Fundraising and President Obama's Tears

It wasn’t the facts or the arguments that moved the needle. It was the display of emotion.” That, or something very close to that—I was still waking up with my cup of coffee in hand—was what I heard David Axelrod of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago say about shifting public opinion on gun control.

CNN reported this morning that, while the American public is skeptical about whether or not the gun control measures that President Obama announced this week will be effective, they are, nonetheless, supportive, with 60% of the public supporting the measures.. Both the President's approval ratings as well as the support for his policy were on the rise this week following his televised town hall appearance, CNN reported. David Axelrod, a crack political analyst who was part of the “Audacity to Win” campaign team behind Obama’s bid for the White House, had sliced and diced the post-Town Hall polls this week. He shared on CNN this morning that it was not any of the arguments, facts, or data that were discussed during the Town Hall, but the riveting moment when the President shed tears over the loss of children’s lives at Sandy Hook, that changed the hearts of Americans.

Easy Come, Easy Go: More Lessons from HubSpot’s Email Purge

Last week, I wrote about HubSpot’s surprising decision to cut 250,000 email addresses from its marketing roles and what we could learn about increasing our email open and click rates. To be clear, I haven’t spoken to anyone at HubSpot, I’ve only read about the company decision to make this move in some of their blog posts like this one by Pamela Vaughan

HubSpot's move was a big step, the kind of marketing decision that, down the road, people will hail as genius or will condemn as idiotic. 

Here’s why I believe it will have a happily-ever-after ending, why HubSpot was able to do this, and one of the things that we—in the nonprofit sector—should learn from them.

HubSpot's Bold Email Purge and What Nonprofits Can Learn About Email Calls to Action

In a very bold move this week, Hubspot, a leading online marketer, purged more than 250,000 email addresses. As I’ve previously written, email addresses are very valuable to your organization. According to Blackbaud’s annual Luminated study, in fact, each individual email address is worth an average $12.46 in donations.

So one might think that purging 45% of your company’s email list is either truly inspired or totally crazy. Then, again, it might just be completely practical.

The Race is Still On

The Race is Still On

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had a good friend named Sylvia. We swam on a swim team together. I was pretty much lousy at all sports – swim team included. Sylvia, however, had talent.

Sylvia was so much stronger and better than all of the rest of us in our age group that none of us could really give her a challenge. Near the end of any race, she'd look back at us and we were nowhere near her. She'd leave us way behind. So she'd slack off. There wasn’t any need to make a big effort. She would simply coast to a stop at the end of the race…and still win.

Sometimes the coach would give her a hard time about it telling her how many records she could hold if she just wouldn’t slack off at the end, but she wasn't especially interested in records. She was swimming for the fun of it. We were just in grade school and she didn’t feel any pressure.

It can be easy to feel like Sylvia right about now. #GivingTuesday is behind us. The end-of-year appeal letter we’ve been rushing around to get in the mail has gone out. It might even be kind of quite around the office. But it’s not time to coast to a close just yet.

The Year We Almost Didn’t Get the Gift

The Year We Almost Didn’t Get the Gift

For many years, I worked as an Executive Director for a counseling center in Northeast Georgia. Almost all of the staff were mental health professionals except for me and almost all the work other than therapy—fundraising, communications, IT, HR, maintenance, grant writing—fell to me (along with just one or two others).

If our donor newsletter was going to go out, I wrote it personally. It was challenging sometimes to get it done. One year, it just seemed like it didn’t get done and it didn’t get done and it didn’t get done. We sent out a few electronic newsletters, but the print one just never got written or sent.

We had an incredibly supportive major donor who annually made a very generous $10,000 gift. Looking back, I appreciate her even more now than I did then. She demanded very little attention. She just gave and gave and was incredibly supportive. With no effort on our part and no fanfare on her part, her generous gift would just appear on our administrative assistant’s desk one day each December.

Then, the year we were too busy to communicate with our donors, our Board President got a call from her. She asked to meet. When they got together, she said she wasn’t sure she was going to give that year. She just didn’t feel connected, she said. She couldn’t remember the last time she had received a newsletter from us and she felt like she didn’t know what was going on with the organization.

Reach Their Hearts, Not Their Heads

Reach Their Hearts, Not Their Heads

I love committees.  I'm serious. I do. Those of you who know me personally know, I'm an extrovert. I'm energized by being in a room full of other people. I love brainstorming and discussions. 

But there are somethings a committee shouldn't do and writing your end of the year appeal letter is one of them.

Thinking About Social Media Advertising

Thinking About Social Media Advertising

Should we use paid social media advertising?” a friend who is an Executive Director at a nonprofit asked.  “My Board of Directors has been suggesting that I look into it,” she continued.

My first question for my Board, if they asked me to consider social media advertising, would bewhy.  To what end would we be advertising? Would we simply be working to “raise awareness” or would we have a more specific call to action in mind? If our purpose was to “raise awareness” to what end would we be doing that? 

Reporting Impact

Reporting Impact

Part of our responsibility to our donors after receiving a gift is to report back to them about what the donations they’ve entrusted to us have accomplished. We know they want to hear from us about the impact of their donations.

If we’re good at donor stewardship, we do this in multiple ways and in an ongoing fashion.  

  • We call our donors and say things like, “Hi! The tractors arrived on site today and started clearing for the new building and I was just thinking about you and how you’ve made this possible.
  • We invite them to our campuses and show them work in progress or programs in action.
  • We meet them for coffee and bring them pictures of something that happened last week that they wanted to see. 

Informally, the updates are regular.

But every once in a while, we do formal updates through Annual or Impact Reports as well.  As many of us plan this time of year to write and design our Annual or Impact Report, what should it convey?

6 Ways to Make Email Subscribers Out of Your Social Media Followers

6 Ways to Make Email Subscribers Out of Your Social Media Followers

Given that it is so valuable to have email addresses, to have people on your eNews lists (because email open and conversion rates are so much higher than social media reach and conversion rates), one of your social media goals should definitely be to convert your social media fans, likes, and followers to email subscribers.

So how do you do that? Here are 6 Ways to find the email addresses and receive the permission of followers to be added to your email lists:

7 Groups of People Who Can Contribute Content to Your Nonprofit's Blog

7 Groups of People Who Can Contribute Content to Your Nonprofit's Blog

Ever visited a nonprofit's blog page to find...well, nothing? The Blank Blog is all too common on nonprofit websites.

A lot of nonprofit organizations resist beginning a blog or, if they have a blog, they let it languish because they can’t imagine how to keep it full of content. They don’t know what they could possibly say that would be interesting to their readers OR they are so overworked and understaffed they can't figure out how to complete one more task (e.g. writing blog posts).

The good news is that the people who love a nonprofit organization—donors, volunteers, board members, clients—would be interested in reading several things about the nonprofit, things that a nonprofit staff leader—especially one that has served a long time—might take for granted and see as routine and a nonprofit staff leader doesn't have to do it all himself.