact information.But, where do you even start? After determining your budget, follow these five steps to create your new website:Register a domain name (at least one):Think about other websites you’ve visited and other organizations you’ve searched for. The web address is straight-forward and relevant to the organization’s name and brand. People can’t visit your website if you don’t have a registered domain. You can get one free for a year through grassroots.org, or begin an inexpensive contract with godaddy.com. If your budget allows, you may consider purchasing more than one domain that all lead to your main webpage. For example, choose a common misspelling, reversal of words in your web address, etc.Develop the initial content for your website:What message or information do people visiting your site need to know? What are the goals of your website? Consider how you will incorporate your call-to-action (contact us, sign up for our listserv, make a donation, sign a petition), and who will be looking at your website. You may have an extremely varied audience-just make sure you’re providing information for each other: donation opportunities, background information and compelling storytelling of why people should care. Take into account the eight things your homepage must have.Determine if a free or really inexpensive option will work for you:Take some time to evaluate sites like Change.org and Grassroots.org. The former allows you to create your own branded social network (complete with online donation capabilities), and the latter has a free web-design/hosting service if you get on their list.Decide who will build your website (if step #3 doesn’t satisfy your organization’s needs, timing and/or format):There are a number of ways to create the page itself: outsourcing the work, creating a page in-house or finding an appropriate application provider (ASP). Read more about each of these options here.Allow your website to accept online donations:With all this “doormat” talk, it’s important to keep in mind that many donors will turn to your website for a quick way to get funds from their wallets to your organization. Network for Good offers an affordable, easy to use online fundraising solution.Once you have your website up and running, keep in mind that it’s an evolving tool and hub of information. Take some time to pat yourself on the back for getting it launched and donor-friendly/ready, but don’t forget to evaluate and re-evaluate how you can keep your site fresh and relevant.last_img read more

Build Your House (file)…and Keep It Tidy, Too

first_imgDraw a map. Create a flowchart. Put together some document with all of your database fields and the naming conventions for those fields. Clean up duplicate records often. If you have the time to do this regularly, it can save you time in the future.Essentially the most important ingredient to keeping your housefile (list) clean is to dust it regularly. Empower your organization by coming up with a clear and outlined process of how you collect and store your data. Doing so will allow you keep a tidy housefile that is easy to report on and analyze. Make sure all individuals in your organization have that document. This will ensure that everyone in your organization will use the same naming conventions and mapping process when creating the online forms you use to collect constituents’ information. Source: Connection Cafecenter_img If you have uniform response options you want to have listed on multiple choice questions (that are going to be used on many of your online forms), decide upon the answer options and make sure everyone in your organization has a document outlining those response options. Building your housefile (list) is one of the key ingredients in developing a strong online presence. It is important to welcome a constant flow of constituents into your online home. But, what are the next steps in maintaining that list? Once you have a good list going, it is vital to keep that list clean, dust and clutter-free. Mom always told you to keep your room clean. Why should your constituent list be any different?Here are some tips to keeping a clean list:Decide on what data you want to collect and how you want it to be organized in your database. For example, if you want to have a field in your database to store information on constituents’ pets’ names, decide where you want that information to live in the database and how you want to get it there.last_img read more

