3 Creative Tips for Using Nonprofit Technology to Maximize Donations

(Guest post by Ryan Woroniecki)

Nonprofits should strive to make investments in sustainable technology that will have a lasting, positive impact on their operating capacity. The great news is that there are plenty of options and funders who are willing to help your organization take on these tech projects.

Below are three tech tips that can help you maximize donations.

1. Use a prospect screening to learn about your pre-existing donors in addition to your prospects.

A prospect screening takes your prospect pool and uncovers valuable data on potential donors, such as:

  • Past philanthropic giving
  • Involvement in nonprofits
  • Real estate ownership

Who wouldn’t want to know more about a prospect’s philanthropic and wealth markers so they could better cater an ask? It’s why prospect research is so prominent in organizations with robust major giving programs.

You can take a similar approach to analyzing your own donors.

Run a screening of donors in your CRM to find better ways to connect with them. You might even discover engagement opportunities that would be ideal for past donors.

Beyond filling in donor details that might have slipped through the cracks in the past (changes of addresses, new places of employment, etc.), your screening can compare your donor pool to a veritable treasure trove of background information stored in charitable giving databases across the web.

What does this mean in practice?

For instance, you might find that one of your loyal monthly donors has the capacity to make a larger donation. Your fundraisers can then take that knowledge and figure out:

(1) Why the donor isn’t doing so
(2) If an upgrade in giving level is possible

In a similar scenario, you might realize that one of your most engaged supporters serves on another nonprofit’s board with a major giving candidate who is on your prospect list. You can then ask that supporter to make an introduction for you.

Between the data tracking and storage available in your CRM and the online research tools and databases that screenings give you access to, your fundraisers can double as philanthropic researchers.

2. Optimize for multichannel fundraising.

Utilizing a variety of giving avenues, multichannel fundraising allows your nonprofit to collect gifts in as many ways as possible which maximizes donations.

If one donor wants to text-to-give, OR if another wants to sign up for your 5K on her smartphone OR another wants to go directly from your Facebook page to a donation form, you can accommodate the donor’s preference.

Thanks to innovations in online and mobile giving, nonprofits can offer both the ease of mass communication and an individualized experience to donors.

With a multi channel approach to fundraising, you can ask for gifts:

  • By phone
  • Through direct mail
  • In person
  • With text messages
  • On social media
  • By email

You want to be able to connect with the teenager who has decided to make his first donation ever and is doing so on his new phone. But you also want to connect with a donor who has been mailing in checks for 15 years.

With the right management of your technology, you can do both.

3. Keep lines of communication wide open for your donors.

If your organization wants to maximize donations, you need to invest in retaining your donors, building your relationships with those donors, and eventually upgrading them.

Part of stewarding such relationships is keeping lines of communication wide open.  Because of social media and various internet conveniences, we have grown accustomed to getting constant updates from the people and companies in our lives and expect immediacy when it comes to communication.

You can open up communication by:

  • Sending out regular email updates through your CRM’s emailing portal.
  • Giving engaged supporters shout outs for their work on Facebook.
  • Scheduling a steady stream of tweets using services like Hootsuite. Donors want to hear from you, and not only in the ways they can donate!

We’re so accustomed to amazing technology that we sometimes forget to stop and appreciate it. Advocacy campaigns can gather petition signatures entirely online. Donors can show their support of your cause by using a specific hashtag. Volunteers can crowdfund on your behalf with just a few clicks of a button.

With so much potential, there are many opportunities to take advantage of. Don’t overlooks them!

5 Ways Organizations Can Get Started with Mobile Fundraising

(Guest post by John Killoran)

Getting started with mobile fundraising is a lot like planning a road trip. For any solid, successful road trip, you’ll need a map (or a GPS), some classic traveling tunes, and a trusty road trip companion, of course.

Much like planning the great American road trip, getting started with a mobile fundraising campaign takes careful thought, organization, and the right materials. You’ll need to keep an eye on the same sorts of fundraising metrics that you would with any other fundraising venture.

And like you wouldn’t want to leave for a trip without an itinerary, you wouldn’t want to be caught without well-prepared content for multiple channels.

Before you get started planning the next great American mobile fundraising campaign, review these 5 tips for launching a successful mobile fundraiser:

#1 Make Sure You’re Ready for Mobile

As with any fundraiser, before you can really get started, you have to make sure that you have everything you need.

Mobile fundraising is different from other types of fundraising because the tools that you’ll need to begin are all virtual. As such, the way you get your ducks in a row for mobile looks a tad different.

To make sure you’re ready for mobile, you will need to:

  • Check that your website functions as well on a mobile device (phone or tablet) as it does on a laptop or desktop.
  • Be sure to include an obvious donation button on your mobile website. Bright colors work best to attract glancing eyes.
  • Add compelling pictures to your mobile website. Donors don’t want to have to sift through too many words to capture the main idea of your cause. Pictures really are worth a thousand words.
  • Update your donation page so that it works well on a mobile device.
  • Seek out an industry-leading mobile fundraising service provider. This step will take some research, but above all else, make sure that the provider you choose works for you.

Once you’ve adapted your mobile website and chosen a mobile fundraising service provider, you can begin to think about payment processing.

#2. Have a Plan in Place for Payment Processing

Payment processing is a very behind-the-scenes factor that every nonprofit must nonetheless consider. It’s an integral part of how the money that you raise gets where it’s going.

Some nonprofits already have a payment processing plan in place. Some even have staff members whose sole job it is to deal with specificities like major gifts.

Regardless of where your nonprofit is with respect to payment processing, it’s something that needs to be considered before you’re flooded with funds that you don’t know how to deal with.

