Thursday
Mar272014

New Report Shows Largest Increase in Charitable Giving Since the Recession

Should nonprofits be less panicked now that the latest report by Blackbaud report shows that charitiable giving is finally up for nonprofit sector since the recession? While this trend is good news for the sector, don't throw a big bash to celebrate this milestone just yet. As Amy Sample Ward and I discuss in our book Social Change Anytime Everywhere there are over 1.6 million organizations in the United States. This means that there are hundreds or even thousands of organizations working on similar issues with similar names and missions competing for donor dollars. It's time for nonprofits to start diversifying their revenue streams all year round.

As Steve MacLaughlin puts it:

“Nonprofits have many opportunities to diversify their giving throughout the year so they aren’t so dependent on year-end fundraising. As evidenced by giving days like #GivingTuesday and end-of-fiscal year campaigns in June, nonprofits have the opportunity to drive donor behavior by shifting their fundraising strategies.”

#GivingTuesday saw an immense growth in 2013, as evidenced by Craig Newmark's recent infographic, Cracking the Crowdfunding Code. Check out these key findings from the 2013 Charitable Giving Report:

  • Online giving (13.5%) grew more than overall giving (4.9%).
  • Small orgs saw the greatest increase in online giving.
  • Faith-based organizations experienced the most online giving of all the sectors.
  • It's ideal for your nonprofit to implement a monthly giving program.

2013 Charitable Giving Report by Blackbaud

 

Monday
Mar242014

Infographic: Cracking the Crowdfunding Code for Your Nonprofit

Crowdfunding has really taken off in the past couple of years. Crowdfunding alone raised an estimated $5.1B worldwide in 2013. Individuals and organizations are using crowdfunding methods and platforms to raise money for their causes, and it's working. Craig Newmark, of craigconnects, comissioned my web agency Rad Campaign to research the effects of crowdfunding, and we took the fascinating results and created an infographic.

Over the course of our research, we spoke with prominent crowdfunding platforms such as Causes, Causevox, FirstGiving, StayClassy, Razoo, and others to find out just how much money crowdfunding campaigns raise on average for organizations? What best practices should nonprofits live by when crowdfunding? And how much money is the average crowdfunding donation?

Here are a few key findings that you should know about:

  • The average donation to a crowdfunding campaign is $88
  • On average, more than 28% of crowdfunding donors will donate again.
  • Fundraisers who receive their 1st donation during the first 3 days of the campaign are more likely to hit their goal than those who don't.

 

Have you been doing crowdfunding right? Is there anything new you discovered in this infographic that you'll begin implementing?

Monday
Mar172014

Are You Engaging Donors Effectively?

Is your nonprofit effectively engaging donors? Are you moving donors up the ladder of engagement? And, if you were surveyed on your donor engagement, would your org fall under the good, the bad, or the ugly?

DonorDigital donated to 16 major US nonprofits to learn about their integrated fundraising practices. For 6 months in 2013, after making an online contribution, they tracked all interactions with these organizations through direct mail, online, and by phone. Their goal was to observe how some of America’s most notable charities are integrating their donor communications across multiple channels.

DonorDigital tracked the following:

  • How long did it take to receive a direct mail acknowledgement or a welcome package for the online gift?
  • How quickly and how frequently were subsequent direct mail appeals received?
  • How many email communications were received from the organization, and how many were appeals for financial support?
  • How many communications were received that were purely cultivation or informational messages?
  • Which organizations followed up about joining their monthly giving program? If they did, which channels did they use to reach out about it?
  • Were appeals or campaigns integrated across multiple channels?

Here's a sneak peek into what was discovered during this undercover donor testing:

Thank You Emails

  • All 16 of the organizations sent an email thank you within one day of the online donation. Email acknowledgement is usually automated after an online donation is processed.
  • 8 of the organizations sent direct mail acknowledgements and 8 did not.

You should always thank your donors across channels. You may think this is a given but you would be surpised as to how many nonprofits still forget to do this very basic step. People are giving their hard earned money to your organization because they believe in your cause, and they should be appropriately acknowledged. If you show your appreciation, they'll be more likelly to give again. And don't just rely on automated emails. Make an effort to thank donors via direct mail, social media, and/or by phone. Make them special and valued. Remember fundraising is about building a relationship with people.

Monthly Giving

  • 3 organizations made monthly giving asks via email only.
  • 4 organizations made no monthly giving asks in any channel.
  • Only 1 organization integrated their monthly giving invitation through mail and email.

One time gifts are nice, but monthy donations are even better. A one time donation of $100 is a great start, and much appreciated, but think what a monthly donation of a mere $20 will do for your organization. In just one year, that $20 monthly donation turns into $240, more than doubling your one time donation of $100. And over 10 years that is $2,400. It never hurts to ask, people want to help however they can.

Second Gifts

  • All 16 of the organizations asked for an additional gift via email.
  • 5 asked for a 2nd gift in their 2nd email communication.
  • 13 of the organizations asked for a 2nd gift in the mail within the next 6 months, and 3 did not.
  • The organization that had the longest time between initial gift to the 2nd gift ask in the mail took 162 days—more than 5 months! Yikes!

