4 tips to survive the year-end fundraising extravaganza

pace yourself. (6)

OK – Why am I talking about year-end? It’s August!

Well because that’s how our weird world of fundraising works… at least for direct response.

I started presenting holiday campaign ideas to my clients back in July.

Literally Christmas in July. 

That’s what makes the world of direct response marketing agencies extra weird. Because of the lead time needed to do our work, we are generally thinking about campaigns three months in advance of when they drop.

Disadvantage for you, the fundraiser? I may be talking about it to you too early. Fair enough.

Advantage for you? Since I’m already in it, I can share some tips with you on how to survive it.

Here they are:

pace yourself.#1 – PACE YOURSELF — Don’t look at your solicitation schedule for September to December and start pulling your hair out! Take it one campaign at a time. Lay out your critical paths. Get the important approval dates in your calendar. This time of year is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t lose your mind in one go, and don’t forget to hydrate.

pace yourself. (1)

#2 – THINK ABOUT THE DONOR — Don’t lose sight of #donorlove when there are dollar signs in your eyes (because let’s face it – this is the time of year when the revenue pours in more than any other). When you’re looking at the potential creative for your holiday campaign, remind yourself “I am not my donors”. Think about what donors have responded to in the past. What’s inspired them? What’s filled them with the warm, fuzzy feelings of the giving season and moved them to impact your organization when there are so many other non-profits clamouring for their attention? Deliver that. I’m not saying don’t be innovative or try something new, but don’t do it for your sake. Do it for the donors.

pace yourself. (2)

#3 – SELF-CARE — I know we all give the idea of self-care lip service, but seriously. It’s August and I’m already feeling the first bit of burn-out. You need to check in with yourself and make sure you’re giving yourself what you need. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you putting good stuff into your body (and I don’t mean wine and coffee, although there’s a time and place for that, too). Are you finding time to be active? A 30-minute walk (ideally outside) would do you a lot of good. Are you taking time to do things that bring you joy? Cooking? Reading? A favourite TV show? A bath! I know we can’t spare as much time as usual for ourselves amidst all the work, but maybe carve out… an hour a day? Two hours? For you! Because if you aren’t happy and healthy, it’s going to be a much longer season.

pace yourself. (3)

#4 – KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE — #DonorLove is absolutely crucial to what we do. But let’s admit it: to allow our amazing organizations to do their amazing work, we need funding. And the year-end time period brings in the majority of our funding for the year, so that’s a huge driver of why we work so hard and have so much output at this time. When you’re tearing your hair out and wondering why you do this, look at last year’s results from September-December. Calculate what percentage of the total year’s revenue it was. Write that percentage or dollar amount on a post-it and let it motivate you when the sheer love of the work doesn’t do it. That impact is worth hustling for.

Good luck!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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Making Data Sexy

MakingData Sexy

Where does the “data person” at your charity have their office?

Is it in the basement? Away from sunlight?

Are they pale? With bloodshot eyes?

No, I’m not implying that “data people” are vampires…

But I am implying that we don’t think of them as the “sexy” part of our organization.

And that’s wrong! Data is sexy!

You know who knows that? The for-profit world. Think of something awesome like… PC Plus.

pccard_registration

PC Plus is my local supermarket’s loyalty/rewards program. So if you don’t have PC Plus, think of the same type of program at your supermarket. Or Air Miles! Same idea.

Here’s the gist: I buy my weekly groceries and when I scan my PC Plus card at the end of my purchase, the supermarket knows exactly what I’m buying. I get points for what I’m buying, and then I get offers for more points based on what I most frequently buy. Because I’m getting points, which turn into dollars off future purchases, I feel I’m benefitting from the process. The supermarket is definitely benefitting because not only are they encouraging more purchases – through the points – they’re also getting oodles of data on buyers’ behaviour, which they can use to make better business decisions, and to make more money.

Are we – charities – using data to raise more money? 

We are way behind the for-profit world in this area. Sure, we have a lot less money to play around with for this type of thing, but we’re still not investing nearly enough of what we do have.

What if we invested money and time in paying more attention to our donors’ behaviour?

What if we tracked what campaigns they do and don’t give to throughout the year and stopped mailing them for the ones they don’t give to, and doubled our efforts in soliciting them for the ones they do?

