30 Days: End of Year Strategies

june-2013-calendar-stock-illustration-istock1The clock is ticking… it’s 30 days before the end of the fiscal year… and your boss asks you “what are you going to do to meet goal?”

You ask yourself the same question as you wrestle with the need to meet goal and the 30 days you have to do so. Plus, you haven’t had a day off since New Year’s Eve and you’d like to book some vacation time before you lose them. What’s a fundraiser to do? Here are some end of year strategies to help you through these next 30 days and beyond.

1. Breathe

Yes, breathe. Stress in our profession is real and burnout even more so. Unrealistic expectations, lack of support, un-returned phone calls from donors and a non-existent culture of philanthropy all make for a stressful situation. 30 days isn’t enough time to change our situation completely but it is enough time to change our reactions and thoughts about our situation. It’s also enough time to make breathing during stressful times a habit. So for 30 days take the time to focus on your breath.  Here’s how.

Before you log on to your computer take a few minutes to breathe instead of mentally running through your “to do list.” Dr. Andrew Weil one of the world’s leading authorities on alternative health recommends the following three breathing exercises each providing a different internal and external benefit.

  1. The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
    The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness. Dr. Weil suggests using this technique instead of reaching for a cup of coffee. I’ve personally used this when I feel extremely tired and need a quick pick me up. It does work though you might get some interesting looks from anyone walking by you as you perform this exercise.
  2. The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
     According to Dr. Weil, this exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous           system. It’s the perfect exercise to use before going into a meeting or anytime you experience anxiety. This exercise takes practice and is easier to comprehend by seeing it in action. The following is a link to view this technique.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r82UgmWReY
  3.  Breath Counting
    This breathing exercise can be used as a form of meditation throughout the day.   I’ve used it to quiet my mind especially during times of endless to do lists. It’s simple to do because it’s literally just counting your breaths.  

You can find more information about these and other stress reduction techniques by visiting Dr. Weil’s website at http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html

2. Focus on what you can control

You can control the number of strategic conversations you have with donors but you can’t control whether they give during these next 30 days or not. You can increase your odds for success by visiting with those donors who you have personally engaged during this fiscal year but you haven’t quite made it to asking them for their support. Now is the time to ask not because it’s the end of the fiscal year but because you have a compelling reason and opportunity for them to invest in. “We need your support because it’s the end of the fiscal year” is not a compelling reason for our donors to give now. But “join us in sending 100 kids with brain injuries to experience camp for the first time this summer ” is a more compelling reason to move donors to action.

What are some other things you can control during these next 30 days?

3. Revisit your no’s and yeses

Just because a donor declines to give when you ask the first time doesn’t mean they will not give in the future. Now is the time to revisit the no’s and ask questions about their thoughts, values and motivations to give. Perhaps it was the timing of your original ask or the particular project you presented. Find out what inspires the donor to action and ask questions about the impact the donor wants to have on your cause through your organization.

Next , go over every top donor and highly rated prospective donor.  Re-calculate your “high, low, likely” projections.  Do this as a team.  Get others’ take on each name. Include corporations, foundations, and individuals.  Don’t forget event donors for spring events.  Who are the top fundraisers among your volunteers?  Who are the top donors to those events?  Make sure they are in the mix as potential end of the fiscal year donors.  Take just an hour or two to strategize and spend the rest of the day making your appointments.

Finally, revisit the yeses you received earlier in the fiscal year. Are there any donors that might give again? You don’t know unless you ask.

4. Secure a challenge or matching gift

Matching gifts and challenge gifts can be a highly effective tools to significantly increase the chances of raising more money. A challenge gift is a noncontingent gift (not dependent on the gifts of other donors) to your organization with an accompanying “challenge” for other donors to join. For example, Janet Smith commits to give your organization a “$10 a day” during the month of June to help in sending kids with brain injuries to summer camp. She then challenges 30 other people to join her and when they do your organization will have $9,000 in additional revenue. This method can be highly effective using social media especially when donors ask their friends and family to join them and then their friends and families ask others to join them as well.

Matching gifts  can add an even more compelling dimension to your case, letting donors know that the gifts they give will not only help to support your organization and make your organization’s campaign success a reality, but that the money they give literally multiplies as it is matched by the matching donor. If your Board members have capacity to make large gifts, ask one of them to lead the challenge. If they can’t do it themselves, they may know another individual, family, company, or foundation with potential interest. You may even consider asking the Board to collectively fund a matching gift challenge at the outset of the 30 day campaign, which can be a good way to get them invested in your overall fundraising success.

