Do you have a well-defined digital marketing strategy?

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Do you have a well-defined digital marketing strategy?

Is your nonprofit leveraging the internet and social media outlets to build its brand and engage its constituents? Like many nonprofits, my client was doing an okay job with its website and social media. The website had grown over the years and had a wealth of vital information, but was disorganized and difficult to navigate. Likewise, my client used social media channels — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, albeit sporadically and without an integrated strategy to engage its audiences.

My client’s marketing and communications coordinator was overburdened with day-to-day responsibilities: producing a 15-20 page publication each week, creating a weekly newsletter, responding to requests from staff across programs. So, we turned to a digital marketing firm for help. We learned that by engaging them to perform an audit of our website and social media channels, we could build an easily executable strategy.

We started with the website. After all, that’s often an organization’s first impression and thus must best represent the brand, be easy to navigate, be responsive on any device, and function well on a daily basis. We began by answering some very simple questions: what do we like about our current website? What don’t we like? What overall message are we trying to communicate? What look appeals to us? What’s our preferred color scheme?  Will we keep our current content? With those questions answered, the web designers were off and running.

Concurrently, the marketing firm performed a social media audit and offered a clearly defined strategy designed to push our messages, events, accomplishments, and key differentiators to increase engagement of our current audiences and build a bigger following. Through the audit, we learned who the key audience for each of our three channels is as well as the types of posts they engage with most frequently. We also received advice for additional content.

Now, we understand what our constituents want both in terms of content and frequency, and have built a quarterly calendar, with the goal of posting 3-5 times per week on each channel. We’re in the midst of building our new website and are looking forward to its October launch. Most importantly, we’re confident that our integrated strategy across all digital channels — website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — will advance our brand and engage our constituents in meaningful and consistent ways.

Whether you have the staff capacity to evaluate, develop and implement your digital strategy yourselves or need to engage and outside firm, don’t delay. Seize the opportunity to share your organization’s vibrancy and vitality with the audiences you’re trying to reach!

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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Flexibility is the Key

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Detour Ahead!

I was driving one recent morning when a detour was posted about half way into my usual route to get to my client’s office located about 45 minutes away from my home.  I have to admit, I was running a little behind to begin with (Our family went to the Cubs game the night before and it took me and practically an army to pull my 11 year old out of bed and off to camp!) and I was somewhat annoyed with having to work around the road work to try and arrive at my meeting on time.  Along with the detour, traffic was at a stand-still because three lanes of cars were now funneling down to one.  Oh dear.  I was definitely going to be a bit late (I’m very rarely late and usually a bit early).  I maneuvered my way down side streets and other roads, all the while doing some deep yoga breathing, and finally arrived at my destination.

As we began our meeting to discuss a donor cultivation event we were planning for the fall, more detours – if you will – emerged.  You see, the host of the event (a lovely woman who has offered her home for the gathering that many were curious to see) added some new bends and turns.  She wanted to limit the number of guests and she was adamant that we didn’t talk about fundraising in any way shape or form.

We realized that we were going to have to be flexible and make some adjustments to our initial plans.  Our meeting then focused on trimming down our invitation list and coming up with new criteria to do so.  We also brainstormed our program so that it was meaningful and informative to our donors and still tied to our organization in a strong way, without having any direct focus on fundraising.  And, we had a very fruitful conversation about our follow-up plan specific to every invited guest.  This detour took us down a very helpful path and focused our energy on important conversations we wanted to have with our top supporters of the organization.

On this day of bends and detours, I was reminded that we have to be nimble and flexible when these unexpected turns in the road present themselves.   And, when we are forced to think about things in a different light, the end result is often better than our original idea or plan.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

The power of a personal connection

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The power of a personal connection

For the past few months, my husband has been leading an initiative at our church.  In this role, his first objective is to build a committee of volunteers to help.  Mark has been very strategic in the identification of potential committee members – and in his approach.   He is purposely building a committee that has diversity in age, race, sexual orientation, family composition, employment, etc.  Given this is no small task, he has thought creatively about how to be successful in getting people to say Yes.  So each week, we go to church and Mark looks for potential candidates: people he sees regularly and/or who seem very engaged in the service.  Immediately following the service, he introduces himself to his identified prospect and says “I need you”.  In full disclosure, Mark is in Sales.  That said, he has had a 100% success rate in building this committee.

