A hack to humanize your comms

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This week we are featuring another “guest post” brought to you from the good people at See3 Media.

Who is See3? According to their site, They are “a digital agency 100% committed to empowering courageous do-gooders to achieve their mission as effectively and efficiently as possible in our rapidly evolving communications landscape.”

In my experience, they are, quite simply, the real deal. They get the social impact sector, understand human nature and are beyond adept at helping organizations tell their story in ways that inspire and motivate donors. So I hope you enjoy Miriam’s post, and that (regardless of if you have 10K or 500 folks on your email list) her advice resonates with you as it did me.

David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

A hack to humanize your comms

by: Miriam Brosseau

Look, I totally get it. You’ve got, what, 10,000 emails on your mailing list? A few thousand Facebook fans or Twitter followers? And it’s such a mix – volunteers, donors, folks who signed up at an event, board members, staff… You have to talk to all of them, right? It’s a “broad audience.” So broader language is the way to go.

As someone who’s worked in the nonprofit world (as almost everyone at See3 has), I understand the impetus and empathize with the reasoning.

And it’s totally counter-intuitive, but that reasoning is…flawed.

Think of it this way. Have you ever had any public speaking training? When you’re presenting in front of a large auditorium, what advice would a public speaking coach give you?

Pick 3 people in the crowd. Talk to them. Move from one, to the other, to the other, and back again.

That’s how everyone feels engaged. Not by constantly scanning the entire crowd. Because by trying to reach everyone, you reach no one.

So next time you have an email to write, make “digital eye contact.” Pick one real person from your list and put their name and a little bit about them at the top of your content calendar. Picture them. Use your imagination and make eye contact. Read – out loud – the thing you’re writing.

Then ask yourself: are they listening?

Because if they are, you’ve captured the whole auditorium.

Yours in do-goodery,

Miriam and the See3 team

 

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If you want people to invest in you…

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The plan was to write about donor communication and the importance of engaging with people in the form and fashion they most like to be communicated with (email vs. snail mail, stories vs. data, etc.…). I’ve had a number of conversations with clients lately that centered on their communications strategies and how critical it is for us to go the extra mile with our donor outreach if we want our messages to resonate with them.

Then, while catching up on my own reading, I came across the following post from Seth Godin. I quickly surmised that the fates might be encouraging me to share his wise words instead. So, that’ what I’m doing.

At the end of the day, good development takes time and energy (that’s why they call it development, right?) and the truth of matter is, if we want people to invest in us, we have to invest in them.

So enjoy Seth’s ever-so-subtle message and let’s all commit to putting in the effort that successful donor engagement requires.

Mass personalization is a trap – by Seth Godin

Dear seth ,

Of course I could have sent you a personal letter. A direct 1:1 connection between you and me, thanking you for what you did, or letting you know about my new project, or asking for your attention.

Instead, I’m going to hire someone to hand write the envelope in marker, but of course, I’m too busy to do that myself.

And I’ll use the latest in digital handwriting fonts to make you think I actually wrote the note. But I’m not careful or caring enough to actually put good data into the mail merge, so it’ll only take you a second to realize that I faked it.

I know that I’m asking you to spend hours on the favor I’m asking, but no, I couldn’t be bothered to spend three minutes to ask you.

There’s an uncanny valley here, that uncomfortable feeling we get when we know we’re being played, when someone mass customizes and tries to steal the value of actual person-to-person connection.

It’s a trap because the more you do it, the more you need to do it. Once you start burning trust, the only way to keep up is to burn more trust… it’s a bit like throwing the walls of your house in the fireplace to stay warm.

Don’t waste your time and money on this. You’re wasting the most valuable thing you own–trust.

Humanity is too valuable to try to steal with a laser printer.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Communicate the Unexpected

 

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As we communicate with our donors, many of us work within guidelines that are predetermined and probably include using certain typefaces, using color schemes and achieving an overall look and feel of the organization, right?

I’m a fan of having graphic standards that identifies any brand. But once in a while you might want to try the unexpected.

I did this recently on a communications piece for a client. It was a postcard that was intended to say thank you for your support and provide an update on a few programs for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

But frankly, a typical “Thank you for your support” message bored me. Yawn.

I thought if I’m bored with it, then our donors may be too right?

So we tried something different.

Instead, the headline read, “Our participants would like to say thank you, but they can’t.”

Hmmmm? Why???? Why can’t they talk? (I hoped the reader would ask him or herself.)

