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February 2007

Our friend the question mark

If you're of a certain age, you may remember a film they showed us in school: Our Friend the Atom. The message (as I remember it, anyway) was, Sure, nuclear holocaust is a scary thought -- but nuclear power can do a lot of good, too!

In marketing and fundraising, we have something that's powerful and dangerous like the atom: The question.

The well-put question can pump life into your copy, deeply engaging the reader and making the communication stronger and more interesting. A recent article in Direct magazine by Ernest Nicastro looks at this power: Three Questions to Get More People to Read Your Copy. Nicastro recommends three especially good question approaches:


  1. Did you know . . . ?
  2. You hate it don't you?
  3. Can you say, with absolute confidence . . . ?

When properly framed, these questions are intriguing, engaging, and can make readers into donors by placing your cause squarely in their world.

But what about the destructive down-side of questions? A well-asked question is tough to pull off. Many attempts blow up in our faces, blasting all the motivation we may have to bits.

Questions to avoid

Here are some question approaches that really don't work:


  • Simple yes or no. Have you ever driven a motorcycle? You really want the answer to your questions to be yes. If there's a good chance the answer is no, you're off on the wrong foot.
  • Boring yes questions. Have you ever eaten in a restaurant? A yes isn't worth much if it's a boring answer. Your question needs to evoke passion in some way.
  • Well, duh. Are you against small children dying of painful, preventable diseases? Another form of the boring question. You get an easy yes, but probably not much passion. You can sometimes turn this type into a good question if you add an unexpected twist.
  • Head scratchers. Have you ever wondered if our capacity-building initiatives are sustainable? The question shouldn't be hard to understand. Make sure you're speaking your readers' language and framing the issue in ways they care about.

But really, give the question mark a try.


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The Boomers are coming! Are you ready?

In recent analysis of direct mail donor acquisition campaigns for one of our clients, we looked at the ages of the new donors. What we discovered was pretty exciting: 47% of the new donors are 60 and under.

That means nearly half that class new donors are Boomers.

What makes this notable is this: We weren't seeking Boomer donors. We were pursuing our usual list strategies. The Boomers were just there. They're showing up on the same lists as older donors. Because of who they are and what they do.

The Boomers are coming. One if by land, two if by sea!

The only thing we did that may have tilted the class of donors toward the Boomer demographic is we were working to increase average gift. That has the side-effect of lowering the average age, as you can see here:
Averagebyage_1

Your results, of course, may vary. But this is an early sign that the leading edge of Boomers is starting to show up on donor files. It's going to be some time yet before they predominate, but it's time to get ready. Because with Boomers, you'll not only see higher average gifts, but new demands:


  • More connection with the cause.
  • Intolerance of poor service.
  • Ability to research for themselves about you.
  • Highly networked and influenced by what others (their friends and the celebrities they respect) are giving to.
  • Giving for self-directed reasons, not out of duty.
  • Very willing to give more -- when they get more back.

Hold on -- the ride is beginning!


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Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

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This week's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants is hosted at Nonprofit Communications, featuring a grab bag of interesting and useful posts.

Next week, the carnival will be here, a co-presentation with The Giving Carnival, hosted at Tactical Philanthropy.

Our shared topic: What donors wish nonprofits knew about them, and vice-versa. If you have a post that helps reveal one or the other (or both), submit your post here. Deadline is Friday, March 2, 8 p.m. ET.

A great tagline is good, but not good enough

Stop the presses! JCPenney has a new tagline.

If you can stand the excitement, here it is:

Every Day Matters

The company's chief executive is quoted as saying, "We needed a rallying cry that would resonate with our customers." He also hopes the new slogan will be as powerful as Nike's "Just do it."

He really said that. Chances are, he even believes it to be true.

The Brains On Fire blog noted this in A new tagline? That'll change everything!


A rallying cry is great. But a remarkable experience is even better. It transcends tag lines and advertising. . . . Creating a new tagline won't change anything. Try starting with the culture. The experience. The people inside your company.