The reason I share this story is that it highlights the power of a personal connection.  For several weeks in the spring, the priest (who is very dynamic and engaging) shared a similar message from the pulpit.  However, that message garnered no takers.  Why?  It was a message to many, and it is easy to assume someone else will take up the charge, or that the message isn’t aimed at me personally.  Mark’s approach takes time, thought, a bit of nerve and a very personal ask.  But the results are impressive.

So what can we glean from this approach?  Think about all the ways in which your organization reaches out to donors, volunteers and others.  Does the message come across as a “message to many”?  Will it be easy for the recipient to assume it’s not aimed at them?  Can they easily assume someone else will make a contribution?

I realize it is not possible to personalize every communication for every donor.  For mass communications, such as newsletters, appeals or impact reports, consider adding a personal note.  This is a great job for volunteers and Board members, as a simple “thanks for your support” and a signature on a post-it note adds a personal touch.  A “thank-a-thon” is another personal approach you can use to show appreciation and utilize volunteers in a meaningful way.  Next month, the Associates Board of one of my clients will be calling monthly donors and first-time donors to say hello and thank you.

Over the past several months, I have been serving as Interim VP of Development for one of my clients.  During this time, I have made it a priority each week to write 3-4 personal notes or make calls to donors to say hello.  While deadlines often take precedence, I keep a stack of notecards at home and will jot a few notes while I watch TV in the evening.

Finally, how often do you schedule time to visit with donors or volunteers where there is no ask, just a simple opportunity to get better acquainted and show appreciation?  While these take time, it is an important investment in the relationship.

We all want to feel valued, that we matter, and that the ways in which we contribute make a difference.  Take time each day to reach out to someone who plays a role – no matter how small – in your organization.  I guarantee you will see a great return on your investment.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Tax Savvy Giving

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Tax Savvy Giving

Recent changes to the tax laws have put some donors at a disadvantage.  More than a few tax-payers were surprised to see that their total charitable giving and other deductions did not put them above the new, and higher, standard deduction.  For these individuals, there is no apparent tax advantage to their charitable giving.  That’s where you come in!  Now is a good time to show your donors ways to be tax-savvy in their 2019 charitable giving.

Plan to reach out to your donors well before the end of the calendar year with these suggestions for making tax-savvy gifts to your non-profit organization.  Remind them to ask their financial advisor about the following;

  • Donors over age 70 ½ can make a gift to charity directly from their IRA without incurring income tax on the IRA withdrawal. This is far more efficient than withdrawing the funds, paying the tax on that withdrawal, and then making a gift.
  • Donors of any age should be encouraged to make a gift of stock or appreciated securities. Donors will not incur capital-gain taxes on the gift of any stock or securities that they have owned for more than one year.  Since the stock market has been on the rise for around a decade, these savings can be substantial.
  • Urge your donors to carefully consider establishing a Donor Advised Fund. Smart donors can organize all of their charitable giving for the next several years by making one large gift—which is tax deductible—to establish a Donor Advised Fund.  The fund grows tax free, and the donor can recommend how much and how often to distribute gifts from the fund to your charity and others over the coming years.
  • Show your donors how they can get paid to give! With interest rates marginally on the rise, Charitable Gift Annuities and other similar vehicles are becoming more attractive again.  Your donors can receive a charitable deduction for their gift to establish a charitable gift annuity, and in return receive an annual fixed income from your organization for the rest of his or her life.
  • Encourage your loyal donors to make a bequest to your charity. There is no easier way to support the organizations one cares about, and many times this results in reduced estate taxes.

Help your donors think about tax-savvy giving well before the end of the calendar year.  You’ll be helping them think about their giving, and it very well may help your non-profit organization too!

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Will “Radical Truthfulness” Make Your Nonprofit Stronger?

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Will “Radical Truthfulness” Make Your Nonprofit Stronger?

