Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Donor Segments: Champions, Friends, Acquaintances

I am always reading the newest and latest survey of donor motivations, online giving and other factors abut donors. Recently, my friend Ann sent me a new report and white paper based on a new segmentation entitled, "champions, friends, and acquaintances". You can find the entire report here. But for those of you without long subway commutes (I highly frown upon reading charts and graphs while driving) I thought I would give you some key point and my thoughts on them here.

This study truly reinforces a multi channel approach to donor communications that I have been advocating for years now. What is most notable here is the donor's strong preference for email. This preference encompasses an ever increasing shift in constituent mindset. While personal communication for many of us is king, what we realize here is that our donors rely on email not only for its convenience but also for its perceived cost savings to an organization where fiscal responsibility is paramount. However, before we dismiss print and face to face meetings altogether, we must realize that, once again, data must drive our strategy. If we do not possess the email addresses for our champions, how can we effectively communicate in their preferred manor?

This leads me to advocate to all of you the importance of email acquisition in every part of your donor interactions. But how can we obtain email addresses?  Here are a few tips: in order to attend an event, they must give you an email address. Period. That means guests, alumni, friends, anyone who gets a free cocktail and passed snack, gives an email address. When they register or RSVP, if you don't have their email, ask for it or have an iPad out with an easy email form to imput data as they come in the door? Go to your fundraisers and empty their outlook contacts and input them in your database, you'd be surprised what you will find. Run an in house email acquisition campaign. That means faculty, administration, and staff, anyone who has contact, pull those emails out and place them in your database. Finally you can run an email acquisition campaign through social media and to help find lost alumni and friends. To see an example, click this link and watch what we did at NYU Poly using a comped seat on an alumni travel program and some creativity.

One of the best takeaways from this new segmentation of constituents prompted me to think about my friends and acquaintances and what I can do in my daily work to bring them to champions. As many of you know from my talks, I am a big believer in the bless and release philosophy based on the popcorn eaters story I tell, if you want to hear the story, email me and I will tell you. The fact remains that for all of the good work we do and the effort and dollars spent, some of our acquaintances will never become friends or champions. Bless them and then release them. Focus your efforts on moving those friends to champions. When you have perfected that and have tons of hours on your hands, and have exhausted your online shopping budget, you can focus on the disengaged. When you get there, call me, I want to know what that feels like.

How exactly do we do this? Here are some tips: we must find out from them through feedback methods and analytics, what it is that is meaningful to them. From the three case studies in the white paper, we can see that depending on the organization, these populations can differ yet some of their behavioral tendencies are mirrored. We must segment and adapt our messaging, sometimes by repurposing the same message and targeting each group intentionally, and then analyzing their engagement, response and interest. Once we have tendencies and donor motivations for each group, we can better communicate with our friends and acquaintances and ask them what would it take to move them into the champion group. Additionally, learning from our donors what other organizations they support and benchmarking with those other organizations and learning from them is vital. We all have a great deal to learn from not only our donors (if we ask them) but also from each other. See something constantly cross your desk from a board member or champion that is produced by another organization? Pick up the phone and call them, learn about their methodologies and how they view their segments of constituents. You'll accomplish a couple of important things. You'll make the day of the person you call to flatter. You'll come away with new ideas for your program and you'll be able to tell your donor about the experience and build a stronger bridge to them by demonstrating you can listen and that their feedback is meaningful to them.

I would love to hear what your reactions to this white paper are, and how you intend to think of your segmentation. Also congratulations to the many of you closing the fiscal year this week! Take Saturday and Sunday off as a reward!



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Over involved donors?

Seems like an oxymoron doesn't it? Our whole profession is built on the premise that we do as much as possible to engage our constituents and have them move closer to our organization. But when is close too close? Recent events at the University of Virginia,(for more articles on this topic google it) and other stories (FSU, lawsuits galore elsewhere) remind us that while donors are partners in our organizations and trusted friends and allies in the good fight, there is a professional distance that needs to be demonstrated.

