Crowd Funding – A Toolkit Part I

IndiegogoDay0Below is the first of a series of posts on crowd funding.  I am currently running a crowd funding campaign with a friend using the principles outlined in these posts.  You can follow its success (or failure!) here.

Over the next few posts, I  am going to walk through all the basics of running a successful crowd funding campaign as well as provide you with useful tools.  A while back, I wrote on post on the basics of when you should crowd fund.  You might want to read it and decide if crowd funding is the right thing for your nonprofit.  If it you think it might be, please read on and learn about crowd funding!

OK, so you’ve decided to go ahead with your crowd funding campaign.  You’ve picked a good project and a realistic goal.  So what’s next?  Well, before you launch your campaign you need to do some preparation.  There are two main areas that we need to prepare:  our materials which consist of videos, pictures, updates, etc.  and preparing our volunteers and our social media.  This post will concentrate on the latter.

The first rule of crowd funding:  If you build it, they will NOT come.  This means if you simply slap up a campaign on IndieGoGo or some other platform, nobody will donate to you.  Why?  because they have no idea that your campaign exists.  We have to drive people to the campaign.  How do we do this?  Well, through people and their social media.  So where do we start?

Take an inventory of your friends, family, colleagues, etc. – We need to determine who within your own network has the biggest social media networks and would be willing to help with the campaign.  Luckily social media makes this research pretty easy.  Start quantifying who has the most connections/followers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.  If you have a lot of time on your hands or free and/or cheap labor you can see who has the most secondary connections, meaning whose connections have the most connections.  Stick them all into a spread sheet and rank them.  We’ve included this tool for your use.  Then divide them into the following categories:

  1. People who you might want to be part of the campaign itself – these are people you trust, who have a lot social reach, and would be willing to serve on the main team.  These are people who would be committed to help you during the life of the campaign and people whom you might want to make an administrator to the campaign.
  2. People who are willing to push your campaign heavily during the life of the campaign – These are people who support your cause and who will be willing to post, tweet, etc. your campaign at regular intervals
  3. People who are willing to support the campaign – This is everyone else who is willing to post, tweet, etc. your campaign.

For now, just keep this information for yourself.  Later we’ll talk about how to use all those connections before and during your campaign but for now we just want to have a list of people we’ll eventually want to approach.

Take an inventory of relevant of blogs on other media – Who cares about your nonprofit’s cause?  Do some research via google to see who might be willing to post an article about your campaign and cause.  You can use compete.com to get a rough sense of the traffic each of these sites gets monthly.  Look at the blog and blogger’s Facebook pages to see how many friends they have, check out their twitter accounts and see how many followers they have, etc.  Again, put all the information into a spreadsheet so you see which blogs and other media you might later approach.  We’ve included this tool for your use.

Cross reference your two lists – Do any of your connections have connections to the blogs and other media you have identified?  These will be your best bets.  Rank your media for future use.

OK, so now you have a pretty good list people and blogs that you will eventually contact.  But don’t contact them yet!  We still have a little work to do.

You’re now ready for the next step in your crowd funding preparation, getting your materials ready.  Here is the basic inventory of the materials that you’ll want to have created in advance:

  1. Video
  2. Pictures
  3. Perks
  4. Email

While the exact nature of the materials listed above will differ from campaign to campaign, your primary materials should follow one basic principle: you want to talk about future impact.  Far too often as nonprofits we want to talk about our track record and/or our methodology.  For instance, let’s say you want to get funding for a new arts festival your arts organization.  The temptation is talk about how you want to bring people together through the arts which you have successfully done for the past  few years by having a concert, a play, and providing free entrance to school age children.  A far more powerful way of talking about your work is to discuss your future impact, which to say, which artitsts and plays are you hoping to bring to the festival with the help of crowd funding supporters?  How many children do you hope to expose to your festival and what impact will it have on them, their education, their schools, their community?  The basic message is “we are trying to achieve these wonderful, societal results but we can only succeed with your help”.  The past has already been funded; the future awaits.

