Archive for April, 2013

April 26, 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different

This blog post is a departure from my normal articles. It’s not about nonprofit management. It’s not about fundraising.

Despite the departure from my normally chosen subjects and my homage to Monty Python in the headline, this post is still about something quite serious that should concern you.

Weeping Angel by Photochiel via FlickrWith this piece, I’m continuing a tradition here at Michael Rosen Says… April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the US.

Every April, I devote one posting to how we all can and must act to prevent child sex abuse. Whether or not you have children, there are things you can and should do.

Did you know that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control?

Did you know that the vast majority of these child victims will be sexually abused by someone they know?

If you have children, here are three things you can do to help keep them safe:

1. Don’t rely on “stranger-danger.” Teaching children to avoid strangers or never to talk to a stranger will do little to keep them safe from sexual predators. Child sex abuse is a crime of opportunity. That’s why the vast majority of child sex abuse cases involve someone the child knows (i.e.: a priest, coach, teacher, babysitter, mom’s boyfriend, etc.).

While it is important to teach your children to be cautious with strangers, you should also closely monitor with whom your child has alone-time. You should minimize the number of times your child is alone with only one adult present. I recognize this will be difficult. For example, if you hire a babysitter, that person will have hours alone with your child. But, you can still protect your child by doing a thorough background check and by installing nanny cams in your home.

2. Respect your child’s personal space. Very often, a mom or dad will say something like this to their child: “Go give grandma a hug and kiss.” If the child refuses, the parent or the intended kiss recipient will become increasingly pleading and/or demanding. While perfectly innocent and seemingly harmless, this teaches children a dangerous lesson: Their body is not theirs to control.

Instead, respect your child’s personal boundaries. Let them know it’s okay for them to pick and choose with whom they will have physical contact. Don’t inadvertently send them the message that adults have power over them when it comes to contact. Make sure they understand they can say no to adults.

3. Read these prior posts. I’ve written two other posts about the prevention of child sex abuse: “10 Essential Tips to Protect Children from Real Monsters” and “National Child Abuse Prevention Month: What are You Doing to Help?

When you read my prior posts, you’ll find more powerful tips as well as the names of organizations you can contact for more information or assistance.

If you do not have children, or even if you do, here are some additional things you can do:

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April 19, 2013

16 Tips for Crafting a Powerful Postcard Campaign

As you might imagine, I regularly receive direct mail appeals from many charities. Most of them are truly “junk mail.” After a quick glance, I quickly deposit the junk appeals into the recycling bin where they will do much more good than their intended purpose.

JFGP Postcard (front, back)

JFGP Postcard (click for larger image)

Occasionally, I’ll receive a mailing that captures my attention, for the right reasons. Even more rarely, I’ll find something in my mailbox that is worthy of sharing with you. Earlier this month, I found just such a piece.

The postcard mailing from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia arrived shortly before the Passover and tied into the holiday. This post contains an image of the front and back of the postcard so you can see it for yourself. Federation did a great job with the piece. So, let me take a few moments to share some tips we all can learn from it:

1. Get rid of the envelope. One of the greatest challenges with direct mail is getting people to open the envelope. They won’t get your message unless they do. If you can get your message across in a way that does not require a full mailing package, you can overcome this challenge by simply doing away with the envelope altogether. Federation’s postcard mailing has done exactly that.

2. Employ a pattern interrupt. Another challenge with direct mail involves figuring out ways to engage the recipient so they spend more than two seconds with the piece before tossing it into the trash. When most folks go through their mail, they quickly look for the fun stuff and bills. People quickly weed-out what appears to be junk.

So, how did Federation disrupt the typical mail-sorting pattern? They did it with two very different photos on the front of an odd-sized postcard. While speedily going through my mail, I noticed an old-fashioned, sepia-tone photo of an older couple on the postcard. Beside it, there was a contemporary color picture of a cute, young child eating matzo. The postcard got me to ask, “Huh, what’s this about?”

In other words, Federation caught my attention by being unusual and by presenting contrasting photographs. They knocked me out of my normal mail-sorting pattern.

3. Make it easy to read. By printing black type on a white background, Federation provides strong contrast that makes reading easier. While reverse type was used — something I normally do not approve of — it was used sparingly and with a larger serif font ensuring easy readability.

4. Keep the message brief but impactful. In about 50 words, I learned that Mr. and Mrs. Schweig had passed away long ago. However, I also learned they had contributed to Federation. Most compellingly, I discovered that their generous support would feed 1,500 community members in need during Passover.

The generosity of the Schweigs impressed me. The depth of the community need surprised me. The organization really had my attention.

5. Engage the reader. I was already engaged with the postcard when the photos caught my attention and I read the pithy message on the front of the card. However, the card engaged me further with a simple question: “What will your legacy be?” By asking the reader a question, you can get them to stop and think.

6. Provide more details. On the address-side of the postcard, the reader is told that Mr. and Mrs. Schweig made their gift through a bequest. Providing additional details and telling people where they can get even more information will satisfy all readers and their individual levels of curiosity.

7. Demonstrate impact. Donors want to make a difference. Whether they give to the annual fund or make a planned gift commitment, people want to know that their support will have a positive impact. They want to know that their donations will be used efficiently to help the organization fulfill its mission.

This postcard shows how the support of past donors is being put to good use. The implied messages are: We wisely use the support from past donors to help the community. We can help you to have a positive, high-impact as well.

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April 16, 2013

9 Speaking Tips for Your Next Recognition Event & 2 Things Never to Do

When addressing a group of supporters who have gathered at a donor-recognition event, it is important to effectively manage both the message and how you deliver that message.

