Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers

AFP International Conference

Well, the AFP Conference is off to a great start. So many people from around the country and the world.  My goal is to write up blog post during the day and then post each evening.  I hope you will give me wide breadth on typos. I will go back through the post when I get back to NYC and clean them up. Ok, I am off to my first session.

BTW-  Be sure to tweet me at @thoughtfulappro if you are here. Or drop me a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Sunday, March 20, 2016

 Monday, March 21, 2016

Restatring your social media program

Some readers have asked me about how to restart posting to their FACEBOOK PAGE when the page is dormant or just sporadically used. The concern seemed to be that a lot of effort had gone into creating material when the page was being kept up and could they use any of that material again.


Well, it would have been better just to keep posting to the page regularly but it is never too late to reinvigorate a FACEBOOK PAGE. Now to answer your questions-

1. Yes, you can reuse non-time sensitive material. I have been working with an organization that used to be very active on Facebook and always posted on “Throw Back Thursdays.” They also used to do what they called “Mystery Monday. “ TBT material is pretty evergreen, and you can use it numerous times. Just make sure you are spreading it out throughout the year and adding some new material for variety.


The “Mystery Monday” idea used interesting archival photos that the organization had little or no information concerning. Simply, ask your followers to post any information they may know about the photos back to the social media platform. It is a clever engagement strategy for your followers.


The trick in either of these cases is to be sure you devote some staff time to replying to comments and letting your followers know about any successes you have in identifying the pictures or people in them.


2. To keep your page current, plan on posting something every day. Staying up to date is not as hard as it might seem if you do two things:

a. Create at least two weeks of evergreen text.

By this, I mean things like the Throw Back Thursday and Mystery Monday. Also, create posts that directly promote aspects of your organization. If you have an official “Fact Sheet” about the organization, each of those facts can be a starting point for a post. Something like “Did you know that XXX AGENCY has programs in 5 counties throughout the state?” or “XXX students got their first taste of Shakespeare at our student matinees last year. Because of support from XXXXXX.” The last one gives you the chance to promote your organization and one of your corporate supporters. It is a win-win.

b. Work with your program areas to create the new posts.

This job may sound daunting but in reality everyone wants to tell people about the good things they are doing. I’d bet that some of your program staff are already posting about their work but to their own personal pages.

To make it easy, create a calendar and assign a week or month to each program. That will be the period that your Facebook post will spotlight that particular program. It doesn’t mean that is the only time that the program can submit post material to you. Try and encourage programs to send you anything that they feel might be of interest any time.

I know what you are thinking - how will you ever keep track of all this material? Social media is not my only job. I have a few suggestions first just open a word processing document and start writing your post. You could also create them in a spreadsheet where column one is for the date the post will go out and the next column for the post text. The best way to do it is to use an aggregator program like Hootsuite.


Hootsuite is an excellent program that allows you to build out days, weeks or months of posts in a single session. The program is relatively easy to use. You add your social media feeds – did I mention it can help you with Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and about a dozen other social media platforms. It is easy to use, and the best part - it is free depending on the number of feeds you want to set up.


Using a program like Hootsuite would allow you to spend 30 minutes a week keeping your Facebook Page up to date. The important thing is just to get started. Don’t let the idea of keeping your page up to date stop you from starting. You could create a schedule where you start off posting twice a week and then build on up to daily posting. Allocate 30 minutes when you first come to work to work on your social media presence.


I am confident with a little allocated time and preplanning you can keep your Facebook page up to date.

A Little Something About Analytics and Facebook and Twitter

First off, if you have not completed your year-end thank you letters by now – stop reading and get busy. This post will be here later - your donors may not.

Last January, I suggested that this was the right time to review your relationship building practices. It is still the right time. So get busy with that... Here is the link to last January’s post.

If you feel that you have your relationship house in order, I recommend that you spend January reviewing your social media presence. First and foremost, review the platforms you use. Every organization should have a FACEBOOK PAGE and a TWITTER account. I wrote about these two platforms in March 2015.

So you have a Facebook Page and a Twitter account it is time to see if they are doing you any good. These social media platforms only help your organization in two ways.

1. Viewers get a bit of education about your organization. Hopefully, they “liked” or “followed” you. For whatever those activities are worth to you.

2. Your posts were designed as teasers to send people to other content, primarily on your website. But most importantly while on your website they may sign up for your emails or – heaven forbid – made a donation.

As you might imagine, I prefer #2. In fact, I really think #2 is the only reason to have a social media presence for most organizations.

There are two ways that Facebook and Twitter analytics can help your organization. One is simply by letting you if you are getting the word out about your organization to people who might stumble upon your page or post. To figure this out on Facebook you want to look at a year-to-date comparison of contact with your sight. On Facebook, these are called “insights.” On Twitter, you will look at the analytics section to get both year-to-date information and month by month comparisons.


