If you’re convinced that integrated fundraising / marketing would help your organization but are finding it a challenge to implement, read these tips from Convio on how to break down your silos. Also listen to this week’s free webinar from Fundraising Success on Strategies for Seamless Integration Across Fundraising Channels. If multiple departments maintain their own calendars of constituent outreach activities, this is a good place to start by using an integrated calendar (and keeping it current).
After this week’s announcement of the upgraded iPad, is it time to retire the PC in favor of laptops and tablets? Seems to me that having a real keyboard is still helpful, especially on mobile phones which continue to boom.
When developing online strategies for your nonprofit, be careful if you hear any of these ‘assurances’ from your colleagues:
Everything is being done over the Internet, we don’t need much Information Technology staff. – Whatever vendors or products you decide to choose, you still need someone to not only select the best product for your organization’s needs, and then once it’s implemented, manage the relationship with the vendor. Expecting any online product to just ‘work’ without some ongoing tweaking is a recipe for disaster.
We can get a better deal if we hire web designers from overseas – While it’s a good idea to hire the best web person you can find wherever they are, be careful about basing a decision strictly on economics. Working on a web site overhaul involves much give and take during the design and implementation process, and email isn’t always sufficient to insure that the deliverables match the goals.
We don’t need to do a formal evaluation – I’ve worked with this person / vendor before. – What works for one nonprofit may not work for another. In addition, making a decision based on a personal contact may backfire if that person suddenly leaves for a new opportunity.
Vendor says we can connect our online and offline systems and they will help us to do it. – As I’ve discussed in my recent post, Reporting Across Multiple Systems, integration can be a mine field. Beware of any vendor that says this is easy. Ask to speak with other clients who have already connected their systems successfully – and are using the same products your organization is.
Vendor suggests we should do things differently – Before speaking to any vendor, make sure you’ve outlined your requirements. If you’ve done this, and the vendor questions your specifications and recommends a different approach, ask why. Unless they can give you a satisfactory explanation – and provide alternatives that have worked well for other clients, find a different company to work with.
I will post my presentation after next week’s summit, which will take place Wed, June 3 and Thu, June 4 in New York City. Hope to see some of you there.
Select vendors and products which connect well with other systems. Salesforce is an example of a company which has many ways to link its CRM to other software.
Before implementing a new product, figure out how you will synchronize its data with your existing systems. If you need to spend considerable time running reports and exporting / importing data, you’ll have little time to focus on developing the synchronization.
Consider how much information you really need to have in multiple systems. Some products will allow you to transfer basic contact information, but may not be able to handle synchronization of event data or custom fields.
Unless you have a lot of money to spend, it won’t be possible to have a ‘real time’ synch; decide how often it is practical to have your systems connect with each other.
Make the synchronization run automated, preferably during off hours. The more manual work you need to do, the more chance there is for error. (But make sure you look at the error log to determine what didn’t work.)
Confirm that you’re including all activity. Donations and event registrations may not be available in the same report; you may need to find a ‘transaction report’ that includes all activity (then confirm this by sampling different types of transactions)
Stick to a schedule – and let your staff know when synchronization is taking place. (My most common question from staff is why a particular transaction doesn’t appear in another system, and when they can expect it to show.)
If you encourage constituents to fundraise for your organization using a tool like Convio’sTeamRaiser or Blackbaud / Kintera’s Thon, you’ll need to find a way for offline donations to appear quickly on constituents’ personal web sites when developing your synchronization schedule.
In his presentation, Matt described the steps of data extraction, consolidation, reconciliation between systems and presentation, suggesting that you compute the staff hours spent in completing these tasks – and making management aware of the actual price in making integrated information available. His overall recommendations included:
develop standards, e.g. how does your organization define ‘online giving’? Become familar with APIs (application program interface) and Active Messaging Protocols (XMLs)
With 2008 ending soon, I realized this week that it was time to finish charitable donations to maximize our tax deduction. Although my wife and I give to many of the same organizations each year, we usually make many contributions at year-end. Since I so often talk about the advantages of online giving, I decided to make most of our donations on the web.
