Thursday, March 29, 2007

Social Networking and Giving

One of the great things to see at successful fundraising events is the energy and enthusiasm when everyone gets involved. Word of mouth giving, prompted by friends asking friends and encouraging participation, is a great way of getting new donors involved. Go to any national sorority event and there will be the Foundation asking for a donation so that sisters can honor other sisters. A small sticker is presented for the recipients nametag. It is one of the most contagious methods of fundraising. Everyone loves to get a sticker...and it nearly always leads to the recipient "passing it forward" by making a gift to honor someone else.

Event fundraising is a form of social networking. I am surprised that more development officers haven't thought to use social networking sites as a way to generate donations. Friends honoring friends. Non-profit organizations ought to set up a MySpace account. Invite members of the organization to become a "friend" and be listed on the page. You will then appear on their own list of friends. Their friends can read your profile and through the simple act of viral marketing, you are increasing awareness and education about your organization. Have a compelling case and you can increase the number of new donors. Post a calendar of upcoming events, post bulletins of important news, provide a "donate now" link, share what your organization stands for, and provide guest blogs. These are all just simple existing MySpace tools available to create an interactive relationships with your constituents.

On a recent blog for higher education professionals,, the author encouraged organizations to not only establish a MySpace presence, but to hire professional companies to develop those sites for them.

"...get your MySpace profile professionally designed. First impressions are everything on MySpace. MySpace design is a new field and the really good designers are charging a small fortune ($5-20K) and designing mostly for bands and musicians."

MySpace and other social networking sites are having great success reaching an audience that most development officers crave: the under 40 crowd. Young donors are looking for ways to have an interactive relationship. Non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, and membership organizations have the ability to be ahead of the curve. Give donors or potential donors a method to relate to other like-minded people about a cause they believe in provides a hotbed for fundraising success.

As a philanthropic-minded person, I would happily have linked to my MySpace page all the organizations I feel passionate about. I would check frequently to see who else is interested in that organization. Perhaps I will see someone I know. Or want to know. Perhaps I'd consider attending an event because I received a bulletin announcement. I would definitely be more up-to-date on the organization's news, especially if the organization was proactive in sending material out to their "friends." And never underestimate the power of a good word. If I see something compelling about an organization I believe it, I'll will forward it to my friends. Your list of interested members will rapidly grow. And the investment is minimal.

If you don't believe me, spend some time on MySpace. Like the author stated about, bands have tens of thousands of fans linked to their site. Celebrities have equally if not more friends that they can interact with. And there's something pretty fun about having the hottest new celebrity on your friends list.

Two of my MediaSauce co-workers, Ryan Hupfer and Mitch Maxson, are the authors of MySpace for Dummies. If this is a new concept for you, order the book on and start learning about the extraordinary potential social networking can offer to your organization. And if you do want to have an innovative company involved with designing your page, let me know. We just designed a MySpace page for Kirk Douglas. Kirk, well into his 90s, realizes the potential of broadening his fan base and promoting his books to a different generation. Fundraisers ought to be considering the same thing.

MySpace is a popular site. There is also Facebook, geared more towards the college students and, designed specifically to appeal to the Baby Boomer generation in their 50s and above. LinkedIn is a good professional networking site (good way for development officers to stay in contact with each other) and there are dozens of other options. Pick one where you feel you have a strong target audience. And then watch your network grow, your donors get more involved, and your partnerships become interactive and mutually beneficial.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ponder Relationship Building

The genesis of good fundraising is really building strong relationships. Donors need to have a linkage to your organization, but without someone continually building a relationship, the donor may turn his or her sights elsewhere. The concept is not much different than what businesses must do to build relationships with customers.

Today a thought-provoking question was posed by MediaSauce Creative Director, Mitch Maxson. Every Wednesday at 5:15 p.m., staff members gather on the "dance floor" (Woot! Woot!) to discuss new ideas, concepts, and issues. I wanted to share the question of the day for the discussion. I can't be there for the dance floor discussion, but instead thought I'd put it out to you to share your thoughts.

