In Need of Some Clairification?
Claire Axelrad’s Clairification blog, which was one of our Best Fundraising Blog winners in the 2013 Fundraising Professionals of the Year Awards, got more nominations than any single submission in any category of any year of the awards. Last month, we announced the award winners; this month we’d like to formally introduce you to the blog. Here are some of Claire’s favorite recent posts.
Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream
I have a dream for 2013 — and beyond. I have a dream this is the year your organization will move beyond defining yourself by what you’re not (nonprofit) and will begin to define yourself by what you are (social benefit). I have a dream this is the year your people will move from an attitude of taking and hitting people up (aka “fundraising”) to a mind-set of giving and lifting people up (aka “philanthropy”). I have a dream this is the year your staff and volunteers will move from enacting transactions to enabling transformation.
I have a dream you will push yourself and your organization toward transformative change. You will take the bull by the horns, adapt to the digital revolution and open yourself to the possibilities that change brings. You will give up on the static donor pyramid, ladder and funnel theory of engagement and put your donor at the center of a new, active engagement model that reflects the myriad ways people connect with organizations and causes today.
I have a dream you will learn who your best influencers are and you will embrace them. You will recognize you are no longer your best messenger. You will understand that many forces beyond you influence your donor’s decision to invest with you, and you will expand your thinking and operations from a one-dimensional to a multi-dimensional model. You will allow your constituents to engage with you at multiple points of entry, and to move freely between these points during the life cycle of their engagement.
I have a dream you will ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors. You will recognize that they don’t serve you; you serve them. You will embrace the true meaning of philanthropy as love of humankind. You will remember that your donors are humankind; you must love them if you want to be a part of philanthropy. Otherwise, you’re just transacting business.
I have a dream you will re-evaluate your raison d’etre. You will ask yourself whether you’re in the business of selling, and you won’t answer cavalierly. You will not pat yourself on the back for being different than your for-profit brethren. You will not tell yourself that nonprofits are about mission and values and doing good deeds; whereas for-profits are about greed and sales. You will re-evaluate why people compare “making the ask” to “making the sale.”
I have a dream you will embrace your role as a salesperson, understanding how fundamentally human this is. You will understand that selling (the very definition of which is to exchange or deliver for money or its equivalent) is something that we’re constantly doing. And you will have an “a-ha” moment that this is also what fundraising is about — a value-for-value exchange. A donor gives something of value (money or an in-kind good or service), and the charity returns something of value to the donor.
As Daniel Pink writes in his new book “To Sell Is Human,” “the ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness. It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives. The capacity to sell isn’t some unnatural adaption to the merciless world of commerce. It is part of who we are.”
I have a dream you will come from a place of love, not need. When interacting with your supporters you will do more than tell folks how much money you require. You will consider how your supporters benefit and what’s in it for them if they invest with you. You will help people to value your accomplishments by assuring they understand your impact. You will recognize that if you don’t demonstrate impact, then you can’t expect folks to worry what might happen were you to be unable to grow or, even worse, cease to exist.
I have a dream you will speak to people’s hearts; not just their heads. You will become aware that if the bulk of your communication with supporters is about numbers, finances and pie charts rather than stories of real people being helped, it will become increasingly difficult to expect anyone to care enough about your mission to invest in your success.
I have a dream your leaders will embrace a culture of philanthropy that engulfs your entire organization. You will eliminate silos and include everyone in the transformative power of your mission. You will make sure that everyone associated with your organization is clear about the values you enact and has stories they can tell about the ways you help to repair our world. Philanthropy will become the glue that binds everyone together — every department and every volunteer — working toward a common goal.
I have a dream you will engage in philanthropy; not fundraising. You will embrace the fact that just as business has changed fundamentally, so must fundraising change fundamentally. You will accept that we’re all social businesses now; merely “transacting” no longer cuts it. You will agree that for too long fundraising has been approached as transactional — as being primarily about money — and that this approach results in fundraising being seen at best as an onerous chore; a necessary evil. You will see that philanthropy is fundamentally social; it’s about love — and nothing could be more transformational.
I have a dream for 2013 — and beyond. Do you share my dream?
6 Ways to a Kick-Ass Content Plan for Your Nonprofit Blog: Part II of the C.P.A. Series
C.P.A.? Yup. In [a recent] post, I introduced you to the “accountant” theory of an effective blog content strategy. C for constituent-centered. P for plan. A for accessible. Today we’re going to talk about the “P.”
For starters, you’ve done your market research and you know what your constituents care about. Now, take all the great topics you’ve researched and brainstormed — all the questions you’ve been collecting from your constituents — and build an editorial calendar for your blog. I’m going to give you some tips and tools that will make this really simple. Promise.
Your blog editorial calendar is your playbook. You want to fill it with all your best moves. And with lots and lots of answers to your constituents’ questions. Lots and lots of content.
Why? According to HubSpot’s research, 70 percent of companies that publish articles two to three times per week have acquired a customer through their blog. Substitute “donor” for “customer,” and you see how your blog can have real legs. And HubSpot has a free editorial calendar template to make it easy for you to stay organized and on target. Now … let’s fill in your plan!
Let me count the ways:
1. Think you don’t have enough blog content to fill a calendar? Take a look at some of your most frequently asked questions. My guess is that you can get multiple mileage from hot topics. For example, select different angles and publish several posts on that subject. Begin, for example, with “Biggest Misconceptions about [your subject].” Then go on to address some of these misconceptions in greater detail in subsequent posts. For example, I found three posts on the blog of the Capital Area Animal Welfare Society that were all categorized under “common misconceptions.”