A colleague contacted me recently for some advice about his upcoming appreciation event:

I will be emceeing and addressing the members of our legacy society. The President and the Chair of our current capital campaign are both speaking as well, but it falls to me to open the gathering and set the tone, then close the gathering and send them on their way. Given an opportunity like this, what would you make sure you said? Do you have any words of wisdom?”

The answers to the above questions will vary somewhat based on the unique culture of the group. Determining the correct message and how to appropriately deliver it will require sensitivity to the organization’s traditions, regional culture, and national mores. With that in mind, here are nine ideas what he might consider doing followed by two things he should definitely never do:

1. Be lively. I have found that many legacy society events can be dull, even funereal. If that’s what your folks are expecting and want, then give it to them. However, if the situation allows, I encourage you to try to be a bit light and jovial. Megaphone Man by The Infatuated via FlickrSometimes, we can take ourselves a bit too seriously, particularly when it comes to planned giving. Giving should be a joyful, positive, uplifting experience, even for a very serious cause. Keep that in mind when addressing your supporters.

2. Show appreciation. Just because it’s a donor-recognition event, do not assume that your supporters will feel appreciated simply by being there. Make sure you tell donors that you appreciate not just their gifts but also their involvement and caring.

3. Tell stories. People also like a good story, especially if it’s amusing, has a twist, or is heart-warming. Think of what you want to say. Then, think if there’s a story you can tell that will make the same point. Stories engage people by allowing them to put themselves into the situation. Hearing a good story activates many of the same parts of the brain that would be activated if the listener were actually living the situation. For maximum impact, make sure to use real stories.

4. Tell donors how gifts have been used. It is important for donors to understand that the organization wisely uses donations to achieve its mission efficiently. Very often, we focus on how gifts will be used. That’s certainly important. In fact, that’s my next point. However, we must also show folks the impact of past support. That gives us an opportunity to provide evidence of our organization’s effectiveness.

So, if a realized bequest contribution allows a social service agency to provide 50 meals to the homeless each week, then share that story. Remember that bequest commitments are revocable. And, if treated well, your planned gift donors will be among your best prospects for another gift. Therefore, you’ll want to keep reassuring the people that made those commitments that they made the correct decision.

Sharing a story about a previous donor whose gift has been realized will do a number of important things:

  • Tells people that donors continue to be remembered and appreciated even long after they’re gone.
  • Reminds folks that others have made a planned gift. People like to know that they’re part of group.
  • Underscores that planned gifts have a real impact.
  • Implies that all donors will likely be similarly appreciated and have their gifts wisely used to achieve the organization’s mission.

5. Tell donors how gifts will be used. For planned gift commitments that might not be realized for years to come, it can be difficult to demonstrate how the realized donation will be used. However, while difficult, it is still something you have to do. It is important for you to let donors know that their gifts will work to wisely benefit those the organization serves. And, if appropriate, tell them how the broader community or society will benefit as well.

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April 5, 2013

If You Don’t Care About Them, Why Will They Care About You?

A reader of Michael Rosen Says… recently contacted me with her/his own unfortunate experience with a nonprofit organization. S/he provided me with a copy of an email exchange s/he had with a theater company. I’m going to share this person’s story with you because it contains a worthwhile lesson about the importance of reciprocity.

Photo by Shira Golding via FlickrBefore I get to the story, however, I want you to know that I am editing the emails for brevity and any identifying information. I’m protecting the name of the theater company, the name of the Managing Director of the theater company, and the reader who contacted me because neither party knew, at the time, their one-on-one communications would find their way into the press.

From time to time, I write about the blunders that some nonprofit organizations make. I’ve done this, not to shame them, but so others can learn from someone else’s mistakes. It is much less painful if we learn from someone else’s missteps rather than our own.

The story begins when my reader — let’s call her/him “Sam” — received an email from a theater company. Sam, who had purchased two season subscriptions, immediately opened the email. The message promoted an interesting lecture by a well-regarded nonprofit leader in the community. The lecture dealt with leadership and tied-in with the company’s current play.

The event appealed to Sam. Just before clicking through to the organization’s website to accept the invitation and purchase tickets, Sam noticed the date of the lecture: Monday, March 25. Unfortunately, this meant that Sam would not be able to attend because that date was the first night of Passover, an important Jewish holiday.

Annoyed that the theater company would schedule a special one-time program on Passover, Sam wrote to the theater company:

Disappointing scheduling of an otherwise appealing, academic lecture.

So, add this to your discussion: Does a good (nonprofit) leader ‘dis’ a large portion of the region’s top arts patrons through thoughtless event scheduling?

We’ll be celebrating first Seder.

We really would have enjoyed hearing the address on this topic. The speaker is a dynamo.

Sam”

The theater’s Managing Director responded the next business day. This was very good. The Managing Director did the smart thing by responding soon after receiving the complaint:

Dear Sam,

Thanks very much for writing. I’m very sorry for the scheduling inconvenience. We truly do our best, but we present special events all season long and it is not possible to avoid all holidays on the calendar. For example, this event takes place on the first night of Passover, we have a performance of XXXXXXX on Easter, etc.

If you’re interested in history, I hope you’ll consider joining us for the talk on Monday, April 1 with ZZZZZZZZ. He’s truly fantastic.

All best,

Fran”

The response was good in three ways:

1. A high-level person sent an immediate, personal response.

2. The message contained an apology.

3. The author suggested another program that the individual might enjoy.

Unfortunately, the goodwill these positive points might have earned was largely negated by the defensive and dismissive tone of the email. Sam responded:

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