To be fair to Penney, they're rolling out a lot more than just a tagline. I'm sure they fully intend to make this work. But only their customers can make that happen, and to get that, Penney needs to be better in some way than any other retailer. The end product of all this excitement had better be something truly remarkable for the customers. And pardon me for being cynical but I'll eat my hat if they actually do what it takes to deliver that.

How many nonprofits think they can change everything by redesigning a logo, rewriting a tagline, or dreaming up a shiny new mission statement?

That's just not enough. When you paint your house, it looks good, but it's still the same house.

Marketing can do a lot for you. When done well, it can help you raise a lot more funds and get a lot more attention. But for real and meaningful change, you need to go beyond marketing to reality. Not what you look like or what you say, but who you are.

For a look at nonprofit taglines galore, see What your tagline should do for you.


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Direct mail: it's more important than ever, not withering away

In his column this month in Fundraising Success, Jim Hussey says Don't Write Off Direct Mail.

Some folks talk about direct mail like it's a lumbering dinosaur looking dimly around at the nimble little mammals that are well on their way to world domination. Hussey notes that spending on direct mail went up 8.5% in 2006, and that it's projected to go up again 7.5% this year -- while all advertising spending will go up only 4.8%.


If you look around . . . you quickly will learn that the two mediums of direct mail and the Internet actually complement one another. Instead of clashing in a life-or-death struggle, the Internet and direct mail are actually proving to be quite chummy bedfellows. . . . Just as any fundraiser today is crazy to think about fundraising efforts without the use of the Internet, you’d be just as crazy to consider fundraising efforts without the use of direct mail.

When we talk about the growing importance of the internet, it's not a zero-sum game with direct mail. We'll be doing both for a long time!

The trick is to find the way the two media work together most effectively.


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The Giving Carnival

There's a new blog carnival that's worth a visit: The Giving Carnival. This week, the topic is philanthropy book recommendations. Discover some good books you may not know about yet.

Like Batman and Superman together in the same comic book!

The Giving Carnival and The Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants (which is frequently featured here) will come together on March 5, hosted at Tactical Philanthropy and here at the Donor Power Blog.

Our shared topic: What donors wish nonprofits knew about them, and vice-versa. If you have a post that helps reveal one or the other (or both), submit your post here. Deadline is Friday, March 2, 8 p.m. ET.

If we don't give donors power -- they can take it

It's easy to talk about the subject of respect, serving, and empowering donors as if those are interesting options for forward-thinking nonprofits. It's not going to stay that way. If you don't give donors power, they're going to seize it, leaving you all goggle-eyed and confused, like Marie Antoinette, wondering what happened.

In Your Secret Donor Hates You, Trent Stamp's Take notes that 20% of those who use Network For Good to give charitable gifts choose to be anonymous when they give. Their gift goes to the nonprofit of their choice, but their receipt is issued by Network for Good. The organization they gave to can neither thank the donor, report back, nor ask again. It's not a very attractive situation for nonprofits.

Last year, anonymous donations through Network for Good were more than $7 million, with an average gift of about $100.

While some donors may choose anonymity for noble or spiritual reasons, Trent sees something more ominous:


. . . they're doing it because they're sick of being treated like pieces of meat. If your donor doesn't want you to know who he is, how much trust could he possibly have in you?

Go ahead and call him jaded, but Mr. Stamp raises a scary point. A significant group of donors like what nonprofits do (like it enough to shell out a sizeable gift), but they don't like the nonprofit -- they don't want a relationship at all!

The old contract with donors was this: You give to us, and we have the right to do whatever we want with you after that -- send as much mail as we want, telemarket, rent their names to others . . . Worse, many nonprofits fail to report back on the impact of their giving, fail to offer donors meaningful choices, and don't treat donors with respect. Many donors don't buy in to this contract. They want to do good deeds, but they don't want the stuff that follows. And now, with places like Network for Good at their disposal, they can opt out of the contract.

This is going to get bigger, not smaller.

Your only defense: earn the right to have relationships with donors. Make it so being on your list is the coolest experience around, and they spread the word.


