What do Lukewarm Tapioca and Molten Chocolate Cake have to do with Fundraising?

molten chocolate cake 300x199 What do Lukewarm Tapioca and Molten Chocolate Cake have to do with Fundraising?

Does this get your attention? Is this a heart you could wrap your heart around? Make you want a taste?

Or… What Your Donors Won’t Tell You about Your Nonprofit Messaging.

At first blush, tepid tapioca and gooey hot chocolate might appear to have nothing whatsoever to do with securing vital resources to further your mission. Blush again.

Blush hard. Think of all the good things you could accomplish were you to more effectively master the art and science of fundraising. Feel the warm pink tinge beginning to creep up your neck as you embrace the errors of your ways over the past year. Or two. Or 10. Or even more.

Are you still doing things like it was 1985? 2000? 2008? If so, you should probably be embarrassed. Because I know very few organizations who are succeeding today using yesterday’s strategies.Continue Reading

A Baker’s Dozen of Nonprofit Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – Pt.2

baker2 A Baker’s Dozen of Nonprofit Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – Pt.2

I’ve baked up 7 more nonprofit blogging tips for you — so now you’ve got a full Baker’s Dozen!

Last week, in part 1 of this post, I encouraged you to begin blogging if you’re not doing so already. And, if you are, to do so more effectively. Make your blog the hub of your content marketing. It will simplify your life in so many ways, and become the anchor for your marketing communications and organizational branding.

Today, let’s continue with seven more “do’s and don’ts” to round out our baker’s dozen of nonprofit blogging tips:

Don’t 7: You don’t give credit where it is due.

It’s fine to derive inspiration from another source, but don’t claim the prose as your own.

Do 7:  When you cite other sources, attribute them.

If you quote someone, put quotation marks around their prose and state their name. If you want to be extra nice, include a hyperlink to their website or suggest to folks that they follow this person on one or more social media sites. I derived inspiration for this post from two articles on Hubspot by Nathan Yerian and Ginny Sosky. You can see them here and here.

Don’t 8: You don’t take time to edit your post.

This is one of my pet peeves, and it’s a real rookie mistake. Why put all that time into creating a great useful post that will draw readers to you, when you then repel them by including a bunch of typos and run-on sentences? It’s sloppy and stupid.

Do 8: Come back to your post the next day and edit it.

Remove redundancies. Eliminate jargon. Take out excess adverbs and adjectives. Run spell check. Break up big chunks of text. Use sub-heads, bold-face, color and images to draw the reader’s eye to your main points and make it easier to scan. Do it the next day, when you’re fresh and can look at your post from a different perspective.

Don’t 9: You let great get in the way of good.

This used to be a big problem for me. I’m a perfectionist by nature. It was hard for me to hit the “publish” button. Please learn from my mistakes and don’t obsess! If you’ve followed all of the “Do’s” outlined above, your post will be ready for prime time.

Do 9: Hit the “publish” button once you’ve done your due diligence.

Make yourself a checklist and post it next to your computer. Go through it after you’ve finished writing. Once you’re done, publish your post!

Don’t 10: You publish erratically.

Consistency is key if you want to build a following for your blog.

Do 10: Develop a content editorial calendar and stick to your publishing schedule.

It’s been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. A content editorial calendar keeps you organized and on track. You commit to your blog having a consistent presence, so your audience can commit to looking for you and reading you.  You don’t become one of those TV shows we all stopped watching because their schedule became so erratic we couldn’t remember when/where to find them. By planning ahead, you drive perseverance.

Don’t 11: You fail to include an image.

It’s often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. When it comes to blog articles this is true in spades! Our culture is increasingly visual to the point where articles with images get 94% more views! Marketers who are embracing visual content are seeing huge returns in terms of more readers, leads, customers and revenue.

Do 11: Include at least one image in your blog post.

This should be a no-brainer based on the research cited above (and all over the internet). Your blog posts have a purpose. You want them to engage folks. Visual content is a huge driver of engagement. You can afford it, because there are plenty of online sites offering free image downloads today. Just search for them and pick one.  And check out Jeff Bullas’ The Ultimate Guide to Using Images in Social Media. He’ll give you all sorts of tips and tricks for using images to their greatest effect. Enough said.

Don’t 12: You fail to include a call to action as a next step.

Once you’ve published your post you want folks who read it to do something.   What is that? How will your readers know what you want them to do? Too often blog posts end with a whimper. The reader gets all the way to the end, only to be left with that lead balloon feeling of “so what?

Do 12: Include a clear call to action.