10 Steps to Being Found on Search Engines

first_imgLet’s do an experiment. Go to Google and type in the most commonly used version of your organization’s name. Do you show up first in the resulting list of sites? What if you type in a short phrase describing the type of work you’d like to be known for? Do you show up in the top page of those search results, too?Your placement on search engines like Google or Yahoo Search is important. At a minimum, it should be easy for your current constituents to find your site using your organization’s name. Showing up on the first page of search results for key terms — for instance, something like “Cincinnati women’s shelter,” if that describes your organization — can also make a huge difference in your site traffic, not to mention in potential donors, volunteers, and clients’ ability to find and connect with you.You don’t have complete control over where and how your Web site shows up in search engines, but you have more power than you might think. The process of site tweaking and outreach that’s used to enhance your search engine placement is called search engine optimization (or SEO for short). While SEO is often described in ways that make it seem like a mystical art form, in fact none of the key steps are particularly hard to understand. They are often, however, time consuming, and most require at least the ability to update your site’s text, if not basic HTML skills.Investing time in comparatively straightforward tasks like including key phrases in titles and headlines can reap some substantial benefits. Below, we suggest 10 steps that can help search engines find and prioritize your site content. While some steps are more technical than others, these concepts can help anyone understand and prioritize search engine optimization for their organization.1. Ensure Your Site Has High-Quality InformationThe cornerstone of any optimization strategy — or just a good Web site strategy, for that matter — is a lot of great, relevant information tailored to those you’d like to attract to your site. A large volume of high-quality content helps with a number of the steps listed below — for instance, you’re more likely to have information that’s useful to any particular person, you’re more likely to include the key phrases for which people are searching, and other sites are more likely to link to yours.Not to mention, of course, that a terrific site is more likely to engage the people who find you through search engines, and encourage them to become not only repeat visitors, but friends of your organization.2. Help Search Engines Find Your SiteSearch engines read through huge volumes of information on the Web with software programs called “robots” or “spiders” (because they navigate, or “crawl,” through the Web). These spiders create an index which contains, essentially, all the pages they’ve found and the words that are contained on them.You need to make sure your Web site is included in those indexes. You can easily check to see if your site has been indexed by Google’s index by searching “site:www.yourdomain.org” — i.e. site:www.idealware.org. This search will show a list of all the pages from your site that are included in Google’s index (ideally, every page on your site).If you’re not included in the indexes — for instance, if you have a new Web site, or one without much traffic — none of the steps below will do much good until you are. How do you get included? You can submit your site to the search engines — to Google, or Yahoo for instance — but experts are divided on how useful this is. It’s certainly not a quick way to be included.A better way is to get other indexed sites to link to yours. You can start this effort with huge, general-interest directories like the DMOZ directory, but you’re likely to have as much or more success with directories or listings related to your field. Is there an online directory of children’s service organizations? Does your United Way have a listing of local organizations? Do your funders have a list of grantees online? Any of these (or ideally all of them, as per the next section) could provide the link you need to be indexed.Some online services say they’ll submit you to a lot of directories and search engines automatically. These generally aren’t worth the money, as indiscriminate listings aren’t nearly as useful as ones targeted to your sector.3. Encourage Others to Link to YouLinks from other sites to yours are a critical aspect of search engine optimization. A couple of links will help the search engines find your sites, but lots of links will show them that your site is a central, important resource for particular topics.The more incoming links you have from credible organizations (that is to say, organizations that show up high on search engines themselves), the higher you will be listed in search results. To check to see the links that Google has indexed for your site, enter “link:www.yourdomain.org” into the Google search bar. The resulting list doesn’t include every link from every site, but is a guide to the approximate quantity of high-quality links.How do you get people to link to you? As we mentioned above, there are likely a number of organizations that have a list of organizations like yours. Ensuring you’re included in all the relevant directories is a good start. See if partner organizations will link to you. Do a search on the phrases for which you’d like to be found and look for ways to get the organizations at the top of the search results to link to you. Think through content you could provide — perhaps reports, articles, toolkits, directories of your own — that would be so useful that organizations would be inspired to link to it.4. Identify the Keywords For Which You’d Like to Be FoundWe’ve talked so far about ways for people to find your site as a whole — but people are unlikely to be looking for your site specifically. They’re much more likely to be looking for good information or a resource on a particular topic, which they’ll identify by entering the first words that come to mind when they think about their topic, known as keywords in search engine optimization lingo.Identifying the keywords that people are likely to use, and for which you’d like to be found, is a critical step in search engine optimization. You should ideally think through keywords not just for your organization as a whole, but for each content page that might have useful information for your target audience. For instance, “Cincinnati women’s shelter” might lead people to your organization, but if you offer meaty content on your site, a search on “signs of domestic abuse” might also lead people to you.How do you identify your core keywords? It’s not a science. First off, try to identify phrases that are reasonably specific to your organization. Trying to show up in the top of the search results for “the environment” is likely to be a losing battle, but “measuring river-water quality” is a more achievable goal. In thinking through your keywords, consider: Be careful of duplicate pages.Search engines react badly to duplicate content, as it’s a common ploy of those trying to spam a search engine into better placement. Be careful of structures that show the same page content at multiple URLs (for instance, as a print-friendly version). If multiple versions are important, use the “robots” metatag to specify that additional versions shouldn’t be indexed. Also, take particular care not to set up a site so it can be seen in its entirety at multiple domains (for instance, at both http://www.idealware.org and http://idealware.org) — instead, redirect from one domain to the other. Page text.Repeating your keywords a number of times (but not so many times to annoy your readers, of course) throughout the page text is likely to boost your placement. If you are looking for a comparatively quick way to optimize each page, adding keywords in just the title and description metadata can provide substantial results without a wholesale rewrite of your site.Note that the keywords need to be shown as text. Spiders can’t read images, so any page, header, or feature that’s displayed as a graphic — regardless of how prominent on the page — is invisible to search engines.6. Ensure a Search-Friendly Web Site ArchitectureOkay, we need to delve into a bit of technical detail for a minute. Unfortunately, the detailed structure of a Web site can affect your search engine placement in important ways. If you’re not generally familiar with Web site construction concepts and HTML (the language of Web sites), you may need to flag this section to the attention of a trusted Web developer.Spiders don’t read in the same way that a human would, so it’s important to follow some basic site-structure guidelines to ensure that they can find and read your information: How many keywords should you have? That’s up to you. Ideally, you’d have a least a couple keyword phrases for each page on your site. Some organizations optimize for thousands of keywords. However, starting with just a few phrases and a few pages is far better than nothing.5. Place Keywords in Prime LocationsOnce you’ve identified your priority keywords, the next step is to integrate them into your Web pages. When someone searches on a key phrase, the search engine looks for pages that include prominent mentions of the phrase: ones that contain it a number of times, show it toward the top of the page, and include it in key locations.Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for the time-consuming task of incorporating your keywords into each content page. For each page, consider how you can incorporate your keywords into: Headlines and section titles.Text that is formatted prominently (bigger, bolder, higher on the page) is more likely to affect search engine placement than other text, so keywords will hold more weight in headlines. What search phrases are people using in your domain?Tools like Good Keywords or WordTracker can help you to brainstorm keywords related to the ones you’ve already identified, and to find the phrasing that searchers are most likely to use. Ensure there’s a simple link to every page on your site.JavaScript navigation schemes — particularly ones that use rollovers — can make it hard for spiders to recognize and follow a link. Dynamic URLs, particularly ones that indicate the parameter with a question mark, can also be problematic. If your site is dynamic, consider creating a site index that contains a link to every page. Ideally, convert your dynamic URLs so that they look like static pages with a command like mod_rewrite. What phrases are associated with your organization?Start the keyword process by listing the words and phrases that you’re already using in your marketing materials. The name of your organization is an obvious one, as is the name of any well-known people associated with you. Do you have a tagline or short mission statement that concisely and usefully summarizes what you do? What phrases do you use in that? How are people currently finding you?If you have access to a Web site analytics tool, you can likely see the search engine phrases that people are currently using to find you. These can be a useful starting point in understanding how people search for your information. Think about how you can increase the ease with which you can be found for these phrases, and use them to provide inspiration for more important phrases. Page description metadata.Each page has a “description” field, a longer description of page content that can be accessed in a similar way to the “title” metadata. The description is another important place to include your keywords, and is also sometimes shown by search engines as the description of your page in search results. Page title metadata.Each page has what’s called a “title metadata field,” which controls the text that shows up in header bar at the top of the browser window — and which is also frequently shown as the page title in search engine results. This is one of the most important places to include your keywords. This title field can be edited through the HTML code of the page, or through most methods you might use to update your site — for instance, through Dreamweaver, Contribute, and most content-management systems. Link text.The words used as a link to your page are prioritized highly when the search engines consider that page. Optimize the links within your own site and especially any external links you have control over, for example in your blog, email signatures, social network profiles, and so on. Encourage others to link to you using your keywords — for instance, by providing keyword-heavy titles and descriptions for resources on your site. Include content early in each HTML page.When looking for content keywords, search engines prioritize keywords that show up early in the text of the page — and that text includes all of the HTML code. Try to structure the page so that the HTML code includes the content as early as possible — as opposed to, for instance, including code for complex headers, navigation bars, and sidebars before getting to the actual page text. Use standard header tags.Some search engines prioritize text that is displayed in standard formatting tags such as H1 or H2, so it’s worthwhile using those as opposed to creating custom names for your header styles. Page URL.If you can control the actual filename of the page (e.g. “search_engines.html”), keywords embedded in the URL are also counted as highly relevant. One last caution: avoid tricks. In reading through this article and others, you may think you’ve found loopholes to get higher placement without the work. That’s very unlikely. Search engines spend a huge amount of time trying to preclude shortcuts, and they don’t take kindly to being tricked. If you set up your site in a way that looks to a search engine like you’re trying to fool them, they may remove your site from their listings altogether.7. Keep Your Site FreshSearch engines love new pages. Try to add new stories, reports, news releases, and the like so that search engines feel that your site is frequently updated and thus should be frequently indexed. If your site is rarely updated, it can take months for search engines to find your infrequent new additions.Blogs can be a particularly useful way to easily add new pages to your site — and can also provide great information that encourages links from others (not to mention all the other ways blogs can help in marketing and outreach!).8. Consider Google GrantsSo far, we’ve focused on ways to tweak and optimize your site in order to be listed for free on any search engine. There’s another way, though, to be listed on Google: Google gives away free search-engine advertising (the links listed as “Sponsored Links” down the right side of the search results page) through its Google Grants program.If you’re approved for the program (at the moment, Google appears to be using a non-competitive vetting process, although it can take up to six months or so to hear back), you can place text ads that show up each time someone enters key phrases into the Google search box. The grants often offer enough free advertising to allow you to place ads for hundreds of keywords.Google Grants isn’t a replacement for the steps above. It only affects Google and not other search engines, and many organizations find that an ad to a page doesn’t bring nearly as much traffic as a link to that page from the traditional search results. However, it’s a straightforward process that every nonprofit should consider.9. Be Patient, but Keep Checking InSearch engines don’t respond to changes overnight. In fact, it might take a month or more to see the results of your efforts reflected in search engine results. Don’t give up hope — keep including keywords in new content, and asking other organizations to link to your resources.Once you do see some results, don’t rest on your laurels. The Web is a dynamic place, and new Web sites, new articles, and changing search engine priorities can affect your placement. Check in on the search results for your keywords at least every month or so, to help maintain your position and continue to enhance your strategy.10. Enjoy the Fruits of Your LaborUnfortunately, search engine optimization isn’t a particularly short or easy road. But it’s important to take on at least some of the basic steps — for instance, ensuring your site is linked to from a few well-known sites, and including some of your most important keywords in page titles and headers.When your new donors, volunteers, and clients mention that they found you through Google or Yahoo Search, you’ll be glad you took the time.Many thanks to Heather Gardner-Madras of gardner-madras | strategic creative, Kevin Gottesman of Gott Advertising, and Michael Stein, Internet Strategist, who also contributed to this article.This article is courtesy of Idealware, which provides candid information to help nonprofits choose effective software. For more articles and reviews, go to www.idealware.org.Copyright © 2008 CompuMentor. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.last_img read more

