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2010 overachieversguide4

  1. 1. The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising Nine Steps You Can Use Now to Raise More Money in December Alia McKee Scott, Eric Rardin, Sea Change Strategies Care2 Sea Change Strategies designed by in partnership with seachangestrategies.com 7409 Birch Avenue | Takoma Park, MD 20912
  2. 2. Introduction Congratulations — you are an official year-end fundraising overachiever! You get a gold star! Y ou know that a majority of your online fundraising dollars come in during December, and you’ve already started thinking about how to improve and maximize your strategy and tactics this year. You also know that year-end fundraising doesn’t just happen in Decem- ber. It takes months of list building, inspiring donors, cultivating them, test- ing, and analyzing metrics to make the absolute most of year-end opportu- nities. Finally, you get that online giving is more than online transactions. A vast majority of fundraising-related visits to your website are for research pur- poses. That is, many of your offline donors (who will also be making year- end gifts) will have looked over your web presence as part of their personal due diligence in deciding whether to become a donor. The good news is that you’ve got several months to get your website and online communications strategy in tip-top shape for year-end. This Guide — a companion to the Procrastinator’s Guide to Year-end Fund- raising — outlines nine concrete action steps you can do now to raise more money in December. So let’s get started. Sources: The guidance laid out here is based on more than 20 years of focus groups with donors, including more recently with online donors; a review of best practices and testing, mostly derived from the commercial sector; a smattering of research conducted by non-profits; and anecdotal experience with more than a dozen current and past fundraising clients. The illustrations provided are not necessarily our work — we drew from the collective brilliance of the hard-working men and women who toil in the vineyards of non-profit online communications. Our thanks to all of the organizations highlighted. page 2 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  3. 3. Nine Steps You Can Do Now to Raise More Money In December I. Do what your mother taught you II. Make your website an email collection & donation magnet III. Test your forms IV. Take your site for a test drive V. Review your traffic VI. Get to know your supporters VII. Grow your list and welcome them warmly VIII. What’s your story? IX. What’s your year-end plan? page 3 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  4. 4. i. Do What Your Mother Taught You Your mother gave you sage advice that holds doubly true with your donors: always say your hellos and thank-yous. We know — welcoming new donors and thanking them is such an obvi- ous step that you might be asking yourself, “Why the heck would they start the guide with something so obvious?” We’re glad you asked. Here are five compelling reasons this step is number 1: 1. An un-welcomed and un-thanked donor won’t be a donor for long. Period. 2. Lead generation and acquisition are expensive. Remember to invest in your current donors so you keep them donors. 3. Saying hello and thank you is a relatively cheap and easy thing for you to do online. 4. It’s important to thank donors throughout the year — not just right before prime year-end fundraising season. Your donors will notice. 5. Despite these facts, we are surprised at how frequently this step gets overlooked. Because you are an overachiever — and are reading this Overachiever’s Guide now — you still have several prime pre-year-end months to get your thank on. page 4 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  5. 5. Here are some concrete ideas you should implement right now. 1. Give new donors a special welcome. You’ve spent tons of time and money on lead generation. You’ve sent an appeal that has struck a chord. You’ve touched a prospect so much so that they’ve given you a gift. Magic new donor conversion happens. Now what? Many organizations and causes send a bounce back email that looks more like a receipt than a big warm hug. Then, it’s into the house file the new donor goes. For just a little extra effort, you can make a big first impression. First, make your auto responder something special. working on the campaign-specific issue to which the new donor responded. your organization in action, or show them donor testimonials relating why others support you. This is an opportunity to stir passion for your cause again, not just give a donor their tax receipt. Next, send a second thank-you message. A bounce back thank-you is just that, a bounce back. Your donors know this. So send another thank- community (in your data pull, keep in mind that some new online donors might have given to you before through other channels). survey and find out what their specific inter- ests are. Use their feedback when appropriate to show that you are really listening. - zation. This could be a brief donor-focused Q&A with your executive director or a video from your staff saying thank you. not against trying to get a second gift quickly, but your thank-you message isn’t the place for page 5 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  6. 6. 2. Add four thank-you messages (with no asks) to your donors from now until year-end. Stop right now. Look at your email calendar through calendar year-end. Add four thank-you messages to your donors. For example: report back on how you did, and how you will use the money raised. 3. Don’t just thank your donors — thank your super activists too! Some of your most super engaged support- ers might not have given you a gift… yet. But they’ve shown their support by taking action, telling friends and signing petitions. more than 3 actions with you in the last year and thank them too! See the very well received example from Envi- page 6 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  7. 7. 