Category Archives: technology

Volunteers aren’t responding to your emails?


email inboxI was chatting the other day with a newly elected board president. He was lamenting the fact that his fellow board volunteers don’t respond to his emails very well, and he wanted a little advice on how to change this dynamic. If this is a problem for your organization, then please keep reading.

There are any number of ways to look at this situation:

  1. This could be a “people” issue
  2. This could be an “organization issue
  3. This could be a “process or tools” issue

Let’s take a look at these possibilities one at a time.

People issue

email1Within this broad category, there are many considerations.

  • Are your board volunteers tech savvy?
  • Do board members understand their roles and responsibilities?
  • Do these individuals have the appropriate experiences and skills to deal with whatever is being sent to them in these emails? (aka do you have the right people around the table)
  • Do these people care? Are they mission focused?
  • Does the culture of your organization embrace technology? Or is the way it has always been done more personal and in-person meeting oriented?

In my experience, most of us jump to the conclusion that email unresponsiveness is a people issue (e.g. they don’t care, they’re too busy, etc). However, there might be other issues. Let’s take a look at organization and tools issues in the next two sections.

Organization issue

org structureBelieve it or not, how you are structured can greatly effect how people decide to use email as it relates to your organization.

  • Does your organization cover a large geographic territory? And do board members live far and wide thus making in-person meetings more difficult?
  • How often does the board or committee meet in-person? If it is often, then some individuals may simply put off responding to emails because they see an opportunity to share their thoughts in-person.
  • How many standing committees and work groups exist in your organization? Are these organizational silos? If so, then how do they communicate with each other and with the governing board? Is this spelled out in the bylaws or committee charter? (e.g. they must report at board meetings, etc)
  • From a board governance perspective, has your organization made changes to its bylaws to allow for the use of newer technology to make decisions? (e.g. electronic/email voting)

I know it can be hard to believe, but how we structure our organizations (and even the internal design of our workplaces) and teams can impact our email usage (and even more broadly how we use tech).

Five years ago, I was working for a national non-profit organization on a team that was scattered all over the country and in four different time zones. This organizational dynamic drove all sorts of decisions including monthly conference calls, the need for in-person staff meetings two or three times per year, optimal times for conference calls, use of email to distribute materials and collect feedback, shared document storage/access, etc.

Structure” . . . it is an invisible force that drives human behavior more than any of us think.

Tools issue

communications toolsEmail is simply a communication tool. Here is an inventory of tools/processes/approaches that you may find in your communications toolbox:

  • Telephone (individual one-on-one or conference call)
  • In-person meetings (individual one-on-one or group)
  • Webcam (individual one-on-one or group)
  • Online project management collaboration services (e.g. Basecamp)
  • Private, group messaging and chat tools
  • Social media
  • Online groups and discussion forums

I’m sure that I’ve missed a number of other communications tools. You are welcome to add those in the comment box of this blog post.

Each of these tools is designed to do something very well, but of course they all have their shortcomings. The best question to ask yourself when confronted by a situation that doesn’t seem to be working (e.g. people aren’t responding to email) is . . .

Am I using the right tool for what I want to accomplish?

My final thoughts?

We all have our “points of view” on things. It doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily right or wrong. Here is what I believe about email:

  • It is a great information sharing tool (e.g. distribution of agendas, meetings notes, materials, etc)
  • It is a poor discussion tool (e.g. asking for feedback, advice, anything conversational)
  • It is used differently by every generation
  • It is easy to ignore and many people have developed user habits around this tool (e.g. deleting habits, reading habits, etc)

The advice I gave to my board president friend was . . .

Pick-up the phone if they aren’t responding to your email!

I also asked additional questions about which volunteer engagement strategies he was using and which ones were lacking. Each of the nine volunteer engagement strategies (e.g. urgency, accountability, planning, setting expectations, etc) come with a number of tools (e.g. goals, dashboards/scorecards, action item memos / task lists, project management punch lists, written volunteer job descriptions, committee charter, committee work plan, etc).

In other words, the choice of communication tool might not be the problem. It could be the organization isn’t using best practices associated with volunteer engagement, which is resulting in email unresponsiveness.

The morale to today’s post?

Simple problems may not be as simple as they seem, especially when we’re talking about groups of people under one organizational umbrella. So, my advice is . . .

Don’t jump to conclusions. Do the hard work in thinking it through!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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Advice to my younger-fundraising-self about email usage


blog carnivalThis month DonorDreams is hosting the nationally acclaimed Nonprofit Blog Carnival, and this month’s theme is: “If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?” As I’ve done each of the last three year’s when I’ve hosted the carnival, I plan on focusing this month’s DonorDreams blog posts on the topic as a way to help inspire other non-profit bloggers to submit posts for consideration. The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is scheduled to go live on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

Today’s time machine post involves a younger me who learned a valuable lesson about how not to use email. Enjoy!


emailAhhhh, yes. I remember this embarrassing lesson very well. It occurred in the late 1990s when I was a young Boy Scout professional who was responsible for membership management, district-wide programming, local unit support and fundraising for a small suburban district in the Northwest Chicago suburbs. It was the 20th Century and the idea of email was new and evolving as a way to communicate with non-profit volunteers.

