Tag Archives: communication

2012 Update: Social Media and Nonprofits

You’re going to want to tweet this: in response to May’s “Question of the Month,” 24% of respondents claimed that social media was the best marketing tool for nonprofits. “Word of mouth” and the organization’s own website tied for first place, each netting 29% of respondents’ votes.

http://onlinebusiness.volusion.com/articles/word-of-mouth-marketing-introduction/Not surprisingly, some nonprofits are turning to social media as a means to disseminate their missions, visions, and values. The Fourth Annual Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report reported that in 2012, 93% of U.S. nonprofit organizations have a presence on one or more social networking websites.

However, there are still many organizations that have no social media strategy to speak of. The answers to this month’s question reflect a number of trends we’ve noticed developing over the last few years:

  1. All nonprofits do not yet understand the power of social media.
  2. The priority placed on social media as a “connection tool” is sporadic and seems to  be used primarily by very large and very small nonprofits.
  3. Creativity relating to marketing remains very traditional. Even though everyone has a website and therefore the capability to connect with users via an interactive interface, many don’t.
  4. Impersonal marketing still dominates the landscape, and nonprofits suffer for it.

Over the last five years, many nonprofits have transitioned to using Facebook and Twitter as ways to build a donor base and market themselves to supporters. However, there is still a great deal to be learned about just how effective a tool Facebook and Twitter can be.

An astounding 98% of respondents to the Report indicated they have a presence on Facebook, offering many potential opportunities for fundraising. However, 53% of respondents said that they were NOT using Facebook for fundraising at all. 

Some organizations are opting for a modified social media fundraising approach. According to Robert Strickler, the Donor Pages Product Manager at DonorPerfect Software, an increasing amount of nonprofits are turning to what he calls a “donor driven” approach.

His firm has developed Donor Pages, an online “friend to friend portal” where an organization recruits its supporters to set up a website where they can reach out to family, friends, and colleagues and personally ask them to donate.

“Using a page like this gives ownership to the online social fundraising experience,” says Strickler. “We find that this tends to be effective because it operates on a more personal level.”

Just like fundraising through direct mail, meetings or phone calls, the same rules of stewardship are just as critical to online fundraising. Connection – genuine, heartfelt, and personal – is the key to fundraising success.

Adapted from “Social Media and Jewish Nonprofits: Missing in Action?” originally published on February 15, 2012 via eJewishPhilanthropy

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Putting Transparency & Accountability Into Practice

Many members of the American Jewish community have felt a strong connection to Israel. For years, they obligingly gave to Israel-based organizations consistently and heartily…but times are changing.

Time has demonstrated that trends in America’s nonprofit sector arrive in Israel only a few years later. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before Israeli donors see the logic and match their American counterparts’ demands.

Hundreds of Israel-focused nonprofit organizations represented in the U.S. seek charitable support from American donors every year. Why do some receive it…and others don’t?

Nonprofit experts Shuey Fogel and EHL Consulting’s Avrum D. Lapin will join together to discuss the “new normal” in the American fundraising arena for Israel-based organizations, highlighting generational shifts that have critical implications for nonprofit leaders as they try to raise funds in Israel and abroad.

Topics will include:

  • Transparency: How new donor expectations are changing the ways Israel-based nonprofits operate.
  • Accountability: What outcomes nonprofits must demonstrate to their supporters, and why today’s donors are more demanding than ever before.
  • Differentiation: Why nonprofits must communicate with clarity, and how best to make the mission stand out in a cluttered marketplace.

Adjusting to the “New Normal”
Putting Transparency and Accountability into Practice
Thursday, June 14th
9:15 – 11:30am
Talpiot, Jerusalem

This seminar is being offered free-of-charge.

For more information or to RSVP: jfogel@u-bank.net

What Do Donors REALLY Want? Information!

Reposted from eJewishPhilanthropy – May 21, 2012

Nonprofit leaders face tremendous pressures today: living, operating and succeeding in a competitive marketplace of ideas, programs and services presents innumerable challenges. Donors who are guided by a passion for certain aspects of an agency’s mission and vision might be unaware, or unconcerned, about the everyday deliverables the agency must produce to achieve certain goals. Keeping both supporters and constituents happy is often a delicate dance.

Nonprofit leaders must continuously upgrade and strengthen their abilities to translate their mission into a “selling proposition” for a variety of interest groups. This selling proposition involves creating a case for support that clearly communicates what the agency does, their goals, and the methodologies used to achieve these goals.

All of these complexities must then be translated into “everyday language” and communicated in the fundraising context to donors of all shapes and sizes, from national foundations to individual givers.

In today’s economy, customers drive the marketplace, and in the philanthropic world, donors drive the discussion around sustainable funding. The essential question then becomes, “What do donors want?”

