Thursday, February 28, 2013

Did you think no one would notice?

Lately I've been a bit under the weather, after a long trip, I caught the "crud"; it's no fun, I don't recommend it. But regardless, work waits for no woman, and lately I've been doing a great deal of detailed work, and doing that on cold meds is like watching Willie Wonka at 2am.

Here I am writing to you to remind you that the old saying is true, the devil really is in the details. What have you done lately in your organization to make sure that the little things don't affect the larger picture?

I have some recent examples to share with you. I received the following in January, two MONTHS after I made my gift to NTEN... Needless to say I won't be a repeat donor, regardless, check out the envelope:


So the person who signed my letter, Amy, had the time to correct the envelope with her fancy felt tip but not to have the label reprinted, such a shame.


I guess I should be thrilled they spelled my name correctly or had the right salutation, (I am Mr. Lynn Webster to many) but shouldn't we expect more? If you don't have addressing and salutation guidelines like the ones here that I developed when I started, what are your standards? If you don't have high standards who else will?


My team knows I'm notorious for noticing the details, but hey, I'm not the only one out there. That means that if I'm noticing, someone else is too. One of my biggest pet peeves is crooked labels. You took the time to send me something in the mail but your label looks like it was put on in the pitch dark by an angry teenager? (And maybe it was!)


So how do we avoid letting "perfection" stop progress. I know I'm not perfect, far from it, but I also know that certain things are important. It never hurts to have a second or third set of eyes on a document. Three years into working with me, my administrative support team now keeps a running list of all of my "annoyances" when it comes to mailings and communications and they check off the list before they send me a draft to review. I love and appreciate their initiative. It means I never have to see an ampersand, or a city and state in CT, MA, or NJ missing the lead "0" in it's zip code.

Don't let perfection stop great but for all that is healthy don't let things slide. Otherwise, you'll inevitably end up on the wrong end of an awkward phone call with a constituent who is fed up with your lack of attention to detail.

I think quality control is really important in all we do. Without it we would end up with glass in our breakfast cereal or horse meat in our dinner... Er, uhm... Yeah, about that.

At the minimum, we can try to protect the standards of our organization and ensure that the donor experience is one that brings them joy, not frustration. We shouldn't be paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake, yet hold standards so that mistakes become more difficult to make and things don't just slide by.

In today's world, and I think always, there is so much that remains out of our control, and boy do we like control! But having standards and high expectations falls to us, no matter how tired, how routine, how unimportant it seems, to someone it matters.

Do you have examples of great quality control you've built into your processes? I would love to see examples! Caught any glaring mistakes recently? Send them my way, I'll put them on the interwebs! ;)
Cheers, Lynne

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ideas without Implementation

As many of you know, my formula for innovation is a great idea + implementation = innovation, so what happens when you've been presented with many new ideas, let's say at a conference or webinar, but with no way to implement? You end up in a holding pattern or stuck on the tarmac  unable to take off,  as many of us who travel know, that's no fun! After lots of frustration, you reach your final destination but wonder about all of the time you lost along the way, and how close your were to running out of fuel...
So how do you arrive at implementation from an idea? The first part is about not only receiving the idea, but what that would look like in the reality of your organization. Do I have the resources, time, budget,  and buy in? Is this something my audience would appreciate or am I doing this because I can (bad idea)? Who am I aiming to please? Because if the answer there is just leadership or yourself, stop now! I say all of this not from my usual subway car but a comfy bed in a conference hotel where ideas fly throughout (most) sessions and the bright shiny things amaze us. What good is it to have (or steal) a bright shiny if it doesn't work?
Nail the idea folks down. Not literally of course, that would hurt. But ask, the HOW. How is very important in implementation, even more so than the why. We know why, because we thought it was a good idea, an would benefit our audience, right? But how did you implement it? What did your planning process look like (sometimes what just sneaks right in there)? How did you fight for the resources? How did you get buy in across the organization?
Everyone needs a flight plan, where the rubber meets the road, or should  I say wings meet the air? That plan begins with the idea and ends with an evaluation of whether or not the end result was worth it. Don't forget that step! It's not good enough to declare it a success because it's new, you have to assess the worth. This may take time, we don't want to throw away something until we've given it enough time for the journey. But at all costs, we want to avoid our new idea becoming "we've always done it that way".
I would love to hear from you any ideas that haven't yet taken flight, or some obstacles you've faced, but also tell me about your big wins in innovation and idea making!
I hope to see you in person or on a webinar soon, until then, I have to go pack for my flight today...

Sent from my iPhone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's all about the subject line...

It's something I hear all the time, "no one opens our emails, how do we fix it?" I have a fantastic open and click through rate for our donor relations emails, it hovers in the 40 percent range consistently. The average nonprofit gets 15-20 percent. So here's the key, it's all about those 5 or so words you place in the subject line. 

