Random Thoughts on Life and Work

January 8, 2016

The Effects of Giving

PBS Newshour had an interesting segment during the show on January 7. A University of British Columbia research team conducted a small study on the effects of giving in toddlers and then carried it beyond to college students and adults. In the study, they found that even young toddlers express happiness when giving something to others.

I suspect anyone in fund-raising/fund-development will tell you, “duh” to the concept that it is actually a pleasurable experience to give. One of the interesting (and again, not new) findings in the study is that people who have the opportunity to see and/or experience the impact of their giving are even happier than those who just gave to a general “fund”. However, how often do organizations get caught up in trying to raise funds so that “we can accomplish our mission.”?

You likely saw the UNICEF and/or ASPCA commercials during the holiday season. What struck me about those efforts was the fact that there was no impact of my gift. All I saw was a portrayal of a very negative situation with a statement – help us help them.  I have to confess, I was extremely turned off by the ads finding them very ineffective at telling me how either of these organizations do anything positive. Where were the impact/results pictures?

Watch the PBS segment and then consider your own communications. What are you telling your readers/listeners/site visitors? Are you telling them why they should support you? Or are you telling them that their gift has changed the life of Samuel who now has his own bed or Mary who can go to school because now there is clean water right in her village?

April 22, 2009

Allowing Donors To Be Creative

Okay, so I haven’t posted in “like forever” as my daughter would put it.  Part of that challenge of getting to it.  I just lost all sense of creativity and drive. 

But that’s not the point today.  

Quite a while back, I posted about allowing your donors to tell your story.  Finding ways to facilitate that provide opportunity for them to advocate for you.  Here is an example of what I am talking about:

I am developing a great appreciation for the development of the “friends asking friends” concept and the power that brings to spreading the message.  As I continue to work with individual donors, I hear more and more frequently the desire to let others know about their passion.  

Spread the word.

May 1, 2008

Back to Basics

Okay, this should be easy.  Simple attention to detail.  But how often do we skip a simple step and end up looking like complete morons?

I received a postcard in the mail today here at work.  In fact, we received 10 of them.  A consulting company marketing themselves as a grant writing and funding consulting service.  But they blundered.  They had our address attached to 10 different individuals and companies.  I assume that something went wrong in their mailmerge process.  But apparently nobody thought to do any quality checking on their mailing.  Or on their data entry earlier.  Not a good way to build confidence.  Or a customer base.

October 26, 2007

The Wired Advocate – A Follow-up

Overcoming inertia in a nonprofit can be particularly difficult.  This stems from many sources but is most often expressed in the sentiment, “We’ve always done it this way.”  As a good friend of mine often says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over expecting different results.” 

Starting small with some test runs can be a great way to get past the initial ‘disbelief’ that making use of new tools will have value for the organization.  Here are some thoughts to consider:

  1. Recognize that you will likely make a mistake along the way.  The initial run may not be perfect.  That’s okay.  Learn from it, remember it, move on.
  2. At the same time, remember that quality is still important.  You can’t have a poor appearance and expect great results.
  3. Determine what you want to measure to determine success.  Dollars raised may not be the correct measurement.  Especially with your first few attempts.
  4. Remember, your audience is going to be different (probably) than your organizational website.  That’s why you are doing this.  Expanding your reach.
  5. Because of #5, don’t just repeat your website.  Provide something different, in a different tone, different appearance, etc.
  6. “Build it and they will come” is not necessarily true.  You will need to promote your applications.  Expand  your reach.  Think outside of the box.

Plan on building slowly.  Once you have established your metrics, go wider.  Determining who in the organization will be ‘responsible’ for the ongoing development and management of the interaction will come with experience.  Successful 2.0 applications will likely develop conversations with your constituency.  You need to be prepared to respond so somebody should be the designated communicator.

Hope that helps.

October 25, 2007

The Wired Advocate

Michelle Martin over at Bamboo Project has written a great post about the “Wired Fundraiser.” 

Point #2 – Not Every Wired Fundraiser Is A Champion – is important to note.  However, I would add a correlary that additional storytelling in the marketplace is a good thing.  No matter if one person or 50 people hear it.  And the advantage to the ‘wired process’ is its cost effectiveness.  In the end, what has it truly cost the organization to have someone tell the story for them? 

She hits the nail on the head with point 4.  Smart Charities Embrace the Wired Fundraiser.  Many charities struggle with the issue of control of the message.  It is difficult to lay your message in the hands of others and let them tell your story.  But done correctly, this can be a huge gain for your organization, more than offsetting any potential minimal damage that might be done.

Check it out.

I’m Back

Filed under: Charities,Charity,Non-Profit,Philanthropy,Promotion — Darren Mullenix @ 9:45 am

Okay, haven’t posted in a while (make that a long while) but that isn’t to say nothing is happening.  Been busy with Combined Federal Campaign event activity, travels, and general life stuff.

Just a note about something I learned during the CFC time period.  I went to an event in Houston to hand out material to Houston municipal employees.  Really poor event.  Outside, 90+ degrees, no shade, poorly attended, etc.  Maybe met about 60 – 90 people.  However, the flight home may have been worth it all. 

