Ruffalo Noel Levitz http://www.ruffalocody.com Wed, 01 Apr 2015 18:47:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Millennials Are Fundraising http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/the-millennials-are-fundraising/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/the-millennials-are-fundraising/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 16:43:38 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=33865 There are an estimated 80 million members of the Millennial generation and they make up over 36% of the current workforce. By 2020, it is estimated that Millennials will make up approximately 50% of the working population. There’s been a lot written about how the impact of a new generation is changing the ways we [...]

Written by Hailey Story.

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millennials_fundraisingThere are an estimated 80 million members of the Millennial generation and they make up over 36% of the current workforce. By 2020, it is estimated that Millennials will make up approximately 50% of the working population. There’s been a lot written about how the impact of a new generation is changing the ways we work together. I have the great privilege of working with Millennial fundraising professionals as part of the RNL team every day, and here are some things I have learned:

Tips for Coaching and Motivating Young Fundraising Professionals

  • Ask Questions: It is important to get to know the people who work for you as part of your staff. Take notice in their responses and ask follow up questions. It isn’t enough to go through the motions and just ask “how was your weekend,” and leave it at that. Take active notice of things that are happening in your employees’ and colleagues’ lives and remember to ask about them down the line how those things turned out. Be sincere in these questions and really care about the conversations you have.
  • Explanations: Take a few additional seconds or minutes to explain the reason behind why we are doing things a certain way. Millennials like to know not only what the task is, but the reasons. It can make a difference in how your employees will value their contribution. (This advice is strongly related to how we should communicate with Millennial donors, too).
  • Follow Through: Do what you say and expect your team to do the same. You must lead by example. You are working with young professionals who still need to be molded and taught good habits. They easily learn by what you do in the office, so be sure that you are instilling good values and work habits.
  • Adjust Your Approach: Millennials are a diverse group and this diversity has been more valued during their development than with any other generation. It can be detrimental to not take the time to understand the people you work with and that not everyone works the same way. You can’t put a blanket approach on your management. Learn the styles, strengths and weakness; cater your approach to individuals on your team to have the greatest possibility of success.
  • Growth: Remember that young people are focused on potential. Discuss your employee’s aspirations. Give them a platform for opportunities to grow. Millennials have a strong desire to see where their career is going and what they need to do to get there. They look forward to challenges and as a supervisor it is your responsibility to deliver on that. Having conversations about growth on a regular basis helps prevent unexpected turnover and allows for smoother transitions if employees decide to leave the organization.
  • Fun: Make time for fun, it doesn’t always have to be about work. Encourage your employees to be active outside of work. Being new in a city and working long hours can easily take its toll on someone- we see this with new call center managers. Continue to be an advocate for having a life outside of work. Employees that are happy in their personal life tend to bring that positive attitude to the work place. “Research has in fact shown that employees who believe they do not have time for the personal life feel drained and distracted while they are at work.”

Young Professionals are Our Future

The best advice for working with young professionals is advice that can work for all employees: take pride in your people and truly value the contribution they provide to our organization. My motivation stems from the accomplishments of my staff and seeing them succeed. There is no better way to end a week, month or fiscal year than with a handful of wins that can be attributed to your employees…

… and celebrating those wins together.

Written by Hailey Story.

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Five Ways to Increase Email Open and Click Rates http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/five-ways-to-increase-email-open-and-click-rates/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/five-ways-to-increase-email-open-and-click-rates/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:42:24 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=33729 There are a lot of theories and opinions regarding email as a communications tool.  Some people say that email is incredibly strong and growing in popularity while others say it is dead.
The statistical reality is that 200 billion emails are sent daily throughout the world, so clearly email is not dying.  For recent alumni, the [...]

Written by Chris Hughes.

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inboxThere are a lot of theories and opinions regarding email as a communications tool.  Some people say that email is incredibly strong and growing in popularity while others say it is dead.

