Posts tagged ‘cultivation’

December 5, 2019

With #GivingTuesday Behind Us Here’s What You Need to be Thinking About

Ahhhhh! Once again, it’s safe for us to open our mailboxes and email inboxes. The same is true for charity donors. Giving Tuesday 2019 is behind us.

Now what?

Well, over Thanksgiving weekend, I sent out a cartoon via Twitter that got me thinking. It also caused a reader and friend to suggest I blog about it. So, here it is, the cartoon and my post about what the cartoon suggests for us in our post-Giving-Tuesday professional lives.

In the cartoon, the child at the Thanksgiving table asks, “Why aren’t we this thankful every day?” It’s a great question for us to ask both our personal and professional selves.

As a fundraising professional, you should adopt a thankfulness, or gratitude, mindset. You’ll be happier and healthier as will the people around you. Let’s be thankful every day. Allow me illustrate what I mean.

How do you feel when you receive a phone call from a donor while you’re busy writing your next direct-mail appeal or preparing your development report for an upcoming board meeting? Are you annoyed that the donor has interrupted you with a silly question that she could have answered for herself by visiting your organization’s website? Or, are you grateful for the donor’s support and happy to provide direct service to her in a personal conversation that you didn’t even have to initiate?

That’s just one example. But, I think you understand my point.

When you and your organization truly appreciate your supporters, you’ll look for ways to thank them, show them gratitude, and engage them in meaningful ways as part of your normal routine. This is essential for all of the folks who support your organization; it’s especially true for the new donors you acquired on Giving Tuesday. If you want to retain more donors, upgrade the support of more donors, and receive more major and planned gifts, you need to show contributors the appreciation they deserve.

Henri Frederic Amiel, the 19th century philosopher and poet, once said:

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”

As a thankful fundraising professional, you will:

  • Provide a thank-you message to every donor.
  • Send a thank-you letter immediately, within days of receiving a gift.
  • Show supporters you care about them, not just their money.
  • Ensure that your communications are meaningful for your supporters.

As a general rule, you’ll want to look for ways to thank each donor seven times. For example, here are seven ideas for how you can thank a supporter:

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November 21, 2019

Are You Making This Big Mistake When Mailing to Donors?

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the US, a conversation on Twitter caught my eye. I recently read a pair of tweets from two charity donors that made me want to scream. I must share what I read about how they were thanked for their support. I hope it keeps you from making the big mistake that the donors describe.

After nearly four decades as a fundraising professional, not much about the nonprofit sector surprises me. However, every so often, I still come across an item that stuns even me. The Twitter conversation between The Whiny Donor and Meghan Speer provides an illustration of this:

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After making a donation, Whiny received a thank-you letter from the charity she supported. The envelope was addressed to her and “or Current Resident.” Speer contributed to another charity. As a supporter, she was invited to attend a donor thank-you event. The invitation was addressed to Speer and “or Current Resident.”

Both donors were annoyed at how the mailings were addressed. Speer wrote sarcastically, “…makes me feel super appreciated.”

For her part, Whiny demanded, “Spend enough on postage, or we’ll let some other resident donate the next time around.”

I never would have guessed that this was a problem. Apparently it is.

Who can blame Whiny or Speer for being annoyed? When someone supports your organization, they feel good about helping to achieve its mission. As a fundraising professional, part of your job is to help donors continue to feel good about their decision to support. With a proper thank-you letter, relevant information, and meaningful opportunities for engagement, you can help preserve and even build that warm feeling. If you properly steward your donors, they’ll be more likely to renew their giving, upgrade their support and, possibly, make a planned gift. Conversely, if you fail when it comes to stewardship, you risk alienating your donors.

They gave you money. They already like you. Don’t give them a reason not to.

Addressing a thank-you letter or donor-appreciation event invitation to “or Current Resident” is a certain way to make donors feel less than special and less than valued by you. If Whiny and Speer are put off by such addressing, you can bet other donors are as well.

So, why do some nonprofit organizations do this?

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November 12, 2019

A Pro Baker Knows 3 Things that will Help You Raise More Money

Chef Stefan Zareba is an award-winning baker and successful businessman. His tasty, artistic creations have impressed visitors at leading resorts around the world. My wife and I recently met Zareba, and learned three keys to his success. Interestingly, those three things can also help you be a more effective fundraising professional.

My wife and I recently spent a few days relaxing at the New Jersey shore. Beautiful weather and the Monarch Butterfly migration made our visit special. At the suggestion of a family member, we visited Blue Dolfin Sweets, a European bakery in Marmora, NJ. When we entered, Zareba greeted us as if we were regulars despite it being our first visit.

When Zareba saw that we were a bit overwhelmed by our options, he began offering us free tastes. When I remarked about the intense flavors, Zareba shared his baking philosophy. He believes in using carefully sourced, natural or organic ingredients. His flour comes from Minnesota, his chocolate from Belgium, his fruits from farmers he knows, his butter from Europe. At the Blue Dolfin, you won’t find agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, or chemicals and artificial additives.

Zareba believes pure, wholesome ingredients produce products, when crafted with skill, that taste better. He’s right. Not only do his creations taste better, the flavors he produces are more intense and bright than you would ever experience from a bakery chain.

So, here is what I learned during my visit with Chef Stefan that can help you:

Intense Passion. Zareba spoke with my wife and me as if we were the first customers he had seen that day. As it was well into the afternoon, I know that definitely was not the case. Nevertheless, Zareba was energetic, friendly, and helpful. He patiently answered our questions, and told us about himself and his baking experience. That’s how we learned about his baking philosophy. Seeing someone so passionate about his work was remarkable. I don’t know quite how to make my point vividly. Let me try this. Instead of simply selling baked goods, Zareba shares his creations. Moreover, when he sees you enjoying a bite, he smiles with his entire being.

Do you have that kind of passion for your organization and its mission? Do you believe that your organization is the best at what it does? Are you proud to work for your organization? If you’ve answered “yes” to each of those questions, do you convey that feeling to those with whom you interact?

In many cases, prospects and donors will take their cues from you. If they sense that you have lukewarm feelings for your charity, they likely will as well. However, if they sense your passion, they may very well be more receptive to your appeal.

Years ago, I co-owned a pioneering phone fundraising company, The Development Center. Over the years, we employed some callers who did just about everything wrong despite trying their best. They got tongue-tied when talking with prospects. They had difficulty handling questions and objections. They were awkward. A casual observer would think we should have terminated those callers. However, we didn’t always do that because a distinguished few were extremely successful. What made them successful fundraisers, despite their shortcomings, was their passion for the organizations they represented. Their passion was infectious. When prospective donors heard how passionate these callers were, they became excited about the mission and became supporters.

Passion cuts both ways. If you do not passionately represent your organization, alarm bells will go off in the minds of those you contact. Conversely, if you exude passion for your organization’s mission, that enthusiasm will be infectious and excite others.

Superior Skills. Unfortunately, passion alone will seldom lead to success. For Zareba, years of training and working in some of the top kitchens around the world developed his skills. When looking at his display cases, you can see the result. He turns out a huge variety of confections. In addition, he renders each beautifully. His wedding cakes are works of art.

The framed newspaper and magazine articles mounted on the bakery wall attest to Zareba’s skills and the awards he has earned. He’s a world-class baker who, thankfully, has chosen to make his home in a small town in New Jersey.

As the number of nonprofit organizations grows, there is increasing competition for philanthropic support. It’s unlikely that your charity is unique. More likely, there are other nonprofits with similar missions. To attract, retain, and upgrade support for your organization, you need to have well-honed skills. Good enough is not good enough. You need to work continually to enhance your skills. You need to master the fundamentals while remaining receptive to the right fresh ideas. You need to continue your education by attending conferences, participating in webinars, reading books and blogs, and more.

Music experts have long regarded Pablo Casals as the world’s greatest cellist. When he was about 80 years old, Casals agreed to be the subject of Robert Snyder’s short documentary movie. The filmmaker asked why Casals continued to practice playing the cello four to five hours each day. Casals replied, “Because I think I am making progress.”

The fact that the world’s greatest cellist continued to hone his skills late in life is a great example for the rest of us. As professionals, we have a responsibility to always strive to enhance our own skills. The more effective you are, the more support you will be able to attract for your organization. That means, depending on your organization’s mission, more lives saved, more people better educated, more spirits uplifted.

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November 8, 2019

3 Election-Inspired Tips for More Powerful Fundraising

Nonprofit fundraising professionals can learn three powerful tips from the US presidential candidates that will help inspire greater support.

Now that the November 2019 elections in the US are behind us, the media and the public will focus their attention increasingly on the 2020 presidential race. As the campaign for The White House heats up, there are already things you can glean from this election season that will help you and your charity.

Fox News recently interviewed pollster Frank Luntz about how the candidates are communicating their messages. Regardless of how you feel about the network or the researcher, you can pick-up great communication insights from them.

Specifically, Luntz shared what he believes to be the three elements of powerful, persuasive communications:

1. Credible. It’s not enough for a message to be true. It must also be believable. When sharing stories about those your charity helps, you might choose to highlight a less dramatic, but more believable example, rather than one that is extreme but that might invite suspicion. Or, if you do share a story that stretches belief, you might want to cite a third-party source (i.e., a published news report). In a mailing or face-to-face visit, for example, you could even provide a newspaper clipping that supports the story you share. When citing statistics, providing the source can lend credibility.

In one of her presidential campaign ads, Sen. Elizabeth Warren highlights her unexpected victory over incumbent Sen. Scott Brown in 2012 to demonstrate her political skill and her ability to surprise the pundits. In one of his campaign ads, former Vice President Joe Biden cited a number of polls to support his claim that he is the best positioned Democrat to unseat President Donald Trump. In other words, both candidates sought to establish credibility by documenting their claims.

If recipients of your message don’t believe it, they’ll dismiss it. You’ll lose the opportunity to cultivate, engage, or generate support. While your message needs to standout and capture attention, it has to be believable.

2. Memorable. To be effective, messaging must be memorable. By definition, successful education or cultivation requires a lasting impact. If someone receives your direct-mail appeal and sets it aside to deal with later, they’ll only respond if they remember it and remember what moved them. If someone sees an advertisement for your cause, they won’t talk about it with friends unless they remember it.

In one of Trump’s campaign ads, the narrator says, “Mister Nice Guy won’t cut it. It takes a tough guy to change Washington.” Luntz asserts that the “Mister Nice Guy” line combined with the images of Trump looking tough result in a memorable ad. The rhetoric is unusual for a political ad while being in alignment with the candidate’s image. By contrast, the Biden ad that talks about his ability to beat Trump uses footage that, for the most part, doesn’t support the narration and, instead, features bland, standard political glad-handing images. By contrast with the Trump ad, the Biden commercial is less memorable.

The most effective messages are the ones that are memorable. Words and images must support one another to maximize effectiveness.

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October 4, 2019

The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience

Your nonprofit organization has a serious problem. While you are expending enormous energy to attract, retain, and upgrade donors, things aren’t working out as well as they could. As a sector, charities are doing a horrible job of hanging on to supporters.

Let’s be clear. The low retention rate among donors is not their fault. Instead, the fault rests with charities that do not ensure a donor experience that inspires long-term commitment.

Fortunately, there’s something you can do about this. You can enhance the experience of your donors and thereby increase your chance of retaining them and upgrading their support. A new book by Lynne Wester, The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience, will show you the way.  Lynne is the principal and founder of Donor Relations Guru  and the DRG Group. In addition to her books and workshops, she created the Donor Relations Guru website to be used as a unique industry tool filled with resources, samples and thought leadership on donor relations and fundraising.

I first encountered Lynne several years ago at an Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference. She was leading a mini-seminar in the exhibit hall hosted by AFP. As I was walking past, her talk stopped me in my tracks. She was entertaining while talking about a subject that seldom is properly addressed at fundraising conferences. And her thoughts about donor relations resonated with me. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Lynne’s latest book, which is graphically beautiful and accessible, breaks down the philosophy of donor engagement while providing concrete strategies, tangible examples, and a whole slew of images and samples from organizations across the nation who are doing great work. The book is interspersed with offset pages that really drive home the theories outlined and provide specific examples that nonprofit professionals constantly crave and request. You’ll find key metrics, team activities, survey questions, and so much more. If you want to improve your organization’s donor retention rate, get Lynne’s book and improve the donor experience.

I thank Lynne for her willingness to share some book highlights with us:

 

When I sat down to write The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience, I wanted it to be a continuation of our thought work in The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations. But honestly, I wanted it to be a book that was read beyond donor-relations circles and practitioners and instead shared across departments and read widely by the nonprofit community.

Why? Because we have a huge problem facing our sustainability in nonprofits and that is donor retention. With first-time donor retention rates hovering below 30 percent, and overall donor retention less than 50 percent, we are in danger of losing our donor bases. We see this in the fact that 95 percent of our gifts come from five percent of our donors and, in higher education, the alumni giving rate is falling each and every year. My belief is that most of these declines can be attributed to our behavior and our insistence on ignoring the donor experience.

The donor experience is everyone’s responsibility and it requires much more than a thank you letter and an endowment report. It is a mindset. The four pillars—knowledge, strategy, culture, and emotion—can be applied in a wide variety of areas.

Knowledge is essential because it lays the foundation for all of our actions with donors. Far too often, we make dangerous assumptions that affect the donor experience. Getting to know your donors is essential. Look beyond the basic points of information and dig into a donor’s behavior and also communication preferences. Gathering passive intelligence is inextricable from the practice of crafting the donor experience. Seeking active intelligence is essential. What information are you gathering through surveys, questions, and intelligence gathering? Intentional feedback can help you prove your case for additional human and financial resources, new programs or initiatives, and gives you new content and activity to test.

In addition, consider how you can use this information to enhance the donor experience for all donors, regardless of level. Curiosity and tenacity are encouraged in this space. Being intentional is a mindset, a new way of operating and data drives all that we do. It’s your responsibility to gather as much data as possible to help build the strategic case for your donors and their experience.

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September 17, 2019

3 Reasons Why Your Year-End Fundraising Will Fail

Most charities raise more money during the last quarter of the calendar year than any other quarter. However, your year-end fundraising effort will fail to reach its potential unless you avoid the following three mistakes:

1. Failure to Tell Supporters What Their Previous Donations Have Achieved

Donors have choices about where they can give their money. Not surprisingly, they want to know that their giving is having a positive impact. If it’s not, or if they don’t know whether it is, they’ll take their support elsewhere. Chances are that your charity’s mission is not entirely unique. In other words, donors can fulfill their philanthropic aspirations by giving to another organization.

A few years ago, the Charities Aid Foundation conducted a survey that found that 68 percent of respondents said that they feel it is important for them to have evidence about how a charity is having an impact. Crying Man by Tom Pumford via UnsplashUnfortunately, many donors still complain that the only time they hear from charities is when they want money. Make sure your charity doesn’t make that mistake.

Make sure supporters and potential supporters know how your nonprofit organization is putting donations to work. Let them know what supporters are achieving. Share impact stories in your organization’s print and electronic newsletters, annual reports, special events, website, and special gratitude mailings.

You should even highlight donor impact in your appeals. Consider this: I tested a straightforward appeal against an appeal that highlighted donor impact before asking for a gift. The impact appeal generated 68 percent more revenue! So, make sure people know that their contribution will make a difference by showing them the positive effect past donations have had and by telling them how their donation will be put to work.

 2. Failure to Ask for Planned Gifts

As the end of the year approaches, your organization is facing fierce competition for an individual’s checkbook. Over the next few months, people will be deluged with charitable-giving requests. Furthermore, people will be spending large sums on holiday gift giving, entertaining, and vacationing.

However, a donor’s checkbook is just one potential resource. Many donors can donate appreciated stock, contribute from a Donor-Advised Fund, and give from their IRA. Virtually anyone can include your charity in their Will or designate your charity as a beneficiary.

Make sure you don’t assume that supporters automatically know all of the various ways they can give. Instead, make sure they know by promoting such giving opportunities. Tell stories of other donors who have given in those ways, and not just the mega-donors. Ask prospective donors to consider such gifts. And make it easy for your donors to engage in planned giving. Provide them with clear instructions on your website and in appeals that highlight a given planned gift opportunity.

To read what the experts, including myself, say about planned giving, checkout Jeff Jowdy’s article in Nonprofit Pro magazine.

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August 1, 2019

How Fundraisers Can Avoid 5 Big Mistakes Made by Capital One

Don’t worry. This post really is not about data security. It’s about much more. And I’ve written it for you, a fundraising professional.

But first, here’s some background:

Capital One, the tenth largest banking institution in the USA, announced it has experienced a major data breach involving the personal information of credit applicants and customers. In its official statement, the bank disclosed, “Based on our analysis to date, this event affected approximately 100 million individuals in the United States and approximately 6 million in Canada….This information included personal information Capital One routinely collects at the time it receives credit card applications, including names, addresses, zip codes/postal codes, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and self-reported income.” In addition, about 140,000 Social Security numbers were compromised. One million of Capital One’s Canadian customers had their Social Insurance Numbers compromised.

The Capital One story presents the nonprofit sector with an opportunity to learn from someone else’s problem. Every charity should learn from the five mistakes made by the bank:

1. Inadequate Data Protection

While Capital One works with Amazon Web Services, AWS says it was not compromised. The hacker exploited Capital One’s own system. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has a former AWS employee, Paige A. Thompson, in custody. The investigation is likely continuing. What we know for certain at this point is that Capital One’s data protection systems were not up to the task.

As a fundraising professional, I don’t have any idea about what sophisticated data protection tools exist. I suspect you don’t either. However, you have an obligation to make sure that your organization seeks out the expertise to safeguard the organization’s data. Furthermore, you need to make sure your organization has a policy about who has access to data and under what circumstances. I know you won’t have the security systems of a bank, but you do have an obligation to have reasonably robust security protocols in place.

2. Lack of Timely Reporting

The personal data of Capital One credit applicants and customers was compromised from March 22-23, 2019. The company didn’t learn of the breach until July 19. The bank did not reveal this information to the public until July 29. We do not know if the FBI requested that the bank withhold news of the event pending an arrest. If so, the reporting delay is understandable. Nevertheless, the delay from the date of the incident to the date of disclosure was significant, even if it wasn’t the result of an actual mistake.

Fine wine improves with age. Problems do not. Whenever bad news is likely to become public or should be made public, it’s important to do so as soon as possible. This is true for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Getting the information out quickly and fully will help the organization preserve or, perhaps, even enhance its credibility.

3. Not Getting Out in Front of the Story

Once Capital One released the news, it did so haphazardly, despite having had 10 days to plan the disclosure roll-out. It issued a press release at 7:11 PM ET on July 29. By 7:41 PM ET, The Wall Street Journal website carried the news story. Other media outlets ran the story around the same the time. However, Capital One did not tweet the news until 8:43 PM ET. Therefore, when I first checked the Capital One Twitter feed, there was no mention of the story.

Even once the company addressed the general public, rather than just the news media, it did so with a bland tweet that simply read, “If you want to learn more about the Capital One cyber incident, please visit” along with a link to its press release and Frequently Asked Questions page.

The company did not issue an eye-catching alert. The company did not disclose the nature of the “incident.” The innocuous language and low-key look was also used at the top of the Capital One homepage. Assuming they actually spotted the mention, readers had to click through to the press release to find out what happened and, then, to the Frequently Asked Question page for additional information.

If something goes wrong at your organization, make sure you deliver your message on all the communication platforms your organization uses. Make it easy for folks to spot the information. Furthermore, make it easy for them to get more information by giving them a number to call or an email address, perhaps setting up both as hotlines for the occasion.

Capital One could have provided the public with the news without forcing folks to click through to the press release and then click over to the FAQ page. The bank could have also tweeted out tips for how its customers can protect themselves. Instead, the company is making people work a bit for the information. Don’t make the same mistake. Get people the information they need when they need it, and make it easy for them.

When something goes wrong involving your organization, whether or not it is to blame, you need to get out in front of the story in as coordinated a way as possible. At the point you alert the media, be prepared to take your message directly to the general public at the same time.

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July 23, 2019

How to Stop Offending Your Women Donors

Just days ago, T. Clay Buck, CFRE, asked a survey question on Twitter:

An informal poll for any who identify as female and also contribute philanthropically. If you are the primary gift giver and are in a relationship, have you ever been listed secondarily or as ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ even though you made the gift?”

While far from being a scientific study, Buck’s poll found that 82 percent of the 68 respondents answered “Yes,” indicating they were recognized inappropriately. Despite not being statistically reliable, the results are sufficiently striking to indicate that the nonprofit sector has a donor-recognition problem.

I’m not surprised. This is the flip side of a problem I’ve talked about on many occasions. Charities often treat women as second-class donor prospects. Now, we see that some nonprofits also treat women as second-class donors.

These problems might be due to carelessness. Or, it could be that some fundraisers are gender biased. Regardless, the way in which some charities treat female prospects and donors is offensive. It’s also stupid. The reality is that women are more philanthropic, in many respects, than men are. Therefore, charities would be wise to immediately address the way they engage with female prospects and donors.

Although I’ve written in the past about gender differences when it comes to philanthropy, I want to highlight some insights from professionally conducted, valid research that underscore the importance of working more effectively with prospects and donors who are women.

A whitepaper from Optimy, Women in Philanthropy, reveals:

  • Women make 64% of charitable donations.
  • Women donate 3.5% of their wealth, on average, while men contribute 1.5%.
  • Women account for 45% of American millionaires.
  • Women will control 2/3 of the total American wealth by 2030.
  • Women are also playing a greater role in philanthropy because of the growth in Giving Circles. Of the 706 Giving Circles reviewed, women led 640.
  • Women made up 77% of foundation professional staff in 2015.

For more insights from Optimy about the role of women in philanthropy and a look at what motivates female donors, download the FREE report by clicking here.

When it comes to planned giving, women are critically important according to a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund study I first cited in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

  • High-income women (those with an annual household income of $150,000 or more) demonstrate a high-level of sophistication in their giving by seeking expert advice.
  • High-income women are more likely to use innovative giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds and charitable remainder trusts. 16% of high-income women have or use a donor-advised fund, charitable remainder trust, or private foundation, versus 10% of high-income men.
  • 7% of high-income women made charitable gifts using securities, versus 3% of high-income men.

Yes, both men and women are valuable contributors to charities who we should cherish. Unfortunately, far too many charities fail to fully appreciate the vital role that women play when it comes to philanthropy. Women are often ignored as solid donor prospects deserving of attention. When women do give, they are often denied the respect and recognition they deserve as Buck’s poll suggests.

Here are some questions to consider as you review your own organization’s donor recognition procedures:

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June 26, 2019

It’s Not Just WHAT Donors Think, It’s HOW They Think that Matters

When certain fundraising experts have something to say, we all would be wise to pay close attention. Bernard Ross, Director of =mc consulting (The Management Centre based in the UK), is one of those insightful voices.

I’ve been among the legion of fans Bernard has attracted through his consulting work, conference lectures, articles, and books. Bernard’s latest volume, Change for Good written with Omar Mahmoud, demonstrates that fundraising is more than an art; it is also a science.

The publisher’s book description reads:

This breakthrough book is about how we as human beings make decisions — and how anyone involved in the field of social change can help individuals or groups to make positive choices using decision science. It draws on the latest thinking in behavioural economics, neuroscience and evolutional psychology to provide a powerful practical toolkit for fundraisers, campaigners, advocacy specialists, policy makers, health professionals, educationalists and social activists.”

Change for Good introduces readers to 10 key persuasion principles that will help fundraising professionals introduce decision science into their work as they strive to raise more money. For a decade or more, the for-profit sector has used decision science to influence people to make particular choices, whether to purchase something, accept certain behaviors, or take specific action. Now, this book, by Ross and Mahmoud, makes this profound knowledge accessible to fundraisers.

Not only will your nonprofit organization benefit when you read Change for Good, so will Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. That’s because the authors are donating the profits from book sales to the international charity.

Bernard’s generosity does not end there. He has kindly provided us with a special article that demonstrates the importance of understanding both WHAT and HOW people think. In his guest post below, Bernard demonstrates the impact that decision science can have with real-life examples. In addition, you’ll be able to download a free summary sheet that provides valuable highlights from Change for Good.

