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Facebook Live

We’ll come back to the discussion about Why Data is Like a Labrador Retriever after this brief digression.

Facebook Live.  Anybody using it in Fundraising?  Annual Fund?

John Haydon is one of those fundraising/digital marketing gurus who should be on your go-to list.  He’s got some great pointers for using it on a blog over at nonprofit hub.

Last night, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with fellow fundraiser Jeanne Hamrick and Nina Radetich, of Radetich Marketing and Media, on her bi-weekly Facebook Live Small Biz Power.

You can watch the whole thing here:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fninaradetich%2Fvideos%2F1416495215049610%2F&show_text=1&width=560

PHENOMENAL experience.  But now I’m kind of obsessing on how Facebook Live could be incorporated into an annual giving program.

Obviously, Nina has a great studio set up, but you wouldn’t need it – in fact, being a little raw might be a benefit.

Off the top my head ideas:

  • Do a virtual gala – stay at home in your jammies and bid on an auction from home
  • Do a “Behind-the-Scenes” tour
  • Interview other donors and ask why they supported
  • Broadcast an appeal from on-campus/on-site
  • Talk to beneficiaries
  • Tell great stories
  • THANK YOU VIDEOS!
  • Have an address from the CEO/President/Board Chair
  • Show mission in action as its happening

Animal rescue organizations and dog training orgs are doing a fantastic job of sharing live feeds of puppies online.  That will melt your heart.  I fell for one in writing this blog.

Try it out; it’s got potential.

But, as in all good things, let’s not get distracted by Shiny Object Syndrome.  Be thoughtful, be strategic and recognize it’s not the silver bullet you’ve been searching for your flagging annual fund.  But, still . . . don’t forget to add some fun to it, too!

Why Data Is Like a Lab – Rules & Structure

How are Fundraising Databases Like a Labrador Retriever?  Reason #1 – They need Rules, Structure and Consistency

This is Barclay at eight weeks old:

That was a tough year . . .

Dogs, especially new puppies, need rules, structure and boundaries.  And everybody in the “pack” needs to follow the same rules, otherwise you get an animal that doesn’t listen, has behavioral issues and nobody can control.

Most Labrador Retrievers are surrendered to shelters before the age of 2 because of “behavioral issues” – and most of the time it’s because those cute little fuzzy puppies turned into 75 pounds of crazy.  Because of a lack of rules.

How many times a day do you hear, “Our data is just a MESS!”

Same issue . . .

Data needs rules, structures, boundaries.

Without structure, data tends to get messy.  A whole lot of contributing factors – high staff turnover, database changes, aging data, not keeping data updated (NCOA, etc.), data entry issues.

Check out this infographic on the true cost of bad data.  (It’s basically an ad, but it’s good info).  Another ad, but also good info can be found here on the 1-10-100 rule.

The absolute best way to ensure clean, accurate data is to establish clear data protocols that everyone who touches your databaase must adhere to.  It must be inviolable law.

And it must be comprehensive:

  • How are addresses entered (i.e. “St.” vs. “Street”)
  • What are standard salutations (formal vs. informal)
  • What data is collected?
  • How is data used?
  • Who has access?

And 1,000 other questions that need to be answered.  Do a Google search on “Data Standards Manual” and you will find hundreds of examples.  They may seem daunting, but they are comprehensive and serve as great guides.

A Data Standards Manual should live alongside your Branding Guide.  It’s a definitive statement about who you are as an organization and what you value – who you want to contact and how you want to contact them.

Your data is your single greatest resource and asset.  And it needs rules and structure if you want it to behave.

But my data is already a wreck!

That whole “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” thing?  Yeah, it’s hooey.

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You absolutely can.  And you can absolutely clean a messy database.

Slowly, delicately, carefully, one step at a time.  But so worth it in the long run.

Dogs, especially Labrador Retrievers, are eager to please.  They spend their lives basically trying to figure out what we want from them.  They “misbehave” because we haven’t given them the rules.  We haven’t laid out the expectations.

Data is exactly the same way.  Set the expectations and LIVE by them.  The data will follow along.  And you’ll both be happier for it.

 

Why (Fundraising) Data Is Like a Labrador Retriever

These are Labrador Retrievers:

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To be specific, these are MY Labrador Retrievers – left-to-right:  Oliver, Barclay and Tucker Buck-White, aka The Buck-White Boys.

Labrador Retrievers – or labs – have been the most popular dog in the United States for twenty-five years.  They’re great, great dogs – especially these three knuckleheads.

Bred to work in the the icy waters of Newfoundland, they are known for their friendly and good-natured temperament, their easygoing attitude, willingness to learn and to work and for being dependable.  They’re among the top choices for assistance dogs, too.

