Your new donors are not all that into crickets

By | Donor Cultivation | No Comments

 IDG_color_webDid your organization participate in Idaho Gives last year?

In 2013 more than 6,000 individuals gave a total of 9,415 donations in support of 541 nonprofit projects, raising a total of $578, 735.

It was an impressive amount and an equally impressive gathering of organizations and donors.

But still, we can all do math: that total spread out across that many organizations means that the average amount raised was not huge. Some organizations raised thousands and garnered dozens of new donors. Others raised considerably less.

But Idaho Gives is more than just the sum of its donations. Read More

Create a fundraising plan based upon reality

By | planning | 2 Comments

fun_runIn the nonprofit world, there are examples of successful fundraising strategies around every corner, and many examples of strategies that aren’t so successful.

A robust fundraising plan is diverse in its approach. It also makes the best use of the resources at hand for the organization involved. This means, in planning, one size rarely fits all.

The very best fundraising plans take into account the organizational calendar, the ebb and flow of the workload, the resources available, and the mission of the organization.

Here are few things to think about while launching into the very valuable process of creating a fundraising plan:

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Hey, did anyone remember to bring a camera?

By | Marketing, Uncategorized | No Comments

IWCF_party.The importance of images in all forms of marketing has never been more pronounced than it is right now. Images in social media get more attention than copy alone. Images on the page and on the screen can do wonders to break up monotonous copy and keep the reader engaged.

At the same time, I’m the worst at remembering to take photos to use in my blog posts and in social media.

I’m marketing chair for a local membership organization. Every quarter we churn out a newsletter for our membership filled with great content about our work and that of our grantees. And for every newsletter, I wish desperately for more eye catching photos. Read More

First Things First – You’re Here, Now What?

By | training | No Comments

First Steps for the New Development Professional

Now_whatI have had the delight of working with several new fundraising professionals in the past weeks, all of whom were hired to their positions with very little direct experience in fundraising, but with great enthusiasm for their respective organizations.

One of the things I love about development is the abundance of opportunity for the entry level professional.  Many of the fundraisers I know (including me) got their start by accident: throwing in for a good cause, showing some aptitude for or interest in development, and subsequently being handed the reins as development officer.

Yeah! Thinks the new fundraising professional.

Followed by Now What?

The downside to this is sometimes these opportunities are available by virtue of the fact that small nonprofits rarely allocate enough resources to the development function to be successful. They therefore cannot normally entice seasoned professionals with generous (or sometimes even adequate) salary and benefits packages. The best they can offer is the chance to make a difference for an exciting cause.

Lack of resources is not the only reason there is tremendous turnover in development. Another is the fact many small to medium-sized organizations don’t understand the development function. They may place unrealistic expectations on the shoulders of their inexperienced but enthusiastic new professional – who may not know enough at the outset to object – resulting in a tremendously dissatisfying experience for everyone involved.

If you are in such a position, know that you will need to dedicate a significant amount of time throughout the course of your career (not just at the beginning) to learning about your job. I have been a fundraising professional for more than twenty years and still take time on a regular basis to bone up on strategies on how to work with fundraising volunteers, for example, or how social media intersects with development, how to start a new campaign, or the latest trends in the philanthropic world.

Not every fundraising professional finds herself in exactly the same situation. Each organization is different from every other. It may be a fledgling nonprofit, in which new staff are working with the founding board and executive director; it may be an established organization which finds itself in a position to develop a fundraising strategy in the wake of becoming independent from a parent organization.

For every board member, though, or director who tells me “our organization isn’t like the those you’re used to working with,” I find there are a lot more commonalities than differences.

It’s true, each organization is unique, just like each donor. Therefore, creativity and flexibility are keys for success in development.

But there is an established and sound methodology to fundraising. Understanding fundamental best practices and the philosophy behind each, developing a solid plan and sticking with it, and dedicating oneself to professional development and growth are all critical to the success of the development professional.

Development is in some ways just as challenging and rewarding for the seasoned professional as it is for the neophyte.  In the coming weeks, I’m going to share what I might do upon entering a new organization – whether it’s stepping into a role that’s been vacated, or as the first development professional for the organization in question.

As we progress through the following topics (and others I might develop along the way), I’ll include links to those entries below.

