Ruffalo Noel Levitz http://www.ruffalocody.com Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Alumni Passion Matters http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/05/alumni-passion-matters/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/05/alumni-passion-matters/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 19:29:30 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=34491 When I tell my friends that only about 8% of alumni nationally contribute to their college or university each year, they think that us fundraisers are really fighting an uphill battle.
Then we hit a bar.

Yep, that’s the scene at Howl at the Moon in Indianapolis a few weeks ago when I walked in. You just [...]

Written by Brian Gawor.

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When I tell my friends that only about 8% of alumni nationally contribute to their college or university each year, they think that us fundraisers are really fighting an uphill battle.

Then we hit a bar.

IU Purdue Howl at the Moon

Yep, that’s the scene at Howl at the Moon in Indianapolis a few weeks ago when I walked in. You just can’t escape the persistent pride of alumni for their alma mater.

If alumni love the institution, why is the alumni giving participation rate declining so much?

First, I don’t think we are telling the story about the impact of giving as well as we could. Business is doing it better, and higher education is also getting beaten by other charitable options right now in the storytelling game. The second big factor is channeling the passion of alumni into action. We could be doing a lot better at bridging the action gap.

Two steps to turn “like” into give.

The first step is to get in the game and be a bigger part of the social conversation. We have some great tools to tell stories these days. Here’s an example that many of us watched this week.

Kansas alumnus and 89 year old veteran Bryan Sperry played for the team before and after World War II. He just had a chance to relive the memory of being on the field at the annual alumni flag football game, running in for a touchdown to complete the game.

To view this video in your browser, click here.

The video was viewed nearly 400,000 times this week.

Great alumni engagement programs use the compelling and diverse stories of engaged alumni to get others excited about the institution.

Alumni passion is infectious.

The second thing we need to do is to harness this excitement and turn it into donations by making the gift opportunity social, immediate and frictionless.

A great example of this is the crowdfunding campaign of Ole Miss following their  unexpected expenses following the big win this fall. They harnessed the passion of alumni and drove them to an optimized, frictionless crowdfunding portal to make a gift. The story, passion, ease of giving along with the socially-connected giving platform combined for an incredible result—over $1,000 an hour. They’ve also worked hard to thank their donors, and the pieces of the goal post they mailed out don’t hurt.purdue_give_day

We’ve also seem some great response to college and university give days, which answer the key question: “Why give now?” The extraordinary success at institutions like Columbia and just last week at Purdue involve a comprehensive, campaign-level strategy executed over months with all hands on deck to harness alumni passion. These programs draw on support for many areas of campus and engage social networks and a “let’s do it now” mentality to completely blow away our expectations.

When I’m in a call center, reading a direct mail appeal or looking at an email solicitation, I ask two questions: what is the story being told, and are is there an obstacle to giving?

Telling the story requires your whole team and building a bank of stories that communicate the diversity and impact of your cause.

Removing obstacles includes everything from going social with your giving, accepting every payment form and getting on the phone and out in the living rooms to make giving possible. Without that second step, you’re just banking a whole lot of clicks and views.

Alumni passion, channeled to frictionless giving opportunities, amplified by social sharing and followed by sincere stewardship is our best plan to stem the alumni participation decline.

Two steps: tell the story, and then optimize the giving opportunity.

Our alumni have great passion for their alma maters, and It’s time to work smarter to turn this “like” into give. It’s time to get in the game, tell the story, and leverage the already existing networks of our alumni to bridge the action gap.

More touchdowns are on the way.

Written by Brian Gawor.

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Your Year-End Donors Are Right In Front of You http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/your-year-end-donors-are-right-in-front-of-you/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/your-year-end-donors-are-right-in-front-of-you/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 12:09:55 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=34482 It’s coming … the end of the fiscal year is just around the corner. It’s time to make sure that no stone is left unturned and you’ve pulled out all the stops to surpass last year’s totals, make goal, or set that new record.
Generally speaking, your resources at this point in the year are going [...]

Written by Dawn Stever.

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puzzle_magnifyingglassIt’s coming … the end of the fiscal year is just around the corner. It’s time to make sure that no stone is left unturned and you’ve pulled out all the stops to surpass last year’s totals, make goal, or set that new record.

Generally speaking, your resources at this point in the year are going to be best spent on donors that have a relationship with you. Here are three categories where I would spend my time.

Get the Pledges In

  • Pledgers: I know, they’re already on your list. But don’t underestimate the importance of follow up with this group. For most organizations, the pledge fulfillment rate is in the 70 – 80% range. That leaves a lot of uncollected pledges each year, and a lot of opportunity for growth. Try another phone call, an email, a postcard, or a mailed pledge reminder with end of year messaging.