 5. Ramp up your personal stewardship to donors

Write down the names of 30 of your top donors and each day pick one to deliver personal stewardship. 30 days= 30 successfully stewarded donors=30 possible donor relationships teed up for their next gift opportunity.  The best way to retain donors is to continue to share with them the impact their philanthropy is having on the constituents you serve. How about new donors to your organization? Divide this list up among your board members to personally reach out to new donors which again makes board members a part of your organization’s philanthropic success.

For minimal effort but great results, try hosting an “end of the fiscal year thank a thon.”  Invite your community – students, staff, other donors, current and retired board members to a year- end thank you party complete with pizza or popsicles. It’s your choice. Just keep it simple. Pick a day for people to drop in and write a few notes, make a few calls, share a few stories of impact that others can share too.  Set a goal – daily, hourly, weekly – for everyone and track progress – people love a game and knowing that they contributed tangibly to your organization’s success.

vacationIt might be June 3 by the time you read this but don’t fret. You still have time to incorporate some or all of these strategies to help you in meeting your goals. There is a light at the end of the tunnel filled with donors ready to give and a well-deserved vacation.

Donor Motivation not Donor Education

DownloadedFileMotivation not Education“.  I found this saying while at the campaignstrategy.org website doing some research on a new presentation on Activism and Fundraising.  In my opinion, there are many parallels between activism and fundraising but this saying struck me as perhaps the most apt.  Our job as fundraisers, much like the job of the activist, is to get people to do something.  To act.  In the case of an activist campaign that action might be to show up for a protest, or sign a petition, or call their congress person.  As fundraisers, we want people to give money, volunteer, call their friends and get them to attend an event.  Through cultivation we lower the barriers to act until the desired action takes place.  We motivate.

However, all to often we spend the bulk of our time educating people and hoping that education will lead to motivation and action.  We give them facts.  We give them things to read.  We sit down with them and try to persuade them.  We generally push information at them.

As campaignstrategy.or points out in reference to activist campaigning:

Education…is a broadening exercise. It uses examples to reveal layers of complexity, leading to lower certainty but higher understanding.

 

Campaigning maximises the motivation of the audience, not their knowledge. Try using education to campaign, and you will end up circling and exploring your issue but not changing it.

 

Fundraising works in the same way; it’s not an educational experience or an “oral argument”.  Yes, people will almost certainly be educated about our cause as we cultivate and build relationships with them, but education is not the primary purpose.  Good fundraising is action oriented.  As fundraisers, we get our best results not when we try to persuade and provide endless amounts of information, but when we “show” and motivate.

So, how do we motivate people?  People tend to believe and place the most value on their own experiences.  If they can see that your organization is effective because they have met your clients, your families, etc. that is much more valuable than reading about them or watching a video.  Likewise, if you can let them see and experience for themselves the impact of a previous donation this increases the motivation to give more.

Finally, “the act of doing” is in itself motivational and leads to more action.  Always give your donors a clear action they can take whether that’s donating, a Facebook like, or volunteering.  Don’t just send them an endless stream of information but provide no way to act.

The Three Most Important Board Roles

Type “board roles” into your favorite search engine and you will come up with a wealth of topics and purveyors of The Answer.  Still the question persists:  “But WHAT should my board be DOING?”  With so much information already out there, why is there such confusion, hand-wringing, frustration on the part of the staff team – executive and imagesdevelopment –  and on the part of the board about what a high-performing board should be doing to support the fund development efforts of the organization or institution?  I don’t want to devolve into a marketing pitch here, but we strive to deliver practical solutions here – and I think the problem with many of these resources is that they are not answering the practical question being asked… and maybe we’re not always clear on what we’re asking about board roles.

Here is what the answer is NOT:  the answer is not about whether you have a “hands on” or “rubber stamp” board, whether this board is a working board or a governing board.  In reality, all boards should be hands-on sometimes – and occasionally rubber-stamp a wise strategy.  Governing is hard work so I have never understood that distinction.  The answer doesn’t come from a pretty flow chart (…and anyone who knows me knows that I love a good flow chart – though a less popular approach when making a point with my spouse.  Different post.  Different day.)