Video and Photography: I am no video and photography expert.  Suffice it to say in crowd funding, a short video or series of pictures can be worth far more than a written explanation of your campaign.  Many, many articles have been written on this subject so I would suggest a quick google search.  Keep in mind that thanks to Youtube our tolerance for less than professional quality video has greatly increased and that some video is better than none.  So, even if it means sitting in front of your smart phone or your computer’s webcam, make sure you create something!

Perks:  If you check out your average Kickstarter campaign or some of the for profit projects on Indiegogo, you’ll notice that they offer material perks for donations, often a first chance to receive the new product that the campaign is trying to launch.  Nonprofit crowd funding is very different.  While it is certainly fine to recognize your contributors by providing them with some sort of material benefit, they are funding your campaign not because they want something material in return but because they want to make a difference!  So, your perks should be reflective of that and talk about impact.  $50 lets us send one children to our arts festival for free.  $500 allows us to give a free music lesson to an entire elementary school class.  You get the idea.  If you want to throw in a free tee shirt or something, that’s fine too.

Despite the lack of a material return, your perks are one of the most important parts of your campaign and they need to be well though out.  Perks tell me the difference I am making as a donor.  They tell me why is should give $500 and not just $50.  They need to be compelling.  If the difference I make by giving $500 sounds more or less like the difference I am going to make at $50, then I’ll likely give $50.

Email – Don’t forget about email.  It’s still a far more effective way of reach people than social media, particularly for those that you already have a relationship to.  Email will be a cornerstone of your campaign.  You’ll need it to reach out to friends, family, colleagues, bloggers, to get them all on board with your campaign.  You’ll need to to update them all and you’ll need it again when you close your campaign.  We’ll talk more about the specifics of these emails in later posts but like all other communications, create as many of them in advance as possible and remind people that whatever you are asking them to do will result in social good.

OK, so we’ve done our research, we know who our best volunteers might be, which blogs we’d like to be on; we’ve shot our video, designed our perks, taken our photos, etc. We’re getting pretty close to being able to launch.  But we still need to do a few things…

The next thing I need you to understand is how these crowd funding sites generally work.  While I mentioned before that if you build it they will not come and that we’ll have to drive our own traffic, this not 100% true.  If you build it they may come, but only if you launch with a splash.  Most crowd funding sites want to have the most dynamic campaigns on their home page, dynamic being defined as having the most social media, the most frequent updates, the most money raised, and the greatest percentage of their goal raised.  So, we don’t want the first day of our campaign to be the first day people hear about the campaign.  We want to have people ready to give, tweet, post, etc. on the day of launch.  And to get that critical mass we need to do some work first.

Trending

Ask your connections for connections to the relevant blogs and media you identified – Remember when we cross referenced our connections to our best blog and media bets?  Well, its time to reach out to those connections to ask them to make an introduction.  This step should be taken fairly far out from launch so you have time to get a response and then follow up with the bloggers and media.  You can use this email template to reach out.  You may wish to share some materials with them so that they are motivated and know that they are helping a project that is professional and well thought-out.  Let them know why your project is important and ask for their help.

Write to blogs and media – Now its time to reach out to the blogs and media.  Start with the ones where you have been introduced and work your way out from there.  Be ready to supply them with information about your project and link to the page (if you’ve already launched).  Let them know when your launch is and ask them to post at launch or within the first day or two.  Here is a quick email you can use to introduce yourself.

Get your volunteers organized for a coordinated launch – Remember when we inventoried our best volunteers?  Well, now is the time to approach them.  Here is a quick email or letter you can use as a template to send them.  Let them know why your project is important, when your launch is, and what you’d like them to do on that day.  Your launch day shouldn’t be too far away so that your volunteers remain excited and ready.  You may also wish to ask the people with the biggest connections to reach out to their best connections and make a special appeal.

Make a personal appeal to those closest to you – It really helps to have some donations on the first day.  Make a call or send a personal appeal to the people that are closest to you and ask them to be ready to make a donation on the first day of the campaign.  This will give you a little momentum and will lend credibility when others discover your project.  If people see $0 raised they will wonder if your project is legitimate and they will be less likely to give.  On the other hand, if they see a project having a strong first few days, they will be more likely to make a donation.