Make Your Website a Hit: Improve Your SEO in 4 Steps, Step 1: Keywords

first_imgDo you ever wonder why some websites seem to steal the top positions on search engines?  No, it is not magic, and yes, your nonprofit can do it too.  The “secret” to achieving this success for your website is by harnessing the power of search engine optimization. By following this step-by-step guide, you will be well on your way to drastically improving your websites standing in only four steps.What you need to know:Despite what some companies may want you to believe, there are no tricks or shortcuts to search engine optimization (SEO) and you will not top the list of search results overnight.  Three major areas should be focused on for a successful SEO campaign.  These areas include:KeywordsWebsite designLinksStep 1: KeywordsObjective:Your first set of objectives include submitting your site to several link directories and improving your websites keyword structure.Let’s Get Started:Directories- Submitting to nonprofit directories such as CharityNavigator, Yahoo Health, idealist.org, and fundsnetservices or general directories such as Business.com, Best of the Web, and DMOZ will immediately affect your website’s search rankings.  While listing your site on directories is worth your time, the links are of little overall value and will only have a minimal impact on your ranking.Keywords- Keywords are the words/phrases that tell search engines about the purpose of your site.  It is important to identify which words are most advantageous to your organization so they can be optimized in your content.  Begin selecting keywords by brainstorming every word/phrase that is topically relevant to your organization.  Remember, put yourself into the shoes of the searcher and avoid industry jargon.   Be sure to include the name of the organization and the main service the organization provides.  Additionally, when selecting keywords try to avoid general terms such as “nonprofit”, “charity”, or “fundraiser” and select keywords that are unique and relevant.  Two problems arise when general keyword terms are used:The phrase becomes more competitive and harder to rank well on.The site receives traffic from people who are looking for a different service than your organization provides.Nonprofit organizations in particular need to include action keywords such as “donate” or “contribute” to make their fundraising campaigns more successful.  If you are still unable to generate keywords, browse through websites of similar nonprofit organizations and look which keywords are used on their sites.Keyword Tracker Tools- Once you have developed a starter list, you are ready to test the words using one of the many online keyword tracker tools.  The best free online tool today is yahoo’s Overture.  This will show the popularity of the keyword entered during the last month and give a rough idea of what additional keywords may work for the organization.  However, for the organization that wants to launch a more targeted and successful SEO campaign, Wordtracker is the correct instrument to use.  Wordtracker has additional features such as the inclusion of plurals and misspellings in its search.  Most importantly Wordtracker includes the competition for each of the keyword phrases.  The trick here is to select keywords that are popular searches but not commonly used by other organizations.Keyword Density- There has been a great deal of hype regarding keyword density and finding the correct density for each search engine.  Keyword density refers to the frequency that the keyword is used.  According to the most current and accurate articles written on the subject, such as the Unfair Advantage (within searchenginenews.com), keyword density is in fact much less important than originally predicted.  The only standing rule of keyword density is not use “keyword stuffing” techniques where the phrase is repeated multiple times.  Search engines now monitor this tactic and will actually lower your sites ranking if they detect stuffing.  Search Engine Land’s article, SEO “Don’ts”: 20 Fatal Mistakes You Must Avoid to Succeed, gives an accurate list of pitfalls such as keyword stuffing that you will want to steer clear of when implementing your SEO strategy.New Website Content- When incorporating keywords into the websites text, be sure to look at the content from the users’ point of view, and strike a balance between the user and the search engine (priority always goes to the user), making content friendly for both.  For further reading on how to layout your website to optimize its effectiveness with search engines read Matt McGee’s 21 Essential SEO Tips & Techniques or one of the many articles on the subject in Search Engine Land.Title and Header Tags- The most important keywords identified should be included in the websites title and header tags.  A title tag is a short html code that tells search engines about your site, while headers are viewed by users on the top of each page and tell the purpose of the page.  The 7 Essential Title Tag Strategies of High Ranking Web Pages in 2006 has further information about how to improve title tags to optimize your search performance. Step One Checklist:Submit your website to directoriesList keywordsTest your keywords with online toolsResearch title and header tagsImprove your websites content by adding keywordsSource/contact: Lance@TicketPrinting.com, http://www.ticketprinting.com/last_img read more

Make your business card a marketing hero

first_imgI have a pretty boring business card, but that’s about to change. Ever since a designer friend handed me a clear plastic business card with a field for inking a personal note, I realized this is a neglected opportunity.What are you doing to make your card about your cause?Here’s a great source of inspiration from librarians. Librarians rock. Not only do I love them, I think they are marketing superheroes. Here’s the proof. Is this a fabulous card or what? I share her source of power, by the way: coffee.Write me if you have a heroic business card.last_img

Three pieces of fundraising advice

first_imgHere is my Fundraising Success column for June, featuring my alter ego, the maven.Dear Marketing Maven,My donations are down, my heart is heavy, and my job is on the line. Worse, I think I’m coming down with something. Paging Dr. Dollars!-Sick in SyracuseDear Sick,I don’t need a stethoscope to diagnose these ailments. You’re suffering from one or all of the three most common diseases in the nonprofit world. Sadly, they are at epidemic proportions. We’ve got to stop their spread!#1: “Field of Dreams” syndrome. Those who have this disease believe that, “If you build it, they will come.” By “they,” I mean a big team of generous donors. For example, if you have FODS, you think that if you build a website and stick a DonateNow button on it, donors will arrive and click. This disease also manifests itself as an assumption that uttering your mission statement will inspire people to give. If you find yourself saying, “If people only knew, they would” then you have FODS. Declaring your existence is not a fundraising campaign. It is a symptom of FODS.The cure? You need to reach out to people and build relationships with them. Then maybe they’ll want to support you.#2: “It’s all about us” disease. Nonprofits suffering from this disease are easy to spot — their home pages, emails and all of their correspondence reads like an “About Us” page. Sometimes, this ailment is called “Nonprofit Narcissism.” Mission statements, the history of your organization and other related details should not be found everywhere and do not constitute a strong message.The cure? Make it about your donor, not you. Why should they care? What can they accomplish? How have they changed the world with their support? #3: “Call to inaction” problem. In order to generate donations and increase your donor base, you need to have a clear call to action. It’s not enough to state who you are, what you do and what’s new. You need to clearly state what you are asking and appeal to prospective donors to take that action. “Save the earth” is not a call to action. Nor is “support us.”The cure? Be specific. As in, “Click this button and give us $10 for a bed net so a child will be saved from malaria.”Be well,MavenDear Marketing Maven,Our image is not what I want, so I’m thinking of rebranding with a new logo. Thoughts?-Making Over in HanoverDear Makeover,Bad idea. Branding is not about logos, it’s about how people perceive you. That’s got a lot more to do with how you treat them, how you conduct your programs, and how you communicate your achievements than it has to do with your logo. Don’t spend a cent on a new logo until you dig deeper into these aspects of your brand. Without that level of makeover, a new logo or color palette is about as effective as slapping lipstick on a pig. I don’t think it’s worth spending money on a logo change unless you conclude after fixing everything else that your logo is in direct violation of the brand you’ve built. Happy makeover,MavenDear Marketing Maven,Why did you not open my last eNewsletter?–Hurt in HalifaxDear Hurt,I get about 20 email newsletters a week. I read about two. I must have somehow overlooked yours – I’m sure it was worth a read, unlike the other 18. For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts on newsletters:1. Maybe you don’t need one.People are inundated with newsletters. I’m not the exception – we all get too many. Yawn. Why not put your time and energy into something truly exceptional? Like the packet a friend just got from DonorsChoose to thank him for buying a carpet for a classroom. He got a picture of the kids on the carpet – along with the students’ little handwritten notes and pictures. Wow. Not feasible, you say? How about simply sending out something useful to your audience? At Network for Good, we send out weekly free fundraising tips rather than a newsletter about us. Our nonprofits love it! If you’re an organization focused on diabetes, how about weekly tips for managing diabetes? 2. If you do an enewsletter, don’t forget the “e.”You can’t just slap your print newsletter into a PDF, email it, and consider yourself the editor of an “enewsletter.” Write to the medium. Online communications need to be shorter and formatted for the web. People skim online. They don’t read. Don’t make them download a PDF and turn pages on your computer. Grab attention with photos, short text and good stories. 3. Make it about the donors and not you.Don’t manifest “All about us” disease in your newsletter. Your newsletter should not be about how great you are. It should be about how great your donor is! Make your donor feel like the center of attention. No one can resist reading about themselves – or about what they accomplished.Write on,MavenStay tuned… more on email newsletters in next month’s column!last_img read more

