Guest Post: The #1 Mistake Online Fundraisers Make

There is nothing more frustrating than not hitting a goal you’ve set. Especially when it comes to fundraising.

You start dreaming big and thinking of all the things you’ll do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars you’ll raise.

Then when you miss that goal, you feel like you’ve failed. Worse yet, you feel like you’ve let down the folks who actually did donate.

That’s not a good feeling.

Many times, missing a goal comes down to one thing: setting unrealistic goals.

What’s Realistic?

The most successful online fundraisers have two things going for them: strong online assets, and a plan to promote their campaign using those assets.

Through my job at WeDidIt, I’ve been able to look at the lots of successful crowdfunding pages and their traffic statistics.

I learned that a campaign’s performance is predictable. I can look at a page’s traffic and give you an idea of where each of those visitors came from (email, Facebook, Google, your organization’s website, etc).

Better yet: I can tell you how much money it probably raised.

It’s a great party trick. If the party you’re at is full of nonprofit people…

How I Do It

It’s all about averages.

By taking the total amount raised and dividing that by the total traffic a page received, we can get a dollars per visit value (how much, on average, each page visit is worth). This figure works out to $9/visit (it’s actually more, but I round down to be conservative).

We can reverse engineer this to figure out how much traffic your page needs to generate to raise a specific amount.

Want to raise $1000?

$1000 / $9 = 111 visits to the page. You’ll need at least that much to make it happen.

On average, here’s where that traffic comes from:

  • Email: 56%
  • Facebook: 25%
  • Your website: 10%
  • Search: 5%
  • Twitter: 3%
  • Other: 1%

Right away, you can see email is the biggest driver of traffic.

It makes sense then to set your goal based on how healthy your email list is.

If your email list is small or has a low open/click rate, setting a huge crowdfunding goal is not realistic.

For example:

If you want to raise $15,000, you’ll need about 1670 visits. 56% of those have to come from your email list, or 935. That means 935 people on your email list have to open the email and click the link to the page.

If your email list is 10,000 addresses strong, you’re in good shape!

If it’s 500 addresses…you get the idea.

Just as you would run a 5K before taking on an IronMan race, setting realistic crowdfunding goals helps you experience more success and have something to build on.

If you’re interested in those crowdfunding stats, I put together a handy little tool I call the Crowdfunding Calculator. It allows you to plug in how much you want to raise, then breaks down how much traffic you’ll need, where it needs to come from, and gives you an idea of whether your online assets are strong enough to support that goal.

I offer it for free to the nonprofit community, all I ask for in return is that you tell me what your biggest fundraising headache is (so I can get ideas for a my next tool to make!). Click here to check it out!

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Written by Andrew Littlefield

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Andrew is a marketer and nonprofit fan for WeDidIt, a startup based in Brooklyn, New York dedicated to helping nonprofits raise more money and reach new donors.

Connect with Andrew via:
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Guest post: 5 Reasons Why Society Needs Charitable Trusts

You’ve probably heard a lot about charitable organizations and foundations, but perhaps you don’t know much about charitable trusts. Put in the simplest terms, a charitable trust is an irrevocable arrangement whereby one person gives real or personal property to another to be used for the benefit of a class of persons or the general public.

In the United States, charitable trusts come in two basic varieties: remainder trusts and lead trusts.

  • Remainder trust: Assets are signed over to a charitable organization for a specific period of time that can be either a few years or many years after the death of the donor(s). After the specified period of time has elapsed, the assets become the property of the charity, along with any interest or profits that might have been generated. One example of a remainder trust is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, set to expire 50 years after the deaths of Bill and Melinda Gates. With more than $30 billion in assets it is currently the largest charitable trust in the world.
  • Lead trust: The donor retains control over the trust properties rather than giving control to a charity. Interest from the trust’s assets can either go to the charity or be split between the charity and the donor’s beneficiaries. When the trust expires, the charity doesn’t gain control; rather, the trust property reverts back to a party of the donor’s choosing (usually heirs or designated beneficiaries).