 For those of us in universities, this is demonstrated mostly in donors wanting to establish a scholarship, and then have control over the recipients or the selection process. This is a big no no.  Donors cannot be involved in the selection of students and cannot make the qualifications so restrictive that the scholarship can only be given to one student. This isn't a gift, it's a tuition payment and isn't tax deductible. If you have a situation like this work to remedy it immediately, it's not beneficial for you or your organization and can lead to disastrous results.

This may require some "crucial conversations" with colleagues, leadership, and even donors. Don't know what a "crucial conversation" is? I highly suggest everyone in the nonprofit world buy the book here and read it and then share it. I promise, I don't get a percentage of the sales, but if this book can help you the way it has helped me, that's all the benefit I need.

As donors and our relationships with them become more complex and their needs become more sophisticated, it is indeed our pleasure and our burden to help manage these expectations and desires with the realities, legalities, and organizational priorities. At its essence, it becomes an educational process for our constituents, our staff, and ourselves. What does this process look like? I would highly recommend you use the donor bill of rights and the statement of ethical guidelines  as a beginning for your efforts and move forward from there. The great thing about these documents is that they set up a wonderful framework that can serve as a guide for your efforts. I would also say that there are elements of gut instincts and common sense that come into play here. The old adage about things too good to be true usually applies. More interestingly, this educational process will allow our organizations to enhance communications and break down silos to further productive effort that funnel back to the mission of our organizations.

At the core of what we do is engagement and relationship building. But like all relationships, boundaries must be established and built so that there are productive results for all involved. Donors don't want to be caught up in the fallout from a mess like UVA's and organizations cannot afford to lose the trust of their other donors by suffering the consequences of a relationship gone wrong.  Learn from others' mistakes and make sure that you, as the donor's advocate and engagement officer keep these things in mind as relationships are built.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the issues at hand.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Proactive and Strategic vs Reactive and Transactional

One of the biggest differences in the past few years in the evolution of donor relations and stewardship as a profession and area of intense focus for most fundraising shops is the progression of thought about donors and our activities surrounding them. Yes, we are becoming more donor focused than ever, with for the most of us our mantra becoming, "if it benefits our donor and our relationship with them, we must do it".   

Many people constantly ask me what the new face of donor relations will look like, the answer for me is basic; strategic, forward thinking donor relations programs are not only the future, they are the here and now.

When the profession began, it began out of necessity, who was going to provide things and services for donors that fundraisers didn't have the time or resources to do? Let's give it to donor relations, they are the reactors, problem solvers, those who get it done. The problem with this mindset toward donor relations is that it is reactive, transactional and does not allow for forward thinking and planning. If you're always reacting and doing the tasks, how do you plan for the future?

Now, donor relations and stewardship, at least those who run sophisticated, donor focused strategic shops, is largely proactive, relationship based and forward looking. 
So, how do you change a reactionary, task oriented program into a strategic innovative one and what does that look like?

Here are some tips:

1. Stop waiting for gifts and situations to happen to your organization and anticipate the needs of your donors before requests happen. The best way to do this? Obtain feedback from your current constituency about their needs and desires for the future.

2. Create strategic plans around each area of your operations. Let me be clear, these aren't lists of tasks you do as a result of a gift, these are initiatives that fall into place when giving happens. Do you have this for acknowledgments, reporting, naming opportunities, events, and do you have a program that fills the gaps? How are you working with your data team to find rich data streams that will allow robust analysis of your constituency? Remember data always drives your strategy; be it from your database, peers, donors or other places, your strategy must have solid roots.

3. Find pathways to direct contact with your donors. Your contact with them should be holistic in manner and not just when they call to RSVP or need parking or catering advice. You should have a portfolio of relationships that you help maintain and service, always looking for the forward thinking opportunity to build from.

