The myth that our donors are unique and special snowflakes

Charitable people do charitable things.

Things, plural.

There’s a reason that most of the outside lists and people that you pursue to be donors to your organization aren’t from a cohort of magazine subscribers or motorcycle enthusiasts or even a political party.  They are from other nonprofits: charitable people do charitable things.

Russ Reid’s Heart of the Donor survey indicates that the average donor gives to six different nonprofits.  If anything, my experience would say that this number is a bit low.  I once modeled a list of walkers and it indicates than the median walker gave to nine other nonprofits.  It’s the same reason multis are the most profitable donors to acquire.

Charitable people do charitable things.

Yes, it’s a tautology.  But it’s one we often forget when we make our policies around fundraising, especially when we put up walls around our donors internally.

We must accept that our donors will be charitably promiscuous.  Personally, I’ve been impacted by or had family and friends impacted by Alzheimer’s, autism, cancer, depression, heart disease, kidney disease, MS, sexual assault, suicide, and more.  That’s life.  And people who give will give.

We are in that competitive environment.  And the way to differentiate ourselves is to build closer ties to our donors, not to try to build walls around them.  As French playwright Andre Gide said, “It is not enough to be loved — I wish to be preferred.”*

So why do we:

Eschew list cooperatives?  This is a way to take other organizations’ best donors and build models that allow you to get the best of the best.  If you are doing a good job of focusing on your donors, you will be able to steal them away.  If you are doing a bad job, you were going to lose those donors anyway.  You didn’t deserve them.

Not try to get donors who are uniquely tied to us?  This sounds like it contradicts the entire rest of the post.  But if you are worried about fishing in overfished waters (and you should be), you are then looking at how to bring people into your organization who may not have given to nonprofits before.  That starts with content marketing and with lead generation tools, especially online.  This is when it pays to have a strong vision of your donor and constituent journeys.

Try to protect our event donors from becoming organizational donors?  This confounds me, because a quality direct marketing program can help increase both event and non-event giving.  Moreover, you get people who are more connected to the organization.  And when these people are already giving to 6-9 other organizations, usually through direct marketing, unilateral disarmament doesn’t seem the wisest approach.

We’ll talk more about the data on this tomorrow.

 

* No, I haven’t ever read any of Andre Gide’s plays or really know who he is.  He was quoted in I’m With Stupid, a book that while not on the same intellectual level, is waaaaay funnier.

The myth that our donors are unique and special snowflakes

“Our donors” and channel conflict

According to psychological studies, human territoriality is a multifaceted concept that includes physical space, possession, defense, exclusiveness of use, markers, and personalization.   

giphyI think of Milton from Office Space.  He possesses his personalized red stapler in his tiny cubicle fortress than he does not want to leave and eventually fights to defend. 

How often are we like this with our donors?

Even the phrase “our donors” is illusory.  A donor no more belongs to your organization than I belong to Google just because I am dependent on their search engine and mail programs for even the most basic forms of knowledge seeking and human interactions, respectively.

OK, bad example.  But you get the idea.

A donor doesn’t really belong to your organization; they are free to leave at any time (and frequently do).  

And they certainly don’t belong to any one aspect of your organization.

Yet we aim to possess donors, erect walls for their defense from other types of fundraisers, even mark our territory on them.

The thing that got me thinking about this is Joshua Benton’s excellent piece with NiemanLab about NPR’s decision not to promote the NPR One app or its podcasts on its terrestrial radio stations. 

They will not ask for any downloads or mention podcast hosts in a way that would be seen as an endorsement.

Part of this is understandable.  Radio stations pay the bulk of NPR’s bills.  These stations want to hold on to their share of ear and make sure that people listen to radio stations.  They exert pressure; NPR folds.

But this feels very much like the classic Theodore Levitt article about Marketing Myopia:

 

The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones) but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad oriented instead of transportation oriented; they were product oriented instead of customer oriented…

 

OK, a virtual show of hands.  Who thinks that NPR’s long-term future is in traditional radio-wave-based radio?  OK…  OK… thanks.  Hands down.  

Now who thinks their long-term future is in online radio, podcast, and things we haven’t even thought of yet?  OK… OK… keep them up… there are a lot of you to count…

Yep.  Exactly.  Yet because of territoriality, they mortgage the future for the present.

So what business is NPR in?  Are they in the radio business?  Or are they in the informational (or entertainment or thought-provoking) business?

