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284 posts categorized "Fundraising"

Four Questions Every Nonprofit Marketer Should Ask

September 24, 2016

Hands_upMost nonprofit executives will tell you that the competition for funding has never been tougher. Donors have an overwhelming variety of causes to choose from, an abundance of guidance and advice to listen to, and not nearly enough time to sort it all out and make an informed decision. The question for nonprofits is: What can we do to break through the noise and build lasting and meaningful relationships with donors? 

Having worked with nonprofit marketing teams and executives for more than twenty years, I'm well acquainted with the lack of planning that pervades the sector. Nonprofits tend to jump right into the program execution phase without asking the most basic marketing and branding questions. And this lack of upfront planning often results in more than confusion; it can cost a nonprofit money.

With nonprofit marketers about to dig in for the all-important final quarter of the calendar year, here's a handful of questions you should be thinking about:

What's the opportunity cost of our organization not having a strong brand?

A strong brand is more than just a logo, color palette, or mnemonic device. Your brand should create an emotional connection in the hearts and minds of donors that grows stronger over time. Once donors understand the fundamentals of your organization's work and how it differs from other groups doing similar work, the investment in creating that connection will pay off in a variety of ways. Because of that connection, donors are more likely to support your organization by doing more than just giving money. They'll attend events and volunteer. And, more importantly, they're more likely to actively promote your organization's work and recruit other supporters to its cause.

Ask yourself the following: 

  • Is our organization well known in our segment?
  • Do donors understand our mission and the work we do?
  • Are donors easily able to explain our mission to others?
  • Are donors willing to promote our organization to others?

If the answer to any of these questions is anything other than "yes," you need to understand there may be real financial consequences for your organization. Before things reach that pass, suggest to your colleagues that it's time to revisit your messaging strategy and think about how your brand is connecting — or isn't — with supporters and potential supporters.

What's preventing our organization from building a stronger brand?

Marketing initiatives aren't always easily communicated within organizations. Often, there's confusion between the role of the marketing team and the role of the development team. And in cases where a marketing initiative needs to span chapters or affiliates, securing organization-wide buy-in can be next to impossible.

That's why it is important for marketing executives to understand that they have internal as well as external audiences. And that means an organization's own employees need to be cultivated as "brand ambassadors" and made to feel they have a voice and stake in campaign planning and development.

For example, prior to rolling out its "Someday Is Today" campaign, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society held meetings with its board of directors and all sixty local chapter executive directors with the goal of obtaining buy-in. Research findings and advertising strategies were shared and style guides were developed to facilitate local deployment and modification of the campaign. A testament to the success of the approach is the fact that the campaign is still up and running nearly four years later.

Do we have a well-defined fundraising strategy?

Nonprofits often set financial goals without much planning or rigor. As often as not, they'll simply look at the total amount of donations received, set new benchmarks for the coming year or campaign, and resort to the same outreach activities they've used in the past. In contrast, a well-planned fundraising strategy involves some forethought.

Think about how your organization is planning to reach its financial goals. Are you targeting new donors? A broader slice of the general public? If you're planning to court new donors, you'll need to profile these groups (demographically, behaviorally, and psychographically) and assign a financial value to each one. Once you've done that, you can prioritize how you're going to spend your fundraising dollars, mapping out a messaging and media strategy that takes into account the motivations and behaviors of your top-tier prospects.

When doing this, it's important to remember that each donor group has a unique profile and that members of one group are unlikely to think or act like the members of a different group. Some people give because the act of giving makes them feel good; others are research-oriented and want to see impact. Some are looking for an emotional connection to a cause or issue, while others just want to make the world a better place. Some will engage digitally, while others will insist on communicating only through analog channels. Combining the right messaging with smart targeting is the first step to successful donor engagement and a more effective use of your organization's resources than the old spray-and-pray approach.

Are we doing our best to drive growth?

Growing your donor base is not just about attracting new donors to your cause or issue; it's also about getting existing donors more deeply involved in your cause. Think about what you are currently doing to cultivate relationships with your existing donors. Are you being transparent with them? Do they know what your organization is doing with their money? Have you shared with them examples of the impact their support is creating?

Do not underestimate the importance of sharing information with your donors and encouraging them to share that information with others. One way to do that is through a well-thought-out Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program.

