Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How often should I blog?

I find the most difficult thing as a blogger is actually blogging. Not thinking of things to talk about, but actually dedicating the time to put my fingers on the keypad.

But as per my post last week about having a thirst for knowledge, we all have time. We just have to decide how to use it.

The second hardest thing is thinking (and often over-thinking) how often I should blog. I wrestle with this a lot. Once a week isn't often enough. Three times will really tick people off.

So I usually settle for twice a week. In fact I looked back at the past two years and noticed I was blogging between 1.5 and 2 posts on average a week.

So what?

Well, just over a year ago I responded to a similar concern that many fundraisers have, how often should I talk to my donors?

We worry incessantly about this. And usually for no reason. The short answer is, you talk to donors when you have something to say. You'll notice I said talk, not ask. Deliberately.

You ask when you need the money. You thank, feedback and care in between. Get the balance right and you can say goodbye to those sleepless nights.

For me (and my blog) the proofs in the pudding. Guess what, when I blog regularly, assuming the posts are mildly useful and have some decent content, people come back.

Funny that. Keep your communications relevant, useful and tell some stories and look what happens.

To summarize:

- Ask, then thank, feedback and care. Repeat the cycle.

- Do what's right, not what is easiest. That means constantly reinventing your communications. There is an argument for simply repeating past communications if they've worked (I've seen this generate the same level of results from one year to the next). But are you taking people on a journey? Are you giving them the opportunity to learn something new about what you do and who you help?

- Understand what your data is telling you. Too often we feel obliged to 'mail less' because it feels right. Your gut tells you one thing, the evidence shows you another.

Thanks for visiting. If I practice what I preach then I have one more blog to write later this week.


Friday, March 26, 2010

I've got copy on my mind

Thinking lots about copy this week, as appeal drafts come across my desk, and the blogosphere seems to be a buzz with copywriting tips.

In fact I'd recommend two excellent posts worth checking out. There's Agent Jen Love's piece entitled Dear Mr Fancypants and Jeff Brooks' seven more ways to write better fundraising copy.

Really good 'cut through the clutter' stuff from Jen and Jeff.

Last year I gave my own take on simple, but effective copywriting tips here.

If you think about what you want people do when they read your letter:

1 You want them to nod their head in agreement as they read

2 You want them to get past the first page (best way to do this is getting them nodding, as per point 1. To do this, introduce a story really early in the copy, showing the impact their support could have illustrated with a real, human story).

3 You don't want to distract them. So avoid saying things like ' please refer to the enclosed brochure'. Keep them focused on the letter.

4 You don't want to treat them like they haven't read a letter before. I really don't think people need to see the words 'please turn over' at the bottom of the page. In fact break the sentences at the bottom of each page, enticing them to read on.

5 You want to compel them to stop doing whatever they were doing, finish the letter and so what you asked them to do (support financially, fill in a survey etc).

Simple, huh? It is, follow the ten steps in this earlier post and you're well on your way.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Are you thirsty?

Someone asked me recently, 'Is there a common thread in really successful people'?

Good question.

Yes there is. And for me it's simple. It's an insatiable thirst for improving ones self and learning more. Every single day.

One of my favorite quotes is from Drayton Bird, who believes firmly that the road to failure is paved with success, something I talked about sometime back.

In other words, never feeling as if you're quite there. Always lifting yourself out of your comfort zone.

The common rebuttal when I talk to people about their own personal development is "I don't have time".


We all 'have time'. In fact we all have the same amount of time. We just choose to use it in different ways. And going back to the original question posed to me, successful, brilliant and inspiring people make the time to get more from themselves.

So enough ranting Jonathon, how do I learn more?

Two thing's I'd suggest:

1 Surround yourself with 'thirsty' people. Gets you out of the 'I don't have time' destructive mentality, and

2 Make the time. Find the time in your schedule to reach out to those who you can absorb from. To read, listen and soak stuff up.

In this day and age, it doesn't necessarily mean days and days away from home at professional development events/conferences. But it does mean spending 20-30 minutes every single day checking out blogs, reading articles, talking to those who teach and inspire you.

And best of all, most done from the comfort of your desk.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Using post it notes to raise more money

The inclusion of post it notes in appeals increases response and net income. Simple.

Of course tactics like these work best when they are genuinely handwritten: for your high value donors, for people who have left you a gift in their Will, for your monthly/regular donors.

As you can see from the example above however, you can have these pre-printed. And they work. We've tested it and shown that even with the additional costs, it's worth the effort (increases net income).


Because it stands out. It takes a little extra time to show that your response is really important. Like a P.S, it's that additional reminder about why we're asking you to do what we want you to do. In the case above, fill in a survey.

Remember though, this is a tactic. It doesn't replace real personalization. Picking up the phone, actually talking to people, a little note at the bottom of someones thank you letter.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Will you put your hand up?

I love the concept of hand raising.

In fundraising terms, hand raising is asking people to stick their hand up to do something for a cause they like.

Herein lies the art (and the beauty). By asking people to 'stick their hand up' and show they care, initially that's all we do. Get them to do something really small, almost too easy to do.