They are also how this blog got its name – I have labs, it’s a lab for testing ideas – get it?

You gotta love a lab.  I mean, how can you not with these faces?

three

I never meant to have three labs – they’re really a handful.  I also never meant to really into data, but here we are.  And so – like chocolate and peanut butter, two great tastes that taste great together – somehow labs and data got mixed up in my head and I went, “YES! A fundraising database is JUST like a Labrador Retriever.”

And now you’re looking at me like:

choclab

 

 

 

Really?

 

 

 

 

Yes, really.

Databases are just like Labs.  Less drooly and not as fun to snuggle with, but there are a lot of similarities.

So, the Top 10 Reasons Why Fundraising Data Is Like a Labrador Retriever.  Both Data and Labs:

  1. Require Rules, Structure and Consistency
  2. Just Want to Make You Happy
  3. Need Attention
  4. Want to Be Understood
  5. Have to Play
  6. Can Smell Fear
  7. Are Bred to Help
  8. Must Exercise
  9. Need Sustenance
  10. Have to Rest

Over the next few days and weeks we’ll be taking a deeper dive into these similarities.  Just remember, though, any discussion on data – or Labrador Retrievers – should always be followed by a good nap on the sofa:

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We have the Greatest Job in the World

Behind every successful program a nonprofit does, there’s a fundraiser.

Behind every political campaign, there’s a fundraiser.

Behind new buildings and programs and scholarships and endowments, there’s a fundraiser.

Behind every donor, there’s a fundraiser.

And fundraisers make it all about the donors.

How awesome is that?  What other profession gets to see dreams come to life, stand back and say, “Wow! I helped that happen!” (Teachers is the answer to that question; their job is pretty incredible, too).

It’s hard.

It’s not for the faint-hearted or the weak.

We have the power in our hands to shape the future.  We get to help people realize their passions.

We get to change the world – sometimes $10 at a time.

So, when it looks bleak, when hope is fading, when it’s all too much, remember . . . we can be the change.  We have to be the change.

When its darkest, we will keep finding the ways to shine light into it.

We’re the bridge, the conduit, the go-between. We get to bring together the people who WANT TO with the people who NEED.

We’re fundraisers.  And we have the Greatest Job in the World.

At Home in the Annual Fund

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C’mon, sing with me now, “Our house.  In the middle of the street.  Our house . . . ”  Or we could have gone with, “Our house is a very, very, very fine house . . . ”  This is a multi-sensory blog; great info and musical ear-worms.  You’re welcome.

If you don’t know Helen Brown, I’d encourage you to get to know her.  Really a leader in the world of Prospect Research, super smart, writes a great blog and a couple of months ago had a mic drop moment with “Why wealth screenings – and prospect researchers – are so reliant on real estate.”

Go read it; I’ll wait.

Right?  Wasn’t that good?  She’s so on point.  My favorite bit:

You may be right, you may be wrong, but at least it’s something to go on in this business where we’re all operating on uncertainty, every single day. We attach ratings to and hang our hopes and our cultivation strategies on people who may or may not support our organizations. It’s a guessing game to which we apply the most solid things we can to a sea of uncertainty.

The rating is a just starting point anyway.

Preach, sister.

I reached out to Helen and got her blessing to riff on this a little bit.  I love prospect research.  I think it’s one of the coolest things in our arsenal, but it’s certainly not my forte.  Nor is it the end-all, be-all panacea of solving all our fundraising issues.  Research and predictive modeling take the guessing game out of the equation and turn a shotgun approach into a laser focus.

The Rating Is Just a Starting Point Anyway

Folks, there’s no certainty in Fundraising.  OK, there’s one – nonprofit organizations will always need  to do it.  Other than that, anything’s possible.  Every technique, best practice and sacred cow is just there to help reduce some of the variables.

That’s what prospect research does.  Especially in higher-end major gift work.

But we don’t often use it in the Annual Fund, especially in segmentation.  Why?  Because usually all we have is real estate.

If you’ve done a screening of a whole bunch of names – 300 or 300,000, doesn’t matter – you skim off the top tier, those with the highest ratings.  Funnel them into Major Gift portfolios for next steps – identification, cultivation, etc.

SOAPBOX MOMENT:  Major Gift folks, please, when you’re done with your identification/qualification process, pretty please release those unqualifieds back into the Annual Fund pool so we can get ’em solicited and not let them stagnate.  We all know you can’t manage a portfolio of 500+ prospects, even though you’re a Fundraising Rock Star.  #pleaseandthankyou

Typically what you’re left with is a whole mess of mid-range prospects and donors that have one piece of data from public information – real estate. (And then a whole lot more that have no publicly available data at all).