This will increase your conversion rate (i.e., turning first-time readers into subscribers; turning ongoing readers into donors) and improve the return on investment for the time you put into crafting and publishing your post. Simple calls to action include:

  • Subscribe to our blog.
  • Comment on this post.
  • Share this post.
  • Please donate.

For more on creating effective calls to action, read this free guide from Hubspot.

Don’t 13: You fail to build relationships.

When you ignore people who do as you’ve asked, it’s just plain rude. It discourages them. It can even anger them. Conversely, when you interact with folks it can encourage others to interact as well. Creating a dialogue is one of the primary benefits of a blog, enabling you to get to know your constituents in ways that were previously cost-prohibitive. Don’t waste your opportunities.

Do 13: Respond to folks who take the time to interact with you through your blog.

If they comment on your post, reply back to them. If they share your post on social media or via email, thank them. If one of your active constituents has their own blog, go to their site and make a comment or share their post. If you see they have a large following, ask them nicely if they would consider sharing your post with their network. And so forth.

binderlayingopen 550x634 1 e1405302761651 A Baker’s Dozen of Nonprofit Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – Pt.2

Discover How a Blog Can Drive Donor Acquisition, Retention and Support

If you found this post useful, you may be interested in my brand new  Nonprofit Blogging Playbook.

Get as many Guides as you want or need (if you buy all four, I offer a “Bundle Bargain” discount). A great blog is one of the best investments you can make in acquiring and retaining more donors. Learn how with this 4-volume set that will teach you (1) blog fundamentals; (2) content folks will want to read; (3) how to use your content to engage folks, and (4) how to promote your blog so it builds momentum and drives more potential supporters to your website. Plus, I stand by all my Clairification products.  If you’re not happy, there’s a no questions asked full refund policy. The only way to lose is by doing nothing. Don’t be a loser! 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

A Baker’s Dozen of Nonprofit Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – Pt.1

baker 300x280 A Baker’s Dozen of Nonprofit Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – Pt.1

Warm up with a baker’s dozen of nonprofit blogging tips.

If you’ve been reading Clairification you know by now that I’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits.  If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get one. Pronto! Yup, I think they’re that important.

And don’t tell me you don’t have the bandwidth. You absolutely do. You just have to rethink your modus operandi. You know you have to communicate with folks, right? Well, do it by blogging rather than what you’re doing now.

I’ll wager your blog will outperform every other communication strategy you have in terms of driving folks to your site, informing them about your cause and getting them actively engaged in what you do.

But…don’t just slap crap up there. If that’s what you do (or have done) it won’t work. You’ll have wasted your precious time.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid wasting your resources if you know what to look out for.   So let’s take a look at some key blogging mistakes (don’ts) and tips (do’s) on how to avoid them. I’ve got a baker’s dozen for you for good luck; today we’ll begin with the first six:

Don’t 1: You think of topics with no thought to the value to your reader. 

Perhaps the most common problem bloggers must address is valuable content. A study by Sirius Decisions shows that around two-thirds of B2B content doesn’t get used. What a colossal waste of these businesses resources!

If you want content that will “go viral” it’s got to have practical value to your constituents. They must find it meaningful and they must be able to act upon it immediately, without too much effort. When people care they share. If folks don’t see the need to open or share your content, you’ve wasted your time writing your post.

Do 1: Think from the perspective of your reader: Will this post be useful to them?

You’ve got to be honest here. The fact that your organization won an award is not useful to your donor. The fact that they can win an award by engaging with you (e.g., playing a game, entering a contest, responding with a comment, etc.) is. The fact that you added new caseworkers to your staff is not useful. A list of “Top 10 Tips to Keep Seniors Safe” is.

Don’t’ 2: You think of topics randomly, rather than according to a plan.

Just as there are many fish in the sea, there are many good ideas for blog posts. But if they don’t serve your current strategic goals, they’re not a good idea for you at this particular point in time.

Do 2: Think of topics that serve your strategic goals.

Never forget to answer the “why” question. Always begin by jotting down the key take-aways you want your reader to leave with. Why are you blogging? The most likely reason is to increase awareness of your cause (and the urgent need for what you do) and grow your base of support. Does a blog post that narrates the biography of your Founder do this? Nope. What does? Generally posts that align with reader concerns are those that are most read. Ask your receptionist what questions s/he is most frequently asked. Answering these questions in your blog has the side benefit of not having to answer them over and over again. Piggyback on news stories that are likely top-of-mind for readers and also relate to your work. This has the side benefit of establishing you as an authority on a topic of relevance to many of your readers.

Don’t’ 3: You write like a professor, lawyer, engineer or robot.

