What’s with the charity rebrand trend?!

You may have noticed a bit of a trend lately of charities “rebranding”. Canadian Diabetes Association is now Diabetes Canada. Heart & Stroke changed its logo and freshened up its visual identity in November of last year. Sick Kids launched their “VS” campaign last year, too. Big charities are bringing new attention to themselves and the important work they do by making a creative splash in the marketplace.

Why? Well, if you’ve been working in fundraising for the last 10 years or longer, you’ve noticed how saturated the Canadian (or any, really) marketplace has become with charities and their messages to Canadians to GIVE! It’s a competitive landscape these days, and in order to stay relevant and reach new audiences and inspire new donors, sometimes a new way to express your “brand” is the way to cut through the noise.

But don’t just jump on the rebranding bandwagon! A new brand or campaign is usually the tip of the iceberg. It’s a big investment for any charity – large or small – to make a big change to its look and name, so you have to give it some serious thought.

Here’s a few things to think about:

Does your brand need a facelift? Heart & Stroke was concerned it was perceived as “your grandmother’s charity” and that it was old-fashioned and not relevant for younger generations. Part of its motivation to rebrand was to modernize its look to reach new audiences. If you’re successfully connecting with donors of all ages, a rebrand may not be for you.

Does your cause need new attention? Diabetes Canada rebranded as much to end the stigma around diabetes as it did to freshen up its look. You may want to rebrand to position the important work you do in a new way, but if you’re feeling good about the way your brand aligns with you’re mission, it may not be the right move.

If you’re trying to reach new audiences, who are they? I did a few interviews on the radio the other day on the topic of charity rebrands, and a lot of the interviewers thought charities were motivated to rebrand in order to get millennials involved in their causes. Fortunately none of them could see me roll my eyes. Remember: millennials are a nut to crack when it comes to fundraising and philanthropy, but they are probably NOT your target audience. It will be a decade at least before millennials make up a meaningful percentage of your donor base, so don’t change your look for them. Think about who you really want to inspire, and make sure any changes you make will speak to them.

What will your donors think? I think that most donors want to see your work funded, and if you can inspire new donors to give more through a rebrand, then your donors may fully support it. But if you run the risk of abandoning your donor base by trying to unnecessarily change your brand, forget it! Don’t let the excitement of a new logo cloud your judgment when it comes to keeping your best supporters close!

So don’t rush into the trend! Make sure you spend time thinking about whether rebranding is right for you. It could be the difference. Just know for sure before you take the plunge!

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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 fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Acquiring & Retaining Millennial Donors: Part Two

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A while back, we wrote a post focusing on four ways to acquire and retain millennial donors. In order to provide the best advice we could, we drew from many of the best practices we had learned over the past two years, organizing our annual fundraising event in Boston, the Boston Fall Formal.

Our fundraiser is geared almost completely toward millennial donors, and has donated over $175,000 to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in two years!

To help you and your team with your next fundraising endeavor, we thought we’d expand a bit on our fundraising experience, and provide you with detailed information on how we improved our contribution each year, while still keeping our donors engaged. To help guide our conversation, we’ve answered questions from a fellow fundraising host (thanks, Elsa!).

Q: How much of your total proceeds from the two years (about $175,000) came from ticket sales versus pure donations versus opportunity drawing proceeds?

A: This is a great question, and brings up an important point to keep in mind as you plan your next fundraising event. Depending on the type of event you hold, different cost components could include:

  • Venue Cost
  • Food / Drink Cost (higher cost for open bar)
  • Entertainment (band, DJ, photographer, photobooth, etc.)
  • Décor
  • Ticketing Processing Fees

When planning your event, it’s always good to have a detailed estimate of the costs you will incur. This level of detail will give you a better idea of what your final contribution to your charity will be and will also help you understand what you can afford for your event.

For our event, revenue broke down as follows:

Revenue Item Dollar Amount Percent of Total Revenue
Ticket Sales $185,000 67%
Sponsorship / Donations $72,000 26%
Opportunity Drawing Proceeds $20,000 7%

You’ll see that our revenue was well over our total proceeds of $175,000, meaning we incurred about $117,000 in costs over the past two years of our event! 

Q: What was the breakdown among corporate sponsorships and pure donations?

A: As with costs, we find it to be extremely beneficial to track all of your sponsorship and donation amounts.

Surprisingly, we did not solicit sponsors in the first year of our event, meaning all of our proceeds from donations were from individuals, not corporate sponsors. While we considered the inaugural event to be a success, we clearly had a lot to learn.

Using this lesson from our first event, we put a lot more effort into attracting and winning amazing sponsors. (You view our Ultimate Guide to Sponsorship here!)

Shifting our efforts resulted in a much different breakdown than in our first year, and as a result, sponsorship and individual donations were at about a 50:50 split – a huge improvement from our prior year!

