Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brilliance Embedded in Simplicity

I receive a good many communications from nonprofits I give to. Some of them are good, a few great, but sometimes I'm really delighted. I'd like to share a few of those with you today. The first one is a postcard from my local YMCA. Many of you know how much I love postcards as thank yous. Heck, I prefer them over solicitations in envelopes (of which I have two entire shoeboxes full but that's another blog for another day). A letter in an envelope is just so predictable, and no matter how many times your text says thank you, there's usually an ask slid in there somewhere. This postcard effectively communicates the power of the collective of donations and why mine matters. It also puts the donor at the center of the effort, not the organization... Good work Greater Charlotte YMCA.

The next one is another simply elegant postcard from Whitworth university that students fill out a hand written note on and send to their faculty and staff donors. The images of students are relevant  and the message is clear. It also allows for the none thing donors want most, personal, hand written thank yous. Kudos Whitworthians.

The third I received in an envelope with my tax receipt for the American Heart Association Heart Ball I attended a week ago. It was a great addition to the letter and showed the direct impact of my and others giving to the event and the lives it would change.  I would have liked it even more had it been on the back of my receipt so they wouldn't have wasted an extra sheet of paper, but hey, I'm a thrifty lady! Also, most folks keep the receipt, so if this was on the back, it would have stayed with them as well, not ended up as recycling. Although generic, the message is simple, your gift had an impact. I'm hoping for their higher level donors, that they did custom pieces from the families we met that evening who told their stories and tugged at our heart strings. I hope a lot. 

Finally, my colleague and friend Dianne at the University of Idaho shyly showed me this brilliant endowment report two weeks ago in Vancouver. My eyes widened as I explored it's brilliance. It was elegant, concise and relayed an impact that was clear as crystal. I'm proud of her and I hope she's proud too, because it took her a great deal of effort to revamp her reports there and wow, look at the brilliant payoff! I now have a west coast example of great endowment reports to share, go visit the folks at Idaho! they're rocking it.

What have you seen lately that you admire? What's on your brag board that you'd like others to see? Send it my way or tell me about it in the comments and I'll share on my website for everyone to enjoy.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reactive Donor Relations (Checkers) vs. Proactive Donor Relations (Chess)

As donor relations evolves as a profession, one of the questions I field most often is how to transform a reactive checkers playing donor relations shop into a proactive chess playing donor relations shop.  As horrible weather befalls most of the Eastern and Southern US and I sit in my Vancouver hotel room pondering how I’m either going to get home or get to my next conference, I am always playing a chess game with the weather and the airlines.  How do I plan and thing two steps ahead so I don’t end up stuck somewhere without options.  And therein lies the great divide.  Just like education allows people to have more choice and option in their life, being a proactive donor relations professional allows so many more choices than being reactive which only allows for one path.  If you always have your head down producing results as you have done them in the past, you have no options to look ahead to the future and become strategic about your work.  If you’re always doing the same work over and over how can you be innovative?  It requires huge discipline and planning to truly become proactive and strategic but there is no better time than now to start. 

For me it begins with an assessment of the program, a good cold hard look at where the donor relations shop spends its time and how donors benefit from time used.  Are there particular processes that are laborious and tedious? Is there waste happening? Have you surveyed or obtained feedback from you donors to ensure you are building a program they will appreciate and desire or are you operating off of assumptions?  You see, it’s a lot like checkers and chess. Checkers is a short term limited game with predictable outcomes. This would be your reactive donor relations shop. Chess is a strategic long game, with unpredictable twists and turns that can have long term results and a vision that is multiple steps ahead. The two are not interchangeable. Our donors deserve chess champions.

The second step after assessing your current program is to obtain feedback from your donors on your current activities and evaluate what is successful and what is losing the game.  After that it’s time to look to other programs you admire or those that are proactive and strategic to find out what they do in order to become successful. It boils down to choice, they will tell you.  Like in checkers if you only have one type of playing piece you are limited. In chess, you have a wide variety, which gives you great choice. Deft moves can be made and game plans switched throughout the game of chess that opens up new paths to victory. Can you say this about your donor relations program? If you can’t now is the time for change. After you find new ideas and a new direction for your game plan it’s time to bring it to your leadership to gain their buy in and support.  This step is crucial. Once you have their buy in, your field of play opens greatly to the possibilities of strategy. Then it’s all about the implementation from there. Check. Mate.

How are you learning to become more proactive and less reactive? What tips do you have for others? Are you playing checkers or chess?


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Digital Donor Experience- We Still Have Work to Do!

This week, two wonderful studies came out that suggest that the digital donor experience still leaves a great deal to be desired.  This annual report of online giving from Blackbaud tells quite a story. Even though we have seen huge increases in online giving, we have a long way to go.  We need to dispell the myth that online donors are in their 20s and 30s. We need to make our sites better and more relevant to our mission. The time is now. The time has been now for a while. We need to invest in our online presence and make our online giving sites just as important as our appeals, social media and other new media presences. What's the point of a great email appeal if your giving site tanks?

This scorecard from some folks that did amazing research at Dunham and Company agrees. Many of our sites are not mobile optimized, they lack true direction, organization, mission and focus. Our emails need help too. When is the last time you put a great deal of thought or did testing to see if your subject lines are working? I test giving websites all the time through my Giving Tuesday challenges and have found somewhat disastrous results as well. So how will you voice the fact that a national philanthropy shouldn't be using Paypal and a shopping cart to process donations? How will you shift the paradigm of the online donor experiece? I would love for you to join me- list yourthoughts below, tell me who has the best andworst giving sites, emails and new media you've seen? I can't wait to hear from you.