What are their motivations to give, and what do they expect from the agencies they support and the staff who run them?

How are decisions made in the current giving climate, and what are the “deal breakers” today?

We thought that it would be most helpful to address these issues through questions that are often raised during our interactions with donors across North America. Let us predicate this conversation with two basic assumptions about why people give:

  • They care about the person making the “ask.” Despite advances in technology and the way people give to agencies (text to give, online fundraising websites, etc.) the dictum “people give to people” is still as true as ever.
  • They care about the impact of their gift. The vision of the organization and the resulting impact of the contribution are critical to encouraging a donor to make a gift. The difference that the gift will make in the lives of people, the life of the community and in the life of the donor remains essential parts of the “selling proposition.”

Now, let’s move onto the top three questions we receive as fundraising consultants.

DONOR QUESTION #1: Do you have a Business Plan?

We first heard this question more than ten years ago during a meeting with a prospective major donor to a prominent Jewish arts group in New York City. Nowadays the question seems intuitive enough, yet the organization’s Artistic Director who was leading the meeting was taken aback.

“Well, we have a budget,” she responded.

“I’m not looking for a budget,” the prospect responded. “I want to know that my investment will not be swallowed up because the organization – as much as I love what you do – won’t exist five years from now. Show me that you believe and can demonstrate that you will be around and in good health and I will make the gift that you are asking for.”

SOLUTION #1: Be prepared with current facts and long-term vision.

Be ready with the facts: your nonprofit is a business with a “selling proposition” that provides demonstrable benefits within your community. Know what those benefits are and how they will change over time. Luckily for our example organization, the Director had considered the long-term viability of the mission and vision and was able to communicate it to the donor, who then made a significant gift.

It is essential for nonprofit leaders to consider the long-term vision for your nonprofit: where it is today, where it will in five years, and in ten years. This long-term vision (which will often include grand plans such as new programs, services, and resources) will inspire and motivate your donors.

DONOR QUESTION #2: Why does it take so long to understand what you do?

“It is like I have ADD sometimes: I cannot listen to long explanations,” complained a leading benefactor to a growing Israel-based organization. This individual, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, made a good point.

In today’s fast-paced and hyper-competitive world driven by smart-phones, tablets, and the demand for instantaneous responses and results, donors want the information now. In addition, loyalty is an almost-dying commodity; unlike in decades past when someone picked one cause and stayed with it for a lifetime, today’s donors spread themselves around.

SOLUTION #2: Make your point quickly and use varied communication channels.

Modern nonprofits needs to be deft and nimble, framing their”selling proposition” in small, understandable bites through a variety of communication channels. Create an “elevator speech,” no longer than 30 seconds, that explains your organization’s mission, vision, and deliverables, and distribute it to your executive staff, Board of Directors, and leading donors. Utilize online tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as traditional media like newsletters, press releases, and direct mail.

You must always be ready to make your case quickly, because donors who notice that you are slow to respond to their interests might move on to the person or organization that best fills that philanthropic vacuum with easily digestible information.

DONOR QUESTION #3: I cannot ask my friends for money; can’t you just do it for me?

This is the question we most often receive from leading donors and Board members. For example, a committed Board member of a Jewish day school was recently approached to set up meetings with his contacts for the head of the school, who would then present the school’s “selling proposition” and hopefully engage these prospects as donors. The Board member was devoted and generous with his contacts but would not attend a prospect meeting with a contact he knew personally.

“Just tell him I said he should give,” the Board member offered. “If he hears that, and knows that I am also supportive, then he will give.”

“Come with us,” we implored him, knowing the power of personal connection. “We will help you prepare and role play for the meeting. Tell him yourself how much you support this cause, and he will be moved and surely respond.”

“I cannot ask my friends for money,” he lamented. “What if they say no?”

“He agreed to a meeting and knew why we requested the meeting. If he was going to say no, he would have done so already,” we advised.

We went to the meeting without the Board member and made our presentation.

“I really like what I am hearing and am interested in supporting the school,” the prospective donor replied, “but I really need to speak with my friend who set this up to know why he’s giving and how much before I’ll give you a final answer.”

SOLUTION #3: Conquer your fear of the “ask.”

So many leading donors do not want to ask their contacts to support their favorite charity. What drives this phenomenon? Fear! Leading donors are afraid that if they ask friends for money, these friends might then turn around and ask them for money. That sometimes happens, but is typically for a good cause, and should not be considered reason enough to NOT ask.

Secondly, leading donors fear of losing a friend when they ask for money. In our 21 years of consulting, this has never happened. Strong prospect research eliminates candidates who do not want to give, so that by the time a leading donor asks his/her friend to help support a cause, the answer is always yes. The amount varies, and sometimes it takes more than one ask, but at EHL Consulting we have never seen a friendship dissolve because of this situation.