The following quote comes from Jim Stengel, the CEO of Proctor and Gamble. Consider how this relates to how we approach fundraising:

"Building relationships through our brands is the future of marketing. It's not about new media models and new tools. It's about engaging with people in two-way relationships."

"It's about seeking to understand the other person rather than trying to control their actions...Building honest relationships between us and our consumers is not only a smart business decision; it is the right thing for us as marketers to do."

If it is the right thing for marketers to do, it is definitely the right thing for development officers to do. Personal meetings, special events, regional activities, focus groups, are all ways to build relationships. Utilizing multi-media tools such as personal video messages can also create a more realistic relationship. And the opportunities to build relationships through social networking sites such as MySpace and LinkedIn seem to be endless.

What are the best ways for you to build personal relationships? What works? What is innovative? How are you engaging in two-way relationships? How can you better understand who your donors are and what they value? How will you measure that level of engagement (here's a hint: study giving history and patterns)?

How will you achieve greater results if donors better understood who you are and who you represent? How are you providing opportunities for donors -- or potential donors -- to develop a relationship with you?

Perhaps that last concept is what we overlook the most. People successful at building relationships and networks are putting themselves out there for other like-minded individuals to find them. How accessible are you? How and when can people reach you? Are you approachable? One of the simplest tools I use at MediaSauce is a "MailWire." It's simply a frame around my initial email message and it contains the MediaSauce logo, my photo and contact information, and key links to the MediaSauce website. It is one very easy way to let people know who I am, who I work for, and how to reach me. It is an easy way to put a name with a face and make a personal connection, often the very easiest first step to building a new relationship.

Take some time and assess how you are building relationships with others and how you are allowing others to connect with you. And then share your success stories and bring Electric Philanthropy to life!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Web Communication Trends

In my position at MediaSauce, we are consistently asked to give presentations on the future of technology, web trends, and digital communication efforts. If you are reading anything in the news about the future of communication, you are seeing references to Web 2.0. The advances by Google, YouTube, social networking sites, streaming technology, RSS, Wikipedia, and many others are changing the way we communicate.

It won't be long until our communication vehicles all come with a screen. I recently read a blurb from Bill Gates indicating that text books will become a thing of the past. Students of all ages will have some type of personal gadget that will allow them to get everything online. Television as we know it today will probably become extinct and instead, tens of thousands of TV-like "channels" will be available on line. Billboards in Cincinnati are now digital. It won't be long until every car comes with a GPS and it will be able to target advertising specific to your interests. What will vary the most is the size of your screen.

As soon as one dares to post trends or best practices, things will be different. But for right now, give some thought to these suggestions as you develop your websites and digital communication messages.

  • Clean, simple design -- Don't clutter up every inch of space. Think about the value of white space just as you would in print materials
  • Strong, bold brand image -- Let the world know who you are.
  • Use graphics -- A picture can tell a thousand words. Let it. Don't list 1000 words of text.
  • Easy navigation -- Direct the user where to go. Don't make them guess where something is on your page. Spend the time developing an organized site map. Make the site map avialable so if someone has a specific need, he can find it immediately
  • Utilize a search engine -- A must!
  • Provide accessible resources -- As a link. Resist the urge to post every single thing about your organization. If someone needs to find something with greater detail, let them know how or provide ways for them to delve into deeper information.
  • Design material for the web -- Spend the time and money to develop things for the web and avoid putting things in PDFs.


  • Be Realistic
  • Engage the user -- Have the user be a participant by viewing videos, downloading widgets, listening to podcasts, etc.
  • Tell a compelling story -- No one wants to be bored!
  • Change information frequently -- No one wants to come back and see the same information is there weeks/months/years later.
  • Call the user to action to experience more -- Provide contact forms, blogs, response devises. Allow the user to interact.
  • Feature real people -- Provide video testimonials, use candid photos rather than stock photos, use bloggers to post realistic experiences, etc.
Face-to-Face Connections
  • Find a way for users to connect with other like-minde people
  • Provide social networking opportunities
  • Feature audio and video podcasts
  • Provide streaming video
  • Use blogs
  • Develop virtual learning opportunities
  • Develop a public site and a private password protected site
  • Create community!