I caught an interview with Ray Dalio on 60 Minutes this spring. I had never heard of him. It turns out he’s not a household name. But he heads up the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, and is worth $18 billion.

One important philosophy of his company has stayed with me. That is, the concept of “radical truthfulness.”

You see Ray holds honesty above all other virtues. He has no patience for talking behind people’s backs or scrutinizing someone else’s decision after it’s been made.  If you have a thought to share at Bridgewater, it must be shared. That’s company policy. Period.

Ray has no room in his company for comments like we might sometimes hear after meetings such as:

“What do you think he meant by that?” 

“I don’t get it why are we doing things this way?”

“This decision is ridiculous. They are not looking at the data.”

“Well, nobody asked my opinion.”

No, at Bridgewater Associates comments like these have gone the way of the dinosaurs. With an emphasis on 100% transparency, there is nothing to say behind a closed door after the meeting.  That’s because it’s already been said out in the open. Yes, Bridgewater Associates actually video tapes all meetings in order to record the thoughts and contributions by their staff.

Here’s the link if you’d like to read the story

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ray-dalio-explains-his-principles-60-minutes/

Now, I am not suggesting that we, as nonprofit leaders, adopt this type of philosophy.  It is radical and uncomfortable for some. Even at Bridgewater there is a 30% turnover rate among new employees. But those who have stayed and adopted the philosophy, have helped this hedge fund make money for its clients in 25 of the past 28 years. So this approach must be having an impact wouldn’t you agree?

I believe we learn a lot by moving closer to this philosophy. At one of my clients we are embarking on change management. It’s been a good experience, but the staff is still feeling siloed in different departments and transitioning to a culture with 100% transparency is uncomfortable.  Through this process our team has begun receiving and providing feedback to each other for the very first time. This is a great first step, and I am hopeful for this nonprofit.

A stable, cohesive and well functioning leadership team is necessary for any nonprofit.  Especially while doing work in Illinois with the various challenges that our state presents.  But I am hopeful that the leadership team that I mentioned will strive to control what we can, and that includes our own interpersonal communication, attitudes and above all truthfulness.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Relationship-building is Vital, and Takes Time

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Relationship-building is Vital, and Takes Time

We’ve all had board members or even bosses who demand immediate and significant fundraising results. Many a director of development has been asked “what have you been up to? Where are our major gifts? What is taking so long?”  And, to be sure, we as fundraisers must hold ourselves accountable to our dollar goals. It’s also incumbent on us to educate our boards, our bosses, and our colleagues that building and sustaining relationships takes time, patience, and their involvement in the process—and is critical to sustaining our organization’s mission.

Indeed, at its core, fundraising is about relationships: the long-term vitality of a nonprofit organization is, fundamentally, based on the deep and lasting relationships it has with its donors. It would be easy to ask for a gift, receive it, send a thank you letter and consider the job done. However, donors who feel valued solely for a financial contribution will not stay donors for long. We must take the time to learn about and nurture our donors if we want to build long-lasting, meaningful relationships.

The “Transformational Infinity Loop” developed by Kay Sprinkle Grace and Alan Wendroff, demonstrates the ways we keep and grow donors.

TIL

This simple diagram captures the ongoing transformational process between an organization and its donor community. By learning about our donors, and regularly communicating the impact of their support, relationships deepen. Through continued information sharing, personalized attention and respect, our donors feel valued beyond their financial contribution and thus become engaged more deeply. In turn, their investment in your organizations will grow.

This process takes time — after all, infinity has no end — and is well worth the investment.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Celebrate Those Milestones!

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Celebrate Those Milestones!

Fourth of July has just passed…the one day to celebrate America’s birthday and all that it means to each of us.  For my family, this means a day of getting together with family, friends and neighbors. We go to BBQ’s and eat way too much, enjoy parades and concerts in the park, and at dusk, we marvel at the fireworks show orchestrated by our town.

