Friday
Dec122014

3 Best Practices to Rock Your Blog

 

Most nonprofits have a blog and even though they're common, they're not always as simple to navigate as they seem. A lot of nonprofits reach out to me asking how they can improve their blogs, they ask about best practices, and they ask about constituent engagement. So, you think you can blog?

Before we get into best practices, let me ask you a few questions about your nonprofit's blog.

  • What are you goals for you blog? Why did you create it?
  • Who's your target audience? (Your answer cannot be everyone...) Think about your current audience and also think about the audience that you really want to reach.
  • How often do you update your blog?

Okay, jot a couple of those answers down, or keep them in the forefront of your mind. Let's dive into 3 tips, just for starters, that'll help you rock your blog (or rock it harder):

  1. Update your content regularly and often. By regularly, I mean 2-3 times per week (if not more frequently). Create a content calendar, if it helps (and we think it does!). Here's a great guide to content calendars.

    Make sure you're not just gearing your content to what you want to hear, but that you're writing for your target audiences that are actually reading the blog. And please don't only use your blog to only post advocacy actions and donation asks. That is not the purpose of a blog. When we are designing and develpoing websites at Rad Campaign sometimes we will run into organizations who have not updated their blog in months. If you can't commit to a regular blogging schedule, get rid of the blog. 
  2. Back up your positions with facts. If you're nonprofit is working on advocacy issues, it's even more important that you back up your positions with facts and hard data. Even though blog posts are often more personal or editorial like in the style of writing, that does not mean you should just make blanket statements. Use your organization's awesome data to back up your positions. 
  3. Invite guest bloggers. If your organization has a blog written by 1-2 staff people then you need to recognize that you cannot be an expert on everything, nor does anyone expect you to be. The two staff blog writers won't always be the best people to deliver your content. Sometimes a blog post is all about the packaging, and you have to have dynamic packaging. An array of voices will be exciting and fresh. Not sure how to incorporate guest blogging? Here are 7 tips to getting started with guest blogging.

Stay tuned for more best blogging practices. In the meantime, what are your favorite blogging tips?

Wednesday
Dec102014

Do Responsive Websites Raise More Money?

Redesigning and updating your website might be one of your goals for 2015, and it be better be mobile responsive.

According to Pew Research, 63% of adult cell owners use their phones to go online, as of May 2013, and 34% of cell internet users go online mostly using their phones, and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.

Not only is your audience accessing your website from their mobile device or tablet, they're also giving more money on sites that are responsive. Blakcbaud determined this after they researched 105 small and midsized randomly selected nonprofits and conducted an analysis on almost 5,000 donations processed by Blackbaud’s Online Express between August 26th and October 25th of 2014.

Here are some of their key findings:

  • Donors were 34% more likely to make a gift after reaching a donation form when the website was responsive.
  • The average gift size increased on responsive sites.
  • Conversions were 59% higher for mobile donors one responsive websites.
  • Of the 105 nonprofits that npENGAGE evaluated manually, 42% has responsive sites. That's only 56 organizations.

You can view the rest of their findings in this infographic:

What have you noticed since making your site responsive? And if your website still isn't responsive, is it something that you're considering? Let us know, and maybe add it to your holiday wish list.

conducted an analysis on almost 5,000 donations processed by Blackbaud’s Online Express between August 26th and October 25th of 2014. - See more at: http://npengage.com/nonprofit-fundraising/does-responsive-design-really-raise-more-money-for-nonprofits-infographic/#sthash.reONIKNa.dpuf
conducted an analysis on almost 5,000 donations processed by Blackbaud’s Online Express between August 26th and October 25th of 2014. - See more at: http://npengage.com/nonprofit-fundraising/does-responsive-design-really-raise-more-money-for-nonprofits-infographic/#sthash.reONIKNa.dpuf
Tuesday
Dec022014

Three Keys to Working with Crowds

Gathering crowds to help your cause is an essential part of working in a networked world. Crowds create capital, or “go-go juice,” that can include human connections, intelligence and expertise, resources like equipment and furniture, and, of course, money.

