Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eight ways to 'get more by getting it monthly'

Monthly giving rocks. You read about it in blogs, you hear about it at conferences. The data I look at for my clients shows me growth in countries like Canada and Australia and many other developed fundraising nations of 20% year on year. With no sign of stopping.

To put further credence to the argument, on average a monthly donor is usually worth four to six times as much over their lifetime as a 'onetime' cash supporter. Sometimes more.

But how do you get them, and how do you keep them?

Let's break it down.

Getting them

1 Developing the right proposition. What works to get onetime cash donors won't necessarily work to find monthly donors.

Soliciting cash gifts is about 'the now', the 'give me $50 or the dog gets it' kind of pitch.

Asking someone to become a monthly supporter is about partnership. It's about being in it for the long haul, together. It's about ongoing, committed support. It's about sustainability. It's about seeing the forest from the trees.

This isn't downplaying the importance of onetime gifts, it's about articulating the difference.

Attempts to secure monthly gifts fail usually because the messaging is wrong.

2 Google is your friend.

Use tools like Google Insights for Search to help shape your messaging.

Why? Because this shows you exactly what people (online) are searching for. It will give you some clues as to what people are really searching for and interested in, not what you think they are.

3 Don't lose sleep trying to 'be creative'. Sell benefits.

Calling your monthly program 'Wings of Hope' or 'Project Discovery' might sound really cool, but it won't grow your monthly file.

Tell people how they will help you change the world.

The benefit of supporting world class medical research is that I am helping to protect myself and my loved ones by ensuring leading research is conducted and able to find cures for killed diseases like cancer.

The benefit is not joining a club with a fancy name or the two glossy newsletters I get.

4 Break it down.

Firstly, break down the ask into daily amounts. Psychologically 30 cents a day doesn't sound like a hell of a lot. I can manage that.

Secondly, tell me about the one person (cat/dog/tree) I am going to help. I want to know about little Boys like Tommy, not the thousands of kids I could save. The gravity of the problem in the latter sounds far too big if not broken down.

Keeping them

5 Kill off cognitive dissonance. Really quickly.

You know that horrible feeling you have when you question a decision you have just made? That's how donors feel when they have just walked away from the canvasser on the street, or put down the phone from that telefundraiser.

Don't let this fester, attend to it immediately. Make the most of the 'honeymoon period'. The first month after sign up, when both parties should still be madly in love with each other.

That means brilliant welcome calls/packages that reinforce the original decision. It may be an SMS the day after I join, perhaps a video message from someone in the field, or a beneficiary just saying thank you.

The honeymoon period is about regular communications playing back how we're helping make a difference.

6 Talk to them differently.

A donor recruited on the street (younger, average age around 30) looks and behaves a lot different to a donor recruited in the mail (older, different life stage, average age 60+).

It's roughly the difference between my mother and I. We look at things differently and we certainly behave differently.

This is the way you should view your communications streams. Acknowledge that different recruitment vehicles will bring you unique constituents. Acknowledging this is the first step to ensuring you talk to them differently.

Don't put them in the same 'bucket'. Test different communications streams/cohorts and determine the best way to look after them, delivering the most value to your donors, and ultimately your beneficiaries.

7 Upgrade them.

Go back to new monthly donors shortly after sign up (between 4 and 9 months, test this to find the optimum time). Ask them to increase their monthly contribution.

Three reasons why you should do this:

- You will generate more income.
- This is an opportunity to speak to your donors, tell them a story
- You will increase retention, regardless of the outcome (provided its a great call)

8 Understand their real value

Work out the net value to date of all monthly donors recruited by channel and year. In other words, take into account what it cost you to recruit and cultivate each monthly giving group.

This allows you to say things like "My direct mail monthly donors are worth an average of $250 net after three years, whereas my TV recruits are worth $400".

I can tell you, this will change the conversation you have with your boss or board member when asked "Why do we do street fundraising" or "Why are we calling people at 8pm when they are in the bath"?

Having this level of information helps you to know the success of various initiatives, budget for the future and tells you where you should be focusing your efforts.

Ongoing, monthly support really is the way to go.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gotta love Google

I'm not just talking about their search function, of which they dominate the market with a 60% share.

Firstly, if your charity is not receiving Google Grants, then click here right now (after finishing this post), and apply.

For those who aren't aware Google Grants is a unique in-kind donation programme awarding free AdWords advertising to selected charitable organizations.

If you're not sure what AdWords is, it's the advertising that'll see on the top of and right hand side of your page when you perform a search on Google. For example if you search for cell phone you'll see ads for Blackberry, Sony Ericsson and so on.

If you're not using this, you should be.


- To drive traffic to your website. The key for you is driving relevant traffic, people who are genuinely interested in your cause.

- Understand what people are searching for. This helps you shape propositions and messaging when developing acquisition activities.

- To learn about the digital space and people's online behavior. You'll be amazed how much you can learn about what people are actually doing online. Not what you think they're doing.

If you're starting from scratch I suggest buying this book, AdWords for Dummies. Yes, I am a dummy and bought it. It's a great, very practical tool to guide you through the world of AdWords.