4. Bust out your pen or telephone. Yes, we live in a wired world. But wired communications are fleeting and noth- ing beats the personal tone of a handwritten note or telephone call. on your behalf (provide adequate direction, of course), or do it yourself. You can also pick up the phone. And heck, sometimes break out this tactic for repeating low-dollar donors, monthly givers and the 5. Find out how it feels to be your donor. You think you know what your donor experience is. But do you really know? Try being your donor for the day. Make a gift to your organization. Make sure you cover all channels — online, offline and social your organization? change that too. page 7 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  8. 8. ii. Make Your Website An Email Collection & Donation Magnet It’s a great big online world out there. There are tons of wonderful shiny tools for us all to use to reach supporters and build passion for our causes. But among all these tools, your website and your email list are still the two biggest online fundraising powerhouses. Are you maximizing them? Make the traffic you drive to your website count. Here are some ideas that you can implement now to blaze trails to your email sign-up and donation forms. 1. Ideally, there should be at least two or three email collection tools on your homepage. You can approach this in a variety of ways. page 8 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  9. 9. 2. Use a website hijack On high-web-traffic occasions when your cause is in the news, put a temporary overlay page — we affectionately refer to it as a hijack — on your website. This page can either call for email sign ups page 9 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  10. 10. 3. Promote sign-ups on your sub pages — above the fold Make sure you have a consistent call to sign up on your sub pages. And make sure it’s above the fold! 4. Have multiple donate links on your home page that go straight to your donate form. 5. Use consistent language for donation buttons and links. throughout the donation process. Asking people to join is problematic unless membership is truly giving to many would-be donors. page 10 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  11. 11. 6. Use social networks Social networks are a great place to engage in multi-way conversations with your online community and to build brand awareness. But also remember to leverage them to build your list and drive donations. And remember to welcome your new donors and new subscribers warmly. See Steps 1 and 7 for more details. page 11 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  12. 12. iii. Test Your Forms Direct mail fundraisers spend years and years testing every detail of the reply form that goes into a direct mail package. E-commerce giants like Amazon likewise test and refine their shopping cart and checkout process on a con- stant basis. But very few nonprofits test the donate forms on their websites. With donor dropout rates approaching 98% in some cases, we must test. And don’t assume that everyone else’s results will mirror your own. It’s important to test for yourself. Because this is the Overachiever’s Guide, you have time to do some A/B test- ing of your form in advance of year-end. Change one element on your donate form and keep it live for a few weeks or months, depending on your traffic, to measure if the conversion rate increases (or decreases). Here are a few ideas to get you started. intro copy? horizontal gift string outperform a vertical gift string? to low gift string increase average gift size? Sustainer ask on the form — will putting a sustainer ask on the page increase the number of sustainer gifts without sup- pressing one-time asks? 2-column form vs.1-column form — will a two-column form outperform a 1-column form? particularly if you have low web traffic or a small email list. Fac- the greatest impact and test them over a longer period of time. page 12 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  13. 13. In addition to testing, here are some best practices that you should consider for your forms. 1. Suppress global navigation. The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that giving like offering 31 flavors of ice cream when really you only want to sell vanilla. Of course, when removing your global navigation, don’t forget to keep a link back to your home page. 2. Make sure people can tell that the form is a form. - ter, you need to redesign the page to get some of those fields visible above the scroll line. 3. Do not ask for any information you don’t need! heard about you? Be ruthless—if you don’t need it right away, don’t ask for it. 4. Provide your mailing address, phone number and email address on your donate page, all fundraising-related pages and your home page. Your mailing address, phone number and a general email address should be on every page of your for an email address, mailing address and phone number. Focus group participants say they look for a phone number as reassurance that there is someone to call if a problem arises with a transaction. This is an easy fix and not doing it is throwing money away. 5. Consider adding third party endorsements. quotes from experts, spokespeople or celebrities, as long as they are consistent with your brand. page 13 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  14. 14. 6. Add a “Secure Transaction” graphic and a link to your privacy policy. policy, even if no one reads it, the presence of the link will reassure would-be donors. 7. Make sure error handling doesn’t suck. then get some sort of weird error message that sounds like it was written by a programmer overdos- information! 8. Do not require would-be donors to create an account to make them donate. You might as well just provide a link to another organization’s donate page. 9. Develop a “why donate” or “case for giving” page you can link to from your form. dozen or more donor-visitors who are researching a potential gift but who will complete the gift via another channel. full financials —while 99% of people will never read them, they assure donors nonetheless. page 14 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  15. 