Ideas and ventures that would have been impossible when capital was scarce are now possible because of social media platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Creating capital is an essential part of what I call “Matterness,” the powerful force of mutual interest that happens when organizations and people work with one another rather than at one another.

Crowds can be difficult for organizations to work with because people in crowds aren’t trapped in databases or sitting quietly as an audience. People come and go as they please, not necessarily according to the wishes of organizations.  Here are the three essential steps for turning crowds into organizational go-go juice.

1. Understanding the Need

Successfully leading crowds takes clarity of purpose, intentionality, and some elbow grease. People need to be treated with dignity and respect, which means ensuring that their time and intelligence are respected and used well. By thinking clearly about why and how to engage crowds, organizations will turn some of these doers into donors, who are more invested in the organization and more likely to give over time.

2. Creating “No Fake” Zones

Crowd members want real, meaningful opportunities to help an organization. Fake requests like:  Send me money today, or my opponent will win and send your children to Russia for kindergarten!  do more harm than good. Fakery also include messages that look like they are from real people but are from black-hole email addresses like “no reply.” Social media are conversational vehicles. People are smart, they can see through artificial requests for help that are really just excuses to ask for donations and opportunities to capture contact information. Building trust with a crowd is essential to keeping people engaged longer.

3. Following and Leading. There are times when what an organization wants to get is different from what constituents want to give. When this happens it is smarter for an organization to become a follower rather than a leader. Organizations need to be on the lookout for crowds that form that can enhance their efforts — but beware, these crowds cannot be “owned” by organizations. Leaders need to focus on Matterness in these instances and find the sweet spot that exists between what crowds what to give and what an organization needs. It’s there, it just may take some conversations between the crowd and the organization for it to emerge.

*Allison Fine is the author of Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media. In addition, she is the author of the award-winning Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, and co-author of the bestselling The Networked Nonprofit. Her blog, A. Fine Blog, can be found at www.allisonfine.com

Friday
Nov282014

42% of Donors to Crowdfunding Campaigns Are Ages 55-74

Crowfunding campaigns to support nonprofits have experienced significant growth over the last few years. Nonprofits aren't just raising money through their email lists during crowdfunding campaigns, they are acquiring new donors too. But who are these new donors? Kimbia, who runs the crowdfunding campaign Give Local America, which raised an impressive $53M in 2014, poured through their donor data and found some answers. 
  • Age: 42% of donors are between the ages of 55-74
  • Income: 47% have a $100K or more household income.
  • Networth: 62% have a networth of $250K or more
  • Average first gift for the event: $113
  • Gave to charity in the past: Only 41% gave to charity previously, meaning that the majority of donors to crowdfunding campaigns are donating to charity for the first time in their lives. I would love to see a follow up study on how these first time donors felt about their donation experience. Speaking of here's some tips for creating a postive donor experience.

Check out the infographic below to learn more about donors who support crowdfunding campaigns.

Tuesday
Nov252014

#GivingTuesday: Just One Piece of the Puzzle

It's that time of year, and #GivingTuesday campaigns are beginning across the nation. As a matter of fact, CrowdRise just launched a #GivingTower Holiday Challenge for nonprofits.

And while #GivingTuesday is a big deal for fundraising, it's also just one way to engage your donors. But, what about the long haul?

This is the 3rd post in a series of Donor Love, inspired by Blackbaud's Show the Love: Thoughtful Engagement to Retain Donors.

How to focus on the long haul:

  1. Pay attention to your annual donor renewal rate. Has it decreased/increased? You should be tracking this each year, and it should inform your strategic plan for the next year. Track what works and what doesn't. Just because internally your organization thinks a campaign or tactic is great, it doesn't mean that it's resonating with your donors.
  2. Give your donors some lovin'. In Dearest Donors: A Love Letter we talked about the importance of thanking your donors, reaching out to them (and not just when you want money), and creating a donor retention calendar. Make sure to thank your donors whether they're big, small, monthly, or one-time. Every of their dollars counts, and shows that people care about your organization. You need to show them that you care right back.
  3. Strive for monthly sustainers. Monthly givers will bring in much more money over the long haul than one time gifts. And a monthly gift of $20 is more doable for many people than a single donation of $240.