As we ring in another birthday for America (the good, the bad and everything in between), it makes me think about the special milestone years celebrated by many not for profits.  Some are just launching and getting established as brand new 501c3’s!  A friend and colleague of mine oversees fundraising for a young organization called Code Platoon, whose mission is to teach America’s veterans how to code.  AS the organization was just launching, it experienced a HUGE win when a large corporate funder decided to triple their grant request as they shared the mission to help American’s veterans learn a new skill and, consequently, launch viable careers as software developers. Now, this organization, which initially just worked with veterans, has expanded its programs to train military spouses as well.  Code Platoon started out as the “Little Engine that Could” and has continued to grow and expand with the help of wonderful partners who share its mission.

Organizations that we know are celebrating other big milestones…perhaps a 25th, 50th or 100th Birthday!  Several years ago, I worked with an agency that launched a special campaign to celebrate its 25th and sought funding to expand its reach in a big way.  This campaign saw the largest single gift ever received by the organization.  In fact, this leadership gift came with a naming opportunity to rename the entire agency and recognize the family that made this possible.  Another not for profit I recently worked with kicked off its 100 year birthday with a special capital project that will bring them into the next century.  Year-long activities were planned, significant gifts were received and overall, and more relationships with donors were enhanced and strengthened as a result of the anniversary campaign.

As we just celebrated our country’s birthday, I invite you to think about your own organization’s history.  Birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones are a great time in the life of an organization to celebrate and engage donors for special support.  Whether your organization is just launching, is five years old or 100 years young, there are many opportunities in which to build around and engage support.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

A Simple Thank You Call Can be a Very Big Deal

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A Simple Thank You Call Can be a Very Big Deal

Donor retention has always been a critical issue for nonprofits and the recently released Giving USA numbers appear to raise the stakes even further. Despite a strong economy, charitable donations dropped an inflation-adjusted 1.7 percent in the U.S. last year.

According to the Giving USA report, the overall decrease is the first drop in charitable giving in the country since the Great Recession. I don’t know about you, but hearing that certainly gave me pause. On top of that, gifts from individuals (as a percentage of total giving) dropped quite significantly from 70% to 68%.

While there is a lot to unpack in the overall giving report and much to pay attention to in the midst of today’s complex giving environment, I want to focus today on a simple and amazingly effective way for our Board members to positively impact our donor relation and retention efforts.

We all know that it is pretty hard to over-thank someone for their support of our mission. Most of us have heard about the “Rule of Seven” when it comes to how often you should express appreciation to your donors. While I wholeheartedly agree that we need to thank donors on multiple fronts, one of the most important “Thank You” messages they’ll receive comes from their fellow supporters–known as your Board members.

If your Board members aren’t personally involved in making Thank You Calls and writing Thank You Notes to your donors, it is time to make that happen.

Years ago, the organization I was working with was welcoming new Board members at their annual meeting. When asked to say a few words, one of the new members shared that she had had what she considered a game-changing experience with the organization a few years prior. After joining over 3,600 others in making a contribution to the annual campaign, she received a personal thank you call from one of the Board members. In her words, “Knowing that one of my very busy peers cared enough to make the time to call me–simply to say thank you–made all of the difference in my mind. I jumped at the chance to serve on this Board and to be a part of a community like that.”

And while this one anecdote continues to foster my own belief in why Board member thank you calls can and do make such a difference in making our donors feel like they are truly appreciated, I’ll let past research make the case for you as well.  Thank you calls from Board members have a profound effect on donor retention. Penelope Burk’s 2003 research showed that if a donor received a thank you call from a Board member within days of making a gift:

  • 93% said that they would “definitely or probably give again the next time they were asked”
  • 84% said they would “make a larger gift”
  • 74% would “continue giving indefinitely.”

So, while there is not much we can do in the short term to influence the current complex giving climate, we can absolutely double down on our efforts to increase donor retention and empower our Board members to play a critical role in helping to do just that. My guess is that, in addition to delighting your donors, your Board members will thank you for giving them the opportunity to help.

Thank you, as always, for your commitment to our communities and for all that you do to make a difference.