People won’t read stuff online that’s above a 6th or 7th grade reading level. They won’t understand jargon. And they want to have a little fun; not read a term paper.

Do 3: Write like you talk.

Make your content conversational if you want it to engage folks. Read it out loud before you publish it. Feel free to break the rules of grammar you learned in middle school, and begin sentences with prepositions. Use contractions. Play with one word sentences. Loosen up and be real.

Don’t 4: You think people care about your perspective on yourself.

You may think folks will swoon when you tell them you’re the “biggest,” “first,” or most “world class” organization doing what you do. Get rid of superlatives that make you sound full of yourself.

Do 4: Show your best attributes; don’t tell them.

Make it about the reader and the benefits they care about. Put your personality into your writing. If you’re cutting edge and hip, show folks; don’t tell them (maybe tell a joke or make a cultural reference). Use donor-centric language rather than organization-centric language. Lose the words “we,” “our” and “I” in place of “you.”

Don’t 5: You write in generalities rather than specifics.

It’s tempting when you begin blogging to write about the broad topics your organization addresses like:

  • Assuring justice for the disenfranchised.
  • Sending underprivileged youth to college.
  • Saving our green spaces.

People can’t relate when problems are too big. They want to see a specific problem to which they understand you are offering a specific solution.

Do 5: Create posts on specific subjects with specifics worked into the titles.

Review “Do 1.” Once you’ve identified a topic of value to your readers, create a specific working title to focus your writing. For example:

  • How to prevent seniors from illegal evictions.
  • A complete guide to saving for college.
  • Top 5 environmental benefits of green spaces.

A working title doesn’t have to be your final title. It just makes writing your post easier because it prevents you from taking detours that distract the reader from what you hope will be their main take-away. You can make your title catchier later on.

Don’t 5: You write stream of consciousness.

Sure, a few brilliant writers can do this effectively. Most of us, however, just create verbal diarrhea. It’s a mess. And, as you probably already know, today’s readers mostly scan rather than read. If you’ve given them a mess, they have no framework for scanning.

Do 5: Start with an outline.

Putting in the time up front to assure you’re making the points you want to make (but not too many) will save you oodles of time later on trying to edit and pare down your article. Plus, your headers and sub-headers will become your reader’s scanning triggers. Similarly, use bold-face and underlining to draw your readers’ eyes to your most important points.

You can download free blog post templates from Hubspot here.

Don’t 6: You make unsubstantiated claims.

It’s super annoying when someone makes a claim like “1 in 4 children in our community are hungry”, without letting you know where they found that research.

Do 6: Go through your post and link to articles or research that support your claims.

This has the added benefit of saving you time and space. The folks who want to know more specifics can easily do so; those who don’t will not have to wade through all the data.

Keep your eyes peeled for seven more “do’s and don’ts” to round out our baker’s dozen next week. Meanwhile…

binderlayingopen 550x634 1 e1405302761651 A Baker’s Dozen of Nonprofit Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – Pt.1

Discover How a Blog Can Drive Donor Support

If you found this post useful, you may be interested in my brand new Nonprofit Blogging Playbook.

The Playbook includes 4 separate Guides; get as many as you want or need (if you buy all four, I offer a “Bundle Bargain” discount). A great blog is one of the best investments you can make in acquiring and retaining more donors. Learn how with this 4-volume set that will teach you (1) blog fundamentals; (2) content folks will want to read; (3) how to use your content to engage folks, and (4) how to promote your blog so it builds momentum and drives more potential supporters to your website. Plus, I stand by all my Clairification products.  If you’re not happy, there’s a no questions asked full refund policy. The only way to lose is by doing nothing. Don’t be a loser! 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

To Blog, or Not to Blog? Only if You Do it Right. Do You?

baby sucking pacifier 300x300 To Blog, or Not to Blog? Only if You Do it Right. Do You?

Is this what your readers get from your blog posts? A big sucking sound? You may think it’s cute, but… think again. You really don’t want your blog to SUCK!

Do you have a mature social media operation, or are you just a baby? Or a teen? Babies babble. Teens make it all about themselves. Are you simply using Twitter to babble? Facebook to say “look at me?”  Or have you embraced a more full-grown strategy?  The best place to start, and the fastest way to get there, is with a blog.

Next to email, blogs are the most mature form of social media.

 

They’ve been around the longest, and they’re pretty tried-and-true. Continue Reading

Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

dinosaur 300x300 Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

When it’s our time to go, we all gotta go — dinosaurs and pyramids alike!