Q: What was your retention rate from year one to year two?

A: Our high retention rate played a significant role in the growth of our event. While we were very happy with the new attendees we attracted in year two, the return attendees helped spread the word on the event, and continue to drive awareness up until the night of the event.

Comparing year two to year one, we retained about 58% of our initial attendees!

More to come on our tips for engaging these attendees, further down in this post.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on engaging millennials as straight donors instead of as event attendees? Fundraising events can be expensive – are they truly necessary to engage millennials in order to garner donations from them?

A: While it is definitely possible to generate straight donations from millennials, we’ve found that the key to acquiring and retaining millennial donors is to provide engaging and unique experiences. Millennials constantly seek connections to the causes they support, and one of the best ways to create this connection is by building a relationship / experience through a special event.

Some of our additional thoughts on engaging and retaining millennial donors include:

  • Get Personal – Tell the story of your cause, and how it has personally affected yourself and your committee.
  • Utilize Technology – Millennials are very connected. In order to gain their donations, you must be, too! For your next fundraiser, be sure to embrace mobile technology through donation pages, mobile silent auctions and raffles, and even email campaigns.
  • Embrace FOMO – Play into millennials’ fear of missing a great time. Promoting your event through social media, videos, and other digital media will cause those in your audience to fear that they will be missing a great time, further convincing them to engage with your event and support your cause.
  • Show Your Appreciation – This is a staple for all nonprofits and fundraising events. Don’t forget to thank your attendees and donors for their contributions – this is their hard-earned money that you are asking for, after all!

Finally, while we do think that fundraising events are one of the best ways to engage millennial donors, this does not mean that you need each attendee to join your event each year. By putting together thoughtful email campaigns, social media updates, and utilizing mobile technology, you can keep your initial attendees engaged, even if they may not attend your event, or if you’re not planning on holding one each year.

  • Email Campaigns & Social Media Updates – Both of these tools are great ways to update your audience. We use these mostly to:
    • Update donors on progress made from our fundraising event.
    • Provide any updates that the organization or cause you support has made.
    • Thank your donors and attendees for their support.
  • Mobile Technology – Mobile technology allows you to reach your donors throughout the year, regardless of their geographic location or the timing of your event. With tools such as donation pages and mobile silent auctions and raffles, you can promote your cause or organization anytime throughout the year, and can reach a large potential donor base of people who may not be able to attend your physical event.

These elements combine to create a connected approach to fundraising that will keep your donors in the loop and donating year after year.

Conclusion

After reading this post, we hope you have a more detailed view into the numbers behind running a fundraising event. We’d love to answer some more questions, so ask yours in the comments section below!

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Written by Zach Hagopian

Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.

Connect with Zach via:
Twitter | Facebook

What if we are the problem?

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On Monday, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Evelyne Guindon, CEO of Cuso International. I was recording a podcast for Blakely and Evelyne was my interviewee this time around. (Stay tuned for the podcast, by the way!)

Evelyne said something that really resonated with me. She referred to the beneficiaries of their work as “assets”.

Assets.

I absolutely loved that.

Here’s an example: one of Cuso’s focus areas is Livelihood, including the development and financing of enterprises for individuals living in poverty. So if a young woman has the spirit of entrepreneurship and wants to start her own business, Cuso’s programs – supported by donors – can help.

But this young woman isn’t the beneficiary of donor support; she is an asset that’s been tapped into through donor support.

It’s like she’s a natural resource that just hadn’t been discovered yet. I find that it’s a much more empowering way of talking about it.

Besides just loving the way Evelyne spoke about assets, it made me pause and think about the language we use as fundraisers and whether the gap between where we are and what we really want to accomplish is created by ourselves.

I once heard someone say that donors don’t give to charities that have needs, they give to charities that meet needs.

I also often think about the ripple effect millennials have had on the world of charitable giving. No I don’t have the silver bullet to ignite millennial giving, but I do know this group is skeptical about where their money goes when they give, and therefore when they do give, they expect to see a return on their investment, shall we say.

Some donors have always been like that, but I believe millennials as a group really do think this way, and that’s spread to more demographic donor groups over time.

So as fundraisers, if we don’t adapt to be seen in that lens donors are now looking through, we won’t accomplish our big goals.

This is all to say that donors are – and have for a while – thinking differently about their giving. And like Evelyne, we need to change the way we’re talking about our work and our “beneficiaries” to meet donors where they are, and inspire them more than ever before.

Food for thought…

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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 fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: 4 Ways to Acquire and Retain Millennial Donors

 

4 ways to acquire & retain millennial donors

As many of you know, millennials are quickly becoming one of the most coveted groups in the fundraising community!

But why is this demographic so important to fundraising?

According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, a whopping 84% of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014. There is immense value in acquiring donors early (at the millennial age) and building a relationship in order to create lasting value for your organization.