The same is true for your nonprofit.  You put up barriers to protect your walk donors from being over-solicited or make sure your major donor prospect don’t get mail pieces that might soil their hands.  You make sure that national/local doesn’t get their stinkin’ mitts on “your donors” because that money should stay local/national.  As if it matters which pocket gets filled.

In what business are you in your direct marketing?  If you are not in the loving-donors-and-being-loved-by-donors business, might you be in the wrong business?  If a $20 mail donor becomes a $500 walk team captain, and that fills that donor up with warmth, do you view that as a $20 loss?  Then you are in the wrong business.

So this week, we’ll try to explode some myths about “our donors.”  They are not only your nonprofit’s donors.  They are not permanently destined to stay in a single channel.  They are not national’s or local’s.  They can be communicated with both personally and through direct marketing.  And so on.

And we’ll discuss some solutions, including a potentially radical (ironic) solution on Friday.  You won’t want to miss it.

Or, if you do want to miss it, hopefully we’ll catch you next week!

“Our donors” and channel conflict

Implications of more donors versus better donors

Let’s say you’ve organizationally had the debate that we’ve been following the past three days and you have come down on the side of better donors: you’ve taken into account all of the long-time and non-financial benefits of lower-dollar donors and still can’t make the average $10 or less donor work for you organizationally.

Here are the steps you can take in your program to skew your results toward getting fewer, better donors.  Note that if you decide the other way — neither of these approaches are right or wrong — just do the opposite of everything listed below.

Up your ask strings.  As we’ve seen in two different studies of ask strings (here and here), increasing the bottom number on your ask string increases average gift.  If you are in a Pareto efficient model like we talked about on Monday, there will likely be a resultant decrease in response rate.  

Like this study indicates, I would do this with single donors and not try to get my multi-donors to elevate when they aren’t ready to.  There, I think you would be wise to keep the highest previous contribution as the base donation, but increase your multiply.

Change your defaults.  This can be the default online (where you have the radio button start on $50 instead of $25) or the amount you circle on a direct mail piece with the social proof “Most people give X”.  Moving the default up should get you fewer higher-value donors.

Move up your list selects.  When you rent or exchange with outside lists, even if a list works well for you with no qualifier on it, you can request only $5+ or $10+ donors to that organization.  It will cost a little bit more to get that list, but you will be able to cut some of the potential tippers out of your program.

Incidentally, there is a trick you can do here with a list that performs well and offers a higher-value list select (say, $50+): rent the list twice.  Once, rent it with a $10+ select and the other with a $50+ select.  Then, you can separate out your ask strings to those two lists and mail the $50+ list twice (like multis) with an appropriate ask string.

Work with your modeling agencies and coops.  They will be more than happy to build you a model that maximizes gift instead of maximizes response rates.

Invest in telemarketing upgrades.  Upgrading seems to work better when people talk with other people.  I would counsel doing this with a monthly giving ask with the appropriate audience — it’s literally the gift that keeps on giving.

Shift your lapsed reacquisition selects.  Because you “own” those names, you have the most freedom to play around with who you are trying to reacquire.  You may be able to change the complexion of your file by communicating less deeply (say, moving from 12 months to six months) among under $10 and more deeply (say, moving from 36 months to 48 months) among your $50+ donors.

Use ZIP modeling.  This can work with both acquisition and donor communications.  In both cases, you can get more aggressive about your ask strings with wealthy ZIP codes.  In acquisition, you may even choose to omit the bottom half (or whatever) percent of ZIP codes from some lists.  As with tighter donation selects, you will pay a bit more for those names, but you will get higher average gifts.

Invest in your second gift apparatus.  This is probably a good idea regardless, but if you are going to bleeding donors intentionally, you are going to need a way to make sure you are converting those you do bring on.  This may be an investment you only make for $20+ donors or the like, but a welcome series for this audience will help you keep the donors you want to keep.

Thanks for reading.  Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to keep up with the latest debate.

Also, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know at nick@directtodonor.com if you like the debate format.  If so, we can try this with some other hot topics in nonprofit direct marketing.  If not, then we need never speak of this again.

Implications of more donors versus better donors

More donors versus better donors: long-term and external benefits

To review, yesterday, Betty (arguing in favor of better donors over more donors) won a slight victory over Mo (arguing in favor of more donors over better donors) in talking about costs of fundraising.  Today, they will debate again: this time on the topic of external benefits of donors.