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Ask donors for all of their gifts

Mal Warwick, in his latest newsletter urges us to look at donors as more than sources of money. His article, Six gifts, looks beyond the obvious three gifts donors can give -- money, time, and gifts-in-kind -- at another three:

  • Information: ranging from market insight to specialized professional knowledge.
  • Voice: the ability to speak for you in many ways.
  • Influence: the ability to help things go your way.

Any of these things can potentially be worth more than money. But you're not going to get them if you act as if your donors are banks, and your appeals are withdrawal slips.

If you want full value from donors, you need to engage them in relationship and conversation.

And here's the magic of it: When you treat donors this way, they give you the gifts they have to offer -- and often more money too. Because making the world a better place is important to them. And giving is a great pleasure.

Treating donors as human beings. There's a concept.


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Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

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This week's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants is hosted at Beyond Giving. Topic: nonprofit excellence.

Next week, open topic, hosted at the Nonprofit Communications Blog. If you have a blog post on that topic, fill out the easy form at BlogCarnival.com. Deadline is Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET.

The web: more difficult than it looks

Just how web-competent are your donors?

No matter what you just said, you probably over-estimated. Research reported at eMarketer.com looked at the top search terms used last year: 'MySpace' the Top Search Term in 2006. Here are the top ten:


  1. myspace (0.63%)
  2. myspace.com (0.41%)
  3. ebay (0.33%)
  4. yahoo (0.23%)
  5. mapquest (0.21%)
  6. www.myspace.com (0.18%)
  7. yahoo.com (0.15%)
  8. my space (0.14%)
  9. myspace layouts (0.14%)
  10. lyrics (0.09%)

Beside confirming the staggering popularity of MySpace, this also gives us a weird insight into the web user's mind: Many, many, many web users don't quite grasp the web.

The top eight search terms aren't search terms at all! People are typing URLs into Google, which is a goofy, extra-step way to get somewhere -- though it works. MySpace users skew young -- therefore, you'd think, more web-savvy than average. But there they are, clumsily typing URLs into Google.

Are your donors more or less web-savvy than MySpace users?

Remember that every time you do something online. It's not as obvious as you think! K.I.S.S.


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Music is not entertaining, says orchestra

Sometimes nonprofits give in to the temptation to deny who they are. It's one of the quirks of our community. But here's a doozy: Beethoven's Fifth + 5%.

Seems the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra wanted to re-classify its concerts from entertainment to education, because educational events are exempt form the 5% sales tax that's charged on entertainment.

As their attorney put it, with inimitable lawyer surrealism:


Classical pieces themselves are complex pieces of art. Playing the music is like turning the lights on at the art museum.

(Fortunately, the authorities saw right through the noise and easily recognize a concert as entertaining. They also noted that even if the taxes were to be refunded, they should go to the concert-goers, not the orchestra.)

Anyone who thinks a symphony orchestra concert is not entertainment just hasn't been to one -- at least not a good one. And to class concerts as education -- as if they're something you should do if you want to better yourself -- is to deny the reason anyone listens to any kind of music. Only in the topsy-turvy nonprofit psychology would someone suggest such a thing.

To be fair, there was an ulterior motive -- money (as much as $1.75 million plus interest). But even then, the brainiacs at the Milwaukee Symphony were willing to utterly trash who they are to their customers and donors.

What's the cost of that?

Thanks to The Artful Manager for the tip.


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How to influence those who influence your donors

Who influences donors to give? Not celebrities all that much, if you believe a survey reported in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: Celebrities Are Not a Big Draw for Donors (subscription required).

Commissioned by Cone, a Boston company that helps charities and corporations conduct marketing projects, the survey found what influenced donors to support a charity:


  • Family members (77%)
  • Friends (64%)
  • Their place of worship (60%)
  • Co-workers (40%)
  • Companies (30%)
  • Celebrities (15%)

Standard Donor Power Blog Disclaimer on survey research: A survey reports what people say, not necessarily what they'd do. I suspect that celebrities have more influence in the world of actual donor behavior than in the world of opinion.