As a young GenX non-profit professional, I took to email like a duck takes to water. At the time, I thought this technology must have been sent from heaven because it was a solution to all of my volunteer management.

  • Snail mail was too slow when it came to getting fundraising volunteers annual campaign progress reports
  • FAX transmissions were only available to some volunteers, if their office had a FAX machine, and it wasn’t always acceptable to send someone something “not business-related” to their workplace
  • Phone calls to check-in on fundraising volunteers took lots of time and the amount of “phone tag” was maddening
  • Face-to-face meetings were great for doing collaborative work (e.g. planning, prospect evaluation, prospect assignment, etc), but . . .  if the agenda didn’t seem important or substantive enough, and only included updates, then many people wouldn’t show up

So, it felt like email solved a lot of issues facing my younger-fundraising-self.

  • I sent out annual campaign update reports via email
  • I sent out meeting notices via email
  • I asked volunteers for information via email
  • I would even drop volunteers notes with reminders or requests via email

The more I used email, the more it felt like a “communications tool“. What I failed to understand was email is only an “information technology” tool.

email graphicTo better understand what I just said, I will use a simple analogy . . .

Email is akin to the the envelope that you put a letter into. It is a vehicle to deliver a letter, report, etc. Email is NOT akin to the actual letter that you place inside of an envelope.

If I could go back in time and give my younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, it would be . . . DO NOT use email to have conversations with volunteers about things that are better done in-person or on the phone.

As I write these words, I am remembering an email I sent a volunteer. She was a great volunteer, but she and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on the need to start a second Cub Scout Pack at an elementary school to alleviate overcrowding at the existing unit. It got to the point where she simply stopped returning my calls, which is when I started sending emails.

I won’t go into details because they are embarrassing. As you can imagine:

  • I tried to be clear with my reasons, but I came across as lecturing
  • I referenced our previous discussions and tackled her objections, but I came across as confrontational
  • I explained how this impacted my annual performance plan, which made it personal and cast me in the role of a selfish person rather than a mission-focused professional

You get the picture. <sigh> It was your basic email nightmare. And a few minutes after clicking the send button, I then learned the “recall email” function on the 20th Century version of dial-up AOL was a joke and didn’t work the way I thought it did.

The volunteer didn’t receive the email very well. I can’t imagine that anyone would. While she didn’t respond, she did resign her volunteer position. She never spoke to me again, but she did share the story with any volunteer who would listen. She also spoke to my executive director and forwarded the email to him. <ouch>

To this day, I have a hard time telling this story. It was a painful lesson to learn, and I sometimes find myself re-learning the same lesson with friends when I become careless and thoughtless with email threads and forget that “tone” cannot be heard in emails.

terminator time travelSometimes, when I’m daydreaming, I imagine myself in a time machine going back to 1999 to have a serious conversation about email usage with my younger-fundraising-self. I also sometimes wonder if it would be helpful to take a page out of the Arnold Shwarzenegger Terminator movies by traveling back in time to sabotage the work of the person who created email.  😉

Do you have a story/experience with email that you’d be willing to share? Are there tips or guidelines you personally use to guide your decision-making around email vs. phone vs. meeting? If so, then please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

(Note: You might also want to check out a post titled “Email vs. Phone Call vs. Face-to-Face” on the Leader Impact blog and all of the great links to other online articles embedded in that post.)


If you are a non-profit blogger who wants to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and submit a post for consideration on this month’s carnival theme, click here to read the “call for submissions” post I published last week. It should answer all of your questions and clearly explain how to submit your entry. If not, then simply email me and I’ll be happy to help.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Is your holiday mail solicitation personalized?


mail mergeI had the privilege of interviewing a young fundraising professional yesterday for an online article that I am writing. In that interview, we talked for almost an hour about direct mail and her passion for learning as much as she can about that industry’s best practices and how to apply it to her non-profit fundraising work.

We spent a good long time talking about her passion for “mail merge“.

I know, I know. To those of you who don’t do much work on the snail-mail side of the fundraising profession, this probably sounds a little funny. After all, isn’t mail merge simply a word processor function?

The reality of direct mail and targeted mail is that the more personalized you can make your mail piece the more effective it will be in raising money for your organization. In other words, a letter that begins with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Friend” will raise significantly less than “Dear Erik” or “Dear Mr. Anderson“.

Of course, for many of us, mail merge begins and ends with the salutation at the top of the letter. But this was NOT the case for my energetic young interviewee yesterday. The following are just a few of the ways she was using mail merge in her fundraising letters:

  • Customized salutation (as described above)
  • Customized signatory (board member with a relationship to the donor)
  • Last year’s gift amount
  • This year’s ask amount
  • Customized gift level check boxes on the response card
  • Customized message on the outside envelope

To say this fundraising professional is in love with the mail merge as a tool would be an understatement. As would be my admiration for someone who exhibits that much passion for her work with donors and the art of philanthropy.