Sometimes Some is Enough

To Helen’s point – it’s something.  It’s something we now know about this individual.  We have an idea of what they’re like because we know what real estate they’ve purchased.

Does it tell us what to ask them?  No.

Does it tell us what their capacity is?  No. (Although you can surmise a capacity based on real estate, there’s no way to tell what their debt-to-income ratio is).

Does it give us a clue on response?  Possibly.

In a direct response acquisition or renewal campaign, prospects with real estate can out-perform those with no rating at all.  Most likely in average gift vs participation.  There have been many tests and programs that have shown that those with higher real estate values tend to give a higher level gift than those without it, especially when you’re using an ask string.

Because it’s something.  It’s something that says, “Hey, there’s some capacity here.”  And sometimes some is enough to make a difference.

As Helen said, “We can use it to form well-educated guesses.”

It’s worth testing.  It’s worth the investment of having, and using, that data – at all levels.

It’s worth not dismissing just because “it’s just real estate.”  If you’ve got nothing else, it’s at least something to help an educated guess.

Donor-Centered or Data-Driven

buzzwords-everywhere

Google “Fundraising Buzzwords” or “Nonprofit Buzzwords” and you’ll get a whole list of the phrases we like to kick around the industry.  Fortunately, “Donor-Centered” is one that’s stuck around for quite some time.

Data-Driven seems to be losing some of its popularity.  “Big Data” is taking on different connotations (really, Big Data refers to databases so large that most computers can’t process them – most of us aren’t really working with true Big Data, no matter how large our database is).

But you can’t be donor centered AND data driven.

At least, that’s the common misconception.  We tend to think of these two things as being different parts of the brain – left-brain/right-brain, science/art, emotional/rational.

How many DODs or MGOs do you hear say, “I’m just not a data person!” Or, “I can’t even deal with that – it sounds so boring, I’d rather talk to people!” Or “What’s my password for Raiser’s Edge?”

So, what is data?

This one’s the best.  From www.mathisfun.com

What is Data?

Data is a collection of facts, such as numbers, words, measurements, observations or even just descriptions of things.

“Or even just descriptions of things.”

At its very basic level, data is simply another word for “information.”

So, data-driven means “Guided by Information.”

Think of a donor, one you know well.  Don’t look at your CRM.  What do you know about them?  Or think of a group, a segment, a subset, something – what do you know about them?

You just conjured up a whole bunch of information – kid’s names, home address, giving status (Current, Lapsed, LYBUNT, etc.).

Data – information – can also be very unconscious.  You’re not thinking about it right now, but when I say Your Birthday, the date immediately pops to mind.  Or if I say, “Your Mother’s maiden name,” boom, there it is.

We’re processing data all the time, without even thinking about it.

When we’re truly being donor-centered – stewarding their gift, cultivating them, listening to them – we’re processing a lot of information about them.

Being Donor-Centered means putting the needs of the donor at the forefront of our relationship.  In order to do that, we need to know what their needs are – we need to know who they are.  And, of course, we can’t do that without information.

Even simple information – data – helps get us there.  Spouse name, kids names, their job, their last gift, who they’re connected.  That’s all data is and most of us are just carrying that around in our heads all day.

Donor-Centered and Data-Driven are two sides of the same coin.  Can’t have one without the other.

Just, please, for the love of all things, get that data into the CRM.

 

Rest

Did you take some downtime this holiday season?  Rest is good.  R&R is required.

It’s good to get away, think about other things, give the gray matter time to chill and rejuvenate.

If you didn’t – do.  It’s worth it.  You’ll be better for it.

And so will your donors.

We talk about resting lists periodically.  But do we really rest them?  Do we really let a list just chill out for a bit and not hear from us for awhile?

Too often, it’s a numbers game.  Multiple hits, multiple solicitations – the more we solicit, the more we communicate, the higher our return will be.  And we do it because it works.

We get responses and hit goals, but for every gift, how many non-respondents opened our third/fourth/tenth email, rolled their eyes and thought, “Just please stop!”?

Sometimes we need to rest.

Maybe it’s time to let all those year-end donors and prospects chill out for a bit?  Let ’em have a break.  Or maybe let them rest by communicating with them but not asking them?  We hit them pretty hard at year-end.  Say thank you (yes, you can thank a prospect as well as a donor).  Send an update.  Wish them Happy New Year.  But maybe give them a rest.

And you take one, too. Urgency is one thing; exhaustion and fatigue can be the by-product of it, though.

