This Thanksgiving, Remember to Be Grateful

On the surface, I have had a challenging year.

In the spring, my cousin Henry has hospitalized  for over a month.  As I am his only remaining family member who is local, I became his primary caretaker.  When he was finally ready to leave the hospital, I arranged for a rehab facility for him to re-learn how to walk.  After rehab, when it became clear that he would not be able to continue to live independently, I researched assisted living facilities for him to move to.  With the benefit of a NYC pension after years of work (he retired about 5 years ago), he fortunately could afford the much higher rent than what he had been paying in his Bronx apartment.

Henry on his 69th BirthdayMeanwhile, I managed his personal affairs, paid bills and cleaned up a very cluttered apartment and storage unit (my cousin was, politely, a ‘collector’ and rarely threw anything away).  Henry was reluctant to trust me with this responsibility, but I guess he eventually realized that he really needed the help.

Unfortunately, Henry’s stay in assisted living lasted less than a month before he was re-hospitalized.  Again, his hospital stay was lengthy, and he ultimately passed on Sept. 24.  Since that time I have been the executor of his estate (of which most of his assets will be passed on to his late sister’s children) and I have continued to work on his apartment and storage unit (which I will finally give up in the next few weeks).

So how can I find reasons to be grateful in this experience?

  1. if not for his neighbor who heard him calling for help, Henry would have died last spring in his apartment.  Even though his medical issues eventually worsened, her calling an ambulance allowed me to have several months of a closer relationship with my cousin before his death
  2. While the process of clearing out his living spaces has been time consuming, it has also allowed me to find many fragments of my family’s past not only from Henry but from his sister Anna (who I was very close to) and his parents.
  3. When it became obvious that I would need help in handling Henry’s affairs, not only did I hire an attorney, but I renewed my relationship with two health care aides who faithfully cared for my Aunt Minnie for years until she died 5 years ago at age 98.  Without their assistance, the process would have taken much longer – and been lonelier.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, remember to look for things to be grateful for, whatever is happening in your life.  Go on a ‘rampage of appreciation,’ as recently suggested by Rev. August Gold in an inspirational talk (the idea originally came from Abraham Hicks).  The more things you can appreciate, the more good you will find.  And if you can appreciate what already exists in your life, you will find that more of the same will come your way.

And if you are lucky to have a job for a nonprofit whose mission you believe in, consider yourself doubly blessed.

We Return To The Regularly Scheduled Blog

Site contains malwareHave you had difficulty reading my blog recently?  If so, I apologize.  My site was hacked earlier this month.  I had to go through a tedious process of scanning and rescanning my files, then waiting for Google to remove a ‘warning’ message which was shown to visitors.  Since this is the first time I’ve had this type of issue in over 5 years of blogging, I guess I should be grateful it didn’t happen earlier.

Thank you to my nptech friends Cindy Leonard and Robert Weiner who alerted me to the issue, which they became aware of because I usually link to my blog in my email signature, which also generated a warning that my site was harboring malicious software.  (Probably due to browser caching, this warning continued to appear even after I had fixed the problem!)

To hopefully avoid this type of issue in the future, I’ve installed the WordPress plugins Ithemes Security and Wordfence Security (thank you for your recommendations).

If you missed my recent interview with Caryn Stein of Network for Good, please see my updated post about #GivingTuesday, now only a few weeks away.  And thank you for your continued readership of my blog content!

3 Fundraising Metrics Nonprofits Should Keep an Eye On

(Guest Post by Roy Cheran,  Vice President of Marketing at DonorPro.)

RoyLooseFundraising success metrics, also known as key performance indicators (KPIs), provide tools for nonprofits to step back from their day-to-day work and look at the big picture. KPIs take the raw data from your CRM and plug it into various formulas.

Tracking the right mix of fundraising metrics is crucial to the ongoing improvement and success of any nonprofit. KPIs give every member of your staff, from development to communications, goals to work towards.

Below are three  of the most useful and popular fundraising metrics that organizations track.

1. Cost Per Dollar Raised

Cost per dollar raised, one of the most tracked fundraising success metrics, abbreviated CPDR, is like the fraternal twin of fundraising return on investment (ROI).

CPDR is analyzed for a very specific reason – to tell you if you made or lost money. In some cases, you might find your finances finished just where they started.

It’s easy to determine CPDR. Simply divide the total expense (i.e., cost) by the revenue (i.e., dollars raised). If your number is over 1.0, you spent more than you brought in. If your number is below 1.0, you spent less than you brought in.

There’s no clearer marker that you are budgeting for your various fundraising efforts appropriately or inappropriately. Keep in mind, that a bad CPDR (under 1.0) is a flashing neon sign that shouts there has been a problem. That neon sign, however, won’t solve the problem. Instead you’ll have to investigate other, more specific performance indicators that will guide you in fixing the issue.

For example, maybe your direct mail efforts are not converting enough donors to cover the cost of printing and postage. Instead, you could investigate increasing your online giving presence.

