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5 Things Nonprofits Say
By Tim Brines
On any given day, I hear the same song, different verse from nonprofits about why they can do everything in house. Here are my top 5 I hear:
“We don’t work with outside agencies or vendors.”
ZURI’S ANSWER: A third party agency or vendor should be an extension of your organization. They will be impartial to systems and tools and help you get the most out of what you have. Or, if asked, help you find appropriate tools to support your mission and goals. If they notice an opportunity for improvement outside of a scope of work they will document it and introduce a best practice or solution that is based on their expertise and experience. They will deliver on time, under budget, and allow you to continue to do your job to your full potential.
“It’s not in the budget.”
ZURI’S ANSWER: Of course it isn’t in the budget. From the largest to the smallest orgs budgets are constrained. But the real question is: can you afford not to? From a cost perspective ask yourself this—it’s too expensive compared to what? Not executing your mission, falling short of your revenue goals, high staffing turnover, donor fatigue and this list goes on and on.
“We have several problem areas with our technology. However, I am not a decision maker. You are going to need to talk to…”
ZURI’S ANSWER: A mark of great organizations is that their leaders empower their people to have a voice and encourage them to be use it. You may already work at one of these orgs and don’t know it. Maybe being empowered is uncomfortable. People with the best ideas should feel comfortable in making suggestions. Title or tenure should never dictate this. Understand your role and respect the organizational hierarchy and structure, but speak up and be heard. You might not know the power you have to create change, no matter what your title.
“We aren’t thrilled with the tools we have but we have learned to live with them.”
ZURI’S ANSWER: A good agency understands that some things cannot be changed. There is likely a good reason you chose the system, and the issues with it were unexpected. That’s why you may need a skilled third party help to maximize the systems you have while potentially seeking a new solution. Agencies with diverse skillsets allow you to use only the time you need to address the issues that are most critical. This could make a daily difference in operations until you’re able to move on. Allowing someone to help maximize your systems while you continue to maximize your performance will lead to an exponential efficiency boost.
“Our staff can do what an agency does for half the price.”
ZURI’S ANSWER: In many cases, your staff may be fully equipped to perform the exact same services as an agency. In other cases you need work done on a specialized, short-term project that would require your staff to have additional training or knowledge beyond their normal routine that would last the life of the project. Most nonprofits face the same familiar issues: employees bogged down by meetings and unable to move quickly on projects, capacity issues, entanglement, and the list goes on. A nonprofit employee is unlikely to have time to take a lunch break away from their desk, let alone follow the latest trends or to learn a new coding language.
An agency’s job is to constantly be one step ahead. Not only are they following trends in the industry, but they’re also working with a variety of clients and learning new techniques with each implementation or launch. They bring industry awareness and insight your staff does not have access to, and an invaluable third, impartial eye to any situation. Inside your nonprofit, you see what works for you and get immersed in your own approach. An agency brings a different and fresh perspective. Give it a try. Be heard. Be well. Have lunch.
Friday Takes the Throne
by Ashley Mercier
What day is the best day to send an email?
I’ve tested it (and I always recommend testing!) and while open rates vary slightly, I have never been convinced there’s a magic day of the week that subscribers activate at a much higher rate.
That being said, many reports recommend Tuesday as the queen of all email days for opens and clicks.
But this past year, the queen has been de-throned (at least in clickthrough). Turns out Friday was a big day for consumers to open and respond to emails:
So, consider Friday as an option for sending to your constituents. Or, better yet, test which day of the week works best for your particular list.
Read the full article on e-marketer.com: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Consumers-Click-on-Marketing-Emails-Most-on-Friday/1010325
Raised Digital: What growing up online means for the next generation of donors
Crowdfunding is the symptom and transparency is the cure.
by Taylor Wood
I’m going to make an assumption: you have shopped and/or researched a purchase online at least once in your life. If not, please do send me a postcard from the cave in which you reside. It sounds lovely. But for the rest of us, it is not revolutionary to say that online consumerism has changed consumer, and thusly, donor patterns. There are plenty of articles about expected behaviors, best practices, norms to mimic the “big” retailers. I encourage you to read them. However, what I would like to focus on today is not what online consumerism has done to donors, but rather, what growing up with online consumerism means for the next batch of donors coming forth in this world and why nonprofits are woefully lagging in catching up to understand donating through the eyes of those (feel free to insert obligatory eye-roll here) MIllenials.
Imagine buying a television today. Within 15-20 minutes you can access literally hundreds, if not thousands, of articles, online quizzes, journals, online reviews for stores directing you to what the different features and what exactly is the right television for you. You can still go to a physical store to look the televisions to see how they do display picture, but you know without leaving your house if there is a glitch after a year that over half the people who bought this television experienced where you had to buy a new part, or get it fixed. Think about finding that information in 1990. To get the same level and breadth of details you would have to go to the library to find that many articles about televisions, physically have to go to multiple stores in the area to find the wide array of selection to which you are accustomed, and ask for a customer list of hundreds of people who have bought every model of every television in the last 2+ years so you could call them and ask them what they thought of it.