The statistical reality is that 200 billion emails are sent daily throughout the world, so clearly email is not dying.  For recent alumni, the 2014 Millennial Impact Report indicated that 85% want to receive general campus news via email, and 61% indicated a preferred method of being asked for donations is email.

So clearly email is still very strong.  However, email unquestionably falls into the same category as every other channel in today’s multichannel/cross-channel world:  strategic focus and decisions are required to realize any benefit.  It’s true for phone.  It’s true for direct mail.  It’s true for email.

Defining and measuring email success is not an exact science, but two of the strongest indicators of email success are open rates and click-thru rates.  Therefore, here are five ways you can increase open and click thru rates for emails:

  1. Maintain data integrity
  2. Dynamic subject line and sender name
  3. Download photos reminder
  4. Safe senders list reminder
  5. Incorporate videos

Maintain Data Integrity

When it comes to email, which account does the donor prefer and check regularly?  If you don’t have a good email address, nothing else matters because it doesn’t reach the intended recipient.

Acxiom reported in 2013 that 74% of people had at least two personal email accounts, and 36% had three or more accounts – not to mention the average of 1-2 business accounts per person.  Plus, 17% of Americans create a new email address every six months!  Therefore, it’s likely your email-friendly donors and prospects have at least four email address choices that are far from static.

Be sure your advancement operation includes consistent data integrity checks:

  • A couple of times a year, ask donors and prospects if that email address is preferred or if they have an updated preference.
  • If you don’t have an email address for an alumnus or donor, be sure you are maximizing opportunities in other channels to capture that information.
  • Online sweepstakes and contests initiated through social media channels are a great way to encourage alumni to provide a preferred email address.
  • When someone registers online to attend an event, is your registration database linked up with your fundraising database to capture contact information?  Are you capturing updated direct mail, phone and email addresses during registration?
  • Consider running regular email verification and append services on your database.

Dynamic Subject Lines and Sender Names

When it comes to open rates, the subject lines and sender names have significant influence on whether the recipient opens the email.  Much like the carrier envelope in a direct mail, the sole job of email subject lines and sender names is to get someone to open the email.

Four focus areas that will greatly increase your odds of increasing open rates and click thru rates are (a) personalization, (b) relevancy, (c) action verbs and (d) make your request obvious.

  • Personalization can include everything from names to recent history or anything else that is unique to that donor.  Inclusion of the recipient’s name in the subject line is also becoming more commonplace in the marketing world.
  • Relevancy is arguably more important than personalization.  This means segmenting your emails by demographics and interests and sending several versions of an email (just as the industry has been doing with direct mail for at least a few decades).  Salsa Labs recently reported that individualization of emails in this donor-relevant manner could increase email opens by as much as 244% and click thrus by as much as 161%.
  •  Action verbs not only attract the eye, but more importantly do not feel “institutional” to the reader.  The average person receives a couple hundred emails daily on one or more of their accounts.  Use your sender name and subject line to give the reader a strong reason to open your email.  Initiate an action request for them.  Using a question mark in a subject line is often a good tactic, as is the mere mention of video (which will be discussed more below).
  •  Make your request obvious to the reader.  What is the purpose of the email?  Is it to solicit a gift?  Is it to steward a donor by getting them to read an online story about the impact of their gifts?  Whatever the purpose, it should be very clear – and make sure your click thru links are both distinctive and serve that defined purpose.

Download Photos Reminderdownload

All ISPs are different, but one consistent item appears to be that photos in an email need to be downloaded by a recipient in order to be counted by the computer as an opened email.  Therefore, put reminders at the top of your emails to encourage recipients to download the photos.  Sell them on the need to download photos for maximum impact.

The requirement to download photos is one reason why open rates are not considered a more definitive analytic.  There is no clear way of knowing how many people read emails without downloading the photos, especially on mobile devices where half of all emails are read.  However, active encouragement at the top of emails to request donors to download photos should begin to improve the accuracy of the open rate number.