The answer is found in discerning what we’re really asking about:  are you looking to understand and agree on the board’s fund development roles or their fund development jobs

Fund Development jobs are relatively simple – and we should keep them that way.  This is not to say they don’t need support and training, but there are just five JOBS we need board members to fulfill, each in different measure, and according to their skills and abilities:

Slide1When board members support the fund development program by doing those five jobs, we’re in good shape.  No matter what size your staff is now, you’ve got “force multiplication” and the potential for peer-to-peer outreach, even if most of the solicitation is done (or supported) by staff members.  It takes training to make sure board members have the skills and abilities to those jobs well.  (Go here for an easy-to-adapt tool on engaging your board in stewardship.  And go here for a past webinar on engaging your board in fund development.)

It is true that you can focus on those jobs and still not get anywhere in your fund development program…  It causes the plaintive cry where I started this post.  In my experience, that cri de coeur often comes from the fact that board members didn’t first embrace the ROLES that enable the jobs to get done well.

We need to allocate the right people to the right specific jobs once we have them.  First we must recruit for these roles, and not be shy about stating explicitly what role every board member must play in fund development.  Lucky for us, there are only three really important roles for you to share with your board:

1)   Give generously and be willing to talk passionately and convincingly about why you invest.  To be a good “fund developer” and carry out those five jobs, every board member must identify with those they are reaching out to, know what a good donor looks like, be proud and vocal about their support of this organization.

2)   Assess the risk of your fundraising approach, creating balance and mitigating risk.  Every board member – whether you are trained in fund development or not – should be able to recognize that holding ONE fundraising event on which all or a significant percentage of the year’s revenue rides is RISKY.  That’s really, really risky.  So, do not do it.   Same goes for relying on one donor, or one source of giving.  Something happens to one donor or one sector and…. pppphhhft.  Equally, every board member should be able to recognize that doing 17 events or campaigns is probably not a good use of resources and splits attention in too many directions.  And, with a little education, most board members can embrace the wisdom of focusing on building a robust pool of leadership donors who provide significant investment each year.

3)  Be available, demand that your availability is used well.  Agreeing to take on those five roles – or some of those five roles – but then neeeeeeever quite getting around to doing what you are asked shirks this role. Promise what you will deliver.  Then, you can and should demand (Staff: talking to you now…) that your time be used well, on the right jobs with the right donors and that everyone measures the effectiveness of what they’re doing, not to punish anyone, but to see what works best and do more of that.

What should a high-performing board being doing?  Embracing three roles that lead the way to five effective jobs.  Practical?  I think so.

Letter to a Friend (About Why I didn’t Give More to your Gala)

A good friend who sits on the board of the organization that she loves invited us to their gala and then called to follow up.  Isn’t she a good board member?  I’m so proud of her!  We couldn’t attend.  But we did give… just not a stretch gift.  And look above: this is a GOOD friend… someone I’m really proud of and have great feelings about.  Why didn’t I give more?Gala X

I have lost track of the number of times that I’ve used the Tarnside Curve to illustrate why donors don’t make stretch gifts based on the relationship they have with the person doing the asking.  But my email to her spelled it out at greater length and I decided to share it with you in hopes that like her and her organization, you might find some lessons learned to apply to yours.

Dear Very Good Friend,

First, I’m so sorry that we can’t make it to the Gala.  It would have been lovely to catch up with you and see you in your new role on the Board.  Second, I wanted to share with you why I am not giving more.  I know that you asked for my input on fundraising for your organization before, and this seemed like a good moment to share my thoughts.

As I was going through your organization’s site and figuring out how much we should give, I had some thoughts.  Please know that I realize how hard it must be to run Organization X and that most of the staff are out there doing the real work of helping clients who need it.  And I don’t know any of the back story on the site, who wrote it, the politics, etc.  In any case, this isn’t meant to come off as belittling any of the work they do on the ground or who they are as people.  Not at all.  I’m sharing my thoughts with you because if Organization X were my client, it’s what I’d do.  If it’s helpful, then share and feel free to share as is.  If it’s not the teachable moment I think it could be, and/or would hurt feelings and be unhelpful, then please don’t.

I tell my clients all the time that there are plenty of great organizations out there to support.  Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find them.

I went to Organization X’s site because of you and your clear passion about the work they do.  I trust you.  I value your opinion.  I don’t know all that much about Organization X.  This is how many many donors are introduced to organizations, especially in the context of events.