Create an editorial/publishing calendar – One way that crowd funding campaigns don’t succeed is that the organizers fail to make regular updates on the project.  One way that we can avoid this is to create a publishing calendar of our updates in advance.  This includes any video, emails, and pictures you want to use (as described in the last post) but it should also include any social media that you want to use.  Using something like Hootsuite can help you automate this work.  Here’s a link to an editorial calendar.  It was designed for a year-long social media cycle but you can adapt it or create your own.

Think about using Thunderclap – One cool site that you can use in advance of your launch is Thunderclap.  Thunderclap is a crowd funding platform but instead of collecting money for a project it collects social media posts.  People pledge a tweet or a post for your project and if your project reaches its goal in social media reach (people who will potentially see the post) then at a specified time everyone who pledged will post, tweet, etc. simultaneously and automatically.  Obviously this can be a powerful tool that can be used at launch and it’s an easy thing for people to do because they are pledging social media not money.  But, the really great thing about this is that those same people now have a stake in your campaign and are more likely to give, provide additional social media resources, etc.

ThunderclapDay6

OK!  Now we are really getting somewhere.  You have your social media, traditional media, and early supports all lined up.  You’re now ready to make a big splash at launch, the topic of our next post.

 

The Power of Saying “No”

no-2People underestimate the power of saying “no”.  Saying no sounds scary, especially when you are turning down a request from your boss, a volunteer, or a donor. But here’s the thing: we say no all the time by our actions. We work as hard as we can for as long as we can and then stop when we must. Incomplete to-do items roll off our desk and crash to the floor. By saying no, we are strategically choosing what falls. We’re making an informed decision that we can justify.

When a request lands on your desk, don’t commit right away, advises the Harvard Business Review. Acknowledge the request. Ask clarifying questions. Seek time to give the problem some thought. Where does this fit within your priorities? How much time would it take to do it? How might your office (not you necessarily) accomplish this task? Then respond to the requestor with your solution.

Another strategy I like is “Yes, No, Yes.” “Yes, that sounds like an important (interesting) idea (project) (event). Unfortunately, I am unable to take it on at this time. But, yes, I will give this some thought and get back to you.”
Greg McKeown, Author of “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” recommends three steps.

Step 1: Affirm the relationship. e.g., “It really is good to hear from you.”

Step 2: Thank the person sincerely for the opportunity. e.g., “Thank you ever so much for thinking of me! It sounds like such a brilliant project. I am complimented that you thought of me.”

Step 3: Decline firmly and politely. e.g., “For several reasons I need to pass on this at the moment.”

As leader/managers, we also have to empower our team members and give them the power of saying “No.” Katie Beauchamp, co-founder of Birchbox says, “The most important thing I can do is show I really understand the priorities of the business and help people not do things.

By saying no to some things, you create the space and the energy to say yes to other tasks. “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage to say—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically—no to other things,” said the late Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “And the way to do that is to have a bigger yes burning inside.”

Top 20 Clues that Your Workplace May Have Work/Life Balance Issues

We break here for a moment of levity from a friend of the firm who composed this list of all-too-familiar work/life balance issues faced, particularly, by remote and out-based workers.  Hope you find comfort in the company…

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Work life balanceYour workplace may have work/life balance issues …

20. When you feel like you should turn on your “Out Of Office” if you aren’t going to work on a Saturday.

19. When a vendor says he shouldn’t schedule a meeting for noon Eastern because a lot of his staff go to lunch and you laugh loudly and then you realize he’s serious.

18. When you discover it’s quicker to tally the hours you work each day by simply subtracting your sleep hours from 24.

17. When you tally the hours spent “clearing a few projects” the weekend before your vacation week, hours spent “just responding to essential emails” during your vacation week, and “just putting my game plan together for next week” during the weekend after your vacation week, subtract them from 40 and get a negative number.  And then feel like you are cheating for turning in zero vacation hours to HR for your vacation week because seriously, 40 hours is not a work week.

16. When you fantasize about taking vacation time to get some project work done.

15. When you look forward to holidays because it means you can get some work done without all those co-worker distractions.

14. When your son can’t seem to remember whether Sunday is a regular work day for you or not.

13. When you apologize to one of your staff  for not being able to talk at that moment because you are supposed to be in another meeting. And it is Sunday.