The messages then revealed the various activities and learning opportunities that the participants have had so far this year. These included trips to the Brookfield Zoo, art classes at a professional art studio, and excursions to Navy Pier. The list went on.

The message was “Your generous contributions have expanded so many programs for our participants that they are simply TOO BUSY to stop even for one second.”

This was well received by our donors and even spurred a few emails to me about how clever they thought it was. Most importantly, the piece inspired them to read the information and know the gifts had been turned into positive experiences for the individuals they wanted to help. Ahhh, success.

So next time you need to create something that demonstrates the impact of your services, ask yourself how you could communicate the Unexpected.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Don’t Forget the Spouse!

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Let’s face it:  major gifts are major decisions.  Your prospects likely are very much like mine.  They reach a decision to make a major gift after a long process of cultivation, thought, and reflection.  This process involves the head and the heart.  Decisions are made based on what the donor thinks about your organization, its leadership, and its mission.  And decisions are made about how the donor feels about the impact of the gift and the good it will do.

In most households, the donor and spouse (or significant other) make major decisions.  So it is important that fundraisers, when appropriate, include the partner in the cultivation and solicitation process.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Address all correspondence to the prospect and partner
  • Include both in cultivation events
  • Remember the partner’s birthday as you do the prospect’s
  • Solicit the major gift from both of them, remembering to attend to both people with your eyes and ears!
  • Consciously plan your solicitation to engage both the mind and the heart of both people

Does this seem obvious?  You’d be surprised how many times I’ve coached those involved in a solicitation to pay attention to the spouse, only to watch them faun over the prospect while failing to really engage the partner!

On the other hand, I’ve also seen spouses step in and really turn the tide in favor of a major gift.  In one instance, I was told by the donor that “my wife really was the one to convince me” to make a $1 million gift.  On another occasion, we received a $1 million donation that surprised us because it seemed on paper that the donor was more connected to other institutions than to our own.  In this instance, the son of the major prospect (and ultimate donor) told me “my mom was really the one who decided to do this.”

Remember:  major gifts are major decisions.  And major decisions are seldom made by individuals in isolation.  Cultivate your prospects and their spouse or significant other.  You’ll be glad you did.

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

Engaging the New Philanthropists

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Thank you to Just Write Solutions Senior Consultant Lisa M. Sihvonen-Binder, MS NMP, for today’s blog.

Millennials. It’s a term we hear a lot on the news, see on social media, and read about in professional publications. Studies show that older generations (Baby Boomers, Gen Xers) get frustrated when trying to interact with them. Who are they? What do they want? How do you communicate with them? How do you get them to communicate with you?

The answers are simple, really. They’re people. They’re people born between 1980-2000. They’re sometimes called “lazy” and the “Me Generation.” While I personally feel there’s some truth to that, we need to understand this generation was raised differently – with fast changing technology, helicopter parents, and a world where acceptance of others and personal freedoms really began to blossom.

For this Gen Xer, born in the late 1960s, I’ve experienced frustrations in communicating with Millennials. I know it takes extra effort on my part and as an individual, I can learn to adapt to the current climate. But how can nonprofit organizations engage this generation that moves fast, likes communications short, and gives to causes they care about if their needs are being met?

Here are some tips I found in “9 Insights on Millennials When it Comes to Philanthropy” (by Brady Josephson at re: philanthropy.com) that might make it easier or more successful.

Of 75,000 Millennials surveyed by The Millennial Impact:

  • More updates – 43% of Millennials want to hear from organizations they donate to monthly. 79% prefer to get updates on the agency’s programs and services while 56% are okay with getting information about fundraising events
  • Send them email – 93% prefer to receive information via email
  • Give them opportunities for monthly giving – 52% are interested in giving monthly
  • Matching donations spur interest in giving – 71% said they’re more motivated to give if their gift is matched by another source
  • Ask them to help fundraise – 70% are willing to help raise funds for an organization they like
  • Give them reasons to trust you – 84% said they are most likely to donate if they trust the organization. Is your agency maintaining transparency? Are you communicating impacts, successes, challenges?

Want more information on generational differences that might impact donor behavior or communication? Check out this “Generational Differences Chart” by the West Midland Family Center in Shepherd, Michigan. What do you think? Does it accurately capture the traits of generations from Traditionalists to Millennials?

We’d love to hear your take. What challenges have you experienced in engaging Millennials? How did you overcome them? What are your success stories?

Continuity in Your Development Office

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Recently someone posted a thoughtful message on Facebook, meant to provide a framework for social media messages:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?