Safe Senders Reminder

“Please add us to your safe senders list.”  We’ve all seen this line in emails we get in our personal lives.  Adding this reminder to your donor emails can accomplish the following:

  • Improves deliverability.  Being added to a safe senders list is another way of confirming to ISPs that your email address is legitimate and safe.
  • Keeps you out of the spam box.  If an email goes into a spam in-box, you can pretty much guarantee it won’t be read.
  • Reaffirms the donor’s emotional relationship with your institution.  Clicking that link is another way of the donor saying “I trust you.”
  • Can work in tandem with downloading photos, which means now your email is not only being delivered to the in-box, but more likely to be counted as an opened email.

Videos in Emails

There is no denying the popularity of videos, and the inclusion of videos in emails is becoming more prevalent every day.  Videos can be used for every phase of the donor cycle – solicitation, stewardship, cultivation.  They can also be used to enhance telefund reminders and fulfillment.

It would be easy to write pages upon pages related to videos in emails.  For now, here are a few of the key elements to consider:

  • Using the word “video” in the subject line can increase open rates by as much as 20%
  • According to a 2013 report from The Relevancy Group, using video can increase click thru rates by as much as 55% and increase revenue from email by as much as 40%.  Some marketers have experienced a 200%-300% increase in click throughs by using videos.
  • Viewers retain 95% of a message when watched in a video vs. read in text
  • Video already accounts for half of all mobile phone data usage, and is expected to increase to nearly two-thirds in the next year or two.
  • Videos do not have to be “award winning” to be successful.  In many cases, a quality video can be filmed, edited and uploaded with just a smartphone!
  • Videos can be used not only in emails, but repurposed for web sites, social media and crowdfunding campaigns (especially those via ScaleFunder).  Video content is shared through social media 12 times more than links and text combined.  In addition, a single ScaleFunder crowdfunding campaign in the fall of 2014 had more than 2,000 video views!

 In Conclusion…

For your email activity to be truly successful, it needs to be strategically approached with the same focus as every other communications channel.  Open rates and click thru rates are two commonly-used metrics to analyze email success, and incorporating some of the above recommendations should help enhance the overall success of your emails.

Remember, no email can be successful if it is not opened. 

Written by Chris Hughes.

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Fundraising Voices: Cole Swanson, Writer http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/fundraising-voices-cole-swanson-writer/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/fundraising-voices-cole-swanson-writer/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 14:20:30 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=32249 Your message to donors is important and preparing the wording of the perfect mail, email or call is crucial. The Ruffalo Noel Levitz fundraising writing team serves hundreds of institutions and charities worldwide.
I sat down with Cole Swanson, a member of the writing team to ask about the writing process and specifically, his tips for [...]

Written by Brian Gawor.

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ColeswansonYour message to donors is important and preparing the wording of the perfect mail, email or call is crucial. The Ruffalo Noel Levitz fundraising writing team serves hundreds of institutions and charities worldwide.

I sat down with Cole Swanson, a member of the writing team to ask about the writing process and specifically, his tips for using phone fundraising scripts.

How long have you been with
the writing team?

I’ve been with RuffaloCODY since November of 2011. Prior to this job, I assisted adults with learning disabilities at Exceptional Persons, Inc. in Waterloo, Iowa.

How did you come to this position? What do you like about being a fundraising writer?

I came to this position because of my educational background. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with an English Teaching degree and a Creative Writing minor. I like being a fundraising writer because it gives me the opportunity to help organizations and institutions that are trying to make the world a little bit better.

What do you like about writing scripts for colleges and universities?

The most enjoyable part about writing scripts for colleges and universities is researching each institution. There are so many great schools out there that I never would have heard of if I didn’t get this job.

What have you learned that you didn’t expect when you started?

I was surprised to learn how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep colleges, universities and other organizations running smoothly. From an outside perspective, you never hear about how hard members of annual giving offices work—there aren’t buildings or stadiums named after them—but without their hard work, the nonprofits we love would be in pretty bad shape.