12. When you eschew the two-ingredient baby green salad for lunch in favor of your usual handful of tortilla chips and spoonful of peanut butter because rinsing the salad bowl afterwards would make you late for your next meeting.

11. When a co-worker asks you if you can attend a meeting at 9:00 and you have to ask AM or PM.

10. When you schedule your mom in for a 30 minute slot two weeks from now so you can chat.

9. When you prepare an agenda for that call.

8. When you’ve heard yourself say this more than five times: “I have to hop off this call now because I just got to my therapist’s office.”

7. When one of your staff emails you to let you know he won’t be working tonight because he is going to the grocery store.

6. When you see a plastic bin at IKEA and note to yourself that it would make an excellent bus tub for your office.

5. When you regularly fantasize during conference calls about vacuuming the house.

4. When “make dentist appointment” has been on your to-do list for more than two years.

3. When your new extended-life laptop battery arrives and you get excited because you it means you can work ALL THE TIME EVERYWHERE FOREVER NO MATTER WHAT.

2. When you stop drinking water during the day because of all the wasted bathroom time.

1. When you divide your work day into two sections: “Before Alcohol” and “During Alcohol.”

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You can get a grip on this.  Check out this post from Yolanda on first steps to take and go to our website for some of our Most Requested Tools in time management.

Five Tips to Build Relationships with Corporate Donors

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Ebony R. Lincoln, a 15-year corporate communications and philanthropy veteran who has worked on the teams deciding on and directing corporate philanthropy with major corporations, including State Farm, Ameren and Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals. Ebony had bclc_bizgivesback_skr2some tips on building strong relationships with your corporate donors and we added some of our own.

Remember that corporate giving is driven by relationships… the same as any giving relationship.  Too often, we hear the misperception that corporate giving is simply a well in which the not-for profit world needs to dip a bucket.  (For more on a creating a balanced portfolio, check out this post by my colleague, Laura.)

1)  Make it make sense!

Get to know the company by reading its website, annual report and press releases.  Ask yourself; “Does my organization align with the company’s values, mission and giving objectives?” You must know the answer to this question before seeking to establish a partnership. Corporate donors are looking to connect with organizations that can relate to their services or products. For example, it makes sense for a science-based company to partner with an organization delivering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs that work to support teachers and students. Once you know the company and understand their philanthropy objectives, guidelines and criteria present initiatives or programs (new or existing) that connect with the company. If it doesn’t fit or make sense, don’t force it.

Then go beyond to ask:  what problems or challenges does this company have that we could help solve?  A company that requires a strong, entry-level workforce who is drug and alcohol-free may seek out investment in an organization that provides prevention or treatment programs.  A corporation facing increasing health care costs, or absenteeism due to health problems in their workforce gets returned value when supporting an organization tackling research and treatment, or focusing on building health and wellness in the community.

2) Develop an authentic relationship resulting in a true partnership.

Checkbook philanthropy generally only works for the short-term. While this approach will support your bottom line, it creates a situation that allows the company to walk away whenever times get hard.  Go beyond the funding application and the company’s financial support:  giving motivation is part of the equation but not the whole thing. Go deep to uncover the values of the company and help to fulfill them.  Anchoring your relationship in their values makes your organization a partner at their corporate table.

If a company is passionate about being green or service-learning, determine if your organization can align to those topics and then make it your mission to infuse that into your partnership with them, and report back to them through your stewardship.  When you seek to connect with the company on a deeper level, you are telling the company that it is important enough for you to make an investment that supports the relationship and understand what values matter most to them.

3)  Provide meaningful opportunities that allow all levels of the company to be actively engaged and long term fixtures with in your organization.

Yes, employee engagement may feel like the “hot, new topic”, but it, too, has long been fundamental to strong corporate relationships.  Not only do opportunities for employee engagement raise morale, it enables you and your corporate donors to leverage all the assets they have available.  Meaningful opportunities can range from having someone at the company serve (not just “sit”) on your board, or speak at a career day or awareness event at your organization.  Short on marketing expertise or resources?  Tap into the corporate marketing department.  Need human resources expertise for an on-going project or short-term advice?  Get to know a corporate partner’s professionals.  Need some laptops and networking expertise to ease registration and check out at your gala?  Ask for help from the IT department of a corporate sponsor.  Look for ways to get as many employees as possible from every level of the company (not just executives) more involved and invested in the work of your organization. Your goal is to create true champions of your organization who live within the company. These champions can play a key role when it’s time for the company to make a decision about continuing funding to your organization.