Turn Maybe (or No) into Yes

  • People who are “Considering”: or unspecified, or $0 pledge. Whatever you call them, this group is worth another try.
  • Fall Refusals: Sometimes “no” means “not right now.” Don’t be afraid to call people who refused in the first half of the fiscal year, particularly if they are LYBUNTs. The timing may be right for a gift now. Or try asking for something different – a “no” to the Annual Fund may not mean “no” to another cause within your organization.

In 2014, Ruffalo Noel Levitz managed phonathons received pledges of over $2.7 million from people who said “no” or “maybe” the first time. The average pledge was $76. Spending some resources on these donors could mean a lot of money for your program.

Who Did We Miss?

  • Current Year Donors: These days, assuming that each donor will only give once to the Annual Fund is a mistake The best place to look for additional gifts is among your most loyal supporters. Ask for support of a new project, or be prepared with a case for increased support of your Annual Fund.

In 2014, we received over $8 million in pledges from donors who had given once already—commonly referred to as a “second ask.” The average pledge was $110, and the pledge rate was a whopping 51% of people reached on the phone.

  • Consecutive Donor LYBUNTs: Remember to make a special effort to retain your consecutive donors as the end of the year approaches. Consistency matters. If you have a consecutive giving society, it’s worth reminding them that it’s time to renew their support to join or stay in the society. Some institutions are even including the multi-year giving distinctions in their interactive donor rolls.
  • Assigned Prospects: Even if you have a regular schedule to review your gift officers’ prospect lists and release prospects to calling and mailing, it might be worth one last look before the end of the year. This is an excellent group for experienced phonathon callers to contact. If you’ve heard that an annual giving ask isn’t compatible with a major or planned gift request, that’s just plain wrong.

These are three areas where you might have the opportunity to book additional gifts in the next two months. The most successful last push for donors will involve a lot people who are hiding in plain sight.

What else is on your end of fiscal year to do list?

Written by Dawn Stever.

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4 Nerdy Ways to Look at Annual Giving http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/4-nerdy-ways-to-look-at-annual-giving/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/4-nerdy-ways-to-look-at-annual-giving/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 15:07:04 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=34450 As the guy over here who has put on a lab coat to make a presentation on the science of giving, I fully embrace my inner nerd. We need to bring the best of science: psychology, sociology and human behavior theory to our work as fundraisers.
Here are two ideas I return to a lot when [...]

Written by Brian Gawor.

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nerdy annual givingAs the guy over here who has put on a lab coat to make a presentation on the science of giving, I fully embrace my inner nerd. We need to bring the best of science: psychology, sociology and human behavior theory to our work as fundraisers.

Here are two ideas I return to a lot when I think about giving and two nerd-tacular pieces of proof that show they are working. (No lab coat is required).

Idea: Normative Behavior

Giving is an extraordinary act. It’s also what everyone is doing.

Look at some of the biggest charity splashes of the last 40 years: things like We Are the World, the Ice Bucket Challenge, Relay for Life, Race for The Cure, Crowdfunding. What they all have in common is a social connection right along with that personal act of generosity. There’s a reason why you get to put your name on the sign you buy for a buck at the checkout to support a cause.

Normative behavior is something we do because everyone else is doing it. It is an amplifier of personal generosity. As one student caller I interviewed last year put it when asked how he feels about asking for money:

“It was a little strange, but once you ask a few times, it seems natural. People give all the time.”

The strategy of engaging the pull of normative behavior requires connecting with donors on a personal level, sharing people who are like them who have contributed, and amplifying what is commonly called the “bandwagon effect.” Crowdfunding, Give Days, matching challenges and even old-school campaigns really take advantage of this effect.

The most personal solicitation methods like phonathon, volunteers and personal visits bring normative behavior home in a big way because they involve people talking with people. The bandwagon needs a driver.

Idea: Incremental Behavior

Incremental behavior is learning the habit of doing something over time. We often refer to our annual giving programs as “incubators” for major gifts. They are. Examples of a big gift coming from a lifetime non-donor or someone totally disconnected with an organization are pretty rare. Most big supporters get involved over time, and generally increase their support as their affinity and capacity also increase.

Donors need some kind of ramp, long or short, to get to their ultimate gift.

The concept of incremental learning is big with educators, as well as with scientists who are trying to model the human brain. To quote one study:

“The incremental approach evolves more effective and more general behavior, and should also scale up to harder tasks.” 1

Substitute “big gifts” for “harder tasks” in that sentence and you’re looking at something very true about the link between annual and major giving. Saying “yes” to a phone or mail solicitation: pretty simple. Documenting your estate plan: pretty complex.

