Apple Pay, Twitter Buy, Facebook e-commerce, and your nonprofit

Did your mood change between the first six words of this headline, and the last two? Did your technological curiosity shift to something short of terror when the headline suggested that these technologies might have an impact on something bigger than how you buy a Big Mac or a sweater?

Good. You get it.

I think I’m a cool mobile/social consumer every time I order a coffee at Starbucks and pay for it with my mobile app, linked to my PayPal account. However, mobile and social e-commerce is advancing quickly, and your nonprofit needs to get on board. Consider these recent developments:

Apple Pay, the mobile payment technology that allows you to pay for things with credit cards tied to your iPhone, is launching in McDonald’s and Whole Foods. But… according to the same article, “you’ll be able to pay for your Uber, buy baseball tickets with MLB.com and order food from Seamless with one click.” Which means there’s no reason iPhone users can’t also just as easily donate to your organization, or buy tickets to your event. No reason, except, you’re not ready for it.

Twitter just announced a “Buy Now” feature that will appear in certain tweets, allowing subscribers to purchase a product (or make a gift) through a Twitter app, also using existing credit cards. Pretty soon you’ll be able to get donations through tweets as easily as @Megadeth sells concert tickets and tee-shirts. Once you figure out how, when, and for how much, to ask.

And, Facebook has begun adding “buy” buttons into the ads it places into users’ newsfeeds. This allows users to directly purchase items and services offered for sale. Since 62% of Facebooks’ revenue is now coming from mobile users, the combination of mobile and social with e-commerce is staggering. An article in Institutional Investor’s blog says, “Simply put, Facebook newsfeed ads deposit users directly into the mouths of the sales funnels of mobile-first companies.”

And, if the above isn’t scary enough, this just in from @NonProfitTimes :
“United Way Worldwide (UWW) is joining the digital currency world, announcing that it would begin accepting bitcoin donations. It is the latest 501(c)(3) to adopt the digital currency.”  Let’s just leave this one off the table for now. It even scares me.

I’m not suggesting that you abandon efforts to improve your next direct mail letter. That’s going to bring in more net money this fiscal year than any of the above. But you have to carve out some time to start playing in these mobile/social sandboxes, and get comfortable, because there’s a lot of opportunity there, especially among influential early adopters.

What is your nonprofit doing in mobile/social and ecommerce?

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Are you investing enough in digital?

ALS home page featuring Ice Bucket Challenge

ALS Association home page

No, this is NOT another “ice bucket challenge” blog post. That’s been covered, and that story isn’t even new. It just validates what Heather Fignar and I, and many others, have been saying for years: give people a reason to have fun, express their creativity, employ social media and mobile technology, integrate it across all channels and all parts of your organization (especially media relations) and you have a good chance at making a splash, (pun intended) if not some real money.

No, this is about meaningful, ongoing investment in digital advertising, and why your nonprofit is probably woefully behind the times. So far behind, that I had to go to big box retail to show you the way. That’s right… a company selling hammers, power saws, kitchen cabinets, and 2″x4″s is kicking your butt in digital revenue.

Home Depot is investing 36% of its total ad budget into digital media, especially email messaging and social media. Print only gets 10%. Digital’s share is increasing. “We like the ROI” says their Chief Financial Officer.

The company says its continued transition to online sales and digital marketing are also key, according to Craig Menear, President, U.S. Retail.

“We’ve shifted to more targeted personalized messaging to become more relevant to customers, and as a result, costs attributable to print advertising are down 60% since 2010, and have been shifted to more efficient advertising.”

So how much does Home Depot sell online? Less than three percent of its sales originate at its new website. What? How can it make money by investing 36% of its ad budget (translation: fundraising budget) in a medium that generates less then three percent of its revenue? Because one doesn’t allocate one’s investment in growth based on the past; one invests based on the future, and Home Depot is betting on digital to drive future sales.

Also, Home Depot knows that the value of its digital investment goes way beyond the amount of orders actually placed online. It knows that handymen and handywomen scope out new product ideas, watch how-to videos, read emails with special offers, and then go into the store to do business “the old-fashioned” way.

Lest you think this is a new trend, an article from 2011 lays out the plan. Home Depot had just embarked on a $1.1 Billion investment in its new website, despite then-current online sales of just one percent of total retail. They knew, according to industry research, that “around 48% of retail sales will be influenced by the Internet in 2011 and projects this to rise to 53% by 2014.”

Sadly, many healthcare nonprofits I know budget their digital investment as if it were part of their continuing, proven, direct mail budget, expecting it to return $4 or $5 in revenue this year from every dollar invested. Then, they don’t even do a good job of measuring the impact of that paltry investment beyond the online donation page.

 

 

 

Are you a mobile, social healthcare fundraiser?

coffee_dollar

What do Starbucks’ and Facebook’s recent record-breaking quarterly results have to do with healthcare fundraising? Let’s explore.