Here are a few questions to answer first:

  • Who will be in charge of new donor data?
  • Will there be a different payment processing system from your existing system?
  • Will you incorporate mobile funds into your existing payment processing?
  • How will you keep track of new data?
  • How will you deal with duplicate data?
  • Does new data supercede existing data?
  • Would you incorporate all data in one place or keep it all separate?

These are by no means all of the questions you’ll need to consider. They’re merely suggestions for where to get started thinking about payment processing and data management.

#3. Get Your Greatest Advocates on Board

You probably have some incredible advocates for your cause.

When you’re planning to launch a mobile fundraising campaign, one of the most important things you can do to ensure that it’s as successful as possible is to enlist the help of your organization’s greatest allies.

These are the people who freely volunteer their time to your organization. They’re at every rally, event, and fundraiser you ever host.

Who would be better to test out your mobile fundraising plans before you launch the full force of your campaign than your biggest supporters?

Of course, to sweeten the deal for your willing test subjects, you can offer some positive incentives. What you choose to offer is up to you, but free T-shirts and mugs are pretty swell crowd-pleasers usually.

If you have your most involved advocates on board, you can move forward with confidence.

Bonus: if all goes well, these advocates will be likely to be your most effective marketing team. A recommendation from a fellow supporter of a cause tends to go a long way with donors.

#4. Promote Your Plans Through Traditional Channels 

In addition to enlisting the help of your organization’s advocates to get started with mobile fundraising, you will also need to think about some other ways to market your newest campaign.

Since mobile fundraising is so technologically based, it’s actually best to go back to basics when planning out a marketing strategy.

To promote your mobile fundraising plans, your organization can:

  • Announce mobile giving opportunities at live events (concerts, rallies, etc.)
  • Include information about mobile in monthly newsletters.
  • Mention mobile giving/mobile fundraising as a part of direct mail campaigns.
  • Send out an email blast to existing supporters with information about your plans.
  • Make a few phone calls to long-time donors/supporters
  • Get the word out however your organization sees fit!

As with any marketing strategy, you’ll need to be sure to keep reminding donors that mobile giving is now an option.

#5. Remember to Thank Your Donors

Above all else, to have a highly successful mobile fundraising campaign, your organization must make sure to thank its donors.

It may seem like common sense, but it’s crucial in any case. When you’re promoting your mobile fundraising campaign, you don’t want to give the false impression that your organization doesn’t appreciate its supporters.

A unique feature of mobile fundraising is that you can actually thank your supporters instantaneously and personally, even when they’re on the go.

A quick, simple text back to a donor who’s just supported your cause on their mobile phone could mean the difference between a one-time donor and a lifelong supporter.

If you approach mobile fundraising with an intentional strategy around gratitude, you’re sure to be met with positive reactions.

Everyone loves to feel like their contributions matter. Along with a sincere “Thank you,” you can also send your donors information about how their contributions are helping advance your cause. You can even automatically send them payment confirmations and charitable tax deduction information.

Keep these five strategies for getting started with mobile fundraising in mind and you’ll be well on your way to incorporating a valuable new tool into your overall fundraising strategy!

What To Do AFTER You Roll Out A New System

With the help of Eric Leland of FivePaths, I’ve just rolled out a new Salesforce database in my organization.  Everything has gone smoothly so far, but now the hard work begins – making sure my co-workers are happy with the new system.  Here’s what I plan to do:

  1. Make training more than a one-time event.  I’m sure that many questions will come up after my staff have been using the database for awhile, not so much in the first few weeks after they’ve started using it.
  2. Check-in with users as a group and individually to ask how they like the new system – and addressing any frustrations they’ve experienced so far.
  3. Ask for management support in embracing the new database and making sure they receive regular reports.
  4. Provide a dedicated email address for any questions, then responding quickly to requests (even if I don’t immediately have the answer)
  5. Advise staff on best practices, e.g. how much or how little data should be recorded in the new system.

I think our new system is far superior to the convoluted Access database we used previously, but that doesn’t mean my colleagues will feel the same (change is always hard, even positive change).  As a project manager, it’s my job now to make sure to address their concerns so that our rollout is successful.

(For more tips, see my post from late 2013, What to Do AFTER the New Database Rolls Out.)

Nonprofit Bridge 2015 Blog Highlights

In case you missed them, below are highlights from my 2015 blog posts:

Thank you for continuing to read my blog and wishing you a healthy and joyous new year!

Report from Nonprofit TechCon Event

This week I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on Digital Media Monitoring, Analytics and Optimization at Nonprofit TechCon (#NYNTechCon), sponsored by New York Nonprofit Media.  (Our session begins at apx 1:15 on the video below.)

A few highlights:

  • Use an editorial calendar to schedule what content will appear on which channels at what times, and share with your main and remote sites
  • When sending out social media activity reports, don’t just provide the statistics.  Streamline the numbers you send and take the time to analyze the data and explain what’s working (and what’s not).
  • Find the balance between curation and original content – make sure you are doing both.
  • While it’s fun to use social media sites, Facebook and Twitter could go away tomorrow.  And, visitors only see a small fraction of your content. Don’t forget about the basics: a strong website, a segmented email list and a good constituent database.
  • If you have multiple people handling different channels, make sure they talk to each other and don’t forget to provide links from each channel to others.
  • Include tracking codes (UTMs) on your URLs to track which visitors are moving from social media to other channels.

Thanks to Sarah Schenck, Supportive Housing Network of NY, for moderating out session so skillfully, and to my co-panelists Aaron Godert, GiveGab and Jereme Bivins, Rockefeller Foundation for their great insights.

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?