Interestingly, some of the nonprofits I support haven’t learned the lessons of integrating offline and online campaigns. Many of the direct mail pieces we received came with increasing frequency, but offered no dedicated web address to use other than the organization home page. When I went online on one nonprofit’s site, I couldn’t find a way to join or renew my membership, nor could I find a phone number to call. With the help of Google, I found a phone number and asked that they please not keep wasting my money on constant direct mail requests when I 1) prefer to donate online and 2) want our donations used for the nonprofit’s mission, not for mailing costs.
I’ve also found that even for nonprofits who we support, I am still a bit reluctant to receive email updates throughout the year, possibly because they also come a bit too often and don’t offer enough incentive for me to open them.
Maybe some people take the time to read long direct mail pieces, but I’m not one of them. Nor do I want to navigate lengthy email messages. Interestingly, none of the organizations we support asked how often we wanted to be contacted and whether we preferred online or offline communications. Perhaps these would be good questions to add to your donation form.
There’s one day left – make sure you donate to your favorite causes (even if it’s not as easy as it should be).
Probably the best book explaining the benefits of ephilanthropy I’ve seen to date is Ted Hart’sPeople to People Fundraising. Multiple experts from nonprofit organizations and vendors / consultants who service nonprofits offer detailed strategies on why nonprofitsmustbegin to embrace integrated fundraising techniques. Some memorable takeaways:
Traditionally an organization’s web site has been under the control of either IT or marketing. Whereas their goals and objectives may be well intended, it is fair to say that their core focus is not development oriented. Development is often shut out from many of the Web conversations…Nonprofit organizations need to take a much more holistic focus of who controls and contributes to the overall online presence; marketing, IT and development are just three of the contributors.
Many organizations hae been quick to jump on the online bandwagon without creating an effective strategic plan. For example, it’s easy to ask people to visit your web site or leave an email address. But without an effective plan forhowyou wil use email addresses and how your online activities will integrate with your offline activities, you may be creating more problems than solutions.
To develop integrated campaigns, an organization may not need to restructure,but it will have to to rethink how the departments within the organization interact with each other.
Some of the book’s contributors, many which I’ve heard speak at conferences and other industry events, include Blackbaud’s Steven MacLaughlin, Convio’s Sheeraz Haji, Network for Good’s Katya Andresen as well asTed Hart, who has long been an expert on this topic since founding theePhilanthropy Foundation. Many case studies from nonprofits that have successfully utilized integrated fundraising strategies are profiled, as well as many ways to take advantage of social networking sites.
If you still think that collaborative campaigns won’t work in your organization, take a look at this book and find out why it’s so important.
Exchanging data between applications can be done in a variety of ways, but many can be difficult to grasp. Peter offers a clear explanation of how data can be stored, types of data formats and methods to transfer data, as well as how APIs are used. What I found especially useful was his section on how to identify “data exchange friendly software,” in ways such as “Can I do data exports” and “Is there an API available?”
Tate Hausman who issued hisIntegration Proclamationalso recently described to me how he is attempting to manage an integration project between SalesForce and Democracy in Action, two applications often used by nonprofits.
It’s clear that being able to share data is finally getting some attention, as evidenced by the recent announcements of Kintera’ ConnectandConvio Open. Wouldn’t it be nice if eventually we could select the applications that are best for each of our needs, and easily move data between them.
My take: data integration must be discussedbeforeproducts are chosen; if they don’t connect, look for an alternative that does. Vendors must also do more to make this area understandable by non-programmers. Why is this important for online fundraising? Because everyone in a nonprofit needs to have access to the same information about constituents (not just development), and it shouldn’t be different depending on which internal system you use.
Online approaches are particularly effective for emergency / current events related campaigns
Online giving is expected to continue to rise
Online fundraising is considerably less expensive than offline efforts
But anotherarticle by Abny Santicolapoints out that the most effective strategy is a multi-channel approach, not using just one or the other: “Numerous studies have found donors contacted via multiple channels are more valuable and give larger gifts than single-channel donors do. But analytics and match-back for integrated campaigns can be tricky because it can be hard to demonstrate how communication through one channel affected response via another.”
As I’ve posted previously, I definitely agree that using both channels together is definitely the best solution. The challenge, however, is to get different parts of an organization working together that are accustomed to working separately. This will only happen if those who are responsible for online strategies also recognize the benefits of integrating offline campaigns which clearly still have much to offer in raising funds and engaging constituents.