However, I’m not here to spout why online shopping has made our lives easier. What I’d like you to do if you were born before 1982 is do this: imagine having never bought something without being able to access all the information online. Let me put it another way: those born after 1982, those dreaded Millenials, have always had this level and knowledge of information when making purchases. Millenials have grown up in a world where they have never had to trust a salesperson. They have never been wanting for information at their fingertips.
The consumer world has generally adjusted to this plethora of information. People go to stores to test objects they very often have seen online, or they want a full picture of actual feel, sight, etc. Oddly, though, the nonprofit world has widely not adjusted. Luckily for nonprofits, in older generations this has seemingly been fine – people who had the experience of shopping without the internet do not seem to be as bothered by the lack of information around charities as they are for, say, televisions. Sadly, though, this does not seem to be the case for Millenials.
Charities often are still treating donors as if they are the television purchasers in 1992; they think of the donors that if they know they want to donate that should be enough information for them. However, it’s not. Young donors want to, frustratingly, feel like they are making incredibly informed decisions as they have always been able to do. We are seeing more and more that crowdfunding sites are getting an increasing share of charitable giving donations and it is for this mindset that Millenials have grown up with – they feel they are given more honest information that truly connects with the recipient. Is this notion fallacy? It can be, but this is not a matter of truth this is a matter of perception. The truth is this: younger donors need to be able to see and understand more information about where their money goes than ever before. They need to feel more in control of their donation, as they have their whole lives, with their purchases.
The catch, though, is that Americans still consider the “cost per dollar raised” figure as a good measure of charitable “worthiness”. There have been numerous articles and presentations written screaming about why this is not a good measure (even this one from the CEOs of GuideStar, CharityNavigator and the Better Business Bureau, the main repositories donors use to see what a “good” charity is), but still the perception is largely there.
The question becomes: what if we give potential donors our numbers…and they don’t like them? My answer is this: they dislike not knowing even more.
Let me remind you because this is important: this is all about perception. Crowdfunding is growing in popularity because people feel they are making direct connections and helping directly. You need to make sure that people know why donating to organizations is even better. Show them personal stories, tell them the legal issues Crowdfunded operations of a similar nature might run into, let them understand where their money is going and why it takes the overhead it does. The short version: just be honest. When you look at it like that, maybe what the MIllenials want isn’t so unreasonable, after all.
Finally, let me also say that Crowdfunding is raising the stakes on donor relations in a large way. Every time you interact with a constituent now, they have the ability to go, would this happen if I donated to an “independent” version of this? Millenials in particular have a very low tolerance and will start shopping around and comparing options faster than you can say, “Opt into our weekly communications!” Donor relations is at a fever pitch and any wrong move you make will tip the scales again. Be wary, and be open.
It’s a hard task. I understand that. However, it’s one worth looking into. Quick, easy, honest information? That’s all Millenials want. If you treat them like that television salesperson from 1992 you are bound to lose out almost every time.
Finally, to leave you with something visual, here is an illustration from The Oatmeal, expressing this idea of what Millenials have grown up with in far fewer words than I could use.
$1 Billion Just Isn’t Enough
$1 Billion Reasons You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
$1 billion–it sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But, we have a problem: fundraising technology demand (in the form of fundraisers’ expectations) is much greater than fundraising technology supply (in the form of vendor offerings). Put another way, our industry’s annual $1 billion fundraising technology budget doesn’t get us what we want.
This demand derives from consumer experience. On our way to work, we all have computers in our pockets and access to billions of dollars of free technology, software and online experiences from the likes of Facebook, Amazon, and Google. Then, we clock in, boot up, and, voila…1997 is delivered by our 6-year old computers. We suffer from what I call the iPhone problem: we want work resources based on our consumer experiences, but these are far too expensive to replicate given our fundraising technology market and budgets. It’s relative deprivation at a high, costly level. It results in wasteful workarounds, decentralized data and systems, and dissatisfied end users. And, in the end, these things keep us from raising more money.
Why are we in this predicament? The short answer is there is not enough incentive to supply great fundraising technology that matches consumers’ expectations. Why don’t we have enough incentive? That part is a little more complicated. One might charge (as I did in February) that our industry is hamstrung by narrow thinking around investment. Another might suggest that, while the industry appears quite large, it is unsophisticated and relatively immature. A third might notice that our industry isn’t really large enough as a market sector to warrant the kinds of innovation our colleague-consumers would like.
All of these observations inform the infographic above, which depicts the problem: we are a $300 billion industry per annum that can only spend about $1 billion on technology each year. When we consider how much fundraising is done without the benefit of technology (referred to here as “plate and gate” efforts that reflect more grassroots, manual efforts prevalent in certain religious organizations and new and smaller nonprofits), then calculate what we get to spend, then determine where we get to spend it, the market just isn’t that big because our budgets are so small.