Other countries also have charitable trusts, including the United Kingdom and India. Charitable trusts can provide significant tax breaks for donors, but they are also good for society. Here are five ways society benefits from charitable trusts:

  1. They save lives in crisis areas of the world. It’s not much of an exaggeration to speculate that the survival of much of the human race could at some point depend upon the work of charitable trusts. The aforementioned Gates Foundation oversees a diverse range of projects in high-poverty areas of the world, helping with programs to ensure access to clean water (an issue that is predicted to reach a true global crisis point within a few decades); vaccinations against deadly diseases; and famine relief.
  2. They provide disaster and war relief. The world’s weather and other natural events seem to be getting more extreme, and whether all of that is just part of a natural cycle or is due to human factors, the fact remains that we’re seeing more catastrophic floods, fires, earthquakes and tsunamis. And then there are “wars and rumors of wars.” All of these events are devastating to many thousands of people every year, and those who don’t lose their lives often lose everything but their lives. They desperately need help, and the Red Cross can’t do everything (in fact, it depends upon help from charitable trusts as well as from other sources). Organizations such as CVS Caremark Charitable Trust are there to lend a hand.
  3. They help people help themselves. “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” The Gates Foundation and other charitable trusts help people help themselves by overseeing a range of programs from micro-financing loans that help people in impoverished areas start small businesses, to sustainable agriculture programs.
  4. They support education. Even in the less impoverished areas of the world, charitable trusts add to the quality of life for millions of people of all ages. For instance, the Pew Charitable Trusts and MacArthur Foundations, as well as numerous other charitable organizations, have been funding quality (educational) television programming on PBS in the United States for decades.
  5. They support the arts. Some contend that once the basics of survival are covered, the arts are what make life worth living. Charitable trusts such as the J. Paul Getty Trust – worth more than $10 billion – fund arts programs all over the world. The Getty Trust also funds A.’s renowned Getty Museum.

No matter where the trust is established, it must fulfill certain legal requirements in order to qualify as a charitable trust. In the United States, for instance, the settlor (the person who is establishing the trust) must have a clear intention to create this type of trust. There must be a trustee to administer the trust, and the trust must consist of some type of property, known as res. The charitable purpose must be clearly defined, the class of persons (though not the individuals) included in the beneficiaries must be expressly designated, and the beneficiaries must actually receive the benefit. Similar requirements apply in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

As may be evident, there is a lot of accountability with a charitable trust, as there should be. But if you have the assets and you want to contribute to the “greater good” in some tangible way, a charitable trust might be just the vehicle to consider. If you don’t have the assets, consider volunteering or applying for a paid position with a trust whose mission interests you.

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Written by Daphne Holmes

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Daphne is a writer from http://www.arrestrecords.com.

Connect with Daphne via:
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Customization vs. Personalization

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Happy New Year, readers! I hope 2015 brings you great things!

Now, for the first post of the new year, starting with an important question:

Why do donors keep giving to a cause? Because we make them feel special! 

That’s a simple reason, but it’s true!

How do we make them feel special? I’ll tell you one way we wouldn’t make them feel special: if they gave us $1,000 and we wrote a thank you letter to them that said “Dear Friend…”. No! That was part of a long-gone era of fundraising; what Fraser Green would call the “Industrial Age of Fundraising”. We’re now in what Mr. Green would call the “Post-Industrial Age” of Fundraising. The idea of pumping out a million things that look exactly the same – case in point: thank you letters written to the same “Friend” – don’t appeal to our donors. What do we do? We customize.

So our thank you letter now – thanks to mail merge – starts with “Dear Jane…”. Satisfied? YES!

NO!!! I sat down with an acquaintance recently and he commented on a fundraising video he’d received from his alma mater. It was innovative, it was different, and it was customized! The email he’d received had a subject line with his name in it! The body of the email had his name in it! The video had his name in it! I was rejoicing! Great work, alma mater!

You know what he said? It creeped him out. Why?! I asked, full of despair! He said that all that video told him was that his alma mater paid a lot of money to a video company and that they had a database full of information about him. That’s when I realized:

It was customized, but it wasn’t personal.

We’re past the age of customization. Having the technology to insert someone’s first name into something is no longer innovative. Taking the time to write a personal note, acknowledge something specific to a donor, hand-address an envelope… that shows something. It’s not necessarily innovative, in fact it’s pretty old school, and that’s why it’ll cut through the rest.

What do you think???

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: The women are giving!