At Interplanetary, our experience has shown that charities that actively practice CRM and engage their supporters in an ongoing dialogue benefit from a deeper level of engagement, leading to both more frequent donations and a greater willingness on the part of donors to promote the organization to others. Recently, we developed a CRM program for a nonprofit client that delivered custom-tailored information to donors based on their profiles and interests and were gratified when the program not only generated new names for the organization's database but significantly increased the average donation amount and boosted the organization's overall campaign revenue.

Headshot_andy_semonsThe benefits of infusing your marketing and fundraising efforts with rigor cannot be overstated. Our experience with our nonprofit clients has shown that when a brand's targeting and messaging strategies are clearly defined and aligned, when colleagues are on board with the plan, and when a good CRM program is put in place, donation revenue can increase by as much as 50 percent in a year. And that's nothing to sneeze at.

Andy Semons is a founding partner and strategic planning partner at Interplanetary, a New York-based advertising agency that has worked with many nonprofits.

Weekend Link Roundup (September 3-5, 2016)

September 05, 2016

Ball_and_racket_headOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

The landscape of corporate philanthropy is changing — for the better. Andrea Hoffman, founder and CEO of Culture Shift Labs, looks at one Wall Street firm determined to change the existing stock-buyback paradigm.

Disaster Relief

In aftermath of the recent flooding in Louisiana, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate's Rebekah Allen and Elizabeth Crisp look at how crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe are disrupting the traditional disaster relief funding model.

Education

In the New York Times, Christopher Edmin, an associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and the author of For White Folk Who Teach in the Hood ... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, challenges the idea that the answer to closing the achievement gap for boys and young men of color is to hire and retain more black male teachers.

Fundraising

Wondering how to get the public solidly behind your cause? Of course you are. Regular PhilanTopic contributor Derrick Feldmann shares some good tips here.

Higher Education

As the call for institutions of higher education to diversify their curricula grows louder, maybe it's time, writes the University of Texas' Steven Mintz on the Teagle Foundation site, for colleges and university "to embrace the Great Books spirit and delve into the most problematic aspects of our contemporary reality through works that speak to our time and perhaps all time."

Impact/Effectiveness

The Organizational Effectiveness program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has launched an Organizational Effectiveness Knowledge Center designed to be a space where nonprofits, funders, and others can "exchange learning, resources, and reflections about improving nonprofit organizational and network effectiveness."

Continue reading »

How to Get the Public Behind Your Cause

August 29, 2016

Cooptition_illustrationIf you've followed me on this blog or through my series of articles here, you're familiar with my take on the need to move potential supporters from mere interest to deep engagement with your cause over time. There are lots of people out there who want to do good, who stand up for what is right, and who even devote most of their time to organizing others, but in general nonprofits are not doing all they could to tap into that interest and energy.

If you're a nonprofit executive, what can you do to get the public involved in your issue or cause? Are you talking to the right people, the people most likely to become an advocate for your organization?

I was asked this question recently by a reporter who wanted to know why why so many legacy nonprofits (that is, those that have been around a while) struggle to stay relevant and keep the interest of their donors and supporters. Her sense was that younger people don't really connect with legacy organizations because of the way those organizations raise money or talk about what they do, and that the public in general isn't interested in the work of these nonprofits because of a perception that they long ago stopped caring about the public and instead focus most of their efforts on high-net-worth donors.

While those assumptions may have some basis in reality, my answer wasn't what the reporter was expecting.

Really great nonprofit executives today, I said, those who succeed at getting the public engaged in their cause, tend to focus their time and energy on four key stakeholder groups: people who can tell their organization's story, people who are innovating in their organization's space/issue area, people who organize and bring others to their issue, and people who challenge the way their organization approaches an issue. In many cases, nonprofits that have lost the attention of John and Jane Q. Public may have focused on these groups in the past, but somewhere along the way they fell out of  the habit or simply forgot why John and Jane are important. Does that sound like your nonprofit?

To truly get the public to move from interest to engagement to action, nonprofits need to create intentional conversations and, where possible, actual partnerships with these key stakeholder groups. Here's how:

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Perfecting Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: Tips for Your Next Event

August 26, 2016

If you've been paying attention, you know the future of philanthropy includes peer-to-peer fundraising.