You might be wondering about the last two bullet points pertaining to the response card and the exterior envelope. Let me try to clarify in the space below.

With regard to the check boxes on the response card, there is some good evidence that indicates that the numbers you use psychologically factor into the donor’s decision.

For example, if a donor gave $275 last year and you’ve asked them to consider a $350 gift this year, some experts say you should not provide check box options with big gaps (e.g. $250, $500, $1000) because the donor will likely round down if last year’s gift is closer to that number instead of rounding up. To combat this psychology, using mail merge to customize the options (e.g. $275, $350, $500) can help increase the effectiveness of your upgrade strategy.

With regard to the customized message on the outside envelope, there is good evidence that people open mail from people they know. For example, an envelope that simply indicates there is something from your non-profit organization is less likely to be opened because donors can guess it is likely a solicitation and treat it like they do other direct mail. However, mail merging a message such as “A message from [insert BD vol name] is inside” will increase the odds of the donor opening the envelope because we all give consideration to our friends.

There is no doubt that direct mail and targeted mail are complicated and involve proven practices (aka the science of direct mail), which is why talking to young, enthusiastic fundraising professionals about this topic always does my soul some good.

So, my tip for today as it relates to direct mail is MAIL MERGE is your friend!

The following are a few older DonorDreams blog posts on the topic along with a few other resources:

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Get more from your prospect research and screening efforts: Part Two


Good morning, DonorDreams readers! Tis the season, and like you I am slammed. I apologize for missing Tuesday’s post, but the day just slipped away from me. I’m very sorry. However, today’s post is the second part of the prospect/donor research and screening article from DonorSearch’s Sarah Tedesco. And it is VERY GOOD!!! Last week she wrote about screening and how it can help improve your special events. Today, she focuses in on how it can help you identify hidden planned giving prospects in your database. I hope you enjoy this morning’s post.  Here’s to your health!  ~Erik


5 Factors That Can Help You Identify a Planned Giving Prospect

When nonprofits talk about identifying a prospect’s giving capability, there is usually some variation on three points.

Capability can be evaluated based on a person’s philanthropic inclination, level of wealth, and connection to your organization.

That donor identification formula is used regularly for prospect research, and it works. Most often, organizations turn to this research when seeking out major giving candidates. But, there’s another type of donor that also deserves that level of investigation: planned giving donors.

If a nonprofit knows what to look for, it should have no problem locating planned giving prospects.

The following five factors are all identifying traits of planned giving donors.

These indicators are rooted in the above points (philanthropic interests, wealth, and tie to your organization), but have been tweaked to specifically help identify planned giving donors.

Factor One — Loyalty

loyaltyIn terms of traditional types of giving, past donations are strong indicators of future giving. That trend logically carries over to planned giving.

Leaving a planned gift is a way of securing a legacy, and those who donate such gifts are likely to want to have a legacy with an organization that they’ve had a strong connection to.

The correlation is clearly evidenced by the fact that during their lifetimes, 78% of planned giving donors contributed over 15 gifts to the organizations they allocated funds to in their wills.

Factor Two — Recipient of Your Nonprofit’s Service

clientsThis factor is in reference to those whom your organization positively affected. The range is fairly broad here. A planned gift might be left to a university by a dedicated alumnus. Similarly, a hospital might receive a planned gift from a grateful patient.

Cross reference your list of those who have benefited from your service and have also donated, and that can be the start to your search. Throw in some of the next few traits and you’re on your way to finding the perfect planned giving prospects for your organization.

Factor Three — Traditional Wealth Markers

wealthLet me start by stating in no uncertain terms that planned giving prospects do not have to be wealthy.

I repeat — planned giving prospects do not have to be wealthy.

We’ll get to that point in a moment for factor four, but for the time being, we should acknowledge that many planned giving donors are wealthy.

How do you check for these signs of wealth? Perform a wealth screening. You’ll be looking for real estate ownership, extensive political giving, stock ownership, and other similar indicators.

Factor Four — Has the Desire to Leave a Bigger Gift Than is Presently Possible

large giftFactor four encompasses the large gift loophole for planned giving donors. Although they are often comparable in size, unlike major gifts, planned gifts do not inherently require wealth.

Just because someone does not have the current expendable income that allows for large charitable gifts does not mean that the person is disinterested in giving those gifts.

Those who want a workaround for that obstacle can allocate a planned gift in their wills (also known as a bequest). That way, the funds go to the nonprofit when the donor no longer needs them.

If you want to build the kind of relationships that result in planned gifts in situations like these, your organization absolutely must have excellent stewardship. Nonprofits with successful planned giving programs follow top-notch donor retention practices.

Factor Five — Has Been an Ongoing Supporter of Your Organization

loyalty2You’ve probably noticed a theme among three of the traits listed above:

Candidates for planned giving are dedicated supporters.

Planned gifts are not left on a whim. The word planned is in the term! They come from people who have developed a bond to your cause, so you need to keep them in mind when considering prospects. Think beyond those who have made monetary gifts.