Create an Online Fundraising Plan: Know Your Numbers

first_imgEmpathetic. Donor-centric. Sympathetic. Your marketing communications are “ticking” along as they should be. But, as we’re all painfully aware, the right-side of the  brain just loves piping in to talk about numbers, figures, trends and goals.Instead of telling that portion of the brain to buzz off (as I often do), use it to create the fourth and final piece of your online fundraising plan: The Numbers. Below, check out our tips for getting a jump on mapping what your numbers look like now and what you hope they look like later:Budget Tips:Planning to raise money online? Of course you are! Why else would you be developing an online fundraising plan? Be sure to build into your budget what you plan to spend for donation processing. For instance, you can check out our own DonateNow service–great value for a price that won’t eat up your budget.Fixing up your website? Be realistic about the features you need versus the features you want. Set up your budget ahead of time, and don’t be distracted by shiny objects: your website is a tool and a resource, not a fireworks show.Thinking about advertising? If you’re considering developing banner ads or other paid online outreach, remember to keep in mind the various items you’re paying for: design, development and placement costs.Hiring extra help? You may be planning to use the talents of a copywriter for your website or consultant to help you out. Those folks often like to get paid–go figure. And in planning this line item, do some brainstorming about how you might cut costs: Maybe a graphic designer (could be a student) will donate time or a communications intern can develop testimonials for your website.Tracking, Benchmarking, Reporting Tips:DonateNow. Are you a DonateNow customer? If so, don’t forget to log into your account to check out your donor reports. You can even track your campaigns by evaluating the tracking codes for different DonateNow buttons on your site and in your emails. Email messaging. Determine an evaluation schedule for monitoring your e-communications. Will you track the number of donors (past and new) directly tied to your email communications? Monitor giving levels of donors receiving your emails versus those who are not.Website traffic. Sign up for Google Analytics to evaluate site traffic. Work language into your online fundraising plan about how you will determine which content is most appealing and how you will increase visibility of that content while simultaneously finding a way to tie in giving opportunities.Testing. Not happy with your fundraising results? Test out new ideas! Vary your email messaging and mix around your website a bit. Testing is a vital piece of the puzzle when working to improve your numbers!last_img read more

How to make advocacy sticky

first_imgImagine you had to mobilize an audience of working moms to advocate for paid sick days – something that too few receive.You could talk about the importance of paid sick days for the working mom. Yawn.Or you could use humor and interactivity to relate to how moms experience this issue – which is by living in fear of getting ill and avoiding sick people like the plague.I pick door #2.So did RisingMoms. This is the first RisingMoms email (and they send too many) I’ve really liked – because it makes the issue sticky and VIRAL!last_img

Great tag lines – do you have one?

first_imgTaglines are tough. They challenge us to sum up the essence of all we do in a few words that are pithy, profound and pack a punch. My blogging frolleague Nancy, also known as president of Nancy Schwartz & Company, has a big announcement about those tough little beasts: She’s found the BEST nonprofit taglines of 2008. We’re happy to see Network for Good friend LandChoices as a big winner. (I voted for them!)Nancy says the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards program came about when so many powerful taglines were submitted to a survey she did on nonprofit taglines. More than 1,000 taglines were submitted. Survey findings, the entire list of submitted taglines and details on finalists and award winners will be featured in a report to be published in September. Stay tuned for the report – I’ve seen a sneak preview, and it’s packed with great pointers on vastly improving your tagline. I’ll blog it as soon as it’s off the presses.Without further ado, here are the winners in each category along with comments on what makes them great:Arts & Culture: Where Actors Find Their Space —NYC Theatre SpacesThis clearinghouse for NYC rehearsal and performance spaces uses a double entendre to go beyond a description of its services and highlight the value of its work.Civic Benefit: Stand Up for a Child —CASA of Southwest MissouriCASA’s tagline provokes anger, compassion and a desire to help, in just five words.Education: Stay Close…Go Far. —East Stroudsburg University of PennsylvaniaThis simple yet distinctive tagline from East Stroudsburg cuts through the clutter. Its straightforward character mirrors that of the school.Environment & Animals: Helping Preserve the Places You Cherish —LandChoicesLandChoices’ tagline thoroughly communicates the value of its work while evoking one’s most precious memories of walks in the woods, wildflower meadows and childhood camping trips. There’s a real emotional connection here.Grantmaking: Make the most of your giving. —The Greater Cincinnati FoundationThis clear tagline articulates the value of the foundation for donors considering an alternative way to give.Health & Sciences: Improving Life, One Breath at a Time —American Lung AssociationThis unexpected focus on the breath—a core element of life—gets attention, and understanding.Human Services: When You Can’t Do It Alone —Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Sarasota–Manatee, Inc.This tagline tells the story succinctly and powerfully: It’s all about getting help when life becomes overwhelming. It makes a strong emotional connection.International, Foreign Affairs & National Security: Whatever it takes to save a child —U.S. Fund for UNICEFUNICEF engages hearts and minds with its passionate focus on helping children. Who could turn down a request for a donation?Jobs & Workforce Development: All Building Starts With a Foundation —Building Future BuildersVoters enjoyed the word play here: It adds depth of understanding without being glib. Religion & Spiritual Development: Grounded in tradition…Open to the Spirit —Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS)MTS conveys the two equally important halves of its values and curriculum in a way that makes you think about the connection.Other• The Art of Active Aging —EngAGEEngAGE surprises with the imagery of active aging and the use of the term “art” to describe the way it does its work.• Because facts matter. —Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP)This tagline introduces the nature of OCPP’s impact in Oregon and entices the reader or listener to find out more. Its value proposition—the truth—is particularly compelling at a time when facts are frequently disregarded in public debate.last_img read more

Choosing Donor Software: Things to Remember

first_imgSource: http://www.asmallchange.net/ Don’t have a Technology Plan? Now might be a good time to put one together. There are many resources available to assist you with this. Remember that this process will not just impact development – but other departments as well. A strong technology plan and strategy will ensure the best choice possible.Hire a consultant or find a technology savvy volunteer. If you don’t have the expertise on staff, then find someone. It is strongly recommended that you go through this process with someone on your side of the table that knows technology and your agency. I don’t like the “us versus them” attitude, but Sales Reps spend all of their time figuring out how to close the deal. That’s what they do.Remember that the software can help you with your development success – it cannot create it for you. In other words – if you do not have good fundraising “best practices” in place now, then even the best most expensive software in the world cannot help. Start at the basics and work your way up.Keep your eye out on happenings in the software industry through trade publications. The donor management software industry is under-going heavy consolidation, and unfortunately that means smaller companies get swallowed up, and their products disappear in favor of the big boy that bought them out.Can your agency pass “Stable and Secure” benchmarks? Will the software even run on your systems that are 8 years old and running Windows 98? What about security? Remember – you will often have credit card information and other important personal data – is it safe from hackers or snoops? If you are not sure about the security level of your network – go back and review “Step Two”.The bottom line is that although the process is long and arduous at times, hang in there! Use the resources that are available to you. Very little of the research you will do has not already been done elsewhere. The best strategy in this case is to have a strategy.In my estimation the best donor management package out there is the one that is being used, day in and day out, and getting the job done.last_img read more