Fundraising_thermometerIt makes sense. Peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P) is one of the best ways for nonprofits to involve their supporters in the fundraising process, raise significant amounts of money, and acquire new donors — all at the same time.

Below, I cover the five steps that every nonprofit looking to run a successful peer-to-peer event should consider. In order, they are:

  1. Establish your budget and goals;
  2. Identify the best peer-to-peer fundraising platform;
  3. Enlist your most enthusiastic supporters;
  4. Equip your supporters with the right tools; and
  5. Gamify your event or campaign.

1. Establish your budget and goals.

As is the case with any fundraising campaign, you need to establish a budget and financial goals for your peer-to-peer fundraiser before you dive into planning the event itself.

While your goals should be achievable and realistic, don't underestimate the power of peer-to-peer fundraising.

Let's say you have a hundred supporters who are willing to reach out and ask their friends, family members, and co-workers to make a donation to your organization. If each person solicits only two people, you've essentially tripled your potential donor base at a fraction of the acquisition cost associated with other methods.

Don't forget, though, that because most peer-to-peer fundraisers are tied to events like walkathons, marathons, or other group activities, you'll need to factor the cost of the event itself into your budget.

Other costs you may need to consider include:

  • marketing materials
  • merchandise (water bottles, t-shirts, etc.)
  • snacks and drinks for participants
  • staff time
  • set-up and tear-down costs
  • unexpected surprises!

How this helps: Any fundraising event or campaign needs a budget and a revenue goal. Make sure your peer-to-peer fundraiser has both and be clear-eyed about the costs.

2. Identify the best peer-to-peer fundraising platform.

Before online fundraising became commonplace, peer-to-peer fundraising was done at the office or door-to-door by supporters who would ask you for a donation or sponsorship for the event they would be participating in. Peer-to-peer fundraising platforms have changed all that.

With peer-to-peer software, your nonprofit can enlist the help of supporters in your local community or halfway around the world — and they can use it to solicit donations from anyone, anywhere, as well.

The best peer-to-peer platforms enable your supporters to:

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2016)

August 06, 2016

Sort of like that great little farm stand that pulls you in every time you drive by, our roundup of the most popular posts here on PhilanTopic in July offers lots of delicious food for thought. So pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade and dig in!

What did you read/watch/listen to in June that got your juices flowing? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (July 23-24, 2016)

July 24, 2016

Bulldog-on-ice1Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Community Improvement/Development

In the New America Weekly, Heron Foundation president Clara Miller explains how the foundation's recent work in Buffalo, the fourth poorest city in the nation, "started as a response to a Heron board member's referral of the local community foundation" and led to the foundation becoming a trusted neutral convener and connector "for a number of contingents in the community."

On the Knight blog, Lilly Weinberg Lilly Weinberg, program director for community foundations at the Knight Foundation, shares three takeaways from a recent convening of twenty civic innovators who've received grants of $5,000 to implement a project in a calenadr year that improve mobility, a public space, or civic engagement in their home cities.

Criminal Justice/Policing

Reflecting on the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minnesota, five police officers in Dallas, and three police officers in Baton Rouge, Open Society Foundations president Chris Stone suggests that the divide between black America and American policing is in part the "legacy of slavery, the legacies of Jim Crow, of lynching, of the repression of the civil rights and black power movements, the legacy of the war on drugs" -- and that efforts to close it must include solutions to racial disparities and the building of mutual trust between African Americans and local police departments.

Environment

Here on PhilanTopic, we featured a pair of great posts this week  -- one by Frank Smyth and the second by Maria Amália Souza -- on the noble, unheralded, and frequently dangerous work done by environmental activists in the global South.

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How to Talk to Your Donors About Funding Outreach and Awareness

July 22, 2016

Money-tree-symbol-Stock-Vector-familyWhy is it that fundraising for specific programs comes so easily to nonprofit professionals, yet asking for money to boost marketing or fundraising activities makes our palms sweat?

Professional fundraisers like Dan Pallotta have done much to call out this mindset. In no uncertain terms, Pallotta and others have argued that by not asking funders to invest in their fundraising and marketing activities, nonprofits undermine their ability to generate the kinds of dollars and awareness they need to solve our most pressing problems.