If you don’t get donors started and keep them giving regularly, you will have fewer big gifts down the road.

Proof: The Ramp Up

Big donors don’t just appear. The Nonprofit Research Collaborative just confirmed again that 75% or more of planned givers have been annual donors, something we have known for years.

Using the full giving data for 40 years at 8 institutions of higher education, we took a look at how many times donors who ultimately gave $25,000 gave prior to that big gift:

25k donor ramp giving studyAlmost three quarters of $25k+ donors gave 11 or more years prior to the big gift. For the $25-50k givers, their median first gift was just $179. That sounds like a pretty common phonathon, crowdfunded or online gift to me.

Proof: Maximum Donor Consistency

Does consistency matter? We took a look at the same institutions to look at the most consistent stretches of year to year to year giving donors had and how it translated into total lifetime giving:

max donor consistency

This data shows that even year to year giving consistency in even relatively short stretches makes a big difference–a big jump in total lifetime giving with consistency of 4+ years.

I used to be a big proponent of “every year” giving societies. I’m less excited by them now—the world is simply too turbulent to expect every loyal donor to give every year to be called “loyal.” Start a loyalty circle based on total years given if you don’t have one, and shift your strategy to catch “falling stars” –loyal donors who are about to lapse–rather than trying to catalog the entire universe.

The idea is to be a regular part of a donor’s life. We have ample evidence that your annual program will be healthier and you will be rewarded with more major and planned gifts down the road if you focus on consistency.

It’s not just today’s gifts you’re getting with your phonathon, personalized direct mail and crowdfunding. You are literally growing a group of future major donors.

So, take a look at your data, think about what behavior you are asking for and rewarding, and don’t be afraid to nerd out in your work to engage donors. If you can make a personal connection with the donors who are learning over time to make giving part of their life, your cause will be rewarded exponentially.

 

This post builds on insights from our RC360 fundraising analysis program and ideas shared in our recent white paper on the value of robust phonathon programs. Take a look and let us know what you think.

 


1 Gomez, F. and Miikulainen, G. (1997) Incremental Evolution of Complex General Behavior. Adaptive Behavior, (5): 317-342.

Written by Brian Gawor.

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Earth Day Green Practice: Coupon Codes to Enhance Online Giving http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/earth-day-green-practice-coupon-codes-to-enhance-online-giving/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/earth-day-green-practice-coupon-codes-to-enhance-online-giving/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:32:17 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=34434 Today is the 45th Anniversary of the first “Earth Day.” This is a day when significant attention is paid to ways to improve the global environment. In the fundraising world, one of the “greenest” practices is to enhance your online giving program. One way to do that is to consider using coupon codes.
Tracking the Solicitation [...]

Written by Chris Hughes.

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go_green_smallToday is the 45th Anniversary of the first “Earth Day.” This is a day when significant attention is paid to ways to improve the global environment. In the fundraising world, one of the “greenest” practices is to enhance your online giving program. One way to do that is to consider using coupon codes.

Tracking the Solicitation Channel that Drives Online Gifts

Articles are published all the time talking about the rise of online giving. However, it is important to recognize that online giving is not a solicitation channel. Rather, it is a transaction channel. Knowing what solicitation channel resulted in the donor going online to make a gift will help you make better data-driven decisions in the future.

We all have undoubtedly seen, heard and possibly used a digital coupon, or what’s better known as a “coupon code” when making a purchase online. Traditional marketers are increasingly using coupon codes to increased revenue as well as tracking.

Thus, how can the concept of a coupon code apply to fundraising?

Coupon Code Stats

Here are some interesting coupon code facts according to Forrester Research:

  • 65% of consumers have used at least 3 digital coupons in the last 3 months
  • Only 1% of consumers reported never having used a digital coupon
  • 55% of consumers said they definitely spent more money on their total purchases when they were able to use a coupon code
  • 63% of consumers said that a promotion via a coupon code helped “close the sale” if they were wavering on a purchase

Those statistics reveal not only an extreme popularity of these codes, but also a significant impact on people completing (and upgrading) how much they spend.

