DC Brown Bag Series: Year End Email Strategy Clinic

Want to position your organization well to maximize your year end fundraising efforts?  With only a few months to go, the clock is ticking. Don’t worry; DMFA-DC has you covered!  Join their interactive session on Monday, October 21st at 12PM at the Human Rights Campaign (1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW - 
Washington DC) to get fresh ideas from industry experts as you strategize to find new donors and appeal to existing ones. 

Admission is free, but space is limited so sign up early!  Event details below.


DMFA's brown bags are informal clinics where you can learn at lunchtime. We provide clinics and speakers to help you grow your fundraising dollars and you bring your lunch! 

It’s 11 weeks until the end of the year. Are your year-end email campaigns ready to rock and roll? Or are they sounding more like a polka? If you’re looking for fresh ideas and case studies to radically boost your year-end email campaigns, DMFA-DC has got you covered. Join us on Monday October 21 for an interactive session with three online experts who will share winning strategies to help you turn your online fundraising up to “11” in these critical final weeks of the year. Admission is free to all DMFA members and non-member guests. Space is limited so sign up early.


Speakers include:

-- Dane Grams, Director of Direct Response and Monthly Giving, Human Rights Campaign

-- Lesley Hostetter, Director of Integrated Marketing, Lautman Maska Neill

-- Marc Abanto, Senior Communications Strategist, Blue State Digital

-- Moderator: Moira Kavanagh Crosby, MKDM


Click here to register!


Insider Nonprofit Conference Planning Tips from the Pros

Last month we provided 11 tips to make your life easier when planning a conference. We wanted to really get to the core of the conference-savvy folks' secrets, so we reached out to those who are working in the nonprofit sphere, planning annual conferences to hear their insider tips.

We got some really great feedback, and are excited to share these pro tips with you.

Christine Schaefer of Salsa Labs told us that "the most important thing to remember about running any conference is that you are the gracious host.  Just like inviting your friends to watch 3 hours of photo slides with no breaks from your vacation is poor hosting, subjecting your guests to long speeches or powerpoint shows that seemingly never end will lose you friends.

So, think through the details by asking yourself this question: how can you make your guests feel most comfortable and enjoy the conference?  Ask it often. 

Gracious host = gracious guests.  And, gracious guests will enjoy hearing your stories, help with whatever you may need and possibly offer gifts."

Christine shared her top three tips for taking extra care of her guests at conferences.

  1. Have staff or volunteers at the information desk whose sole job is to act as a concierge - i.e. walk people to the room they need; handle emergency needs like printing, band-aids, etc.

  2. If your conference will have a lot of people traveling from out-of-state and a lot materials, offer a shipping service at the end of the conference to send all their materials back for them. Then they don't have to carry them in a suitcase. You can sometimes get sponsors who will cover the cost of shipping, or have a computer setup so they can pay for their shipping by credit card directly on the USPS site (so you don't have to handle their money). Then, just ask for a small cash donation in appreciation for the volunteers who take care of packing their items.

  3. Give them a mini-agenda and map of the conference (show restrooms, etc. on the map) inside their name badge; no need to keep pulling a big map out of their bag or looking up a web app (especially if there might be a spotty cell phone signal in the building).


Ricci Levy, Executive Director of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance revealed a few of the tricks that she keeps up her sleeve:

  • THE most important piece of any conference planning is a reliable, engaged staff. It is impossible to manage all of the details of a conference by yourself.  If you are in charge of the event, be sure you have a second-in-command who can step in and pick up the pieces seamlessly and without drama.

  • If you have a volunteer staff, responsible leadership is key to a successful experience for the volunteers and for the organization.  Regular engagement of the volunteers in the months leading up to the event is crucial to a successfully staffed event.

  • Train staff - paid or volunteer - so that the information you want to capture, and all of the registration desks and workshop positions are operating from the same understanding. A policy and procedure manual will be a big help in this.

  • Have a fully-fleshed out social media plan for the event. Pre-scheduled tweets will make your life much easier at the event itself.

Darian Rodriguez Heyman, Co-Founder of Social Media for Nonprofits, explained that "There are tons of conferences out there full of talking heads. Make sure that your speakers share not only vague concepts and theories, but the concrete tips and tools that not just inspire your audience, but inspire them to action. It's not about the what… it's about the 'so what.'" 