So there I am now looking around on the site and trying to figure out how much to give.  Should I do what’s comfortable, or should I forgo something I want to do and stretch?   If I do the stretch, then I have to explain it.  Already, I’ve explained to the family that we’re giving to Organization X because “Aunti loves them and I respect her and want to support her cause.” 

But to go the extra mile on this, I’d have to say more. I’m looking… I’m looking… I’m not seeing much.

When I get to the “stories” page, the first thing I see is the founders page and it’s a little bit off-putting because it suggests that the organization was founded on a whim.  I am willing to bet that the founders story is an awesome one that had much more than, “had nothing better to do” as a beginning.  But this is what it says.  I stop reading.  I’ve got 10 minutes to my name here and this isn’t what I’m looking for.  So then I move on to see if there is an annual report anywhere.  What I am looking for is a breakdown of the financials, what the annual budget is and also an idea of giving levels. Here again, I come up empty-handed.  OK… what about an idea of what various levels of giving means in terms of impact?  Nope.  Nothing to be found.  I sit back a minute.  It dawns on me that there are no photos.  That the site is all text, and not even written particularly well.  Ugh.

My thoughts go back to you.  I remind myself that you are super-smart and that you wouldn’t sit on a board for no reason.  Organization X MUST be doing terrific work.  I just don’t have any sense of it.

And so… I make my “comfortable” gift.

After the gala is behind you all and you can sit and think, here are a few things that I’d do right away:

1. Create impact statements.  My son and his friends just raised money to plant trees and gave it to http://www.plantabillion.org/  Every $1 plants 1 tree.  They want to plant one billion.  Take a look.  It’s a huge goal.  But they aren’t afraid to throw it out there.  And incredibly, every $1 of that billion feels important.  When I give my gift to Organization X, what does that mean?  What can I feel good about in making this contribution besides vaguely knowing I’ve done something good because you say I have?  Create impact statements to tell visitors to your site and donors new and old the impact of gifts made at various levels.  This is going to be useful for far more than just your site.  (Sidebar:  I didn’t include this in my letter, but you can download a great resource on writing impact statements here.)

2.  Post your financials.  You don’t need to create and post an annual report in my opinion.  Hardly anyone reads those.  But what they do look for is exactly what I looked for.  To not have that information up makes you look bad.

3.  Make the site more visually appealing.  You have this know-how.  I realize you can’t post photos of the clients for safety sake.  But there are all kinds of creative images you could post that don’t show faces.  Look at what other like organizations are doing.  I know you know this already, but Facebook is ranking images and video much higher than plain text in terms of their edge rank, their news feed algorithm that determines which posts get seen and by whom.  That says it all, doesn’t it?

4.  Be sure all the content is appealing and it’s not there for political reasons alone.  If you are going to share stories, make certain that they are really strong.  And know that most visitors are looking for client stories.  It helps me feel good about giving when I see a story of a client whose life was transformed by Organization X.  When I have my consultant hat on, I talk about helping donors feel like superheros for supporting them.  Keep that in your mind as you decide what to post on the site.  Would reading it make someone feel like a superhero for supporting?

I could go on.  But I won’t because I know it’s going to take time to get through this list as it is and that is going to take commitment from more than just you.  No matter that I know how hard it is to think about these things right after going through the hard work of putting a successful event together, it’s really important that you all do this.  I’m happy to chat about this whenever.   In the meantime, good luck tomorrow night!  I’m sorry I won’t get to be there.

Good for you for being involved with Organization X.  I’m proud of you and will be rooting for you guys tomorrow… 

Love, Neesha

Have you had a friend – a GOOD friend – visit your organization’s website?  Asking for that frank assessment of the public face you are sharing with the world can offer invaluable feedback.

The Tortoise and The Hare: Aesop Had Major Gifts Officers In Mind…

This morning I came across my copy of Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. My friend Tom Wick, a fellow development professional gave it to me and said it’s one of his favorite books because it is full of lessons for major gifts officers. I’ve been thinking about those lessons the most popular being “slow and steady wins the race.”