Here are some tips:
1. It's not about you, silly! A subject line should be centered around the donor, not you. An example: The President and trustees of XYZ invite you to join them...
A better option: You are invited to join ...
Notice the switch in subject. It is imperative that our communications are about the donor first, us second.

2. Keep it transparent, let them know why you are writing. If its an invitation it should say so, a holiday greeting, an ask, etc. one of the ways to do this is to send from different email aliases, donorrelations@, giving@, alumni@, etc. but also understand that if you're trying to "hide" an ask in an email, people will be perturbed by the supposed trickeroo.

3. Keep it consistent, for every piece do you have a plan for follow up, etc? Here is an example: for each event we have emails that go out, in a precise order, always the same so they know what to expect: save the date, invitation, reminder, reminder, follow up for both attendees and non attendees without exception. Having this built in advance saves us from scrambling and creates a consistent message.

4. Most people see emails as an electronic to do list, so give them something to do. Call them to action! This means that in your subject lines, avoid any form of the verb "to be" and use active verbs: join, help, empower, support, learn, respond, etc... 

5. You'll need to do some testing to see what your group responds to. We call it A/B testing. Thinking of new subject lines? Great, now take half of your list and send them one, and send the other half another and see which one outperforms the other. This testing will help you hone in on effective keywords for your population.

6. Tell your story, Examine the emails you receive from organizations, which ones do you open? The one that says: " Monthly XYZ newsletter" or one that says "Learn how XYZ changed Johnny's life" remember a powerful story is important for your messaging, and carries many times more of an impact than stats and figures.

7. Avoid showcasing your administration, instead showcase those that benefit from support. This is especially important for annual and mid level donors. They don't relate to Dean so and so or CEO or Vice President, those aren't the people they give to. They give to sick children, college students, researchers, and other beneficiaries.  Avoid titles and figureheads unless it's a communication that can come from only them.

What works for you? I would love to hear your tips and tricks to share as well. Remember it takes time to build great emails, they're not jut an afterthought. They should be a part of your strategic plan. Don't have a strategic plan yet? Join me next month during our webinar to learn how to build one from the ground up!

March 12, 2013- Building a Strategic Plan for Donor Relations Step by Step
Where do you start in the strategic planning process for donor relations? RIGHT HERE. Sign up if you’ve ever been asked to deliver a “strategic plan” for your office but don’t know where to start or if you’ve inherited one written by someone who has no idea what you do. Together we will walk through the process, and you will leave with some tangible samples to take back and begin or refresh your plan for the future. In addition, you will leave with a strategy for the future and a new outlook on the planning process. Next step, implementation!
Yearly Option, $200 for 12 webinars, Send me an email to be invoiced:


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The best donor gift money can buy...

So here's the thing, as many of you know I abhor tchotchkes for donor recognition and am thrilled when the IRS clamps down on giving for Quid Pro Quos sake.  As many of you know, most people of means have most things that money can buy, and if they can order it like you can, there is no point in giving them an item with your logo on it. What many of our donors long for and need are experiences that money can't buy. For me, that involves having them meet and converse with those that benefit from their funds, students and faculty. Other than a memory, they aren't left with much, so here is where this week's blog comes in handy for you.

I am actually asking you to spend some money, gasp! And here is the most meaningful gift you can give donors that time and time again they avow to love. They're personal, custom picture books, like the one here just done by my fiends at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. These books take time and effort and document a real tangible interaction that cannot be easily duplicated. They're beautiful, hard bound, and completely custom. And, can be had for an affordable price. Most of these books can be purchased for anywhere from $20-$40 depending on size, pages, and your Internet couponing ability.

There are many providers out there. We use and in the past have used with great results. There are others but I find these two to be the best. They are easy to use, arrive in a couple of weeks and make the best donor gifts ever. They are unique, something that can't be bought at a store and better yet, tell a great story. Our donors love to have them in their homes as conversation pieces and we use them for every honoree at our events.

For us, they are often hand delivered by their fundraiser and provide a great follow up conversation opportunity. I can't tell you how many donors have contacted us to have reprints for their family made.

This new medium is a fantastic way to honor and recognize without the "item" stigma. We build this recognition piece into all of our planning and one of our staff members begins the work even before the event, building the shell and text, then popping in the photos afterwards.

If you have student workers or interns in your office, this is a great job for them. They love being involved in the creative process.

So, there's your idea for the week, take it and run with it... Already doing donor books a gifts? Please send me links to your best, and ill post them on the website to share with the world!

Don't forget to join me next Tuesday for the DRG webinar on reporting, endowment and impact.