Even so, you can see how much more important knowledge from people they know is than knowledge from strangers. This is underlined in the survey answers about what donors say is the most effective way for a charity to reach them:


  • Word-of-mouth requests from family or friends (76%)
  • Newspaper and magazine articles (56%)
  • Events (51%)
  • Advertising (50%)

And in the things they say influence their support of charities:


  • Trust in a charity (82%)
  • Saw a charity's impact locally (80%)
  • Ease and convenience of donating (68%)
  • The chance to get involved with the charity in other ways (59%)
  • Frequent news-media coverage of the organization (45%)

Nothing beats first-hand experience. And you can't buy that. You have to earn it. Be great. Be exciting. Be worth talking about. That's how you'll break through the clutter.


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Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

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This week's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants is hosted at the Nonprofit Communications Blog. It's a good one: Tips on Nonprofit Newsletters.

Next week, the Carnival is on "Nonprofit Excellence" at Beyond Giving. If you have a blog post on that topic, fill out the easy form at BlogCarnival.com. Deadline is Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET.

Boomers come in five flavors (at least)

Baby Boomers all war love beads and took to the streets in the 60s. They fought for civil rights, and against the war. Then they grew up into hard-driving yuppies with cell phones and SUVs.

Of course not. There's not just one kind of Baby Boomer.

A recent study points out the amazing diversity among this huge generation: Chadwick Martin Bailey Releases Baby Boomer Research. The study divides Boomers into five categories:


  • Status Seekers. Materialistic, money- and success-oriented. Willing to pay more for brand names. (26%)
  • Traditionalists. Conservative political, economic, and social views. Known for following the rules, and are smart consumers, (23%)
  • Blue Collar Skeptics. They fall on the low end of the Boomer income bracket. They don't trust big businesses and are concerned about the amount of information online. (18%)
  • Activists. Politically and socially active. Generally liberal and donate a significant amount of time and money to charity. (17%)
  • Achievers. Early adopters of technology. Focused on success and wealth and are heavily involved in social activities. (16%)

Take it with a healthy dose of skepticism. No survey is going to tell you the "truth" -- just a small picture of one moment as interpreted by its authors. If they'd asked different questions, they'd have found different categories.

But this is helpful in understanding Boomers as an audience: They aren't all the same. Donors probably cluster in the Traditionalist and Activist categories. Hold these categories in mind, and your fundraising will be more relevant. When you aim at everybody, you usually hit nobody.

If you're a fundraiser, you need to be a student of your donors. These demographic studies can help you refine your thinking and your fundraising efforts.


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Blogging is a good investment

Unlike many nonprofits, businesses (at least the ones that stick around) are careful about how they spend money. So of course, they're asking whether or not it's worth is to have blogs. Worth it in the sense that a blog generates return on investment.

Forrester has done a study on just that: New ROI of blogging report from Forrester.

(The full study, available here, will cost you $379.)

Here's what the study finds: A blog generates specific benefits, each of which can be assigned a measurable value:


  • Blog traffic
  • Press mentions
  • Search engine positioning
  • Word of mouth
  • Savings on customer insight
  • Reduced impact from negative user-generated content
  • Increased sales efficiency
  • Then you figure the cost of starting up a blog, which the study happily says is "under $100,000." (!)

    And guess what: You generally end up with a favorable return on your investment. Would the same hold true for a nonprofit. Maybe. But thinking about it this way will answer a lot of your questions about the value of a blog.

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    What drives donors to do good deeds?

    Any donor can tell you that giving feels good. They may not be able to explain why. But scientists are figuring that part out.

    A study reported in Forbes looked exactly that: Why Do Good? Brain Study Offers Clues.

    Scientists watched brain activity while people did altruistic acts. They found that an area of the brain called the posterior superior temporal cortex (pSTC) was more active during acts of altruism. The pSTC's job is to perceive things in the environment that we need to know about. Such as the tiger that might eat us as distinct from the benign landscape it's hiding in.


    "Perhaps altruism did not grow out of a warm-glow feeling of doing good for others, but out of the simple recognition that that thing over there is a person that has intentions and goals. And therefore, I might want to treat them like I might want them to treat myself," explained study author Scott Huettel, an associate professor of psychology at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C.