Look to:

Support of your nonprofit comes in many forms. Don’t forget that when you’re finding planned giving donors.

* * * *

Remember, when searching for planned giving prospects, it is not one, but all of these factors combined that will help you identify the best candidates. A planned giving prospect has more than one defining trait. They’re multi-dimensional donors, influenced to give because of a confluence of circumstances.

8% of individual giving comes from bequests. Ensure that your organization is receiving a part of that 8%. Now that you know the prospects you’re looking for, start seeking planned gifts.


sarahSarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

Get more from your prospect research and screening efforts: Part One


Good morning, DonorDreams readers! As many of you know, my work schedule has become challenging in recent months, and I’ve asked a number of “virtual online friends” to help me out with guest blog posts. Today’s post is from Sarah Tedesco, who is the Executive Vice President at DonorSearch. She talks about the role that donor and prospect screening can play in helping your special events raise more money. I hope you enjoy this morning’s post.  Here’s to your health!  ~Erik


 

3 Ways Prospect Research Can Help You Raise More Money from Events

Most nonprofits host at least one event annually. Even smaller nonprofits will typically make the push for one.

Cost per dollar raised (CPDR) is often the biggest factor in deciding on an event type. Smaller nonprofits with tighter budgets cannot afford to make the upfront investment for something like, say, a concert. Instead, they can opt for an event like a walk-a-thon. Each event has its merits. It comes down to individual circumstances.

Given the heavy emphasis on CPDR, nonprofits absolutely have to maximize fundraising in every aspect of the event. Prospect research is a valuable asset for such maximization.

See what a screening can do for your next event in the three benefits listed below.  

1. Teach You Valuable Information About Your Guest List

guest listSo you have your RSVP list. You know who is coming. What do you do with that information?

Hopefully, you use it! And by use it, I mean doing more than making sure you have everyone’s t-shirt size or dinner order. Both pieces of information are important for the flow and preparation of your event, but they’re not incredibly relevant to the task at hand — fundraising.

Twiddling your thumbs with a guest list in front of you is a missed opportunity. Research the attendees and learn about them before you see them.

Prospect screening can reveal so much about donors, like their:

  • Giving histories
  • Financial situations
  • Philanthropic interests
  • Business affiliations

Developing prospect profiles on all of your guests prior to the event will supercharge your staff’s ability to mix and mingle when the big night rolls around.

You might know some of the high-quality donors in attendance, but prospect research will help you round out the list. Once you know who is coming, create your VIP, very important prospect, list.

Your staff can study those individuals and make sure that they dedicate some time to stop by and check in with each VIP.

2. Point Out the Donors That Warrant Extra Post-Event Attention

follow upMuch like you can create a pre-event V.I.P. list, you can do the same after the event.

The post-event research can accomplish two tasks:

  1. Making up for the pre-event process if you didn’t perform an advance attendee screening.
  2. Finding the VIPs who weren’t on your initial list.

Your organization’s handling of event acknowledgments and follow-ups is crucial. You know this, so any information you can gather to improve the process should be welcomed with open arms. Well, open your arms to prospect research.

A high-attendance event, like a 5K, is going to have far too many participants for your staff to reach out to one-on-one afterwards. But, certain donors warrant that type of follow-up.

Consider an example scenario with a donor named Ron who attended your fundraising dinner and auction as a plus one. At the event, he ended up bidding on and winning one of your middle-of-the-pack auction items. You learned his name and various personal details through his auction win, and screened him after the fact.

Your post-event screening revealed that he’s a perfect candidate for planned giving. You now have a direction to go in after sending your acknowledgements.

Knowing what to send immediately after a contribution is easy…it’s a thank you. The next stages of building a communication stream require much more nuance and perspective. That’s when prospect research is so necessary.

3. Help You Adjust Your Event Strategies

strategic planning implementationAlbert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Insanity is a strong word, but you have to switch things up if your fundraising events aren’t bringing in enough money. That can mean adjusting the event itself or hosting an all new event. Choosing the latter option will take some effort, but there is no shortage of fundraising event ideas out there to get your mind going.

Rather than just guessing the solution to your issue, let prospect research lead you in the right direction. Have the data inform your plans.

Screen those you invited, those who RSVP’d, and those who attended. There’s going to be some overlap among those categories, but it won’t be all overlap.

Look for trends in your fundraising performance and commonalities among the various prospects you screen. To isolate the trends, you’ll need to analyze multiple years’ worth of participation.

For instance, your research could show that despite the fact that one of your events is largely populated by millennials, they’re collectively donating less than any other age group in attendance.

That could direct you to assess how you’re collecting donations. Maybe the event needs an online giving component. Maybe you need to optimize the process for mobile donating.

In another scenario, you may notice that an event you’ve hosted for five years draws a disproportionate percentage of small and mid-level gift donors as compared to major gift donors. If that event isn’t yielding enough funds, find ways to attract those missing major gift donors.

Whatever the solution you’re searching for, it starts with the data.

