Sunday, October 31, 2010

Compassion sells.

Why do people give? That’s one of the fundamental issues behind fundraising marketing, and it’s one that Non-profits usually mess up on.

Zero compassion
Statistics Canada asked donors this question in their 2007 omnibus survey on fundraising and volunteering, called Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians. The answer was not surprising. The biggest reason was compassion towards people in need (at nearly 90%). Other reasons included wanting to help a cause in which they personally believed (86%), wanting to make a contribution to the community (80%), and having been personally affected or knowing someone personally affected by the cause the organization support (62%). Donating because government would give them a credit on their income tax rated only 23%. The results are pretty much consistent with the survey done in 2004. Compassion sells. Plain and simple.

But it’s obviously not that simple, because too many charities ignore this. I’ve seen a lot of fundraising marketing materials, and too much of it focuses on things rather than people. A hospital I know recently turned their ads from focussing on people (patients) to buildings and pieces of equipment. That’s a classic mistake. Donors can’t feel compassion about things. They need people to inspire them to give. To make them feel angry, to shame them, to fill them with hope. The common element is people. And it must be real people, not swimwear models. Compassion doesn’t extent to actors.

100% compassion
The best thing about compassion is that it is an easy story to tell. Anything can be about people, and people can be related to anything. Take those buildings that hospital used. Would it have been so hard to find a real patient or a real doctor to tell the story of how that building helped a real person? Imagine that instead of a cold building there was a kid who beat cancer saying thanks. Which do you think would be more effective? Yes, telling those stories takes extra effort, but it is well worth it.

So, go find a story about your charity and tell it. Because nothing sells like compassion and that always involves stories about real people.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't waste Christmas!

Timing is everything, and with Non-profit marketing it is especially so. There is a rhythm to marketing. How one communicates to supporters, donors or the public differs depending on the time of the year. Just as Canadian Tire sells more snow-plows in winter and Tim Hortons sells more ice coffees in summer, Non-profits also have their seasons. One of the biggest and most important of them has just begun, but chances are that most Non-profits in Canada will waste this opportunity. What am I talking about? Christmas, of course.

Asleep at Xmas?
The holiday season is the one of the best times of the year for non-profit marketing. For those who fundraise, it is one of the best times to ask for donations. It is a time when people are already giving – to the ones they love and to the community. Asking them for a donation fits with what people are already doing and thinking. Donating also makes an unique and powerful Christmas gift. Many charities have successfully created new and exciting donation-based “presents” that people can give each other. Finally, there’s the tax receipt issue. This is the one time of the year you can ask people for a gift for tax reasons. Many people find themselves in the boat of needing to make a gift for tax reasons at the end of the year.

There’s also the issue of thanking donors. Christmas is a time of giving thanks for what we have. For Non-profits, it is a powerful time to tell our supporters and donors how much we appreciate them.

Unfortunately, all of this is lost on many Non-profits. I’ve seen it many times. For them, Christmas is a time to wind down, take some time off. They may mount a few holiday-inspired efforts, but for most its nothing special. Many times its because they just didn’t get around to it in time and found themselves with nothing special for Christmas until it was practically Christmas itself. As a marketer, I find this very, very disappointing.

It is now the end of October. There is still time to do something for Christmas.

Where to start? First, think about what you can do to thank your donors and supporters. You could do Christmas cards, but postage is rather expensive. How about an email instead? Better yet, why not record a short video and upload it to Facebook or YouTube and use email to drive people to it. That way you’ll have them watching your Christmas video at the same place your online giving is located.

For things you can “sell” at Christmas, try thinking about calendars or Christmas ornaments. There are plenty of places that make them. With new web-based printers you can now even make the actual numbers of such things you need rather than buy in bulk and have leftovers. Contact me if you need some specific examples.

Christmas is a great opportunity. Don’t waste it. Get busy on your Christmas marketing program now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Global Study finds mixed marketing bag for Canada

Demand for services is rising fast for charities around the world. Faster than donations are expected to increase this year or next, according the 2010 State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey by Blackbaud.

The report covered a number of fundraising issues. It found that on marketing, Canada had a long way to go.

Canada was significantly behind the US in the use of Email as a marketing tool. Some 58% Canadian nonprofits that said they were using email compared to 75% in the US. The rating put Canada below every country in the study except the Netherlands.

Again, on SMS cell phone texting, Canadian nonprofits scored far below their American counterparts. About 11% said they were using SMS compared to 20% in the US. Again, Canada rated next to last in SMS use.

