Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend — not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let’s change the way we think about changing the world.
When it comes to the growth and overall development for any campaign, the success of any fundraiser falls primarily on your ability to internalize the strengths and weaknesses of your fundraising strategy in a strong and holistic manner. By finding various beneficial ways for improvement, you will be able to refine and perfect any mishaps or mistakes that are preventing you from reaching your quarterly and annual fundraising goals.
To start, we have to, of course, understand the concept of constructive feedback. When it comes to constructive feedback, there has always been a negative connotation attached to its name. While difficult as it may be to highlight specific weaknesses within a project or an employee, constructive feedback can provide various positives for growth and development. Think of it like this. In life, settling will always be the biggest hurdle preventing you from success. Settling for anything less than you deserve will only force you to move two steps back than ten steps forward. Similar to this concept, settling on a ‘winning idea’ or ‘the traditional standards’ will only hurt your process for potential development. In order for you to achieve your intrinsic fundraising goals, you need to challenge the overall status quo by reflecting and evaluating what you can do in the future. By assuming that type of ‘do not settle’ mentality, you will be able to take particular negative conversations to positive professional discussions that can essentially improve and mend the skills, capabilities, attitudes, and strategy for your fundraising campaign.
Now, to do this effectively, you have to make sure you start by analyzing your previous campaigns. Go even as far as five years ago to truly gain a holistic understanding of the changes and trends within the data. By having that knowledge, primarily data, in mind, you will be able to uncover specific trends that can help you in the future. Once you have analyzed the campaign to its fullest, begin by cultivating a set of constructive questions that can elude you a more strategic plan.
When it comes to questions, focus on the data. Ask yourself, as well as the rest of the board, what internal and external factors could have led to those positive and negative trends. Analyze specific year-to-year approaches and ask which strategies worked and which ones did not. By thinking critically and asking these overarching questions, you will be able to discover the meaning behind the numbers. For many nonprofits, understand the data beyond the numbers will always lead to something greater. It gives you specific opportunities where you can question the overall facilities and operations of your organization so that group can culminate a strong and impactful attack plan.
Last but not least, you want to make sure you are evaluating the operational side of your organization. This means providing that much needed constructive criticism to your employees and workers. As stated above, constructive feedback is very similar to an overall evaluation for growth. While this can build tension, or even anxiety, for your employees, you want to make sure that every person, at the end of the day, leaves the workplace with a goal in mind.
In the grand scheme of things, there will always be opportunities for improvement. In order to hit your fundraising markers year after year, you want to make sure that you, as well as the rest of your organization, is progressing each and every day. By assimilating that concept of change, you will be able to a variety of growth such as strong leadership, refined operations, and impactful strategies. Remember, strength and growth only come through continuous understanding and change. Do not let if hinder your abilities. Instead, embrace the new world order.
Similar to startups, nonprofit organizations are use to doing more with less. Unlike the resources of private corporations, nonprofits are limited to the people they have and the funds they can play with. In many of these situations, these organizations are primarily responsible for the donors and communities that they service. While money does play a large role in the overall success of a campaign, it is imperative that nonprofit organizations take a page out of the startup playbook by being resourceful and effective in their infrastructure and spending in order to optimize the overall sustainability and outreach of their campaigns.
To begin, nonprofits and startups share a similar mentality; both entities need to be smart with their spending. While they may have a strong investments going into their campaigns, the overall development and growth of their mission require a lot of creative and strategic thinking, both operationally and financially. The best organizations and startup business that have been able to do are not necessarily the ones that spend the least or spend the most. Instead, they are the ones that are able to create an effective budget and making specific buying decisions that will lead them to reach their overarching goals.
So how do you do this? How can you effectively manage and operate your team or organization while saving and cutting cost on various expenses?