Attending industry conferences can also be another great source of insight into fundraising event best practices. For more information, here is a great list put together by IMPACTism of the upcoming conferences in 2016.

——

As you can see, there’s a place for prospect research in any and all phases of an event. Incorporate the screenings into your other betterment techniques and see even greater results.


sarahSarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

New donor database survey findings about email marketing integration


Good morning, DonorDreams readers! As many of you know, my work schedule has become challenging in recent months, and I’ve asked a number of “virtual online friends” to help me out with guest blog posts. Today’s post is a Q&A session with Software Advice’s Janna Finch. The topic is focused on electronic donor communications (e.g. solicitations, stewardship activities, etc) and integration of all these things with your other software systems (e.g. donor database, CRM, financial management, etc). I hope you enjoy this morning’s post.  Here’s to your health!  ~Erik


Q and AThere are many ways to ask individuals for donations and support, and not every nonprofit asks in the same way. However, a new report from the fundraising technology advisers at Software Advice indicates that more and more nonprofits are asking for donations through email marketing, and want those marketing tools to integrate with their fundraising database and accounting systems. Nonprofit market researcher and author of the report Janna Finch shares her insights on why nonprofits are seeing software with more functionality, addresses common questions about navigating software selection, and discusses implications for the fundraising space in 2015.

What was the most striking finding from your survey of nonprofits?
This year, 133 percent more buyers specifically requested built-in email marketing and outreach tools, and I was surprised to see such a large increase. It makes sense that nonprofits are requesting outreach functionality, of course, but this was a significant jump. Retaining existing donors by engaging them and building good relationships with them is a tried-and-true strategy for keeping consistent contributions. It’s good to see that small nonprofits are being proactive about trying to put new systems in place and considering new technology.

2-top-requested-communication-functionality

In replacing software, the top response was more functionality. What kind of functionality are buyers seeking and why?
Email marketing was by far the most-requested type of functionality at 42 percent, followed by automatic acknowledgements at 35 percent, reporting capabilities at 23 percent, and campaign management features and direct-mail support, both at 22 percent. In my interpretation, this indicates a desire to automate certain processes to be more organized and save time, generating more capacity to focus on furthering the mission of the organization.

Do you have any ideas or theories on what drove the increase in demand for email marketing? 

I think that nonprofits understand the value of storytelling and personalized messaging for donors, and are looking for ways to do that more efficiently. It’s incredibly difficult to manage messaging for more than a few dozen donors without some kind of system, and software can make it easier. There are a good number of affordable fundraising systems with email marketing capabilities available today, so it’s hard to imagine why fundraisers wouldn’t want to consider using email-marketing tools.

What are some ways people can determine which fundraising software is best for their nonprofit?

There are three important considerations for nonprofits purchasing fundraising or donor management software—budget, staff/volunteer skill level and the activities you expect it to support. First, set your budget. If you’re not familiar with how fundraising software is priced, then read about total cost of ownership (TCO) so you know what licenses and fees vendors typically charge. Next, assess the technical literacy of everyone who will need to use the system. For example, if a nonprofit has lots of short-term volunteers who use the system, then ease of use should be priority. I also recommend creating a comprehensive list of every activity you want the software to support, few solutions truly “do it all,” and it can be helpful to prioritize the list into “need-to-have” and “like-to-have” categories.

What are the implications of the trends you identified for the fundraising tech space?

We see a trend of fundraising, donor management and CRM systems naturally morphing into a single system that supports all types of interactions with constituents and fundraising activities. There is overlap in what these systems do and how people use them, so it makes sense that this is happening. Hopefully these more comprehensive systems can make it easier for small nonprofits to amplify their message, better organize and protect their data, and promote long lasting relationships with donors and supporters.

You can read the full report here: Fundraising and Donor Management Software BuyerView | 2015

Wealth screening versus Yoda and The Force


yodaI came across a cool infographic from DonorSearch thanks to Bloomerang’s Monthly Nonprofit Wrap-up digest of blogs and fundraising resources. After digesting the data in the infographic, I couldn’t help but conjure up an image of Yoda talking to a fundraising professional and saying “Use your donor database you shall.” Hahaha! OK, maybe this thought was a result of Force Friday and all the marketing hype around the soon-to-be-released newest Star Wars movie. Regardless, please keep reading . . .

While there was lots of data embedded in the infographic (and you want to click-through to see that graphic), here are two no-brainers:

  • The donors most likely to donate in the future are those who have previously donated
  • Philanthropic giving to other nonprofit organizations is the second most predictive sign of future giving

Looking at these two predictive data points, Yoda would probably say:

  • To find donor prospects for your year-end giving appeal and 2016 annual campaign use your donor database.  Herh herh herh.”
  • For new prospects, look around at other organization’s annual reports, newsletters,  websites and donor honor rolls.