I'm learning loads about this right now, specifically about how relevancy is key to getting your Ads placed at the top of the Google page. That's the beauty about this tool, in that ad placement isn't driven by necessarily the biggest spenders. Relevancy to the keywords selected and the content on the page you send people through to play a big role.

Which means that, in theory, a local sporting retailer, can compete on a level playing field with Nike.

Two things I'd recommend:

1 You need to manage your AdWords campaigns regularly, and not let them run for extended periods of time. This could potentially cost you lots of money and deliver you poor quality leads to your website. I'm amazed at how many charities are not utilizing the power of this tool, either not using it at all or letting their interest lapse, hence limiting it's effectiveness.

2 If you apply for your Grants, great. But don't wait for the grant to come through to start using this as I believe they can take up to 6 months. Spend some money now and start trialing some campaigns.

At the same time check out another cool Google tool called Google Insights for Search. Essentially this allows you to look at what people are searching for through Google.

So when your colleague who runs an event says (in response to "how much did the event raise"), "Oh it didn't net much income but it raised loads of awareness", check out Google Insights for Search and see whether that really is the case.

It shows you relative traffic searches so you can see where and when people were searching for various words or terms. The caveat is of course that this just looks at online searches, but it still gives you a good sense of:

- What activities are driving spikes in search volumes (I.e. is it certain events, press releases, direct response fundraising initiatives, news stories)

- Which words are specifically driving traffic? This, combined with your AdWords campaigns really help give you a sense of what people are actually looking for (and can shape messaging)

It's staggering when I enter some key words that relate to popular causes and large organizations which result in nothing. Google a keyword like cancer, health charity or "insert cause of charity I would for" and see what happens.

So, get to it. Apply for your Grant today, get a copy of AdWords for Dummies and starting using Google Insights for Search.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thank you

Thank, thank and thank again. A simple mantra to live and breathe.

Read a good post about thanking here where a fellow mystery shopper has gone searching for examples of great thanking and donor care. Which, as I know, can be hard to come across.

This, and Jeff Brooks' post about getting rid of annual reports and replacing them with gratitude reports prompted me to add a little more about the power of thanking.

So, here are 10 key things to play back to yourself when saying thank you:

1 Actually say the words thank you. "We appreciate your support" is all about you (the organization). "Thank you" is about your wonderful donors.

2 Thank for the actual gift, not the communication. "Thank you for contacting us the other day" is not about the wonderful decision someone made, but "thank you for your generous support" is.

3 Any thanking communication should 'play back' the story associated with the ask. "Your gift really will go towards helping young children like Tommy who I wrote to you about recently".

4 Do it quickly. But do it well. I'd argue the latter is more important, but both are critical. 3-5 business days from receiving a gift, no exceptions.

5 Make the thank you stand out. Don't copy and paste the thank you letter from last year, which has actually been in circulation since 1996. Most thank you's are quite mundane and dull. Ensure it's unique.

6 Be personal. Handwritten notes, postscripts etc rock. Take the time, clients of ours who do this see the long term benefits (through increased retention). It shows you care.

7 Be relevant. Thanking isn't just about responding to a specific gift. It's about frequent and relevant feedback and caring. If you know Mrs Jones likes the work you've doing in Sudan tell her regularly what's happening there in the field and referencing you know this is of interest to her. Most caring of donors is impersonal and not that interesting to supporters. Finding those links means your donors are genuinely engaged.

8 Be specific. What did my $50 help do? Tell me.

9 Don't be hindered by technology and processes. Yes you can spill a thank you letter onto a second page. Don't allow the attaching of the tax receipt to dictate how your thank you letter flows/looks.

10 Call it a thank you letter. Get out of the mindset of calling it a receipt. It's a thank you, that happens to include a receipt, not the other way around.

Thank you for reading this post.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our duty as direct response fundraisers

Testing: hardly a new topic for this blog.

Last week at Congress I attended a session about copywriting for DM. A discussion began about 2nd gift strategies, and one of the delegates remarked they waited around six months to ask a new donor for a second gift.

I commented that we'd found through testing with clients 3-6 weeks was the best time to ask for a 2nd gift (always going for a monthly gift first), statistically.

Ooh's and ahhh's echoed the room as if I had committed a senseless crime. "Surely not". "That doesn't make sense". "I don't believe that".

And herein lies the beauty of direct response fundraising. Intuition aside.

Test your own 'gut feeling' by letting the data and subsequent evidence help you make informed decisions. It's your duty as a direct response fundraiser.


Friday, December 4, 2009

How social psychology can shape your fundraising

Brilliant session at Congress by Professor Adrian Sargeant.

He's done tons of testing around social psychology in fundraising. Particularly with large national public radio stations in the US, and the impact of various techniques on the response to inbound calls via radiothons.

They found:

1 Referring to a past callers donation amount increases average donation levels. "I just spoke to someone who gave $80, would you consider giving something like this.."

2 People (donors) who know others that support that station or even just listen to that station will give more. So qualifying questions around this are key.

3 Men are unmoved by the use of words suggesting morality, whereas women are moved and therefore likely to give around 20% more. I.e. using words such as generous, kind, caring etc before making the ask.

This is incredibly useful for helping us shape (by testing, of course) the way we frame asks within individual fundraising asks.

Keep the research coming Adrian.