Mo: The case here is manifest.  To put a value on a constituent that comes only from what they give through direct marketing is myopic.  Having more donors means having more people that support you and having more people that support you means:

  • More awareness of your mission in the community
  • More volunteers
  • More advocates

Betty: It’s nice to believe that there are something things you can’t put a price on, but you can.  You can get awareness with PSAs and earned media. You can advertise for volunteers (and incidentally, thinking someone who gives $5 at time is dedicated enough to your mission to be your top volunteer is wishful at best.)  And you can get online advocates for $1.50 a pop from Care2 or Change.org.  If you want real change, the high-dollar donors in a congressperson’s district will hold more sway; they are who you get through consciously soliciting for value.

Mo: That works for some districts, but if you are doing the things that you need to do to get high-value only donors like zip selects, you are going to be ignoring a lot of districts that are just plain poor.  And you are going to be ignoring them with your message, mission, awareness, and advocacy.

But if you want to boil it down to dollars and cents, let’s go there.  Some smaller donors make for extremely effective peer-to-peer fundraisers.  You rarely know who is a deacon at the church and can pass the hat at the plant.  And casting your net broadly gives you a greater opportunity to get those types of donors.

Betty: You may have a point on peer-to-peer fundraising, but low-dollar peer-to-peer fundraisers are likely to bring in more low-dollar donors.  Now you have twice the problem.

Someone who gives more money at the outset is also likely to give more outside of a traditional single-channel direct marketing program.  They are the ones who will become the multichannel givers, major donors, and monthly givers.

Mo: Yes, if you go exclusively for the people who eat with multiple forks and pinkies out, you will get more of those high-value upgrades.

But you will rarely get bequests.  There is a great case study from the ASPCA.   Because they had focused on higher-value donors, they were not getting as many bequests.  In fact, they were excluding the 70+-year-old, $10 and under givers that were their best planned giving prospects.  So they made a conscious choice to go back and reacquire these donors, sending them (only) the best house mailings and working to upgrade them to bequest giving.

The verdict: Have to give this one to Mo on points.  A traditional lifetime value calculation ignores the value of donors as volunteers and advocates, which do have their own quasi-monetary value.  And bequest giving often comes from “tippers” on your direct marketing file of a certain age who give to help you in their lifetime, but are saving a nest egg for donation at the end of their lives.

This is certainly not to say that higher-average-gift donors don’t have greater major donor prospects; it’s just saying that a portfolio approach of quantity will have hidden benefits that should be uncovered.

More donors versus better donors: long-term and external benefits

Using your real estate better: post-donation interaction

Online and telemarketing donations have a unique feature that few other direct marketing interactions have: you are still communicating with them once they have made their donation.

Obviously, a large part of this post-donation interaction should be aimed at confirming that the donation was made and sincerely thanking the person for contributing to the cause.

But there is a unique opportunity in these interactions to get additional value from and give additional value to your donors; it’s the time between donation and processing.  A person has selected an amount, given their credit card (or EFT) information, and decided to make the donation (whether online or by phone).  But the person or the series of tubes has not yet processed the credit card.

You may not even have known there was a time in between donation and processing; I know it took me years before realizing this.  But you can put a shadowbox on your donation page immediately after someone hits “Submit” (or hopefully a more creative button like “Save Lives Now!”).  For telemarketers, it’s just a part of the script.

Since the donor is unlikely to turn back at this point, it’s an ideal time to explore an additional option with them (and I do mean “an” in the sense of “one and only one” – we do not want to turn off the donor).  There are two goals you can have for this: upgrade in amount or upgrade in kind.

If you are looking to upgrade in amount, I would suggest:

  • Selecting a small amount – something that is 10% or less of your normal donation in the medium.
  • Tying it directly to a tangible and immediate win for the donor – e.g., “if you add $3 to your donation right now, you’ll be feeding a child three healthy, lifesaving meals in war-torn Freedonia tomorrow.”
  • Making it very easy to say no and move on with the original donation.  This is not a circumstance to let the better be the enemy of the good.

Because of the limited upside of this tactic, I would suggest the second option: aiming for an upgrade in kind.  This will almost always be trying to upgrade to a monthly gift.  Some tips on this upgrade:

Don’t get greedy.  One of the more frequent upgrade strategies attempted online is a check box that says “repeat this gift on a monthly basis” as part of the donation form.  There are three problems with this:

  1. It explains none of the reasons why you would want to do such a thing
  2. It’s stilted, non-donor-friendly language
  3. It’s before the donation is attempted.  In this case, if the donor is turned off by this half-asked ask, there is no donation.