Sara Blakely, the gutsy founder of a wildly successful business, Spanx, is the first woman billionaire to sign Buffett and Gates’ Giving Pledge. And she’s only 43 years old!

We all know that great wealth doesn’t wait for age 60 or so anymore. But what do we know about the wealthy women of the world or even just the U.S.? How can your organization find its own Sara Blakely?

In true entrepreneurial spirit, Blakely had a problem with pantyhose and set out to solve it. Here’s the condensed version of events:

  • 1998: Age 27 she used $5,000 to explore and invent new shape wear for women
  • 2000: Oprah Winfrey listed Spanx as one of her Favorite Things
  • 2001: She pitched her product on QVC and sold 8,000 pairs in the first six minutes
  • 2005: Became a contestant on The Rebel Billionaire: Richard Branson’s Quest for the Best
  • 2006: Launched the Sara Blakely Foundation
  • 2007: Handed Oprah Winfrey a $1 million check for her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa
  • 2012: Graced the cover of Forbes magazine on the Billionaire List
  • 2013: Signed The Giving Pledge

What amazes me about Blakely is that from very early on she was thinking about giving her money away instead of waiting until she had “earned enough” to give away. The recent study commissioned by Yodlee Interactive is suggesting women need less money than men to feel wealthy. I think they are way off base; I suggest that women feel differently about money.

If you listen to Blakely’s interview at the Forbes 400 Summit, she tells us that her entrepreneurial drive has always focused on helping women. Money came along for the ride. Let that sink in for minute.

Not only has Blakely known from really early on that her goal in life is to help women, but she tells us in the Forbes 400 Summit interview that her relationship with Richard Branson has given her a mentor in business and philanthropy, and that joining The Giving Pledge gave her access to people who could teach her about philanthropy.

Blakely readily tells us the problems we can help her solve: how can she be a great philanthropist and how can she help women.

Here are two BIG takeaways the vocal dynamo Blakely tells us that can improve our prospect research and fundraising efforts:

  • Change your giving capacity calculations to account for women who are more likely to give sooner in their careers because they view wealth accumulation as a means to an end – that end being helping others.
  • Give women the opportunity to network with your top donors. Wealthy women, especially those earning the wealth, are time-pressed with work and family and want business and philanthropy mentors.

Sara Blakely’s philanthropy is in its very early stages, but I can’t help but cringe when she finds a mentor like Richard Branson instead of… maybe business superstar Jennifer Lopez or what about Jacki Zehner of Women Moving Millions?

Get ready. The women are giving!

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Written by Jennifer Filla

jenfillaAs CEO of the Prospect Research Institute, Jen Filla helps create and deliver the first-ever graded, online courses in prospect research in the fundraising industry. She is also a prospect researcher at Aspire Research Group.

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Competition

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I’m not a big fan of Monopoly or Scrabble. The thing is, I’m not an inherently competitive person. That’s part of the reason I like educational fundraising and alumni relations: they’re not inherently competitive either! My counterparts at other schools and I are always sharing resources and ideas because our “customers” aren’t the same. We don’t share alumni, so there’s no competition, right?

WRONG! I realize now that not feeling the inherent competition in fundraising – educational or otherwise – is not advisable.

Paul Nazareth is a big proponent of reading business books. I recently read Little Bets by Peter Sims and The Opening Playbook by Andrew Dietz, both recommended by Paul. I had to sift through some of the more “businessy” stuff to find what’s relevant for me, but what I found is that the concepts are much more relevant to fundraising than I would’ve expected.

Here’s the thing: we all know that donors are now choosing to support fewer charities. They believe larger donations to fewer organizations make a bigger impact, and they’re not wrong. So how do we make their list? We have to compete.

So let’s ask ourselves: what do we do better than any other charity? Are we better at articulating how we meet needs? Do we provide the best information to donors on the impact their giving makes? Are our communications more eye-catching? Do we make our donors feel better than other charities do?

Think about it! Your competition is.

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Sponsorship vs. Philanthropy

Sponsorshipvs.Philanthropy

This week Waterloo Region is being inspired through the shared experience of film thanks to an organization called the Grand River Film Festival (GRFF). In an effort to immerse myself in the community of which I’m now a part, I joined the Board of Directors of GRFF back in April as their Chair of Fundraising. Now, about eight months in, I am really energized by this great organization, especially now that I can see the Board’s and other volunteers’ hard work coming to fruition.