Possible Fundraising Impact

When translating the traditional consumer coupon code approach to your annual giving plan, here are some potential benefits:

  • Better tracking of donors who respond to various channels by making their gift online. This includes phonathon, direct mail, social media, broadcast voice messaging, text messaging, and even email. Roughly 2/3 of Americans have made a transaction online in immediate response to a direct mailer.
  • Create incentive to give during a short time frame. Maybe every gift during a specific time period is entered to win a prize. It should be noted that “giving days” have also taken great advantage of this short time frame concept.
  • Use it in tandem with corporate sponsorship activation, possibly even in conjunction with special events. For example, maybe donors using a specific coupon code can receive a discount coupon for merchandise at the campus bookstore. Offering some form of coupon has been known to increase open rates by 14%!
  • Use these incentives for additional gifts within a fiscal year. Not only can it drive additional revenue, but you can also target additional gifts designed to move donors into new or higher giving society levels. Remember, 55% of people in the above study noted they spent more money overall when these codes were involved.

donate_onlineDon’t expect a long life cycle for each code, especially via email or social media. Just over 50% of consumers used a coupon code within a few hours of receiving it via those accounts.

You can implement a coupon code by promoting it through each solicitation channel alongside a link to your giving form. To be even more donor-centric, make your coupon code fun and light-hearted; don’t make it an obvious tracking code. If possible, try to include a dedicated field in your giving form for the coupon code. If your form starts looking a little more like the last time you made an online purchase, you’re doing it right.

What if my online giving form doesn’t handle coupon codes?

Don’t fret if your current giving form doesn’t have an automatic spot for a code.  That’s OK.  Instead, use the comments section of your form, or anywhere else a donor can input free-form text.  But make sure your gift processing team knows to look for that response!

Two important things to remember are (a) make the transaction as easy as possible for the donor while creating a direct response to a specific solicitation and (b) make sure you can track responses back to that specific solicitation for future analysis and follow-ups.

One final statistic…

Here’s one more statistic from that same research study that will be of interest to all fundraisers:  68% of respondents indicated that a coupon code increased both brand awareness and loyalty.  If a coupon code can increase brand awareness and loyalty for a consumer product, it should be able to do the same for your organization’s annual giving program.

 

 

Written by Chris Hughes.

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Five Ways That Social Media Can Enhance Annual Giving http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/five-ways-that-social-media-can-enhance-annual-giving/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/five-ways-that-social-media-can-enhance-annual-giving/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 17:24:52 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=34387 How to best utilize social media in order to impact your fundraising program is an important discussion for every organization. In today’s society, incorporating social media into your multichannel mix is a must in order to engage your donors year-round.
With a growing number of options for the social media channel, here are five things you [...]

Written by Chris Hughes.

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social media icons shutterstockHow to best utilize social media in order to impact your fundraising program is an important discussion for every organization. In today’s society, incorporating social media into your multichannel mix is a must in order to engage your donors year-round.

With a growing number of options for the social media channel, here are five things you can do in order to maximize the effectiveness of social media for your annual giving program:

  1. Ask donors which platform they prefer
  2. Develop and promote your brand via fundraising-specific accounts
  3. Expect Engagement, Not Gifts
  4. Post Early, Post Often
  5.  Hashtag It

Ask Donors Their Preferred Platforms

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. Pinterest. LinkedIn. Tumblr. YouTube. Meerkat.

These are just a few options for social media platforms. Unless you have multiple full-time staff members, you should not try to have a significant social media presence with every platform. There’s simply not enough time and resources – and it’s probably not an efficient usage of time anyway.

So which ones should you choose? Ask your donors! Find out what platforms they prefer and build your social media strategy from there.

The odds are you’ll want to have around three very strong social media channels in order to communicate with all of your target audiences. Keep in mind different audience segments could prefer different platforms.

Develop and Promote Your Brand
Via Fundraising-Specific Accounts

Developing fundraising-specific accounts on each platform will help grow your annual giving brand. It is not enough to just use an institutional account. Everyone who follows one of your social media accounts needs to know they will be seeing information related to the impact of giving.

Actively promote your fundraising accounts through as many means as possible. “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t work for social media. You have to actively encourage donors and prospects to click the follow button. Consider using Fridays especially to your advantage and get other accounts within your organization and institution to send out a “#FF” post.

If you have a “Give Day,” consider moving all of your event’s activity to that new annual giving branded account. This will help you cultivate and steward donors to better recognize and embrace your annual fund as the primary cause and not the singular day of giving.

social media

Expect Engagement, Not Gifts

Social media primarily is about mass engagement, not direct financial transactions. Sure, you’ll have some gifts that get booked attributable to social media. But how often did that single tweet or post really generate the gift – or was it really a culmination of all of the engagement activities across multiple channels prior to that?