Darian also shared a few logistical tips:

  • The key to attracting a large conference audience is pitching a big tent, meaning inviting lots of partners to help spread the word and offering them benefits and tickets in exchange.
  • A conference can't flow smoothly without tons of planning- having a "Q2Q" that literally plans out who's doing what for every minute of the big day is crucial.

Lindsay Martin-Bilbrey, Program Director at NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network answered a few questions about conference planning and the importance of self-care.

  • What is the most important item to have on hand when planning a conference?

My smartphone and water (really it's coffee, but water is the healthier choice I'm supposed to say).

  • What do you wish you would have known when you were planning your first conference that you know now? 

That your backup plans need backup plans need backup plans. It's so important to have a good long term and short term crisis plan in place, so that when something doesn't go as planned, you have a solution to get you to the next step. And this isn't just advice for onsite. It's for before and after the event too. Also, it's okay to remember you can't control everything, including the weather.

  • What is the first thing you do when a conference ends? 

Ten years ago, it was get a bottle of red wine and sit down. Now, it's call my kids and then get the bottle of red wine and sit down.

  • What is a tip for nonprofits who are hosting a conference while still managing daily affairs of their organization?

Use all the help you can get to make sure that the planning/hosting an event is truly cross-functional and community driven. But remember that at the end of the day, you have to make the decisions so block time off on your calendar to have it just be another part of your daily to dos.

Jamie McGonnigal, Community Engagement Manager of the New Organizing Institute weighed in to answer the questions, as well.

  • What is the most important item to have on hand when planning a conference?

People. You need to have good, reliable people on-hand when planning a conference. You don't have to be good at everything, but you can always surround yourself with people who are smarter and better than you at some things.

  • What do you wish you would have known when you were planning your first conference that you know now?

Things are going to go wrong. Your job is to do everything you can do to avoid that from happening, but your job is also to understand that some things are still going to go wrong. The sooner you get that into your head, the better off you'll be. You can't beat yourself up. What you can do is do everything you can do to avoid those issues from coming up again.

  • What is the first thing you do when a conference ends?

Have a cosmo. Sleep. And then debrief as soon as possible. If you're going to do this again, you need to get people's opinions and thoughts as soon as possible. Send out surveys to attendees, presenters, volunteers...get as much info as possible.

  • What is a tip for nonprofits who are hosting a conference while still managing daily affairs of their organization?

Understand the importance of the conference and that community building needs to be an essential part of all of your work. Without them, where would you be?


We're excited and hopeful that these tips will support the work you're doing in your community. Were you surpised by any of the suggestions? And we're curious of you, what do you wish you would have known when you were planning your first conference that you know now?


Which Social Media Platforms Are Worth Your Time and Energy?

One of the questions I'm asked often when I speak at conferences is which social media platforms should our organization invest staff time and resources in? My response is "where is your community hanging out." This requires organizations to research the answer since every community has different preferences.

One good place to start looking at this data is to take a look at the demographics of different social networks. Realtime Report does a great roundup of the latest social media stats every couple of weeks. I also found this infographic that provides an overview of some useful stats to check out.



8 BBCON 2013 Panels To Check Out This Week

If you’re going to the BBCON 2013 Conference starting September 29th, you should expect a great conference filled some of my favorite nonprofits and campaigners who will be sharing their insights in email marketing, storytelling via multiple channels, and social media wins and fails.

Here’s a list of some of the panels that caught our attention as we looked through the agenda.

Sunday, September 29th

10:30 to 12:30

Interactive Workshop: Creating More Innovative and Efficient Organizations

In the last 10 years, the nonprofit sector has grown more than 60 percent in the United States to an estimated 1.5 million organizations. In every vertical, ranging from the environment to public health, there are hundreds if not thousands of organizations with similar names and missions competing for advocacy, donor, and foundation support. No wonder our constituents’ inboxes and mailboxes are stuffed with action alerts, appeals, and newsletters with similar messaging from several nonprofits vying for attention. 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. I will be joined by Amy Sample Ward of NTEN, Jacob Worell of IAVA, and Sheila Katz of Ask Big Questions at Hillel International to discuss topics ranging from thinking like a startup to exploring reducing competition and consolidating resources.

2:15 to 3:30

Social Media Police: Nonprofit Edition

Channeling Joan Rivers and E!’s Fashion Police, nonprofit social media authors including Maddie Grant, and Melanie Mathos, and myself Allyson Kapin will talk about the latest trends, campaigns, and faux pas in the nonprofit social media world. Attendees will be entertained, educated, and inspired by social #fails and the nonprofits that are making some seriously #winningmoves.

