The Big Give For Autism: A showcase of the power of crowdfunding

Raising a total of $133,413 through 1,176 gifts toward autism initiatives worldwide, The Big Give For Autism, a brand-new event launched last year by the Autism Society, was a crowdfunding success no matter what metric you consider.

Held over the course of a single day, Sept. 17, 2015, The Big Give For Autism became both a fundraising event and an opportunity to teach the general public about an often misunderstood condition. The daylong push is an excellent showcase of how crowdfunding can be used to raise large sums of money and plenty of awareness around an important issue.

At the Washington Nonprofit Conference hosted next month by the DMA Nonprofit Federation, two of the leaders of The Big Give For Autism will elaborate on their approach. At the “The Autism Society’s Big Give For Autism: A Model for Mastering Crowdfunding” session Feb. 18, many secrets to nonprofit crowdfunding will be revealed. The discussion will take place between Michael Leaver, the director of development at the Autism Society, and Miriam Kagan, the senior principal at Kimbia, the online fundraising platform that hosted the event.

When first unveiled a few years ago, crowdfunding seemed like a godsend for nonprofits attempting to raise money in the crowded digital sphere. Now that many crowdfunding sites are oversaturated themselves with nonprofits and causes of all stripes, it remains difficult to make an impact. The challenges can seem even more insurmountable for older institutions without the resources or time to research next-generation funding trends.

However, The Big Give For Autism shows it is definitely possible to overcome the online noise – and the Autism Society just turned 50. When done right, single-day crowdfunding events can bring in an impressive return-on-investment and new donors in the double digits. This case study will show how the Autism Society used crowdfunding best practices and lessons learned during their successful first-time giving event, The Big Give For Autism.

“The Autism Society chose to host a giving day because of the model’s proven ability to reach across communities, channels and segments to unite supporters, partners and donors,” Kimbia noted in a statement before the event. “The organization also cited the opportunity to raise significant new dollars, recruit new donors and increase awareness of their cause as reasons for organizing a giving day event.”

The Kimbia platform was well-suited for the Autism Society’s needs because the team has pioneered the strategy behind single-day events. For The Big Give For Autism, Kimbia partnered with the Autism Society to help develop the giving day website, marketing materials, social media calls-to-action and an email, plus an offline campaign for constituents at the national level.

“The Autism Society has the perfect structure to do an event like this,” Amy Zumbahlen, The Big Give for Autism Project Manager at Kimbia, said in a release. “We love to see friendly competition help an organization grow brand awareness locally and nationally.”

Autism, which has recently been reclassified as Autism Spectrum Disorder by psychologists and also includes conditions like Aspergers syndrome, is prevalent in the American public’s mind but often in an obtuse way. Autism is often in the news but not in a way that pushes people to donate to groups like the Autism Society. Positive events like The Big Give For Autism, though, can take this renewed awareness and turn it into action.   

“The prevalence of Autism has nearly doubled since 2004, driving higher associated costs and a truly urgent need for our programs that assist families impacted by the disorder,” Leaver said in a statement. “Working with the Kimbia team, platform and best practices approach will ensure that we engage seamlessly across all of our stakeholders while providing a simple, secure donation process.”

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Nonprofit Federation Conference, Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C

Questions nonprofits should ask before starting an email list

A strong email list can be the lifeblood of your nonprofit organization.

A robust list can help you rally volunteers for an important event, summon donors during times of critical fundraising and keep you connected to your strongest supporters.

With email marketing being such a powerful tool, many organizations start collecting email contacts before they think about how they will use those digital addresses in the future.

Sure, it can be tempting to collect address first and ask questions later. However, that impulse can create much trouble for an organization down the line, and can even create a few problems right away.  

Before you start gathering emails, think about how you will be using those contacts and why your organization wants them. The more information you have figured out about your list, the better. That info will inform how you will promote your list, where you should recruit and the messaging used to convince people to sign up.

Without a clear value proposition, you might find it difficult to get sign-ups beyond your most die-hard fans. Why should someone sign up for a list if they don’t know what they are getting themselves into?

So, figure out exactly what use you have for this list. Is it a newsletter to keep people up-to-date on your nonprofit’s latest happenings? Will the list be used to recruit and retain volunteers, or will it be used to solicit donations during an annual fund drive?

Also, figure out how often you will be sending the email. Will it be sent out at regular intervals or will it be sent out sporadically? Will it be a daily update or a quarterly call for donations? Maybe the email will come out before and after park cleanup days that your organization holds every few months.

Try to come up with a focused objective for you list. Another tempting shortcut is to say you will use one list to achieve all your marketing goals. But a list with a broad objective will also find difficulty recruiting and retaining members.