Facebook’s Insights will give you a wealth of information about your Page and Post. It will tell you Like, Reach, and Page Views for your whole page and the same information for each of your Post. This is an excellent way to see which of your Posts worked and which did not. Remember the goal is not to simply pump out information but to have people engage with that information. If your Posts have links back to your website, then you need to know if people actually went to your website from the Post. Facebook’s Insights can tell you how many people clicked a link in your Post. If you combine this with your Google Analytics information, you should be able to get a sense of how many of those people spent time on your website. In Google Analytics, look for the “from” report. It shows you the site where people came from. Do not worry if the Facebook and the Google Analytics numbers aren’t exact. This is not an precsise science. They should be close, though.


Now on Twitter you click on the image you have assigned to your account and toward the bottom, you will see the word Analytics. Click on it. You will get a very simple to understand overview of your account that includes “Tweets,” “Tweet Impressions”, “Profile Visits”, and “Followers”.

These are great overviews of your Twitter efforts. Now let us look at what else they offer. Reviewing your account by month you get a plethora of data that can be useful. I won’t go over all of it. The most important are “Top Tweet” and “Top Mentions”. Looking at these two will give you analytics on your internal campaign. The information you are sending out and how people are “mentioning” your tweet.

As great as these are to tell you how well you are doing on a specific platform, I really depend on Google Analytics. We will examine Google Analytics in detail in a future post.

Odds are you have Google Analytics on your website. If you are not responsible for your website, you should have a sit-down with the person who is in charge and get access to your analytics. You can figure out if your site has Google Analytics by opening your home page and then right clicking on your mouse and looking for an option that says something like “View Source.” What you will see is the code that runs your website. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what you see. What you are looking for is “”


Once you know more about what works and what doesn’t, do more of what does! I have shared with you before the infographic on the ideal length on social media. But using these analytics and seeing which post worked and which didn’t you can figure out what the best length is of the post/tweets that work for your followers. That is what you want to know no matter what else you might read.

Thanking your donors is not a choice. It is a must.

If you have not already prepared your thank you letters for your organization’s year-end appeal - you are late. What? You don’t write special thank you letters for your Year End Appeal? Hmm... well, you are missing an opportunity to connect thoughtfully with your donors and to help ensure a renewal or second gift.

Yes, thank you letters are that important, but you knew that. What you may not have realized was that a timely and relevant thank you letter (or email) is the first step to more gifts. So let’s look at what you still have time to do.

Typically, I have a bunch of different letters ready to go as soon as my appeal drops. The letters should correspond to the type of donor and the amount of the gift. The breakdown might look something like this -
1. Renewals below $250*
2. Renewals above $250
3. New gifts below $250
4. New gifts above $250
5. Recurring gifts below your Major Gift level

Your letters should use the same themes you used in your year-end appeal. By using the same themes, you are reinforcing the ideas put forth in those materials. It also makes it clear that your donor is supporting a specific discrete appeal. Most importantly it shows that you put as much thought into thanking people as you did in soliciting them.

Your letters should also reflect the donor’s relationship with your organization. Renewals should get a shorter letter that assumes they know something about your organization. It could seem a bit insulting for a long time donor, even a small donor, to get a letter that welcomes them and explains the organization. That would not be very thoughtful.

What these letters should do is thank the donor and tell them about something new or unique that is happening with your organization. Think “Insider” information. It should also be no more than ¾ of a page. I would also recommend that as many as possible of the letters for new donors above $250 have real signatures. In fact, if you have 1,000 donors or less, I would make sure every letter has a real signature. It will make a difference.

You should use the same breakdown I suggested in the last BLOG to decide who gets a letter with a live signature. A good rule of thumb is that if the ASK letter had a live signature then the thank you letter should as well.

Thank you letters to new donors give you a second chance to educated the donor about your organization. You can assume that something about your organization resonated with the donor. In a single page, build on one or two aspects of your year-end appeal materials. If you spotlighted a specific program, then go a little more in-depth.

Now, if one of your letters was very specific then your thank you letter for people who responded to that letter ought to be very specific. I once did a letter that was highly specific to a single program and only mailed to a list that had an affinity for the program. Donors to this letter got a thank you letter that was equally specific.

An aside –
By the way, I am assuming that you are coding all of your reply devices. Coding will allow you to know to which list and the letter a donor is responding. If you are using a mail house, they can help you to create a code that is pre-printed on all of your letters. This type of tracking is VITAL if you want to the ability to do any real analytics on your mailing. Look for a blog post on this subject in the future.

*The cutoff amount should be below your major gift amount and above your average gift. Also choosing a single cutoff amount will make your life much easier than having a number of different cutoff levels.

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