But what does this really mean? And how can this help us now as many fundraisers are under pressure to close end of the fiscal year gifts while knee deep in budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year?book title

Before we begin, here’s a quick refresher on The Tortoise and the Hare: 

The story begins with Hare teasing Tortoise and bragging about how much faster he is than Tortoise. Hare then challenges Tortoise to a race.  Hare sprints away at the start, taunting Tortoise for being so slow.  Soon, Hare becomes very tired and looks back to see that Tortoise is so far behind him.  He decides to rest under a tree eventually falling asleep. Hare is so comfortable that he dreams of his victory against Tortoise and is later awakened by the cheers of the crowd watching Tortoise approach the finish line. Rabbit jumps up screams at Tortoise to slow down but it is too late. Tortoise wins the race and they both learn a powerful lesson:  goals are achieved with hard work and perseverance.

We know these words to be true, but many times we find ourselves as fundraisers feeling like the hare rather than the tortoise.  We are given goals at the beginning of the fiscal year and we pursue them with fervor yet the pressure to produce and unreturned phone calls from donors can make us feel tired and sometimes feeling that our goal is unachievable.  On the other hand, it’s just as easy to become disenchanted with our goals when we slow down to strategize and develop our fundraising tactics especially when building a major gifts program or going into a capital campaign.  We’re excited about the future but want to see results now.  When they don’t materialize as soon as we had hoped, it’s easy to think that we will never raise the money.

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

As fundraisers we have multiple goals to balance – donor visits, solicitations, stewardship pipeline building, donor communications and follow-up, internal meetings, database entries, staying current in our profession and the list continues.   How do we balance achieving our overall fundraising goals with everything else on our plates without burning out like Hare or plodding along Tortoise? After all, you can’t really say to your boss: “ I am the tortoise.  I’ll achieve these fundraising goals slow and steady.”

The fundamental task in achieving our goals is breaking them down into many smaller goals and assigning “tortoise” or “hare” characteristics to them,” Tyler Tervooren, founder of Frugally Green, a website dedicated to helping people live green while saving money. I’ve adopted Tyler’s observation and make it specific to our fundraising work below.

The Role of Tortoise

In the fundraising world, Tortoise represents our organization’s overall vision and the planning that is required to achieve it. This could be anything from eradicating childhood obesity or becoming the number one engineering school in the country. It’s the “fire” that is going to move our donors to action. Whatever our vision is, Tortoise represents the strategic and deliberate planning that must take place to realize it.  A vision is not something that can be completed tomorrow but is something that if we strategically pace ourselves can be achieved. We achieve this by breaking our vision into smaller, more easily attainable goals often dotortoise_harene in a written campaign plan. It is through this slow and strategic process that we will build the framework that will guide our actions toward our end goal. The same is true if we look at our overall fundraising goal and break this goal into small manageable pieces with milestones to make at specific times. This allows us to see if we are on the right track or if there is a course correction that needs to take place. This is why writing our goals with specific actions steps and completion time is so vital to our success.

The Role of Hare

We all know a fundraiser or two who has burnt out while trying to balance multiple goals under what appears to be an incredibly fast-ticking clock. I’ve been there and know that it can feel like you are on a constant treadmill, racing to finish a marathon of goals and demands.  So where does the Hare and his hyperactive and boastful tendencies come into play for us?  Well, since we took our time when we started tortoise-and-the-hare_metromomsoff and carefully pieced together an outline that breaks down our goals into bite-sized pieces, we can now pursue each of them, one by one, with clarity and strength.

If we look at our example of achieving our overall fundraising goal, a first step could be to make a daily commitment that, no matter what, you reach out to five donors a day. This could mean calling potential donors, executing a stewardship touch for an existing donor, sending a personalized invitation to an upcoming event, etc. The point is you make this a habit and you do this when you are at your Hare peak energy of the day. This is a habit I started about five years ago and it transformed the way I was able to keep myself on track to achieve not only my overall fundraising goals, but the related goals as well. There are times when we go through the day feeling that we have not had any time to connect with donors because we have been in internal meetings all day… we are working on a solicitation piece… we have to attend an event. It feels like there are not enough hours in a day to actually talk to donors. But by taking the energy and the confidence of Hare, we can form daily habits that allow us to achieve our overall goals and vision while ultimately strengthening our donor relationships.

Putting It All together

The lessons taught in The Tortoise and the Hare are relevant throughout the day and the life of a fundraiser. Sometimes we face seemingly contradictory goals: closing end of the fiscal year gifts, while planning for the coming year’s fundraising goals.  We can tap into our Tortoise and Hare characteristics to meet these goals by understanding how to use these characteristics for our success. Our Tortoise nature allows us to take the time to be strategic in our work and not githe-tortoise-and-the-hareve up. Our Hare nature gives us that quick burst of energy and confidence we need to see some immediate results of our efforts. We’ll build on these in an upcoming blog.  But for now we’d like to know what are some other childhood lessons we can learn from and incorporate into our fundraising work?

