#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week seven | donor fatigue + give to get = ?

I’ll be honest: I had a case of writer’s block when preparing for today’s #whatgiveswednesday post. I actually have my regular Friday post for next week already queued up, but on the topic of young (non)donors I was drawing a blank. So I did some review of past posts to inspire me, and my mind settled on two in particular:

  1. This post from way back in the day: Donor Fatigue
  2. And this more recent post from the #whatgiveswednesday segment: give to get

Note how much cooler I’ve gotten: I now write blog titles in lower-case.

I digress… what do these two posts have in common? Well, “donor fatigue” is that tiredness – or even irritation – that donors get from being inundated with communications from too many charities and/or the same charity. When you watch three commercials in a row – one about orphaned dogs, and then one about sick children, and then one about homeless people – you become desensitized to the content. How compassionate can you feel for a cause when its mission is getting lost among the missions of so many others as a result of over-saturation?

“give to get” was about the bad rep young people get for wanting something in return for their donation, but I turned that notion on its head by saying what if what they want more than anything else is to know they made an impact? Because I think that’s the truth. I talked about how younger people are critical and skeptical (in part thanks to over-saturation) so you really need to work harder to ensure that they know you’re doing what you say you will with their money. Are there any charities out there that are doing that really well? I have this sneaking suspicion that there aren’t many. The upside? It doesn’t take too much to cut through the noise!

That’s what “donor fatigue” and “give to get” have in common: give them what they want and they will wake up from their fatigue. Innovate, break away from the status quo, be transparent, and show young (non)donors their impact, and they will see you as credible. Think different, and you’ll get different – and better! – results.

(This made me think of two other posts: this one – inspired by John Lepp – and this one from truly back in the day [my second post ever]. Enjoy!)

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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 eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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Customization vs. Personalization

Customizationvs.Personalization

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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A shocking concept!

You know what I hate? When every other Friday comes along (that’s when I post on here) and I have no clue what I’m going to write.

You know what I love? When every other Friday comes along and I have one awesome post ready to go, and then something happens and I schedule that post for later and write another even more awesome post. That’s what happened this week, and I hope this energizes you like it energizes me.

This week I got to have a beer with John Lepp. John Lepp is awesome! John is a Partner at Agents of Good. Please check out his Twitter and the company’s website. The work they do is so inspiring!

Last week I had a coffee with Paul Nazareth. I think you already know how awesome I think Paul is. Anyway, when I met with Paul, he mentioned John, and I said, “Funnily enough I have a beer scheduled with John next week!” Paul was delighted to hear it, and referred to John as a “disruptive leader”. That made me even more excited for some one-on-one time with John.

So John and I met at a half-way point between where we both live, and we started talking shop, of course. John’s expertise is in direct mail, so we talked a lot about that. He shared the truth, which is that every single organization is doing the same thing. We talked about that for a while, and then I commented that somehow I didn’t find that discouraging, but the opposite – encouraging. John agreed and said it was exciting! It means it’s not hard to surprise people with something different.

So I said, “John, what can we do? If you could distill your knowledge and insight down to a few actions, what are they?” John replied with a number of things, but one of them stood out the most for me. Hold onto your seats, because this is going to come as a bit of a shock:

Call your donors.

Get on the phone, call them, and see how they’re doing. It doesn’t have to be an ask, it’s not even really a thank you call – though we should take every opportunity to say thank you, I think – it’s just a personal, meaningful check-in.

When I worked at the Annual Giving Call Centre, even the longest calls barely took five minutes. John gave me a soft challenge of spending one hour a week calling donors.

Here’s the thing, and this is a shameful secret of mine: I hate making phone callsThis is a personal and professional challenge. I’m great at communicating via email, I feel confident and comfortable in person, but the thought of getting on the phone is just… I don’t like it.

One of my mentors – not John or Paul, though they’re both now on my personal Board of Directors (great blog post about that concept from Paul here) – reminded me recently that the way to get comfortable with something is to do it repeatedly.

So here’s my personal challenge, and please take the challenge yourself, too, if you need to: Call donors. For one hour a week. I find making my challenges public always gives me the extra drive to achieve them, so I will. I can’t wait to share the results!

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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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“Trinkets & Trash”

What do you think of the practice of sending donors “trinkets and trash” to encourage giving???  I know that’s a rather pejorative way of referring to it, so I guess you can gather that I’m not a fan of this approach.  Though I should preface this by saying that I’ve never worked for an organization that did this, so I haven’t been in the position where I’ve had to justify it before.  Furthermore, I do hear that organizations have a great return on those mailings, so if it ain’t broke…

Let me give some background on why this is on my mind.  I recently made what was intended to be a one-time donation to a well-known, Toronto-based charity.  I read one of their ads and was so moved by it that I felt compelled to give.  And then the onslaught of mail and trinkets and trash began.  I’m pretty sure I made my gift within this calendar year, and I swear I’ve received 6-10 mailings from them already, with 3-4 containing gifts of some sort; gifts I’ll never use, gifts I never asked for, gifts I never wanted.  These gifts are not motivating me to give.  In fact, they’re irritating me, numbing me to the cause, and making me feel far less inclined to give.  The gifts are getting in the way of their message, which is what inspired me to donate in the first place.

