Tuesday, January 29, 2008

30,000 children die each day...

So how effective is that stat?

You've seen the technique used many times -- gripping picture with a list of stats that amplify the need. Or does it?

Here's what researchers found.

Donors were shown a photo of Rokia, a 7 year-old girl from Mali who was facing starvation. A second group of donors were shown the same image, given the same information plus they were given significant stats that demonstrated the famine and starvation in Africa.

Seasoned fund raisers aren't that surprised that Rokia -- without the stats -- raised more money.

George Loewenstein, at Carnegie Mellon University says: “It really puts fund raisers in a fix. They want to appeal to the mind and the heart. But if they do, there’s a real risk of undermining the heart.”

We all face the tension. In the ideal world, it makes sense to educate while we raise funds. But, in my experience, multiple messages and the desire to educate always diffuses the real need.

Take the opportunity to educate in loyalty materials -- materials that are not focused on raising funds. Coordinating loyalty and corporate communications to supplement fund raising efforts is much more effective than trying to do both at once. (Thanks to the Stanford Social Innovation Review for providing leading edge research!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

youtube and facebook

social media
changing faces of technology
grassroots efforts
How are these things impacting our marketing and communication schedules?
Can we track increases in funds raised?
I'd love to hear your stories!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

funding deficit

This was a headline in the New York Times today:
"Facing a $200 million operating deficit, the American Red Cross is preparing to cut as much as one-third of its headquarters staff, up to 1,000 employees, and pare regional management."
To get this in perspective, they raise about $3.45 billion annually -- most of us are out of their league. But before we push the thought out of our mind,I think we'd do well to consider a couple of issues.
Between 911 and Katrina, the Red Cross had some pretty good years. Raising funds for high profile emergencies is much different than the hard, systematic work of cultivating long term donors. Our studies show that emergency donors are a unique breed. They are not interested in being committed to one organization. Rather, they respond to highly profiled need when it happens. They rarely transform to long term donors. Your loyal supporters will also respond at an increased level to emergencies that are perceived to be gi-normous (to quote my daughter). Your fiscal planning must take into account the highs of emergency situations.
In response to increases, Red Cross increased their staff -- not necessarily their effectiveness.
Watch your numbers. Return on investment and prudent, strategic acquisition and cultivation cannot be underestimated.
I know, spread sheets are really sexy. They don't make headlines like "$1 million gift given to..." Cultivating monthly donors is not that sexy either. Charity Village never features Mrs. Smith who has given $35 a month to one organization for 50 years (That's $21,000). The organization that has 50,000 Mrs. Smiths is raising more than $21 million each year!
While we need to ensure that our organizations are equipped to respond quickly to emergencies -- we also need to respond with integrity. Doctors without Borders stopped their fund raising for the Tsunami when they hit their response capacity -- good for them! BUT they didn't stop fund raising. Instead, they stuck to their central mission and helped the general public understand that the Tsunami was certainly high need -- but it was one of many humanitarian disasters in the world.
The fund raiser's job is to effectively tell the stories of the organization's real work and inspire people to respond. We need to be innovative, engaged and focused on effectiveness.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

too personal?

OK... I admit, the last post was a little cheeky...
(For those of you who know my husband, Gareth, that line was dedicated to him!)
Chris, your questions are great.. and each of us grapples with creating communication that appeals to those who support and partner with us.
At risk of being reductive, let me throw out some general guidelines for personalization and managing your data. Remember, these are generalizations -- effectiveness in marketing comes from understanding the foundational marketing principles and then using them creatively. The sage marketer blatantly borrows from others.
So here's some principles to remember:
1. If your data base consists of 10,000 names or less, segmentation will not give you the lift that warrants the cost. WARNING: don't confuse segmentation with personalization. Personalization will lift results.
2. Mail deep. About 3-5 years ago the wisdom of marketing encouraged lapsing donors at 18 months to avoid waste in mailing. While segmenting lapsed and dormant and treating them differently is a good practise, if you are small charity, be very careful about lapsing early. Our experience teaches us that donors often are still committed to organizations even if they only give once every two years. We encourage organizations to mail deep on a regular basis -- we would consider mailing to everyone who has given in the past 5 years at least 4 times a year. WARNING: mailing deep will reduce your percent response. But it will also increase your overall revenue and reduce your dormant file -- we think mailing deep is worth it -- especially if you are a young or small charity. Larger charities will benefit by smart segmentation.
3. Interests of your donor are directly proportional to their response. We often hear charities struggle to understand where their donor's interests lie. But it's not all that complicated. The answer is in your data base. Donors are most interested in the appeals they respond to. WARNING: focus groups are interesting. But take care in analyzing the results and comparing them to actual response. People regularly say they do things that they don't (like buy environmentally friendly products even if they cost more). Every focus group we have been a part of has told us that they would give more if they were mailed less. Yet every organization that we have worked with has raised more by mailing more.... go figure.
4. Software is only as good as the person using it. There is a great gap in understanding what a data base can do... and I'm not going to get into it here because it's complex. But let me say this. Ask other organizations what they use and how they like it. Train your team and if your staff changes, train the new staff. Be wary of automated programs that "do it all for you." This is fodder for another blog, but data is the horrific monster haunting almost everyone we know. The potential for information through data is infinite -- actually understanding, accessing and executing effective campaigns with this data???? A rare and exciting event. WARNING: it's old, tedious and over stated but here goes.... "garbage in, garbage out."
5. Get help. While this seems self serving, let me say it anyways... consultants and agencies can help you. I have been on both sides of the fence and they both have their advantages. So let me try to teeter on the fence a bit. Consultants and agencies that understand you, partner with you, listen to you, have a heart for your work bring a more objective perspective and are not burdened by your organizational structures. Sometimes the agency can see things that you have buried. Agencies and consultants also have the privilege of seeing many different organizations' work and spread sheets. That gives markers that organizations cannot access. While we are careful to protect the privacy of our clients, we build our strategies from multiple experiences.
OK -- I'm going to take a breath -- because this is really getting too long to read in a gulp... but there's lots to talk about!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

