Design can affect your outcomes. Pretty -vs- Functional
I am a visual person. I like clean and interesting graphics. During my career, I have prided myself on bringing great graphic looks to the pieces I helped create. How can you change years of middle of the road design on your pieces? Well, you don’t do it in one mailing. Recently, I had the experience of working with a new organization to help them update and energize their direct mail appeals.
The first thing I did was get copies of every appeal that had been mailed in the last three years and did a table top. By placing all the pieces side by side, you should see the visual story your direct mail tells. Are they similar, do they look like they come from the same organization? Do they represent your organization well? In this case, the pieces were all rather bland. There was a disconnect between the vitality of the organization and what was on the printed page.
You will notice I am not talking about the content of the letters. I was just interested in the first impression of the materials. What does a prospect of donor see with they are flipping through their mail?
I changed everything! The new package had a four-color envelope cleverly designed letterhead and was very modern looking.
We mailed the piece to current donors as the first mailing of the year. I was very pleased, and everyone thought it looked great. Everyone but the donors - they didn’t respond to it by sending donations. The appeal only did about 2/3 as well as the previous year's mailing did. So what happened?
After much soul searching and conversations with staff and consultants, the answer was pretty simple. My new pieces didn’t look like what donors expected from the organization. The appeal appeared to come from a different organization. So they didn’t respond.
This was a hard lesson to learn but an important one. "No style" is a style. If your donors are accustomed to getting pieces that have a certain look and you want to make changes to the way those pieces look - make them incrementally. Starting with the inside of the pieces after all you need them to open the mail. Then make small tweaks to the envelope. Take your time. You can freshen up and modernize your designs without alienating or confusing your donor
Take that fancy design and test it with your acquisition mailing. If it does well in the test, then make it your base piece for acquisition. These donors only know you from the piece with the new look. With these new donors in hand, you can slowly update your renewal pieces.
It is always worth reviewing your design esthetic, but my recommendation is to go slowly and test everything.
What makes up your CRM?
What data do you collect? Well, I collect all kinds of data on my prospects, donors and the gifts we receive. However, if I were starting a CRM from scratch what would a collect? First, I would decide what the primary data is I need for every entry. The minimum I would collect on every person I was adding to the database is the following:
Addressee (Formal Name)
Connection to Charity (donor, prospect, volunteer, board member, etc.)
Besides the basic data fields, you might consider adding these fields. They will help with reporting, prospecting, and cultivation. The additional fields, I recommend, include:
Social Media Handles
Those are the fields I would collect whether the individual is a donor or a prospect. If the data comes from a donation, I would add the following gift fields. Gift fields should include the data that you need to thank donors and do basic financial reporting.
Receipt Amount (helpful with events)
Giving Vehicle (what was the gift in response to)
Gift fields have a few basics that you have to have simply to thank and to do the most basic reporting. To do more advanced reporting and to assist you in reconciling with your finance department you should add the following fields.
Financial codes (GL Accounts, or fund)
Acknowledgment coding (if thanked, date thanked)
Gift Type (Cash, Check, Credit Card)
With these fields, you can track donor interactions and gifts. You can also create reports for "Years Given, Cumulative Giving, Donor Locations, Response Rate, Attrition Rate, Giving by Date, LYBNTY, SYBNTY and Never Given and Giving by Connection to Charity - to name a few. You may not need all of these reports now, but it is better to have the data available than to try and go back and add it to your data.
Since most of us are not building CRM's from scratch how does this affect us? Well, it gives you an idea of what your CRM needs no matter whether it is custom built or out of the box. It is also a reminder that just because a CRM includes a field you do not have to use it. Be thoughtful in your approach, and you will be gathering the data you need.
You can’t report on what you don’t collect.
TEDTALK | The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Do you have an authentic voice for you non-profit? Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
It Occurs To Me
I am getting ready for the 2018 AFP International Conference in New Orleans. There are a number of great sessions that I want to recap for you. Look for the first one on Cases for Support the week of 4/23. I'll do my best to keep them coming after that one on a regular basis.
If your fiscal year ends on December 31st how long do you keep the books open so that you can collect every dollar that is meant for the previous year? I usually hold the books for three weeks. If a check comes in dated after December 31st then we count it in the new year.
Do you have your thank you letters ready? If not you had better get started. Acknowledgement letters are just as important as your solicitations. Do you put as much thought into them?
What do you think? Will the deserved generosity being shown to victims of Harvey affect year-end giving to none hurricane related charities? My thoughtful opinion is that those who have supported your organization for a couple of years will still support your year-end appeals. I do believe there will be weakening in the renewal rates of your newest acquisitions. As for this year's acquisitions, these will be soft. How soft is the question? Some of the softness may depend on how close to the affected area you are located. But I will certainly thoughtfully adjust my goals with all of this is mind.
August is a great time to review your stewardship program. We all know it is important to thank our donors but do you have a strategic stewardship program. What I mean by "strategic" is one that thanks, donors appropriately based their donor level. It should also acknowledge things like a first gift, increased gifts, and multiple gifts. Does yours do this? I also recommend handwritten notes and phone calls for donors at certain levels. Here is a link to a post last year about thanking donors for your review.