You want to make the donation ask small enough that it seems like a similar amount of money to what they have already pledged to give.  While you will want to test what this amount is for your organization, I’d advocate a rule of thumb that you’d want to start at about a quarter, plus or minus, of what a person has pledged to give.  Thus, if someone wanted to make a $100 gift, ask them if they would like to make a $25 monthly donation instead.

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to see that this will take at least four months to pay off.  But the average monthly donor is far more loyal than the average one-time donor and will likely extend out past this four-month mark.  And, since we humans value present money more than future money (witness the exchange rate we are taught between birds-in-hand and birds-in-bush), this seems reasonable-ish to the prospective donor.

Explain the benefits of the upgrade to the organization. Your donor has already made the tough decision: to donate to you in order to help people.  If there is a way that they can be more effective in their giving, they are more receptive to it at this point than almost any other (and, at the very least, are not that likely to be turned off by it).  So let them know that giving a smaller amount per month helps even more, because it’s predictable revenue that helps you get through lean times together.  You’ll also likely want to have some strong social math here (what does their $10/month do in terms of tangible benefit) as well as positioning against a hedonic good (“that’s the price of a cup of coffee each day”) to help you win the upgrade.

Explain the benefits of the upgrade to the donor.  Of course, to some extent, being able to help more people is a benefit to the donor – that was their goal going in and they are able to do more of it.  However, there are also tangible benefits as well:

  • Ease.  No more forgetting a donation the donor might want to make.
  • Budgeting.  The donor would be able to budget for donations on a monthly basis, which is how our mental accounting systems usually work.
  • The donor will be able to cancel at any time.  This is critical in the pitch.  You want people to know that you want only 100% satisfied* donors and thus want them to have freedom in their donation.  This is also because one of the primary mental objections to setting a monthly donation is “what if I change my mind?” (and its close cousin, “what if the organization does something I don’t like?”).

You can also put in whatever benefits your organization has for monthly donors (e.g., special member card, donor newsletter, etc.), but I would test it both with and without.  You might find your donors are more drawn in by the mission and the impact they are having and don’t want that special relationship cheapened.

Speaking of special relationships, I’d like to have one with you through our weekly newsletter.  You can sign up here and get the week’s updates in digest form, along with late-breaking thoughts and information.  Thanks for reading!

* Perhaps even donors who are 110% satisfied, for those direct marketers who are bad at math.

Using your real estate better: post-donation interaction

Using your real estate better: reply devices

When people in your organization review a mail piece, people expend sound, fury, and energy on the teaser copy, the word choice in the letter, and the photographs used.  

But I bet you could send around a reply envelope with the wrong return address on it and have no one notice it.  I’ve actually done this test, albeit unintentionally; I am not immune.  I caught the error in the final proof process, meaning I missed it twice before.

This is where you, as the direct marketing expert, justify your salary.  Anyone can go through a letter with a red pen and choose their own favorite words.  You get to do the unsexy things that will get results.

And the reply device is probably the unsexiest thing in mail, which is saying something.  If your mail piece were the crack spy team, the reply device would the guy in the van.

573-20091

“You know what? I’m sick of being in the van. You guys are going to be in the van next time. I’ve been in the van for 15 years, Harry.”

— Gib,  True Lies

It’s also where a mail piece is one and lost.  And it’s a place where you can implement your priorities where no one will yell boo.

So, some ideas:

  • Anchoring.  We’ve talked a bit about this here and the science of ask strings here.  However, there’s a wonderful SOFII article about the making of a mail piece here  that explains the below the reply device.

    art_51_reply

    Did you notice the $6518 option?  Not only is that a nice high anchor that people are giving toward, but they find that some people actually give that.  From the SOFII piece:

    There is, however, one twist: there is an option to donate a sum of $6,518. We put that figure in because it is the actual average cost of granting a wish. Every now and then, when I’ve done that before, you find a donor who is willing to donate at that level. We did this once for a hospital when the price point for a piece of equipment was $6,942.73. Thirteen people “bought” this device. These donors upgraded from an average of $65 to nearly $7,000. It never hurts to ask.

