Friday, September 30, 2016

Beginning and Ending Your Week with Gratitude

It's Friday. As I write this I'm keenly aware that many of us are just so happy we survived another week. But wow do we have the greatest profession ever! What can you do to shake up your weekly routine? How can you integrate gratitude in your entire fundraising operation? Want to show your donors they matter? Try this:

Begin every Monday and end every Friday by calling, emailing or writing notes to donors just to say thank you. 

Yup. I said it- block your calendars and get to work. I'm not asking for an entire gratitude journal or a novel here. Just 20 minutes twice a week to not only remind you why you do the work you do and who is behind our success, but also time for you to focus on what's important. As much as we think donors obsess over our communications and scrutinize every effort, we're missing out on the opportunity to wow them at every turn. When's the last time you received a pure thank you that was unexpected and delightful?

I'll give you an example of unexpected and fun. I'm here in NYC at the Kimpton, my absolute favorite favorite of hotels to stay in and I go to my boring old closet to hang up my dress- BOOM! Inside the closet on the wall, I see this: 

This unexpected little diddy made me laugh, made me take a photo and share and also made me think. What have you done in your fundraising life that has made a donor take a photo of it and share it with others? I can tell you it's probably not your annual report or latest solicitation. They would share the unexpected and the novel, they would share your word on genuine praise and gratitude. 

When you're looking for motivation on a Monday morning and need a kick to remind you that your week wasn't so awful, motivate yourself with gratitude to donors! Go out there and thank a donor this afternoon!

I would love to hear your thoughts on how adding gratitude to your day and week routine brings you joy!



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Death to the Phonathon?

Yesterday, Stanford University sent ripples though the fundraising community. Except this time it wasn't for a multi-million dollar gift announcement, it was to declare the end of their phonathon program. They sent communications to their alumni and friends that were clever and witty, grasping what many of our donors already feel about fundraising phone calls. 

Check out the images here:

For some fundraisers, it was a pearl clutching moment, how could they? For the rest of us, we stood and applauded! After all, less than 40 percent of homes have landlines and if you look at younger generations, that number decreases significantly! I'm not suggesting here that you all go out tomorrow and slash and burn your phonathon rooms. 

But let's think about it. 

Stanford is listening to their donor base, examining their ROI and investing and divesting accordingly. Bravo. Of course they have a huge endowment worth billions, other fundraising challenges, especially after Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History podcasts on higher education fundraising.  (Haven't listened? Go, NOW!)

But this begs a question I've been shouting about all along- Are we segmenting and communicating with donors in the channels they prefer? Phonathons don't fail because we can't find phone numbers, they fail because they're inefficient and don't respect donor preferences, a leftover relic from the days of the telethon and Jerry Lewis. I and many others are never ever going to give a gift via phonathon, no matter how much I like your callers, I'm an online donor. So why do you call me? I don't even answer the number if it isn't in my contacts or a previously scheduled call- Let's think about it- It costs a great deal of money to employ a calling program. Have them call donors who give via phonathon ONLY. Acquisition via phonathon is expensive. Same for retention.

 I get it, there are people that live for the day a poorly scripted caller making above minimum wage and bonused in pizza and redbull calls them from a dank basement on their alma mater's campus, they live for that! (I still don't know any of those people) 

But in any case, we should be attempting to convert them to monthly donors and online donors, not just calling 10 to 20 times until we bait them into answering! 

What could we be doing instead? Let's see, an average phonathon can cost tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Imagine if we took 10% of that budget and put it into digital ad buys, promoted social media posts and engaging online collateral like video. We would again begin to be relevant. The problem isn't the phonathon or direct mail, it's that our programs are siloed and not integrated. It's that we're yelling into the wind and praying our donors are listening. With modern tools like EverTrue, Cerkl and others, we can find donors where they act, put them in the drivers seat and engage them based on their preferences. 

Some say it's a revolutionary thing to say that Stanford is the first to eliminate their phonathon, but I have other clients that got rid of their calling programs a long time ago, they're just not Stanford. So it seems that they're on the leading edge. Or are they listening to their donors better than some of us? How are we proving that we are listening to our donors? Do we really know what they want? Are we honoring those preferences? I look forward to a robust debate in the comments, please keep it civil and remember somewhere on that beautiful campus in California there is a lonely basement. RIP. Comment away!


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Custom videos to cut through the noise!

Reaching your donors is harder now than ever. Donors are constantly inundated with ads and noise. Thing of the amount of mail we get on a daily basis, be it in your physical mailbox, your email box, your social media messengers. Then think about the passive media you consume from TV commercials to ads in airports to decals on cars and the like. So in all of this noise what stands out? Personalization and customization always wins the day. In addition we also know that video is the current most consumed part of media out there right now. I've spoken about it before at length in blogs and presentations but now I want to present you with an even better solution! 

Imagine your donors receive an email and not only is the subject line personalized to them, but the contents inside have been created just for them. It's a personal, custom video recorded just for them by the recipient of their generosity. That's what the fine folks at ThankView make possible each and every day. It's one of the most exciting developments in gratitude I've seen in years. You create a custom envelope and design to send the donor, see my personal video stationery here:

And then when the recipient clicks play, they receive a custom video filmed perfectly for them. Some of my clients and friends have been trying out the software with amazing results. Think about 80% open rates and 90% viewing rates for the videos inside. and the software is so easy to use and affordable- and because you're a friend of mine, you receive 20% off of your package when you tell them my name. 

**Thanks to one of my astute readers for mentioning this sounds like a commercial. I am happy to say I never receive any payments or incentives from ANY company I showcase on this blog and am just trying to bring you the latest and greatest in gratitude!**

For those of you in higher education, imagine your scholarship recipients thanking their donors in a custom video that is easy for them to film on their devices and that the donors swoon over when they receive them! Or you could use the software to send an email invitation that's actually a video for a special event. How about having a great video made for your helpful volunteers? Or on your next giving day, have your students record custom videos for anyone who gives online that day- The possibilities are endless.

I constantly say that we need to create more video content for our donors. This allows it to be easy and affordable for any type of organization to have video content that is custom for their donors on demand. Wanna give it a try? Contact them and explore the possibilities. Have you used a software like this? What do you struggle with in video and custom messages to donors? I would love to hear your thoughts!