Fundraising Day New York (FRDNY) is only a couple of weeks away and it looks like it will be another great day. I will be blogging from the event. I anticipate writing about 4 sessions. The goal is to pick sessions that cover a few specific topics - cultivation, planning and, of course, technology.
This is always such a great conference and one of the great resources of the day is the exposition. I always get great ideas and if a vendor you use is presenting at the conference it is a great time to meet them in person. Don't let this opportunity pass you buy. If you are in the New York area I hope you get a chance to attend FRDNY.
It was great being a part of today's AFP Workshop on Direct Mail. It is always a pleasure to share advice and ideas with other fundraisers. During the workshop, we talked about everything from acquisition to thank you letters. Yes, Thank you letters. Sometimes when we think of direct mail we only think of the "Ask, " but the "Thank-You" is just as important. Don't ignore the second part of any ask the thank you. You can not thank people too often or in too many ways. So take a few minutes today to review your thank you process.
We will be live blogging from the AFP International Conference in San Francisco. Last year, this was one of the most popular blogs so don't miss it. It should be a great conference there are a lot of great sessions. The first post will hit late on Sunday, April 30th. I'll be sending a reminder on Monday, May 1st so look out for the email.
How did your year-end appeal turn out? What was your retention rate and attrition rate? These two rates are just as important as knowing how much money you raised. If you don't track these you might want to do so. You will be surprised by what you find.Or hopefully, you won't be surprised.
So the election is over. We have a winner and a loser. Putting basic politics aside will the results change your Year-End giving results? So far the markets are looking like they will stabilize and millions of people are happy about the results. Well, millions are also scared.
I wonder if your results will depend on where your charity is located. I work in a very Blue part of my state and my charity only works in that area. What if you work in a very red part of the country. Will you do better or worse?
Also, will the election change average donors,mid-level donors or major donors more? What do you think? I don't have any answers myself and unfortunately, I won't know until January when the year-end result are tallied. Please click on the comments section of the site to leave your thoughts.
October is half over so I hope your Year-End Appeal is past the planning stages. By now you should have at least updated your base Acquisition Appeal materials and be well on the way with your renewal appeal. List should be have been chosen and the process of renting them should be underway.
If you are not this far along - no worries- take a deep breath and dive in. You'll get it all done but why not calendar out 2017 to give yourself more time to plan and write.
So you made it to September. I know it seems like August is the longest month in the year. It precedes what is the for all practical purposes the shortest two months - November and December. So much of our fundraising year depends on the out come of those two months. So Sepetember and October are all about prep work. In fact, I would say that September is the most important month because by the time October gets here all your year-end work needs to be complete. If those "Giving Tuesday", Year-End Appeals and follow-ups are going out on time your September is going to be quite busy. What do you think?
I'll be live blogging from FRDNY so tune in. As always, this is a great day.
We will be blogging from the AFP International Conference in Boston starting on March 20. The Thoughtful Approach to... blog will be updated daily after the last session but we will be tweeting during the conference. Be sure to follow us at @thoughtfulappro and to check the main blog each day.
Just 11 days and counting until the fun begins.
December 2, 2015
So you survived GIVING TUESDAY, now what? Well, it is not the time to start planning for next year. Nope, it is time to take a page from retail and follow up with people.
Let us assume you sent and email to all of your prospects, constituents and donors. If you used any of the primary email systems like Mail Chimp, Raiser’s Edge, Patron Mail et. al. you can pull a list of people who opened your email but did not click on the donate link.
I’d recommend emailing all of those people today to thoughtfully remind them that they can still make a gift to your organization. Rather like the "Your Carts Not Empty" emails some retailers send when you pick out times but do not complete a sale on their sites.
Try it you have nothing to loose. Just don’t be obvious about how you know they visited your site. Treat the email as a reminder ask. Sell the "why" of your organization.
Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.
Well, the feed back on my two part series on videos has been great. I know that a lot of people were interested in the subject but I had no idea just how many. I look forward to hearing more from people who decided to add videos to there annual appeal and those who changed their mind.
But what about those annual appeals? Are you ready and where are you putting your emphasis on acquisition, renewal, lapsed or what exactly? I have decided that renewal should get the bulk of your time as for money acquisition always eats that up.
So in a little more than two months your annual appeal will drop- right? We'll have you thought about how to use videos as a part of the overall appeal. The right video can be embedded in your website and tied to a Google ad, posted to your Facebook Page and on Twitter. You should even be able to add it right to your email appeal. Just about the only thing you can not do with it is mail it. Unless you create a QR code for the video and include that in your mailing. Just a thought.
But what qualifies as a successful video. I would say like many things in fundraising you won't know know if you have gotten right until the appeal is over and you look at the analytics and crunch some numbers. But you can see what like agencies are doing and take a chance pick up the phone and call a colleague. In fact, my thoughtful tip isn't really about videos it is when in doubt call a colleague. That and read my September post about best practices concerning videos.
-How ready is your Annual Appeal? Yes, I know it is August but if you want them to drop before Thanksgiving you should have already gotten started. Remember acquisition, renewal, lapsed donor, major gift and e-solicitations need to all work seamlessly - don't you think?
Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.
-The shared articles section has gotten the second largest number of hits of any area on the site. Thank you. If you have article suggestions please leave it in a comment.
I have gotten a lot of great feedback on the TedTalk video on pecking order. What were your thoughts?
Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.
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