What should calling programs try to accomplish in time they have each potential donor on the phone?

In the limited time that a caller has a potential donor on the phone, they should try to get that person reflecting on their connection to an institution by talking about the person’s areas of interest. From there, make a case for how that person’s gift will support something related to their area of interest. If not directly, then at least by creating the possibility for another individual to make their own positive memories. After someone commits to a gift, reinforce their decision. There’s a great article by Willis Turner on how positive reinforcement directly relates to someone’s aptitude to give a second gift.

What makes a good phonathon script?

A good script is something that’s unique to each prospect. You would think that means something very tailored and specific, but actually—the opposite is true. By creating something general or more all-encompassing, it presents callers with more freedom to get to know the person they’re speaking with, find out where their interests lie and get them to support an area that they are truly passionate about, thus increasing the propensity for them to give again in the future.

How can a caller best use a script?

The best way a caller can use a script is by making it their own. Obviously, there are important points that the charity wants to make sure are covered during a call, but a great caller is able to find those points and re-work them in a way that is easier for them to use and that potential donors respond to positively on the phones.

Any good stories for us?

Shortly after I began working at RuffaloCODY, we traveled to the on-site call center at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. I remember there was one caller who had a script printed at her desk with so many lines crossed out it looked like it could’ve come directly from the CIA. She also had hand-written pages next to it. She told me that she re-wrote all her scripts herself in her own handwriting, because it helped her to be more natural and conversational on the phones.

I listened in on some of her calls later that night with the printed script in front of me. She still covered everything, but she was doing it in a way that felt like she was talking to a potential mentor, not reciting facts to a stranger. That’s stuck with me to this day because I learned then that a script is a tool, not gospel. It’s meant to guide callers as they get accustomed to a new program or segment—training wheels—if you will.

Last question: What’s the best phone call you ever received?

Best phone call I ever received? Probably when I was eight or nine and got a call from a witch during Arlington, Iowa’s Annual Halloween Witch’s Call. She was calling to let me know that I had been chosen as a winner for a fat sack of candy and other goodies, so yeah—that was pretty awesome.

Written by Brian Gawor.

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Spring Forward http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/spring-forward/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/spring-forward/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 16:59:34 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=32657 This week we reset our clocks, meaning the dreaded loss of an hour that comes every March has arrived and has thrown us off our sleep schedules. However, the beginning of daylight savings time is a ray of sunshine for many winter-haters: Spring is upon us. The hours of sunlight each day get longer and [...]

Written by Chelsea Legner.

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springbudsThis week we reset our clocks, meaning the dreaded loss of an hour that comes every March has arrived and has thrown us off our sleep schedules. However, the beginning of daylight savings time is a ray of sunshine for many winter-haters: Spring is upon us. The hours of sunlight each day get longer and May flowers are just around the corner. This is the time of year that the plants outside are powering up for the summer by storing sunlight and getting enough moisture to blossom for the next season. Spring is also a time to make sure your annual giving garden will be at full bloom this summer and fall.

How are you planting seeds this spring?

Here are some ideas to make sure that you are establishing the best conditions now for growth this spring and beyond:

Spring Showers = Fall Flowers

Your success this spring will help jumpstart the new fiscal year. Spring is all about renewal, and this should be top of your mind given donor loyalty rates these days. Renew gifts from loyal donors this spring before it’s too late. Statistically, June is the second strongest month for giving behind December for this reason. Perform an audit of the donors that haven’t renewed and make sure they are included in all your cross-channel spring solicitations through the end of the fiscal year.

Remember that every year is built on the last and the volume of donors you renew, reacquire and acquire this spring will optimize your ability to be successful in FY16.

Fertilize with Data Enrichment

Not being able to engage constituents via all channels can negatively impact your results. Take a look at who has been excluded from solicitations this fiscal year due to bad or missing contact information and determine the opportunity cost of not finding them. Data enrichment solutions can help you maximize both donors and dollars by finding some of your missing constituents and providing you the opportunity to solicit them this year and beyond.