4. Have you thought lately about those donors that fall through the cracks? What are you doing for them? Consider a blanket stewardship program that can cover multiple populations through the implementation of a measured, strategic combination of communications, unique opportunities and other items, engaging your donors across multiple platforms and experiences. For more ideas, check out my blanket stewardship program in the slides here.

5. Have you evaluated your program from a metrics and ROI based approach lately? How cost effective are your efforts? Are they working for your populations? I'm not talking a task audit here folks, I'm talking about real dissection of your programs, evaluating efficiencies, ways in which you ate involved across your department and whether or not everything you do is donor focused or if you are just doing it because you always have.
6. Finally, in order to be strategic and forward thinking, dare I say groundbreaking and innovative, you need to have the time to do so. Insert shameless plug on workload management blog post here.

If you are constantly fighting to keep up, how can you make forward progress?

I would love to hear from you about examples of how you have taken things from reactive to proactive and how that manifests itself in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Projects- Soaking Up the Sun

Just like spring cleaning at home, summer projects are a ritual in development offices across the land. Once the fog clears from commencement, parking spaces and elevator room opens up, the cafeteria offerings begin to look noticeably lighter, vacations begin to empty the offices nearby, it is a great time to work on your program and help you solve some of the issues that caused you to have heartburn, a large Starbucks tab (or other vices) over the last year. Below are some of my ideas, but I would love to hear from you in the comments section what your summer plans are.

1.  Is your acknowledgment process slow and clunky? Is it time to breathe new life into it with new letters? Look into how to streamline the process and find letters shared from colleagues here.
2.  Do you endowment reports suck the life out of you? Is there a better way to pull together the data needed or to get students to cooperate? Are they pleasing your donors? Don’t know?
3.  You may want to implement a survey or feedback mechanism so that you can find out if your work is fruitful and satisfies your target audience.
4.  Did you recently attend a conference (hi Seattle folks!) and come back inspired? Want to implement a new idea you’ve seen elsewhere, perhaps on your favorite blog(ahem) or something that could increase your donor satisfaction and visibility? Now’s the time.
5.  A few quick wins to increase the donor focus side of your shop. Work with your gift processing team to have the Donor Bill of Rights placed on every gift receipt. Work with your online giving team to make the online thank you and acknowledgment more donor friendly. Post the Donor Bill of Rights on your webpage. These three quick changes can show your donors your intent and make others more aware of their needs.
6.  Build a mission, vision and task/work calendar for your office. Let others know your beliefs, and also show them the projects you are working on so they can help understand your workload. Also, write down a list of all of the things that derailed your plans or otherwise interrupted your year. Analyze them and try to learn how to head them off at the pass to make your future smoother.
7.  Analyze your budget. Look at places you overspent, look for hidden reserves and make sure your projects were worthwhile, both in donor focus and also fiscally. If you have budget reserves and need to spend them before the end of the fiscal year, here are some great ideas: high quality color laser printer, nametag printers (Dymo are best) professional development, consultant fees, digital video camera, organizational supplies.
8.  Call up your vendors, they will give you ideas for the next big thing, send you samples and new catalogs for the new year and also let you know if any of your favorites are on sale. They are a great resource for trend information and what’s working right now.
9.  Call a few colleagues in your industry. Benchmarking and sharing ideas is so valuable. You can commiserate, brainstorm, and talk to others who do what you do. Never forget how valuable your professional network is.
10.Talk to your staff(if you have one-- or yourself if you don’t, but be careful and do it with the door closed) and key stakeholders to find out if they have any new creative ideas that can help your program or your donors and try to implement at least one of those ideas in the coming year.
11.Take time to write thank you notes to those who have helped you succeed in the last year. Facilities staff, data folks, mail room personnel, all of the people who have gotten you out of a pinch or whose work makes your life easier. They will be surprised and delighted.

Finally, stop, take a deep breath and be appreciative for the wonderful careers we have ensuring that the many missions of our organizations help the world be a better place. And if you have trouble doing that, you can always work on your resume.

I would love to hear your summer plans in the comments below.