Having worked with non-profit organizations who use wealth screening tools, I share the following observations:

  • these tools are powerful
  • they are expensive
  • they are great for major gift planning, endowment prospecting and capital campaign evaluation and qualification work
  • it is like using a bazooka to kill a fly if you’re using it for annual campaign purposes
  • too often fundraising professionals view wealth screening as a perfect science whereas it should be seen as complimenting the human intelligence gather exercises associated with prospect identification – evaluation – qualification work

What has been your organization’s experience with donor databases, wealth screening, prospect identification/evaluation (e.g. setting targeted ask amounts) exercises? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box and try to do so in Yoda-speak. Let’s have some fun today.

To your health, here is!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

CRM? Donor Database? Your non-profit needs one


crmIn recent months, I’ve been reminded of the power of donor databases and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. For-profit corporations grasped the importance of gathering customer data a long time ago, which is why they invested in these systems before many non-profit organizations started doing so. I will divide the remainder of this blog post up into sections and share a few personal stories about my experiences in recent months. At the end of this post, I’ll share a few resources to help you with your search.

What is the difference?

I suspect the difference between a traditional donor database and a CRM is getting smaller and smaller as time passes. However, I think the whitepaper at culturehive.co.ik titled “Do I need a CRM or a donor database?” written by Mags Rivett at Purple Vision did a nice job spelling out the technical differences.

Here is how Mags described a donor database:

“A donor database can be anything from an Excel spreadsheet or Access database through to a tool available on the open market or even built especially for you. The definition of a database is usually much more limited than that for CRM: ‘A database is a collection of information that is organized so that it can easily be accessed, managed, and updated.’ (Google Dictionary)”

Likewise, here is how a CRM was described:

“Today, CRM has assumed two meanings. It is both:  a) the approach of successfully managing customer and organisational relationships (be that for business, fundraising or service delivery) and b) the tool which we use to manage the relationships. We think of it as being the 360 degree view of our customers and the work of the organisation.”

Still don’t understand the difference? Don’t worry about it. Please trust me when I tell you:

  • you need a tool like this in order to make your private sector fundraising program run effectively in the 21st Century
  • you shouldn’t just purchase one and think that all of your problems are now solved
  • you need to connect and integrate your other systems with this tool
  • you need to build organizational capacity around this tool (e.g. written policies and procedures)
  • you need to put staffing around this tool

Does this sound like work? Of course it is! But it is worthwhile because this tool will help you build and deepen relationships with prospects and donors, which is what resource development is really all about. Right?

Welcome aboard, Mr Anderson!

IMG_20150414_215128628[1]My husband and I like to take cruises every other year and visit fun places. Over the years we’ve traveled to the Caribbean, Greek Islands, Scandinavian peninsula (and St. Petersburg, Russia), Alaska, and recently the Panama Canal (and Central America).

Over the last 10 years, we’ve only sailed on Princess Cruises, and they’ve collected an awful lot of data on us. For example, they know:

  • Our age
  • Our birthdays
  • Our dining preferences
  • Our entertainment preferences
  • Our drinking preferences (e.g. we’re oenophiles)
  • Our weakness for buying artwork
  • Our desire to purchase off-ship excursion packages

I am confident this information is stored in a CRM of some sort because I see signs of it from the moment I walk onto the cruise ship. The following is what is waiting for me in my cabin mailbox:

  • advertisements for the special wine club membership (for discounts on bottles of wine)
  • invitations to wine tastings
  • brochures for upcoming excursions
  • invitations to purchase tickets at the captains dining table
  • a handwritten card from the art director welcoming me back and inviting me to the first art show

IMG_20150414_191147999_HDR[1]While some people think this level of interaction is creepy, I believe the vast major of people (including myself) find this comforting and convenient. I prefer to think of it differently. I’m in a 10 year relationship with Princess Cruises, and they better know my preferences just like my husband better know my eye color.

Of course, relationship building goes beyond simply tracking my expenditures and targeting special events and offers at me. It includes more fundamental relationship building tactics like sending a bottle of champagne and a hand written note immediately following our purchase of artwork.

Non-profit organizations who use these types of systems are:

  • customizing how they communicate with their supporters (based on the donor’s interests and desires)
  • targeting donors with specific invitations, campaigns and appeals
  • celebrating specific milestones (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, etc)
  • connecting supporters based on affinity groups and backgrounds
  • managing events and campaigns

I don’t know about you, but this all seems very convenient and helpful to me from a donor perspective. Dare I suggest . . . “very donor-centered“.

Welcome back, Mr. Anderson!

marriottWhen I returned from my cruise at the end of April, I immediately hit the road on a business trip. Whenever I visit this one particular client, I always stay at the same hotel — Marriott SpringHill Suites.

When I checked into the hotel, the front desk person:

  • greeted me by name
  • knew my room preferences
  • reminded me of things that we’ve talked about before

And this time, they asked if I had enjoyed my Panama Canal cruise. The catch is that I had never told that particular front desk person about my cruise. Hmmmmm? I smell the existence of a CRM.

As I said in the previous section, I’m sure there are people who find this kind of stuff scary. However, I find it comforting and reassuring. It is nice to connect with people on a more personal level. In my opinion, it is the essence of being human.