Get Ready for Year-End Fundraising

first_imgFirst things first: Make sure your organization can accept online donations. Though you’re clearly getting on the ball by tackling end-of-the-year fundraising now, your donors may still put off “the big give” until the last minute. Make sure your donors have an easy-to- use, customized donation form that generates that vital tax receipt immediately – all without having to leave your website. (Don’t have a custom donation page? Contact us to try out our DonateNow service.) Make a plan.Tips 1-4 get right to the practical heart of your marketing strategy. Don’t forget to take a step back to plan ahead. Do you have year-end fundraising goals? Do you know who or what you’d like to highlight? What positive information and updates will you highlight for your audience(s)? And, maybe most importantly, what are your donors looking for – news, updates, stories, numbers/figures/results of a past campaign? Ask your audience what they need and want from you and deliver it! They’ll remember it when your well-crafted appeals start rolling in a few months.*Don’t believe that tax breaks are a major influencer? Network for Good processes 30% of its annual donations in the month of December, and the majority of that comes December 30 and 31. It’s not exactly a coincidence that this time is right before the tax-year ends! Nonprofit organizations can fulfill supporter’s desires for tax deductions just by being a 501(c)(3) (about.com has some info you can share with your potential donors about this). Get your story straight. Passion about your work is infectious, but too often fundraisers sap the emotion and color from our work when we seek to put it into words. We talk about our work in analytical ways when we should be speaking from the heart to compel people to action. Find out how to break out of this pattern and get the tools to help you write the right (brain) way every time. Determine the fixes/updates you can make prior to December to your organization’s website. Can you make your donate button bigger? Do you need to add a “why give” page? We’re not talking a website overhaul – just a few minor modifications you’ll be thankful for a few months from now. Check out these three steps you can take toward a better nonprofit website.  If your website is already up to par, and you’re ready to move on to social media, here are 11 Steps to Success (and 6 Things to Avoid) with Social Networking. Now is the time to focus on building stronger relationships with supporters to lay the groundwork for a big year-end giving season. By checking these items off your list now, you can strengthen the vital relationships that will set your organization up for a strong holiday giving season.Here are five tips to help you kick off your holiday fundraising now: Become friendly with an email marketing tool to communicate with your donors regularly – not just when you’re asking for money. And we’re not talking about Outlook. Giving your supporters content of value as it happens, rather than just at the end of the year will increase your donors’ feeling of investment in your organization, which leads to higher gifts.  An email marketing tool will also help you comply with CAN-SPAM laws, allow your supporters to easily share your information with a friend on social networks and generally keep them happy! (Want to send out great emails your can track and tailor? Get started with Constant Contact, an easy-to-use and affordable email marketing tool.) Supporters choose to donate to organizations for a variety of reasons. While most of the time you’re better off focusing on the emotional side of giving, at the end of the year data shows you  can get away with an appeal that’s focused on the financial side because people love tax deductions.* Photo source: Big Stock Photolast_img read more

Benefit exchange week finale: credibility

first_imgHere’s the last of my thoughts, pulled from my book, on benefit exchanges. Don’t forget: you can’t ask for action without them!If we make promises about our nonprofit, especially bold ones, we need to support them. We don’t need to quantify every reward or produce scientific evidence for every point we propose. We simply need to show that our benefit exchange is credible. In other words, we need to ensure that the action we ask for is feasible and the reward we offer is possible.Facts and figures are one approach to sounding reliable, but the problem is that they are quickly forgotten. Also, a lot of people don’t trust them. We need to make statistics as personal as possible so they will be remembered and believed. The average person won’t recall how many pounds of nitrates run off into a river or the concentration of E. coli in parts per million in an aquifer, but they will remember the poop in the tap water.A slew of psychological studies have shown that vivid personal stories are incredibly convincing, far more so than quantifiable statistics. I make many decisions about the products I buy, the books I read, and the places I go based on recommendations from people I respect. I think the person who offers the testimonial or stars in the success story we use is as important as the story itself. The right messengers lend great credibility to our claims. We should choose messengers who are known or respected by our audience or their immediate peers. We can also add credibility to our message by convincing our audience it can take action without too much effort and fuss. If an action seems like a big undertaking, that perception will undermine the idea that rewards are attainable. For this reason a lot of private-sector advertising has the word easy in it. It’s also why people love remote controls and drive-through windows. We don’t want to have to work too hard to get what we want.Another approach is showing our audience members that many people like them are taking the action. Social psychologists and marketing experts talk about the power of “social norms” or “social proof.” Social proof is the powerful idea that if we believe everyone is acting in a certain way, we’re likely to act that way too. We’re conformists by nature, and we take our cues about how to think and what to do from those around us.last_img read more

10 Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond

first_imgIt can be hard to convince leadership that working with social media doesn’t mean they’ve been paying you to catch up with friends on Facebook. You’ve probably heard some of the objections. But there are ways you can respond. Here’s a list of common objections, along with suggestions for countering them:1. I suffer from information overload already.Possible replies:Try just skimming messages in some fora. You may need to look closely at every email you get but you don’t have to look at every Facebook friend’s update.The right tools for you will feel helpful in time. Experiment for awhile with new tools and stick with the ones that deliver you the most high-quality information, whether those tools are high-quantity or not. (Thanks to Aaron Hockley and Ruby Sinreich for these thoughts.)Check out tools like AideRSS and FeedHub — just two examples of services aiming to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.Times change and so do information paradigms. Get used to it. The amount of information you had access to 3 years ago was infinitely more than people at any other point in history and we’re in the middle of another huge leap right now.2. So much of what’s discussed online is meaningless. These forms of communication are shallow and make us dumber. We have real work to do!Possible replies:Much of it is not meaningless, but if you feel overwhelmed with meaninglessness, try subscribing to a search for keywords in a particular service and using that as your starting point for engagement.Having a presence and starting a conversation is rarely a bad thing. Bring quality conversation to a space and you’ll find others ready to engage. (Thanks to Banana Lee Fishbones, obviously a fan of open, non-anonymous public communication for this articulation.)Personal information can be very useful in understanding the context of more explicitly useful information.If learning how the market feels about your organization, engaging with your customers and driving traffic to your web work — all very realistic goals for social media engagement — aren’t work, then I don’t know what is. Even in the short term, strategic engagement with online social media will have a clear work pay-off.3. I don’t have the time to contribute and moderate. It looks like it takes a lot of time and energy.Possible replies:If you aren’t going to eat that lunch of yours, I’d be happy to, thanks.With practice, familiarity, and technology fine-tuned with a little experience, you’ll find the time required will decrease.You might consider this time spent on marketing or communication with your existing customer base. Perhaps there’s something else in that department that isn’t working well and could be replaced with online work.4. Our customers don’t use this stuff. The learning curve limits its usefulness to geeks.Possible replies:You might be surprised to learn how many of your customers do use these new tools already. Even more will do so in the future.The best designed tools are designed like good games: you can get small rewards right away and then learn more advanced skills to win bigger rewards. Among online services that are intended for general audiences, only poorly designed ones are too geeky.Many of these tools provide value vastly disproportionate to the literal number of people they reach. These are like high-value focus groups where you’ll gather information and preparation to engage with the rest of the world.Try asking someone near you to give you an in-person demonstration of one of these tools. You’ll find it much easier to learn once you’ve seen the right paths taken to show what it can do.5. Communicators [bloggers, tweeters] are so fickle, it’s better to stay unengaged than risk random brand damage. We don’t want hostile comments left about us on any forum we’ve legitimized.Possible replies:If you need to, you can require that any comments left on your own site be approved before they appear. This slows down the conversation but if it makes conversation possible for you, then do it.There are far fewer people who will take the time to say hostile things, even on the internet, than you might imagine.Engage. You’ll be appreciated more for it. People are going to say what they are going to say. You can either let any criticism go unanswered or you can be the bigger person/brand for responding well.Conversations are going to happen online. It’s better to be engaged than to have it happening behind your back. (As articulated by Rick Turoczy.)It’s OK, no one believes that anyone is perfect anymore. Swing for the fences sometimes. You might strike out, but sometimes you’ll hit a home run.Even if you’re not responding publicly, you should watch closely so you know what people are saying. Maybe you don’t have a blog, but subscribe to a blogsearch feed or alert for your company’s name. Maybe none of your people are on Twitter, but you can subscribe to a feed for a search via Terraminds.6. Traditional media and audiences are still bigger. We’ll do new stuff when they do.Possible replies:They already are, from blogging to online video to social networks to mobile to microblogging. Big, established brands are already doing all of it. They may be experimenting, but they will bring all their market dominance into the most useful social media sectors as soon as it suits them. Will that be too late for you? It might be.Traditional media audiences are also more passive. Online audiences can engage with, rebroadcast, and otherwise amplify your communication efforts.7. Upper management won’t support it/dedicate resources for it.Possible replies:A lot of technology adoption has for some time had to happen despite this reality. People adopt new tools on their own at work, without permission. They discover powerful ways to solve their problems and then they share them horizontally.Compared to other expenses, meaningful engagement with new online technology does not have huge costs.8. These startups can’t offer meaningful security. They may not even be around in a year. I’ll wait until Google or our enterprise software vendor starts offering this kind of functionality.Possible replies:The skills you build and the connections you make will remain with you, though. This is a paradigm shift underway more than it is about any particular tool.Chose your tools carefully. Expect data export as an option so you can back up or switch services whenever you need to. This isn’t widespread yet but the best tools allow it.9. There are so many tools that are similar. I can’t tell where to invest my time so I don’t use any of it at all.Possible replies:A little experimentation goes a long way.Try asking people in your field who have some experience what tools they are using.Try searching for keywords related to your work in various sites. You’ll find out that way which sites are best suited for you.10. That stuff’s fine for sexy brands, but we sell [insert boring B2B brand] and are known for stability more than chasing the flavor-of-the-month. We’re doing just fine with the tools we’ve got, thanks.Possible replies:Some of these things — RSS and wikis, for example — aren’t passing social fads: they are emerging best practices and the state-of-the-art.ROI is very hard to measure, but try allocating a little energy over time to experiment and see what kind of results you get. From connections between people and projects, to search-friendly inbound links, to early access to important information, the benefits of engaging in new social media go on and on.ConclusionsThere are no conclusions. This is just a conversation. Please feel free to add your thoughts in comments and check out the comments to read what others suggest as talking points when faced with these objections.Source: ReadWriteWeb @ http://readwriteweb.com/last_img read more