4)  Build for mutual success and be accountable.

Non-profits can ensure success by developing multi-year initiatives that are mutually beneficial in partnership with the company. Approach your relationship from a long-term perspective and know what your non-negotiables are.  Make the partnership easy for the company by doing the “heavy lifting” for the company, whenever possible. For example, if the company is involved in your organization’s mentoring program, take the responsibility for managing the match process and report on the success and impact in a way that can easily be communicated throughout the company.   Most importantly, be accountable to your corporate partners in when things go well and when things go awry.  By being willing to have an open, frank and candid relationship with the company – talking about how a program has succeeded, how things have gone differently than anticipated, and what the organization is doing to “fail forward” – you build TRUST.  Every company is intimately familiar with “productive failures” and may prove to be a valued partner in helping solve your challenges.  And, of course, provide timely reports on progress as you promise…  under-promise and over-deliver.

5)  Drive exposure and recognition.

Companies don’t want to be seen as self-serving but they do want a return on investment. PR from non-profits gets picked up quicker than PR from corporations.  Look for ways to recognize and acknowledge corporate contributions, initiatives and partnership success regularly. For example, develop a PR plan when a new, significant program is created with a corporate partner or when a company participates in your organization’s major programs or awareness events.  (Not sure how to do this well?  Ask for their help and expertise in building the right PR campaign that meets everyone’s needs!)  Your goal is to demonstrate and promote your partner’s outstanding corporate citizenship, whenever possible.

Back To School: It’s Not Just For Kids

back to schoolIt’s that time of year again: “Back to School. “ The dog days of summer are over and soon our stores will be filled with Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations. But wait.. the concept of “Back to School” is not just for kids or for those who work at schools, colleges or universities. “Back to School” can be used as a metaphor as a new beginning for your fundraising efforts.

School supplies

Let’s face it, school supply shopping is not fun but getting new supplies can put a smile on your face. So, what are the supplies you need to arm yourself for a successful “school year” ? Need a new pen to write those handwritten donor letters or perhaps your favorite carryon bag needs an upgrade? How about updating the visuals that surround your desk or better yet incorporating some Zen or feng shui into your office?  How about updating the mission pictures you have in your office or even changing your telephone greeting  to share something new about your organization?

What other supplies do you need? Are there new board members who can supply you with a good list of individuals they are willing to engage with you? Or mission staff that can supply you with anecdotal and real stories of impact to share with your donors? How about your CEO supplying you with more of their time to engage in donor relationship building? Make your list of supplies “to purchase”.

Wellness check-ups

Ok, maybe you are not due for a shot but when was the last time you got a check-up or had a maintenance day? Karen Osborne and I were talking recently about how to fit things into our packed schedules like doctor appointments, alterations, or even getting your hair cut.  Karen shared that she schedules “maintenance days” to take care of these necessary tasks that seem to pile up. Perhaps Karen will share this knowledge in an upcoming blog post (hint hint)

So what type of shot do you need? Maybe you need a shot of fun? Put in for some time off before the holidays to help you maintain and recharge. Maybe you need a shot of reality from your donors? Now is the time to ask those questions that help you better understand your donor’s perceptions of your organization and their philanthropic values, attitudes and desired impact on your cause.

Does your overall fundraising program need a check up? What can you do differently to get the results you want?

In Case of Emergency

I just completed emergency cards for both of my kids providing instructions to their schools on what to do in case of an emergency. So how about an emergency plan for your donor work? Emergencies do happen and sometimes right before some big event or on your way to a substantial donor ask. My former colleague always had a folder on her desk for “in case I get hit by a bus.”  She provided essential details for projects she was working on and even basics like her work-based passwords.  Having an emergency plan and a succession plan saves time and energy.

Who do you call in case of an emergency? We all need a support system to get us through those tough times personally and professionally. I am grateful for the wonderful colleagues who have become friends especially during those trying times.