First and foremost, it is imperative that your business leaders within your organizations have a strong and holistic understanding of their finances. For startups, they need to adhere to their budget. While 2015 may be the year of the unicorn, it was also the fall for many great and innovative businesses that could have been the next Google or Apple. The reason why is because many of these companies did not take advantage (or cut cost) of their finances when they needed to grow and develop their companies. Similar to startups, nonprofit organizations need to understand the specific financial restrictions that can prevent them from hitting their targeted goals. This requires these organizations to understand and internalize their monthly expenses, their revenue, and their overall donations and donor numbers. By knowing these numbers quarterly, your organization will be able to leverage areas in which they can cut and save spending, while also investing in specific approaches that can help hit their quarterly goals.
One of the basic concepts your nonprofit organization needs to understand is that evaluating expenses is not cutting things from the budget. While a portion requires you to cut things, you are looking to find different avenues that can be more cost efficient while also adhering to the work and goals that your organization is trying to accomplish. Do not by any mistake think that low quality is a good thing. Find the best type of quality for the most reasonable price. In doing so, you will begin thinking more strategically with your financial budget.
Now, when it comes to cost, it is important that you find specific small expenses you can cut like irrelevant office supplies or overly expensive office spaces. Cutting these cost can help you utilize more funding in various departments that can assist you in reaching your donation goals. For example, for many startups, the overall popular trend for launching a company is no longer being seen in the big cities. Why? The exorbitant amount of cost for an office in Manhattan or a building in Silicon Valley is just not financially reasonable. Instead, many of these businesses are seeking cheaper office locations and effective spaces that allow for their business to grow and develop in the right way possible. Like startups, you need to find these areas where you can cut corners with your budget. Many nonprofit organizations are use to operating with that scarce mentality. But for a better infrastructure and longevity with success, try and think lean. Be cash-conscious and weigh any and all expenses against your nonprofit’s ability to achieve its mission. This will force you to keep your budget in check and various buying decisions at a minimum.
Lastly, for any type of investment opportunities, make sure you weigh the cost. One of the biggest mistakes many startups make is burning any financial investments that should have been used in the future. Similar to startups, your nonprofit organization needs to be cash-conscious and seize any opportunity or investment that can help benefit their campaigns. For example, take a look into promotional campaigns that can help expand your mission and engage new and future donors to your organization. Remember, nonprofit organizations are still business. Invest in what can help reach your goals, but also weigh any negative consequences and ramifications that can come out of it.
When it comes to the day-to-day operations of a social impact organization, various nonprofit organizations are held to the limited restrictions of their resources and societal awareness. To help establish a strong culture of social impact, social justice, and creative strategy, it is imperative that you leverage your own strengths and take it upon yourself, and your organization, to advocate for this type of change. Remember, you can give a person the facts about a situation. But to spark that much needed change, you will need to raise awareness and inspire the true leaders that can make a difference each and everyday.
Take the Fight Online
There is a fine line between ranting online and raising awareness publicly. When it comes to making an impact, creating a strong, rich, and consistent platform online through a blog, Twitter, or Facebook, can help reach and educate larger community about the ongoing problems of the world. We have already seen this with incredible nonprofit campaigns. But for you to be the true game changer, you need to utilize these platforms as your voice to the world.
If you have the resources, try and set up various events that can showcase your nonprofit’s missions. Many nonprofit organizations do this with either family-friendly events or enriching active assembles. Whatever is the case, these events can help raise awareness to the overarching issues that are facing the world today.
Attend or Create a Seminar Talk
We are all familiar with the trending TedTalks. Like those events, you can hold your own personal seminar at local colleges or meet up organizations that can highlight the various missions and goals of your nonprofit. For these events, make sure you are equipped with a strong yet appeal presentation. In addition, be prepared to answer any and all questions about what your organization can do in the future.
Recruit People of Similar Interest
Whether they are apart of your nonprofit organization or not, there will always be a strong group of people who are looking to make a change in the world. It would be to your best advantage to tap those resources and utilize those individuals as volunteers in spreading and marketing your mission to the general public.
Crowdfunding has become a widely popular tool for nonprofits and startups to utilize in raising capital for their organizations. Through online marketing, many of these individuals are able to leverage social media platforms in order to build a strong and collective support through family members, friends, businesses, and other people willing to help you reach your financial goals. Unlike traditional approaches where you would need to pitch an overall business plan and strategies to a limited yet wealthy pool of investors and institutions, crowdfunding sites allows organizations to meet their financial goals in an easy and timely manner.
As great as these sites are, it is important that you are able to create a strong and marketable platform for your users. Just creating a site and writing a few sentences is not enough to gain traction, let alone for a nonprofit organization. Think about the brand of your organization. Ask yourself what you want them to take away when they see your organization’s profile page. These overarching questions will allow you frame your crowdfunding site in a more engaging way. Just because you are not meeting with these people does not mean you cannot engage with them on an emotional level.
To help you with this, I have tailored four vital tips in improving your crowdfunding campaigns. Be sure to optimize these areas.
Image Friendly and Interface Layout
When it comes to the landing page of your crowdfunding site, you want to make sure you have a combination of strong and attractive images and background color that brands the mission and identity of your nonprofit organization. Make sure your images are high quality and representative of what you want to showcase. In addition, be cautious of using extreme colors. You want to make sure the overall interface with your crowdfunding profile is easy on the eye. This will keep potential donors more on your page.
To establish a stronger emotional appeal, try creating a multimedia video presentation. Stay between the two-to-five minute marker. This will allow your viewers to understand your nonprofits goals and what they can do to help. In addition, try and play to the emotional side of your organization. People tend to donate mostly because of sentiment and connection than to the overall program itself.
The Balance of Information
On your page, you want to make sure you meet a balance of the amount of content you are putting on your page. First and foremost, you are still selling a pitch. Make sure your language is tailored in having your visitors ‘donate.’ Also provide a strong background of your organization and its mission. Lastly, make sure they understand where the money is going. Many donors have a sense of pride knowing they are giving to an organization that can help benefit the lives of other people. Showcase what you plan to do and how their efforts will help impact an individual. This type of emotional appeal can make a huge difference later on in reaching your fundraising goals.
Social Media Marketing
Remember, these campaigns require a strong amount of marketing effort on your end. Make sure you feature your crowdfunding campaign throughout a variety of social media platforms. Understand that some will allow for better viewing and traffic. Try and leverage Facebook and Twitter since both have a high concentration of engagement for these particular campaigns. Lastly, make sure you schedule this multiple times with a new message. The more organic and sincere you are, the better.
Randy is the co-founder of Swype Inc. and Cleankeys Inc. He has pioneered specialized computing technologies for people with disabilities for more than two decades. In 2001, Randy originated the concept of Swype, a touch screen-based predictive text technology, which allows people to draw or swipe characters instead of typing on a graphical keyboard. He invented the Cleankeys® wipe-able computer keyboard – an easy-to-disinfect, button-less, touch- and tap-sensitive keyboard for dental offices, hospitals and other settings where infection control is a primary concern. In 2011, Randy was recognized with a Manning Innovation Award. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alberta.
Living in the digital age, we cannot help but notice how far social media has grown. Not only do we use these platforms for our personal lives to connect and engage with family members and friends, but also we utilize these properties within our professional lives as well. But even with its daily use, many nonprofit organizations are not leveraging the power of social media and taking advantage of its untapped possibilities for future donors and donations.
While most nonprofit organizations usually tailoring their efforts to a more personable approach such as direct mail, flyers, cold calls, one-on-one sit downs, and other offline marketing tools, online marketing tools, especially those dealing with social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or a company page blog, should be optimized in the best possible way. Why? As such, social media properties allow your organization to double, triple, and even quadruple its exposure. As much as personal approaches and built-in relationships can gain you stronger retention donors, you have to understand that increased awareness and online marketing can also produce strong and effective results.
The key here is engagement. Like any fundraising relationship, you want to make sure you are targeting the wants and needs of your donor. With off-marketing tools, you are only limiting your organization and your efforts to a specific physical area. To branch out beyond your own personal proximity, I would advise your marketing team to take advantage of social media. For many people, they want to donate. In fact, they look to support various causes they care about. But they cannot do this if you do not give them the option to.
To help with this, I have outlined four easy-to-do practices in utilizing social media to increase donations.
With the world of journalism becoming more and more reliant on the Internet, it is imperative that you optimize your nonprofit organization’s website by writing and creating rich, organic, and informative blogs. For these blogs, you want to make sure you are discussing the overall niche of your organization and highlighting the mission and goals of your nonprofit. Many donors want to make sure the organization they are donating to is the right one. Be sure to discuss various accomplishments and direct them where they can make that transformative change through monthly or annual donations.
2. Expand your Exposure
We all know the popular social media platforms out there like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To of course optimize these in the best possible way, make sure you are providing daily, if not weekly, updates about your organization. This can be a great platform to showcase your blogs and also share more current event news and press releases about your nonprofit. Make sure you are also connecting with those online. Find various organizations and thought-leaders that are similar to your field. This could eventually lead to a potential partnership in the future.
3. Paid Campaigns
Like anything dealing with business, you may want to consider possible paid promotional campaigns. Much of social media relies on engagement. To help build up your brand and highlight your organization’s mission, paid promotional campaigns for either followers or engagement through Twitter, Facebook, and StumbleUpon could be excellent avenues in spreading your message. Some days, a small investment could push you ten steps forward in the right direction.
4. Photos and Videos
For many social media properties as well as the social media market, photos and videos play an integral role in increasing engagement. Just think about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Through small promotional engagement videos, you are able to market your organization, while increasing your donor pool in other areas of the world. Make sure these image and multi-video campaigns highlight your mission and various efforts in which people can help.
Here’s a stat worth knowing: In the UK, 63% of men who finish short-term prison sentences are back inside within a year for another crime. Helping them stay outside involves job training, classes, therapy. And it would pay off handsomely — but the government can’t find the funds. Toby Eccles shares an idea for how to change that: the Social Impact Bond. It’s an unusual bond that helps fund new social services — especially those where a small investment could create a much larger societal benefit. (And yes, investors, mainly NGOs, get a share of the profit if the service works.)
When it comes to nonprofit organizations, it is imperative that you understand how impactful emotional appeal can benefit your fundraising campaigns. Just think about it. Why do you think donate to a particular cause or organization? Why in fact was it initially on their radar?
The answers to many of these questions lie in the case that people feel inherently content when they do some particular act of kindness. As a business leader and fundraising expert with over twenty plus years within the nonprofit and higher education fundraising sector, one of the biggest advice I give to my colleagues and friends is that if you want to spark change, you have to understand their perspectives. Many of these nonprofit organizations make the mistake and assume that the general public already understands the overarching problem that exists within today’s society. Because of this informational gap, their fundraising inherently fails to meet the intended numbers because they have inadvertently removed the emotional and informational impact that aligns with the overall brand identity of their mission.
To prevent you from making fundraising failure, I have highlighted three common mistakes organizations make when it comes to fundraising. Remember, emotions are a power thing. Leveraging that idea within your campaign will always showcase your goals and your mission for a better and brighter future.
Mistake: Assuming everyone already knows the problem
As much as we can think that everyone understands the social and civil injustice that is going on in the world, we have to look at the situation in the donor’s perspective. In their eyes, they can only scratch the surface. Many of these campaigns, especially when it comes to the language and tone of the movement, is usually tailored to those who are experts. As much as we want to showcase a professional knowledgeable image, we need to understand that the rest of the general public is not attuned what we know. Instead, begin tailoring your information in the most simplistic way possible. Highlight the various problems and your organization’s mission and goals to solve the problem and make the world a better place. By having this information tailored for them than for your peers, you will get a much-needed stronger response, especially when it comes to your fundraising.
Mistake: Ignoring the emotional appeal of your brand
Just because you are a nonprofit organization does not mean people understand the emotional appeal of your mission. In order to connect with your donors and supporters, your branding message should go beyond the shotgun approach. Instead, leverage the emotional appeal that can be a powerful component to your nonprofit brand. Go beyond the private sector branding concept of what is ‘appeal’ and ‘cool’ and focus back on the message. Any type of confusion can compromise future donors and supporters in advocating your message.
Mistake: Selling the brand than highlighting the impact
While various branding and marketing techniques are transferable from the entertainment and private sector to the nonprofit sector, you have to understand the dichotomy that exists between the two. For the entertainment and private sector, their goal is to sell a product in the most profitable way possible. As much as you can think that this approach can increase fundraising donors, you have to understand that, for a nonprofit, you are not selling an item. Instead, you are selling a mission; you are highlighting, educating, and emphasizing a specific problem and invoking your cardinal principles of how your organization is going to solve it. Because your brand is in itself just an idea, you want to make sure you are appealing to the emotions and ideas that the general public can relate to. For them, they know they are not going to use your product outside of topic of discussion. Because of this, you need to think of various fruitful ways that can appeal than the surface level of generosity. Show them that they are the key to a better future. Show them that they are the force for a better life. And most importantly, show them that the change for something greater than themselves.
Tracking metrics is about making the seemingly intangible tangible and getting better results. No matter what nonprofit you are working for, there will always be room for improvement within the operations of even the most establish organizations. But as much as we want to continue our growth and impact on the world, it is imperative that we avoid some of the most overarching mistakes that can derail a nonprofit organization.
Below, I have highlighted three of the biggest performance mistakes that can overwhelm and falter your mission in an unproductive way. By identifying these areas, you will be able to improve the logistics and operations of your organization and move forward. Let’s face it, most nonprofit organizations generate a ton of donor data. The most challenging part of it is to analyze it in the most efficient and effective way in order for you and your team to improve upon it year after year.
Over Analyzing and Measuring the Data
Far too often, many organizations and businesses have utilized data as their tactical tool in improving the day-to-day operations to help reach their intended goal. While data does play a necessary part within our lives, collecting, aggregating, and analyzing this information again and again can oftentimes overwhelm your staff and eventually compromise the productivity of change. At a glance, data provides any organization with a holistic view on the performance of a company and of an individual. As much as we can focus specifically on the presented data, we want to make sure that information is utilized in the best possible way. For some people, they may just look at this information as a large amount of meaningless numbers. That right there is a huge red flag. To make sure that your staff understands the data, make sure you provide meaning on what this data stands for. In addition, make sure the data is presented in a way that can be easily translated into goal-oriented objectives. That type of streamline communication of numbers to professional development and goals is something that will help improve analyzing the overall strengths and weaknesses of a group than just having the numbers as a whole. Remember, the more meaningful these numbers are to you, the more important they will be to the rest of the group.
Underutilizing your Data
As stated above, your data can provide a holistic view of where you are in reaching your intended goals. For many organizations, the data can be so much that the information can, in itself, seem useless. In the grand scheme of things, you want to make sure you are utilizing all of the information possible. Similar to measuring the data section above, you want to make sure you are able to break the information down in more meaningful sessions. This will allow you to infuse new energy to unknown numbers and create meaningful tactics in how to best improve the operations within the day.
Do Not Over Think the Data
One of the biggest problems you can do for your employees is to overthink the data. Whether you are trying to create a system or over establishing goals, you want to make sure the data in itself can be tangible and realistic for your staff. That being said, the approach in tracking and analyzing the information needs to be done in a meaningful way. Various steps need to outline the importance of your goals and your individual goals for your staff while also translating that information in how they can impact and improve their own personal performance. If there is no intended meaning for the data, this can lead to uncertainty about the numbers. If the numbers however represent a multitude of concepts, this can lead to overthinking the meaning behind the information. To prevent this, make sure there is some type of clear and precise understanding behind the numbers and the following steps it can do in the future.