While capturing millennial donors will surely help your nonprofit organization, many NPOs and fundraisers struggle to acquire and retain these donors.

That’s where I can help!

My background? I am a millennial with strong ties to the Boston fundraising community. Most recently, I have spent the past two years organizing a fundraiser geared completely to millennial donors. In our first year, we attracted 850 guests and raised over $65,000 for the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

In our second year, we raised $108,000 from over 1,000 Boston-area millennials and young professionals.

Learning from this experience, I’ve put together a list of my four best tips for acquiring and retaining millennial donors. Enjoy!

#1 — Get Personal

Our first tip is to get personal with your potential donors – tell the story of your cause and how it personally relates to your experience.

While inclined to donate, millennials are seeking stories they can identify with. Affinity in values and social responsibility are extremely important for this group,whether it’s the restaurants where they eat, the stores where they shop or even the organizations they support.  

Conveying your story in a meaningful way will get you in the door with millennials, and the rest will be history!

#2 — Utilize Technology

One thing that we can all agree on is that millennials are very connected.

Whether we are checking our iPhones every 30 seconds, or sneaking a look at our Facebook news feed during a conference call, we millennials have the means to find and share any information instantly.

And fundraisers / nonprofits should be using this to their advantage!

In today’s world, millennials are willing to donate to charitable causes, but want to do so on their terms, which means embracing easy-to-use and accessible donation tools.

These can be anything from donation pages to mobile silent auctions and raffles and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

Regardless of the tools you decide to help you move forward, embracing technology will allow you to offer millennials a much easier channel for them to donate anytime they’d like.

#3 — Embrace FOMO

Our next tip is for your organization to embrace one of the strongest emotions felt among millennials – THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT (aka “FOMO”). When used with online and social fundraising methods, FOMO can become one of your best tools for millennial acquisition.  

The key here is to hold your donors socially accountable. Did your supporters just buy tickets to your next fundraising event? Has one of your donors just made a donation to support your cause? Provide them a means to share this to their social network!

When your donors share updates about your cause, they will be helping you acquire new donors, as these potential supporters will witness all of the passion and excitement around supporting your cause.

#4 — Show Your Appreciation (with a twist!)

Traditional methods of thanking your millennial donors work great, but your thank-yous are even more effective when you can add a twist!

One of our favorite examples of unique acknowledgements for millennials is Creating a Sizzle Reel.

Did you just wrap up a great fundraising event or have your best year ever in terms of donations? Spend some resources to create a great video or “sizzle reel” to share with your audience. An exciting video will stand out against the hundreds of emails your audience receives each day, and it’s also a great piece of content for your donors to share out to their networks!

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Written by Zach Hagopian

Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.

Connect with Zach via:
Twitter | Facebook

Guest Post: Storytelling and the Next Generation of Donors

Storytelling & the Next Generation of

As fundraising professionals, we face a constant challenge – we need to raise money. Right now, many organizations are starting to wonder how generational transitions will affect fundraising. In other words – as Millennials start to donate more, how will their preferences influence our fundraising programs?

Should we be using Snapchat? Will email still work for us? How will we get ahold of Millennials since none of them have landlines?

Perhaps some of these questions sound familiar to you. Up until last October, I would have said that you were right to think about these questions. But then I attended bbCON and Chuck Longfield shared a piece of data that rocked my world.

The average age of a new donor in 2014 was 51. That’s right, 51!

It makes sense of you think about it. Someone in the earlier 50s likely has more disposable income than say someone in their late 30s. Thus at 51, a person might be looking to become a first time donor to an organization.

How does this information influence our fundraising strategies to acquire Millennial donors?

You don’t need to abandon your plan to acquire Millennial donors. You do however need to be prepared to play the long game. Organizations should strategically focuses on engagement, so that when that donor is able to make a gift your organization will likely be top of mind.

Engagement is kind of a tricky word. The key to making the most of it is to define the various stages of engagement someone can have with your organization. In other words, how does someone go from not knowing who you are to being a loyal donor?

In the instance of Millennial donors, this likely won’t happen in one fell swoop. It is prudent to figure out what the various stages of the relationship are leading up to that donor making a gift. Then the task of moving them between those stages.

Unlike older generations of donors, Millennials have a desire to understand their impact, to feel like they are part of something meaningful, and contribute to a reputable organization that speaks their language. One way that non-profits can achieve all three of these things is by cultivating relationships through communications, and specifically by telling stories.

Stories naturally demonstrate impact in a tangible way and when they are told well, they make the reader feel like the hero. During a recent project I worked on with a client, we did extensive content analysis to understand the differences between Millennial, Gen Y and Boomer donors. What we found was that Millennial donors tend to respond best to stories that are inspiring and have a positive vision for the future. These stories don’t try to guilt the reader into donating, nor do they sound “doom and gloom.” As we analyzed the stories that Boomers responded to, what we found basically the opposite.

