Event donors: more than a one night stand

event360, fundraising event, donor communicationsEvent 360 recently released a new white paper: 4 steps to converting event donors to organizational donors. I will leave the in-depth commentary on whether these are the “right” 4 steps to event pros like Shanon Doolittle but will say that the event donor segmentation and sample engagement plan for major donors alone are worth giving over your email address for (which you have to do to download it).

Here’s the thing: Event donors often get stuck in the one night stand camp because we try to go too far, too fast.

Unlike most other forms of fundraising where there is a longer lead up to the ask, event participants go from ‘I don’t know you at all’ to ‘going all the way’ (i.e. making a donation) very quickly.

Even after the event, event attendees barely know you! You’ve had a fling. Even if it was a great fling, it was still just a fling. That’s very different than a courtship.

From a messaging perspective, this means you have to properly introduce them to your organization after the event. In the event follow-up, don’t make the mistake of leaping to the middle of your story. Reinforce what they learned–and felt–at the event. Reiterate the key points from the event. Reinforce why they should like you. Cement their basic knowledge of your cause, your mission, what makes you unique and how they can engage.

This may sound incredibly, painfully obvious. But I’m always surprised how clunky post-event communications tend to be. Take it slow and your event donors can turn into much more than a one night stand.

 

Brand is Lame

I’ve been thrilled to hear more and more mission-driven organizations talk about their brand. It’s downright happy-making.

In this day and age, understanding your organization’s brand is imperative if you want to stand out while staying grounded. When the three elements of brand (visual, narrative and experiential) come together in a compelling and consistent manner, you create an engagement-rich environment.

Here’s what doesn’t thrill me. When someone uses the word ‘brand’ instead of  ‘organization’. To illustrate:

“Donors just love our brand!”

Really? Have you heard a donor say: “I support Organization Awesome because I just love their elevator pitch.” Or perhaps, “Organization Awesome is my #1 partner-in-good. I mean, look at their logo!” Might how you talk about your organization (narrative aspect of your brand) and your logo (one piece of the visual aspect of your brand) resonate with a donor? You bet. But it’s that you are effectively speaking to what they care about through these things that makes their hearts go pitter pat.

What donors–and anyone else engaged with your organization–love is your cause and your mission. They care about what you do and how you do it (your mission) and why you do it (your cause). (Here’s more on the difference between cause and mission, if that last sentence made you furrow your brow.)

The word ‘brand’ is trendy. That’s fine. It risks ending up on the Banished Words list, but it’s fine.

What’s not fine is if you let its current celebrity status distract you from the whole point of having a clearly articulated brand–so people can connect with your cause and engage in our mission!

In Sum: Brand for brand’s sake is lame. Brand for the purpose of connecting with supporters who are passionate about your cause and lit up about your  mission is awesome.

[DIY Moment: If you’d like some help figuring out your brand, here’s a free resource.]

 

 

How Social Media Can Help You Do 5 Things You’re Already Doing

Group of Hands Holding Speech Bubble with Social Issue ConceptsJohn Janstch of Duct Tape Marketing constantly offers great advice that is as relevant to nonprofits as it is to the small businesses he works with every day. A few months ago, the Claxon crew got to see him in person in Seattle. Fantastic!

This post is modified from a recent post of his called “5 Ways to Use Social Media for Things You Are Already Doing.” What person working in a nonprofit doesn’t like the sound of that?!

Thinking that sounded pretty great, I took his key points and made them specific to nonprofits. (My changes are in [brackets].) The terminology may be different, but the advice is the same. And it’s good!

1) Follow up with [prospective donors]

I love using social media tools as a way to follow-up with [prospective donors] you might meet out there in the real world. So you go to an [AFP or NDOA] event and meet someone that has asked you to follow-up. Traditionally, you might send an email a week later or call them up and leave a voice mail. What if instead you found them on LinkedIn, asked to be connected and then shared an information rich article that contained tips about the very thing you chatted about at the [AFP/NDOA] mixer. Do you think that next meeting might get started a little quicker towards your [mission]? I sure do.

2) Stay top of mind with [donors]

Once someone becomes a [donor], it’s easy to ignore them, assuming they will [donate] next time they [want to] or, worse yet, assuming they understand the full depth and breadth of your offerings and will chime in when they have other needs. Staying in front of your [donors] and continuing to educate and [move them up the ladder] is a key ingredient to building marketing momentum and few [nonprofits] do it well. [Because it’s really hard to do everything well with so few resources!]