I gave this message a “thumbs up” response, I guess because so much of what people write seems to be not true, not kind, and/or not necessary!

All of this took on renewed importance this week, when I heard a couple of people describe their recent disappointment with a non-profit organization to which they had been exceedingly generous over many years.  The situation they described was essentially this: the leadership has changed; the people in the development office have changed; communication has been spotty at best; and no one seems to “get it” or care.

This is a devastating situation for a fundraising operation, and in my experience it is far too common.  New people come in to leadership positions and seek to boost their own credibility by discrediting the activities of prior leaders.  The new regime wants to start over with new prospects, new strategies, and new techniques. There is nothing wrong with taking a fresh look at all of that, but it is devastating if the most loyal and generous donors are neglected and lost.

The questions I saw on Facebook can be helpful as you think about your communication strategies with prospects and donors:

Your communications must be TRUE:  don’t buy into the narrative that nothing good every happened before the new leadership team arrived!  Seek out those who gave in the past and listen carefully to what motivates them to give.    Get a list of the top 10, top 25, top 50, and top 100 prior donors and reach out to every single one of them over time.  Make a phone call, write a letter, and ask for a face to face meeting.  Never ever fail to follow up!

Your communication must be KIND: don’t build yourself up by disparaging past leaders of the organization.  People give to people, and the donor thought enough of the prior administration to make a gift while those people were in charge.  Make sure you communicate to your past donors that, although the leadership has changed, the mission of your organization remains the same!

Your communication with prior donors is NECESSARY:  do not pick and choose!  Don’t listen to people who say “Oh you don’t to waste your time talking to that donor.”  In rare instances, a past donor may have specified in your records that s/he no longer wishes to be contacted, and if so that request must be honored.  But otherwise, attempt to reach all prior major donors.  You will be rewarded with great stories, new insights, and continued major gifts!

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

 

Transitions

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My wife and I aren’t the biggest TV watchers beyond the nightly news, a White Sox game and the occasional political news station, however, we have recently been engrossed with the Netflix biographical drama The Crown. We’re just a few episodes into the first season where the show highlights Queen Elizabeth’s sudden ascension of power soon after her father King George VI passes away.

One of the key themes is the many transitions that take place because of the new leadership. We see promotions and demotions with the new assistants, deputies and private aides which lead to a lot of uncertainty. It’s no different when changes happen at a non-profit. When a new President, department head or manager joins the team, there is without a doubt change that will transpire. The changes mostly likely aren’t going to be made overnight but change is inevitable.

One of the roles we can play and assist with during these times of transition is making sure the new team members are properly informed on the institutional background of the organization. Yes, they will have to do their own homework, learn the systems and especially familiarize themselves with the many stakeholders but taking the time to provide them with your knowledge is the right thing to do personally and for the organization.

Transition without solid communication is a recipe for confusion and frustration. It is essential to keep the lines of communication open as there will most likely be anxiety amongst the team and employees will require some time to engage the newness. Transitions are hard on everyone and making sure that everyone is informed can be an easy win to avoid pessimists and unnecessary conversation. If you aren’t in a position of authority you should speak up and ask questions so you are informed.

For transitions that are self-induced, they should be handled skillfully as your reputation is on the line. Think back on the time you joined the organization and how well or how poorly the transition went. It’s important to make sure you are leaving your replacement and team in good hands so any required reports or notes that are provided are completed with accuracy and are on point.

Assisting in the transition no matter what role you play or what level you are in the organization is everyone’s job. As I’ve witnessed in The Crown and in work evolutions I’ve been a part of, support and most of all trust are required ingredients to have in a successful and smooth transition.

 by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Show, Don’t Tell: Why Your Nonprofit Needs Data Visualization Tools

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You’ve seen them all over the interwebs. You run into them as you’re scrolling through your feed on Facebook, as you’re checking your Twitter updates, as you’re looking for remodeling ideas on Pinterest.

They’re infographics, and they’re everywhere. But more importantly for nonprofits: infographics (and other data visualization tools) are not a passing trend. It’s time you add them to your fundraising toolbox.

Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. Other data visualization tools—like charts, graphs, pictograms, gauges, dashboards, etc.—similarly present data in a pictorial or graphic format.

Why should you care?

