Category Archives: Information distribution

Predictive Analytics: a nice overview infographic

How nonprofits use analytics for fundraising.  An infographic on Twitpic
Thanks to the fine folks at Bentz Whaley Flessner (@BFW_Social) for this great infographic. Yay Donorcast!


Mom always said: “Use your inside voice.” Mom was wrong.

Fundraising language for different audiences

Do donors get your inside voice?

I’ve been thinking about a blog post called “Down With Donors” by Kevin Schulman on the topic of transactional versus relationship fundraising and the implications for language associated with the uses of the word ‘donor’ and other perceptions of the relationship.

I’d like to frame the discussion in a different way, one of practical application.  When my then-preschool sons ran around the house yelling in typical pre-tackle-each-other boy rough-house fashion, I would say: “Use your inside voices, monkeys!”  And then I’d suggest an equally rambunctious outside activity for an area where skulls would hit soft earth and not hard tile during the wrestling part of the fun.

So there is a time to use your fundraising inside voice and your donor outside voice.  My feeling about the long-running donor and/or relationship debate comes with a pretty practical and down-to-earth application.  Nay, it’s not just an issue of marketing and sales research, and I get that it has philosophical implications too. (And it’s increasingly described as an emerging trend — it’s been an issue for me in my 20+ years fundraising, so if it’s an emerging trend, I feel pretty freaking emerged)

What, with all the ‘donor-centric’ (by the way, someone actually owns the copyright on this lovely phrase) this and ‘donor-focused’ that, we’ve crossed a more important line in the professionalism of fundraising management.  I’m guilty — my company focuses specifically on donor retention and predictive donor analytics — but as a consultant, I’m not wrong (and THAT, my friends, is consultant bravado!).

Anyone who has worked with volunteers who fundraise on behalf of an organization knows this: do you call your donors ‘donors’ in front of volunteers? Do you use your inside lingo when you talk to people outside your organization? In my pre-consultant days as a professional fundraiser for annual funds, major and regional giving, campaigns and principal gifts, I managed large 200+ member volunteer groups and small 5-person volunteer groups.  If I dared slip and say ‘donor’ or ‘prospect’ or ‘suspect’  or ‘lybunt’ or ‘sybunt’ or ‘never-givers’ or ‘lost’ or ‘constituent’ or (I kid you not — I’ve actually heard) ‘kill’ or ‘ATM’ in front of a gathering of volunteers, I knew I’d screwed up. I had negated their experience as partners in our mission by labeling them as something other than human.

Labels mean a lot in fundraising, and we can have internal labels, an inside voice. When my lovely Gantt chart accounts for the execution of segmented direct mail or social media outreach (be it solicitation, cultivation or stewardship), I don’t pass that out a colorful longitudinal planning document in a volunteer meeting.  I share it with my colleagues for feedback and implementation.  But we can’t-can’t-can’t use the same segmentation and process labels externally with our friends.  Don’t get me wrong — some of my most effective volunteers understand the internal language and understand their role as friend and donor.  But most external constituents think of themselves as, I don’t know, maybe ‘people’.  And, just as one prepares nice and accurate name tags at events because the only thing that every person owns is his or her name, you’ve got to call them by name or in a language that gives them a supportive role, not a reductive label that implies that they are each a production entity.

In a training session with a client’s board last month, I had to think about the material I was putting up on the wall for their review.  Do I use a Venn diagram to explain the priorities assigned to wealth, giving and engagement variable in their specific predictive model?  To quote the hash tag bard and late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon, #awwhellno.  I found examples of actual people who were more or less interested in their cause, and I said “Let’s talk to more of the ‘more interested’ people! And here are some ways to help you do that! Woot!”

So here’s what I recommend. Draw a chart on the white board. Label one column: “These are OK to use outside our office.” Label one “Let’s not say this outside our office.”  Bring in your fundraising staff AND your administrative staff AND your executive staff. Have a nice 15 minute training session on the application of these words in different settings.  What should we say about giving and our donors in front of our volunteers, to the press, on a fundraising call, to our vendors, in a personal letter or direct mailing or newsletter? Ask them for scenarios when they have to talk about giving, and figure out what words and phrases might be best.  And be kind — everyone screws up and says something that might be perceived in a way we can’t expect.  It would be so sad to scare your colleagues away from helping you with your fundraising mission because you were a scold.  But every screw up is a chance to find new ways to say that we like each donor, lybunt, sybunt, never-giver, lost, or constituent as a person, not as an ATM.

NTEN asks: What’s holding your technology back?

When it launched its new Facebook fan page, NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Network) offered participants a chance to win a free registration for the NTEN On-line Technology Conference, or a registration discount for a serious post, on its discussion tab (…still trying to figure out if I’m seriousish but it’s guaranteed to be a great conference and you should totally go so it’s worth it to get serious…). 

The question for discussion?  What’s holding your technology back?  Here’s my reply, quick and dirty.

Our parent company, called ROI Philanthropy Partners, Inc., is effectiveness-focused. I was all ready to say ‘undefined intentions,’ or not knowing the difference between communications ROI and fundraising ROI, or department use silo-ing.

But then I got stuck thinking about a Steve Heye tweet this week: “What if we all stopped working to keep our org growing and started working to make a difference?”  To his comment, I would say now that a pretty consistent problem we see is ‘when is enough enough.’  This is the crux of the effectiveness problem in NPOs right now, measuring the difference made in program reach, in fundraising success, in operational efficiencies. Who needs to see information delivered in this way, versus another delivery method? Which segments of our constituencies care about a fan page vs. a twitter account vs. purl mailings vs. a phone call vs. a mailed brochure — or a combination of any or all of these?

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (disclosure: I’m on the committee), for every six dollars given to an NPO in a given year, the NPO will lose five dollars through attrition and reduced support. For every six donors in a given year, NPOs lose five the following year.

What’s holding technology back?  As a whole we are slow to justify its reach to any given constituency, so as an industry segment we are still in the ‘putting feelers out’ phase of methodology uses. Add to that the onslaught of new products every year, and we have varying degrees of authenticity measures to factor into the equation each year — how to apple-to-apple effectiveness in the shifting sands of product availability?

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>>