Choosing a system that is right for your non-profit

OK . . . these systems can be expensive, especially when you add in the costs associated with creating systems, hiring people and developing policies and procedures. So, my advice is simple . . .

Treat this decision like you might do so with a marriage proposal

  • Think through what you really need
  • Involve all stakeholders
  • Develop a budget
  • Try different systems on for size
  • Ask lots of questions

I once came across an awesome online workbook titled “Getting the Most from Your Decision: Four Steps to Selecting Donor Management Software” developed by NPower Seattle. I think this step-by-step workbook is awesome, and I suggest you click-through and use it if you are thinking about purchasing a donor database or CRM.

While I don’t endorse products at DonorDreams blog, I have had experiences with certain products that I feel are worthy of your investigation. The following is a short list you might want to look into:

There is no such thing as a perfect product, and you need to find what best fits you.

I strongly urge you NOT to pick-up the phone and start calling sales professionals for these companies. Sit down with the NPower Seattle workbook first and determine your needs and wants first.

Is your non-profit organization using a CRM or donor database? How is that going for you? Please scroll down and share your experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Your non-profit can learn from Hillary Clinton’s email mess


hillaryIt has been called a crisis, scandal, controversy, and problem by journalists. If you are remotely plugged into the world around you, then you’ve probably heard or read something about Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a private server located in her private residence which stored tons of personal and governmental emails during the time she was Secretary of State. This news story is layered and smells as bad an onion, but there is a silver lining to this story, which is:

You and your non-profit organization can learn a valuable lesson from Hillary’s “situation”

I was in Hillary’s shoes (kinda)

It was April 1, 2006, and it was my last day as the executive director of my local Boys & Girls Club. I was packing up my office and trying to get out-of-the-way of the interim executive director, who the board had hired to keep the organization stable durning the executive search process and impending transition.

As I was taping up my last box, I realized that I had an email situation that needed to be dealt with.

Over my six years as executive director, I had:

  • never deleted any of my sent or received emails
  • blurred the lines between my personal and business email accounts

hillary7None of this was malicious. It was always done out of a frantic sense of convenience and lack of time (or so I told myself).

So, I spent my final hours pouring over emails and deleting everything I didn’t consider a business-related correspondence. Ugh . . . and the things I found in those emails:

  • There were all sorts of emails to my mother and sister pertaining to family gatherings
  • There were emails to my then-partner and current spouse regarding social plans
  • There were correspondence to people in my Rotary Club

Frankly, I was surprised at how many non-business related emails existed. None of it was inappropriate, but so much of it was garbage. In the moment, I had the following questions running through my head:

  • Why wasn’t I more careful about segmenting my email by using my personal email account for personal things and my business account for business things?
  • Why didn’t I clean out my email inbox every day?
  • Who owned these emails? Am I allowed to delete all of these emails on my last day?

The reality is that my non-profit organization didn’t have any policies in place to help me answer these questions. Unlike Hillary Clinton, I didn’t have to deal with:

  • government transparency issues balanced against state secrets and delicate diplomacy discussions
  • executive orders and regulations from the President of the United States
  • congressional legislation (e.g. Freedom of Information Act)

The silly thing is that we’re just talking about email, and the tech challenges to your non-profit organization are so much bigger.

Since my last day on the job at my local Boys & Girls Club in 2006, our technological world has only gotten more complicated. Right? It isn’t just email anymore. Now there are social media questions that government agencies, for-profit businesses and non-profit organization must grapple with.

So what lessons can be learned?

Establish clear policies on technology usage

hillary2Most non-profit organizations are stretched too thin. I know, I know. But this is something you need to make time for because it is important.

It is a great opportunity to engage technology volunteers in a meaningful project that can benefit and protect your organization. It is also an important project that can help manage your organization’s legal risks and public exposure.

The following are just a few questions your policies should address:

  • What is appropriate vs. inappropriate content?
  • Can employees use organizational email for personal communications?
  • When is it appropriate for an employee delete email? What should be saved? How should all of this be archived?
  • In a social media environment, what is inappropriate and what will the organization do if the employee is caught violating the policy? (e.g. should an employee be Facebook friends with clients or supervisors or board volunteers? what if an employee is vocalize a political view on a social media site that adversely impacts how donors view the organization?)
  • Should every organizational email possess a “legal disclaimer” as part of the signature block?
  • Is it OK for employees to create and store documents of a personal nature on your organization’s server?

The following are a few resources you might want to check out to help you with this project:

hillary3Create separation and segment your life

I’m a member of the GenX generation, and separating my personal and work lives is difficult. Much has been written about my generation’s blurring of these boundaries, and I have to admit that I resemble those remarks.

But segmenting email communication shouldn’t be horribly difficult. Right?

When I think about my email situation, I have four different accounts (and many people have multiple email accounts):

  • My sbcglobal.net account is what I use for eCommerce and junk. (this is the account I give companies because I know they are going to spam me)
  • My gmail.com account is what I use for personal emails (this is the account I use with my friends and family and for all things non-business related)
  • My heathynonprofit.com account is what I use for business communication (I try to limit to only communicate with my clients using this account)
  • My acb-inc.com account is only used to communicate with capital campaign clients with whom I work as a subcontractor to American City Bureau to provide service

Do I goof up and accidentally blur the lines between these accounts? Of course! To err is human, right?