If someone has given to your organization once, it's because they genuinely want to support you, and it's likely they'll give again. They won't give again, though, if you don't ask. If you integrate asks across channels, you'll have a better chance at reaching more donors. However, that does not mean that all of your communications with your supporters should be monetary asks. It's important that your donors know what you're doing, not just when you need money.

With all of the noise and competing organization out there, you really have to stand out, and it's important that you do this by appreciating each donor. You need to be thanking your donors across channels, asking them to give monthly, and involving them in your most important work. To read more about the study, and to discern what exactly the good, the bad, and the ugly are, check out DonorDigital's study here.

And I'd love to hear what's been working for you. How are you engaging your donors across multiple channels?

Tuesday
Mar112014

Best #14NTC Panels and Parties to Check Out

Every year I look forward to one very special conference - the NTC conference organized by the awesome NTEN team. This years 14NTC conference is packed with incredible parties (including an 80s dance party that I'm co-hosting with Salsa), and the Care2 Impact Prize that recognizes individuals in the nonprofit sector who have made an outstanding impact on the field of online advocacy, online fundraising or both. Then there is the fantastic sessions discussing the best tools nonprofits should use to build websites and online campaigns focused on engagement and raising lots of money.

Here's a list of some of my favorite sessions and parties that will be happening during 14NTC. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments below.

14NTC Sessions  

50 Shades of Social Media: Navigating Policies, Laws, and Ethics
Thursday, March 12th, 10:30 AM

This highly interactive session, will discuss real-world situations, explore using ethical frameworks to resolve social media conundrums, and integrating ethical considerations into your social media policies, training, and practices.

Small Nonprofits, Big Data: Leveraging Data to Optimize Your Digital, Media and Communications Activities
Thursday, March 14, 1:30PM

‘Big data’ has become a catch phrase. But in practical terms, how can small nonprofit organizations harness data and use it effectively? This session will describe sometimes painful, but often rewarding process to do a better job of collecting, analyzing and acting on data, for use in both strategic planning and evaluation.

Disrupting the Nonprofit Sector
Friday, March 13th, 10:30 AM

In the last 10 years, the nonprofit sector has grown more than 60% in the US to an estimated 1.5 million organizations. This translates into thousands of organizations with similar names and missions competing for advocacy, donor, and foundation support. See the problem? If we are going to truly solve the world’s toughest social problems and obtain the necessary resources to do it right, we need to examine how the nonprofit sector can evolve to create more innovative and efficient organizations. This involves disrupting the nonprofit sector as we know it today.

Start at the Start: Using Storyboards, Wireframes, and Mood Boards
Friday, March 13, 1:30PM

If you’re embarking on a website redesign for your nonprofit, this session will be useful as panelists will show you want kind of a creative design you will need to capture your vision and goals for the new website. Expect a lively discussion on how to use storyboards to plan animated functionality, how to use wireframes to create mobile-friendly designs, and how to use mood boards to help determine color, texture, and the overall look and feel of your online communications.

Community Engagement Reinvented: Online Fundraising and Engagement Strategies for the Modern Nonprofit
Saturday, March 15 10:30AM

The way organizations fundraise and engage their supporters has changed, and failure to adapt will have long-term consequences for the success of the mission. This sessions will explore strategies that successful, cutting-edge, organizations are using to engage supporters more powerfully and efficiently than ever before, and generating the revenue today that will sustain their work long into the future.

Shelving Legacy, Sparking Innovation. Building Effective Technology for Philanthropy.
Saturday, March 15th, 10:30AM

This session offers leaders, managers and program officers engaged in philanthropic initiatives a rare chance to hear and discuss building innovation and effective technology into philanthropy with other colleagues, facilitated by a experienced panel from the philanthropy, nonprofit, and technology sectors.

Social Media Superpower: Tapping Creativity to Mobilize your Community
Saturday, March 15 1:30 PM

Do you want to learn how organizations are leveraging their creative superpowers to win on social media? What separates the heroes from the zeroes and how can organizations cultivate their own social media superpowers? This is the session that has the answers to all of your questions.

 

14NTC Parties

NTC Beer: Wednesday, March 12th 7PM to 9PM

Celebrate the 6th annual #ntcbeer, the pre-conference party known for good refreshments and better conversation. Catch up with nptech friends old and new over a few brews or whatever. 

Where: The Black Squirrel, 2427 18th Street NW

 

501 Tech Club Happy Hour, Thursday, March 13 5PM to 7PM

This happy hour is an opportunity for 501 Tech Club organizers—you know who you are—to get together and swap ideas, stories about your local meetups, and jokes.

Where: Marriott Hotel Bar near hotel lobby

80s Dance Party: Friday, Friday, March 14 7PM to 10PM
Remember the days of synthpop, hair metal bands, and leg warmers? Salsa and Rad Campaign are bringing it back for one helluva of an 80's dance party! Join nonprofits and do-gooders for the best 14NTC progressive party. Dance the night away to 80's music by DJ Tea Jay, complimentary food, and drinks. Did we mention fun? How could it not be at a place called Club Heaven and Hell? It’s just a short walk from the NTC conference. Happy Hours and dancing start here!