2. Donor Retention Rate

Donor retention rate tracks the rate at which your nonprofit retains donors.

Acquisition is as important as ever, but donor retention deserves attention as well. After all, it’s far less expensive to secure a repeat gift than start fresh with new prospects.

Retention is deeply connected to your organization’s overall fundraising performance, so you have to focus on it.

If your retention rate is not where it should be, try to isolate the problem. You might, for instance, be struggling with retaining online donors. Since the giving medium is still relatively new, online donor stewardship is not as solidified as other areas of the sector. Checking your KPIs can help solve your problems and build the foundation for your online donor stewardship program.

3. Landing Page Conversion Rate

Landing page conversion rate is one of the most useful metrics for tracking your overall web strategy.

Any time you send out emails, put a specific promotion on your website, or market on your social media, those efforts should contain a call-to-action (CTA). That CTA gives interested parties a link to follow to take further steps towards supporting your organization, whether that means they are signing up for an event or submitting an online donation.

Whatever the end goal, you should be tracking:

  1. How many supporters make it to that page.
  2. Where those supporters are coming from.
  3. Which supporters are following the page to the next desired phase.

This information gives you a glimpse into the minds of your donors and tells you what marketing tactics are producing a desired result and what isn’t getting the necessary attention.

You could be putting a fundraising plan in place for an entire school year or organizing an annual series of fundraising events. Either way, studying your success metrics is going to help. Look to your past so that you know what you need to keep doing and what areas warrant some reconsideration.

Looking for even more metrics?   Start here.

Is Your Nonprofit Ready for #GivingTuesday on Dec 1?

Updated 11/2/15 – Listen to my conversation (14 min) with Caryn Stein of Network for Good where we discuss questions such as:

  1. How does #GivingTuesday affect year-end giving?
  2. What type of resources are available to help us prepare?
  3. Is it too late to get started?
  4. Should we use a specific theme for #GivingTuesday?
  5. Should we combine our campaign with other organizations?

At a recent 501TechNYC event, Asha Curran, Director for Innovation & Social Impact for the 92nd Street Y (founding organization for #GivingTuesday) talked about getting ready for nonprofit’s annual fundraising event which follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

Tips to Plan for GivingTuesday 2015If you’re not sure whether or not to participate, consider:

My tip – participating in #GivingTuesday doesn’t mean a single email blast on Dec. 1;  like other campaigns, use a multi-channel approach on multiple dates/times for best results!


Will Change Initiatives Be Successful At Your Nonprofit?

Many of us manage projects which don’t end with the results we hoped for.  Now, using the DICE change assessment tool, you can evaluate how likely your change initiative will be successful.

Please read the details, but remember the DICE acronym:

  1. Duration – overall project time, or the time between milestones.  The shorter, the better.
  2. Integrity of Team Performance – do team members have the right skills, traits and experiences to fulfill their role?
  3. Commitment to the project – by senior management and by those staff who will be directly affected by the change
  4. Effort – the additional work that employees must take on due to the project

The earlier you use this assessment (which generates a numerical score), the more likely that you can make changes to get your project on a better track.  How likely we can manage change initiatives will heavily affect how successful we are in our careers.

In my projects, I find that item #3, commitment, often is the most critical component (although #1 can also be a killer).  What do you think?

5 Ways to Keep Projects Moving Forward

Do you work in an office where projects sometimes take much longer to complete?  If so, try some of these techniques that I’ve used to keep things moving forward:

  1. Send out a weekly status report of everything you’re working on.  In addition to one general update to your supervisor, try customized updates to each project team you’re involved with.
  2. Check in with your supervisor to make sure priorities haven’t changed.  Sometimes a ‘critical’ project is bumped down by other items that you may not have heard about.  (Don’t get so attached to a project that you keep working on it when it’s clear that stakeholder commitment is no longer there.)
  3. Schedule an in person meeting with your team.  But keep it short (1/2 hour if possible) and make sure you send an agenda in advance of what you plan to discuss.  (And send a summary afterwards to those who couldn’t attend)
  4. Take every opportunity to have casual chats with co-workers.  It’s much easier to work with a project team that you already have a friendly relationship with.  Walk around the office and visit other sites.  Don’t only socialize with those in your department or who are sitting near you.
  5. Send reminders to keep others on schedule – do it in a friendly but assertive way.  Not everyone is as organized as you, and will appreciate your gentle efforts to keep a project on track.

Please don’t fundraise like this

Make One GiftThis is not the first time I’ve received an appeal like this, but previously it was from a much smaller nonprofit.  Now that the US Fund for UNICEF is adopting this strategy, I’m even more dumbfounded.  Why would any nonprofit try to raise money by only asking for one gift!

Save a Child s LifeHave we raised the white flag on donor stewardship / retention, and now simply don’t expect supporters to go beyond the first donation?  I can’t imagine how this would work to the benefit of any deserving charity, especially one as well-known as the US Fund for UNICEF.