But that shouldn’t be an excuse not to try.

Moreover, you can now segment your email accounts on your smart phone. I have different buttons on my phone for each of my different email accounts.

I recognize this doesn’t come naturally to some people, but our changing world demands that we change our systems and practices or risk being left behind (or risk looking like Hillary Clinton does right now).

A side not about Hillary’s “crisis-scandal-controversy-situation-etc

hillary6It hasn’t been talked about much, but the Hillary Clinton email story is a “Non-Profit Story“. Think about it for a minute.

Hillary blended her emails. She likely had emails in her blended account pertaining to:

  • State Department business
  • Chelsea’s wedding
  • Funeral arrangements for Hillary’s mother
  • Personal stuff (e.g. yoga class)
  • The Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative

The Clinton Foundation is a non-profit organization.

In fact, The Clinton Foundation is a nonprofit organization that politicians and news media outlets continue to question about overseas donors and if/how those contributions influence family members who still operate in the public sector (e.g. Hillary’s time as Secretary of State and her alleged desire to be our next President).

This email story raises all sorts of non-profit questions including:

  • What level of privacy should donors expect when electronically communicating with your organization?
  • What legal impact can a donor’s email have on their charitable gift or pledge (e.g. restricted vs. unrestricted donations)
  • If your non-profit organization accepts large quantities of government funding, are your records governed by transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act?

Does your organization have an email policy? Tech policy? Social media policy? What resources did you find useful when developing these policies? Do you find enforcing these policies difficult? If so, how? Please scroll down and use the space below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Will the computer and smart phone kill fundraising face-to-face solicitations?


kids1Last week, I wrote a blog titled “How do you network?” which was based on a conversation I had with Henry Freeman, the owner of H.Freeman Associates LLC. That post was well-received by many of you, and afterward Henry followed up with a nice email thanking me for his “15 minutes of internet fame.” LOL  Of course, in that correspondence, Henry said something that struck me as interesting, which got me wondering about face-to-face solicitation techniques and the future of fundraising.

Here is what Henry wrote that got me thinking:

“One of the things that scares me about the vast amount of technology that enters children’s lives at a very early age is the impact it may have on their ability to grasp the deeply important human skills involved in simple face-to-face communication that involves far more than the words we speak and the facts we share.”

This paragraph formed a mental image in my head of my nephew and niece with their faces buries in their smartphones during a recent family holiday gathering. There were adults everywhere and none of the conversations were kid-friendly. So, they were bored and their phones were entertaining and full of interesting things like texting, emails, Snapchat, etc.

What got me thinking even more about Henry’s concern was a “Tech Shift” radio story I heard on Chicago’s WBEZ 91.5 FM today while driving to Indiana for a site visit with a client.

The interview was with Nick Bilton, who is a tech columnist at NYTimes.com. He recently engaged in a social experiment that yielded an interesting conversation about smartphones. Click here to listen to that interview. It is definitely worth the click.

In doing a little research for today’s blog post, I stumbled across another post “Picture or it didn’t happen” from Leah Pickett at WBEZ. In this article, she talked about her generation being brought up exclusively on technology and social media and the social behavioral changes that have ensued. This is also definitely worth a click.

As these things rolled around the inside of my head, the Illinois and Indiana snow-covered landscape passed by in one white blur, but the one thing my mind kept wandering back to was this simple question:

kids2I wonder if these influences on the next generation of donors and fundraising volunteers will have an impact on the art of face-to-face solicitation and the future of philanthropy?

The reason why this question is so important is because (as Henry so aptly points out all the time in his trainings) face-to-face solicitation is the most effective way to engage a donor. Good fundraising professionals know there are no other solicitation techniques (e.g. mail, email, telephone, etc) that come close to the level of effectiveness as a face-to-face visit with donor.

I honestly don’t have any answers today, but I think it is something worth thinking about because the answer could impact your organization’s approach to fundraising.

How? Here are just a few ideas:

  • re-investment in face-to-face solicitation training
  • investment in online “personal page” solicitation
  • inclusion of a variety of ePhilanthropy strategies (e.g. email, website, social media, crowdfunding, etc) in your annual resource development plan

I really don’t know. Maybe I’m just showing my age? But I think this is an important enough idea to spend a little time contemplating and asking the simple question of “What if?

What are your thoughts? Do you think the upcoming generation of fundraising volunteers could be impacted by the tech they’ve grown up with? If so, then what do you think the effect could be on resource development? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

On a different subject, I’m pleased to announce to the DonorDreams blog community that Henry Freeman is letting me share his fundraising videos with you. My plan is to share one video per month throughout 2015. If there is good viewership, then I’ll continue sharing even more of his videos in 2016. Henry is one heck of a great fundraising professional, and I suspect you’re gonna love his training videos.

Thanks for being so awesome, Henry!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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