    Entice your audience to become monthly sustainers through direct mail, special events, face-to-face engagements, and online. Donors acquired by direct mail generally have the greatest lifetime value of all monthly donors. By reaching out across all channels, you're meeting your donors where they're at.

    Blackbaud's report showed that monthly givers donate two or three times more in a year than they would if they only gave a single gift.
  4. Get specific. And by specific, we want you to get a bit personal. Don't just acknowledge your donors generally, instead show pictures of your actual donors (if they're okay with it), and take some time to thank each donor individually instead of sending a mass email. You want your donors to feel special, because where would you be without them?
  5. Craft unforgettable messages. If your constituents can't forget about you, you'll be on their mind when it's time to donate. You don't want to bore your donors. These messages are vital to the donor lifeline. Focus on the human-side of messaging, not just the numbers. While numbers and transparency are important, so are the stories.

    How are you making a difference? What change are you envisioning for the world, and how have you actually succeeded? What have your constituents done to impact this world, and why are you thankful? Use captivating photos, be creative, and feel free to have fun when sharing these moments. These will be the messages that make your donors come back again, and again.

Are you making sure that your #GivingTuesday campaigns and your year-end campaigns have a focus on donor retention? What are your best strategies for this?

Wednesday
Nov192014

10 Must Have Year-End Fundraising Tips

Year-end fundraising is upon us once again. With every nonprofit out there trying to raise money at this time of year, how can you get a piece of the donation dollar pie? It starts small, check your website, have a plan, and test drive your donation page. Without testing these pieces, it won’t matter how amazing your messaging or story is, people will not be able to donate.

To help you capture the details, we have compiled a list of 10 tips for you to think about as you craft and execute your year-end fundraising campaigns.

Go ahead, serve yourself a slice of that $$ pie!

1. Map it out. Determine your budget, goals, timing and what channels you will use to drive your campaign. Timing and planning are essential since donors are inundated with messages during this time.

2. Tell your story. Why is your organization special? How is your work relevant to the reader’s life-- are there ways that messages can be personalized to reflect past actions or interests, geography, or demographics? What will the donor get from you that they can’t get anywhere else? And why do they need to support you now.

You want to separate yourself from the masses and at the same time send enough messages to be noticed! What makes your work different from all the other charities trying to capitalize on the holidays and year-end? Look for hooks to current news, seasonal relevance, or accomplishments from the prior year that might help you stand out from the crowd.

3. Give your website a check up! Are you driving your site visitors to the right place, or sending them down a dead-end? Make sure anyone coming to your homepage sees a clear ask and an easy and obvious path to donate. Are there donate buttons on all the right pages? Are donation pages search engine optimized? If you haven’t already, why not test a donation light box during December that pops up for all of your website visitors (except those that have already given).

4. Test-drive your donation page. First, make an online donation on your site using a desktop browser and via mobile to test the ease of your online donation process. When testing, think about any elements you might want to test and optimize. Good tests include: size and color of the donate button, text on the donate button, ask strings, and form fields to include. Your donation page should have limited navigation options to keep your donors from getting distracted.

Next, ask three other people to donate, and watch them while they go through the process. Moms, cousins, your neighbor, are all good subjects for this test. Watch for any indication that getting to the donation page and completing the donation is anything but intuitive and smooth.

For the rest of the tips and some awesome infographics, download the tip sheet here!

What pre year-end fundraising activities have you found most helpful?

 

Useful Resources:

Procastinators Guide to Year End Fundraising

Last Minute Tips for Year-End Fundraising

It’s Not Too Early To Be A Year-End Fundraising Superhero: Part Two

Three Ways to Wake Up Your Donors

Stand Apart From the Crowd with your Year-End Fundraising Campaign

Eight Tips to Plan your Holiday Campaign

Friday
Nov142014

Scary Tactic Emails

I have always loved Halloween. Haunted houses, a full moon, and starry nights.

This year, Halloween was creepier than usual. We saw a deluge of scare tactic emails from the Democratic Party and every progressive organization involved in the midterm elections.