  • Articulating your case for support
  • Working with your board, fellow staff and volunteers
  • Outlining your development plan
  • Identifying and addressing the gaps in your plan
  • Coaching your development team and the importance of ‘leading up’

What would you like to know as a new development professional? Or wish you knew upon embarking on your career? Let me know and I may include your chapter in this series.

Social Media Success: make friends, be consistent

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

facebook_128Today’s post is from my friend Michael Sieler, who commented recently on a post I shared about nonprofits and social media nearly four years ago. In the post, I noted that nonprofits had been slow to adopt social media and were largely falling behind in putting valuable, often free, tools to work for their organizations.

Unfortunately, while nonprofits have made some strides since I wrote that post, there are still those that have been slow to get in the game. With this in mind, I asked Michael to share a post with some tips and resources.

Social media: ignore it at your peril, even for the nonprofit sector. Traditional media is becoming less prominent as a resource for information and tools for communication, as social media gains even more of a foothold. Unfortunately, nonprofits remain largely out of the loop where social media is concerned, and continually make common mistakes. They end up wondering why they fail to make the gains they expected.

Before covering the top two mistakes organizations make in utilizing social media, let’s get some things straight:

Social media is not just a fad.
The number of users on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is increasing daily.  According to the Pew Research Institute, 73%, or over 225 million Americans, are now using social media. Worldwide that number is reaching close to a billion.

This is fantastic news because it means your nonprofit has the opportunity to engage current and future supporters in a fresh and effective way. Also, many social media platforms have built-in ways to measure exactly how your audience is engaging with your message. You can’t get that information from a radio or newspaper ad.

Social media is not just another marketing tool.
Traditional marketing and advertising methods are direct, one-way forms of communication, or a “push” approach.

Social media is almost the opposite.  It promotes relationship-building, conversation, and transparency in a more intimate, two-way format. This is both “push and pull.”  It is interactive, very similar to a conversation with a good friend.

Social media isn’t the magic bullet that will solve all problems. 
Sorry, but if an organization has problems, social media won’t solve them. It may magnify them. If a product fails to perform adequately, dissatisfied customers can spread complaints quickly using social media itself!

Now that you understand these basic concepts concerning social media, here are the two most common mistakes organizations make in social media:

Posting inconsistently
Social media users often check their accounts several times a day. Twice a day multiplied by seven days equals 14 chances to engage one user. Only posting twice a week? Your posts may not be seen, or get lost in the sheer volume of content available, and people may forget about your cause or that you even exist.

Regularly post helpful, interesting, and relevant content. Balance content by 5 to 1: post five items not directly related to your organization or cause to each post about it.  Post at least once a day on Facebook and multiple times a day on Twitter. Tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite will schedule posts automatically so you don’t have to do it every day.

If you want a return on investment with social media, be consistent.  Formalize a strategy about your daily social media presence, and then give your experiments 3 to 6 months before analyzing whether this is a good use of your time.

Not Building Relationships
Simply having a social media account is not enough.  People use social media to connect and build relationships. They want to know that the organization they support is filled with people with beating hearts.

Whatever you do in the real world, do it on social media. If you gave a speech at a fundraising event for your organization and someone said, “That was so inspiring!  I had no idea about the amazing impact on the lives of those Guatemalan families. How can I get involved?” You wouldn’t ignore that person and not answer them for a week. You would immediately start a conversation. The same goes for social media.

If someone comments, likes, or shares your content, follow up and thank them. Reach out to partner organizations and share their content to your supporters. This is a great way to promote “cross-pollination of community.”  The more you give, the more you get. Simply put, to get a “friend” you have to be a “friend”.

Now that you understand that social media requires consistency and is about building relationships, the next part step is to take action. Start simply. Choose one platform first, then branch out to others. Create a strategy about the content you want to share.  Follow-up with people.

Remember that building relationships in the real world or on social media takes time and effort. Give this new plan three to six months for relationships to blossom and bear fruit.

If you want to learn more about social media marketing, I highly recommend these two websites:

  • Copyblogger is one of the best resources for learning about internet and social media marketing.
  • Seth Godin is a master of marketing. His blog posts are short, to the point, and always pack a practical punch.

Michael J. Sieler is a business student in Portland, Oregon. He works for social media agency WePost Media. He can be found on LinkedIn or Twitter.