I don’t have to tell any regular readers that I’m passionate about fundraising, and the work I’ve done so far for GRFF is no exception, but it’s different! My first lesson fundraising for GRFF was learning the difference between sponsorship and philanthropy. These are by no means universal definitions, but here’s a bit of what I’ve learned:

  1. WHO: companies vs. individuals. I’m rarely requesting the support of individuals for GRFF, mostly companies, whereas in educational fundraising my focus is almost exclusively on individuals.
  2. WHAT: tangible rewards vs. warm fuzzy feelings. Philanthropy certainly has its benefits, but more often than not it’s about someone putting their money where their passions are. Sponsorship seems different to me; it involves logo recognition, complimentary tickets, opportunities to speak at the film screenings, etc.
  3. WHEN: budget-time vs. any time. With sponsors, their budgeting process determines their ability to support you. Although I know a lot of donors who are strict and strategic with their charitable giving, on the whole individuals tend to be more flexible with when and where their money goes.
  4. WHY: benefits vs. passion for organization. Corporate sponsors are more motivated by the benefits to them, whereas with individual donors it’s usually their passion for the organization that gives them the incentive to give.
  5. HOW: what they’ll gain vs. what the organization will. People don’t part with their money easily, so outlining the benefits to them can occasionally make for an easier pitch. This is where the sponsorship process is easier than philanthropic fundraising; it can be more straightforward to meet their needs than to express our own.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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The 5 Most Interesting Things I Learned on Day 1 of #AGCongress14

 

the 5 most interesting things I learned on day 1 of #AGCongress14

Ideally I would save this blog post for next week, but my sanity relies on routine, so I’ll stick with my regularly scheduled “every other Friday at 10:00 a.m.”.

What’s today’s post about? Well, right at this very moment I am in a session called “Picasso & Edison: Learn how to be both an artist and scientist in today’s fundraising world”, led by Samantha Laprade, CFRE (a.k.a. @GryphonReport). No, I am not blogging in front of her rather than paying attention to her session! I am writing this post from the comfort of my hotel room in Toronto on Thursday at 5:00 pm. I have just attended Day 1 of the 2014 Canadian Higher Education Annual Giving Congress in Toronto a.k.a. #AGCongress14. Yes, it’s me and dozens of other Annual Giving nerds talking about what we do and how we can be excellent at it. I’m in heaven!

So on that note, today’s post is the five most interesting things I learned yesterday on Day 1 of Congress. Here goes…

  1. STOP! Be stupidly creative. The very inspiring Joel Faflak of Western University started the day off by telling us to stop doing what you’re doing and do something mindlessly creative. Draw, see a musical, do something! Our creativity is being threatened by the business of our every day work, but we can’t stop cultivating it.
  2. Don’t solicit young alumni with the traditional academic segmentation. My friend Ryan Brejak of the University of Guelph (and a guest blogger for this site) delivered a great session on young alumni giving and stressed that millennials need to be segmented differently rather than by their faculty. Segment them by the non-academic affinities they have.
  3. Why would they care? I attended a panel about “How to Write for Development” and asked them what’s more important in a fundraising letter, to emphasize need or success. Chuck Chan of University of Toronto replied that it’s most important to focus on why the reader would care about this. Would they care about a dilapidated building, or would they care about what’s going to happen in a new one?
  4. There are three types of donors. I attended my mentor Paul Nazareth‘s session about planned giving and he outlined three types of donors: (1) the DNA donor, where giving is in their DNA, and so is your organization; (2) the academic, who values your institution because of how they turned what they learned into success; (3) and the trouble makers and weirdos who had a great time at your institution who will give back because of their experiences.
  5. Everyone should be an annual fund prospect all the time. The last session of the day was led by two fundraising powerhouses: Lorna SomersBob Burdenski. They talked about the worlds of major giving and annual giving colliding, and Lorna stressed that major gift prospects/donors should never be taken out of annual solicitations. They should always receive the calls, direct mailings, etc. and major gifts should “opt out” of this if really necessary, whereas the default will be that they’re solicited annually.

