Friday, January 29, 2010

One of my favorite donor care letters

This is one of my favorite donor care letters. (This is only the first four paragraph's in a four page letter. You can click on the image to make it larger).

To uncover the power of this piece, see the letter again below, this time with some copy highlighted.

The beauty of this becomes a little clearer. In the first few paragraph's 15 references to Sean, the donor, and the signatory, in this case Lisa, the Fundraising Director.

The letter:

- Is genuine in it's thanks for Sean's support

- It's incredibly personal. As well as the colloquial language, you'll notice the red copy here, which indicates the variable copy, based on Sean's personal information, including how long he has been supporting for

- It tells a story. Lisa tells Sean about an amazing young woman called Anna

- It demonstrates a link between Sean's gift and the difference Sean is making. (The letter goes on to give more tangible examples of how Sean is helping to change lives)

You'll notice I haven't mentioned the organization's name. Deliberately, as it isn't about the organization, it's about Sean and people like Anna. (Although FYI, it's the Children's Cancer Institute of Australia).

Really simple, but very impactful.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Zero based communications planning

Zero based planning and zero based budgeting are hardly new concepts.

Quite simply, it's where you start a new period looking at what you're planning to market to your constituents or how much you're going to spend, from a zero/neutral point. In other words, not looking back and saying, well I sent 8 letters last year so that's what I should do this year.

The reason I love the idea of zero based planning is because it rebuts the comment I hear so regularly "We send that appeal in March, because..... that's when it's always been sent".

The appeal should be sent, when it makes sense to be sent. When it's the right piece to be sent. When you have a need to appeal. When you have a story to tell.

Not because last years plan tells you it needs to drop on March 15th.

Now is the time to practice this approach.

Look at your communications plan and work out how much money you need and what you need to do to get it. From there you can work out how many appeals, donor care letters, monthly conversion requests, phone calls, e-comms, postcards, and other touch point deemed relevant that you need.

Of course you need to balance this with what donors will respond to. And herein lays the beauty of the direct response fundraisers who looks at data to help shape the scope of their program.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Disaster preparedness and conversion

Last week, in the wake of the Haiti tragedy, I talked about how I felt that non emergency charities should continue doing what they were already doing.

I've been chatting to lots of colleagues about charities response to Haiti this week and the message has been the same, speed is key. In other words, getting to donors, prospects, the general public quickly is critical to maximizing support.

The same applies in the wash up from disasters, of which Haiti is no exception.

We just finished some testing for one of our Canadian clients at Pareto Fundraising. We tested different approaches to disaster donors, trying to determine the optimum way to get a 2nd gift, ideally a monthly gift.

The upshot was, the sooner we get back to people the more likely they are to commit to a subsequent gift. Hardly surprising, but the difference was significant. We were twice as likely to get someone to commence a monthly gift whose first gift was within the last 12 months, versus someone whose gift was within the previous 24 months. In fact if we got back within 12 months we could breakeven well inside a year.

The point is however we should be testing number of weeks after first gift to convert, not years. Fortunately for this client, we have developed a control pack that can be sent to disaster donors, including Haiti supporters, weeks after their first commitment. And that's when you start to see this program maximize its impact.

Being prepared, ready to go to supporters within weeks is absolutely crucial to conversion efforts. And disasters happen, so there is no excuse for not having conversion plans.

I was going to write some more on post disaster follow up, but my colleague Sean Triner has written a great piece called Cashing in on disaster donors that is worth a few minutes of your time to read.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

What should non emergency charities do in an emergency?

The answer to this is pretty simple. Continue doing what you were already doing.

The tragic events of the past 24 hours in Haiti are exactly that. Tragic. And unthinkable what the people there are going through. My heart goes out to those who are suffering as a result.

But it doesn't stop the quest to find a cure for breast cancer, nor help that sick puppy being abused and in need of attention.

If we look back to emergencies over the last decade, the Tsunami, 9/11 to name just a couple. The organization’s who suffered are the ones who did.... nothing. That is, scaled back on fundraising.

Don't commit fundraising suicide. Check out this article with some more evidence from the Tsunami experience and why you should solider on as normal.


PS Hats off to the disaster relief organization’s who had emergency appeals out within 24 hours, particularly the American Red Cross who had an email in my inbox just 6 hours after the earthquake hit.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why, how and now

I read with interest Mark Phillips thoughts today on an oft misunderstood area of fundraising: the single minded proposition.

I touched on this, although not as articulately as Mark, a few weeks back when talking about the eight ways to to get more by getting it monthly.

It's an area that is easy to undersell and equally difficult to get right.

If you're trying to convince someone to leave you a bequest, commence a monthly gift or even give you $20, you need to get across why they should do it, show them how they can help you and convince them why they must do it now, (as opposed to tomorrow or next week).

Pretty simple stuff, in theory anyway.

As direct response fundraisers we're pretty good at telling people the how: using call to actions, deadlines, response vehicles.

Likewise, the now: using human stories to show real impact, talking about genuine impact and demonstrating need.

But what about the why?

I love the way Mark simplifies the importance of the proposition, saying "Your proposition should focus on a nugget of information that has the power to make someone stop and think".

When convincing someone why they should do what you've asked them to do, remember the following:

- Scale it down. Tell me about one child in need of help, one sick puppy. The enormity of helping thousands is overwhelming.

- Focus on benefits, not features. A feature is a factual representation about a product, or service that you're offering. But features aren't what entice donors to give, their time, money or effort. That's where benefits come in. A benefit answers the question, what's in it for me? Like, "you're helping to insure yourself, and those you love..."

- Ensure you've 'nailed' the why before you move onto the how, and now. Particularly when it comes to planned giving/bequests, the weight is often stacked in the wrong favor. Convince someone why, then go on to tell them how and why now.

- Give it life. That one child you're referencing has a name. "... will help children, like little Ian".

One more time: tell me why, show me how and explain to me why it's so critical, right now.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Help me keep in touch with you

After 18 months of blogging I finally discovered Feedburner. It allows you to get emails as soon I post a blog.

I'd love it if you entered your email address in the box to the right of this post. Will take out about 30 seconds and save you having to remember to always click here to see if I've posted a new blog.

I'll keep in touch regularly, around once or twice a week. Rarely more than that, rarely less. Except for next week when I'll be sitting on a beach.

Thanks for visiting my blog.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Don't "just do what you did in 2009"

I was just looking over some of my previous 94 blogs from 2009, and whilst surprised at how many times I can rant in a calendar year also managed to stumble across something that whilst posted in January is worth rehashing, on how tradition can be destructive.

I think that's a poignant note to leave 2009 with.

When you return to work in 2010, look back on the year gone with a view to taking the good with you into next year and leaving behind the bad or indifferent.

But a word of warning, don't adopt the attitude that 2010 will look a lot like last year with some small nuances - and expect the rest to take care of itself.

Do what's right, what needs to be done and what's going to help you help more benefactors. It's easy to simply rollout past activity, but remember that tradition can be destructive.

With that, happy New Year and here's to a prosperous 2010.

I'll be back blogging on the 11th of January after a week on the beach in Mexico.