On use of social media, Canada placed within the pack. When asked whether they plan to invest in social media, 28% Canadian nonprofits said “yes”. In the US, the rate was 35%. While close to others, Canada had one the lowest ratings on social media investment.

Other low ratings for Canada came on whether Canadian nonprofits had an existing written online strategy and a brand/marketing plan.

Some of the numbers didn’t jive. Despite the low email ratings noted above 74% of Canadian nonprofits said they had electronic newsletters.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's worse than I thought

Since I began writing about Mobile technology and how it will change the face of Non-Profit marketing I’ve been stumbling over more and more information that tells me I’ve been too conservative.

The promise is clear. The power of the web, email, social media, photography, video, music and cell phone service will one day be in the palm of your hand. Today’s smart phones will soon give way to faster, smarter devices that will do all these things and more.

I always thought the day when smart phones and devices take over the Earth and enslave us all with their seductive technology would be decades away. Child of the analog world as I am I still thought about the pace of change in the way I have experienced it. I was wrong.

And this is how I know I was wrong. The “Future of the Internet III” study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which surveyed a large number of experts, predicts mobile devices will become the primary connection tool to the Internet for most people in the world by 2020. They also said voice recognition and touch user-interfaces with the Internet will be more prevalent and that the divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased.

That means that in a decade or so your primary marketing channels will be radically different than they are today. Your audience will be on the move, receiving and transmitting as they go. They will open your communications in their car, as they walk down the street or watch their kid’s ballet lessons. On the one hand, this will give you potentially more opportunities to engage them. On the other, this will actually shorten their attention span. Sitting down to read a letter from a non-profit is one thing. Trying to read one as you live an even more mobile lifestyle is quite another. Your messaging will have to be tighter, sharper and brighter. The hard lesson of the Web that most non-Profits have missed – that images are more important than words – will become even more acute.

Engagement overall will become harder. With no gaps between social life and work, and technology fuelling more and more online activities, most of your supporters, donors and volunteers will be more busy than ever. Getting them off their mobile devices even for a minute to help you with an event, a survey or to make a donation pitch to them will be a huge challenge.

It also means that the tattered and makeshift technology platform that most non-profits have will likely melt into the ground trying to cope with the changes. In the new mobile world, everything will have to change. Your website will have to be altered to make it more mobile friendly. The large amounts of information non-profits love to bombard supporters and donors with will have to be shortened and refocused. Most non-profits do a poor job collecting emails now. In the future, they’ll also have to collect cell phone numbers. Direct mail will become direct mobile response.

Worse, it will make demands on the two things the non-profit has less and less of – money and skills. There’s no avoiding the truth. The new mobile marketing will cost more. In some cases, it may save money, such as when it replaces print materials. However, the infrastructure required to market to mobile customers won’t be cheap. And who will help deliver those programs? Most marketing and communications people in the industry today are mostly ex-journalists, who have no more expertise in such matters than any of you do. IT skills will be more important than ever.

If the Pew study is right, you’ve got less than a decade to prepare. Start now. The mobile world is still in its infancy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get going right away. Do your homework. Start thinking. Ask your suppliers and providers what they can do for you. Keep track for the trends. And if you really want to be aggressive get your marketing staff smart phones. Having them will act as a catalyst for the change you want to see.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Measure this!

How big a bird is your marketing?
It’s Thanksgiving and you’re no doubt counting your blessings. But do you count your marketing blessings?

What you can’t measure, you can’t manage. That’s a very old saying. However, we all know that most Non-Profits don’t follow it. Measuring is just not something all of us do.

To see how bad it is, read the “The State of Nonprofit Marketing” from The American Marketing Association and Lipman Hearne (2008). The study found that a third of Non-Profits didn’t measure market share, their print advertising or their search engine optimization (where they show up in online searches). One in four didn’t measure Length of time spent on their website, the number of repeat visitors to website or the effectiveness of their public relations. And one in five didn’t measure the number of unique visitors to website.

There are many reasons for this. First, is that the marketing that most Non-Profits do either have built-in kinds of metrics(like measuring how many people come to an event) or they use anecdotal evidence (like when their grandmother says they liked their newspaper ad). But as measurement goes, this is not very deep. Second, is that they often confuse expenditure of money and other resources as the measurement. For example, I once asked a senior hospital person how effective their ad campaign was and she answered by telling me how much she had spent. All in all, the most common marketing measurements are often the easiest and shallowest. They don’t really give you very much meaning.