Where: Heaven and Hell: (2327 18th St, NW)

 

What sessions and parties are you look looking forward to attending?

Thursday
Mar062014

The Scoop on Getty's New Free Images

Did Getty Images, the world's largest photo service just make its photos free to use? That depends on how you plan to use them. Getty Images says you can use images for free by embedding them on your website or blog as long it's for non-commercial purposes. As I understand it, the photos can't be used for commercial purposes, such as selling a product. They can't be used for raising money. They can't be used to promote a campaign or endorse someone, like a political candidate.

People's initial reaction to the announcement was positive, but once they dig deeper, I think that they will quickly see the downsides.


For example, let's say many organizations find a way to use the photos for non-commerical purposes. This could negatively impact the stories the organizations are telling because stock photos are not authentic. Humanizing an issue through storytelling and visualizations of real people are some of the most effective forms of engagement, especially for nonprofits.

I'm also not a fan of many stock photos because they usually have a stock look to them, making your content a lot less compelling and a lot less powerful. 

Plus, with the use of stock photos, you run the risk of multiple of organizations and businesses using the same images. This could be especially embarrassing if your competitor uses the same image as you.

While the inauthenticity of stock photos may be a concern, there's one risk that may be even worse: Getty Images has the right to serve up ads or other content through the embedded images onto your site. They will be using these embedded images to collect, store, and mine data that will, of course, be sold to generate revenue for Getty Images. This is not the experience nonprofit organizations want to provide to their constituents who visit their website.

Stock photos should only be used as a last resort if you can't acquire good, authentic phtotos from your organization's events, or if you can't afford to hire a photographer. However, the embedded images just added a new layer of complexity that nonprofits should be weary of.

What do you think about Getty's new, free embedded images?

Monday
Mar032014

Are your marketing tests too lean or too fat?

If you flip a coin 6 times, there is a good chance that it won’t be 50% heads and 50% tails.  But, as you flip the coin more times, it will converge to the 50/50 set (unless you have a crooked coin).

Similarly, if you launch an email outreach, your results might be very strange initially.  But, as you get more data, they will settle into the long-term solution. 

One of the questions when setting up an A/B test is figuring out how large the different test groups should be. If the test groups are too small, they won't provide sufficient data. If your sample sizes are too big, you are wasting subscribers on the less effective tests.

To be confident, we need to do a Z-test between our different samples and ensure we're seeing a statistically significant difference.  Simply put, the Z-test helps us know that we're seeing a real difference between our control group and the various test groups.

You can do the Z-test in Excel, Python, R, or by hand, but it's easy and quick to visualize it using this online calculator.

 Skipping over a lot of detail, a Z-Score equal or greater to 1.65 lets you have confidence that your test group is sufficiently different than your control.

Hopefully you'll find this limited explanation to be handy when thinking about testing protocols, whether for a landing page or an email outreach campaign.


Want to dive in deeper? Google has a great explanation about the math behind A/B testing.

If you want to even dive deeper, there's some great open source materials available.

Wednesday
Feb262014

Is anonymity good or bad for social media?

New startups are launching every day, and it's a lot of work for the nonprofit community to weed through which platforms are useful, and which aren't the right fit. A new social platform, ChronicleMe (CMe) launched recently, and it's a free, anonymous social media platform. The creators of the platform state that "although paradoxical, we believe that anonymous social media will provide millions with deeper connections than ever before. In today‘s current social media platform, we have accepted that everything we post is tracked, scrutinized, and public. Not anymore."

Every post on ChronicleMe is anonymous, but when a user responds to an anonymous post, they'll have the opportunity to reveal their identity, or remain anonymous. If they reveal their identity, the person who posted will have the option to continue the conversation through private messaging.

CMe allows you to link to your Twitter account, and connect with your Facebook friend's CMe accounts, but you won't ever know who's who unless they expose themselves. You have to follow seven people until you'll begin seeing your friends posts to create real anonymity.

The concept of anonymity raises a few questions. What are the consequences of being anonymous, especially for nonprofit constituents? Will this allow for trolls to have more spaces to attack people around hot button issues? And is anything online ever truly anonymous? According to the Pew Research Center's Internet Project,  59% of internet users do not believe it is possible to be completely anonymous online. Anonymity is a potentially dangerous road, and can remove the person from behind the message.

What's interesting is that ChronicleMe has partnerships with two nonprofits: the GLBT National Help Center, which works with gay and lesbian teens, and RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. When CMe participants suggest that another user gets help, they're sent links to third party help groups. These can be very touchy subjects that are being talked about, and unfortunately trolls and predators thrive on anonymity.

On one hand I can understand why someone would want to be anonymous in discussing these highly sensitive issues, especially if it’s in the form of seeking advice, sharing very personal experiences, etc. However, I can’t shake the flip side of this, which is trolls and predators using platforms like this to hurt people.

What are your thoughts on social platforms that offer anonymity?