Share them by posting on our blog. We’d love to hear from you!

 

The Value Proposition of Cause Marketing

Picture 3Guest Blogger Cal Zarin discusses the value proposition of cause marketing and suggests some different ways for nonprofits to approach cause marketing.  Cal is Founder and CEO of Shared Value Media.

My background is in media buying and planning and then later in nonprofit development. I spent years being pitched the value proposition of cause marketing and spent almost as many years trying to convince others of its merit. Being on both ends, I have grown an appreciation for the nuances and challenges of this ‘ask’. In this post, we’ll break down how we, as Development Professionals, often present the marketing value of our nonprofit assets. We’ll offer our perspective on the inherent strengths and weaknesses of each position. And, then we’ll offer Shared Value Media’s somewhat different take on it.

THE STRONG:
Consumer Engagement

First the good: I am a big believer in the engagement proposition of nonprofits. Compared to other platforms, I think nonprofits offer a strong opportunity to drive action among a targeted consumer group.

According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, nonprofits are more trusted than business or media institutions by a margin of over 5%. According to Nielson 2011 Trends, 76% of people trust advertising from people they know, versus the next highest platform, which is opt-in email at 40%. In other words, when nonprofits communicate with our constituency base, they often listen and trust what we tell them.

As a result, when asked, these constituents are often willing to act on our behalf. As a nonprofit, we can confidently say we have the ability to drive traffic, promotion, attendance, click-throughs, content, etc. This is powerful stuff! If your corporate client will share what they are paying for each engagement (i.e., a click-through, a new fan on Facebook, a content submission) try to create a pricing structure that challenges those rates. If you can produce a stronger engagement ROI than some of your partner’s other marketing platforms, watch out! You could be in for a very different conversation in Round Two! And, you would be surprised through our celebrity partnerships, pro bono media, alumni groups, social platforms, etc. how successful we can be in driving engagement.

THE NOT-AS-STRONG:
Media Reach

I believe too often we, as nonprofits, try to sell our reach: We serve this many children. Our newsletter list is this big. Our Facebook page has this many fans. When competing against other more traditional media/marketing investments (TV, online, print, etc.), our reach proposition will often fall short. Unless we represent a large national or global nonprofit, we just can’t compete with the number of eyeballs that a marketer can reach through a more traditional platform. So, I recommend we do our best to represent our total numbers, but understand this isn’t our strongest ace in the hole.

Brand Association

Another value proposition that we often emphasize is that a cause association can help drive the business of our partner. On one hand, according to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study, 79% of consumers claim they would likely switch brands, if price and quality were equal, if the other brand is associated with a cause. In addition, according to the 2010 Edelman Good Purpose Report, nearly half of Americans cite social purpose as the number one deciding factor in making a purchase. However, these studies represent consumer attitude, not necessarily consumer behavior, as do the majority of other studies on this topic.

I have only seen two studies that offer quantitative evidence that brand association can impact purchase intent: Cone Inc. and Duke U. Behavioral Study (2008) and Hiscox and Smyth (2005). Until we can reference the study/studies that demonstrate conclusively that purchase is driven by cause association, all we can do is put a fairly meaningless asterisk at the end of our presentations –

**And you have the benefit of being associated with a cause that is important to your consumer… for whatever that is worth**

Measurement

Probably the weakest part of our value proposition is measurement. We, as an industry, have no excuse for this one. Probably a separate topic for a different article, but unless we can offer an apples-to-apples measurement framework with other marketing platforms, we are severely handicapping our sell. Our pitch is dependent on our ability to say the quantitative impact we will have on our partner’s business and then explain how we will measure and benchmark against that impact. If we can’t do that, how can we ask their marketing department to re-allocate dollars to our platform?

In addition, we need to better understanding the demographics of our constituents and our donors. It is not enough to present the age, location, and ethnicity of the people we serve. We need to be able to provide information on the household income of our newsletter list and event attendees, the psychographics and consumer trends of our donors, etc. There is technology out there that helps with this. But, without it, we are going to the negotiating table with one arm tied behind our back.