7 Ways to Build Your Nonprofit Email List

first_imgMake sure that all your media mentions are driving people to your website (make it a call to action)!Create a strong email-address-collection device on your website. (NOT something lame like “sign up for our e-blast”) Give them an incentive or a reason to join. Give them a discount on an event. Give them an article you’ve written or tips for better living and then get their email address in return for your sending that gem to them.Optimize search. Make it easy for potential supporters to find you by optimizing your site for search. A lot of nonprofits are not taking advantage of Google Grants — find out how to get started with Google Grants.Collect emails from donors via direct mail. When they know it’s more convenient, eco-friendly and cheaper, most donors actually prefer to hear from you electronically. Whenever you send a paper mailing, include a way for supporters to opt in to your email list.Use your email signature. Your email is a great tool for doing marketing, whether it’s promoting an event or asking people to sign up to hear from you on your website. If people are forwarding your email, make it easy for them to opt in for your newsletter or updates on your mission.Ask people to sign a petition. Encourage people to get involved and share their email address, then get permission to contact them. If they’re moved enough to take action by signing a petition, these folks may be your most passionate supporters.Collect email addresses at events. I have been to 10 nonprofit events in the last 18 months, and I can’t think of a single one that collected my email address. Lost opportunity! Make sure you collect email addresses during your registration process and have a way at the event for people to sign up for regular updates. One of the most commonly-asked questions we get about online marketing is, “How do I build an email list?”  Building a quality email list over time is one of the most valuable assets a nonprofit can have. Email is still the primary starting point for people taking action online. Use these best practices to ensure that you are providing multiple opportunities for potential donors to join your nonprofit email list.last_img read more

How to Write a Fundraising Letter That Wins Back Lapsed Donors

first_imgLapsed donors are donors who have not donated to your organization within the last year, two years or three years. Donors who have not sent you a gift in over three years have not lapsed donors — they are former donors.Lapsed donors are valuable. Unlike strangers, they have supported you before. And they believe in your mission enough to have sent you a gift (or gifts). Here are some tips on writing an appeal letter that will win them back. (In the fund development profession, the letter you write is called a “recovery letter” because it aims to recover donors who have lapsed.)1. Write to one person:You will likely not know why each donor has lapsed. Donors stop giving for any number of reasons. Some forget. Some lose interest. Some get distracted with the arrival of children or grandchildren. Others decide they do not like your new executive director’s ties. Each donor is an individual, and the way to win each one back is to send a warm, sincere, personal letter from your heart to theirs.2. Say “we miss you”:What you are trying to communicate in your letter is that you miss the donor more than their donations, which should always be true. You have lost a supporter first, and a source of support second. Write your letter in such a way that you show your concern for the person. Here are some lines to use:We have not heard from you since March 2011. We miss you! We are counting on your renewed support this year for . . . We miss you. We miss your moral support, and we miss your financial support. We sure have missed hearing from you these last few years. 3. Invite the donor to come back:Provide a tangible way for the donor to renew support. Ask for a gift for a particular project. Offer a subscription to your free newsletter. Do something to involve the donor and make them take action.4. Customize your appeal:Whenever possible, customize your recovery letter to the unique circumstances of each lapsed donor. For example, if you know from your database that a donor only sent a gift once a year at Christmas, mention that in your letter. Or if another donor supported only one area of your work, mention that. The more that your letter appeals to the interests of your donors, the more likely you are to recover them. Here’s an example:“The last time we heard from you, you had generously responded to the humanitarian crisis in Honduras. You sent us a gift that helped us meet the immediate needs of that emergency. Today, I am writing to you because I think you can help us overcome another crisis.”5. Match your language to the length of lapse:Statistically speaking, the longer you’ve had to wait for a gift, the less likely you are to receive one. That means you should segment your database into groups of 12-, 24- and 36-month lapsed donors (or other criteria that you use), and send each group a slightly different appeal. To a donor who has not given in a year, for example, you can say, “We miss you.” To the donor who has not sent a gift in three years, you can say, “You have supported us in the past. Your gifts made a difference. I urge you to renew your commitment by sending a gift today.” The idea is to be casual with the new lapsed donors and progressively more vigorous with donors who have not given in two or more years. Some examples:12-month lapsed: “Your financial support in 2011 made a difference. Your gift at the end of this year will have a positive impact on the people, which in turn will lead to better health, hope, and confidence in humanity.”24-month lapsed: “Your financial support in recent years was a great help to us. Now I’d like you to renew your support by joining me and the volunteers at . . .”36-month lapsed: “We have not heard from you for quite some time and yet your past support has made a difference for populations in danger. I think you can help us overcome this crisis.”6. Tailor your ask:Some of your lapsed donors will have given once and never again. Others will have given faithfully each month for years. Each donor demands a different letter. The more faithful your donor has been, the more that donor requires a personalized letter with a personalized ask amount. Don’t ask a one-time donor and a 10-year supporter for the same amount, treating each one the same way. You could ask the one-time donor for a gift that’s the same size as their last one. And you could ask the long-time supporter for a gift that’s the same size as their smallest one, or their average gift over time, or their last one, and so on.7. Win back their hearts and minds:Lapsed donors need to be persuaded again to support your mission. You’ll need to re-state your case for support and address any reasons you know donors have stopped their support.The two most important things to say in a recovery letter are that you miss the donor and that their support made a big difference in the lives of the people your organization serves. “A carefully crafted appeal that lets past donors know they are important, appreciated and missed almost always produces a net income,” says Stanley Weinstein (The Complete Guide to Fundraising Management).About the author: Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer who helps non-profits raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using creative fundraising letters.last_img read more