15. iv. Take Your Site For A Test Drive Seeing is believing. And while we strongly encourage A/B testing and best prac- tices as outlined in Step 3, nothing substitutes for watching a real live subject navigate your site. A small amount of time user testing your donation and sign-up forms can help you avoid big pitfalls now and at year-end. 1. Recruit three test subjects. Friends and relatives are fine, but they shouldn’t be too familiar with your web site. 2. Conduct the test. a. of their web browser. (You’ll be amazed.) b. Take an action or sign up for your e-newsletter. c. 3. Ask your subject to verbalize their thoughts and reactions. notes. 4. Ask for feedback once they’ve signed up and made a gift. the process? Chances are, three good tests will surface as much as 80-90% of the major usability speed bumps. Now that you know what they are, fix them! page 15 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  16. 16. v. Review Your Traffic In Step 2 you made it really easy for visitors to your site to sign up for your emails and donate. Now it’s time to think about where these visitors to your site are coming from, and how to increase the flow from your best sources. Knowing how people are finding you will help you take smart steps in pre- paring for year-end fundraising by increasing quality traffic and making the most of those new visitors. Be a traffic sleuth! Channels or another media outlet? engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing? (To help you prioritize, Google still has 64% market share as compared to Bing’s 12% and Yahoo’s 18%.) Analyzing your traffic can help you answer these questions. But how? page 16 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  17. 17. Most content management systems include analytics tools that allow you to view the sources of inbound traffic. And Google offers a great tool for free. name)? 4. Are we benefiting from these visitors? Once they are on our site, do they sign up, make a gift, or get information we want them to have? [See Step 2] - out spending any additional money you can get better results from the people who are already looking for you, and you can better take advantage of moments in the news, mentions from blog- gers, and of course that celebrity endorsement on Twitter from Ashton Kutcher. page 17 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  18. 18. Here are five steps for optimizing your traffic: 1. Set up an analytics program to measure your current traffic. 2. Optimize organic search. See where you appear when you search for your organization’s name and related key words in major This means making sure you’re using words your prospective donors will use when searching for environment are used liberally throughout your site. 3. Experiment with paid search or Google grants. for applications to get approved — aren’t you glad you are an overachiever?). 4. Focus on where your traffic already is. in maximizing that traffic. However, if you are getting more traffic from other sites you might want to focus your energies there. 5. Leverage new and old media. Any communications strategy designed to generate earned (unpaid) media coverage of your organi- zation or issue should integrate your online resources. That means including mention of your web page 18 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  19. 19. vi. Get to Know your Supporters Our close friends expect us to know if they are vegetarian, enjoy scuba diving, or like cats. Knowing these things proves we’re close — and that we haven’t been zoning out watching the NBA playoffs instead of listening. Your donors have come to expect the same. But how do you get to know your donors? 1. Listen through online metrics. - ing kittens, but not when it’s about rescuing horses? Target them with kitten appeals — or at least appeals with pictures of kittens. Knowing which of your members respond to what type of appeal can help you communicate with them in a more personal manner. 2. Personalize. address, even if they only give online, enables you to segment by geography. Knowing a supporter’s gender can help you refine your content and tone. Knowing a supporter’s birthday lets you send a nice note. Explore the ways you can make your content more relevant through personalization. page 19 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  20. 20. 3. Think about appending data. An email append to your offline donor database can help you build a more rounded relationship with your donors. Even those who only give offline tend to give more if they are hearing from you across channels. Further, an email thanking your donor for their recent offline gift shows them you have your cultivation house in order. 1. Mailing address 3. Email address 4. Social network presence want to ensure that donors are giving you permission to email them. page 20 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  21. 21. vii. Grow Your List And Welcome Them Warmly No charity can survive without acquiring new donors. Some new folks will come to you on their own because you are on the ground in Haiti, mentioned on CNN, or their daughter cribbed her entire paper from your site. But new, organic donors usually aren’t enough to replace churning donors. Enter in paid acquisition. If you want to increase the number of your online supporters by year-end fundraising season through paid acquisition, now is the time to get started. End-of-year acquisition mailings are common, and often (relatively) suc- cessful in the offline world. But going straight to the donation ask (think cold call or one-night stand) is an approach that doesn’t work as well online. Most organizations that engage in paid email recruitment send their new supporters a series of messages to welcome them to the organization and begin building what they hope will be a long-term relationship. Here is your list growth action plan. 1. Maximize organic traffic. Before spending any money to drive traffic to your site, review these steps again and make sure you’re getting the most out of those efforts. 2. Set your goals for list growth. How many new contacts do you want to recruit in time for year-end fundraising, and how do you plan to do it? page 21 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  22. 22. 3. Understand list growth options. - tainty in terms of number of people versus budget, because you know up front what each lead will email lists; you often get what you pay for with super cheap options. 