case studies

Headed to the Bridge Conference

In just a few days, one half of the massive nonprofit messaging force that is M&C will take off for Washington, D.C. and one of the coolest conferences around.

TRANSLATION: Merritt and I are going to the Bridge Conference and we are rett-ta-go!

Like a never-ending gobstopper of nonprofit fundraising goodness, the Bridge Conference is one layer of educationnetworkingfunexpansiveconversation after another. They bring in the big boys (you got your PETA, your HRC … your Humane Society, et al ...) which is great.

It's not every day you get to hear the agency account leads as well as representatives from the nonprofits themselves let you in on the packages they're testing, what's winning and more important to my cold, dark heart—what they thought would kill and completely tanked.

An ounce of someone else's pain is worth a pound of me thinking twice before I recommend that COOL PACKAGE. Heartless.

But if it's hugs and happy hours you seek—which I do, I'm only cutthroat when it comes to copywriting … and not really—get thee to Bridge. We see so many clients, friends and meet so many new people we're high on good cheer for a week after we get back. Christmas in July. Peace on earth and good will toward men.

Rather than rhapsodize any further, I encourage you to check out the full schedule and see for yourself.

And be sure to follow me @mjtiffany and Merritt @merrittengel on Twitter as we'll be tweeting like the dickens from the sessions we're in. You can stay on top of all the Bridge jams with the hashtag #Bridge14.

*I have no affiliation with the Bridge Conference and this love poem is spontaneous. It's that good.

The Halo Effect

I'm on the board of a local nonprofit that had tax credits available to donors who gave over a certain amount in 2013. Since I'm not the chick that can donate significant cash to the cause, I try to amp up the   "Talent and Time" portion of the good board member's trifecta of contributions: Time, Talent and Treasure.

That said, I asked our executive director if everyone on our file of potential donors knew about the credit. Mentioned that perhaps we should send out a couple year-end emails thanking them for their support in 2013 and inviting them to partake of the tax advantages of a generous year-end gift to our group.

The exec didn't want to bother people with a lot of year end emails so I suggested suppressing those who responded to the initial drop.

Results were impressive, but unexpected. The Halo Effect strikes again.
Several things to keep in mind:

  • One Channel Can Drive Another. Several major gifts were walked in by donors as a result of the email. Others mailed them in. The point is they knew these channels were available and their preference drove the bus here. Everyone wins.
  • Staying Top of Mind Year-Round. This organization invests in excellent PR. Even those donors who come to one event and don't actively engage with us year-round know what we're up to and the difference we're making in our community. That makes a difference when you come asking for gifts at the end of the year.
  • Staying Top of Mind Without Every Touch Including an Ask. Of ultra importance, friends. There's an integrated annual plan that includes a lot of storytelling, chances to engage with the org in person, progress reports, accolades and yes, we ask for help, but in a judicious and considered fashion …
  • Excellent Reactivation Tool. We had donors come in who used to support us, but had moved away. We had their personal email on file—and permission to contact them—so their physical address change wasn't a factor. They moved back to the city and wanted to help out with gifts and volunteer time.

Case Study: A Successful Matching Gift Campaign

Earlier this year we worked on a matching gift campaign for the PKD Foundation. Merritt and I gave a presentation at NPConnect last month where we broke down the elements that combined to make it so successful. As nonprofits head into year end, I thought it would be good to quickly share the challenges, the solutions and the outcome of this winning matching gift campaign.

  • Framing the ask around an unsure outcome
  • Fluctuating match amount
  • The luxury of raising a lot of money
The PKD Foundation had a promising drug in the final stages of FDA approval. The campaign had to launch before we knew what the outcome would be. Donors' commitments to the matching gift were in flux and once it launched ... whoa, Nellie.


M&C recommended several specific strategies to manage the wildcard elements in the campaign and create a sense of urgency, enthusiasm and comfort in investing in the campaign for direct mail and online donors.
  • Simplicity. Rather than bog down the copy with the details of how the match came to be, who was doing it and the organizational underpinnings, we kept it super simple. The match is the rockstar and it came through in everything we sent out. Easy to understand. Easy to get excited about.
  • Focus on the feeling. The outcome of the drug testing wouldn't be known for a while, but what mattered was the sense of optimism and hope it gave major funders of the foundation. Our copy focused on the momentum in research. The fact that it sparked big donors to issue a matching gift challenge led to the entire community feeling it was a good time to make an investment.
  • Just keep going — add in the details later. Up until the announcement email launched, we were unsure of the actual match amount. We wrote around it and kept things moving. This way, we still launched on time and with some simple plug and play graphics, the branding was easy to maintain regardless of match amount.
  • Agility at all times. What do you do when you meet the match after the announcement email drops? Before the direct mail letter is even in the mail? You use your success as a rallying cry and reinforce the bold point you made that now is the best time to make a gift. The campaign continued and blew all expectations out of the water:
  • Goal: $125,000
  • Result: $224,542
  • Exceeded goal by 79.63%
  • Plus ... average gift of $229