Perhaps one explanation is that marketing and communications measurement is different from program and fundraising measurement. It requires a bit of a different skill set. And what you measure can vary widely depending on what you use for marketing vehicles. It can be complicated.

So, where does that leave you? First, don’t panic about measurement. Make a commitment to start measuring better and then start from there. What I recommend is that some measurement is better than none. Start with the lowest hanging fruit – the online stuff. If your website doesn’t have a measuring package (like Google analytics), get one. Any geek can tell you how to add it. Ask your co-workers kids, they’ll likely know. If you use an email marketing program like Constant Contact or social media like YouTube then measurement track programs will likely be included. Find them and get to know how they work.

For online measurement trying looking first at how many people look at your stuff and when. How does the number of visitors to your website this month compare to last? Can any spikes or decreases in traffic be explained by something that you’re doing? Now, look at the time people spent with you online. For email, how many opened your message and how many people clicked through? For web, how many were unique users (not the same person every time), how long did they spend and how many pages did they see (a measure of the depth of their interest), where did they come from (from an online search or did they come direct) and what was the bounce rate (a bounce being when someone comes to your front page and then leaves – the higher the bounce rate the less the engagement)?

In all this, try and see if you can find patterns. For example, when I worked for a hospital foundation I found that out of a thousand subscribers in our email marketing system about a quarter opened our emails consistently. I spun these off into their own group and sent them different messages. Why? They were true believers. Concentrating on them had more value. Similarly, I could find patterns in the hospital foundation’s web traffic. I could start to see what pages were the most popular. That led me to change how the unpopular ones were set-up to give them more profile and increase traffic.

There are many other measurements, from opinion polls to brand equity surveys. You need to find out what works for you.

Two more pieces of advice. First, take measurements that count “impressions” with a grain of salt. I could say that an ad I place in newspaper X reached 25,000 readers, but this doesn’t tell me anything. Of that 25,000, how many actually read my small ad on page 17? An impression can mean nothing. Second, web-based measurements (including mail and social media) are superior because they are action-based. When someone clicks though or opens or becomes a “fan” they are performing an action. That’s worth measuring, even if it is a very small number, because it is a true test of the effectiveness of your message.

So, start small and start soon. Get your feet wet on the easy web measurements and go from there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Marketing Presentation

Last week I gave a presentation to Canada's Epilepsy organizations in Kingston. Here's my presentation.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"How much should you spend" Follow-up

My last Blog on budgeting for your Non-Profit Marketing budget has provoked a great deal of response. There’s a lot of debate about how much is too much and how much is too little. I thought I’d keep the fire at our feet burning by asking two experts what they thought.

Alain Thys has spent 20 years of experience in Europe as an international strategist, retailer and venture capitalist. Today, he heads up Futurelab in Belgium, a strategic marketing agency.

Alain says the place to start is thinking about what “marketing” really is. If it means advertising, then he says spend as little as possible. The exception would be obtaining “free” or earned ads from media outlets.

“If you count marketing as ‘growing fundraising by building a strong relationship with funders and building word of mouth’, I would say you should spend ‘every penny you can spare’ and I mean that,” he says.

“If asked for a fixed percentage, I would say anything between 6-10% sounds fair as a rule of thumb.”

Alain notes that for larger non-profits it is possible to build models to estimate the impact of additional marketing investments. For smaller Non-Profits, he advises keeping track of two things.
  • Building a personalized relationship with your donors. “ You’d be amazed how much extra you can get out of people already giving you money,” he says. 
  • Activating your promoters in the community of donors. “People are proud to be contributing to your cause, so give them stories and angles to actually talk about this and bring in others.”
Jonathon Grapsas is Regional Director North America for Pareto Fundraising, an international company that has worked with charities like Sick Kids Hospital Foundation and the Canadian Red Cross.


Jonathon says most Non-Profits don’t give marketing its due. “Usually because of an unnecessary fear about the need to keep costs low. In my experience there is typically a direct correlation between those who spend the most and those who generate the most net income. More net income means more benefactors helped,” he says.

He says Non-Profits must look beyond a simple percentage for their marketing budget. The budget question has no simple answer. It depends on where you want to go.

“Investment should be determined by growth objectives (particularly, how quickly they want to grow), and how comfortable the organization is with various levels of risk.”

What’s your opinion? Send in your comments below.