Though similar, your organization needs different contributions from volunteers and donors, and the same broader message won’t be as effective as two specific messages to each group. If recipients get too many emails they feel aren’t directed at them, they will eventually unsubscribe.

Retaining list members can be just as difficult as recruiting them in the first place. Figuring out as much as you can about your list before you start gathering addresses is the best way to set it up for long-term success. Letting people know up front what they are signing up for will make them a lot less likely to drop out later.

Lists without clear objectives tend to morph over time. They go from newsletters to donor-asks to a hodgepodge of disconnected emails. And when people feel like they are getting something different from what they signed up for, that is when they start unsubscribing.

For more best practices and list-building strategies, check out the DMA’s Washington Nonprofit Conference. Dixie Clough, digital projects specialist for the Smithsonian Office of Advancement, will be presenting “Unrelenting, Totally Awesome and EFFECTIVE List Building.

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Nonprofit Federation Conference, Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

Analyzing the gift-giving impulse: Nonprofits and analytics

Traditional economics teaches us that people act in their own rational self-interest to improve their “utility.” In any textbook, that’s a fuzzy term, but it often refers to one’s economic position. In many cases, people will act in a way that puts more dollars in their pocket, if given the choice. 
But in some cases, they won’t. This is because human beings aren’t 100 percent rational and aren’t 100 percent driven by the desire to get rich. Theoretically, this means that the irrational impulse to not get richer cannot be predicted, studied, or analyzed by rational means; it’s too chaotic and random to be understood.

At least, that’s how economists thought long ago. Modern behavioral economics disagrees and argues there are ways to analyze human behavior to understand why they do so-called “irrational” things that don’t improve their bottom line.

Like, for instance, giving money to charity.

In today’s data-driven world, the study of why and how people choose to give to charity remains very small compared to the massive dollars of funding pouring into the study of why people choose one brand of shampoo over another, for example. But that doesn’t mean data isn’t being analyzed and numbers aren’t being crunched right now to see exactly what trends there are in the human compunction to give to needy causes.

At this year’s Washington Nonprofit Conference at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel, several sessions will touch on how the nonprofit world is getting shaken up — for the better — by the analytics revolution. In "Data- Driven Dollars: Using Predictive Modeling to Enhance the Solicitation Experience,” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center analytics specialists Ivana Krizanic and James Cheng will discuss how they used predictive analytics to complement existing strategies for their annual fundraising, resulting in a 20 percent boost to money collected. 
In "How Advanced Analytics Can Drive More Net Revenue,” RobbinsKersten Direct Client Services VP Andrew Laudano and SVP Advanced Analytics Thalamus Hill will discuss using analytics to drive fundraising initiatives with Humane Society International Direct Marketing Manager Michelle Munger.

The Humane Society has consistently been one of the most successful fundraisers in the world, and they have leveraged analytics to gain a better understanding of how and why they have been successful. This creates a virtual cycle of more success, more revenue and more good done for the world.

Join us at this year’s Washington Nonprofit Conference to see how your good cause can use analytics to understand the irrational and virtuous impulse some human beings have to give up wealth for a better, happier world. With innovations in data collection and analytics, fundraisers are going to get better and better at targeting and campaigning to bring the best out of humanity.  
This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Nonprofit Federation Conference, Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C

Harness the Holiday Spirit for Your Nonprofit Campaign

Any experienced nonprofit knows the holiday season is one of the most important times to pull in donations. While consumers are out spending billions on gifts each year, they are also seemingly more willing to open their wallets for charities of all stripes.

The reasons for the season are varied. In general, there is a spirit of generosity that flows through many people in the time between Halloween and New Year’s Day. More practically, many donors also want to make donations before the calendar year ends so they can get tax write-offs in April.

Nonprofits have become attuned to these trends, and many have developed easy-to-replicate strategies for fundraising for all types of organizations. At the DMA Nonprofit Conference in Washington D.C. Feb. 18 and 19, several insiders will reveal how they take advantage of this end-of-the-year giving. At the ”Giving Season SPLURGE: Mail More, Model More, and be Way More Merry as you Double Holiday Revenue” on the second day of the conference, leaders from the Wounded Warrior Project, DCDR Fundraising Group and Wiland will discuss via several case studies how they’ve succeeded during the holiday season.

The public’s sense of generosity at the end of the year is more than just a trend and needs to be considered by every nonprofit.

“As the economy has recovered, people tend to give more,” Sam Worthington, CEO of InterAction, an alliance of nongovernmental international organizations, said in an interview with USA Today. “We also are more aware of the challenges others face. As Americans feel better off and yet recognize that others are in need, they tend to dig deeper into their pockets and help.”

The best end-of-year campaigns can speak to both reasons people give around the holidays.

