418 emails – a study

It’s helpful to look at the big email picture from time to time — across a span of time and an entire segment of our nonprofit industry — to gain a perspective of what’s working, and what standard behavior looks like.

Way back in 2010, Amergent made gifts to 33 cancer centers around the United States, using a newly invented email address. We made online gifts of $25, and sent $20 checks in the same donor’s name. We documented the donor experience, and since then, we’ve been tracking what each of these institutions have sent us, both online and in the mail.

It’s time to look at the first ten months of 2014, and report on what we’ve found, and what we like. An update report in January will provide a view of year-end 2014 e-communications, which we hope will be more intense than the pattern we witnessed so far.

It appears that 2014 is little different from 2011. Many of the cancer centers sent us about the same number of emails this year that they did for the same period in the 12 months right after our gift. Some have still not started to use email as a means of communicating with donors… even those who give online!

inbox-emptyOf the 33 institutions to whom we made gifts, eleven (exactly one-third) sent us not a single email all year. These institutions have sent us virtually  no email since our gift (one, a household name institution, didn’t even send us a thank-you email to acknowledge our gift!).

Of those who “bothered” to send us any, another third (10) sent us about one a month – barely enough so we don’t forget about them, but at least they’re in the game.  Only six cancer centers sent us two or more per month. The runaway leader is Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who has been in the forefront of digital communications among cancer centers since our first gift in 2010. Between “The Jimmy Fund”, DFCI and its many events, we received 107 email messages between New Year’s Day and Halloween – almost three per week!

Over the next few days, I’ll be presenting further analysis of these 418 email messages, including highlights of the most inspiring messages and best subject lines. If you work for a cancer center, contact me so we can discuss your organization’s messages in detail, privately.

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?

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.

Rewarding your donors

Rewarding the behavior we desire helps to ensure that it continues.IgaveBlood

I  try to walk three miles several times each week. I have an app on my phone that records my walks and publishes them to my Facebook page when I’m finished. Yesterday, half way through my walk, my phone battery died, and I honestly thought about stopping my walk then and heading home.  After all, without the walk recorded, and published, why bother?

I quickly realized, of course, that there were other reasons why I walk, reasons that existed long before I downloaded the app. But they are longer term rewards (better health) and less visible (who’ll know?).

Is this how we treat our donors? We make our case for support, then invite them to give privately? The reasons for them to give are long-term (better healthcare, more research) and less visible (known only to your database and their accountant).

iVoted

Why not offer more rewards to them for doing the right thing? We recently tested a link on a “thank you” page that lets donors post to Facebook that they just donated to our client. The post on Facebook had a unique link to a donation form, and the post-campaign report showed that four percent of all gifts to the campaign came through that link! (Most of those gifts were from new donors!) And, since this was the first time we tried it, the donors had no idea they’d be “rewarded” with a chance to post on Facebook until after they gave.

All to many “thank you” pages are dead ends. “Thank you for your gift. Now, go somewhere else on the web.” They’re great opportunities to show video of what you’re doing, but also to encourage the donor to brag about their new (or expanded) relationship with you. Give them a chance (and a reason) to like your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter. Better yet, give them a message to post or a tweet to send. Beyond the immediate

In your thank-you letter, don’t spend so much time on the tax receipt. Spend time thanking them and telling them what you’re doing with their gift. Invite them to follow along. Give them something to share with their friends.

To-do list:

  1. Add more content to your web donation “thank-you” pages that will involve the donor further.
  2. Add content for them to post to their social media
  3. Add content to your thank-you letter that invites your donors to “brag” to their friends
  4. Count the number of new donors from referrals, and the increase in renewal giving, that results!

Year-end digital roundup

As I reported New Year’s week, only about half of healthcare organizations to whom I’ve donated online have sent me even one email during the most important fund-raising week of the year. The final tally from the 30 cancer institutes to whom online donations were made in the last few years? 17 different institutions sent a total of 37 emails between December 26 and 31.

Of the seven children’s hospitals to whom I’ve donated in the past few months, only two sent an email. However, two others, to whom I did not donate but whose email newsletters I received each sent three messages during that time.

I was impressed by Partners in Health, an $88 Million Boston-area international health organization, that sent four email messages to me during this week, three of which came on New Year’s Eve! I can imagine many organizations cringing at that level of contact, so I reached out to Charles Howes, PIH’s Manager of Annual Giving and Digital Engagement for some feedback.

While they exceeded their goal for the campaign, they carefully monitored reaction from supporters — email open rate, action rate, and unsubscribe rate — and they saw no discouraging data from their campaign. So, it raised more money, but it didn’t turn off more supporters.

One thing to carefully monitor in an intense email campaign is the unsubscribe rate. It often hovers around 0.5% but can spike if people feel they are getting too many, or irrelevant, messages.

We have never approached anything near a one percent unsubscribe,” says Charles. “The sky is not the limit in regard to number of emails, but we have found we can sparingly send more than one email per day during key moments of a campaign.”

One tip from Charles: If someone gives to the first email in a campaign, they do not receive follow-up emails for that campaign. While this might leave some money on the table, it also likely prevents donor feeling they’re getting hammered.