    So, it seems, the Golden Rule is hard-wired into us. Doing acts of altruism obeys a deep, instinctive urge.

    This has two implications for fundraising.


    1. People want to give. They need to give. It's on a powerful level of need like eating, making babies, and editing other people's copy. Don't let your reticence to ask get in the way!
    2. The urge to altruism comes (at one level, at least) from a primitive, instinctual part of us. It's not rational. Be aware of the power of raw emotions in fundraising. To ignore it is to swim upstream.

    (Thanks to Nonprofit Online News for the tip.)


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    New charity idea: Americans Against Telemarketing

    Alzoe
    Here's an interesting mailing from Alzheimer's Disease Research (an organization that pulls down a one-star rating from Charity Navigator). It's a donor-acquisition piece that takes a real "stick-it-to-the-man" approach:


    "No one responds to letters any more. If you need help fighting Alzheimer's disease, call people on the phone. It's the only way." That's what the "experts" told me.

    Dear Friend,

    Obviously, I didn't listen to the "experts." And with good reason, I think.

    I know I'm fed up with people calling me at the most inconvenient times imaginable, intruding on my privacy, my family time. And I'm willing to bet that that you are, too.

    In fact, by ignoring their advice, I've already made that bet. Now I only hope you will prove me right.

    Because I really do need your help in our fight against Alzheimer's disease. Very, very much.

    It then gets around to the subject of Alzheimer's disease and the need for research.

    But this letter got the fundraising geeks who hang out here at the Donor Power Fortress of Charity wondering:

    • Who were these "experts" who are recommending cold-call telemarketing for new donor acquisition? And was it the same "experts" or different ones who claimed "No one responds to letters any more"?
    • Is Alzheimer's disease such a unthreatening enemy that you're better off raising the specter of telemarketing?
    • Most important, could it be that hatred of fundraising experts is so deep and so strong that it could be the foundation of a motivating appeal? You'd think they'd go after lawyers!

    Wish them the best. They probably need all the help they can get.


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    As everything changes, a great brand can keep you afloat

    Things are changing. Fast. And these changes demand change from fundraisers. The Own Your Brand blog, talking to businesses, says a meaningful brand, one that's powerful, memorable, and deeply connected to customers, is your best tool. The Branding Imperative lays out some of the old ways businesses used to compete, and shows how they no longer exert much leverage:


    • As the world "gets flatter" you won't be able to compete simply on cost of goods -- most of you can't now.
    • As your competitors implement [focus on quality] you won't be able to compete on quality alone. You see this happening already.
    • As the world gets noisier you won't have enough money to buy your customers' attention. The truth is very few of you have the resources to do it now.
    • As the marketplace continues to grow in its appreciation for design, creativity and high-touch service you won't be able to push a "better sameness" strategy on sophisticated markets.
    • As the best and brightest turn away from working inside outdated corporate hierarchies, even for more money/benefits, you won't be able to keep "good people" -- they're leaving even now.

    Nonprofits stand in the same place. Probably more so. We never could afford to "buy attention" -- or anything else expansive. The old tried-and-true ways of raising lots of money just don't have the power they used to have.

    A strong, clear, compelling, donor-centered brand is the thing that can set you apart. If you are widely known as the organization that fulfills the better aspirations of caring people, you can vault over all that scary stuff. Put that at the center of your thinking.


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    Who are the smartest nonprofits online?

    They've named The 59 smartest orgs online over at Squidoo. They are, it says:

    . . . organizations that give their volunteers and members a voice and get out of the way. They're pros at mobilizing awareness online. They're experimentors. Innovators. On a mission. They're fearless.

    The strange thing here -- you can vote for (or against) the organizations listed. Which seems an interesting but oddly navel-gazing exercise. Do donors care?

    Nevertheless, the list is very interesting. Go and see what these smart organizations are doing online. Stealing ideas is no crime. And getting inspired is better yet.