    Good for you, Make-A-Wish!

  • Ask for more information about a donor.  Your mind must always be in two places about a donor or prospect: where they are now and where there are the possibilities of them going. One opportunity is for this donor to become a multichannel donor; to do that, you need an email address or phone number.  And, while you can append these data, this has costs both in money and in not learning what method(s) by which your donor wants to be contacted.

  • Ask about other opportunities.  Would this donor be interested in more information about becoming a monthly donor, leaving your organization in their will, or donating a used car?  You will never know unless you ask.

  • Customize based on what you already know.  Usually, reply devices are mass printed, which seems to be a missed opportunity.  If you already have the person’s email address or phone number, you shouldn’t ask again.  Likewise, if someone has ignored your checkbox for planned giving five times in a row, perhaps a monthly giving offer is more her/his speed.

There’s also the reply envelope; if the reply device is the guy in the van, the envelope is the guy in the van’s intern.  Usually these are blank.  However, messaging on the envelope can:

  • Reinforce the person’s decision to donate with trust indicators like the BBB seal.
  • Build urgency with messages like “Rush this envelope to save lives.”
  • Spread program awareness (e.g., “If you or a loved one has been affected by X, please call our hot line at 800-XXX-XXXX”)
  • Help with the program allocation of your mail piece in joint cost allocation.  (For those not familiar with this procedure, you should be looking at each of your pieces and determining what percentage of this content is for each of your programs and what is fundraising for the purposes of your tax returns.  Additional program messaging on the envelope gives a slight boost to the programmatic content.)

Just because the reply mechanisms don’t have as much messaging doesn’t mean that you still can’t make them work for you.  Hopefully, these tips have helped you customize your reply so that you can get more replies.

Using your real estate better: reply devices

Let’s get small: microimprovements

402px-david_von_michelangeloThere is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that someone watched Michelangelo retouching every inch of one of this statues.  The bystander asked him why he bothered with such trifles; the artist replied “Trifles make perfection. And perfection is no trifle.”

In the direct marketing world, it’s difficult to say that there is such a thing as perfection.  You will likely never see, in any quantity, a 100% response rate or open rate.  But our goal is to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

There rarely is an idea that you have that will double the completion of your online donation page.  But you can find 16 ideas that each get you five percent better, each one compounding to double your response.

So without further ago, a few small ideas that may make small (or big) differences.  In no particular order:

Change the color of your donate button to something not approved in your brand guidelines.  It will stick out.  Good.  Things that stick out get clicked on.  When this starts to lose its effectiveness, change it again.

Reduce the size of your download.  A Sprint phone downloads an average of 11 MB per second on 4G .  We can easily design pages with enough extra code and random things to download to cost an extra second.  One second lost means 7% fewer conversions.

That’s probably why water.org has their homepage look like this:

water

But their donation page looks like this:

 

waterdonationpage

Increase customization by a variable.  If you do name, do name and location.  If you do name and location, add in donation history.  Et cetera.  These are more than 5% tactics

Add a small donate bar at the top of your site.  Human Rights Watch reported (at DMA’s DC nonprofit conference) that the below orange bar and a larger orange footer on their site increased donations from the home page by 256%.  Many days, I’d settle for 2.56%.

Go into Google AdWords.  And do what it says to do.  If it recommends splitting up your keywords, it probably knows that doing so will allow you to customize your copy.  Punctuate your headline properly.  It knows that increases click-throughs.  And so on.  It will keep bringing up these opportunities; you just have to act on them.

Try adding a picture.  Not necessarily guaranteed, but a quality picture will usually improve a home page, mailpiece, donation page, content marketing, etc.  I’ve found a significant difference in the traffic I get from blog posts with pictures over those without.  Hence David hanging out at the top of this one.

Call some donors.  Ideally some of your best, but these thank you’s will both help with the donor’s loyalty and give you ideas for things you can try (or stop).

Take some fields off of your donation form.  Phone number?  Ask for that afterward.  If you have the ability to divine city and state from ZIP on your form, go for it.  You are looking to streamline this process.

Similarly, reduce the clicks to get to the donation form.  Hopefully, it’s one or zero (that is, you can start entering info on the Web page).

Remove the navigation from your donation page.  Now is not the time for someone to want to look at your executive’s pictures.  Four tests show improvements from the tiny to the oh-my-goodness here.  

