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Archive for May, 2012

Social Media for the Nonprofit Community: How to Assess All the Options?

Some of you may be familiar with Ken Burnett and his book, Relationship Fundraising (2nd. Ed., Jossey Bass, 2002) which I vamp shamelessly to my clients and my students in my marketing and fundraising classes at Northeastern. A fine book. If you raise money for a living, you want a copy by your side. Particularly his Essential Foundations of Fundraising: 28 bullet points that are quick, helpful reminders of important basics to fundraising best practice.
For example: “Don’t just ask people to give.”
It’s about the relationship first.

And it was written some years before the advent of the Social Media movement.  Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. YouTube. Pinterest. And lots lots more.

Most successful development professionals in the world of nonprofits get the concept of Relationships. Many of us are familiar with the teachings of Ken Burnett. And of course Kay Sprinkel Grace, the indefatigable giver of workshops on great boards and great fundraising.

Now all of this has a new level of complexity with the advent of Social Media. Where does it fit? Recently, I mentioned Debra Askanase who tweets as @askdebra and whose Community Organizer 2.0 is helping nonprofits get into focus with Social Media. Clearly, one size does not fit all. Each of us can apply the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) Goals process to Social Media as part of a well-thought-out marketing strategy for our nonprofit organization.

A smart fellow I rely on for advice and guidance in this area is Bob Cargill, who Tweets as @CargillCreative and whose blog at is a great source of current…and I mean immediate….thinking on application of Social Media in a variety of work and other settings.  I  recommend even if you aren’t a twitterati at the moment, that you sign up for Twitter and follow Bob.  Within a week you will have been linked to loads of thought leaders in Social Media and begin to formulate your own perspective on how you will apply these tools to your nonprofit.  Among other things, Bob very generously speaks with my nonprofit marketing classes at Northeastern University, and co-hosts a tweet-up in Sudbury MA you might want to know about, and will learn about if you follow Bob.

The idea is to identify bright communicators and network mavens who have something of value to share on the subject. This will help you determine where you want to go with Social Media.  It’ll provide a new layer of potential for your relationship fundraising efforts.

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Measuring Return on Engagement

I heard Debra Askanase present on this topic at the Nonprofit Consultants’ Network annual open forum in Boston on May 18th.  Debra blogs and consults as Community Organizer 2.0. Her work helps nonprofits, among other things, determine best way to measure impact. Check this blog post out on determining how to measure impact of social media as well as the impact the nonprofit is having on its community. Topic of this particular post:  Measuring Return on Engagement of Community Commitment.  Nonprofit leaders wonder, justifiably so, whether it’s worth while to dabble if not immerse in social media.  Debra can help you answer this question.

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Summer Appeal Revisited

Just a year ago I posted here about launching an appeal to your donors as summer approaches.

This concept is based on the assumption that you have a Christmas or holiday season appeal in November – December that’s tried and true. But you have been reluctant to send a second or third appeal to your file out of fear that you’ll turn your donors off and they’ll never give again.

Let’s get over that hurdle right here and now. If you have a compelling story to tell your donors will listen and respond. Well. A significant number will.  Some may be turned off, and tell you they only want to hear from you once a year and that’s at holiday season. That’s just fine. But that doesn’t speak for all your loyal donors who are ready to help if you’re ready to ask.  Here are some update pointers on the subject:

Summer is almost upon us, and the living is easy. In some respects.  If you don’t do a mid-year appeal to your donor list, I recommend that you consider doing it this summer.  And, if you took my advice last year and did a summer appeal, it’s time to do it again.

Most nonprofit organizations do their direct response (mail, e-mail, social media) appeal to donors near the Christmas holiday. The competition for your donors’ attention is quite strong at that time of year. Many people, particularly women age 55 and over, donate to five, six, seven charities and don’t necessarily give to the same group every year during that Thanksgiving – Christmas interval.

Summer provides an opportunity to appeal to your loyal lapsed donors.  Some of you might consider prospecting for new donors this time of year. But in this blog post, my focus is on messages about your mission and what you’re delivering to your clients/customers that your donors will welcome and might make a second gift.

Some things for you to consider in this appeal

  • Make it part of a newsletter, or follow a few weeks after your newsletter informing friends and donors what your nonprofit has been doing to deliver service to people who benefit from your mission
  • Focus the pitch on a message you used last holiday season, but which is worth reinforcing now
  • Tell a compelling story about how a particular individual benefited recently from a service you provide
  • In telling a story, be sure to either get written permission to tell it, or change the names to protect the innocent
  • If there are long-time and big-time donors, consider making the ask in person

For those donors who did contribute to your last annual campaign, start with a “thank you.” Let them know that you know they did in fact give within the last twelve months. That you’re not pulling a fast one, tricking them into a second gift. That the purpose is to do more. Because there are people out there who aren’t feeling the benefit of the easing recession. There are still people getting foreclosed on their home. There are still millions of people doing part-time work, looking forward to the economy improving and getting back to working full time.

Those of us fortunate enough to be working, or retired with a pension and a bit of a cushion, might be ready to do a bit more.

And you won’t know the answer ’til you ask.

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Unwritten Rules of Fundraising

A great conversation was hosted by Chronicle of Philanthropy at noon Eastern Time today.  Gail Perry a fundraising consultant (she tweets as @GailPerrync) and Dan Bruer, a major gifts officer at League of Conservation Voters (email were the featured lead discussants.  Raymund Flandez a staff writer at the Chronicle facilitated the conversation.

Gail and Dan kicked off the discussion asking us for questions and comments on the importance of good manners in the context of the “ask” meeting.  During the hour-long interaction, Raymund posted questions to participants and took polls on various issues around correct behavior when meeting with a donor, or a donor prospect.

Here’s a link to the welcoming page for this event:  I believe access is limited to subscribers, but you could check it out.

Among other things, we discussed if it’s proper both on an etiquette level and an ethical level to have a drink with a meal when meeting a donor, particularly when the purpose is to ask for a gift.  Interesting.

We also discussed “picking up the check.”  The majority on the call seemed to agree that we follow the donor’s lead on this. That if the donor wants to pay for lunch, realizing that development staff generally have an expense account and will charge the cost to the nonprofit we represent.  The donor may not want nonprofit funds to be used this way.  However, staff in the right circumstance can feel comfortable saying, “Thank you so much for your time, but in consideration of all you do for us, please let us pick up this check as a small thank you for your generosity.”

A very good session.  Well done, Gail and Dan!  And, of course, Raymund!

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