 Training and Education

Fall conferences are around the corner. Yippee! Yes, I really enjoy my fair share of trainings both as a facilitator and attendee. There’s so much out there and more opportunities than ever to stay on top of your professional development. Check out our website: http://www.theosbornegroup.com/corp/workshops-seminars.asp for our fall schedule and stay tuned for our upcoming complimentary webinars and podcasts. What other types of training and education is out there? Perhaps now you can take that yoga or cooking class you always wanted or maybe it’s time to share your expertise with others by teaching as class of your own or facilitating a training session for your fellow colleagues.

“Back to School” doesn’t have to mean the end of summer fun and it’s not just for kids. It’s a time to refocus and try something new. Who knows? Maybe because you tried some new strategies you’ll hit that FY14 goal ahead of time!

Fear and Fundraising

imagesFear and fundraising:  two words that, unfortunately, often go hand-in-hand.  Our volunteers and board members are afraid of approaching their friends and colleagues.  Our executive directors are afraid of their boards.  We are all afraid of not hitting our goals and causing program cuts, layoffs, etc.  But there is one fear that seems to bring down more fundraising programs and otherwise good gift officers more than any other.  And that is the fear that chief development officers have of their executive directors and their boards.

I recently had a chief development officer come to me and tell me that they were really worried the fundraising event the organization was planning would be a complete flop, take up incredible amounts of staff time and resources, and lead to very little money raised.

I asked my client, “Have you told your executive director and board this?  Have you forcefully stated that you think this fundraising event will be a disaster?”

“Well, I’ve metnioned my concerns”, my client said, “but the board really wants this event.”

When the event fails to meet expectations, fails to raise money, and other fundraising is negatively affected, is the board going to remember that the event was their idea?  Will they remember the chief development officer’s feeble protests?  Or will they take a hard look at the person responsible for fundraising: the chief development officer?

I think we all know the answer to this question and many of this have been in this position.  The business of fundraising is a highly quantifiable one.  You’re good if you raise money, you’re not if you don’t.  Period.  Yes, unfortunately it is just this simple.  Your board isn’t a good fundraising board?  Welcome to not-for-profits.  Your executive director came from the mission side and doesn’t really understand fundraising?  So what else is new?  Your department is under-resourced?  Show me one that isn’t.  As fundraisers its our job to succeed despite these challenges.

How?  We are the experts and we need to act like the experts.  If you think that the event the board wants to do so badly will be a disaster, you need to forcefully say so, and back it with metrics and historical data, until they tell you to be quiet.  If you need more fundraisers on your board, then you need to push steadily for a board overhaul.  Are you worried you’ll get fired or in trouble for being to pushy?  What do you think will happen if you don’t hit goal?

Fundraising is a business of uncertainty and it’s a business of persuasion.  We can’t always get our way but we can always try and push for what is best for the organization.  Pushing doesn’t mean being obnoxious.  It means being persuasive, providing best practices and data, and it means being respectful.  But it also means not being afraid of exercising your expertise.  After all, that is why they hired you.

Often its a good idea to set expectations upfront.  In the last job I was at before I did full time consulting I sat down with the executive director and the board chair before I started the job and I said. “I’m aggressive.  I’m going to really push for an increase in board giving and some term limits.  I want to completely overhaul how we handle our communications.  Is that OK with you and do I have your support?  If not, you shouldn’t hire me.”

They told me that was exactly what they wanted and they were true to their word.  That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have conflict at times or rough patches.  But we raised a lot of money and generally got on very well because of that fact.

So, don’t be afraid to be the expert and don’t be afraid of your boss or your board.  In the end, pushing for what is needed in spite of having some uncomfortable moments is the only way to success.

Check out our podcast with Beth Herman for more coaching tips

Making The 3.5% Increase Good News: Responding to Giving USA

winston churchill

Giving is up 3.5%.  Does that give you reason to feel promise?  Or is it cause for continued anxiety?  Either way you look at it, the 2013 Giving USA report reminds us of the fact that philanthropy continues to be an American value and one whose impact is felt globally.

So, as you find time to read through this report or focus on the highlights, here are three things you can do before the end of summer to make this report even more applicable in your work.