I also asked Charles about the role of social media during an email campaign. “While social media plays a complementary role from a messaging perspective, it is not a large revenue driver,” says Charles, who reports that $14 in revenue comes from email for every dollar resulting from social media. “Increasingly, we find it important to analyze a single channel in the context of all channels (web, direct mail, email, search, etc.).”

How was your year-end? What did you learn?

Join Us at the Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference for Non-Profits

IMAB_conference

It’s free and online – no travel necessary! Register here.

 

Facebook’s donation app: a good start

This week, Facebook announced that it had released an app that allows nonprofit organizations to promote and collect online donations on a nonprofit’s Facebook page and within its posts. Let’s explore this a bit.

19 nonprofits are currently in the pilot program (list). Applications are being accepted from other nonprofits (Please report on your experience.)

I donated to Girls, Inc. using a MasterCard, and to Blue Star Families  using PayPal. Both were very easy to do. Facebook had a card listed for me (probably from a birthday gift I made for someone awhile ago).

Facebooks announcement says: “They [the donors] also have the option to share the nonprofit’s post with their friends.” I didn’t see that option with either of the gifts I made.

I see sharing as a big boost to this process. In a recent test we ran for a client, we provided the share option on their donation form, and received an additional 4% of gifts directly trackable to the link in the share button.

So I don’t know whether I did something wrong, or whether both nonprofits configured the share option incorrectly, or whether it just doesn’t work yet.

Facebook also says “The Donate feature will appear beside Posts in News Feed” but I haven’t see that yet, either. Hopefully that’s something nonprofits can turn on and off; a donate link doesn’t belong in every post.

Donation through Facebook isn’t new. Some donation tools, like Convio, have been offering an app that’s almost as low-friction as the new Facebook app. It has led to some gifts, but very few nonprofits are bringing in measurable money through Facebook.

Some things that will improve the donations?

1. Facebook Adpage Grants: Like Google Grants, Facebook should give nonprofits a budget of free ads, so they can draw new people to their Facebook pages. Beth Kantor and others have launched a campaign which I gladly support. #FacebookAdGrants

FacebookAdGrants

2. Tie it in to Facebook’s Birthday announcements. It might work like this: A week or so before my birthday, Facebook can invite me to choose one or more nonprofit organizations whose pages I already like as the preferred charity(ies) for my Facebook birthday celebration. When friends click on my name to wish me a happy birthday, they’ll be given the option to make a gift to my selected nonprofit, not just give me a Starbucks card.

3. This might be a good boost for peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns that are promoted through Facebook. Giving is a much more social thing in a peer-to-peer campaign, and that’s where the money is online.

Right now there’s one big drawback: the data is kept by Facebook, so these two organizations will get my gift (the whole gift — Facebook is covering the processing costs) but they won’t be able to contact me again.

Like everything Facebook, this process will change. Soon. Often. And, often, for the better. We’re all beta testers here.

What’s your experience, either as a participating nonprofit or as a Facebook donor?

Capital Campaign v. Annual Fund – Avoid the Conflict

Our newest client, a cancer center at a large university, said ominously, “The Health Center is going into a new Capital Campaign in April.” Those words are usually conveyed in the tone of voice once reserved for “Hannibal, his armies, and elephants are just over that ridge.” Indeed, weaker agencies have fled clients for fear that the fundraising ambitions of the client cannot be met in the face of the larger institution’s $23Kazillian, 25-year capital campaign.

But fearing the capital campaign is akin to my Boston colleagues fearing winter: it happens, with regularity. Deal with it. Here’s how, with thanks to one of those Boston colleagues, Vice President Mary Bogucki of Amergent.

Get on board with the campaign: That great fundraiser, Michael Corleone, would say, “Keep your donors close, and the capital campaign team closer.” Get a seat at that table. Know what’s going on with the campaign and when. Get the style book so you can incorporate the campaign graphics into some of your own messages.

Hopefully your leadership understands that your donors are responsible for bringing the institution to its current point of “bulging at the seams” which led to the campaign. They need to be thanked for that, to be invited into the campaign if they wish, and to support the ongoing work of your institution while the campaign is underway.

Get your donors on board: Mary says, “By proactively notifying your direct mail donors of your Capital Campaign efforts, you have a greater chance to garner their support for the Campaign than if they heard the news through third-party channels. The primary challenge is to find the best way to inform current direct mail donors about the Campaign and make them feel part of the process. The intention is not to turn direct mail donors into “bricks and mortar” donors, rather, it is to make sure they feel informed – by YOU – of the events taking place. Your message will need to convey the importance of your organization’s mission.”

Mary suggests that you allow your donors to raise their own hands if they’re interested in supporting the capital campaign. She also suggests you keep all donors informed via articles in newsletters and pages on your website. Give them the option to contribute to the campaign a few times each year.

Overall, the campaign should be conveyed as a validation of their giving through the years, of the need within your community for your services, and as an assurance that you’ll be there for a long time as, together, you meet those needs.

Read Mary’s full article, and contribute your own thoughts and experiences below!