There are several reasons for this. One of the most persistent has to do with boards choosing to focus exclusively on programming and dismissing investments in marketing and fundraising capacity as unwarranted spending on "overhead." Goals involving income, whether donated or earned, are given short shrift. The general attitude is: "Let's see what we can do with our existing marketing/fundraising budget."

This is just wrong. Regardless of how well-intentioned it might be, a board simply can't insist that you generate greater awareness of your cause — not to mention impact — and then do nothing about it.

What are board members in that situation thinking? Are they afraid donors will run for the exits if they're asked to fund something other than programs? Really? Donors deserve more credit than that. They want the same thing we want: to be able to sit down with friends and family and say: "This cause and the work this organization is doing is important to me."

Like most of us, they want the issues they care about to go viral, generating as much awareness and attention as possible. That's because they know it will take more — a lot more — than their gift or donation to truly make a difference. And that's why a growing number of them are ready to put their dollars behind truly creative fundraising and marketing efforts.

We need to stop being bashful about funding the marketing and fundraising efforts needed to make the public aware of our work. We need to lean in to these conversations — and not be reticent when a donor asks about awareness, fundraising, or marketing.

What does that sound like?

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (July 16-17, 2016)

July 17, 2016

Peace_signOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

What does it mean to look at images of African Americans being murdered? In an age in which footage of fatal shootings appears alongside cat videos and selfies in social media feeds, what claims can be made for the representational power of filming? In the Boston Review, Benjamin Balthaser explores the contentious debate over the meaning and appropriate use of images of violence against black men and women.

Civil Society

In the wake of the recent shootings in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, Council on Foundations president and CEO Vikki Spruill and Sherry Magill, president of the Jesse Ball DuPont Fund, call on foundations "to advance a civil conversation focused on what we have in common and ensure equal treatment under the law."

Climate Change

The pledges made by countries in Paris in December to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 almost guarantee that the wold's average temperature will increase by more than 3 degrees and could warm by as much as 4 degrees — with catastrophic consequences. Fast.Co.Exist writer Adele Peters explains.

Criminal Justice

"In the world of criminal justice, pushes for change can be diverted or stalled by major news events," write Simone Weichselbaum, Maurice Chammah, and Ken Armstrong on Vice. "But the sniper killings of five officers in Dallas seems to have stiffened the opposition to reforms. With legislation to reduce prison terms for some crimes stalled by election-year politics and efforts to repair police-community relations moving slowly, leaders across the political spectrum are watching to see if such efforts can survive this heated moment."

Policing across America has improved over the last forty years. But why hasn't more progress been made? Fast Company's Frederick Lemieux reports.

Continue reading »

[Infographic] A New Generation of Giving

July 09, 2016

As investment expert John Mauldin noted in a recent installment of his Thoughts From the Frontline newsletter, for much of American history it was unusual to have more than four generations alive at the same time. Today, however, we have six: the G.I. Generation (b.1901-1924), the Silent Generation (1925–1942), the Baby Boomers (1943-1960), Generation X (1961-1981), the Millennials (1982-2004), and the Homeland Generation (2005-2025?). As Mauldin points out, the first two "still control a great deal of wealth, which gives them influence, but they no longer wield the levers of power. That role now belongs to the Baby Boomers and increasingly Generation X." That's because boomers, in growing numbers, are packing up their workstations and moving on to encore careers or retirement. As that happens, writes Mauldin, the social and economic influence of Gen X and, especially, Millennials is growing.

Although generational differences are often overstated, generational cohorts tend to share values and a worldview that differ from those of their parents and grandparents. And that, as the folks from MobileCause note in the infographic below, is something every professional fundraiser needs to consider as Millennials emerge as a potent philanthropic force.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (June 11-12, 2016)

June 12, 2016

Enough is enoughAfter a couple of weeks off, we're back with our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

In Forbes Co.Exist, Jessica Leber reports that the world's population is (very) slowly beginning to move away from coastlines increasingly threatened by sea-level rise.

Data

On the Forbes site, five nonprofit executives share their strategies for collecting and analyzing data in order to get the highest return on investment.