I wasn’t sure if I was the only one who felt this way, and luckily I had the perfect opportunity last night to see what others thought of it.  What was the opportunity, you ask?  #maevesmeetup!  Last night I held my third #maevesmeetup event, formerly known as the Midtown Toronto Fundraisers Social.  I started this event at the suggestion of one of my mentors, Paul Nazareth (@UinvitedU), and held the first social in May of this year, and the second in July.  Last night was another great event, with a smaller group, so it was a more intimate experience.  Regardless, it was a great evening!  Thanks to all that joined us!  (Click here to read more about the event.)

photo 1When the first people started arriving, I posed my question about trinkets and trash: what do you think?  Everyone said they didn’t like this approach, and from what I could tell, nobody worked for an organization that practiced it.  One of the attendees, Stacey Charles (@Stacey_Charles), put it well: it’s “old school”.  There is a generation of donors who like getting gifts, but I’m not part of that generation.  I want to sense a need in the charities I’m supporting, and sending me gifts doesn’t express need in the same way an inspiring letter does.  I want to sense that my dollars went straight to work, so I don’t want to have to worry that they’re being spent on gifts for donors.

What do you think???  Is the ROI worth it?  Is this a worthwhile approach?  Or is it going the way of the dodo bird…?

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Personalization pays!

Personalization Pays!

I know I’ve talked about compassion/donor fatigue before.  We have so many communication channels available to us, and every one of them – from email to Facebook to snail mail – are asking us to give.  These weapons of mass communication are powerful, and they’re a positive tool on the one hand, but we have to work that much harder to connect with people when using them.  What can we do, say, or design that will catch people’s attention???  Is a video enough?

The best tool I’ve learned to use is personalization.  I was working on an event recently – an art auction – and was brainstorming some ways to get more attendees there.  I didn’t just want more attendees though, I wanted people to attend who would actually buy the art.  So since this was the fifth time the event has taken place, I looked back at records to find out who had bought art in the past, which artist’s art they had bought, and whether the same artist was submitting again this year.  If they were, I wrote a personalized email to each of these past buyers, inviting them to the event, letting them know that “their favourite artist” was submitting again, linking them to the event website (specifically to where this artist’s piece was featured), and also letting them know that they could submit an absentee bid if they couldn’t make it.

This process was lengthy and tedious, but it comes with a great ROI.  A few of these individuals submitted absentee bids, many of them attended, and at least one purchased another piece by “their favourite artist”.  Regardless of the outcome though, this personal touch is a great way to engage members of your community.  One person I emailed was impressed we even knew what he’d bought before, and others were simply pleased to have been personally contacted.

This event is simply an example though, and the strategy can be even more effective with fundraising.  I’ve worked on custom proposal packages that include archival photos of an alumnus from when he/she was at the school, videos that have the head of the school addressing the major gift prospect who is meant to receive the video… the list goes on, and the result is always positive.  Personalized communication resulting in a large gift or a piece of art being purchased is really the cherry on top.  No matter what, personally connecting with people is always worth your while.

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Part of this post was inspired by Dan Allenby’s recent blog post, “Content vs. Distribution”, from his amazing website: The Annual Giving Network.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Donor Fatigue

As you may know, I got my start in fundraising with a job as a student caller at Wilfrid Laurier University, calling alumni of the school as well as parents of current students, sharing updates and asking for their financial support.  Many friends of mine would comment on how tough it must be to make those “cold calls” to alumni, but I always replied saying, “They’re not cold calls, they’re warm calls”.  I don’t know where I’d picked up that term, and you could call it kind of corny, but it seemed applicable.  Calling alumni or parents was never cold, because at the very least – whether they were an enthusiastic supporter or not – they had some connection to the institution. I’m thinking about this because I recently read an article from The Globe & Mail entitled “Toronto hospitals are about to find out just how deep donors’ pockets are”.  The article begins by telling the story of Harvey Walker.  In short, Mr. Walker’s wife, Joan, died of pancreatic cancer and he wanted to find a way to honour her memory.  He decided the most fitting tribute would be to donate $100,000 in her name to the Scarborough Hospital, which provided compassion and care to Joan and her family.  According to the article: “Two years later, Mr. Walker has become something of a darling on the mailing lists of hospital foundations across the city.  Appeals for money arrive in his mailbox constantly.  He’s never donated to most of the hospitals asking for his cash and doesn’t even know how they got his name.” As someone who has only worked in educational fundraising thus far, this is a very interesting concept to me – contacting people who don’t have a clear connection to the institution I work for.  I’ve been to a few prospect research workshops where so much discussion surrounds making a prospect list based on other institutions’/organizations’ annual reports (for example), and for a while I didn’t even understand why.  It’s not as if I’m opposed to this because I know other organizations work differently, but when this article brought up the idea of “donor fatigue”, I could understand where that stems from. “But what about the risks? Hospital fundraising campaigns have become an incessant year-long event with appeals coming in the mail, online, on the radio and TV. Yet, as the fundraising pitches become increasingly enormous in size and scope, so too grows the worry that potential donors are beginning to tune out.” My point is not that one type of institution is better than the other, not at all.  It’s just interesting where our prospects come from and how that differs from organization to organization.  The truth is, too, that many of a school’s most generous donors are also turning up on other organizations’ – including hospitals’ – lists and so despite having a clear, personal connection to their alma mater, “donor fatigue” is still a concern. What are your thoughts? How do we combat donor fatigue???

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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