Marketers and social media experts alike all agree that you should focus on using social media to emotionally engage your donors and prospects. Send out pertinent information on how gifts are used. Use photos or infographics. Share stories. Post short videos. Maybe even host a chat (these are especially becoming popular again via twitter).

Post Early, Post Often

“How often should I post” is a frequent question. The answer is two-fold: it depends on the platform and it depends on your content.

Recent social media research has shown that optimal engagement happens with two daily posts on facebook; three daily posts on twitter; and five daily posts on pinterest. That’s obviously a lot of daily content, especially for a fundraising program, and it’s definitely better to post less frequently and have more relevant material.

Posting at least once a day on each platform is highly recommended. It’s OK to post the same thing across platforms, but to maximize the impact of your social media channels, you have to post frequently.

Just as importantly, these messages should be significantly skewed towards non-solicitations.
There will be a time to ask for gifts via social media, but use the opportunity to constantly cultivate your audience with each passing day, week and month.

Hashtag It!

Hashtags are a part of the lexicon in our daily lives. Originally found just on twitter, now hashtags are a part of every social media platform.

There are two ways to consider using hashtags. One is for special event purposes. This is especially true for days of giving. The second way is to create a hashtag that directly enhances your annual giving brand and is a way for donors to interact year-round.

Within higher education, athletics programs have been especially successful at creating hashtags that unite supporters. One example is Northwestern University, which created a hashtag brand of “#B1GCATS” representing its Wildcats nickname as well as their being part of the Big Ten Conference.

In addition, NU Athletics had a successful single-day fundraising event on April 7, 2015. In concert with National Student-Athlete Day, NU created the hashtag “#NU494” to represent the University’s 494 varsity student-athletes. With heavy social media posts throughout various accounts, that hashtag received 449,000 timeline deliveries. Overall, 218 donors donated more than $50,000 for that day’s campaign.

In Conclusion…

Social media is unique in that every donor or prospect who clicks the button to like or follow is self-selected. People who click are interested. However, the competition for attention is fierce as many people like or follow hundreds (if not more) of places. This is not just about young donors. The average person 44 years old or younger has accounts on five different social media platforms.

However, if you put consistent resources, energy and strategic effort into social media, it can yield significant year-round engagement and enhance the overall donor and dollar totals for your fundraising program.

 

Other Blog Posts in the 2015 “Five Ways” Series From Chris:

Written by Chris Hughes.

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New Report: Philanthropy Outlook http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/new-report-philanthropy-outlook/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/04/new-report-philanthropy-outlook/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 14:11:49 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=34366 The experts at the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy have released The Philanthropy Outlook 2015 & 2016, a new report using a solid economic research methodology to predict how giving will grow and change in the coming two years.
The report is a great application of complex financial prediction models to the flow of charitable [...]

Written by Brian Gawor.

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Lily-MandL-outlookThe experts at the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy have released The Philanthropy Outlook 2015 & 2016, a new report using a solid economic research methodology to predict how giving will grow and change in the coming two years.

The report is a great application of complex financial prediction models to the flow of charitable giving.

A few main points:

  • The report predicts that total giving will increase by 4.8% in 2015 and by 4.9% in 2016. This is an acceleration of growth compared to what we’ve experienced so far coming out of the recession.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, household giving will decline slightly as a total share of giving, with estates and foundations showing more growth. This follows what fundraisers have been hearing about greater foundation spending and distribution of wealth from the Baby Boom generation.
  • The report predicts that corporate giving will increase by 6.0% in 2015 and 4.8% in 2016.

The report is a good reminder that broader economic forces will weigh heavily on the willingness of individuals to give and will significantly affect corporations and foundations.

For frontline fundraisers, there is an interesting discussion in the report of giving by those who itemize on taxes vs. non-itemizers. The prediction is that non-itemizers will represent less of total giving in the coming years than they have historically. Itemized giving is predicted to increase by 6%, about 50% more of an increase than the expectation for all household giving. This prediction is driven by projections of asset growth. This is a good reminder to make sure you get those tax receipts out on time, make sure your tax benefit language is clear, and also have a plan to engage donors who are less likely to itemize.

This report is based on very broad trends, including the forces in markets, world GPD and asset growth. The analysis includes broad factors such as prior growth in the stock market indexes, data on personal incomes, and household net worth. If these factors change unexpectedly, the results for giving could be significant.

Overall, the report tells us that “the nonprofit sector appears to be continuing on the road to recovery.”

That’s good news for all of us.

You can grab a copy of the report online and read more about the predictions and methodology.

The sponsor of the report, Marts and Lundy, will host a free webinar about the Philanthropy Outlook on April 23, and registration is available online.

Written by Brian Gawor.

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