Choosing Non Profit Database Software: Steps to Success

first_imgRFP/RFIScripted demosUsability testingReference checksFull-cost proposals 5. Test vendors against your needsRFP/RFI. Issuing a Request For Proposals can help you identify vendors. If you can ask clear, unambiguous questions that can be answered with a yes or a no (andmaybe some amplifying text), an RFP can be helpful. Recognize that any question you ask the vendor should be a question that you can score a response to. So a “yes” answer has to mean something specific, and that gets points. A “no” means the opposite and gets no points. A well-written RFP can help you identify vendors who wouldn’t have been on your radar otherwise, or help narrow the field when you have too many vendors to evaluate in-depth.However, it is difficult to craft an RFP that will accomplish this goal.  Also, some vendors do not respond to RFPs.  Depending on your needs, you might be able to get the information you want with a short Request for Information (RFI), or even a phone call.  RFIs are good for answering basic, factual questions.Scripted demos. You are really only going to hold demos with a few vendors-three or four is usually the ideal number. The goal in holding demos is to compare apples to apples between the different vendors.The most critical step is to use a script to tell the vendors what they need to show you to prove that they can meet your requirements. The demo should focus on those areas that emerged as the top priorities in your needs assessment.Have everyone on your team rate the demos (usually a 0-10 scale with a space for comments). These ratings should not be anonymous. For instance, it’s important to know whether it was the gift-entry person or a program manager who rated a system poorly on gift entry features.You will probably have a list of questions that arose during the demos that you’ll want to ask their customers. You’ll also have general questions about the vendor: Did it cost what they told you it would cost? Do they answer your questions promptly? Do they introduce new bugs every time they upgrade the software?You need to talk to enough references to distinguish between bad clients and bad software. So if you hear something from just one site about problems, it could be that their staff wasn’t trained properly, or they didn’t configure the non profit database software properly, or they outgrew the software but can’t afford to change it.Approach reference checks like reference checks for hiring someone: you may live with this database longer than you will live with most of your employees.  It’s critical to ask detailed questions about the software and vendor.Optionally you may want to visit client sites that are using the non profit database software and find out how it works in real life. That can be incredibly educational. If you take this step, look for organizations similar to yours in size and complexity.Full-cost proposal. You may have received a cost estimate when you first talked to the vendor. As some point, you will need to get a detailed cost proposal. It should include the software, training, conversion, and ongoing maintenance fees. Particularly with non profit database software that is sold by module, you really won’t know the final cost until you have a conversation with the vendor and say, for instance, “We think we can do without the volunteer module. We can keep tracking that in Excel or in our FileMaker database. But we really need the events module.”Adapted from Robert Weiner’s “All You Need to Know about Choosing a Donor Database” presentation. You can listen to the complete presentation or read the transcript by clicking on the presentation title above or the “related article” link below. 2. Complete a Needs AssessmentWhat are your requirements? What’s working well now? What can you not give up? And what’s wrong now? What are goals in doing this project? What are you trying to fix? Maybe it’s not something that’s broken now, but it’s something that, as you consider the growth the organization is going to experience, you think will become a problem in the future. For example, you’ve never done major-gifts fundraising, but you’re going to start within the next year or two and your current software won’t support that activity.Here are the questions to ask yourself and your team:Is software really the problem? You might have the right database already, but the people who were trained have all departed the organization and no one has been trained since.  Or the database may have modules that can do what you need but you haven’t purchased them. Or your organization might have mis-configured the non profit database software -it can actually do what you need but it’s not set up properly. Or perhaps the wrong people are managing the database.If software really isn’t the problem, new software isn’t going to make your life any easier. So first you need to decide whether this is a truly a software problem, or a people or process or policy/procedure/communication problem.What do you really need? You need to distinguish wants from needs.  A true need is a single requirement that will disqualify any non profit database software that lacks it, regardless of price or other attractive features. For instance, if you’re a Macintosh shop, Mac support is mandatory. Those features that are not mandatory need to be prioritized.  When you look at systems, you should first eliminate those that don’t meet your mandatory requirements. Then you can and focus on those that meet most of your top priorities.What can you afford and support? There may be non profit database software out there that can meet every one of your requirements, but will it cost vastly more than you can spend?  Will it require new staff people to support it-positions you can’t afford?  Or will it require a higher level of technical skills than your staff possess? The following article was transcribed from a teleconference presented by Network for Good on April 15, 2008. This post was updated March 28, 2016.When you boil down your non profit database software selection process, there are five basic steps:Convene the right team.Specify your needs and priorities.Secure funding.Identify a pool of potential vendors.Test vendors against your needs.center_img 3. Secure FundingDepending on the non profit database software, software may be the smallest part of your purchase.  As databases become more complex, you often need other things to go with them.  For instance:A new server to run the software onUpdates/replacements for hardwareUpgrading your network so you have a fast-enough connectionTraining for your staffConverting your data from your old system to the your new oneDeveloping new reportsAn annual or monthly fee to continue using the software (unless it’s a free piece of software to begin with)There is set amount for how much you should spend on your database. It really depends upon your needs.|4. Identify a Pool of Potential VendorsNow that you know what you’re looking for and have a ballpark budget in mind, you need to identify a list of potential vendors of non profit database software .  If you are part of a network of organizations that do similar types of work, that’s usually a great place to start. There might also be deals between your national headquarters and vendors or deals between other chapter offices of your organization and vendors that can save you money. Even if you’re an independent group, you can find out what other similar organizations are using.You can also ask on general purpose lists, such as TechSoup and Idealware. Talk about your specific requirements so that you hear from comparable organizations.Try to find vendors that have experience working with organizations that are similar to yours, unless you are willing to take risks. Sometimes it is completely justified to take a risk on a vendor who has never worked with your kind of organization before because their technology meets your needs, they inspire confidence, and they are interested in getting into your market. They may be willing to give you a great discount in order to prove themselves in your market. But only accept the discount if it is software that looks like it’s really going to meet your needs.From Network for Good: Our donor database software is specifically designed for small to mid-sized nonprofits. 1. Convene the Right TeamFirst, convene a group of people who will select the non profit database software . The team should consist of subject matter experts in the areas that the database is going to address. Since we’re talking about a donor database, that’s usually direct mail, major gifts, grant writing, gift-entry, and IT staff. You need to get input from the people who will actually have their hands on the keyboards, getting the donations in, running those reports, etc.Selecting a non profit database software is not an IT decision. It is a business decision about how you’re going to run your nonprofit.  Techies should be included on the selection team so they can advise you on the standards that are appropriate for your organization, but it’s not a technical decision.You also need to realize that while you’re trying to get input from everyone, you may not be able to satisfy everyone in this decision. You’re probably not going to be able to afford, or necessarily even find, a database that will do everything the team can possibly imagine.So part of the exercise is going through a prioritization exercise so that you know which needs are most important.last_img read more