Infographics and other data visualization tools:

  • Combine appeals to logic and emotions (a critical element of getting and keeping donors)
  • Engage 66% of all people who are visual learners
  • Register much more quickly with readers than narrative: visual cues are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text
  • Are visually intriguing and motivational
  • Give the reader’s eye a place to rest (especially when incorporated with appropriate amounts of white space)
  • Improve document readability
  • Can be published and packaged in multiple ways, making it a multipurpose tool

That last bullet point may be the most critical: data visualization tools can be used anywhere—social media, websites, cases for support, annual reports, and even grant proposals.

So, how do you create infographics and other tools?

As a nonprofit pro, my default response is use something free! And there are some high-quality, free tools available, like Easel.lyCanvaInfogr.am, and Piktochart. I’ve used them all, and they’re intuitive, provide lots of layouts and options (even at the free level), and are user-friendly for those of us who don’t have graphic design backgrounds.

If you have the resources to hire a professional graphic designer or illustrator, do it. They are amazing professionals who can help you step up your game in developing compelling fundraising collateral. And you may be surprised to find a graphic designer in your area who specializes in nonprofit work – I know I was! They’re out there, and some of them are even willing to volunteer.

by: Heather Stombaugh, Grants Consultant,  HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Attention to Detail

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In his blog post two weeks ago, “Are you loyal to your loyal donors?” my colleague Steve Murphy provided a very tangible and fundamental post on being loyal to your most loyal donors. If you missed it, I would strongly encourage you to go back and read it and share it with your colleagues, your boss and even your board. The organizations that take the time to recognize gifts properly, steward strategically and pay attention to detail will stand out and will further the giving cycle.

Speaking of paying attention to detail and standing out, I recently received a thank you letter in the mail acknowledging my wife and my annual support to an organization over the past calendar year. It was nicely written highlighting the accomplishments of the year, the impact the organization is making in the community and the bold program goals for 2017, but in the valediction the signature of the author was missing. Yes, you got that right the letter was not signed…. THEY OMITTED A SIGNATURE!

I couldn’t help but take a deep breath, then have a nervous laugh, took a deep breath again and then I found myself really annoyed. This is my profession and a detail such as this cannot be neglected.  I absolutely understand we make mistakes (wrong addresses, ink that doesn’t dry on the letter, etc…) but this is one you just don’t forget to do. I was more worried for the organization than the letter to me. I don’t want this to hurt their stewardship efforts and I will respectfully share my concern with them and offer the appropriate suggested follow up to the donors.

Steve posed the question in his post – “Do they even know that I value their mission and consider them one of my top three charitable interests?”  Getting an unsigned letter further signified the importance of Steve’s question. As development professionals we need to find this answer out. We need to dig a little harder to know who the donor is and where the organization falls in their priorities.  We need to pay attention to detail, ask our colleagues to double check our work, slow down and spend as much time on the thank you letter as we do on the appeal letter or on the special event invitation we are producing.

Details matter and sloppy development work results in unhappy investors. Unhappy investors equate to lost money…and lost money is a hit to the mission.

 by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

The Human Touch

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Recently, I had to purchase a new phone. The battery was shot, I had limited storage capacity and the service was spotty most of the time. While I was upgrading to a new version and getting a more “robust” phone, I realized every bell and whistle that was being sold to me had nothing to do with what the phone was intended to do, make a phone call.  I’m not a neo-luddite by any means, I just had a sudden a-ha moment that we don’t use the phone or the action of what the phone is intended to do anymore.

Last week, I was reminded how important and honestly how easy it is to pick up the phone and communicate the old fashion way. I was with a colleague who had shifted careers from fundraising to sales – (not much of a difference as we all know) and he was explaining his new role in generating new business, creating leads, cultivating customers, presenting the product and then the ever important follow up. All along the “cultivation” journey he highlighted that his “go-to” was the utilization of his phone to communicate. Not to text, not to email but to actually call someone is what he used as his personal outreach and human touch advantage.

As we head into 2017 and make our list of New Year’s resolutions, I know one of mine will be to take the time to put a human touch on the interaction I have…whether it be with donors, colleagues, friends or family. That human touch will be to make the phone call when it’s more appropriate than the email.  The human touch makes such an impression and just like sending a hand written letter, card or personal note it’s what we need to remember to do more often than not.

During the holiday season, we tend to take time to reflect on the joys of life, a time to be grateful for what we have,  a time to be mindful of what more we can do and what motivates us to keep us going. It’s important to always remember that putting a human touch on our communication is the thoughtful way to say hello, express your thanks and enjoy the human touch way. It’s way more real.

Happy Holidays!

by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions