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.

Relationships Via Technology

In October, I attended bbcon, a great conference for users of the Convio and Blackbaud platforms. In one standing-room-only session on year-end campaigns, the speaker issued a directive to the audience.

"If you're not sending to your entire online file on December 31st, you're missing the boat," she said.

A hand flew up.

"Even if the constituent already gave to the campaign, just send them another email asking for a gift, making no mention of the prior gift?"

"Yes, absolutely. The numbers bear it out," the presenter insisted.

Perhaps so. But does that make it the right course of action? Always?

I'm a direct marketer. I believe in data—and data driving decisions. Still, when data is driving you in ways you wouldn't behave in any respectful relationship, it's time to reconsider.

I draw the line at NOT acknowledging a donation.

Right now, the world of data and communications are at an interesting crossroads. Data can do many things, but not all things. The real challenge for us all will be in knowing where its potential (and limitations) lie.

Leanings on Learning

I was at a conference on e-fundraising last week and it has me thinking about “learning curves.”

(Well, experiencing learning curves, more accurately, but also thinking about the process.)

Traditionally, I’ve thought of a learning curve in terms of an end point: you acquire an initial onslaught of information, put it to use and then work to fine tune its application. The curve flattens as the fine-tuning progresses. (Not the effort mind you, but the results; in fact, it takes far more effort/cost to go from 90% to 95% than from 85% to 90% … but that’s another post!)

So, what does this have to do with fundraising?

I was at this same conference in 2008 and am struck by how dramatically e-marketing has advanced in just the past 12 months. What was proficient a year ago is no longer so. And the pace of change promises to continue. Even accelerate.

Which means there’s a greater need than ever for marketers to hone their skills.

How do we do that?

Conferences and workshops. Books and webinars. Professional associations … all those traditional tools people are cutting back on right now.

But also mentoring. Seeking out new perspectives. Looking for ways to do things differently. Challenging ourselves and our colleagues with new ideas.

Being excited enough to share successes. And especially, being open enough to get excited!