Education

Yes, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is avery big player in the education reform field, and, yes, it has experienced its fair share of failures. But, writes Education Post contributor Caroline Bermudez, the foundation really should get more credit for owning up to those failures and for its willingness to experiment and take risks.

Fundraising

What's the worst piece of advice for a professional fundraiser? How about "Find your voice" or "Be yourself," says Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks. Why? Because "[g]ood fundraising is not a mirror that reflects your beliefs and excellence. It's a mirror that [should reflect] your donors' values and excellence."

Continue reading »

How Local Nonprofits Can Engage a Global Community of Donors

June 03, 2016

News_globe_human_chain_PhilanTopic"Think globally, act locally." It's more than just a catchy slogan; it's a phrase that captures a way of being that a lot of folks take to heart. For many people, acting locally entails giving back to organizations that support the communities in which they live, largely in the form of monetary donations. And it's a practice that appears to be growing in popularity: the Giving USA Foundation recently reported a slight dip in giving for international development and suggested that it might have something to do with the fact that donors are focusing more on causes closer to home.

What's more, giving locally is particularly common among those who donate significant sums of money. According to a recent study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy of gifts of at least $1 million, only 33 percent of the total dollar value of those gifts was captured by organizations outside the donor's home region.

While it's wonderful to see so many people giving generously within their own communities, it is even more remarkable to see donors from around the globe deciding to contribute large gifts to organizations with a specifically local focus. One example is the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), which focuses its charitable efforts on the community of Collier County, Florida, yet garners substantial support from donors around the country and the globe. This is largely due to its connection with the Naples Winter Wine Festival, the organization's main fundraising event, as it attracts international donors by offering unique travel and dining experiences in addition to raising funds for NCEF. This past year alone, more than 40 percent of the total amount raised for NCEF came from donors outside Collier County.

Continue reading »

[Review] Nonprofit Fundraising 101: A Practical Guide With Easy to Implement Ideas and Tips From Industry Experts

May 31, 2016

Book_nonprofit_fundraising_101_for_PhilanTopicFundraising expert and social entrepreneur Darian Rodriguez Heyman describes his latest book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101: A Practical Guide with Easy to Implement Ideas and Tips From Industry Experts, as "the first comprehensive, practical guide to all aspects of nonprofit fundraising" and a "yellow pages for social change." Perhaps, though the former seems a little more to the point.

As such, the book covers everything from the hiring and training of development staff and how to engage board members and volunteers (Part 1); to choosing the right databases to track donors and gauge your fundraising progress (Part 2); to maximizing gifts and grants from individual donors (Part 3), online platforms (Part 4), foundations (Part 5), and corporations (Part 6); to increasing earned income through social enterprise (Part 7). Short and full of practical advice, each chapter follows a consistent framework that includes the critical skills and competencies needed to succeed in that particular fundraising area, case studies and sidebar material, a list of dos and don'ts, and a resource list.

Although he has held leadership positions in both the private and public sectors, co-founded a number of companies that support nonprofits, and edited Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals (2011), Heyman understands that he's not the only fundraising expert with something to offer. Indeed, every chapter of the book includes advice from experts with hands-on experience in a particular area of fundraising — whether individual giving, special events, corporate sponsorships, mobile giving, or government grants. And one of his main points is that nonprofits serve a vital function as a conduit between donors and social impact, with board members and volunteers playing a critical supporting role. Quoting Kay Sprinkel Grace, author of Beyond Fund Raising, he reminds his readers that "[p]eople don't give to you because you have needs. They give to you because you meet needs."

So, how should nonprofit fundraisers approach potential donors? According to Mal Warwick, direct mail is still a viable option for organizations with large donor lists and budgets of at least $1 million, while smaller grassroots organizations are better off focusing on online fundraising and building relationships with individual donors. For those organizations that use direct mail, the key to success is getting to know the top 5 percent of your donors. At the same time, Heyman cautions against focusing solely on large donations; the key to successful fundraising and securing major gifts is stewardship — regardless of gift amount. And one element of good stewardship is knowing what donors care about and what drives their giving, making a connection with those you are appealing to, and remembering "what matters to them — not just what feels critical to you or your organization." 