The web has really become a new community. Everyone can find other people they relate to and share things in common. Your website can be an extension of your organization but make it inviting and engaging. It should be more than a source for information. It should provide value and benefit for participants.

Take a look at websites that you like. Pay attention to those you don't like. Compare the two. Was one more interesting to look at? Was key information easy to locate? Did the search engine provide the results you were looking for? Did you get involved with the site? Would you go back? Did it provide useful tools?

Here's a few sites worth taking a look at:

Angie's List at is a membership-based site for you to get valuable information on home repair services. There is outstanding animated explanation of how Angie's List works, clear navigation, and extremely useful content, especially for those who are willing to pay the membership fee. And why wouldn't you? It is a good value.

Butler University's College of Business wanted to provide a realistic look at college life. They profiled two first-year students for their first semester at college through a 12-part "vodcast" (video podcast) series. It is fun, engaging, educational, interactive, and provies a realistic view of the first-year experience. Check out

Educating young people about peer pressure is an important goal. Above the Influence provides a great, creative website that truly engages the user. There is a lot of ways for participants to interact: quizzes, games, downloads, podcasts, dynamic flash content, photo galleries with the opportunity to send in photos, and useful educational material. Take a look at

If you don't know where or how to start, just ask people, particularly those who use your site. Measure the performance through a system such as Google Analytics to track the traffic, to assess which pages people are using, to determine what is the most useful content. If no one ever links to something, then why have it on the site? Clean it up.

Looking to take the next step? MediaSauce can help. We help businesses and organizations communicate their message in a powerful and effective way. We specialize in the use of emerging technology. Our creative and technical staff members are the best at what they do. And best of all, MediaSauce will be your partner. We will be as committed to your success as you are. For more information, go to and let us help you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What's Fun in Fundraising?

My oldest brother could not find a job when he came back from the war in Vietnam. So he took a year off to be a ski bum. That year turned out to be the rest of his life. He found something he loved to do and made a successful career for himself. He lived his passion.

I started a fundraising career at Arizona State University quite by accident. I needed a job, preferably on campus. I received letter recruiting Dean's List students to call alumni. I thought I would check it out. It turned out to be a lot of fun! I talked with alumni about the University, the new developments on campus (of which there were plenty) and had the chance to be a positive ambassador for the school. What I liked best was that every call was different, every call was a chance to share good news, and every call was the opportunity to reengage alumni and trigger positive memories. After a year, I became a student supervisor and my job was to train and motivate other students to make those kinds of calls. Finding incentives, creating competitions, and getting my peers excited about representing ASU was a great college job.

Like my brother hitting the ski resort for a season, I had no idea my college job was lead into a really fun career in fundraising.

What's fun about fundraising? Here's just a taste:
  • You can represent a cause you are passionate about
  • You can meet other like minded people who share that passion
  • There are endless ways to be creative--writing, presentations, special events, new appeals, new ways to share your message
  • Getting someone to say "yes" is an envigorating feeling
  • Finding new and effective ways to overcome objections can be a personal challenge
  • You help people
  • You make people feel good about how they are helping a worthwhile cause
  • You see smiles
  • No two days are ever the same
  • You can set goals and measure your performance on key benchmarks; you always know where you stand
  • You can convince people to think in new ways
  • You meet people from all walks of life

I suppose if you are a person that doesn't like other people, this may not be the best career route. But if you are a creative person that looks for new challenges, I assure you, you'll have fun in a development position.

Now, I won't be so naive as to say that every day is a party. But if you spend a career in advancement work, it's not hard to look at the time you've spent fundraising and realize there were far more good days than bad. Remembering the good moments when you provided a grant that truly changed someone's life is an incredible feeling. Helping a donor realize the impact his or her gift can make in changing lives is empowering--for everyone involved. Getting to say a sincere thank you or recognizing someone else is like handing someone a present. It's more fun to give than to receive. Watching someone's face light up because you've taken the time to acknowledge them will make you feel good. And if you feel good, you'll stay motivated.