"Many of our members are dependent upon a good holiday season for a large portion of their annual fundraising," Worthington continued. "There’s the practical aspect, which is that it’s the end of the year and people want to make sure their giving is done before a new calendar year, and there’s the fact that we spend time with our families, we think about others and want to have an impact on the world around us."

However, experts find that donors are not so great at seeking out nonprofits. Instead, they need to be approached.

"Historically, this is when nonprofit organizations have made the biggest push in terms of fundraising appeals,” notes Steve MacLaughlin, an executive for fundraising service provider Blackbaud. "The number one reason people give to charity is because they’re asked.”

Nonprofits can tap into these potential donors in a variety of ways.

“Generosity is an important lesson that many parents want to bestow upon their children,” claims Geoff Livingston, a blogger who writes about nonprofit fundraising. “Create ways for parents and grandparents to teach children the importance of compassion, empathy and giving by developing small gifts to bestow.”

Don’t worry – you don’t need to be an advertising maverick to receive holiday donations (although that doesn’t hurt, either). Remember: People want to give.

“Not everyone can write a cheeky Santa campaign. That’s OK!” Livingston continues. “People seem to forget that one of the primary celebrations of the holiday season is gratitude. So instead of trying to act like Don Draper, just be sincere and publicly thank your supporters for how they have helped your cause this year. Tell stories of individual impact and what it has meant. Use pictures and videos wherever possible.”

Personality and positivity are huge, as well as relating important statistics and stories regarding impact. While a nonprofit can passively enjoy the public’s increased fondness for giving around the holidays, a strong campaign can improve this holiday revenue exponentially.

 This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Nonprofit Federation Conference, Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C

Should Nonprofits Focus on Facebook to Drive Conversions?

It’s been just over a decade since Facebook started recruiting college kids to write on virtual walls and poke one another.

Since then, the company has changed a lot: It has gained billions of dollars in value as well as a hefty increase in active users. However, dozens of other competitors have come on the scene. Facebook has certainly evolved over the years, so is it still the best place for nonprofits to reach potential audiences or should organizations concentrate on other forms of media to reach people?

Looking at the numbers, Facebook still has an impressive lead on its competition with 1.01 billion daily active users (DAU) and 1.55 billion monthly active users (MAU) according to the company’s own reporting as of Sept. 2015.

Instagram (owned by Facebook) says it has 400 million MAU and Twitter reports it has about 320 million MAU. And it is reported back in May that upstart Snapchat has 100 million DAU.

Though Facebook has certainly gained popularity among users, that means it has also become a popular space for advertisers. People’s Facebook feeds have certainly gotten crowded, and sponsored content is now common: Facebook reported $4.3 billion in ad revenue for Q3 of 2015.

Despite the crowded marketplace, Facebook is still a great place to connect with possible supporters. According to a Marketing Land study, Facebook desktop ads have an 8.1x higher click-through rate on desktop and 9.1x better mobile CTR than normal Web ads.

Facebook also offers a very open platform for serving your messages. Unlike more closed-off networks such as Instagram and Snapchat, it’s easy for Web or mobile surfers to follow links on and off Facebook. That makes it easier to convert potential supporters and channel them onto your website to get them to sign up for newsletters or follow donation funnels. Facebook also plays nice with other social networks, making it easy to push messages to or from other platforms.

Out of all the social media networks, Facebook has carved out a place for businesses to exist. Pages allow for nonprofits and organizations to share much information about themselves and point users outside of the social network. Though other networks have given businesses a voice on their platforms, they are still much more geared toward private citizens.

Facebook also has a good amount of reach among different audiences and devices and allows organizations to have a lot of control when it comes to who they want to reach. Facebook also boasts 1.39 billion mobile MAU compared to its total 1.55 billion MAU. This allows organizations to have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to reaching potential supporters either on mobile and desktop.

Facebook gives organizations a large amount of control in the demographics and geography of their audience. Twitter is great for having a more national or global conversation, and Snapchat has become the one of newest places for friends to privately connect. But Facebook is great for building local or national support and letting organizations concentrate on what they want to build.

Though it is getting crowded, Facebook is still one of the best platforms for nonprofits to connect with potential supporters and other organizations. It still has the largest user base of all the social media networks, and its flexibility allows organizations the ability to use communications strategies that work for them. Facebook’s openness also allows it to be the focusing point for your online advertising efforts while drive traffic to other sites to help you convert potential supporters.

For more on making the most out of Facebook see the session “Taking the Next Step: Using Facebook to Drive Conversions.”

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Nonprofit Federation Conference, Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C

Travis LeBlanc, FCC’s top cop, takes ‘fearless’ and ‘bold’ approach

“Fearless” and “bold” are among the words that have been used to describe Travis LeBlanc. They’re traits he’s readily demonstrated as chief of the Bureau of Enforcement at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Since taking the FCC post in March 2014, LeBlanc has gone after the likes of AT&T, ESPN, Marriott, PayPal, T-Mobile, Verizon and Viacom. Under LeBlanc’s watch, the FCC, in conjunction with other federal agencies, garnered more than $365 million in fines, settlements and refunds for consumers during his first year on the job, according to National Journal.

