Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Social Media!

Last week I went down home, to the south, to present at CASE District III. It felt great to have a new audience, make new friends and be wrapped up in the kind of hug that only the south can give... But I digress.

The session I felt had the most pop and response from my audience was the one on social media. From the moment I began to when I finished the conversations at the bar (lol) I felt that it was one of the best I had done and one of the best audiences I have ever had! So what follows will be a short discussion of the high notes including links to articles and videos and some clever photos I steal at every moment! First, the video I show at the beginning of every social media session for those who are still wavering on the non believer side.

And a couple of explanatory photos about social media and links to some simple tutorials:

LINK: 12 Awesome Tutorials

Social media is just like a cocktail party where everyone is invited. You have the wallflowers, the listeners, the conversation starters and those who contribute content and this great mix is the human experience of interaction, just in a virtual arena and medium. Remember your first party? Scary at first, but once you figure it out and give it the old college try (irony intended) not so bad after all, pretty soon you were the one doing keg stands and jello shots, or uhm, maybe that's just me!

Regardless, if you aren't building a social media strategy just like you do a development strategy, you are missing out on a free way to engage with your constituents and to make them feel valuable and thanked. Regardless of the platform, meeting donors where they are comfortable is the first step, then shut up and listen for a while. The worst use of social media is when I read feeds or see pages that are full of news and announcements, hello?? You can and already do that on your website. Social media is not a place to regurgitate your press releases and announcements in abbreviated form. It's about a conversation, as someone just pointed out for AFP here. And you know what? Its NOT about you!!!

Social media is a place to interact, to share, to converse, like at the open bar of a networking event! It's not about what you want to say, it's about what others are saying about you and how you can join the dialogue. What does this mean for us as fundraisers? It means that social media isn't an afterthought, something you tack onto your communication plans. Social media is integrated in everything we do, how we communicate with our donors and how we live together with them supporting a common mission in a public space. It's not the solution to all of your woes, no magic bullet, and isn't going to generate millions of cash overnight. What it will do us allow your constituents to understand you, know you are listening and responding in their preferred medium and slow for an open exchange of ideas.

Don't restrict or censor your social media, being a pseudo online dictator the online community self polices just fine! But what you MUST do, is capture the information you glean from your participants. Last week I did a live demonstration of some of the free aggregate capabilities of linked in to a room of stunned folks, showing intensely valuable data on my connections while the room scribbled notes, this shouldn't have been a surprise to this room. Linked in is one of the most valuable tools that is untapped by research departments industry wide. The first thing I do upon returning home from a conference with a stack of business cards, besides writing a hand written note to everyone, is to add these new connections to my linked in profile. That way when people call me, like the two recruiters looking to hire yesterday, I have these folks at my virtual fingertips for referrals!

Ask your research department if they are updating employment information using social media, if the answer is no, ask why not? Hmmmm...
I'm getting long winded so I'll stop here for now and let you leave comments and questions for the next post...

For now here's an article on the latest social media platform we're all playing with, Pinterest...


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Planned Giving Stewardship

What are you doing for your donors who have left their ultimate gift? Two years ago I spoke at the Planned Giving Group of New England about incorporating technology into planned giving stewardship with many raised eyebrows. So here are some things to think about... Some places send birthday cards, while these are cute and thoughtful, my Dad for one doesn't want too many reminders that his age creeps up year after year,(he now counts backwards). How about sending strategic information about best using retirement resources? You can send this cheaply by sending a postcard with a link or an email.

Yes, most planned giving donors have a computer and internet, they are the #1 growing demographic on Facebook, too, a great way for them to connect with lost classmates! How about sending them webcams or having students and staff teaching them how to Skype with loved ones near and far? My parents love to skype with me, we had a virtual Christmas this year and I got to see them open their presents live, it was fabulous! Once they have the technology and know how to use it, instead of inviting them to events, have the events come to them incorporating video chats with students, attending classes by webinar, having investment forums where they can learn from you. All of these things steward donors who are otherwise forgotten.

Are they on all of your invitation lists? They should be, even if they can't attend, the invitation and inclusiveness is meaningful. Many planned giving donors have vast life experience and would love to share that with your organization, engage them as targeted volunteers. Have them guest lecture if they are close by, use them to tell their stories in your magazines! My alma mater USC, (go gamecocks!) recently had us write congratulatory notes to recently admitted students- great stewardship of me as a volunteer and a wonderful activity for a planned giving donor to share their experiences!!

The idea here is that they not be dismissed  and not engaged as a part of your donor community. These are people that have made a wonderful and lasting commitment to your organization and deserve to be celebrated. Even if you do one new thing for them, it's better than what it was! So what are your ideas? Have a plan to share? I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Donor Relations and Follow Through

First of all I would like to take the time and space to thank those who do generously contributed to the stewardship report swap from across the continent. In addition to posting the results HERE, I have updated parts of my site with links to great videos, donor relations websites, vendors and resources I use and more, check it out!

Lately I have been thinking a great deal about what donor relations means to our organizations, and how we as professionals can better express that to both our internal constituents and our donors as well. Boiling down our profession into an elevator speech isn't easy so this week I wanted to discuss one of the traits of a finely honed donor relations shop, follow through. At the core of what we do is build and enhance relationships. But what does that look like? For me, a big part of it is doing what I said I was going to, never letting a ball drop or a donor slip through the cracks, going the extra step to make sure the circle is complete.

Y'all might be saying, this seems pretty basic Lynne, duh! It might seem that way so let me share an anecdote that happened to me.  Mr. X received a letter from his scholarship student and in turn, sent a letter to my VP asking for some more detailed information on the student and his fund. This in turn was handed over to me. I pulled all of the information together, read the student letter, a great one!, and worked on a response to the donor. Since good donor relations is in the details I also noticed that the letter came in an envelope from another university upstate. I mentioned it in my letter and off it went to Mr.X.

Four days later, I received another letter from Mr. X thanking me for my prompt response and a check for $4000. My favorite kind of letters!!! After looking up his giving history, we noticed that he gave $1000 faithfully to his scholarship every year, never more, never less. After giving a copy of the letter and gift to my VP, we decided that he should call Mr X to thank him personally for his increase. I sat in his office anxiously as he called him in his office at said upstate school. He was so gracious and warm, he hadn't had a call from a fundraiser here in a while because we believed he had made his last gift. In fact, this wasn't the case. Mr. X asked VP if he could come down for a visit and for Shabbat. He wanted to meet his student. No problem. And then the other shoe dropped, "Can I also talk to you about leaving my estate to you?" he had no children, was a professor, was about to retire, and had quite a nestegg!

You see, he had requested information from other places he donated by writing their VPs and we were the only ones to respond personally and with detailed enthusiasm. We made a difference simply through good donor relations and proper follow through. To be honest, a $1000 a year donor isn't noteworthy for us. But EVERY donor deserves the type of follow through he received. And that is good donor relations, it is also good for your metrics. Talk about tangible outcome of a stewardship effort! I can track every penny of that bequest and $4000 to our direct efforts, that isn't subjective.

So when you are evaluating and measuring the effectiveness of your program, is follow through one of your metrics? Conversely I have many stories of the reverse as well, what will your story be? I'd love to hear about it!