  1. Make the data relevant to philanthropy at your organization
  • Understand the percentage of giving from individuals, corporations, foundations, and bequests to your organization:  what does your portfolio look like?  (For our podcast on building a balanced portfolio, click here and find episode 23.)
  • Think about how your percentages compare to national trends:  If giving from individuals is low, you have a case to increase time and energy in building your individual giving program especially since individuals account for more than 83% of giving nationally (this number raises to more than 86% when you account for family foundations).

2.  Create your own Giving USA report focused on your organization

  • Leverage your existing annual report with even more stories – and photos! – of impact.
  • Take the time now to create brief impact statements to share with your donors now. Share stories of recent impact rather than only telling the story of things you accomplished more than a year ago.
  • Find five well-connected champions within your donor base to share your story and their involvement through their social media channels.  Increase this number as you refine this approach.

3. Share highlights from the report with your top donors, prospects and volunteers

  • Have conversations about philanthropy with your current and potential donors.  How does your organization compare to others within your sector?  Sharing that context can generate pride in your strength, deepen understanding of the challenges you face and create motivation to be a part of the solution in your organization.
  • Use this as an opportunity to celebrate philanthropy, not just at your organization but to other causes as well!
  • And use this conversation as a springboard to other specific questions about donor philanthropy.  Where is our organization on your list of philanthropic priorities? How can we move up your list? What type of impact would you like to have with your philanthropy to our organization? Do you feel you are having this type of impact now? Why or why not?

Giving USA is a great resource we have to better understand the pulse of philanthropy on an annual basis. It provides great insight and detail on the type of philanthropy happening around the country and it’s up to us to have that same level of insight into giving at our own organizations. It’s a worthwhile quest and one that deepens our relationships with our donors and the investment they have in impacting our mission. Stay tuned for more perspectives on Giving USA from The Osborne Group.

Hello. Now What?: Smart Staff Orientation

You thought through the skills, experiences and competencies you need in your next hire. You wrote a great job description and crafted probing questions and scenarios that will help you identify the strongest candidate possible. Your ad is spot-on or you hired an outstanding firm to bring you the best pool of folks. Now you’ve chosen, made an offer and the your new staff person starts in 30 days.

For too many of us, that final decision marks the end of our hiring strategy. We either send the candidate to Human Resources to partake in the standard orientation or we plan a one day initiation – the office tour, donor files, and expectations. Sometimes, we sign the person up for a conference and use that as their orientation.

Then we wonder why things aren’t going as well as we hoped.  There is a better way to create a staff orientation focused on outcomes:

1. No candidate is perfect. We need to have a plan for shoring up whatever is missing. Start by making a list (or take the list you already created for the interview process) of all of the competencies, skills and experiences you sought. Indicate how many the new hire possesses, how many are there but not as strong as you’d like, and how many are missing. Try these guidelines for your staff orientation program. For example:

Slide1You hired this person for their strong competencies and needed experiences but there are gaps. Your plan must address the gaps.

2. Think about staff orientation as a year-long process. Twelve months from now, the new hire should know, have completed, and contributed what? Concretely identify these things. You might arrange them like this:

  • Knowledge about the institution or organization
  • Knowledge about the office – how you do things, how to use the system, knows their colleagues and internal customers and partners
  • Knowledge about the donor pool, met their top 50 and understands their philanthropic profile, relationship with the organization, motivations and so forth
  • Increased skills in (those things you wanted them to learn)
  • Increased experiences in (those experiences they didn’t have)
  • Plan for their work in the second year
  • Plans for their top 100 donors (or plans for building a qualified pool or some other identified need)

Some use a six-month approach.  The suggestions here from the Harvard Business Review are worth incorporating.

3. Now you can design the orientation program. You have your end-points laid out. How will you help your new hire get there? What does she need to do to ensure success? Who else needs to be involved?  We recommend thinking about orientation in stages.

Slide2

By month three, you know whether he is going to work out or not…  From this point, have a plan or revise your plan for moving forward, or decide that it is time to part ways and search for a new employee.  If you move forward, at month six:  conduct a formal check-in and make adjustments based on results.  Seek input on your management as well as delivering feedback!  Then at the year anniversary, ask for a self-evaluation and provide a written one.