David Gee, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Stop Convincing, Start Inspiring

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Stop Convincing, Start Inspiring

Over the past several weeks, I have heard the following comments made by some of my non-profit colleagues:

If more people knew about the quality of our programs (our best-in-class approach), we’d certainly have more donors.” “How can we convince them to make us a priority?” “We’re getting good meetings, but we just can’t seem to get them to give.”

Chances are we have all wrestled with similar thoughts and questions in our ongoing quest to secure funding for our organization’s mission. Building up your donor base is challenging. There’s no one-size-fits all formula for it, nor is there when you’re working to move your current donors into a deeper relationship with your organization. It’s personal, time consuming and there’s usually some degree of trial and error involved.

When we do get a chance to speak with donors or prospective supporters however, sometimes our pitch seems entirely focused on US and all of the ways we are fantastic/impactful/awesome. All too often we fail to put the time and sincere energy into getting to know what interests and inspires them–personally and philanthropically.

Just having the “best” program and solid quantifiable data to show your effectiveness isn’t going to cut it, especially when you are talking to prospective donors or newer friends to your organization. Before you can know what impact stories, mission interactions or even which data might be best suited for your donors, you first need to find out where THEY are coming from. What is their story? How does your work intersect with their lives, their passions?

Once we are clued into their personal interests and understand how our mission is solving for problems they care about, we are in a position to discover their interest in helping to advance our mission. We can earnestly make the case to show them specifically how our impact in the community intersects with their personal philanthropic goals. And we can sincerely and authentically work to inspire them to partner with us to achieve those shared goals.

Relationships are hard work. That’s true with your spouse/partner, your kids, your family & friends and, yes, with your donors. Relationships take time and energy, but they are almost always worth it!

In closing, I want to share one of my favorite quotes related to donor relations,

We don’t have to be smart enough to manipulate people to act.
We have to be sincere enough to move them to act
.”

                                                               – Bernadette Jiwa (The Story of Telling)

Thank you, as always, for the life changing work you do every day.

David Gee, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Magic Moments

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Magic Moments

From time to time I’ve been asked “what’s the magic to fundraising?”  I think people wonder how we do what we do and how we know that our efforts will be successful.  The answer—of course—is that there is no magic to fundraising.  We all write letters and make phone calls and design web pages and visit with donors; most of this activity is mundane, not magical.  But there are Magic Moments in fundraising, and I love hearing about them!

Recently I sat with a longtime board member who had been instrumental in securing a multi-million dollar gift for her non-profit organization.  I asked her to fill me in on her relationship with the donor and how the gift came to be realized.  She said that they first met when the donor offered an auction prize at the annual fundraiser.  The prize was a “Behind the Scenes Tour” of the local zoo.  The board member was the successful bidder.  The elderly donor needed a lot of assistance getting to and around the zoo.  But they had a good time, and continued to visit on numerous occasions after the tour.

Time passed, and one day the donor let it be known that she wanted to see “This Is It” a Michael Jackson concert movie that had just been released.  They never got to the theater, because mobility issues once again presented obstacles.  But when the movie came out on video some months later, the board member remembered.  “A friend and I brought the movie and take out Chinese food to her home.  I didn’t realize that her video player was in her bedroom, and there were only two chairs in her room.  We watched the film and ate the food and the other friend had to sit on her bed the whole time!  At one point, I looked down and her feet were moving and I said ‘Why Mrs. _______, you’re dancing!’  And we all had a good laugh.”

This particular donor was a well-known philanthropist and years later the board member asked her “why did you give so generously to our small organization?”  The donor’s answer:  “you visited me in my home and you invited me into your homes.” Who would have known that this simple fact would distinguish this organization from the bigger internationally known charities that this donor also supported? This board member enjoyed visiting with this donor and remembered her somewhat surprising interest in Michael Jackson.  Simple hospitality made all the difference.

Magic Moments like this one happen in fundraising.  They are often comic and unpredictable, but always genuinely warm and human.  If we fundraisers don’t genuinely like people more than we like their money, we are in the wrong business!  Take a sincere interest in your donors and enjoy their company.  Not all of us will see a multi-million dollar gift, but all of us will experience the joy and wonder of occasional Magic Moments.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions