The headline of this post is the gist of a depressing new report from CompassPoint and the Haas, Jr. Fund: UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. Based on a national survey of more than 2,500 development directors and executive directors, the study documents heavy turnover and vacancies in development director positions, a lack of basic fundraising systems, and key board and staff leaders who aren’t sufficiently focused on raising money. On top of that, one in four nonprofit leaders reported that their previous development director was fired.Sorry to hit you with that news this morning. I hope it doesn’t describe your situation!Here are the key findings – quoted from the study team.1. Organizations are struggling with high turnover and long vacancies in the development director post.• Executive directors at organizations where the development director position was vacant said the posts had been open for an average of 6 months. Almost half (46%) reported vacancies even longer than that.• Half of development directors said they expect to leave their current jobs in two years or less; and the rate was even higher for smaller organizations.• Forty percent of development directors aren’t committed to careers in development.2. Organizations aren’t finding enough qualified candidates for development director jobs. Executives also report performance problems and a lack of basic fundraising skills among key development staff. • Asked about the last time they tried to hire a new development director, more than half of executives (53%) said the search produced an insufficient number of candidates with the right mix of skills and experience.• Nearly one in three executives are lukewarm about, or dissatisfied with, the performance of their current development directors.• One in four executive directors (24%) said their development directors have no experience or are novice at “current and prospective donor research.” Among the smallest nonprofits, the number was 32%. 3. Beyond creating a development director position and hiring someone who is qualified for the job, organizations and their leaders need to build the capacity, the systems, and the culture to support fundraising success. The findings indicate that many nonprofits aren’t doing this.• Almost one in four nonprofits (23%)—and 31% of organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million—have no fundraising plan in place. In addition, 21% of organizations overall—and 32% of organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million— have no fundraising database.• Three out of four executive directors (75%)—and 82% of executives among organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million—say that board members are not doing enough to support fundraising.• Twenty-six percent of executives identified themselves as having no competency or being a novice at fundraising. Further, among executives who said that asking for contributions was one of their main duties, 18% said they dislike it.• Just 41% of development directors said the partnership between them and their executives on fund development work is strong, compared with 53% of executive directors.• A majority of development directors reported only little or moderate influence on key activities such as getting other staff involved in fundraising or developing organizational budgets.• Significant numbers of development directors questioned the effectiveness of their organizations’ fundraising efforts.OK. Enough of the problem. What the heck do we do about this? Please weigh in. In the meantime, the study team recommends that we:1. Embrace the importance fundraising across organizations2. Elevate the field of fundraising – As explained by Kim Klein, “Money is one of the great taboos in our culture. We are taught not to think about it or ask about it… As with the subjects of sex, death, mental illness, religion, politics, and other taboos, people say little about their experiences with money. With people so carefully taught that it is rude to talk about money, it’s certainly not an easy task to ask for it.”3. Strengthen the talent pool4. Train boards differently5. Treat fundraisers like the key staff they are with appropriate transition planning6. Invest in building grantee fundraising capacity7. Do more with technology and the innovation it allows8. Set realistic fundraising goals9. Share accountability for those goals10. Fundraisers and executive directors should both show greater leadershipSomeone who is trying to help re-imagine fundraising is Jennifer McCrea. She even teaches a course on this at Harvard. I recommend you check out her blog, along with this report, for more ideas.What do you think can be done?
Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop.com, founding partner at Garage Technology, and former chief evangelist of Apple, is one of the most sought after speakers there is. And he’s agreed to present a Network for Good webinar for nonprofits on how to shape and self-publish your organization’s story.Join us for this free webinar Tuesday, January 22 at 1 p.m. ET. Register here. (If you register, a few days later you will receive a recording of the webinar so you can enjoy it even if you’re not available Tuesday. Since I always get a flurry of emails of readers telling me they did not get their recording, please note: it takes a couple of days and it may be in your spam filter. Please check there if you don’t receive it.)
This week, I published a personal post on my LinkedIn blog. I thought I’d share it here. I was asked by LinkedIn to post on the theme of “my best career mistake.” You can view the original post here. I welcome your reactions and thoughts.Eight years ago, I found myself scraping the tops off store-bought cupcakes in my kitchen at one in the morning. I was replacing the obviously baker-applied icing with hand-applied frosting so the cupcakes would look passably homemade when I brought them to my daughter’s school the next day to celebrate her birthday.What would possess me to do such a bizarre thing? Shame. Or, to put it more fully, it was the mistake of trying to do it all well – and the fear of facing in myself that I could not.Back then the icing switch-up seemed a better idea than turning up at school with obviously store-bought birthday cupcakes. After all, the school staff had made clear that home-made snacks were strongly preferred, and every other mother seemed capable of bringing lovingly hand-prepared, organic treats on birthdays. But I’d worked late that night, so the best I could do was cosmetic surgery on baked goods. My daughter didn’t care. A cupcake was a cupcake in her view, and we were going to bake a cake together that weekend when we celebrated as family. I was the one who cared. I was afraid of being The Bad Mom. Just as I feared being The Bad Worker when I was late to work because of school activities.It wasn’t about what other people thought that was the problem. It was what I thought of myself.Fast forward to last month, when I was on a panel discussing Women in Leadership. Every woman alongside me publicly admitted the same fleeting fears – and the same feelings of failure and fraudulence in their lives and careers. We know we can’t do it all, but that doesn’t stop us from feeling bad about that fact on any given day. It was an enormous relief to admit this – and talk about how we handle it.This theme arises in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and hearing it from someone that accomplished was another revelation for me. I’m glad she admits her own similar moments – and irritated by dismissal of how important this admission is. I’ve read many negative reviews of the book. Most boil down to one or all of these statements: – Shut up, Sheryl: This book is a solution in search of a problem, or it addresses the wrong problem. Women aren’t holding themselves back in the ways you say.– Mind your own business, Sheryl: You shouldn’t be telling other women how to lean in.– Easy for you to say, Sheryl: You are privileged and so leaning in works for you (you have lots of help). It won’t for the rest of us.I’m distressed by these reactions because many of them miss the point and make quite clear the critics haven’t read the whole book. And because fear of this kind of judgment of a life is exactly what drove me into the kitchen to fake my cupcakes.I feel it’s time for us to discuss, honor and learn from however we struggle or succeed – whether it’s from someone who has made it big or is making it day by day. To me, this is a major point of the book and the very purpose of this post. Having these conversations, openly, is good for everyone.Sandberg writes,“We all want the same thing: to feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us. So let’s start by validating one another. Mothers who work outside the home should regard women who work inside the home as real workers. And mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option.”In addition to calling a truce in the gender wars, we should also find a peace with ourselves. By overcoming our own insecurities regarding our own paths, we can focus on something bigger and better: how all of us – men and women – can better support each other’s growth. We should find ourselves in fewer hidden cupcake moments and instead in more soul-searching, constructive reflection. As Sandberg notes: “We need to talk and listen and debate and refute and instruct and learn and evolve.”I’ll share my choice: to work outside the home and be a mother, however imperfectly. I try to lean in as well as to stop hiding that it’s sometimes hard despite my relative fortune. So I’m fessing up about those silly fake cakes and sharing what I wish I’d known in the wee hours eight years ago: We all have paths to take, whoever we are, and those ways of living all have trade-offs. We gain, not lose, power by owning that imperfect reality, living it without shame and learning from whoever else is willing to share their experience.To me, the real art of the lean-in is admitting the fear of falling short on my own path and pushing onward anyway. If I’d known it eight years ago, I would have showed up at school with plastic-encased, professionally frosted cupcakes in all their store-bought glory. And I would have known what mattered was that I was there, learning in to the experience of working motherhood and finding a way to be there to celebrate the most important of birthdays. After all, it doesn’t get any better than that.
A new study conducted by Good.Must.Grow has found consumers are apt to like and buy products from socially responsible companies – but they also question the claims of corporations who say they are committed to the greater good.In the poll of 1,015 Americans, nearly a third of respondents claimed to have sought out socially responsible companies and a quarter said they avoided buying products from a company specifically because it wasn’t socially responsible. A majority (60%) of the study participants said buying goods from socially responsible companies was important to them, though a good deal tended to trump that consideration.That’s good news for those of us pitching cause partnerships to companies. But it’s important to bear in mind another finding: Consumers are skeptical too, and 63% only sometimes trust a company’s claims that it is socially responsible.It’s important for nonprofits and companies to build trust with the right partnerships. Here’s my advice:1. Find the fit. Consumers are more likely to believe and embrace a company’s cause-related efforts if they’re reasonably aligned with their brand. For example, an athletic footwear brand is a better fit for anti-obesity sports programs than a fast food company. Seek out companies with values aligned with your nonprofit.2. Show the money. Make sure your corporate partner practices complete and total transparency about the cause-related efforts. How many dollars went where, to what end? Help consumers see the resulting impact on real world problems.3. Walk the talk. Choose a company that shows it’s a good corporate citizen in how it treats its employees, customers, suppliers, etc. Cause-related efforts that are strictly advertising ploys will spark skepticism. Consumers can smell crass corporate self-interest a mile away.The bottom line? Find the right partner so consumers will embrace the partnership.
I’m excited to announced that today, Characters Magazine is live. Master storyteller Mark Rovner and I founded this literary magazine to feature the writing of people who work for good causes and to inspire better storytelling in our sector. You can read it free online here. Thanks to everyone who submitted – as well as to the amazing editor and designers I highlighted in the following introduction included in the magazine. It was a labor of love to put this together, and I’m especially grateful to Mark for his partnership and creativity — as well as his willingness to take over the full reins going forward. He’s a Character, and so Characters couldn’t be in better hands.This magazine was born over breakfast one year ago, when I showed Mark the moving short story I’d been reading on the metro that morning. It was a prize winner in the Mississippi Review written by my cousin, Elisabeth Cohen, and it launched an impassioned conversation about why storytelling matters.The story was called “Irrational Exuberance,” which happens to be an apt term for the creative process. We fall in wild love with an idea, yet when we set it down in words, it becomes a deflated and devalued bit of what we imagined. This is the maddening twin truth of story. It packs such power that every other form of communication is flat and feeble by comparison. And yet, as Flannery O’Connor said it so well, “Most people know what a story is, until they sit down to write one.” A cracking good story could change the world, if only we could write it.We are hell-bent on trying, along with you. That’s because we spend much of our waking hours working with good causes, and we know that there are thousands of people among us who hold within them extraordinary stories. That includes you. Maybe it’s the story of who you are or what you do or why you came to care for a cause. Maybe it’s an incomplete tale, a slice of everyday experience, that – if told – would transport us out of ourselves and thrust us into your shared space, never to be the same. We don’t know what your story is, but we do know this: You must summon the irrational exuberance to try to set it down. Because it will make a difference in a way that taglines, mission statements or technological bells and whistles cannot. It is a direct conduit to someone else’s heart, because it came from your own.Because we think this is so important, we decided that morning to create Characters. It’s both a call to tell your story and celebration of good storytelling by people who are seeking to change the world. The first law of story is to show, don’t tell, so we are not telling you how to write a story (as if we could). We are showing you stories that matter. We called it Characters because in these pages are authors – characters trying to do good in the world – along with the characters within their own experience and imagination. It’s a motley, entertaining and inspiring crowd you will most certainly want to meet. Thank you to everyone who brought together these characters. First and foremost, Elisabeth, who agreed to be its editor. It is only fitting as she was the original character who started this story. Taughnee Stone and Jake Van Ness created the stunning design, and we are grateful for their talents. And last, but most important, thanks to everyone who had the courage to tell their story, in public, in these pages and on the Characters website. You show a cracking good story can be told, and that we can write it.
If you have the resources, tweet multiple times per day (about three to five depending on your audience). You can post more often on Twitter than on Facebook because Twitter’s feed moves faster. The return on investment for fundraising events equals increasing donations, raising awareness, and maximizing ticket sales. So how can you influence the ticketing life cycle and encourage more people to attend your event? Leverage social media to make your next fundraising event a success with these lessons from nonprofit social media expert Ritu Sharma.1. Create a calendar and a planBegin planning your social media campaign 6 to 8 weeks before your event, plan backwards from the date of the event, and keep track of your digital communications with a social media manager like HootSuite or TweetDeck. “Creating a content and communications calendar is one of the most underutilized but best things that a nonprofit can do,” Ritu explained. You already know the name of your keynote speaker, where the event will take place, and other key details, so capitalize on this knowledge: Prescheduled messages now to save time as the event nears and let you focus on other areas. You should also begin posting this information to your website and local community calendars.2. Use social media to maximize engagement and tie it all together with dataCreate a digital registration page with your branding using a tool that includes social sharing such as Network for Good’s Event Ticketing and Registration software. It’s this last part-social sharing-that’s the key: People are 60% more likely to share your event registration after they’ve signed up.Create unique links for each of your social media sales sources (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email campaigns) so that you can track registrations and donations from each. You can also create unique links for big partners so that you’ll be able to identify which partners and sources were the most helpful, drove the most traffic, and ultimately brought in the most registrants and donations. Measure your results throughout the campaign in order to tweak your outreach strategy.Once your registration page is live, make sure that people know about it! Create a Facebook event and cultivate your community with active posting and responding. If your weekly reports show that Facebook is leading to the highest number of donations and ticket sales, you can focus your efforts on what’s working.3. Continue to leverage social channelsWhen others interact with you, even to find out about an event, they want to know what’s in it for them. By posting more useful, beneficial, and educational content than promotional content, you’ll see the greatest response and be perceived as a group with value. It’s this balance that will help grow your online community to propel you and your event forward.Promote on Facebook:Post regularly with pictures of last year’s event and attendees, as well as this year’s upcoming performers and auctions. Create a hashtag for your event to include in all posts, such as #NFGgala. That way your attendees can easily follow your event and tweet about it, too. You can also create your own groups for your community, organization, and event. Invite all attendees to your group on LinkedIn and share exclusive content with them.4. Keep the conversation goingOn the big day, prominently display your event’s hashtag and project the Twitter conversation in real time using free services like Twitterfall.com. Then after the event, post videos and attendees’ stories on Facebook, ask for feedback or share an email survey, thank your attendees on Twitter, and write recaps of the event on LinkedIn. As a final step, be sure to analyze your tracking and analytics to determine which social channels were the most effective for getting registrants and keeping supporters energized.Social media can help you drive registrations for your fundraising event, as well as keep the conversations going after the event is over.(Image Credit: Ritu Sharma/Social Media for Nonprofits) Before you start posting in a group, look at the culture first, and then look for ways to add value with your content so that members will view you as a contributor and not as self-serving. Just like with influencers, adding value to a group on LinkedIn is another way to create name recognition. If your registration rate is low, try a direct message Twitter campaign. Download a list of all of your Twitter followers to Excel, segment them by location, and then target them with an individualized message. When most Twitter users receive a direct message, they also receive an email from Twitter alerting them. Don’t forget to say thank you. Your manners are important on Twitter, too, so remember to acknowledge everyone who helps you promote your event.Link up:LinkedIn is great for reaching communities, not just individuals. Members form groups with others based on shared interests and similar careers have the most traction. Invite attendees to RSVP on Facebook after they register. Tag VIPs, attendees, and partners in your Facebook posts.Tweet it out:Discover your cause’s top 10 influencers and then spend time cultivating a relationship with them. Retweet their content and send them messages so that they’ll take note of who you are and you’ll build brand recognition with them. Then, when you are gearing up for your event, they’ll be more willing to share it. If you send these influencers a premade tweet, chances are high that they will share your message, but not if you hadn’t cultivated a relationship with them.
Directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog, From One Second to the Next is a documentary-style PSA in AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign. The film is a sobering look at the consequences of texting and driving. It features the heart-wrenching stories of the victims of these accidents, as well as interviews with some of the drivers who caused the tragedies. At almost 35 minutes, it’s much longer than your typical viral video, yet it’s an extremely compelling and effective way to get the point across.I’m sharing this video today for two reasons:1) It’s a serious message that should be shared and discussed. (As the mother of a teen who’s about to get behind the wheel this year, I’m probably even more sensitive about this topic.) 2) It’s also an amazing example of the single most important ingredient in powerful storytelling. No, you don’t need a famous director or high production value to make people stop, think, share, or act. But what you do need, at the core of every story you tell, is real, relatable, and raw emotion. If you watch the video, I’d love to know what you think. In the comments, please share how you’re tapping into your real, emotional stories to help draw support for your cause.
Because a fundraising event can be expensive, it’s important to maximize your investment with a targeted outreach strategy. Your goals should be to increase ticket sales, improve word of mouth buzz, create more invested supporters, and ultimately raise more money. But if you focus on just one more thing, your marketing can be exponentially more effective.When planning an event, it’s important to ask: “Why will people attend?” Event360 suggests guests come because of an …1. Affinity to ParticipantsThis is especially true for fundraising events like marathons, where attendees might come to cheer someone on, or if there will be a guest speaker or entertainment, a guest might attend for that speaker or performance.2. Affinity to an ActivityIf you have an activity such as a golf tournament or a wine tasting, someone who loves the links or is deeply interested in wine collecting might attend for the activity.3. Affinity to a Third-Party GroupGuests whose employers have a relationship with your nonprofit or a relationship with a corporate sponsor might attend to support them.4. Affinity to a CauseYour guest might be passionate about the beneficiary of your event, such as animals or the environment.5. Affinity to an OrganizationIf someone is a dedicated fan of your organization, he is more likely to attend your event.Remember, people might have one or more reasons to attend your fundraising event. It can be challenging to address each type of attendee, but it can also be a great opportunity to gain new supporters. Start with your invitations and registration pages, which should answer:1. Why them? What’s in it for your guest? Do you mention the activity or sponsor they might be interested in? Why are they receiving your invitation, and why should it matter to them?2. What for?What’s the impact of the event, and what’s going to happen as a result of it? Do you clearly state what will happen to the proceeds you raise?3. Who says?Do you make it clear who the invitation is coming from? If your guest has an affinity to a participant or an activity, are you interesting them with a quote from a sponsor, a celebrity, someone who attended last year, or someone who benefitted from the event?4. Why now? Is there a date sensitive element you can include to encourage participation, such as early bird pricing of a limited number of VIP tickets?When crafting your marketing strategy, think about your different types of guests so that you can market to everyone and maximize your donations. Network for Good’s Event Ticketing and Registration software can help you communicate your message to attendees and raise more money for your mission.
It’s no secret that mobile is quickly becoming the platform of choice for many, but these stats really drive the point home. Nonprofit marketers should heed these trends and factor mobile into their communication and fundraising strategies to effectively attract and connect with donors in the coming years.56% of all American adults are now smartphone adopters. Source: Pew Tweet this.American adults spend an average of 141 online minutes using mobile devices. Source: AdAge Tweet this.61% of active users view emails either exclusively on a mobile device or use mobile and desktop interchangeably. Source: YesMail Tweet this.75% said they are “highly likely” to delete an email if they can’t read it on their smartphone. Source: Constant Contact Tweet this.20% of Internet traffic is expected to come from mobile by the end of 2013. Source: KPCB Tweet this.23% of smartphone users have made a purchase on their phone. Source: Nielsen Tweet this.66% of consumers over 60 open emails on a mobile device. Source: Constant Contact Tweet this.32% now bank using their mobile phones. Source: Pew Tweet this.61% say they have a more favorable opinion of brands that offer a good mobile experience. Source: Latitude Tweet this.The percentage of donations made on mobile web browsers has grown 205% in the last 12 months. Source: Artez Interactive Tweet this.Need some help thinking about how to incorporate mobile into your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy? Download this free whitepaper from Network for Good and PayPal, Why Mobile Matters: A Guide to the Mobile Web.
At this week’s Social Media for Nonprofits conference in Washington, DC, Avi Kaplan, Director of Online Strategy for Rad Campaign, challenged organizations to think about how they can break through the noise on social media when we live in a BuzzFeed world. Avi says the key to standing out is to focus on the right audience in the right context with awesome content. Here are just a few of the tips he shared with the crowd.Connect with the right people.Keep in mind that your social media universe is comprised of three segments: your die-hard supporters, people who are likely receptive to your message, and those who just aren’t that into you. Get more from your database. Look at your current donor list, email list, and social media followers. What do they have in common? Seek out “lookalike” populations as you connect with influencers and use this insight to inform paid social promotion.Prioritize. Don’t waste time on audiences that aren’t in your sweet spot. Focus on the people who are already passionate about your cause, interested in your issue, or are supporters of your organization. They will help you reach more like-minded folks and create ripples from your social media efforts.Understand the return on investment for specific audiences. Some segments of your audience are great sharers and likers, but other segments might be more likely to take actions like making a donation or volunteering. Learn the behaviors of each of your segments and plan your outreach accordingly.Connect in the right context.Being timely, relevant, and top of mind means hooking into the bigger picture. What else are your supporters interested in or talking about? Find appropriate ways to capitalize on trends, breaking news, and even memes to tap into the familiar. Don’t miss your opening. Social media conversations move fast. What may be timely today may be passé tomorrow. If it takes you a few weeks to create, approve, and publish content, you’ve missed the moment. Create a social media system nimble enough to react quickly and find your organization’s share of recent news or trending topics.Plan ahead. If you don’t have an editorial calendar to help you plan your content for social media and beyond, it’s time to create one. Avi shared that as part of your content calendar, you also need a “context calendar”—this is a space on your editorial calendar where you’ll plot out holidays, key milestones, seasonal topics,and more. Unlike breaking news or unexpected memes, these are events you can prepare for well in advance. Optimize timing. Tools like Buffer, Followerwonk, and Tweroid can help you understand the best times to reach your audience and schedule your messages for maximum effect. This is especially important if you have limited time to spend on social media management and content creation. You need to get the most out of the effort you’re putting in.Connect with awesome content.Once you’ve zeroed in on your primary audience and understand the power of context, it’s time to think about the content that you’ll share. Go beyond reposting the same pieces again and again and get creative with visuals and topics that are top of mind.Steal. Are you down with OPC? Other people’s content, that is. Some of your best social media interactions will come from curating content from other sources, or creating derivative works. Reach out to collaborate, offer credit, and use discovery tools like crowdtangle to find amazing stuff to share or emulate. (Social media coach Andrea Vahl offers some other ideas for finding compelling content to share.)Learn what’s working through analytics. Don’t just mindlessly blast your followers with updates that are boring them out of love for your nonprofit. Measure which channels and topics result in the most engagement and action.Experiment and take risks. Put a plan in place to manage your social outreach, but remember these platforms are flexible and forgiving. Since the flow of social is much faster than other channels, you can learn quickly and adapt. Try new things to see what works with *your* supporters.Need more ideas for social media content? Download our new guide, 101 Social Media Posts, for suggestions that will help your nonprofit connect with supporters on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.