An Open Letter to Andrea Kihlstedt — Part 1

[I am responding to Andrea Kihlstedt’s Open Letter to me, Is The Donor Pyramid Really Dead, in the Guidestar blog. She was responding to my recent posts on the death of the Donor Pyramid in Fundraising Success Magazine: R.I.P. Donor Pyramid? and Maximize Social Business Blog How Social Media Toppled the Donor Pyramid – What that Means for Nonprofits.]

First, let me say this is a great dialogue to be having. The donor pyramid is a sacred dinosaur, and it’s good to challenge old assumptions from time to time. After all, the dinosaurs had a very good run, but even they became extinct.

Andrea says “no, the pyramid is alive and well,” making the case that (especially in capital campaigns) not all donors are equal. She also finds use for the pyramid in other campaigns, noting a Kickstarter campaign she recently worked on in which the biggest gifts came from donors who were approached face-to-face rather than via online strategies.Continue Reading

How to Hire a Fundraiser: Don’t Try to Make a Chicken out of a Fish-Pt.2

chicken out of fish 300x271 How to Hire a Fundraiser: Don’t Try to Make a Chicken out of a Fish Pt.2

No matter what you do, you can’t make a chicken out of a fish.

In Part 1 of this article I outlined the performance habits (practice) and innate qualities (psychology) to look for in a candidate for a chief fundraising job. I encouraged you to ask candidates questions that probe for these behaviors and qualities.

Equally important to the questions you ask the candidate are the questions s/he asks you.
Continue Reading

How to Hire a Fundraiser: Practice and Psychology

Hire Me 198x300 How to Hire a Fundraiser: Practice and Psychology

I’m a people person.

I happen to currently be working with a number of nonprofits who are seeking to hire the perfect development officer. It’s got me thinking about what to look for in a candidate, and how to best assess someone’s likely ability to perform the job as you need them to perform it.

Of course, this will vary from organization to organization. But if you’re seeking someone to fill a one-person or two-person development shop, there is remarkable similarity in the performance habits (practice) and innate qualities (psychology) that will spell success.Continue Reading

You’re Not Alone: What to Do When Leadership Loses Its Way- Pt. 2

follow the leader 300x225 You’re Not Alone: What to Do When Leadership Loses Its Way  Pt. 2

Is “leader” (or “director”) just a word in your job title? Or is it something you do?

In my last post of this two-part series, “You’re Not Alone: What to Do When You Start to Fail at Fundraising,” I discussed what can happen to organizations when leadership begins to lose its way. This can occur for any number of reasons.

Why Leadership Loses it’s Way

  • FOUNDER LEAVES with no succession plan in place.
  • Founder STAYS TOO LONG, and their founding vision no longer resonates with an evolving constituency and/or landscape.
  • Significant staff and/or board TURNOVER at the executive level.
  • No board turnover, terms of office or adherence to BYLAWS dictating board roles and responsibilities.
  • Organizational INFRASTRUCTURE is dysfunctional (e.g., there are too few committees; all the real work gets done in executive committee; power is lopsided in favor of the E.D. or the board; there is no governance committee holding members accountable; staff support for board is insufficient; board refuse to accept their responsibility for financing).
  • Organization’s leaders are good at MANAGING only one way (e.g. during a period of growth, contraction or status quo) but are not so good at managing through another modality.
  • Organization lacks SKILLS and/or access to RESOURCES essential to survival in a changing environment
  • … and more.

Most organizations share similar traits.  That being said,  every organization is different and I definitely don’t believe in cookie cutter solutions.  In an upcoming post I’ll discuss how to embrace your organization’s particular challenges and face them head on.

Today I’d like to share with you a few  ‘quick and dirty’ recommendations that most commonly flow from the development audits I conduct for organizations who find themselves in this situation.  While you may not need to make changes in all of these areas, my hunch is that if your fundraising has plateaued or has been heading steadily downward, you’ll want to be considering changes in these key areas.

A 6-Step Road Map to Successfully Turn Things Around

  1. Integrate fundraising and marketing under the leadership of a seasoned development professional.

Nonprofit marketing and fundraising have changed more in the past five years than the preceding 50. The digital revolution ended business as usual. Per the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, the biggest challenges nonprofits face today are:

  • donor acquisition;
  • community engagement;
  • brand awareness, and
  • donor retention.

You must attack your greatest challenges head on as you move forward. You won’t succeed if you try to do this catch-as-catch can, leaving folks to figure out what to do on their own. More than ever, successful development requires strategic leadership. You’re in a battle to win over donor hearts – not just once, but over and over to sustain and build loyalty you can count on. You won’t win the war unless you pull together your team, and your resources, and get everyone together on the same page. And that page must be in line with the way today’s donors and advocates research, engage, and ultimately support organizations.