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    If you're thinking about starting a blog

    It almost seems inevitable. Your organization is going to blog. Here's some good advice from the Have Fun * Do Good blog: 5 Tips to Start a Nonprofit Blog. Here they are:


    1. Read blogs.
    2. The best person to write an organization's blog is the person who is the most excited to write it.
    3. Post consistently.
    4. Have an RSS feed and comments.
    5. Just start.

    All excellent, mission-critical advice. Let me especially enlarge on numbers 2 and 5:


    • Blogging is hard work, and at times (particularly at the start), a bit discouraging. That's why there are so many abandoned blogs out there. And why there are those soulless corporate blogs that are about as interesting as a recycling bin full of press releases. Passion, excitement, and personal commitment can save a blog from those fates.
    • There are a million reasons not to blog, and a million more to blog some day in the future. If a blog is right for you, you need to vault past those and get started now.

    And, if you don't mind, I have a #6 for bloggers: Please put the full text of your posts in your feed. If you're only letting those who read you in their readers see part of your posts -- because you want to force them to click into your site -- you're missing the boat. They're just not reading your posts. Respect your readers' time. Those who use readers do so to save time. We'd all love to control their experience by having them read in the context we work so hard to create for them, but that's just not realistic. If you do partial feeds, you're sending readers away.


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    More stupid nonprofit tricks

    Some nonprofits -- you just can't let them go out in public. They'll just embarrass themselves, and everyone else. Here are two recent examples.

    Sarcasm as charitable motivator?
    Enableposter

    ENABLE Scotland, an organization that works with the disabled, has put out this much-noted ad that directly pits animal charities against disability charity. According to their website, it is "designed to raise awareness and encourage support for children and adults with learning disabilities . . ." (Read about it in this BBC news story: Animals get greater charity share.)

    Never mind the fact that all the copy is reversed and color on color, rendering it nearly unreadable. Or the fact that the model used in the photo has a scowling, unfriendly expression . . .

    The real question is: did they even expect this to motivate any kind of positive behavior?

    Think about it from your own relationships. Does disdainful sarcasm ever bring someone else around to your point of view? Of course not. In fact, it puts them on the defensive and effectively ends the discussion, right?

    Motivating someone to do a good deed is usually best done by coming alongside them and appealing to their values -- not by attacking their priorities.

    People choose the charities they support for their own reasons. It's puzzling to me too that U.K. donors on the whole seem to favor animals over disabled humans. If you want to change that, try doing better marketing and fundraising, not slapping the good folks who are touched by the plight of animals.

    Nudity as attention-getter?
    Peta
    Maybe the Enable ad should have asked "If I ate out of a dog bowl and took off my clothes would you like me?" Nudity is a powerful attention-grabber. But beyond merely getting attention, you have to wonder what PETA thinks their "State of the Union Undress" is going to accomplish. (This video is not work-safe, as they say.)

    I'll save you the agony of watching the video: She takes it all off. And while doing so, she brags about PETA's activities, in an unpleasant, knife-like voice. But what for? Substituting flesh for charisma, she gets eyeballs directed her way, but they're not there for the cause.

    I suppose PETA's going for quantity of attention on the theory that the more people who look, the more among them will persuaded by the message behind the . . . picture.

    Fat chance.

    Both of these messages are successful in a sense: The got attention. I'm writing about them, and you're reading about them. But do they get the attention and motivation of actual supporters? That's a whole different question. I doubt it.


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    New packaging, same great flavor

    Like the new look? I think this is now the best-looking blog on earth: #1 out of 63 million! (If you're reading this in a reader, click on in and take a look; it's worth it!)

    Credit the dynamite work of two of my ultra-effective Merkle|Domain colleagues: Peter Li, an excellent writer who has amazing geek skills; and Joel Markquart, who is an absolute kick-butt designer.

    Now about the cartoon characer mascot. There's great controversy as to whether it's a likeness of me: I say it isn't, everyone else says it is. My glasses hardly ever do that!

    I doubt my content will ever live up to this design. Maybe it'll just seem better.