Five Questions for Creating a Winning Nonprofit Marketing Plan

first_imgMany nonprofit marketers often skip the planning stage for marketing and jump right into tactics. By making time to step back and plan ahead, you can fine tune your nonprofit outreach to be laser focused on your audience and what motivates them to get involved and give. Here are five questions to ask before any nonprofit marketing effort — two about your organization and three about your audience: Who would be good partners for your nonprofit?Who are your competitors? What can you learn from them and how will you differentiate your organization from others like it?What’s going on in your marketplace or your local environment that you can piggyback onto?What is the best way you can craft your message?When are the best times, places, states, and minds to reach your unique audience? Who cares? Pardon the bluntness of this question, but you have to keep this mind: Just because you serve people who are in poverty or you help people get well doesn’t necessarily mean people should care. There has to be more personal relevance or something unique that you bring to the table. Once you’ve worked through the important questions, you can move on to these tactical questions that will aid you in creating your nonprofit marketing plan: Whom do you serve? Get a clear picture of your audiences. What are the different constituency groups you serve? Source: Adapted from the Nonprofit 911 Presentation “The Experts Are In! Your Online Fundraising and Nonprofit Marketing Questions Answered.” What do they need? Now that you have a clear idea of whom you serve and how you’re currently serving them, consider the needs and benefits for your donors, clients or volunteers. This piece is critical, but a lot of us miss it because we’re so committed to our causes. At this point, find the hook or sweet spot between what your audiences need and your unique value. Who are you? Tackle this one quickly and succinctly. What do you do? Think about why your organization was started in the first place and what work you’re currently accomplishing (programs, mission activities, etc.). How do you reach them? After all of this organizational soul-searching and research, you can begin to tackle the tactical questions. Think about your available channels and which channels are most appropriate for reaching your target audiences.last_img read more

Key Components for Fundraising in a Downturn Economy

first_imgHow do you get people to buy into your organization and donate during tough times?This comes down to understanding the concept of a benefit exchange:An immediate reward to someone for taking actionThe benefit is something personal and deeply related to their valuesThat reward is coming from a messenger they trustThe messenger is key during tough times. One idea would be to frame fundraising appeals such that they come from other donors talking about why they gave. Their reasons for choosing your particular organization elevate the value of your nonprofit in the eyes of the recipient.If you can plug into topical issues, your message is more likely to get through. Another hot point is to try to key into some of the issues that are front and center in the news. For example, if your organization is focused on the environment, compose your appeals to talk about how you’re working to try to combat the $4 gallon of gasoline.This may be a great opportunity to ask people to sign up for monthly donations. Wallets are tight right now, so donors may appreciate the option to give a little bit each month, rather than making a large credit card donation in December.Source: Adapted from the Nonprofit 911 Presentation “The Experts Are In! Your Online Fundraising and Nonprofit Marketing Questions Answered.”last_img read more

Public Relations 2.0

first_imgLooking aheadSocial media sites are ever-evolving, and so are the opportunities they offer. One example of this is the interactive site Second Life, a “parallel world” where participants live, meet and exchange goods and services. Second Life currently has more than 1 million “residents”–real people who have created avatars–who spend real money on goods, services and even real estate that only exist in the online world.Another recent development is Twitter, which allows users to keep their friends, family, website or blog readers up-to-date on what they’re doing, moment by moment. (See our recent profile of Twitter, “Reinventing the Conversation.”) Twitter represents an ever-evolving, real-time online conversation.There are drawbacks to involvement in social media. The constant and consistent interaction requires substantial time and effort–something small business owners have in scarce amounts. However, by keeping abreast of developments and experimenting in various formats, organizations have an opportunity to be ever more in touch with customers, influencers and the media. BlogsThe blogosphere has become a valuable resource for tracking industry trends and hot-button topics. Unfiltered and opinionated, blogs combine the insightfulness of industry journals with the instant feedback of a focus group.For non profit organizations, blogs offer a wealth of opportunity. However, to reap the rewards, you must first understand the medium and then determine the best way to leverage this dynamic and far-reaching online universe.Each industry has its blog ‘stars.’ A simple Technorati or Google Blog search on an industry topic will uncover many of the prominent bloggers.A blog’s interactivity offers the opportunity to extend your company’s messages to a wider audience. Providing commentary in response to a blog post, for instance, can help you position yourself as a thought leader and subtly market your products and services.Organizations can also create their own blogs to showcase their organizations philosophy. However, you should first consider the upsides and the downsides of blogging before proceeding. While blogs can elevate your organizations profile, establish credibility and open a two-way conversation with customers, they also require a significant amount of time and effort.As with any foray into media, bloggers must be prepared to accept, and potentially refute, criticism. Think carefully before putting your finger to keyboard, because once a response is posted, there’s no turning back. What seemed like a hard-hitting response at the time could be detrimental in the long run. Article provided by PR Newswire’s Nonprofit Toolkit, an educational resource devoted to Non Profit public relations. Visit the Nonprofit Toolkit today and receive a waived annual membership ($195 value) and more than $2,000 in discounts and free services.If you’ve ever read a blog, joined an online discussion group or uploaded a photo to Flickr, you’ve engaged in social media. Social media websites encourage users to share, change or otherwise participate in the site’s content. Opinions, comments and dissection of news are encouraged, giving greater insight into what consumers and influencers are thinking.In the past, social media sites have been seen as a vehicle mainly for young people. Now, however, people of all ages and professions read blogs, tag articles, join online discussion groups, have profiles on professional social networking sites and post video files. In fact, according to a recent industry report by comScore, more than half of the visitors to social networking websites such as MySpace, Facebook, Flickr and Live Journal are now 35 and older.In terms of PR, social media is a maturing business tool, offering new and innovative ways to drive awareness and communicate to customers–often using less expensive techniques than traditional advertising or marketing campaigns. It’s worth being aware of the various elements that make up the social media landscape, and concentrating on the ones that are particularly applicable to your organization. Bookmarking and News SharingOne way to elevate the readership of your news releases online is to use a newswire service that includes buttons for tagging the release on sites such as Digg and Del.icio.us.Digg is a rating site that lists the most popular online stories from sources including blogs, traditional news sites and company websites. You can use Digg to track the popularity of news about your business, and to see the reaction to specific news releases.Del.icio.us is a popular tool for bookmarking and finding interesting sites on the web. Del.icio.us links can be incorporated into news releases in much the same way as Digg tags, making it easy for readers to save the announcement as a favorite. Social Media News ReleasesTraditionally, news releases take a text-only form, emulating the style and format of a news article. The social media news release, on the other hand, is a news release that combines text with a host of social and multimedia elements, including photos and video, links to blogs, digital tags, RSS feeds and search engine optimization.The social media news release is intended to help organizations reach their markets directly using new social media tools. This level of interactivity is especially beneficial to bloggers because it allows them to select information, and the format encourages readers to provide feedback to the authors and their websites or blogs.While full integration of the social media release may be some years away, for some organizations–it may prove immediately useful in reaching an audience of tech-savvy bloggers and reporters. The relative novelty value of the template may even gain your organization attention. MultimediaOnline video sharing sites represent one of the fastest-growing media sectors, with sites such as YouTube attracting thousands of viewers every day. For non profits, web video can be an especially enticing proposition because producing and distributing the content is far less expensive than creating traditional broadcast materials. Online video offers the potential to “level the playing field” with larger organizations.To maximize exposure, once a video is featured on a site such as YouTube, it’s easy to send out an e-mail to your contacts with a direct link to the clip. One way to indirectly submit content to video sharing websites is through multimedia news releases, a platform that combines text with digital video, audio and still images, and includes social bookmarking capabilities.As with all marketing, the key to success is knowing your audience. YouTube viewers, for instance, are attuned to new, interesting and often humorous material. For an online video to have a truly substantial impact, it must be compelling enough to generate a groundswell of interest that leads to viral sharing. Creativity and catchiness are as important as messaging.The bottom line: When considering an online video campaign, make sure you’re pursuing it for the right reasons–to increase your visibility (awareness). Copyright 2006 by Entrepreneur.com, Inc. All rights reserved.Rachel Meranus is Entrepreneur.com’s “PR” columnist and director of public relations at PR Newswire. Get more information about PR Newswire and public relations with their Nonprofit Toolkit for non profit organizations.last_img read more