Fundraising and marketing must be seamlessly integrated. They cannot be separate silos any longer. Staff with responsibilities in these areas must speak the same language.  Responsibilities must be clearly assigned, both to prevent fights over territory and to assure nothing slips through the cracks. Department meetings should be held regularly so everyone understands the role they play in contributing towards the big picture goal.

  1. Clarify the role of the board, both as a whole (governance) and as individual members (financing).
  • Work through a Governance Committee to make a plan to add more qualified board members– develop job descriptions, identify needed skills and recruit new members who understand their leadership role in both governance and financing, and assign staff to actively support members and develop customized development work plans with manageable ambassador, advocacy and asking assignments for each individual.
  • Make a formal plan for recruiting and training leadership volunteers — board, associate advisory group and other volunteers to expand volunteer participation and engagement.
  • Expand the Fundraising Committee (consider adding a few former board,  major donors, other committee or direct service volunteers or other influencers) and clarify their role overseeing, evaluating and approving fundraising initiatives. Delegate subcommittees, as needed, to steer major initiatives , events or campaigns.
  1. Build and develop a board and committee structure to evolve to a stronger, more engaged and more diversified fundraising board.
  • Clarify the role of standing committees, ad hoc committees and subcommittees in moving fundraising/marketing forward .
  •  Schedule regular meetings with your full board to reinforce  the strategic ways in which different committees interact and to inspire energy around vision/mission/values).
  • Consider a retreat to discuss  committee (as a whole) assignments and ambassador, advocate and asker tasks (for individual members).
  1. Clarify your mission/vision goals; case for support, and stories.
  • Engage in team-building exercises to energize board and staff and reconnect them with their passions for this work (include time to socialize; learn about each other).
  • Engage in skill-finding exercises and skill-building workshops to re-enforce strength areas and build confidence and collaboration (e.g. “Gallup Strengths Finder for staff; Branding, Personas, Storytelling and/or Content Marketing for all; Fundraising training for board).
  1. Develop and implement a clearly articulated written strategic development plan.
  • Build and polish prospect lists to acquire new donors.
  • Develop and implement a customer-centered stewardship system to renew and upgrade donors.
  • Reframe, consolidate or eliminate strategies that are no longer working effectively.
  1. Build an inbound content marketing program to support development.

You can’t do anything if you don’t have the supporters you need to see your mission through to fruition.  You’ve got to spend money to make money.  These days that means investing in staff and technology that allows you to build relationships online. The digital revolution has ended business as usual. Today, you’ve got to invest time in thinking how to make dynamic frameworks that serve fundraising. Pair your passion to further your mission with the incredibly exciting fact that digital tools and channels will ensure that the way you can engage with people will be constantly evolving. So no one can afford to sit back and wait to follow. The world moves too fast today. There’s simply no substitute for leadership. This is beautifully summarized in Tony Elischer’s Rebuilding the Donor Pyramid:

In the digital world of fundraising it is the leaders who reap the rewards, rarely the followers.

TO LEARN TO LEAD YOUR NONPROFIT TOWARDS SUCCESS…

Get the 7 Clairification Keys to Unlock Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Potential. Through a series of clairifying worksheets and individual and group exercises, this 23-page guide will give you fresh insights into how fundraising and marketing have changed more in the past 5 years than in the previous 50.

Image courtesy of freedigitalimages.net

 

Clairity Click-it: Post Broken Arm Edition

Mouse mouse2 300x202 Clairity Click it: Post Broken Arm Edition

Click it!

This is my first post-broken arm Clairity Click-it – especially hand picked (and I mean that quite literally!) for you. I’m still in a sling for at least four more weeks; maybe more. I leave you to enjoy the fruits of my perusing and one-armed pecking.

The Future of Nonprofit MarketingContinue Reading

You’re Not Alone: What To Do When You Start To Fail at Fundraising

sinking ship 216x300 You’re Not Alone: What To Do When You Start To Fail at Fundraising

It may be noble for the Captain to go down with the sinking ship, but a compelling fundraising offer it is not.

Once upon a time (around about 2008) a big mean recession cast its dark shadow over many a nonprofit. Grantors cut back on funding. Donors zipped up their wallets. Salaries and benefits got cut. Seasoned professionals were laid off, or left voluntarily. Others lasted awhile, but became increasingly discouraged.

Six years out from the biggest stock market crash since 1929, I’m beginning to hear a lot of organizations crying “Uncle!” These are the ones that, for reasons unbeknownst to them, have not rebounded. And they’re desperately trying to beat back the wolf at the door.

The thing they fear most? Failure.Continue Reading