Five digital lessons from 11NTC for fundraisers

March 22, 2011 at 12:45 am  •  Posted in Useful, Useful and Funny by  •  7 Comments

Fresh out of the Nonprofit Technology Conference 2011, here’s some bite-sized insights for the development crowd. You know I’ve always got your back, fundraisers!

Relax your social media expectations

The 2011 Nonprofit Social Network Survey revealed data on what we knew instinctively to be true — Social media is not an enormous channel for fundraising … I don’t care what Mashable has to say on the matter and neither should you.

Only .4% of charities surveyed by Blackbaud & Common Knowledge were raising more than $100,000 on Facebook (the best performing commercial social network). The majority of organizations reported either NOT fundraising at all, or raising less than $1,000.

Nobody is saying you can’t use social media for effective fundraising, but let’s stop having meetings where we compare our programs to Charity:Water and wonder why we haven’t raised eleventy-billion dollars from Twitter.

Offer your online donors the option to give monthly

This is probably a no-brainer for you Canadian and UK organizations (organisations), but all charities can benefit from Network for Good’s insights. Their Online Giving Study: A Call to Reinvent Donor Relationships session explained that charities offering the “give monthly” option on their pages found that 30% of their volume was recurring.

We all know what sitting on a database of recurring gifts means in a down economy – it means a hell of a lot. Start testing monthly donation call-to-actions everywhere you are in contact with donors on the web. You might be surprised how many supporters choose to give you a sustaining gift.

You have the data to segment – so do it!

Don’t send a donor who previously gave $500 to a landing page with giving levels starting at $25. Take the time to segment your lists and target your mailings. It’s easy to test your results. The 2011 eNonprofit Benchmarks report presented by M+R Strategic Services noted that the average charity has 1000 email addresses for every 110 Facebook fans – so, how are you treating those supporters?

Are you segmenting your email copy too? It’s not difficult to put this in place. Red Nose Day (Comic Relief UK) is a campaign with targeted emails. Here’s two examples – on the left, an e-newsletter to a fundraiser who raised over £100 pounds (my coworker Kathy). On the right, to a supporter in the mailing list (me).

Kathy is praised specifically for raising enough money for 30 people to receive life-saving surgery.

Raised over £100

Generic update email

Send an email on December 31st

We joked this insight would clog up email servers around the world, but a best practice is a best practice.

You already know 1/3rd of all onling giving occurs at year-end, but did you know the highest volume happens in the last two days of the year?

Katya Andresen advises you to send an email early on December 31st to maximize your online donation performance.

Mobile is happening whether you like it or not

… But it may not be a text-to-donate program that you’ll be deploying. Mobile messaging might be part of your communications strategy, but we heard one theme over and over again about SMS giving: Without a recognizable brand or large-scale event associated to the campaign, charities can struggle to raise significant funds from micro-gifts.

With smartphone adoption rising and an increasing number of users on mobile browsers, 2011 is your year to research how you’re going to reach your supporters with mobile-optimized web sites and donation forms. My prediction for 2012 is we will be all obsessing about the mobile web. Start now!

Btw, if you don’t know what a QR code is and how to use one – you’d better read up.

It had to be said

Bonus Insight: Nobody likes ‘Vote For My Charity’ contests.

My question for attendees …  Sure, many of you were complaining about these, but why are your Communications Coordinators & Social Network Community Whatevers still spending so much time posting about them every few hours?

Signed My Boxer Shorts? Peep At My #11NTC Flickr Set!


  1. Jon Dunn / March 22, 2011 at 11:55 am /

    CONTESTS: So check this out. We’ve been guilty of entering them too – and of course, once you’re in two and successful not only do your development folks want to do them everyday, but you also get offered to participate in more of them.

    The latest is for an insurance company. They’re looking for 6-8 nonprofits, the contest will take three months, the total prize $100K (usd) ;)

    There’s only one winner, so three months of promotion could leave us empty handed (which I understand there’s value in being in front of a new audience, but I have NO idea what promotion to their customers they plan….that’s not in the pitch of course). The goal is to push your Facebook supporters to permit an app the insurance company creates, to post status updates to your supporters FB walls. They claim the update will only go out on one day, but of course, there would be tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people who have given that level of permission to an insurance company they have no affinity with.

    I felt sort of badly when I talked to their appointed PR company rep on the phone, who was looking for orgs. I kind of gave her an earful about why these types of contests set us further back. I really pretty damn tired of corporate altruism meaning nonprofits battle it out and dance like little monkeys for the greedy overlords.

    Phew. Feel better :)

    • Claire Kerr / March 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm /

      I totally get why charities get involved in these contests, especially when the stakes are high. It’s one thing if you can get a third party group of supporters to advocate and rally the base on your behalf, but when you have to invest your own resources it’s a real “time suck” (as they were calling it at AFP last year)!

      I’m especially wary of the “For every X we’ll give Y to charity Z” in cases where the corporate sponsor is collecting valuable information like email addresses, demographic info etc. What the sponsor is ultimately getting out of it should not greatly exceed the value of the donation to the charity, in my opinion.

      • Jon Dunn / March 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm /

        Agreed – I think we’re kind of losing our collective minds right now.

        I am going to bug @daveiam to do a guest post on 501derful about it, but the thing over SXSW…didja see it? Annenberg Foundation will donate 100K to send search dogs to Japan IF a Facebook page received a 100K likes?

        How disgusting. How about no more of those kinds of promotions period, but ESPECIALLY during a crisis. Ugh.

        • Claire Kerr / March 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm /

          And Bing promising $1 for every retweet … Cause-marketing like that is definitely perceived differently during a disaster. What works for a fun Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day event (where we all play along and pretend the # of tweets matters) looks nasty in a crisis when we all know the company is just going to cut a cheque for the maximum amount, so please cut the cheque already and stop messing about!

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