20 Ways to Trick Out Your Donation Forms

Trick out your donation forms! In this informative session, you’ll learn tips to building the most effective donation forms and walk away with practical information you can use.


Monday, September 30

8:30 AM to 9:45 AM


Dr. Seuss Helps You Rock Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling has a fundamental approach that can be gleaned from simple, popular children’s books. In this session, we’ll discuss the similarities, define the strategy, and review quick tips and tricks that will make your online story more impactful, engaging, and interactive. Join us to learn how to turn your online presence into a bestseller! 

10:00 to 11:15

Direct Mail and Social Media: Strange Bedfellows or a Match Made in Heaven?

Social media and online fundraising have taken the world by storm, but traditional fundraising methods still account for more than 93% of total fundraising. This session will explore the intersection of traditional and new fundraising methods, leaving you with actionable insights you can take back to your organization.

3:00 to 4:15

Fast, Cheap and Under Control: Online Advocacy as an Acquisition Engine

You’ll leave this session -- co-presented by Care2's own Clint O'Brien -- with a set of simple but effective tactics based on case studies around building your list through advocacy, when to augment earned growth with wise investments in online acquisition, and the ins and outs of low-cost or no-cost marketing options (like online list swaps and Facebook ads).  BEST OF ALL, if you attend this session, or if you visit Care2's table in the exhibit hall, you can drop your card in a bowl to be eligible to win a valuable FREE REGISTRATION to the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference ("14NTC") from March 13-15 in Washington, DC.  If you've ever attended the NTC, which is NTEN's annual conference, then you know it's one of the very best conferences for nonprofit sector professionals.


Tuesday, October 1st

9:15 to 10:30

From Inside the Beltway and Beyond: Measuring the Impact of Your Online Advocacy Program

We know that advocates can change the world, but how can they help you take your entire online program from “meh” to marvelous? Join Ocean Conservancy and Feeding America to learn how to track your advocacy program, measure the connection between advocates and donors, and increase the impact of activists.

10:45 to 12:00

Email in a Social Media/Mobile Device World

What is the role of email with constituents these days? Are people reading them at all? Should we be emailing? What is the role of scalable design? In an ever-shifting online communications landscape, this session will explore where email still has the greatest value in your marketing and fundraising efforts.


A Look At Canadian Philanthropy Across Generations

Last week Blackbaud along with partners HJC, Sea Change Strategies, and Edge Research released findings from the 2013 Next Generation of Canadian Giving study.

The study looked at the following: 

  • What are the preferred giving channels for Generation Y (18-32); Generation X (33-48); Baby Boomers (49-67); and Civics (68+) ?
  • What are the preferred communications and engagement channels?
  • What kinds of charities do people support?

Eight Key Findings:

1. The majority of Canadians donate money to charity. Civics are the most generous generation. About 9 in 10 of Civics give, and they support a variety of causes than younger generations. However, it’s worth noting the this generation is dwindling and their income  is holding steady.

2. Baby Boomers will have great influence on charitable giving for the foreseeable future, but Generation X is quickly catching up. This is the generation to watch and cultivate now.

3. Most donors across all age groups do not plan to expand their giving in the coming year. This is not surprising given that many people across generations are still feeling the impact of a struggling economy.

4. While multichannel communications has become standard these days, your organizations needs to find the right mix when you target different generations. For example, direct mail is not dead. Generations Y and X prefer to give online, and as many Baby Boomers say they give online as via direct mail.

5. Generation Y donors have distinct priorities and preferences with regard to causes they support.  They demand accountability and transparency than older donors.

6. Among transaction channels, the future of telemarketing and giving by SMS/text does not look so great in Canada, but face-to-face and street funding is surprisingly strong.

7. Peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding appear to have promising futures as fundraising strategies for younger generations. Though you should note that this takes a lot of staff resources, planning, and time to raise significant money.

8. Nearly half of those who give engage with causes in ways other than making donations. Embrace it!


Now that you have seen the statistics around Canadian giving, how will you use this data? The report suggested that you think about the following questions:

1. Have you underinvested in fundraising to Gen X donors, who are a quickly rising force in philanthropic giving in Canada?