There's plenty of fun in fundraising. It's hard work but the benefits far out weigh any costs. If you are new to the development field, give yourself time to enjoy the process. If you are veteran, think back to how your hard work helped make a difference for a cause or issue you passionately believed in. I guarantee you'll agree that it has been a fun ride.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Dare Devils Master Fundamentals

Think about dare devils for a minute...freestyle skiiers, hang gliders, bungee jumpers, motorcycle stuntmen, trapeze artists. They take risks every day to amaze their audiences. They live on the edge. They try new things in innovative and dangerous ways. Their skills are so finely honed that they have the ability to take their sport to an entirely new level.

What you may not realize is that these dare devils are also master tacticians. They are pros at the fundamentals of their sport. Those fundamentals are the building blocks that allow them to excel at trying new things and taking new risks.

Creative fundraisers need to remember to practice the fundamentals. Utilizing broadband technology to deliver compelling fundraising campaigns via email are exciting new ventures for many fundraisers. It is fun and exciting to try new things and the initial response is generally positive. Additional fundraising appeals are emailed to donors but after the novelty wears off, development officers frequently see diminishing returns.

Here's why:

Raising money over the internet is new, fresh and allows you to share an engaging, interactive message. However, if done over and over again, it loses effectiveness because the novelty is gone. Donors will simply begin to ignore your messages if they think you are only asking for money. If you neglect the fundamentals of cultivation and stewardship, the results become neglible over time. Internet fundraising is no different than traditional fundraising. In a face to face visit, you don't ask for a donation in the first 90 seconds of meeting someone. You should not do that via email, either.

In launching an e-fundraising strategy, consider the basics of fundraising. You need to cultivate your prospects by sharing your story, explaining the mission and importance of your programs, enticing prospective donors about the value of their support, and providing the education about your needs. There are a myriad of ways to do that electronically and to build your case for support. Create a series of educational messages. Share testimonials from others. Show through video who is benefitting and how. Establish a relationship.

Then ask for a gift. Let the appeal come after you have successfully measured who has opened and read your cultivation messages. Look for those who have forwarded the piece on to others. Study the behavior of the prospects over a designated period of time. Target your appeal to their interests.

And then say thank you. Say thank you in as many ways as possible. You can do all kinds of electronic stewardship pieces, such as birthday greetings or holiday touch emails. But don't overlook the power of a hand-written note or a simple phone call to say thank you.

Mastering fundraising fundamentals is the root to your success. By all means, use innovative methods. Take risks. Try something new. Do not, however, fail to recognize that your risks will be far more effective if you use solid fundraising practices during the process. Take a leap of faith and start an electronic fundraising campaign. But remember to educate your donors first to engage them in your mission...and above all, say "Thank You" for their support.

Creating a New Fundraising Buzz

Fundraising as we've known it before is changing by the minute. The advent of new technologies will allow development officers to reach audiences we've never reached before. The cost of donor acquisition can no longer be an excuse for fundraising. Building the foundation of new donors is more critical today than ever before, as donors are giving more but to fewer charities. How can you be sure to be one of those selected as a favorite charity?

Electric philanthropy is a new blog I've developed to discuss new fundraising methods, new media opportunities to cultivate, solicit and steward donors, and recommendations on putting your message forward in innovative ways. My theories, ideas, and thoughts can be tested to see if they can ignite your fundraising initiatives. You are welcome to share your own creative suggestions. Let's see what works!

Blog topics will include powerful messages, media usage, approaching target audiences, direct mail vs. telemarketing vs. e-solicitiation (or all three), donor cultivation, prospect research and qualification, the value and importance of on-going stewardship, and making the actual ask. And I suspect, a whole lot of other topics will creep in there. If you have a question, feel free to post it and see what kinds of responses you receive.

I believe in the synergy of great minds working together to develop creative solutions. Electric Philanthropy is a forum for all brilliant advancement professionals and volunteers to take their fundraising efforts to the next level.

Tune in to Electric Philanthropy from time to time. I guarantee you'll pick up a nugget or two of useful information that will change how you raise money. And if you do that, just think of the ways we can change the world!