Monthly Archives: April 2009

Hey, Brother! Can I borrow your ‘Hey, Soul Classics?’ Oh, no, my brother, you have to buy your own…

No, I’m not a big freakin’ slacker.  I’m actually ahead on my hundred posts in a hundred days challenge.  The blog is actually running on the NTEN NTC site during the NTC conference.  I’ll do some cut-n-paste for individual sessions, ultimately, but I’m going to borrow from that blog today so it looks like I’m a functional human blogger:  here’s a link to my messy/grammatically-challenged live NTC  blog.

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Be at NTC with me!

The Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) hosts one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended, the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). It grows every year, and this year actually sold out. 

Along with a dozen or so other attendees, I am blogging live throughout 09NTC via CoverItLive.com. I’ll be blogging during sessions and events to give readers the inside story and fresh content, and I can even host a live chat while I blog so you can ask questions or make appropriate and nice or funny or original or obsequious or taciturn or pandering or clairvoyant or encouraging or suave or inquisitive or prescient, etc., comments as the session happens. 

If you can’t attend, because you weren’t able to get to San Francisco this weekend or couldn’t get a ticket, set a reminder right now and follow ‘Jana’s Excellent 09NTC Adventures’ here: http://nten.org/ntc-janabyingtonsmith

Also, I’ll hash #09NTC on Twitter when I’m going live (I’m JForTheMoney if you want to scratch my follow-me itch…).

Be at NTC with me — you know you want to…

I got a call!

I got a call fundraising call yesterday.  Because I am a freak, this was an exciting moment for me, to chance to listen to someone solicit a gift from me!  How is the script constructed?  What are the rapport-building points and the objection statement responses?  What  primary ask amount did they establish, and how do they work a sliding scale?  What a buzz — Wheeeee!

The young woman asked for me by my maiden name, then said that she wanted the other adult in the home. My husband’s name is more commonly given to females in the US, so the caller said, ‘oh, she’s a man?’

I stopped the caller and said that she clearly did not know who we are, so who is she?  Darned if she wasn’t from an organization for which I’d played a leadership role nationally and to which I am an annual donor.   She pitch was to ask me to send solicitation letters to my rolodex to solicit gifts.  It was not a smooth call.  She fumbled around, tripped up with the name problems.

I told her that I was sorry that she was inadequately prepped for the call, and I asked that she relay my surprise to the call center and organization coordinators: they don’t know our salutations and whether my husband is a male?  Also, I should not be in the call segment because I’ve already asked that I be excluded from the program. I wished her luck and said goodbye.  And then I fumed.

The woman on the phone was set up to fail, and that is unkind. Prepping for phone calling involves one critical step: know who you are calling.  Whomever gave the call list to this woman did her an disservice by not confirming that our volunteer past, our giving history and our requested exclusions were factored into the list generation.  Moreover, when it’s all said and done, all we have are our names. A name may be mis-pronounced, but it should not be wrong.

Knowing that mistakes happen, I was sad — did the organization realize that it was sloppy in its treatment of a volunteer and a donor?  Because of my passion for improving donor retention, I am sensitive to the kinds of messages fundraisers give to their current donors, messages that reinforce the value of donors’ support and messages that devalue the donors’ engagement.  So often it is the poorly-trained or ill-prepared front line employee that gives a donor the organization’s perception of the donor’s value.  There is no bad intent by the organization, clearly, but a lack of attention to the interfaces that donors will encounter proactively and passively.

What do I recommend, besides the obvious database and segmentation clean-up?  Ask staffers to keep short-n-simple lists of their calls and e-mails in and out, with reasons for contact (a pre-printed checklist would suffice), for a selected period of time.  Ask the social media coordinator to generate a report on hit rates and click throughs.  Look over the compiled data — when and why do donors and prospects connect with your staff?  Who calls more constituents and who uses e-mail more frequently? Can you spot trends and patterns?  Do some staffers default to a certain type of communication when another method might be more appropriate?  Is someone picking up the phone more than you’d known?  Further questions and audits might include questions about how staffers record bio and volunteer data, and how data makes its way into and out of your CRM.

Data gives you an opportunity to review and adjust for better performance.  Whether it’s a phonathon caller or a student intern, an audit of interaction can identify the type of resources and support your staff needs to give your constituents the sense that they are valued and appreciated.

Why didn’t he give this year?

In response to a question posed about best practices for donor reclamation, I did not address appeal methodologies.  Instead, I addressed a common fundraiser response I see all the time. Sometimes fundraisers hesitate to contact a lybunt/sybunt personally to ask for a gift renewal — we wonder if the past donor is no longer interested in our mission, or is not satisfied with something, or doesn’t want to be contacted.  We use appeal methods that do not best match our intention, like direct mail or e-mail, methods that make it harder for donors to engage in an active dialogue about reasons for giving, or for not giving again.