Run a test.  Are those ask amounts correct?  How do you know?  If you are mailing, emailing, or calling with the same thing for 100% of your communications, you are missing out on your 5% opportunities.

Hopefully, one of these gets you 5%.  If it does, please leave it in the comments.  If it doesn’t, please let us know in the comments what did.

Let’s get small: microimprovements

Let’s get small: micromoments

41sazggrh3l
This week, I’m going to talk about microthings with macroimpacts.

As so many good things of this world, this inspiration came from Angie Moore of Eleventy Marketing.  Her NonProfit Pro piece, which I recommend heartily, talks about Google’s discussion of how we live our lives in micromoments.  Their Think With Google piece talks about how with mobile devices, we are constantly acting on our needs at and in the moment.

I found this rung true for me.  When was the last time you wondered who that actress is and what you knew her from*?  When that happened, were you content to just not know?

No.  Not knowing is so ’90s.

So are not comparison shopping, not buying, not getting what you buy for weeks, not hearing about your donation, not being able to reach the person you want to reach.

And these micromoments come and go so quickly.  I remember vividly Googling how to give CPR to a dog.  I had never needed that information before and hope never to again.  In that moment, however, that question was my world.

As Google says, “Our preferences and purchases are shaped in these micro-moments. Ultimately, the brands that do the best job of addressing our needs in each moment will win.”  We are the sum of these moments individuals and we are the sum of these moments to those we wish to reach for donations and support.

 

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
— T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

 

So I’m going to try to cover this without covering what Angie did, which is excellent, by focusing on intent.

One of the things that Google talks about is how intent eats demographics for dinner.  You might think, for example, that the people searching for video games are 18-34-year-old males.  Only 31% of them are.  So by targeting people who are looking for video game content, rather than a demographic segment, you can get the people that advertising on Spike won’t get you.

The same is true for the nonprofit world, except that the need that people have is rarely to donate.  At best, they may have a need to make a difference, but more often, they want to learn more about something or verify something they’ve heard or take action on an issue they’ve heard about right-flippin’-now.

So, as we’ve preached, you need to be consistently creating content and doing so for the things that people care about.

But more than that, it needs to convert.  Once someone has fulfilled their desire to learn, verify, do, etc., and only then, you can make the turn to make an ask.  This ask needs to be quick and it needs to be tied directly to what they just did.  If it was emailing their congressperson about global warming, the confirmation page should thank them for taking action and ask for a donation to help the nonprofit advocate more effectively to stem the tide of global warming.

In the micromoment world, you don’t get this chance again, so you need to be there, fulfill the desire, and tie the ask to the desire.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about microbudgets — how do you act when the amount allocated for your budget is $0.

 

* If you are like me, the answer is probably a Jerry-Orbach-era Law and Order episode.

Let’s get small: micromoments

Learning from political fundraising: the eyes have it

This week, we’ll look at some of the lessons we in the nonprofit world can learn from those in the political world.

Wait!  Don’t leave!

I know I said that I would be counterprogramming to the blogs that turn out 7 Vital Marketing Lessons from This Year’s Oscar Winners topical content.  But:

  1. There are actually lessons that we can take from the political realm.  If you haven’t read The Victory Lab or Rick Perry and His Eggheads, I strongly recommend them as valuable insights into another industry that relies on donations for its livelihood.
  2. Political fundraising has to be crazy fast and efficient.  Imagine if in November, your nonprofit was going to either win or lose: accomplish all of your goals or cease to exist.  When the stakes are that high, there are distilled lessons that we can benefit from.
  3. It’s only going to get worse and I can’t stomach putting this topic off until December.

So how about this: I will not mention the current (as of this writing) Republican frontrunner despite the potential clickbait. Instead, I’ll try for a nonpartisan look at some items that may be helpful for we nonprofits.

The first one is relatively brief.  In looking at campaign Web sites, take a look at what the candidates’ eyes are doing.  Here’s Hillary Clinton’s Web site — an older version:

hillary-clinton-2016-campaign-website-600

 

And here’s Bernie Sanders.

berniesmall

What do you notice in common?

The eyes of the candidate are looking at what they want you look at.  This isn’t true in all or even most candidates’ cases: many of them are looking right at the camera or staring off into the future.

But those are missed opportunities.  Studies show that humans automatically look a few discrete places: where arrows or people point* and where other people’s eyes are looking (one such study is here )

Kissmetrics shows a great heat map of where people look when a photo is looking at the camera. 