    How to thank donors, major and minor

    What do donors want? It's a great mystery: If there were poets, philosophers, or psychoanalysts among us, we still wouldn't really know.

    But we have some hints. A recent article at GuideStar.org takes a look at the question: Understanding the Motivations of Major Donors, Part II: Know Thy Donors. There's a disconnect between what fundraisers want and what their donors want:


    So many institutions have lost major donors through their failure to maintain a values- and mission-based relationship with their donors. They wine, dine, and solicit prospects and then, once the gift is secured, place the new donor into the donor file and close it up.

    For them, the transaction is over. But for the donor, the relationship is just beginning. Honoring the donor, and his motivation, is the key to effective stewardship. Motivation is stimulated by knowing that the shared values of the donor and the institution are being advanced. Stewardship is the vehicle for conveying that information.

    This is true also of many not-so-major donors. There are plenty of duty-driven donors -- who give for the sake of giving and have low connections with causes and outcomes. But more and more donors give to express their values. And these cluster at the higher end of your file.

    When they don't sense that their giving and your work are both aligned in the same values, they tend to wander off in search of more like-minded partners.

    Don't let that happen! Here are some things to do:


    • Receipt gifts. Promptly.
    • In addition to a receipt, thank donors in a way that's proportionate to their gift. (Ranging from specific words of thanks on the receipt form to a hand-written thank-you note, to a call from the CEO or a board member.)
    • Send a newsletter that's all about the accomplishments of your donors.
    • Ask donors to do things other than send checks. Like give you advice or spread the word.
    • Find other ways to recognize and thank donors.


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    How to be the iPhone of fundraising

    I thought I could manage not to mention the iPhone, but no luck.

    Signal vs. Noise, (a blog about "entrepreneurship, design, experience, simplicity, constraints, pop culture, our products, products we like, and more") noted the real importance of Apple's product du jour: Apple Phone: My prediction.

    According to S vs. N, the thing that will make the iPhone a roaring success (if that's what happens) will not be the stunning design or the cool factor -- though those things will play a huge part. The thing that'll make everyone buy one will be that it just plain works better than all the other cellphones:


    The mobile phone world is littered with crap. The interfaces are tragic. The materials are cheap. The build quality is marginal. And of course the sound sucks. . . .

    Apple can change this. . . . They can look at the crisis points of a typical experience and erase them one by one. Not by adding a lot of new things, but by removing the crap and paying attention to the basics.

    Paying attention to the basics isn't easy. And like the cellphone world, the fundraising world is littered with crap: Little bursts of badness that aren't enough to make donors give up on giving (donors need to give just as you and I need a cellphone), but make the experience less than it should be. Things like:


    • Bad receipts. They don't arrive until weeks after the gift (or maybe never at all!). They don't actually say "thank you." They're unconnected to whatever motivated the gift in the first place.
    • Sloppy data. Names are wrong. There are duplicates. Transaction histories are wrong.
    • No reporting back. Donors are never told what their generosity helped accomplish.
    • Lack of openness. Donors can't look at financial statements or inspect the organization more deeply.
    • Obligation fundraising. Up-front premiums (like address labels) are used to stimulate giving without appealing to the importance of the cause and donors' better nature.
    • Look-at-me fundraising. It's all organizational bragging, not serving donor needs.

    If you can remove the "crap" from the donor experience, you're a long way toward being the iPhone of fundraising!


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    What is this blog all about?

    If you're serious about raising money from donors, you need to get serious about donors. More than ever before, donors are insisting that you share power with them, not treating them like passive ATMs. This blog is about the ways you can do that -- and the rewards that await you and your donors when you do.

    About the Blogger

    DonorPower Blog is penned by Merkle's Power Blogging Team, led by Greg Fox, our senior vice president of strategy. Working with Greg is a police line-up of guest "artists", fundraising pros all, who like to pose as blogatorialists when the sun goes down. You can reach this blog, and any of our regular contributors, at
    donorpowerblog [at] merkleinc [dot] com. See this blog's policies.


    A great partner for the nonprofit that wants to get donor-powered and grow revenue like crazy!
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