The SHARED VALUE MEDIA APPROACH
The Cost Proposition:

The value proposition that Shared Value Media often leads with is that nonprofits can help our marketing counter-parts reduce costs. We can do this not necessarily by replacing our partner’s existing marketing efforts, but instead integrating into them.

Let me explain what we mean by applying this approach to a few different event-marketing examples. Why event marketing? Nonprofits can integrate seamlessly into an event marketing campaign and reduce costs consistently.

Trial / Sampling

For the sake of illustration, let us examine Brand Granola. Brand Granola wants to drive trial of their new granola bars. To accomplish this, they hire brand ambassadors to stand at busy intersections and hand out a granola bar to every person who walks by. For this service, Brand Granola will pay for every hour it takes their hired guns to hand out their sampling goal. In addition, Brand Granola may need to pay a permit fee to sample at their target destinations.

What would happen if Brand Granola took a different approach towards sampling? And, instead of hiring an event-marketing agency, Brand Granola forged a partnership (or numerous partnerships) with afterschool nonprofits who provide snacks every day to their constituents. These nonprofit will gladly agree to hand out Brand Granola’s granola bars (if they meet the nonprofit’s health criteria) to an extremely targeted demographic at no cost, since it will reduce the nonprofit’s costs. In addition, by agreeing to partner with Brand Granola, a trusted resource in the community will implicitly be endorsing the brand as a healthy snack option for the kids they serve.

A partnership structured in this way has a very clear, measurable ROI for Brand Granola. If they took even a portion of their trial/sampling budget and donated that product to the right nonprofit(s), Brand Granola would still reduce their marketing costs, meet their trial/sampling objectives, and launch a potentially more effective sampling strategy.

Mobile Tours

In addition, Brand Granola decides to launch a national mobile tour, where they hand out granola samples to parents and their children, ask the families to record a jingle in their traveling recording studio, and offer a number of on-site activities that bring the brand to life.  Again, traditionally Brand Granola would hire an event-marketing agency to build the experience, secure the venue permits, hire staff, and promote the event locally. The costs would be well over $10,000 / week to keep this campaign on the road.

So, what is the sell for a nonprofit? Its simple: we can help you launch the exact same campaign for a third of the cost.

If Brand A also partnered with a national nonprofit focused on youth health, that nonprofit could do the following to support the tour:

  • Reduce venue costs, by leveraging their 501c3 status and relationships to secure venues across the country at a free or reduced cost
  • Reduce staffing costs, by replacing in-market staff with volunteers
  • Reduce local marketing, by promoting the event to their constituents in each market and help to reach an engaged audience vs. random bystanders
  • Strengthen the campaign message by making the tour not only about the product, but also about the product’s values

For a fraction of the cost, Brand Granola could increase the effectiveness, impact, and attendance of their mobile tour.

Content-Gathering

Finally, Brand Granola wants to engage consumers around the country in a promotion that asks consumers to post jingles about their new product. Brand Granola’s goal is to drive traffic to their site, social engagement, and eventually produce content for their new ad campaign. Through numerous online buys and leveraging their event marketing tour, they intend to drive participation in the promotion.

Again, Brand Granola could dramatically reduce costs (and legwork) by finding a nonprofit partner that had an incentive in driving consumers to upload a jingle. There are thousands of nonprofits across the country teaching after-school music. Without any semblance of mission drift, these nonprofits could work with their children and families to record and submit jingles that brought the values of their nonprofit and programming to life. Finding alignment between the values of a nonprofit and the brand of a granola bar should not be difficult and would only enhance the positioning of a promotion like this.

Again, if Brand Granola even put a fraction of their promotional media spend towards a donation to one or more targeted nonprofit(s), Brand Granola would reduce costs and increase impact.

At the End of the Day…

There is no magic formula to selling in the cause marketing value proposition. However, the better we understand the business needs of the brands we are pitching and the strengths and weaknesses of the value we provide, the more likely we are to convince our marketing counter-part that we fill a need.

Good luck – I’ll be rooting for you! And, if you have any tidbits to share with us, we’re always anxious to hear.

About Shared Value Media

Shared Value Media (SVM) helps facilitate corporate partnerships through a network of national or geo-targeted nonprofit partners. Our partnerships are customized, and launched through numerous nonprofits, with a clear set of quantifiable outcomes. This allows us to craft corporate partnerships with reach, measurable deliverables, and clear campaign goals. If you’d like to know more about Shared Value Media you can watch our video here.