7-baby-face

Because the baby is looking at the user, users get locked up in the baby’s eyes with no indication of where they should next look.

Now, take a look where people look when the baby is looking at the text:

8-baby-face-eye-tracking

Here’s another good example from QuickSprout.  Looking at the camera:

sunsilk-uncued

And looking toward the product:

sunsilk-cued
So, when Hillary or Bernie are looking at where you put in your email address, guess what the next action is they want you do to.

Now, take a look at your home page.  Where are your pictures looking?  And where do you want people to look?

 

* Where arrows point: what, you thought this from Clinton’s site is a coincidence?

arrows

Learning from political fundraising: the eyes have it

Always Be Converting Content

glengarry

“Only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted. You hear me? … A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-[Converting].”
— Content marketer extraordinaire Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glen Ross.

This week, we’ve talked about creating content, selecting topics, choosing a medium, and marketing your content.

But it all starts with the purpose of your content.  I’m going to steal the Content Marketing Institute’s definition of content marketing:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

It’s obviously written more for a for-profit audience, but you can tell the why from this with those great verbs: attract, retain, and drive.

You want to attract people to your organization.  You want to drive them to take actions that help your cause, including but not limited to donating.  And you want to retain them so that they will do likewise in the future.

So the content you’ve created has to be about them, solving their problems and answering their questions.  Items about you, your mission, your board members, your big check photo, etc., will not fly.

Once you have that content that is valuable and relevant, you need to:

Have one clear call to action.  One.  This eliminates two types of content that don’t convert:

  • Content with zero calls to action.  These are informational pieces that are up on your site because people thought constituents would like the information.  Or discussions of your programs.  Or whatever.  The bottom line is that everything you create should have a point of driving a conversation forward, even if it is only a little bit.
  • Content with various calls to action.  Let’s assume you have helped solve someone’s problem who came to your site.  They are ready for their social mandated moment of reciprocity.  And you give them “You can donate.  Or you can volunteer.  And we have action alerts.  And you can join us on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestMySpaceTinderGooglePlusYouTube.”

The advantage of one clear call to action is that you can spend time in the piece setting it up.  If you are educating the reader about how to check their insurance to see what autism treatments it covers, it is a natural segue to ask the person to email their legislator about insurance parity regulation for autism therapies.  A donation ask may be a little clunky there, but you’ve solved the problem and given them a solution that adds to the solution that they wanted when they came to the site: advocating for social change that would also help them.

You can not effectively set up five different asks in your content.

Report back content.  If you are asking people what they want and you give it to them, you need to let them know that it was by their popular demand.  “You asked us for X.  Here’s X” is a great opening to a conversation and your one call to action as a part of X should be very popular.

Make it shareable.  Sharing is often the ask after the conversion that’s forgotten.  Person has read about autism insurance: check.  Person has emailed legislators: check.  What is next for that constituent?  Potentially donating — not the worst idea in the world.  But this person is likely looking for this content for a reason.  And it’s likely that his/her network of close friends would like to be able to to help him with this issue.

So if s/he can say “I emailed my legislator about this and I’d like you to also, because my son is two and isn’t speaking and isn’t making eye contact and insurance doesn’t want to pay for any help,” people who care about this person are going to want to help.

That’s the genesis of a walk team or peer-to-peer fundraising activity right there; it’s just that none of them know it because they are busy solving their problem together.

Other shares, especially for lighter fare like quizzes, are more about the joy of sharing fun content.  Few people will be retweeting the American Constitution Society’s “32 Ways to Live a More Constitutional Life.”

But announcing the results of your “Which Founding Father are You?” (I’m totally a John Adams: single-minded, effective, orator, necessary, incompetent fighter, a bit arrogant, and not nearly cool enough to be in an incredible hip-hop musical.) quiz on Facebook — that could be a way of building interest, then lists.

BTW, American Constitution Society: email me at nick@directtodonor.com: I have this great idea…

Finally, set up the conversion after this one.  There will be another ask, or at least there should be.  Think of every content interaction as a way to get to another content interaction.  Using the change one thing maximum idea, if someone is interested in advocacy, they can get a drip campaign of things around their particular issue, leading them ever closer to the day that they will voluntarily walk up to you and give you the contents of their wallet.

Actually, you will probably have to ask them, but when you have a great converting content strategy, joyful giving can be in your future.

Always Be Converting Content