We have also repeatedly heard a call for the progressive movement to use more positive messages to motivate people to get involved. But do positive messages work?

I looked at the data for a women’s rights organization and compared the results from their positive emails to all of their emails, including scare tactic messages. 

 

Open Rate

Click Through Rate

Unsubscribe Rate

All Emails

13%

1.6%

.18%

Positive Emails

12.28%

.62%

.09%

 

The lower click through rate for positive emails shows that positive messages don’t motivate people to take action as much as scare tactic emails. In addition, after sending emails to supporters, some decide to unsubscribe.  In this case, we found that the unsubscribe rate is lower for those receiving positive emails than for those receiving emails from the organization in general.  This could be an artifact of the lower open rate.

What happens when we break down the email data by advocacy and fundraising emails? Are positive emails more effective than scare tactics emails in either of these realms?  Here are our findings:

 

Open Rate

Click Through Rate

Unsubscribe Rate

All Advocacy Emails

13%

2.9%

.16%

Positive Advocacy Emails

11.98%

.83%

.10%

 

Let’s stop for a minute and talk about positive advocacy asks. These include actions like thanking members of Congress for voting a particular way, or sharing graphics about major organizational accomplishments.

So, does fear really motivate advocacy actions? I believe it does. The most interesting and shocking data point here is the dramatically lower click through rate for positive advocacy emails relative to all advocacy emails sent. This suggests that while it’s great when organizations have major wins and positive advocacy developments, these situations don’t motivate people to get involved in the issues as much as fear of what might happen if they don’t get in the game.

Do positive results lead to higher fundraising responses? Let’s look at the data:

 

Open Rate

Click Through Rate

Unsubscribe Rate

Response Rate

Average Gift

All Fundraising Emails

12%

.45%

.18%

.07%

$45.59

 

Positive Fundraising Emails

12.28%

.27%

.08%

.01%

$38.55

 

The difference between click through rates, response rates, and average gifts demonstrates that positive emails don’t raise as much money as scare tactic emails - Yikes!  Evidence reveals that positive emails in the fundraising arena seem to inspire so there is less people to consider making a donation (i.e., lower click through rates than a typical email seeking funds), and far fewer people to follow through (i.e., positive emails have a lower response rate). Moreover, when people do donate in response to a positive email, they give a smaller amount of money than the typical donation generated by a fundraising email. This means that scare tactic emails bring home the bacon this time of year.

The success of scare tactics creates an interesting conundrum for nonprofits. We like to stay positive, but to have positive results in terms of advocacy actions by supporters and donations from them it pays to play on their fears.  This does not mean that nonprofits should jump on the fear bandwagon all the time.  Positive emails can still be an effective tool for digital strategists, but they must be crafted carefully.  This leads to a wonderful question…

 

Why don’t positive emails work?

It could be because people think that thanking members of Congress for voting “the correct way” on an issue is really just thanking them for doing their job. Generally, people are frustrated with Congress, so expressing gratitude to them may feel like giving them a pass. Think about it: When you’re frustrated with someone, you aren’t likely to compliment their work.

Positive emails may also lack the sense of urgency that's generated by fear factor emails. In essence, positive emails may make the requested action seem less important than intended by the digital strategists, and hence easier to ignore.

 

Why does fear motivate people?

Scary emails work for three reasons:

First, Scare tactic emails often make the reader feel like they can stop the terrible thing from happening if they simply do their part and act. Organizations are directly involving the recipient in both the issue and the solution.

Second, scary tactic emails usually have a greater sense of urgency because the message conveys that something terrible is taking place or is about to occur, and the reader needs to take a stand.

Finally, scare tactic emails usually present a plan, a theory of change, for how the organization is going to stop the terrible thing from happening. These emails hit a perfect trifecta of necessary items to motivate people to take action.

 

Conclusion:

I’m not saying that positive emails should never be sent. There is definitely a time and place to go positive with emails. We should celebrate our campaign wins and our organizational successes. We should thank our allies in Congress. However, we need to be realistic about the expected results of these emails. We need to keep people involved, which includes sharing worst-case scenarios to motivate our supporters to take action and donate