I thank Bernard for his willingness to provide the following material:

 

Fundraisers are often concerned about changing hearts and minds. And they’re often, especially when prompted by colleagues in advocacy or communications, interested in increasing supporters’ conscious engagement with the cause. But, is this the best or only way to improve pro-social behavior — whether it’s increasing donations, using less plastic, or avoiding bias?

Let’s begin with the science. Fundamental to decision-making is the premise that much of our data processing and decision-making is subconscious and fast. Deciding is so fast, even changing our minds can be difficult. According to some recent research at Johns Hopkins University if we change our minds within roughly 100 milliseconds of making a decision, we can successfully revise our plans. If we wait more than 200 milliseconds, however, we may be unable to make the desired change. That’s not very long to persuade a donor to not look away from our TV ad or crumple our direct-mail pack.

But, it’s not just our visual process that’s important. For example, other senses are also important, especially smell. In a test between two Nike stores, one with a very faint “consciously undetectable” scent and one without, customers were 80 percent more likely to purchase in the scented store.

In another experiment at a petrol (gas) station with a mini-mart attached to it, pumping the smell of coffee into the store saw purchases of the drink grow 300 percent.

If you take the time to wander into the M&M World candy store in Leicester Square London, you might now notice the smell of chocolate. When it first opened in 2011, it did not have the smell and sales were disappointing. They hired a company called ScentAir who specialize in adding signature scents to stores. The managing director of the company, Christopher Pratt, said in an article describing the effect, “It looked like the place should smell of chocolate, it didn’t. It does now.” And sales have moved in response.

There was a similar positive response when the National Trust, a UK heritage charity, included a “scratch and sniff” element in an appeal to save a flower meadow.

When you visit a charity website, the conscious brain analyses the message content. (What is the cause I am being asked to support? What do they want me to do — donate, sign a petition, or join up?) At the same time, the subconscious brain continuously responds to how you react to the subtle background and peripheral cues. (How do I feel about the colours, images, celebrities involved, etc.?)

______________________________________________________________

“I always thought the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. And then one day it occurred to me, ‘Wait a minute, who’s telling me that?'”

Emo Philips

______________________________________________________________

It’s not all about you either. Your subconscious brain has a mind of its own. Some signals also come from inside us, and we look unconsciously for opportunities to confirm our inner state. When we are in a good mood, we are more likely to tolerate our colleagues and partners and are more likely to donate to charities. These activities become a way to validate or confirm our inner feelings. Let’s look at an example of how this affects our behaviour.

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May 17, 2019

You Need to Do What Monty Python’s Eric Idle has Just Done

Eric Idle, a member of the legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python, knows something about social media that you might not. He has recently done something that you should be doing. If you follow his example, you’ll engage more supporters. This will result in increased loyalty and enhanced lifetime giving.

I understand that you might have doubts about whether a comedy genius can really teach you something that will benefit your nonprofit work. Well, let me explain.

I’ve been a Monty Python fan for decades after first seeing them on television. Later, I thoroughly enjoyed their films including Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Life of Brian. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched them. I’ve also seen Idle’s Spamalot on Broadway.

While I am a fan of each Python member, comedy legend Idle holds a special place in my heart. Five years ago, when I was facing a 14-hour life-saving cancer surgery, his irreverent but strangely uplifting song from The Life of Brian buoyed my spirits. The first verse of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” goes like this:

Some things in life are bad,

They can really make you mad,

Other things just make you swear and curse,

When you’re chewing life’s gristle,

Don’t grumble,

Give a whistle

And this’ll help things turn out for the best.

And…

Always look on the bright side of life.”

You can listen to the full song by watching this clip from the film:

Because the song means so much to me, my eye was caught by a tweet from one of my Twitter-buddies, Ephraim Gopin. (By the way, Ephraim is a funny and sharp fundraising professional, a rare combination. Follow him.) His tweet included a GIF from the clip I shared above. He was thanking Idle for retweeting one of his previous messages.

I replied to both mentioning how the song helped me. That’s when I received a touching surprise.

Eric Idle, the Eric Idle, the comedy legend, the man who has made me laugh for decades, replied to me with a simple, uplifting message:

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