Continue reading »

Time to Honor the Fearless Donor

May 27, 2016

Regular-Charity-DonorsToo often – I've been guilty of this, too – fundraisers focus excessively on the acquisition of the new donor. We spend a lot of time and resources crafting the right message, testing potential activation strategies, and building engagement programs in hopes of growing our base of supporters.

The problem is that we get so busy trying to build our supporter base with new donors that we tend to overlook the individuals who are already invested in our cause.

I recently had lunch with a friend who shared an anecdote about the time he stood up in front of a roomful of people to promote a cause in which he believed passionately. It was clear as he was telling me that it was a memory he would not soon forget. This is what he said:

"I remember the first time I shared in public that this was a cause I supported. You know, it's not easy to stand up in front of other people and tell them you believe in something. It shouldn't be a big deal, but it isn't something I do. I had to conquer my fear of telling others I care about something, knowing they might not feel the same way. I had to get over the fact that others might not care as much as I did. It's not part of my personality to wear my emotions on my sleeve, and standing up in front of that roomful of people was a pretty big deal for me...."

As nonprofit leaders and fundraisers, we tend to move on after a donor has given time, money, or skills in support of our cause. And we tend to overlook the many reasons the donor may have had not to support our cause. We similarly forget that although it may come naturally to some people to stand up and articulate their support for an issue or cause, not everyone is wired that way.

So, if you're engaged in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, here are a few things to "remember" as you go about your work:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (May 7-8, 2016)

May 08, 2016

Nyquist_DerbyOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civil Society

"Digital data are different enough from time and money — the two resources around which most of our existing institutions are designed — that it's time to redesign those institutions."  In a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz explains why and how.

Community Improvement/Development

We didn't catch it in time for last week's roundup, but Forbes contributor Ruchika Tulshyan's profile of the Detroit-based New Economy Initiative, a startup entrepreneurship fund focused on inclusive economic development, is well worth a read.

Also in Forbes, the Manhattan Institute's Howard Husock argues that "a Detroit-style 'grand bargain' approach could — with the same level of financial contributions from both big philanthropy and organized labor — break stalemates and allow [other Rust Belt] cities to restore funding for the city services on which their economies depend."

Education

In Inside Philanthropy, Mike Scutari shares highlights of a new case study, Dancing to the Top: How Collective Action Revitalized Arts Education in Boston (48 pages, PDF), written by sector veteran Cindy Gibson for Boston Public Schools Art Expansion (BPS-AE), a multiyear effort to expand arts education in schools across the district. Gibson calls the initiative described in the study "one of the most strategic initiatives" she's ever seen and praises the funding collaborative behind the efforts as "really collaborative." Definitely worth a read.

Environment

Long considered a disaster when it comes to pollution and environmental degradation, China is beginning to appreciate the seriousness of the situation -- and its responsibilities as the second-largest economy in the world -- and is pursuing a number of solutions to environmental challenges at home and beyond. The Nature Conservancy's Mark Tercek reports.

Continue reading »

5 Steps to Help Turn Interest Into Action

April 29, 2016

Steps-to-successHere's a situation: A few hundred people, maybe more, start acting like they care about what you do, decide to follow you on social media, and/or sign up for your email list. But when it comes to needing them to actually take action for your cause, they pretty much disappear.

Sound familiar?

It's a scenario I hear a lot from frustrated fundraisers and nonprofit marketers who struggle to convert fans and followers of their organizations into supporters and champions. In part, that's because the idea of "doing good" has never been more popular. But actually doing something to make a difference is a different story.

What can you do you to change this dynamic?

First, let's take a step back and examine the way the average person engages with a cause he or she cares about.

Because humans are inherently empathetic, when we see suffering, injustice, or an opportunity to make a difference, our brain tells us to do something. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that we're ready to go all in for the cause. Instead, most of us will opt for a lower-cost option like signing up for a newsletter, following an organization on social media, or signing a petition. These kinds of "actions" satisfy our impulse to do something without committing us to do more (like making a donation or volunteering our time).

When we opt for this kind of low-level, low-cost action, we are signaling to people or an organization working to address a cause that it's okay to communicate with us. As a result, the development and marketing folks at the organization will begin to send us information about the organization, fundraising solicitations, and even requests to volunteer or organize an event or activity.

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