I sat next to a gentleman who was genuinely curious about what we do and how.  Somewhat familiar with our organization but only certain aspects.  As I talked with him a very valuable lesson was driven home – You had better know your mission and a good bit about what you do.  Especially if your organization has a wide reach as mine does.  And better yet, you should be prepared with something that will grab the heart of your listener.  Typically, I don’t talk to people when I travel on airplanes.  I like to withdraw and relax.  Especially after a long day of meeting people.  However this was an opportunity that was placed in my path for a reason.

I don’t know what will come of that discussion.  I was able to send him some follow-up information about one of our projects and since he is a person of influence he may be able to carry that out to others.

Always be prepared to tell your story.

June 1, 2007

Job Title Inflation

Filed under: Charities,Internet,Management,Marketing,Non-Profit,Promotion,Strategy — Darren Mullenix @ 10:20 am

One of the lessons I learned through our reorganization project recently was the power of words – especially when attached to job titles. 

In an article in the recent Knowledge@Wharton e-newsletter the author points to the value of how titles are created and the intrinsic message that is created as a result.  At the same time, there is recognition that “title inflation” may be the unintended result of the drive to create titles such as Chief Relationship Officer, Chief Development Officer, Chief Experience Officer, etc. 

However, I would hazard a guess that many of us have experienced roles that probably had a “normal” title but the work was more in the line of the new title trends.  I would suggest that we start considering a multi-level title.  The first is level is the “public” title that goes on the business card.  The second is the internal title that helps to explain what the employee actually does and may be placed as a sub-title on the business card.

Let me offer an example:

Many non-profits are starting to recognize the power of the internet and the brand/image that they project through their Web interactions.  And some, are taking that to the next level and actually assigning a staff person the duty of monitoring the traffic on the internet that relates to their organization.  This person may be a staff person on the Web team, a donor response person, a communications person, or some other “regular” role.  However, their sub-title might be Chief Web Experience Officer. 

Herein lies some danger though.  As we strive to encourage our staff and provide experiences to them that they find valuable, it is important to realize that placement and title-ing is only part of the story.  Support and resources become critical to enhancing the results.  It is not enough to provide a fancy title.  We must be prepared to allow the person to act within their role.

If you are working through job descriptions, organization charts, staffing needs, etc consider the words you use.  Not only in the titles but in the descriptions.  They may be more important than you think.

Some rambling thoughts for consideration.

April 5, 2007

Are You A Pinhead?

Filed under: Internet,Marketing Communications,Non-Profit,Promotion,Strategy — Darren Mullenix @ 6:12 am

Since you’re reading this blog, probably not.  Some people might question why this blog but that is a different issue.

The issue of corporate transparency continues to be debated in many circles.  Church of the Customer has a great post about the challenges we face in trying to convince our employers or clients to open the doors to their organization.  You can find the post here.  Look at the last couple of paragraphs in particular.

Take a moment to read it and then think about the “pinheads” you have had to deal with.

March 12, 2007

What Message Are You Sending Your Donors?

When was the last time you did an audit of your donor response systems?

Sometimes programs get set up without thinking through the inadvertent message we may be sending.  Take for instance a website where it takes more than 3 clicks to make a donation.  What message does that send to someone who may have been impacted by the email appeal you sent?  “Oh, don’t bother giving.  We don’t really need it.”

Inadvertant Messages

Take for instance this car dealership.  I pass this dealership on my way to and from work each day and have really been puzzled by their perspective.  For some reason, they think that placing cars in the entrance way is good promotion.  The dealership sits on the major highway into town and gets lots of traffic.  But now that they have put the cars in the driveway, you would be hard pressed to find your way into the dealership.  “Don’t bother.  We don’t really want to sell you a car.”

I realize there is some disagreement about the value of postage paid response envelopes vs regular reply envelopes.  However, within your own context, consider the message you send by not including an envelope (or a postage-paid envelope) in your direct mail appeal.  Maybe it is good stewardship.  But then maybe using the entrance to park cars in could be considered good use of available land.

Here are some items to consider:

  1. Do you have a “corporate” e-mail address that donors can use to inquire?
  2. Do you have a toll-free phone number available for callers?
  3. How many clicks does it take to make a gift on  your website?
  4. Do you have special landing pages for e-mail appeals that encourage giving and make it easy to do so?
  5. Do you include envelopes in your direct mail?  Is it postage-paid?
  6. Who answers your main phone?  Person or automated?
  7. How long do you take to respond to e-mail?  1 day?  2? 5?

Take a moment to audit your messages from the viewpoint of the donor.  What are you really saying to them?

December 21, 2006

The Committed Donor (The Power of The “Thank You”)

I am back after a brief hiatus due to recent surgery!  About time too!

I have a story to share about a recent experience the proves the value of the simple “Thank You”.  It involves a donor who is committed to the organization and its mission, eBay and its partnership with The Points of Light Foundation through MissionFish, and yours truly. (more…)

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