To help you build a strong relationship with new employees, click here for a list of “Getting to Know Your New Hire Strategic Questions”.

Three Steps and Three Tools to Jumpstart Your SEO

Guest Blogger:  Ashley Dortch, Co-Founder, Meridian Interactive

Last week, I had the opportunity to podcast with Neesha Rahim.  We had a great discussion on how nonprofits might use the SEO process to build strategic major donor relationships.  I hope you got to listen!  Neesha said many of you have put incredible effort into building a website.  Some of you have perhaps even installed your Google Analytics and figured out the basic way to use it.  But search-engine-optimizationincreasingly, we hear that some of you are finding that — gulp! —  only a few people were actually visiting those great sites.  Whether you see yourself in those words or not, if you’ve launched a website and have started to look at analytics on how visitors interact with that site, this post is for you.  It’s time to start thinking about increasing traffic and upping your game. There are options out there that can be expensive, like purchasing advertising. However, another option that all website owners should take advantage of is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization, by definition, is the process of increasing traffic to your website organically, or within the free (non-paid) results on the search engines. Understanding the process of SEO and educating your organization on what search engines consider when ranking websites will provide the measurable benefits of increased traffic at minimal cost AND this process presents you with an opportunity to build out your major donor relationships.  (More on how exactly how to do that in this podcast…)

Here I want to provide you with three detailed, simple steps utilizing three free tools that I referred to in that podcast on taking your SEO game-plan to the next level:

1) Decipher the Competition and See Where They Stand using “PR Checker”
Understanding your competition and where other organizations in your niche rank is important to your SEO strategy.  Think of search terms that donors, philanthropists, and other potentially interested parties may be looking for – for a youth development organization, say: “Giving to Children’s Education”. Type “Giving to Children’s Education” into Google and make a list of who appears in the search results. These are the players you want to be mindful of, analyze, and eventually appear next to (if you already don’t).  Using the PR Checker, you can see what Google thinks of your competitors as well. This gives a nice gauge as to where they stand and what you should strive for. Google ranks sites on a 0 to 10 basis.
2) Competitive Keyword Research using the “SEO Book Page Analyzer”
Once you decipher the top competitors and high-rankers in your industry, it’s time to see what keywords they are using. Find the exact page that is showing up in the results (for example, www.yourcompetition.com/the-exact-page, as opposed to www.yourcompetition.com).  Next, plug the page into the SEO Book Page Analyzer. This will show you the top keyword strings that appear on that page. Pay more attention to the two and three keyword strings, as opposed to the single-word keywords, as longer strings may produce more exact results. Once you have this list of keywords, start blogging, producing articles, and creating content using these keywords. Putting content out there on the web that is relevant to what your competitors are writing about is a great way to be found amongst them in search results.
3) Link Building using BackLinkWatch
Relevant inbound links from high ranking sites are key for improving your search rank for SEO. Think of it as the credit game.  A teenager starts out with no credit, and her parent decides to help her build credit by adding them to their credit card (with a $250 limit, of course!). Google and the other search engines rank your site in the same way. The goal is to know your page rank, and get sites with higher page ranks to link to you, therefore boosting your ranking.
So how do we go about this? Using your list of competitors (those organizations you admire who are doing work like yours), drop their websites into the BacklinkWatch tool. Now, see who is linking to them, and find creative ways to get those other sites to link to you too! Remember to be mindful of the rank for these sites (use the PR Checker tool above).  If the site who is linking to your competitor has a #1 rank, and you have a #3, it may not be worth your effort.
But why will they link to you? Because you are offering them something of value… Ask to contribute to their articles, see if they will allow you to introduce yourself to their audience, if they have a directory, see what it takes to get listed… it’s that simple. This not only increases your website rank, but it gets you in front of interested eyes and relevant readers. Syndication across the web is key… Think of the web as your “keyword highway” and you want to be on every billboard along the way.
If you would like to reach our guest blogger, Ashley, you can do so at Meridian Interactive (http://www.meridianinteractive.com) Email: info@meridianinteractive.com Phone: (347)268-4089