Rest takes a risk sometimes, too.  A risk well worth taking.

What I Won’t Do Is Subscribe to Fear

2016

My whole social media feed is FULL of comments about how awful 2016 has been.  It seems everyone is ready to kick this year to the curb and usher in a new one – “It can’t get worse, right?”

Personally, I’ve had a fantastic year – probably one of the best on a personal and professional level.  And I know that puts me in a fortunate position; I’m tremendously grateful. The world outlook?  Not so much.  I agree, it’s been a pretty wretched year.

In a moment of complete candor, I’ll express my abject terror over what could happen in our political landscape in the coming months and years.  Like many, I am still in shock and numb.  And I’m afraid.  For my family, for my community and for many who I am lucky to call friend.

But what I will not do is subscribe to fear.

I will not allow fear to control me or my actions.

Fear of failure.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of what may be.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of taking a risk.  Fear of standing up and saying, “NO! This is unacceptable.”  Fear of standing up and shouting, “YES! This is wonderful!”

I will not subscribe to fear.

What I will do is champion change.  What I will do is my best.  I will be relentlessly passionate and I will commit.  If there was ever a time to not sit on the sidelines, this is it.

What I will do is love and acknowledge the people who are creating change, who are making a difference.

What I will do is own that our profession, the profession of fundraising, enables people who care deeply to be engaged with their passions.  I will own that we, fundraisers, have one of the greatest responsibilities in the world – how awesome is the charge that we have been given?

And I don’t mean in a “Dude, that’s awesome” way. I mean in a, “We should stand back in awe” of what we get to do.

There’s no room for fear in that responsibility.

 

 

Fundraising is Paper Towels

Thanksgiving was wonderful and I hope yours was, too.  So many things to be thankful for – like making new friends!

We met a lovely couple who are both donors and volunteers at various local nonprofits, so of course the conversation turned to stories from the trenches.

Our new friend spends some time volunteering at a local homeless service agency and went in recently to serve lunch.  Here’s how she put it:

I was asked to make sandwiches for bagged lunches they distribute, so I gloved up and headed into the kitchen.  In the process of preparing to make sandwiches, I spilled something on the counter.  “Where would I find paper towels?” I asked and the response I got was, “We are out of paper towels and they won’t be delivered until next Tuesday, so just use one of these kitchen towels.”  And, with that, she handed me a kitchen towel that had clearly been used before and, even with anti-bacterial cleaner, I didn’t think was very sanitary.  I was just so shocked they didn’t have paper towels.”

So, instead of making sandwiches, she hopped in her car and went to a bulk supply store and bought paper towels.  Great!  Thanks to a great volunteer and donor!

When she asked, though, why they didn’t just order more, the response she got was, “We just can’t afford them – it’s not in the budget.  We can only get x amount per year and we can only get what’s in our standing bi-weekly shipment.”

What potentially stood between a hungry person and lunch was a lack of paper towels.

Paper towels.

Because buying more wasn’t in the budget.

This is the Overhead Myth in action.  This is a highly reputable, well-respected, tightly run organization.  And yet one of their front-line people knows that sometimes what stands between a hungry person and a meal is a paper towel.

There is no metric in the world that measures Paper Towel ROI (PTROI).  There’s no report that indicates the ratio of paper towel to less food insecurity.  But I’m willing to bet Paper Towels never show up in any program budget or case statement.

Paper Towels are the Annual Fund.  (Which is not Annual and not a Fund, I know, I know.)

Paper Towels are operations, they’re overhead, they’re not sexy, they don’t generate results.

And yet . . . sometimes the lack of a Paper Towel stands between a hungry person and a meal.

And if that isn’t the most powerful case for general operational support, I don’t know what it is.  Fundraising is (very often) paper towels.

How to Write a Thank You Note

I’ve just finished signing 617 Thanksgiving cards.

semantic-satiation

My own name has taken on semantic satiation.  BUT, I really became aware of the phrases we use to express gratitude:

“Thank You”

“We are grateful”

“Thanks!”

Those are all first-person statements.  “Thank You” is a truncation of “I/We Thank You.”  So even gratitude becomes about me and not you.  It’s about how I feel.

When, really, especially in a donor-centered annual fund (which isn’t annual at all), our gratitude needs to be about them . . . about the donor . . .

That’s tougher than it sounds when it’s a note on a card, but here’s a few to try:

“You’re Wonderful.”

“You are the best.”

“You made it happen.”

“We are grateful for you.”  (Still a first-person statement, but it’s about them).

“You are so thoughtful/generous/kind”

Don’t tell me how you feel, tell me about me.  It’s my favorite story.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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