Sunny Days Are Ahead

At colleges and universities, the end of the year can be stressful for students, but the sunshine also means that students are thawing out from the winter. The lawn will be filled with students outdoors studying for exams and playing Frisbee on the quad. These, happy, warm faces are great features for end of year stewardship pieces for donors. For other organizations, you want to make sure you capture your spring events (especially outdoor ones) while you have the chance. Middlebury College won a CASE Excellence award last year with a thank you video for annual fund donors, featuring current and vintage campus springtime images. Make sure your marketing team is ready with their cameras and have a group of warm and happy people ready to feature on a spring appeal or stewardship video.

Now is also a great time to review your stewardship plan and ensure your FY15 donors understand the value of their gifts. If you don’t feel that your stewardship plan has accomplished this, then consider ramping up your spring stewardship using thank-a-thons or handwritten thank you notes.

Remember that your “planting” this spring will help you bloom all next year. This past week, we didn’t lose an hour, we just gained a new season of potential.

Written by Chelsea Legner.

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Flight Attendant Fundraising http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/flight-attendant-fundraising/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/flight-attendant-fundraising/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 22:09:38 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=32177 We’re deep into the conference season, and it’s been great to see many of our partners at CASE and AFP gatherings across the world. Travel means planes, and we’ve been on quite a few of them over the past few months.
I’ve personally been through more pre-flight procedures and safety videos than this new mom cares [...]

Written by Emily Morgan.

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flightattendantWe’re deep into the conference season, and it’s been great to see many of our partners at CASE and AFP gatherings across the world. Travel means planes, and we’ve been on quite a few of them over the past few months.

I’ve personally been through more pre-flight procedures and safety videos than this new mom cares to witness.  I started to wonder: what can we learn about fundraising from the flight experience?

“Let me demonstrate the seat belt.”

We pretty much all know how to buckle up on the plane. The demonstration is largely ignored—but don’t assume that this pattern applies to donors. Your donors may really benefit from good instructions and coaching. This might apply to everything from tax benefits, how to give online, or participating and sharing their excitement to friends about a crowdfunding campaign.   Institutions who have given donor updates during the “turbulence” of the IRA rollover legislation uncertainty over the past few years are also great examples.

“If you’re going to sit here, are you willing to help?”

exitrowExit row seating is a premium, but it comes with a few questions. Our leadership opportunities also come with prestige and require a commitment. Have you had a direct conversation with your volunteers and board members about what they are willing to do? Don’t assume they know your expectations and don’t assume they all agree on the responsibilities.

“…signaling a loss in cabin pressure”

In missing my new baby boy, I’ve noticed I’m starting to pick up parenting cues in some odd places.  For example, during a trip to the CASE VIII conference in Seattle, sitting through yet another tedious (albeit somewhat comical) Delta pre-flight video, I got to thinking about the part where adults are expected tosecure their air masks before helping children or those unable to help themselves.  What’s the corollary for fundraisers? Get yourself situated and in working order with your data, lists, plan and message before contacting your donors.  Set your office up for success by ensuring the air mask is on! You can’t serve donors if you are choking.

“We know you have a choice…”

This seems to be part of the pilot’s standard script as you’re touching down, and also words of wisdom for fundraisers. Donors do have a choice, whether it’s another cause, another institution, or the choice to give at all. We need to educate them about their impact, provide help, make them feel special, and meet their needs.

As the giving “flight attendants,” we need to provide donors with the best, most personalized experience while still being good stewards of the funds so they are willing to be repeat fliers with us.

I’ll see you on the flight deck.

Written by Emily Morgan.