What’s the key takeaway from all this? Engaging Millennials through fundraising and communications requires a big shift in messaging. Look at your appeals over time. What are the messages that come through? How have your donors responded? What was their demographic? Use these questions to do your own content analysis to find the right message that will resonate with Millennial donors.

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Written by Vanessa Chase

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Vanessa Chase is the President of The Storytelling Non-Profit – a consulting group that specializes in helping non-profits raise more money through communications. You can find out more about her and non-profit storytelling on her blog.

 

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week twelve | guest post: prospect research & gen y

Prospect research — the art of identifying and connecting potential donors with your cause. How does this translate to Gen Y donors? Is there a secret formula to identify this group of donors? Not really. There are however, a few points to keep in mind when researching this unique group.

As mentioned in other posts in the #whatgiveswednesday series, millennial donors often give to causes that they believe in and can sink their teeth into. They want to know that their time and money are going towards an initiative that is making a measurable difference. So how does prospect research relate to that? Simple. Keep the donor in mind when connecting them with an initiative you believe they would be passionate about.

So what do I mean? Working in Higher Education, I will often consider a few factors when determining if an alumnus would be interested in getting involved in a particular project. What faculty did they graduate from? Were they involved in any academic competitions? Were they a member of any clubs? Did they participate in any extra-curricular activities while they were a student? Considering these types of questions might help to identify where their passionate lies or what they would be interested in supporting or getting involved in. This is sometimes where you hear of those exceptional stories of a donor in their 20s making a $1M gift– it’s usually designated to an initiative that they have a direct connection to and are passionate about.

It’s also worthy to note that this doesn’t just translate to getting young alumni involved as donors. Could they be a guest judge or a guest lecturer? Would they be interested in being a chapter volunteer for your organization in a specific geographical location? These individuals could be excellent champions for your cause in their community if given the right opportunity.

Consider start-up companies led by the millennial age group — their approach to corporate social responsibility is going to look a lot different than what we’ve seen in the past. They won’t just see a donation as a tax break for their company, but rather an opportunity for their company to get behind an initiative where they can really add value to on a local, regional and even national or international level. Getting behind a cause that is meaningful to their company and their clients can make an impact, as it is a valuable marketing opportunity by creating a positive perception of the company, and in some cases, can likely lead to company growth.

Gen Y individuals are worthwhile to have on your prospect research radar. Strive to find ways in which your organization can utilize their constantly growing networks, experience, and insight. Keep open communication between your prospect research team and your development team, so that prospect researchers are always aware of what your fundraising priorities are. This open communication will ensure these golden Gen Y individuals aren’t missed.

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Written by Sara Glover

Sara Glover

 

Sara is a Prospect Researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Connect with Sara via:
Twitter | LinkedIn 

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week ten | let’s take a brief look back, shall we?

Wow! Can you believe we’re already on Week 10 of #whatgiveswednesday? Time is flying!

I thought this milestone was a good opportunity to look back at weeks 1 through 9 and ask, “What have we learned so far?”

I re-read the first 9 posts and already some clear themes are coming through. Here they are:

ONE: TRANSPARENCY
I’ll talk more about communicating with young donors in a sec, but transparency on its own was one of the most important factors I identified after re-reading the posts. Charities must be transparent when communicating with (young) donors. Make your impact known, allow donors to see stats and metrics on their impact, and let them know without a doubt that you did exactly what you said you would with their money.

TWO: INVOLVE
As Sheena Greer told us in her awesome #whatgiveswednesday guest blog post, “We are going to give our time first and our money second.” You’ll show young donors just how transparent and trustworthy you are when they get involved and have a “behind the scenes” look at who you are and what you do. Make it fun and social for them, and the money will follow.

THREE: RESTRICTED
The trend is that all donors – young and old – are moving away from unrestricted giving. It goes hand-in-hand with the changing approach to philanthropy; it isn’t guilt or obligation-driven anymore, so there isn’t a willingness to just pour funds into a general fund and impact… who knows what? Make your giving opportunities more exciting, specific, and cause-driven.

FOUR: MAKE GIVING EASY
If you’re investing in your young donor program, you better have an easy online giving form that’s also mobile friendly. End of story.

FIVE: COMMUNICATE
In addition to being transparent, there are other important factors in your communication with young donors: be clear, be concise, tell stories, use images, integrate short videos, include user-generated content, and be authentic. Don’t use an institutional voice; get existing young donors – a.k.a. “gen y besties” – to tell their stories for you, just like Carolyn Hawthorn suggested in her #whatgiveswednesday guest blog post.

It’s not that complicated, but there’s still more mystery to be solved! Tune in on Wednesday, April 15 for our next segment. Thanks for reading!

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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.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email