2. Another way to leverage blog content is to target different audience segments. First, give some thought to who you want to write to, and why. It’s amazing how, without a plan, you can end up writing 90 percent of your posts for 10 percent of your readers. So specify your audience in your calendar, and be sure to change it up. Write one post to parents; the next to grandparents. One to singles; the next to families. One to folks who care about your programs that serve children; the next to folks who care about senior services. And so on. NOTE: In a subsequent post we’ll talk all about developing personas; for now, just be clear that it’s essential you have clarity around who you’re writing to and why they might have an interest in what you’re saying.
3. You can also showcase different ways you’re addressing a problem. Most nonprofits have multiple programs. In other words, there’s not just one way to solve homelessness … or illiteracy … or domestic violence. You’ve got lots of stories, and each one tells a somewhat different approach to making a difference in the world. So tell your stories. They’re the most compelling content you have. We’re all story people.
4. Using different authors can lighten your workload, while simultaneously adding fresh voices, new perspectives and additional credibility to your blog. People like to hear from folks other than you from time to time. It somehow seems more authentic. And when you ask others to guest post, they’ll generally promote your blog to their networks. Why not show off their own handiwork? It’s just human nature. I certainly do it when I guest post!
5. You might also consider different blogs for different purposes. I know, you think I’m losing it now. Who has the time? I don’t advocate that you start here — unless you’re fully resourced — but keep it in mind as an aspirational goal. One organization doing a sensational job with this is Goodwill of San Francisco — they have three blogs!
6. Your editorial calendar allows you to plan for more than content. Like any good plan, it should also assign deadlines and responsible parties. The best laid plans are meaningless without follow-through. One thing to do with your calendar is to plop it into a Google Doc (or share on some other project-management software like basecamp.com) so that everyone involved can stay up-to-date on their to-do’s. I’ve found that most nonprofits do not have the luxury of having one person whose job it is to ride herd on everyone else, so spread the responsibility. And if folks can’t follow a timeline … well, here’s a bunch of things you might consider doing to them … especially if they’re a geek [kidding].
A blog is a terrible thing to waste: In Part III we’ll discuss how to put the “A” (aka Accessible) into C.P.A. so that folks can find your great content and, when they do, they can tell instantly that what you’re going to provide to them is going to be well worth their time.
Do You Make These 5 Social-Media Mistakes?
Happy 2013! Since 13 is one of my lucky numbers, I know it’s going to be a good year. You’ll see that Clairification has a fresh look, and that’s going to be the theme for this year. A fresh look. A clairifying look, if you will. So … since so many of you have questions about social media, let’s start by blowing out a few cobwebs and clearing our heads. Because if you think any of these things, you’re making a mistake.
1. I am my brand and cause’s messenger-in-chief. No, you’re not. Social media has changed the paradigm. We’ve always trusted word-of-mouth from our peers more than any other source. Social media makes it possible to channel the wisdom of the crowd in ways never before possible. What you say doesn’t matter to folks all that much. What their friends and people they respect say? That matters a lot.
2. The more places I am, and the cooler stuff I use, the more folks will be impressed. Are you substituting shiny objects, bells and whistles for heartfelt stories that speak to your constituents’ desires to make an impact in the world? Not using what is known about the power of empathy and storytelling in order to fill your social-media messaging with compelling content that drives actions is a huge mistake. Your goal is not to have someone think: “What a cool infographic; I’d like to make one like that for my business.” Rather, you want them to volunteer, sign a petition, write to a congressperson or make a donation.
3. It’s fine to send the same message to everyone. Special plug-ins and apps like HootSuite and TweetDeck and Buffer make it easy to send the same message to everyone, on a range of social-media channels. This saves time. But the fact that you’re doing a certain volume of social media is not the point. If you’re not segmenting and personalizing your messaging so that it speaks to what matters to the recipient, then it really doesn’t matter how much or how little time you put into it. Sometimes in social media, as with everything else, less may be more.
4. I don’t need to worry too much where someone is reading my message. Wrong again. Test this out for yourself. Try reading your organization’s e-newsletter on your mobile phone. Do the same for your website, your donation page, your (fill in the blank).
A Science of Email Marketing study by HubSpot this year revealed that over 80 percent of folks are reading e-mail on mobile devices on a daily basis. Very rarely do folks view those e-mails again on a computer. So if you lose them here, you lose. If it’s hard for them to interact with you from their phones you’re missing a huge opportunity.
5. I don’t really need to engage with folks on social media, as they’re not my big donors. It’s a mistake to dismiss those who do nothing but “like” you or send a “tweet’”as slacktivists who don’t really matter that much and, therefore, don’t require much cultivation and stewardship. Social media can be a great point of entry. And that’s the point. Once you’ve got folks in the door you want to lead them inside. Your goal should be to persuade them to stick around for a while. Encourage these folks to take baby actions to begin with; then move them along to greater engagement.
There is, of course, a lot more to be said about social media. Why it’s important. What it can help you to achieve. How much time you should be spending on it. How it integrates with your other marketing strategies. How it can help you to generate greater support for your mission. How it can totally derail you if you don’t do it properly. We’re going to talk about all these things — and more — this year.
First, however, consider whether you’re making any mistakes. Then think about how you can stop — yes, stopping is good sometimes — and start the year with a fresh outlook and a clean slate.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.