This is an area where a host of social media tools can excel. A blog is a great place to put out a steady stream of useful information and success stories. Encouraging your [donors] to subscribe and comment can lead to further engagement. Recording video stories from [donors] and uploading them to YouTube to embed on your site can create great marketing content and remind your [donors] why they [donate to] you. Facebook Fan pages can be used as a way to implement a [supporter] community and offer education and networking opportunities online. [For a great example of this, check out The Pride Foundation.]

3) Keep up on your industry

Keeping up with what’s happening in any industry is a task that is essential these days. With unparalleled access to information many [donors] can learn as much or more about the products and solutions offered by a [nonprofit] as those charged with suggesting those products and solutions. You better keep up or you risk becoming irrelevant. Of course I could extend this to keeping up with what your [supporters], competitors, and key industry journalists are doing as well.

Here again, new monitoring services and tools steeped in social media and real time reporting make this an easier task. Subscribing to blogs written by industry leaders, competitors and journalists and viewing new content by way of a tool such as Google Reader allows you to scan the day’s content in one place. Setting up Google Alerts and custom Twitter Searches or checking out paid monitoring services such as Radian6 or Trackur allows you to receive daily email reports on the important mentions of industry terms and people so you are up to the minute in the know. (Of course, once you do this you can teach your [donors] how to [learn more about the mission you both care about] and make yourself even more valuable to them – no matter what [your mission may be].)

4) Provide a better [donor] experience

It’s probably impossible to [do too much donor recognition], too [provide too] much of a great experience, but you can go nuts trying.

Using the new breed of online tools you can plug some of the gaps you might have in [cultivating donors] and, combined with your offline touches, create an experience that no [other organization] can match.

While some might not lump this tool into social media, I certainly think any tool that allows you to collaborate with and serve your [donors] qualifies. Using an online project management tool such as Central Desktop allows you to create an entire [donor] education, orientation, and handbook kind of training experience one time and then roll it out to each new [donor] in a high tech [donor] portal kind of way. This approach can easily set you apart from anyone else in your industry and provide the kind of experience that gets [donors engaged].

5) Network with potential partners

Building a strong network of strategic marketing partners (i.e. another organization that cares about the same cause as you and offers complementary services) is probably the best defense against any kind of economic downturn. One of the surest ways to attract potential partners is to build relationships through networking. Of course you know that, but you might not be viewing this kind of networking as a social media function.

If you identify a potential strategic partner, find out if they have a blog and start reading and commenting. Few things will get you noticed faster than smart, genuine blog comments. Once you establish this relationship it might make sense to offer a guest blog post. If your use a CRM tool (and you should) you’ve probably noticed that most are moving to add social media information to contact records, add your potential partners’ social media information and you will learn what’s important to them pretty quickly.

If you know how to set up a blog already, offer to create a blog of network partners so each of you can write about your area of expertise and create some great local SEO for the group.

Maybe you’re not doing all of these things, but you’re probably doing at least a one or two.

Take John’s advice and you’ll definitely engage your donors more effectively. And who doesn’t want that?!

Marketing-Fundraising: A Happy Continuum

We chose to focus on the Marketing-Fundraising Tango this month because so many of our nonprofit friends and colleagues voiced confusion, frustration or consternation at how this works (or more accurately doesn’t work) at their organizations. The amount of brow-furrowing over this is interesting to me since marketing and fundraising are simply different means to the very important end of engaging people with your cause.

Here’s perhaps a different (and hopefully helpful) way of thinking about this. Rather than thinking of these two functions separately, think of them as points along a relationship continuum. On one end, you have marketing and the other fundraising. On the marketing end of the continuum, you focus on attracting new supporters to the organization by reaching out to groups of individuals (otherwise known as target audiences). These are largely one-to-many activities such as advertising, community events, and PR.

As you slide further toward the fundraising end of the continuum, the activities become more tailored to an individual, rather than a collection of individuals. They are personalized activities meant to deepen a supporter’s relationship with your organization.

When you think of marketing and fundraising as a continuum, then you simply adjust your position to support your current goals and objectives. If you have had above-average attrition and need to attract new donors, you might settle on a spot closer to the marketing end of the continuum. If you have a solid donor base and want to increase the number of major donors you have, you’d likely slide over to the fundraising end.