While there may be many constituents who only give once, to encourage this type of support seems foolhardy.  Is the organization hoping that some donors will forget to check the appropriate box to not get further communications? (below)This Will Be My Only Gift 2Do you see value in fundraising this way?  I don’t.

My First Days with Windows 10

Having a 5 year old desktop PC at home (Windows 7) that has slowed considerably, I figured that it made sense to wait until the release of Windows 10 before getting a new computer.  But then I heard that the new operating system would work well on older machines, I quickly said yes when Microsoft offered a free upgrade.

Unfortunately, my experience so far hasn’t been good.  The upgrade seemed to go well, but when I entered my new desktop, I found that I couldn’t access the start menu or the much heralded Cortana assistant.  Fortunately, it seems that a few others have had this experience too,  but trying to apply the fix has been challenging without access to the start menu.  Fortunately, I can still work in a browser where I spend most of my time.  (I thought I’d try adding a new user account, but unfortunately I can’t get to the PC Settings program that does this.)

I’ll try a bit longer to get Windows 10 to work, but most likely I’ll have to bite the bullet and get a new PC.  And if you wonder why I’m doing this in the age of smart phones and laptops, read this recent Wall Street Journal article, Why Your Next Computer Should be a Desktop.

Addendum 8/17/15 – After applying the registry patches mentioned in above link, Windows 10 seems to be behaving better.  Will continue testing.

Addendum 8/22/15 – My new best friend Cortana is still not working since I can’t seem to login with a Microsoft password – see this thread.  I’ve posted details to see if I can find a fix.

Addendum 8/26/15 – Finally was able to get through Cortana setup process by setting up a new Microsoft account.  But not sure how useful it will be by only working on my desktop PC at home (without a corresponding phone app).  Guess that’s why Microsoft is introducing Cortana on Android (still in beta), but I don’t currently see it available in the Google Play Store.


How to Get Funding for Technology

Do you and your co-workers assume that funders will not support new technology projects?  As I learned by participating in Idealware‘s webinar series, How to Get Your Technology Project Funded, for many funders, that’s not always true.  (Nten also recently featured Ask the Expert: Finding Funding for Technology Projects free for Nten  members.)

Below are some highlights:

  • Funders like to support projects that are more likely to be successful.  Have you done the homework to research vendors to choose a product that is best matched to your needs?
  • Do you have management and line staff buy-in for the project?  This shows your organization is ready to implement.
  • In your proposal, discuss how you’ll handle change management and training.  Funders like to see a clear plan for ongoing support / maintenance for the new system you’re seeking.
  • Take the time to develop a relationship with your funders before you ask for a grant.  Funders like to support organizations that they already are familiar with.
  • Reframe your grant request so it’s not primarily about technology.  Instead, explain how it will allow you to achieve your mission (and make it easy for funders to see the connection)
  • Do the calculations to show how your tech project will save money.  You won’t be able to define it exactly, but you need to show the funder that you’ve estimated the potential return and that the project is clearly worthwhile.
  • Make sure you’re asking for what you really need.  Beware of the ‘shiny object’ syndrome, where you’re swayed by what tech seems to be in vogue at the moment
  • Remember that the total cost of your project will be a lot more than the cost of the new hardware/software.
  • Read 3 Mistakes to Avoid in your Tech Grant Proposal (also by Idealware).

Not all funders will support technology focused projects, but if you follow these tips you will definitely increase your chances of success.

How to Prepare Content for Multiple Channels

(This is a preview of a session I will be leading at the Non-Profits & NGO Summit this Friday, Jul 17 at 4:15 PM)

Do you struggle coming up with ideas of what to post on multiple communication platforms?  Below are some tips:

1. Determine which platforms to focus on.  It is much easier to communicate with supporters where they already are then to encourage them to start using a new platform.  Your website analytics will help (see referrals) and you can also survey constituents to ask how and where they prefer to be communicated with.

2. Use an editorial calendar to plan what to post and when.  There are many good templates online, but an Excel spreadsheet is fine to start.

3. Repurpose your content for multiple channels.  Short is best for Facebook and Twitter;  provide longer content on your blog or website.  For example, use multiple Twitter posts to offer highlights from a lengthy blog update –  and link back to the blog for those who want more).

4. For content that has already resonated with your audience, don’t be afraid to repost at different days/times.  And learn from re-shares and comments which topics to plan for future updates.

5. Become a content curator.  To supplement your own content,  seek out and share others’ posts which relate to your topic.  (Make sure to give attribution.)  This will encourage others to re-share your content too.

Last Tip – Don’t spend too much time deliberating over what topics to write about.  You will learn quickly what your audience wants most to discuss – and what they don’t care much about.   (Join me at next week’s Non-Profits & NGO Summit to learn more.)

Bridging Technology, Communications and Fundraising at Nonprofit Organizations