LeBlanc will deliver a keynote speech Feb. 18 at DMA’s Washington Nonprofit Conference.

In a relatively short period, the FCC’s “$365 Million Man,” as National Journal calls LeBlanc, has delighted consumer advocates and riled industry backers.

Among LeBlanc’s most vocal critics are several Republican lawmakers who are questioning the FCC’s recent spate of aggressive enforcement actions and are demanding a federal investigation into the FCC’s enforcement arm. 

On the flip side, LeBlanc does have friends in D.C. They include a pro-consumer group known as Public Knowledge. In June 2015, Public Knowledge applauded the FCC’s $100 million fine against AT&T for misleading consumers about its unlimited data plans.

Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, praises LeBlanc and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler for working hard “to regain the public trust that the FCC stands with consumers. For too long, carriers have laughed at the FCC’s consumer protection regulations and viewed the occasional fine as a cost of doing business.”

To be sure, it’s not business as usual at the FCC’s enforcement bureau.

What sets LeBlanc apart from his predecessors at the FCC is that he’s not an FCC veteran. Rather, he’s a former prosecutor. Before joining the FCC, LeBlanc was a special assistant attorney general in California; in that role, he oversaw legal action involving sectors including telecom, cybersecurity and intellectual property. He set up California’s first units dealing with high-tech crime and privacy enforcement. In California, he pressured Google, Apple, Facebook and other tech giants to agree to privacy standards for mobile apps, National Journal says.

Given his prosecutorial chops, National Journal notes that LeBlanc “has little interest in playing nice” at the FCC.

“He is a savvy prosecutor who also knows how to secure agreements with private companies in order to advance the public mission,” says Wheeler, the FCC chairman.

LeBlanc’s arrival at the FCC represents a return to Washington, D.C. Before heading to California, he was an executive-branch attorney at the U.S. Justice Department. The Justice Department gig followed stints at D.C. law firm Williams & Connolly LLP and San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest, where his specialties included white-collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation. He also had been an appellate lawyer representative at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

LeBlanc’s academic background is equally impressive as his professional career. He holds degrees from Princeton University, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge.

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Nonprofit Federation Conference takes place Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C. 

Phoenix Rescue Mission’s 18% Year-on-Year Revenue Growth Story

Nonprofit marketing is a different animal. Instead of selling a product, you’re selling a feeling. You want to target an audience that has similar values as you do, and you want to convince them to express those values by giving up their hard-earned cash while getting nothing tangible in return. Except for the feeling and the knowledge that they are doing good in the world.   

For this reason, nonprofit marketing has a lot in common with branding. It isn’t about making a direct sale by presenting a great financial proposition to customers (“Act now and get 30% off!” won’t exactly work here). It’s about making your audience feel the right feelings at the right time and then directing those emotions into actions that will do good for your cause, your organization and the world.

If this sounds hard, that’s because it is.

Many nonprofit marketers have experience in more conventional marketing and public relations, so they are familiar with the emotions involved in advertising. However, the best nonprofit marketers also realize that the rules are very different for them, and the best practices for getting a solid return on advertising spending involves a different mindset.

There are many examples of successful nonprofits who learned how to do this with enormous success. Some, like the Sally Struthers Africa charity commercials of the 1980s or the Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercials of the 2000s, not only go viral but make a permanent impression on the public’s consciousness and popular culture. They are subsequently copied by other nonprofits for years to come.

You don’t need to create a new, impactful TV commercial for your nonprofit to get strong results. One nonprofit in Phoenix incorporated a variety of tactics and approaches using the best practices of the nonprofit industry to grow revenues 18 percent year-over-year.

Phoenix Rescue Mission saw its donor file declining after 60 years of operations. In 2012, retention rates fell to the low 40s with registered donors falling below 19,500. In 2013, the organization began a path to growth, increasing overall revenues despite a declining number of donors, and was able to achieve three years of accelerating growth to reach 18 percent year-over-year growth in revenues in 2015.

At this year’s DMA Nonprofit Federation DC Conference, Phoenix Rescue Mission Director of Marketing and Public Relations Nicole Pena will discuss the marketing objectives and strategies her group employed to save their mission. From 9-10 a.m. February 19, Pena will host a workshop detailing her group’s winning strategy. Join her to see how you can bring buzz, excitement and revenue growth to your nonprofit, whether you’re facing declines or not.   
This article is brought to you by the DMA. Nonprofit Federation Conference takes place Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C.