Of course, there are some exceptions. Leading software providers do their best and it is, frankly, often good enough. I’ve helped organizations leverage nearly every fundraising system and they are all passable. These systems collect addresses, store gifts, provide institutional memory, and support programs. Are they efficient and user friendly? Not particularly. Are their add-ons, such as reporting tools and online functionality, what we’d like? Not usually. But, behavior and poor user adoption are often bigger problems than the technology itself.
The issue is not with the core functionality supplied by the market; these tools do what is “necessary”. However, they tend not to deliver on what we define as “neat”. What’s “neat” is shaped by what Apple, Google, and a bunch of other billion dollar corporations bring to the market. It feels like we are destined to have a large gap between demand and supply.
While it’s unlikely you will be able to re-direct the market’s “Invisible Hand”, there are three steps that can help:
- Manage expectations. You need to persuade your users that you don’t get to invest like a Silicon Valley start-up, so the tools are a little less nifty. But, they still (should!) work. Convince team members that what you have supports their programs or make commitments to better align what you have with current needs.
- Illustrate value. Where you see a gap in programs or productivity because of a lack of functionality, quantify the real and opportunity costs. Are donors failing to complete online transactions because of poorly designed forms? Are reports re-worked in Excel at the cost of hundreds of hours a year that could be focused on new donations? Show how the gap deserves to be filled with better technology.
- Do-It-Yourself. Out-of-the-box solutions will solve some needs, but not all. You may need to partner with specialists and experts to address an opportunity that vanilla systems can’t handle. The market for innovative solutions in between and beyond core systems functions may be in reach, but the same vendor that delivered the vanilla solution may not be able to deliver the customizations you need.
Our industry is trapped in a Catch-22: to get funds, we need appropriate technology, but we can’t get the technology we need without these funds. Or, more simply: $1 billion isn’t enough. The fact remains that many of us will have to make the most of what the market has to offer. Those of you with means and vision to implement more custom solutions will likely need to create your own solution when expectations are high and ROI is clear.
The Big Boom on Social Networks
Who’s the latest up and coming group on Twitter and Facebook? Baby Boomers! These recent stats were released in “10 Surprising Social Media Statistics That Will Make You Rethink Your Social Strategy” on FastCompany.com.
According to the article, the fastest growing demographic on Twitter is 55-64 years old, and it’s grown 79% since 2012. Facebook holds the attention of 45-54, a group that’s increased 46% in recent years as well.
In my 10+ years of nonprofit marketing experience, strategies have centered around reaching younger demographics through social media. And just as many conversations (or more) followed about how to convert and retain this young, distracted audience.
But now that the Boomers are settling in with social media, will donations follow?
Older generations have always been the source of nonprofit donations. Sure, there are some standouts, but the median audience is typically over 50. Philanthropy.com cites Baby Boomers as responsible for 43% of individual contributions across all charities.
So if the Baby Boomers are on Twitter and Facebook, and they’re the source of donations, how do you reach them?
Here’s a couple of points to consider as you craft a social media strategy that is appealing to an older generation:
- Think multi-channel. Boomers likely associate your brand from interactions they’ve had in various mediums – mail they’ve received, stewardship calls, and more. Use your social media as an additional touchpoint for campaigns happening across your organization.
- Build loyalty. Baby Boomers are one of the most loyal generations. Decisions made by Boomers are made based on relationship and previous interaction. Once a Boomer is loyal, their lifetime value should be high and – a bonus - they’ll naturally spread the word about your cause.
- Help them teach others about your mission. Much of this generation is parenting older teens or are grandparents. Instilling values matters to them. Use your social media platform to provide tools that they can use to educate the young people in their life. It creates a beautiful cycle of commitment to your cause.
- Thank them. Social media is a great, inexpensive way to show your appreciation. This is a group that is affluent and cause-oriented, and worth spending time talking to online. Use social media to start a conversation and cultivate an action.
That’s just 1 of the 10 surprises in the article. Read the full text to catch the other 9!
- In the latest Zuri Group Blog Post, Tim Brines lists the top 5 things he hears from nonprofits daily.5 days ago
5 Things Nonprofits Say
By Tim Brines On any given day, I hear the same song, different verse from nonprofits about why they can do everything in house. Here are my top 5 I hear: “We don’t work with outside agencies or...
- One of the most common questions we hear is, "what is the best day to send emails to constituents?" In the latest Zuri Group blog, Ashley Mercier dives into how Friday open rates have surpassed the previous king: Tuesdays.2 weeks ago
Friday Takes the Throne
by Ashley Mercier What day is the best day to send an email? I’ve tested it (and I always recommend testing!) and while open rates vary slightly, I have never been convinced there’s a magic day of the...
- Not sure what to do about the next generation of donors? Taylor Wood explores what's different about this upcoming batch of donors in the Zuri blog: http://zurigroup.tumblr.com/post/81582579628/raised-digital-what-growing-up-online-means-for-the2 weeks ago
Raised Digital: What growing up online means for the next generation of donors
Crowdfunding is the symptom and transparency is the cure. by Taylor Wood I’m going to make an assumption: you have shopped and/or researched a purchase online at least once in your life. If not,...