2. Have you completely ignored the up and coming younger generations, or relegated them to an un-strategic social media effort?

3. Does your fundraising channel mix include direct mail for younger donors and digital communications for older ones? 


New Study: Facebook Hashtags Decrease Engagement

When Facebook launched hashtags many people questioned how useful this feature was going to be. Facebook assumed by rolling out hashtags, that organizational and brand pages using hashtags would receive increased exposure from other brands and organizations who were using the same hashtags.  

However, according to a new study by EdgeRank Checker posts with hashtags on Facebook don’t have as good reach as posts than those without. Edgerank reviewed more than 500 Facebook pages and 35,000 posts. The study found about 6,000 of the posts contained hashtags and these were the same posts that had a decrease in engagement per fan. Organic reach was slightly impacted negatively too.

The study also examined if there was a benefit for Facebook Pages with larger audiences (100K+ page Likes to 1M) that used hashtags. But once again, the study showed that not even the Facebook Pages with the largest audiences were benefiting from hashtags.

The leads of the study said they were surprised to see that hashtags on Facebook did not even have a positive impact on viral rates. “This is a surprise for us, as we would have been certain that using a hashtag would have caused an increase in Viral Reach, even if it were a small increase.”

The results from the study are not surprising. People use Facebook very differently then they use Twitter, where hashtags are popular to follow news and trending topics on breaking information or pop culture. For example, on Twitter, “using a hashtag typically resulted in roughly double the likelihood of being ReTweeted. Over 70% of the brands experienced an increase in RT’s when using a hashtag versus not using one,” said the study.

Facebook is more personal. Many people use Facebook to connect with friends and family. They also use it to connect with organizations or brands they support. People visit these FB Pages when they are prompted by a post in their newsfeed, an email alert, or FB ads. But people aren’t coming to Facebook to look at what’s trending in the news – unless it’s their friends or family posting the news often accompanied by commentary.

What’s your experience using hashtags on Facebook? Do the results surprise you?


5 Examples of Organizations Who Were Tactful or Tacky on 9/11

Dealing with tragedy is not just difficult for people on a personal level, but it’s also hard for nonprofits and brands that want to show their support without appearing opportunistic. Many organizations and brands wrestle with this every year when it comes to the anniversary of 9/11.

Yesterday many organizations chose to post images and messages about 9/11 to their website, social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Others chose to remain silent. In my book, this is personal. Do what you think is right. But it’s worth noting, how quickly things can go wrong when your organization uses tragedy as an opportunity to promote its brand. It’s tacky and offensive. And your community will be very vocal about it.

Take a look at these brands that mistakenly thought they were honoring 9/11. Who runs these marketing teams? I would like to know how senior leadership at some of the biggest companies like AT&T and Marriott could think that these examples below were a great way to honor the victims and the fire fighters, police officers, and volunteers who helped saves lives on 9/11.

ATT&T's Product Placement

AT&T shared this photo - a product placement of a smartphone with text above that said “Never Forget.” Did they mean “P.S. never forget AT&T, the phone company?” People were so outraged by AT&T’s insensitivity that they removed the photo after about an hour.

Marriott Offers Free Coffee and Mini Muffins for 30 Minutes

Over at Marriott in San Diego, marketing was feeling generous. They offered guests free coffee and mini muffins from 8:45 AM to 9:15 AM in their lobby “in remembrance of those we lost on 9/11/.”

Marriott eventually responded to the public criticism with the following:

"We apologize and understand why some people may have misunderstood the intent of the offer," Marriott Hotels said in a statement. "We are reminding our hotels to use discretion and be sensitive when remembering major events such as 9/11."

So clearly these opportunistic and insensitive approaches are the wrong way to remember such a painful and tragic day and honor the people who helped save so many lives. But there are many nonprofits who did it right that these brands can learn from.

Thank You from IAVA

This is a powerful image from IAVA with two simple words. Thank You!

Remembering the Red Crossers

Ok so the Red Cross maybe promoting themselves in this Facebook post, but that’s ok they were a key responder. The comments from their community are incredibly supportive. People also relayed stories of waiting in line for hours to donate blood at one of the local Red Cross affiliates in New York.

Man in the Red Bandana

I didn’t share very much yesterday, but one video that really resonated with me was the story of a young man, Welles Crowther, who sacrificed his own life to save at least 12 other people in the World Trade Center that morning. Interestingly it was produced by ESPN.

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