Sure, mobile has been big with Facebook over the past year, but it continues to grow. Nearly 4 out of every 5 daily users of Facebook access it on their mobile device every day. Advertisers – for-profits and non-profits alike – are showing ads to these mobile users, as mobile ad revenue to Facebook now exceeds its ad revenue from desktops and laptops.

What ads are people viewing, and responding to, on Facebook? Starbucks also reported record income yesterday, and two reasons are its customer loyalty program, combined with its mobile platform. According to Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, “mobile payment now accounts for over 15% of all transactions in our U.S. company operated stores and we are now processing on average 6 million mobile transactions in the U.S. every week alone.”

I’ll bet that a large number of your donors drink Starbucks coffee and are active Facebook users. Sure, the stereotypical little old lady writing checks is still a significant portion of your annual fund income, but maybe that’s because you’re putting most of your fundraising efforts into the channel that attracted her (and her mother before her). Boomers, who control 70% of the disposable income in America, are all drinking Starbucks and using Facebook to talk to their grandchildren.

The good news for you is that you don’t need to invest heavily in a mobile app. Just make your site work well on the major mobile platforms – a task you can outsource for a few thousand dollars. Then, get engaged more heavily on Facebook. Use Twitter and Facebook to get people to subscribe to your email newsletter list, and communicate with them on all of those channels.

Make it easy to donate online, and then give your supporters good reasons to donate, and you’ll find digital revenue growing. My fiancé posted a fundraising message on Facebook for one of her favorite nonprofits. I viewed it on my mobile, clicked on the “donate” button, and was able to make a gift very easily. She’s raised $160 from her friends in less than 24 hours from her Facebook “event.”

Heed these words from Starbucks’ CEO: “We have invested well ahead of the curve to create opportunities for our customers to engage with their social and digital networks on mobile devices and are now beginning to see the payoff of these investments.” It’s no longer “well ahead of the curve” but modest investment on your part now will position you well in the coming year – even this year’s holiday peak.

Special offer: If you’d like a glimpse into social media use by your healthcare market segment: cancer centers, children’s hospitals, etc., contact me about participating in a free study.

Digital Lessons from the New York Times

Graph showing Newspaper Advertising Revenue, 1950 - 2012
Newspaper Ad Revenue

 

Everyone knows that the newspaper business has been suffering over the last ten years. While  most people believe this has to do with the decline in print newspaper circulation, it’s important to note that digital advertising for newspaper companies is declining as quickly as print revenue.

Not so, of course, with social media sites like Facebook. Social media advertising is growing at double-digit rates. So, why didn’t the newspaper companies get their share?

socia_media_ad_forecast Because they didn’t grasp the shift that was happening, away from daily print media and towards digital. They clung to their old model of print, first denying, then delaying, the digital world, and completely failing to understand how it changed publishing.

A recently-leaked internal memo describes the problems at the Times, and offers some lessons for all nonprofits, and especially those in healthcare:

  • “We are not moving with enough urgency,” it says. They point to upstart publishers like  “HuffingtonPost” and “Business Insider” and say “They are ahead of us.”
  • There is “a cadre of editors who remain unfamiliar with the web.”
  • The report also calls for a profound rethinking of the newsroom’s independence from the rest of the company, in order to involve editorial leaders more deeply in technological decisions.
  • The paper’s Twitter account is run by the newsroom. Its Facebook account is run by the paper’s business side.

Do these observations sound familiar in your healthcare organization? Are you “moving with enough urgency” to communicate with people where they live — increasingly, online? Do you have a “cadre” of senior leadership, either in fundraising or the larger organization, who “remain unfamiliar with the web.” Do you have a “church and state” wall between development and “communications” departments? Do you have to beg for “space” on your organization’s Facebook page? Worse, do you have a separate, red-headed-step-child page for your foundation?

Your healthcare organization, including development, is one entity in the eyes of a public that lives increasingly in a digital world. Your public face needs to reflect that.

Two subject lines that work

There is much to take from Daniel Pink’s book “To Sell is Human.” It’s a short and useful read for anyone in the persuasion business, from teachers to healthcare professionals to fundraisers to parents, and yes, salespeople.

In a section on how to develop a pitch for yourself, your organization, or your thoughts, he discusses the email pitch and quotes a study done at Carnegie-Mellon University on the effect of subject lines as they relate to getting email messages opened (which is the most important, but not only, purpose, of a subject line).

Two types of subject lines work well: those with usefulness to the reader, and those with intrigue. Useful subject lines promise information sought by the reader, and the more specific, the more likely they are to result in an opened message. So, “Three important facts about our upcoming gala” is more specific than, “What you need to know about our upcoming gala.”

Curiosity is another motivation, so messages that hint at a subject also rise to the top of the “to open” list. “What’s on the menu?” or “Who else might be at your table?” could be other ways to tease an email about the same gala.

The Carnegie-Mellon study also discovered that the motives have different results under different conditions. When time is tight, usefulness outweighs curiosity. When time is more available, curiosity does well. So, an email planned for arrival on Monday morning might get better results if its subject line promised useful information, but one sent to homes on the weekend might have a better open rate if it piques curiosity.