What a great day Day 1 was. I bet I’m already energized by Day 2 and it’s only 10:00 a.m.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Barista to CEO: Young Constituents

Barista to CEO-Young Constituents

I had the great privilege and pleasure of seeing Penelope Burk speak recently. More than just speak, she presented the latest findings of what she’s known for: the (in this case, Canadian) Burk Donor Research Study.

What stood out for me was when she commented on an area of interest for me (as evidenced here… and here): Young Constituents.

When it came to this group, Burk shared that:

  • They have a lower capacity to give (often due to student debt)
  • When they do give, they give larger amounts to fewer organizations (younger donors believe that these gifts make a bigger difference because they keep the cost of fundraising down and the impact on the organization up)
  • When they give, they are active donors; they actually want to be involved in the activities of your organization

Here’s the rub: the attitude of an active donor is being highly undervalued, and passive donors (who give with little expectation/involvement) are – forgive me for being blunt – dying out, and will likely not be giving in seven years.

What does it mean to be an active donor??? As I said before, it means these donors want to be involved. It also means they will encourage their social networks – online and offline – to get involved as well. They are influential; not in their capacity to give as much as their ability to connect others to an organization. And – this is where I might get your attention – they will have a capacity to give significant gifts soon.

As Penelope Burk said, these young people are baristas… and baristas… and baristas… until suddenly they’re CEOs! And, as my mentor Paul Nazareth added when I had a coffee with him a few weeks ago: while they’re working as a barista, they’re working on their start-up company on the side…

We cannot ignore our young constituents!

This is all I’ll say for now, but stay tuned, because in honour of the 3-year anniversary of www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com, I’ll be making an announcement on November 21st about a new initiative. I can’t wait to share it with you!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: Do you ask on the first visit???

Do you ask on the first visit---

It’s a question I get all the time!

And by the look on people’s faces, my answer must be pretty lame. Probably because I usually say something along the lines of “sometimes,” or “it depends.”

When I worked in leadership annual giving, I always asked on first visits. Gifts at that level tend to be a little more transactional. And for the most part, people got it. They weren’t offended that we just met and there I was asking for cash.

But with major gifts, it’s different.

So, I suppose a better answer would be: “I talk about philanthropy on first visits, but I don’t always ask for a gift of a specific amount to achieve for a specific outcome.”

But sometimes I do! It depends. On a lot of things.

The considerations involved are actually pretty interesting.  So, I decided to see if I could map them on a decision tree. Take a look!

Decision Tree_Asking On First Visit_Page_1 Decision Tree_Asking On First Visit_Page_2

And when you’re done, leave a comment letting me know if I left anything out.
What else determines whether or not you ask on the first visit???

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Written by K. Michael Johnson

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A self-proclaimed fundraising geek, K. Michael loves the nitty-gritty of major gifts work. By day, he raises money for a large research university. In his spare time, he blogs about things he’s learned the hard way at www.fearless-fundraising.com.

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Guest Post: Lessons in Fundraising from Lady Gaga

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This weekend I went to a Lady Gaga concert. I danced. I sang. I screamed like I was 14.

I also learned a little something about fundraising.

The most powerful moment of the concert, for me at least, was when Gaga addressed the audience and did something extraordinary – she talked about beliefs. “We’re the same,” she screamed in a bejewelled outfit, “We believe in equality, we believe in human rights, we believe in social F#$%ing justice”.

I lost my mind.

Indeed, part of what I think makes Gaga’s fans – the “little monsters” as they are called – so fiercely loyal of their mother monster – is how unapologetic Gaga is about what she believes. She’s more than a pop star – she has opinions and values and doesn’t shy away from talking about them.

Shared beliefs are the bedrock of truly transformative relationships – between spouses, friends, colleagues, and even between donors and charities. Few things can bond us together more strongly as human being than shared beliefs.

Think about your non-profit – what do you believe in??? What is at the core of why you do the work you do? Can you answer that question? And how often do you talk about your beliefs?

Some charities are afraid to talk about what they believe in, for fear of chasing off donors. I think the opposite is true – if you can stand proudly behind what you believe in – like Gaga – your supporters will be fierce and fanatical – because they see their own beliefs reflected in you.

So what do you believe – whether it’s the Social Gospel or the Flying Spaghetti Monster – share those beliefs to get super fans of your very own.

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Written by Rory Green

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Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.