It’s a big step to approach a lapsed donor with a clear perspective; it is very easy and natural to apply our own values to others’ actions. Is he not renewing his support because we addressed his envelope incorrectly, didn’t plan to include more racquetball courts in the new athletic facility, doesn’t like the organization’s alignment with a political initiative, etc., etc.? My advice is: Do not presume that the donor lapsed because of something your organization did or didn’t do. When it’s all said and done, very few of us have the psychic abilities needed to guess why he didn’t give.  Many donors lapse for reasons we might never know, like big purchases, lifestyle and work changes, and new priorities in their giving plans.

In my experience, nothing beats an in-person meeting for re-engaging a lapsed donor and further understanding donor motivation. My advice is to revel in the opportunity to ask ‘will you renew? why or why not?’  It is a chance to ask direct questions and get answers you can use to create the case statement that will help the donor, and other lapsed donors by extension, make a renewed commitment. If you can’t meet in person, try personal phone and personal mail — your response should reflect your ability to handle the scale and cost of the recapture program.

Crikey! Help us help ourselves!

Short rant-y bit.

Some of the methods we fundraisers use to get information out to our audiences are developed to showcase what we want the audiences to know.  Blergh.  We have to develop pathways that provide what the audience wants to know.  Big difference.

H-to-the-r is working on a project.  She’s on-line, looking for contacts and contacts’ names at a bunch of universities.  The contacts work in areas related to alumni activities.  H has worked in university environments for years.  She knows how to look for people on pages and directories.  H has a wonderful new computer.  H is way smart.

It’s bad enough that some of the universities’ pages won’t load quickly (do they think home and international computer users have the same university-speed load times?).  Some won’t load at all (ack!).  But if she gets on a site, and if she finds that the department site she needs exists, she is finding it a very difficult task to find Phone Numbers on these sites.  Phone Numbers.  Come on.

It’s fairly easy to find links to click or ‘contact us’ forms.  It’s harder to find actual names of individuals with certain responsibilities.  H can’t find basic phone numbers, or department phone numbers even!!

So props to the streamliner universities who don’t infest their pages with long download time gadgets, sound files (Peaches & Herb, really?), flashkibbles and moviebits.  Props to those that list alumni and development staff, that add photos of staff members, that have phone numbers and e-mail addresses for actual staff members.  Props to those who let the audience ask the questions it wants to ask, and ask directly.

Isn’t the point of relationship-building  to help prospects and donors know who we are, what we do and why we’re there?  Shouldn’t we be prepared to deliver the information the audience is going to need?  Aren’t we suppose to help them help us raise the ducats? 

So I am wondering if the distance that a poorly-messaged (is that phrase way wack?) website creates between the audience and the fundraiser is an institutionally acceptable way of telling the audience what we want them to know.  The acceptance of this delivery method gives us the freedom and distance to decide when we will talk to someone who needs an answer, or gives us the excuse of an increased response time to an e-mail message to a general mailbox.

You know I loves me some social technologies, even basic ones like a website.  I just don’t like them to serve as a barrier to real talkings.  Real talkings is the only time we get to provide an immediate answer to the questions the donor wants to ask, provide what the donor wants to know.

<<shaking it off>>

HAHD Kick-off … and I’m already filching from other media …

I was asked to post a little bit about myself for a conference website.  It’s fitting, I think, to kick off my ‘hundred article in a hundred days’ with a note about fundraising worldview.  Here tis:

I worked in higher education fundraising and public affairs in some capacity for 16 years.  During that time, I had a bunch of snazzy titles.  I really enjoyed my work, traveled the world, asked for millions of dollars in person, and raised a hella lot of money, always making or beating my goals.  And I burned out.  *sizzle*

So in 2006, I started my own firm so I could take the best of the “old skool” fundraising techniques, add meaningful ROI-proven Web 2.0 (am I a dunderhead because I don’t know what that phrase is meant to represent?) strategies, and increase the number of retained donors and dollars for my clients. The company works with npos in the US and Europe – we’re small but happy, and we drink a lot of overpriced frou frou coffees.

Here’s my deal:  I am a member of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) committee, an initiative started by the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy and the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) …props to Bill Levis and Cathlene Williams…, and co-sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Council for Resource Development (CRD), Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, and the National Committee on Planned Giving (NCPG).  My role thusfar has been to lead the creation of education programs to be used by organizations and chapters world-wide.

Here’s the goal:  Change the path of fundraising in a fundamental way.  In its 2008 report across 26 sub-segments of the nonprofit market, the FEP results demonstrate that, essentially, five out of every six dollars raised will be lost the subsequent year due to attrition.  This is Horrible ROI — it costs more to acquire donors than to retain them.

So I like to consider social network constructs for nonprofits with a clear mission — how will these approaches, in concert with more traditional methodologies, help us treat our donors well enough to increase loyalty and lifetime donor value, to think analytically to predict who of our present donors and prospective donors will likely give more and more often, and to change the fundamental appeal and retention strategies we use to keep the donors we add.”

Gauntlet: not thrown as much as tossed in anticipatory resignation

OK, I’m in it to win it. Tomorrow I’m live on ‘100 articles in 100 days,’ so toss me fundraising topics, please!! #hahd