Remember, when writing emails that will be reviewed by others, to explain the reasons for your draft copy. Someone not understanding the reason for your intriguing email might say, “That’s too vague” and rewrite it, when vagueness is exactly what you strove for!

Test, Measure, Analyze, Repeat. The key to good subject lines, and better fundraising.

 

 

Video is a great way to attract engaged web visitors

Social-Referrals-That-Matter-Mar-2014

It’s great to have an inspiring video with music and kids, like the one I blogged about from Connecticut Children’s Hospital.  But almost any video will draw web visitors and engage them, according to Shareaholic’s “Social Referrals That Matter” Report. They studied six month’s worth of social media referrals over 200,000+ sites reaching more than 250 million unique monthly visitors to get a sense of which social network drives the most engaged visitors. This is important for healthcare fundraisers.

Their number one pick doesn’t surprise me: YouTube, convincingly, in all three metrics studied:

  • Time spent on site: almost four minutes – about the length of two YouTube videos.
  • Pages viewed: 2.99 means they clicked around a bit.
  • Bounce rate: well below 50% (“Bounce Rate” is the percent of people who view only the page they clicked, then “bounce” away from the site, so the lower number is better here).

I said I wasn’t surprised. I’ve long held that web visitors would prefer to “do” a web page — engage in a quiz, game, or contest. Their second choice is to “watch” a page — a video or animation clip, and “skimming” a web page is a distant third. Note I said “skimming” and not “reading.” Reading doesn’t happen much. Did you read every word of this blog up until now? Or did you scan the headline, the graphic, the links, and the bullet points?

Healthcare organizations have lots of great video opportunities. If you’re not interviewing researchers and caregivers, patients and providers, you’re missing great opportunities. It doesn’t require Hollywood-style equipment or talent. Just grab a video camera, visit the “talent” where they are, and get them talking (or, better yet, demonstrating). Edit it to remove the awkward pauses and reduce the time to 90 to 120 seconds, then:

  • Post it on YouTube (the second busiest search engine behind it’s owner, Google);
  • Embed the YouTube video in a landing page on your site, with a call to action (like, “donate now”);
  • Talk about it in an upcoming email to supporters;
  • And, yes, post it on your other social media.

For added kick, include one or more of these videos as follow-up  in  your three most important, and most overlooked, cultivation opportunities:

  • The “Thank You” page for signing up for your email newsletter;
  • The “Thank You” email that’s sent to new subscribers;
  • The “Thank You” page for online donations

These three pages are often virtually blank and disrupt a very powerful action sequence that a supporter has initiated.

How else are you using video?

Cultivating new email subscribers

Most of the money being raised digitally is still the result of sending the right email message to the right person at the right time. So, a good email fundraising program must be a priority for your development team. The critical stages of email fundraising include:

  1. Making it easy to sign up
  2. Finding ways to grow your list
  3. Cultivating new subscribers
  4. Managing campaigns
from AllAboutBirds.org

from AllAboutBirds.org

At the Nonprofit Technology Conference (#14NTC) just ended, I learned from the tiny  Cornell Lab of Ornithology how they successfully cultivate new subscribers. It can easily work for healthcare organizations. Their main website email newsletter is the boring old way to do things, but they offer a free download of many owl sounds (to play on your computer, or use as a ringtone?). Go to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/great_horned_owl/sounds or search on their main page for “owl sounds” and choose the owl of your choice. When you click the download button, you’re asked for just your first and last name and email address.

  • First of all, their welcoming email is great. It’s simple, thoughtful, and helpful.
  • Then, three days later, they send more information about owl sounds.
  • Three days after that, they offer more content in another email.
  • Finally, six days later, there is an email invitation to become a member (various levels starting at $39).

That’s it. Four carefully timed and crafted messages in just under two weeks. From then on, you will receive their monthly e-newsletter. Slow and steady wins the race. The average first donation is given 78 days after the first download (though that varies greatly and is influenced by the season). Between four and five percent of those who download ultimately give online. Those who also provide a postal address with their subscription are included with their  direct mail acquisition program, and this is their most responsive prospect list.

One of our healthcare clients provides similar information. They reported to us that, while initial donations from a campaign to grow their list were small, they ultimately converted (within a year) at a rate of just over two percent, and that was with just a monthly email and their few email appeal messages.

You and your colleagues may have two concerns:

  1. It’s a lot of work to create an effective email welcome series, and to send these messages at the right time (if people are signing up every day, then within two weeks, you’re sending four messages every day, to the people who signed up today and 3, 6, and 12 days ago). A good email tool or online marketing platform will make it much easier to manage.
  2. You’re concerned about “over-emailing” (let’s not use the S-word) your list. This is not an excessive saturation of the list. You should track your unsubscribe rate and be concerned if it exceeds one percent per email, but you should receive very few complaints. You should also test variations to the timing and content to find the optimum sequence for your audience.