Get Wise to What Your Nonprofit Blog Readers Want – Coda to the C.P.A. Series

Listen, listenThey want you to show them that you know them. And we do this best by listening.

I’m compelled to add this coda to the C.P.A. series because there’s some breaking news that pertains to what was one of my favorite listening tools. In Part I we covered the fact that key to writing a post  folks will want to read is first finding out what folks want to hear! One of those tools, sadly, just kicked the proverbial bucket.  Yet I’ve also discovered a host of new tools that may be extremely useful to you in your research. Yup, the universe taketh away; the universe giveth.

Alas, we no longer have the “Answers” feature on LinkedIn to use as a research tool. I’d shared with you on my recent webinar and in my recent blog posts regarding how useful this tool could be for (1) researching constituent needs/desires, and (2) connecting with prospective constituents and luring them to your site.  Sadly, I must point you to the 1-19-13 online article from Social Media Today that describes how LinkedIn Removes its Best Feature. As of January 31st, 2013, this feature will officially be dead.

Oh, well.  LinkedIn is not the only place to crowd source questions and answers. We still have Yahoo Q&A and Quora to use for similar purposes (and to which I also referred in my talk).  Here’s a link to a useful article in case Quora is new to you: Are You in a Quandary Over Quora? Don’t be.

Plus, there are many other ways to get quality constituent feedback. As was discussed in Part I, a survey is perhaps the most direct way to learn what your peeps want from you.  I mentioned services like Qualaroo, Survey Monkey and Google Docs For four additional tools, check out this recent article from the folks at CauseVox about How to Get Feedback from your Supporters.  They highlight:

  1. Wufoo, an online platform that easily enables survey creation and information collection/analysis. You can embed links to the survey in your email, social media or website/blog.
  2. Formstack, another good survey creator.
  3. Facebook polls, using a variety of apps that let you poll your fans on your Facebook page, thereby taking advantage of the fact that you’re tapping into a pre-existing community.
  4. Good old-fashioned phone calls, allowing you to put a personal touch on your request for feedback and opening the door to more qualitative responses (they suggest holding a phonathon with staff after an event to solicit feedback while it’s still fresh in your supporters’ minds).  Of course, there’s no purpose in doing this if you’re not prepared to record the information someplace where it can be easily accessed and actually used!
  5. Gold standard in-person meetings, permitting insights you might not get with a poll or survey.  Plus, these meetings are invaluable for building donor relationships. Invaluable!  Just make sure you put in place a system to capture the information gained at these meetings.  It’s so great that your staff, board members and volunteers are out there cultivating and stewarding folks on your behalf.  But if what they learn stays trapped in their brains, it’s of little use to you.  So schedule regular debriefing sessions.  Better yet, establish protocols – a culture of feedback — that get folks into the habit of reporting back to you.

Wisdom road sign “Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.”

— Chip Bell, author, customer loyalty consultant

IMPORTANTThere’s a lot of information coming your way.  That’s nice. But until you turn it into wisdom – and then turn that wisdom into action — that’s all it is. Nice. Just like when you were in school, in order to learn a subject you’ve got to study it. And that generally means getting organized. So, don’t forget these study and organizational tools:

  • CRMs: Many of you may have Customer Relations Management (CRM) systems like Salesforce, NetSuite or Highrise. Or you may just have an Excel Spreadsheet.  This is, of course, a subject unto itself. But if you’re going to be successful engaging your supporters you must make sure you have a system for capturing and tracking information received both online and offline.
  • Donor databases: Most of you have one (and if you don’t, you’re in big trouble), but do you capture information received online?  If not, you may want to think about tweaking your system so that you’re able to document all the great feedback you’re receiving. Again, this is a subject unto itself.  But as the world increasingly transforms to a digital one it will no longer suffice to simply ‘write off’ the digital data coming your way (and I hear way too many organizations saying “we keep track of our donor data, but we don’t have a way to document online activity”).
  • Analytics:  Most of the survey platforms mentioned above include analytics tools. Many of you probably already have Google Analytics on your website or blog. Learn how to use these tools.

FINALLY: When you learn something about your constituents, let it teach you something.  Then apply what you’ve learned to improve your future constituent engagement. Information is valuable; don’t squander it.

REMINDER: Clairification moved to a new website in January – with a new email list.  To assure you continue to receive posts from me direct to your inbox, PLUS occasional emails with updates like this one, please subscribe to Clairification. (You’ll still receive posts from my old RSS feed, but you may not receive every update email).

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Claire, Thank you for linking to my Quora article! – Susan
    Susan Tucker recently posted…Are You in a Quandary Over Quora? Don’t be.My Profile

  2. Dear Claire,

    First, let me say that I am new to your site, but have already learned a lot from your simple and easy-to-read posts. On to my question….

    I work for a small NGO and we are struggling with how to track donors as we move into a new phase of fundraising. We are about to launch a new website and hope to be receiving online donations in addition to checks and ticket purchases at our annual gala. As you discussed above, it is necessary to utilize quality donor-management software. I wonder if you might recommend a software package that is free to use and streamlined enough to train new hires and volunteers?

    Thank you!

    Claire Lynn

    • Claire,

      You’ve asked what I call a tip-of-the-iceberg question. In other words, there are a lot of questions and fact finding underlying your question.

      Let me just start by saying I’m not an expert on every available software system out there. However, I’ve found that you do need to spend money to make money. Salesforce gives its software to nonprofits for free, for example, but it’s really not ready for prime time as a donor management system. To make it work for you you really need to pay someone to customize it for you. There are some good low cost options like eTapestry by Blackbaud. And if you “google” you’ll find quite a number of articles that review different options. Here’s a link to a couple such articles: and (the latter is a downloadable guide from NTEN on systems costing less than $4K). I also highly recommend the folks at Heller Consulting if you want to talk through your needs/resources.

      I would caution against giving volunteers access to your donor database. It’s confidential information.

      If you’d like to chat more, feel free to contact me directly.

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