What if we tested using different messaging and creative for different genders? Or different age groups? If we segmented our data that way, tracked the performance for the different test groups, and then spent some time considering the insights we drew from that… wouldn’t that change the way we fundraise?

And if we found one approach better than another… or different approaches better for different segments, we’d raise more money by implementing those moving forward.

Isn’t that what we want to do?

Raise more money?!?!

The simple truth is that we’re not using our data as well as we can, and we’re missing opportunities to raise more money – and be better fundraisers – along the way.

Some of us can afford to invest more in this than others, but all of us can afford to try something new in 2016. Even something small.

So that’s my first challenge of the new year to you: try something new with your data.

And please report back in the comments!

Good luck, and Happy New Year!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy


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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Enter email subject here

I just received an email in which the subject line was “Enter email subject here”. It seemed a funny subject, but then I thought, “Silly me! It must be about email subject lines and what is and isn’t effective.”

…it turns out that the email wasn’t about that at all. It must’ve been a slip-up, but either way it inspired me and helped me to conceive of today’s topic:

Email Subject Lines.

We’re all bombarded non-stop, all-day with emails. Emails from friends, family, co-workers, companies, groupons, airlines, etc. These emails are personal, commercial, and work-related. If I had to reply to every single email that I got at either of my email addresses (1 work, 1 personal), I wouldn’t have enough hours in the day. We have to prioritize: is this urgent? Who’s this from? What does the subject line say???

If a subject line says “urgent”, I’m more likely to open it faster. If I know who it’s from and they’re important to me, I’m more likely to open it faster. If the sender is not important to me and the subject suggests it isn’t urgent, then what other factors would get me to open it?

An exciting subject line.

But that brings me to my main question: What makes an email subject exciting??? How do we “Lift our message above the torrent” in order to break through the inbox? Is it customization? If our subject is specific to the person receiving the email, are they more likely to open it? And sooner?

“Mike — you’re going to want to be at this event!”
Will that do it?

Is it conciseness? Is short & sweet the key? On top of that, does excitement come from hyperbole or flashiness?

“The Best Event of the Year!”
Is that the trick?

The truth is, I don’t know the answer. My personal strategy is usually clarity over anything else; I want to know that the person receiving the email knows what it’s about before they even open it. But I’m no subject guru; I try different approaches with different emails, but haven’t really come to find something that always works.

In fundraising, we send out a lot of emails – solicitations, invitations, newsletters… the list goes on. Can we get someone to make a gift with a flashy subject line? I think we can, I just don’t yet know how.

What do you think??? Share your tips & tricks when it comes to email subject lines by commenting below.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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Lift your message above the torrent

Lift your message above the torrent (1)

I just read a great article via www.charityinfo.ca“Winston Churchill – a Twitter natural?”

Please enjoy Janet Gadeski’s piece for yourself, but in essence she is discussing taking the power of Twitter to what we do in fundraising.

What is the power of Twitter? What some argue is the deterioration of the English language (or any language) and our ability to express ourselves, I would argue is actually a very positive and neat evolution of expression.

On Twitter – if you didn’t already know – all posts (tweets) have to be 140 characters or less; it’s called microblogging. Yes, sometimes I take shortcuts by typing “U” instead of “You”, and yes, sometimes I use sentence fragments, but that’s just utilizing my precious characters carefully. Moreover, as Gadeski says, it’s about packing a punch in your tweets and turning them into “pithy, memorable” messages, and that’s not easy!

My high school English teacher once quoted Mark Twain (though I may be attributing this to the wrong author) from a letter he’d written to a friend: “I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead”. My teacher quoted this after assigning us a 200-word paper — not exactly tough when I consider the lengthy papers I’ve written before, but as we all know, it’s easier to blather on with no word limit than it is to make a really solid point in a confined space.

When I say bringing the power of Twitter to fundraising, I don’t mean tweeting to your donors, though that’s good, too! I mean working to create short, to-the-point, concise messages.

As Gadeski writes, “Pithy, memorable messages – just what we want as fundraisers. In our accelerated world, even an elevator speech may be too long to remain in the brain. Every day, thousands of messages stream towards your donors, in every medium in the brain. You may be retreating as far as you can from the whole notion of Twitter, but you have to admit that conciseness will lift your messages above that torrent.”

Follow me @fundraisermaeve!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email