Friday, March 23, 2012

Imaginative and Courageous Communications

Recently at the 2nd annual ADRP NYC conference, I was fortunate enough to present the keynote address. In it, I challenged my peers and colleagues to dare to be different, to innovate beyond their current status quo, and to take calculated risks, especially with their donor communications.

Now, I present the same challenge to you, my ever faithful readership, which has now blossomed to over 4000 professionals weekly and climbing! What have you done lately to let your donors know they matter? How have you changed the way you communicate? If you haven't maybe you should....

You see all we have to do is to write brilliantly, package it superbly, and to present it in a way that will captivate, thrill and inspire.

No short order, right? Well since pictures are worth a thousand words and this Friday I seem to be short on words, I will let you know what I mean visually.

We must NOT:

Check out the title of the attachment-- Emily Post would have had a stroke!
This is an example of an organization, in this case Northwestern University, failing to understand not only proper manners and the technological savvy of their donors, or in this case non donors, but it also represents an internal dialogue about how they speak and communicate. Do you think they will ever regain those people's trust?? I think it's more of an uphill battle than they could ever recognize. What it boils down to though is carelessness. In this age of get it done now, faster, more, NOW! No one remembered that people are receiving these communications!! Good grief! It's a slap your head moment reminiscent of the failed Komen communications following their missteps.

Now, onto a positive example: this one came to me via my monthly Elle magazine. When I saw it during my morning commute, I wanted to show it to everyone on my train! But this being NYC and all, I just kept it to myself (never make eye contact on the subway). I digress.

This is not an endorsement of the Girl Scouts, this is an all out fanfare an bravo to this piece of communication! Not only is this ad striking, it is one of the best examples of donor stewardship impact I have seen in a while! The cookies are yummy looking and addictive, true, but it is the stories behind them that truly empower. Sure, I just ate 3000 calories an am now hiding the boxes because they're evidence but little Julie just earned a new badge! It's simplicity is its power. No small print, no elongated fact sheet, just simple, attractive and powerful communication.
How can you tell your story?

I now have this piece on my inspiration board as something to aspire to. What do you inspire to?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spreading the Joy, the Thank a Thon

I woke up this morning tired beyond belief. I didn't get home until after 10pm last night, which is really late for a girl that gets up at 5 every morning! Regardless of lack of rest, I cannot be mad. For the past two nights we have had our first ever thank a thon at my organization.

I have implemented this wherever I go and think its one of the best investments of time effort and money an organization can do. What's a thank a thon? Think the exact opposite of a phone a thon... Student callers make calls for hours on end, just to thank donors, nothing less than an honest and sincere expression of gratitude!! Calling donors just to say thanks is a magical thing, they're always waiting for the other show to drop, awaiting an ask... Surprise!! There isn't one! The students love it too because they get to express appreciation to those that have supported them directly.

So here are some tips and ideas for how to conduct your own thank a thon!

1. Segment wisely: we used 5 segments and ordered them in priority: scholarship donors, donors of 10 or more consecutive calendar years at any amount, mid level donors, first time givers, and those in our top giving society of $1 million plus lifetime cumulative 2. Separate thank you scripts were written for each group and placed at the top Of the color coded sheet, with spaces for whether or not they reached someone, voicemail or bad # and a comments section.

3. In addition I used this opportunity to acquire emails and so anyone with a blank email was asked to provide one so we could thank them digitally!

4. Follow up with those we couldn't reach or left a voicemail will be digitally through email thank yous with photos of the student callers 5. Although I was unable to do it this year, in years past at other organizations, I have invited staff, faculty, senior administration and trustees to join in and have done a reverse pyramid thank a thon. Students call the biggest donors with people like the president of the university or trustees calling first time donors or loyalty donors, imagine making a first time gift of $25 and getting a call from the chairman of the board!! It's magical!

6. For those consecutive givers I always put how many years they have given so try can be acknowledged properly, it is amazing how that special touch goes such a long way!!!

7. There is NEVER an ask... That doesn't mean we don't raise money, this year in two nights we pulled in an additional $25k from people who were overwhelmed by the simple act of being thanked... Who says stewardship doesn't make money???

8. The data acquired from these calls is valuable and is immediately updated in our database, from numbers that no longer work, to new spouses or unfortunately people who have passed on, it is a wonderful way to help cull information!

So what are (originally my phone autocorrected this to "ate"... comical) the downsides?? As you reinforce a culture of gratitude at your organization, there will be questions from donors and awkward pauses while they wait for you to make an ask that never happens, but in reality it is win win on all sides, student phone a thon callers see what it's like to be grateful, and donors are delighted by the simple act of thankfulness.

I would love to hear your stories, examples or questions!