my butt

Fitting after the holiday diet of whipping cream, chocolate and butter?
Let me explain...
I just received my very own personalized calendar.Frankly, one of the best pieces of personalization I have yet to see. Each calendar page featured me -- well, my name in one form or another. The one I like best is a 20-some year old firm cheek with my name tattooed on it.
But (no pun intended)...
The personalization was driven by mechanics.
First of all, the personalized letter told me "It was a pleasure meeting you..." at an event I never attended. Seeing as I have no recollection of this company (although that just may be an oversight), I certainly never met Felix.
Secondly, they spoke to me as if I was a company -- not an agency. Which immediately tells me they don't actually know who I am.
Thirdly, the creative was driven by male minds... hockey sweaters, Harleys, fast cars and, yes, butt cheeks.
Finally, while the calendar included is clever and the personalizing interesting -- all they did was insert my first or last name on every page. Because they don't know if I am male or female, they tried to make the calendar a little generic, although the bias is certainly for the female mind... few 50 some females are actually interested in their name being tattooed on a twenty year old model's butt.
Here's what I think.
Slapping random "personal" names on paper, on the telephone or in other marketing efforts is pretty easy. We can get lists from many different sources. But actually understanding our donors or customers is a whole different game. Tracking their activity with us and using that activity for increased sales or donations... that is true personalization.
Amazon probably is one of the leaders in personalization. They also have access to a lot of information about us -- what we read, what kind of gifts we buy, where our relatives live, what kind of gifts and books we dream of but resist buying. They can tempt us with further sales by sending us a text or email that gives us what we want -- sales on the items that we have already looked at. A to-be father I know tested the theory on purchasing baby items. Over a two week period he went to Amazon and looked at the stuff he wanted to but for his baby. He went back every two or three days to check out the stuff. Within 2 weeks the prices had dropped on all the items by 15 - 20%.
Amazon knew what he was looking for and pushed him over the edge by giving him sale prices.
So how do we apply that to fundraising (or any sales activity)?
Your data base is the key.
First of all, you need to know how you want to use personalization. Then you need to equip your data base to collect the information you need making it easily accessible for communication pieces.
This is more difficult than you might think. Few of us are integrated. How much does your direct mail data base know about your donor's activities on the web site or their giving pattern through telephone and web? How much of your CRM activities do you capture in a usable form so that you can write them smart letters?
Just ensuring that their addresses are current is a significant challenge for many of us.
I slap my own hand when a promotion we sent out recently was delivered to my personal address -- except that I hadn't lived there for a year. How simple is it to keep addresses up to date? (That was rhetorical).
Secondly, plan.
If you have not anticipated wise use of personalization the execution will be a nightmare. I can't tell you how many times I have been told that "we have the data, we will just have to dig for it." Translated: "Yeah, the information is buried in the data, but no one knows how to get it. You can try, but it's not going to be pretty."
I still think it's worth trying.
We worked with a client this fall on a highly personalized piece. The information was buried and we had some trouble accessing it. All went well -- except for about 200 records that were misaligned because of the amount of play that had to be done with the lists and data. In the end it worked out really well -- we phoned all the people who received a mis-mailing and the overall results of the campaign where a quadrupled revenue directly attributed to that mailing. Definitely worth the trouble -- and next year it will go much better.
Finally, train administrative staff to think creatively.
Too often the people administrating the data have not been fully integrated into the vision of the organization and the role data plays in overall growth. That's short sighted of the marketing team. The data engineers are your friends -- nurture that friendship. When they catch the full vision of your goals, you'll have to reign them in!
So the personalized calendar with the butt cheek?
It's going to Gareth (my husband)....