Remember, the mission and not the market drives the donor, so know WHY your agency is in business and be clear and concise in how you communicate your “selling proposition” to your stakeholders. Use ALL of the tools that you have at your disposal … from online marketing to far-reaching contacts of your Board members and agency leadership. They all have their role in helping communicate long-term vision.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask others to support your passions. The real reason a donor supports a worthwhile cause is because he/she receives a formal request. Finally, if you want to close a major gift, take a deep breath and meet face to face.

Don’t rely on technology to do what humans do best.

Branding Jewish NPOs

Reposted from eJewish Philanthropy – March 8, 2012

With the thoughts about the Purim holiday, we are reminded of the many “masks” that nonprofit organizations wear and some of the institutional games that we play, and at least one of the messages that we get from reading the Megila. The mandate: rather than hiding one’s identity, be forthcoming about who you are and work diligently to identify your goals and vision.

One contemporary lesson from Purim: the more a nonprofit is aware of and framing its image, the more successful it will be in maintaining and attracting financial and passionate support, along with successful brand recognition.

Nonprofits of all sizes need to regularly redefine – and reaffirm – their positions within the Jewish marketplace. We acknowledge that the nonprofit arena is undergoing many changes and some of our iconic institutions are either vanishing or diminishing. Recall which Jewish agencies of our alphabet soup no longer exist (think American Jewish Congress [AJC] or some of the synagogues and JCC’s where we spent our youth.) At the same time, other organizations are experiencing unprecedented expansion and support.

The choice is to embrace the need for marketing savvy or face the threat of perceived irrelevance. We point, for example, to synagogues across North America. With the average life span of a synagogue building today at 50 years, congregations are growing or ebbing because of population changes, where people are moving between certain urban and suburban areas and then back again. Congregations must face the need to adjust their facilities as much as they adjust programs and services.

But some would say, “We’re already investing significant dollars in advertising and self promotion.” But are those resources focused on the right priorities? How are priorities determined? Know that while you are questioning your competitors are introducing new approaches and beautiful facilities, getting more and more aggressive and making use of every tool available to stand above and apart.

Snoozing means losing today and this requires more aggressive outreach, as well as in-reach. And this circumstance calls for constrained budgets to include more dollars for marketing, branding, and progressive communications efforts … unprecedented but critical.

Rebranding is especially critical if your organization is preparing to undertake a fundraising campaign, increase efforts at attracting a previously illusive segment of the population (synagogues: have you considered this issue in attracting young, single people?); or if the organization has undergone significant change (congregations merging, service agencies serving adding revenue-generating, fee-for-service modules).

With the panoply of communication approaches, and the need to stay current, it is no Purim shpiel that marketing programs need to be reviewed and updated annually. Even organizational logos and other materials require updating every 10 years. We acknowledge, too, that what attracts our attention ranges from traditional (like direct mail and telephone) to technologically current or advanced (Facebook, Twitter, or other social media venues). With the flood of information, many people are almost shutting down and refusing to read or even listen to an unrelenting assault of promotion! Therefore, using these tools to create increased opportunities for personal contacts probably are becoming an even more important and successful mode of sharing information. Return to the future?

Warning: the successful rebranding process will likely be provocative and soul-searching. Evaluating the messaging and image of your organization will require you to identify the sometimes subtle and elusive pathways to people’s emotions, values, and self-definition. The personal/emotional connection is crucial, especially as a growing number of brands (did you know your organization is/has a brand?) compete for the same charitable dollars. Capturing the spirit and inspiration of your audiences is key to building long-term relationships with donors and other key stakeholders.

The branding process should include multiple sessions with staff and some representatives of your intended audience – especially top volunteer leaders. Exercises should include individual, team and group formats to allow for different types of reflection and brainstorming. The result of this process should be group consensus around the impacts that your organization makes, the images and words that best capture them, and the audiences to whom this information must be conveyed.

The mantra we all hear and repeat to others is about too much information coupled with not enough time in the day. Keep this in mind as you get into the heads of your intended audiences – they need a simple message with a clear and agile directive that stays at the tip of their minds and hearts. What is the one word that is synonymous with your organization? What is the relationship that the audience can have with your brand?

The answers to these questions will help form the foundation for your communications and fundraising efforts and should be reflected on your website, in your collaterals, and advertising.

Branding will continue to be an important issue for Jewish nonprofits for the foreseeable future. As Jewish institutions grapple with how “Jewish” to be and as the connection between younger generations of potential Jewish donors and constituents becomes more tenuous, nonprofits will have to make intentional and well-strategized decisions about their image in the marketplace.