Examples have/can include:

- Signing a petition
- Filling in a survey
- Writing a message of hope to someone in need
- Lobby/advocating against a particular issue

In short, you're putting your voice to something you believe in, albeit in a small way to begin with.

Next comes the science.

Warming these wonderful people up, getting them excited about what you, showing them there's much more they can help you with.

And of course, asking them to do something slightly bigger. Ask them for a (financial) gift.

There are loads of examples of this happening around the world. From asking people on the street to sign a petition about action on climate change, to calling someone and asking them to send a note to a prisoner of conscience.

Once 'on board' as a hand raiser, spend the next week reaffirming why they stuck their hand up and then ask them to take the next step by supporting financially (and of course, ask for a monthly gift).

It helps if you're an advocacy group (although you don't have to be) - there is a natural remit to do this stuff anyway. The key is finding real, genuine ways for people to campaign on your behalf, tied in with the need for financial support shortly thereafter.

You can test time in between the first contact to the financial ask, the number of non financial asks before you ask for a gift and the various channels in which to do this.

I love the concept of hand raising because it advances your cause further (get someone to lobby on our behalf), it gives you an opportunity to have several conversations with people, and adds another vehicle to reach out and find new supporters.

I expect we'll see many more examples of this in the coming years.

Are you prepared to put your hand up?


Friday, March 5, 2010

Google AdWords for charities: learning's

Late last year I talked about my love for Google.

Three months on and we've got a lot of learning at Pareto Fundraising about how charities should be using Google AdWords. If you want some more context on what Google Adwords are, check out my earlier post here.

Here are some things you should consider:

- Understand why you're using it. In other words, what are your objectives? If you're thinking of it as a means to drive loads of traffic which in turn will generate a significant number of donations, you'll quickly be disappointed.

Running ads is great for delivering click throughs to your nominated destination, but for the most part charity websites are not great vehicles to solicit donations. So do one of two things:

1 Consider driving people to a custom built micro site, where you can take people on a journey (much like you would during a conversation in person or on the phone), or, (and the most preferred option)

2 Consider asking people to do something other than donate. Ask them to do something small in the first instance - like sign up to your e-news list - then begin to talk to them (regularly, ever few days) via email, ultimately get a telephone number and use these methods to get them to become a financial donor. Ideally a monthly donor.

- One of the words you'll hear talked about often when it comes to running successful AdWords campaigns is relevance. Ensure that the ads you're running are appropriate for the people you're trying to attract. No point running ads that have copy around 'helping children in need', when it fact your work centres around environmental issues.

It's not about volume, it's about getting the right people to click through to where you want them to go.

Also, follow the same logic with the URLs you are sending prospects to. If you're a human right organization and you're ad talks about the abhorrent treatment of child soldiers, you're not really continuing the message if you send them to a page about landmines.

Think 'relevance'.

- Regularly monitor and update your ads. Initially I'd suggest daily, then after the first couple of weeks aim for every 2-3 days.

Take the time to sift through the keywords that are delivering strong CTR's (click through rates) - by strong I'd say above 1%. Look at whether you can maximize results by applying these keywords to other ads you are running, where relevant.

- All of the testing I have seen shows that capitalization is key in AdWords campaigns. A good post here about it.

- As mentioned above, running Google AdWords, even very well, will not transform your fundraising. In isolation they help drive some traffic, working within a multi channel approach (including e-blasts, banner ads, other prospecting activity) they can be very powerful. Simply because the volumes alone will not make it a viable fundraising tool, but amongst other drivers it makes sense.

- Be aware that once you have your Google Grants (read here if you're not sure what I'm talking about) there is a limit of $1.00 that you can bid per click.

What that means is that whilst you're paying for clicks (I.e. before you get your Grants) you can bid as much as you like, but the science to this is working out how to make your keywords and ads work best for no more than a $1.00 per click. There are loads of good resources on this, no better I think than Google AdWords for Dummies.

Remember, Google AdWords are great. But make sure you think about why you're using them, be realistic about expectations, and use all of the great resources out there to maximize the performance of your campaigns.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

STOP including a bequest tick box on your appeal response forms

Please stop doing this. Now, right now.

It suppresses response to your appeal, as well as suppressing average gift. And I have data to prove it.

Why? Because it is a distraction.

But you're missing the opportunity to talk about bequests, right?

Yes and no. Yes in one sense you are, but refer my previous point about suppressing appeal performance. And the key thing is there are other much more effective ways to talk to people about bequests. I've blogged lots about this, most recently here.

Anyway back to the data. We tested this for a client last year. One group included a tick box about receiving information on bequests. The other group did not.

The response in the group without the tick box had a response rate 1% higher than the group with the tick box, and an average gift almost $2.50 higher.

Both of these differences were statistically significant, thus proving the inclusion of this request suppresses the overall return of that appeal.

It comes down to telling donors the single most important thing you want to tell them right now. Don't confuse the message, keep it simple.

Use other opportunities (separate bequest communications, surveys etc) to talk about bequests. It really is the most effective way to grow your bequest program.


PS - For those interested in what the 'ultimate bequest program' looks like, check out a presentation I delivered a little while back on this.