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How to Motivate Student Fundraisers http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/how-to-motivate-student-fundraisers/ http://www.ruffalocody.com/2015/03/how-to-motivate-student-fundraisers/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:07:03 +0000 http://www.ruffalocody.com/?p=32156 Being a student phonathon caller is not an easy job.
Last night across the globe, RuffaloCODY student callers dialed the phone over 700,000 times to ask alumni to donate.
Sometimes no one answers.  Sometimes too many people answer.  Sometimes they get yelled at, and many times they hear new versions of “no.” It’s the reality of fundraising, [...]

Written by Molly Mendoza.

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teamworksmallBeing a student phonathon caller is not an easy job.

Last night across the globe, RuffaloCODY student callers dialed the phone over 700,000 times to ask alumni to donate.

Sometimes no one answers.  Sometimes too many people answer.  Sometimes they get yelled at, and many times they hear new versions of “no.” It’s the reality of fundraising, and it can be discouraging.  Students don’t receive any sort of commission for this kind of work and they could easily be swayed to work at a campus job where they make the same wage for essentially sitting behind a desk doing their homework.

That’s why student motivation is such huge component of managing a university’s phonathon.

Many institutions can’t fit student raises or monetary incentives into their budget, so managers have to be creative.  Games, prizes, raffles, awards and various forms of recognition seem to be the universal “motivators” in call centers.

We all know that not everyone is motivated by the same things.  But what came as a surprise to me was that monetary or “thing” incentives don’t actually work for all employees. Especially those whose job requires cognitive skill, like student fundraisers. Here’s how three other motivators described by researcher and author Daniel Pink might apply to your call center:

Purpose

My most successful and long-lived callers are the ones who can really comprehend how much of an impact they are making.  Change your management mentality from “if you raise $1,000 you’ll get a prize” to “if you raise $1,000, you’ll help a student (maybe even yourself!) get that much closer to paying for their tuition.”  Our purpose for asking donors for money is to help students get an education. Shouldn’t that be the same purpose for callers to get a donation?  You don’t have to do this alone. Hosting guest speakers during calling shifts from the university’s faculty across various departments to carry this point home has given our students a different perspective on how substantial their job is.

Autonomy

As a manager, we get tempted to hover over our employees sometimes, especially if they are newly-hired or having a bad night.  Although we coach during every shift, it’s crucial to let callers have some autonomy.  It may seem unreasonable and impossible to offer “genius time” to part-time student employees.  Here’s an example of a win-win:  callers decorated numbered envelopes during shift and I hung them on the wall for our Refusal Countdown.  It gave the artistically-inclined callers a creative outlet while at the same time created a motivating and eye-catching wall hang for the center (For every more envelopesdonation they got from our Refusal segment, they got to take a numbered envelope off the wall.  About 20% of the envelopes had a message on the inside saying that they won a prize).  We do coloring projects for the holidays, like decorating hearts to hang from the ceiling for Valentine’s Day.  Anything that provides students with a creative outlet but keeps their focus on the next call and the phones still dialing can work. Stress relief is important, especially in an environment where you face a lot of rejection.

Mastery

Daniel Pink calls this the “urge to get better at something.”  The problem with this motivator is that not every student fundraiser has the desire to get better at fundraising.  Not every student caller is motivated by the same thing.  Some are competitive and like challenges and games, some are genuinely philanthropic, some use the job to build their resumes and some are just there for the paycheck.  Ideally we try to hire students who are competitive, seek achievement and development, or are goal-oriented and we will cater our interview questions around those qualities.  These callers are successful because they thrive off of public recognition of their performance.  In our call center, we have leader boards that list top performers for the week, caller-of-the-month, and other endless competitions based on who raised the most dollars, pledges, etc.

Spread your motivation out

Making sure that you have different forms of motivation operating in your center. Students are all different and they change over time.

Our job is to listen to students, engage them, and find the motivation that helps them grow. They’ll show us the results the next time an alumnus says “yes” during a great call.

 

Find out what student callers said about the most challenging and motivating part of their job in the RuffaloCODY student caller survey.

 

Written by Molly Mendoza.

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