4. Do the math. How many people will need to become donors for this acquisition to be a net positive investment, and how soon do you need this to happen? How will you convert these new contacts into donors? Having a welcome series of emails is an impor- tant first step. How will you integrate these new contacts into your other channels? For example, many online leads donate offline and integrated multichannel marketing has proven to be a strong way to convert online supporters into donors. 5. Track and measure. No matter how you relate to these new contacts, make sure you keep track of where they came from, which of them gave, and through what mode. Next year, go back to the sources that worked best, and drop those that didn’t. page 22 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  23. 23. viii. What’s Your Story? Do your online communications make your donors and prospects feel more connected to your cause? For many non-profits, the answer is no. So how do you overcome the inspiration gap? You do it by re-connecting donors with the passion and vision that inspired them to get involved with your cause in the first place. And you do that with emotion. A tale of two minds Many organizations are afraid to tap into emotion. They worry that emotion will make them appear less intellectual, less effective or overly dramatic. mind. Both sides compete for control, but the emotional mind typically wins. So what’s the deal with these two minds? - For more specifics on rationality tional mind is influenced by intuition and impulse and social influences like peer pressure vs. emotion, see the Sea Change Switch Strategies and Network for wants a great beach body; meanwhile, the emotional mind is reaching for the Oreo cookie. Good eBook Homer Simpson for Non-Profits: The Truth About How To successfully navigate these two minds, the Heath brothers recommend you first appeal to People Really Think and What It someone’s emotional mind — and then quickly tell the rational mind what it is you need it to do. Means for Promoting Your Cause. Here is an example of a rational and emotional appeal going head-to-head. an emotional appeal a rational appeal with clear directions Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more Rokia is a seven-year-old girl who lives in Mali than three million children. And in Zambia, in Africa. She is desperately poor and faces severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42% a threat of severe hunger, even starvation. drop in maize production from 2000. As a Your donation will change her life. With your result, an estimated three million Zambians support, and the support of other caring face hunger. sponsors, [Organization X] will work with Rokia’s family and other members of the Make a gift and help [Organization X] provide community to help feed and educate her, and the people of Malawi and Zambia immediate provide her with basic medical care. food assistance. page 23 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  24. 24. - gon, has studied the rational vs. emotional paradox he found that people donated more than twice as the true scope of the problem we should give more money, not less. But according to Slovic, statistics don’t activate our moral emotions – which lead to engagement and connection to the issue at hand. - vidual, emotional stories that exemplify larger issues in a compelling way. So what are your stories? And do they appeal to reason or to emotion? 1. Be an emotional story detective. Track down those emotional stories! And work to shift your organization into a storytelling culture. Here are some tips. Ask volunteers why they are volunteering — there is probably story gold in them hills. At each staff meeting, ask one person to tell a story about how your organization helped change a life or make a difference. Keep a library of stories that people can easily access and add to throughout your organization. big statistical populations. Be clear these stories are emblematic of your work, but don’t create an impression the donor’s con- tribution was specifically earmarked for that individual (unless it is). 2. Provide crystal-clear direction. what you need it to do. You may think you’re encountering resistance to your call to action when in fact you’re encountering confusion. So much of nonprofit work stumbles due to poor, unclear or switch light bulbs. 3. Tell your stories across channels. Once you have a good story and a crystal-clear action, share them through every channel you have at your disposal, including email, website, social networks, and offline channels including events and mail. page 24 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  25. 25. ix. What’s Your Year-End Plan? Okay, now that you’ve completed steps 1-8, it’s time to put your year-end plan together. 1. First, outline your big-picture campaign strategic objectives. Potential ideas include: Use advanced segmentation Use video when appropriate 2. Next, identify your goals and your pathway to achieving those goals. Upgrading current donors to a higher giving level 3. Then, identify tactics that will help you achieve those goals. Are you launching an optimized donation form to increase gift conversion? Are you incorporating a donation–based website hijack? (See Step 2 for an example.) Are you upgrading donors by landing them on appropriate forms with higher gift string suggestions based on their highest previous contribution? Are you targeting non-donors with a low-dollar ask or a special acquisition campaign? Are you targeting mid-dollar donors with a high-dollar circle ask? page 25 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising
  26. 26. Are you targeting monthly givers to ask them for an additional year-end gift? 4. Next, what is your theme or narrative arc? that sustains the campaign? 5. What is your messaging calendar? Theme/story Signer Segmentation launch) launch) 6. Finally, relax, knowing you are an overachiever and have started this planning process in advance. You have plenty of time to get steps 1-10 done and have a blockbuster year-end fundraising season! page 26 The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising