Key findings will then be fed into a wider research project being carried out on behalf of the Centre for Economic Empowerment by NICVA and Advice NI into the nature, extent and impact of both illegal and expensive legal lending in Northern Ireland.
Fundraisers are smart about asking. We test it all the time. We try big ideas and small tweaks. We fine-tune our audiences
What we don’t understand as well is thanking those donors we find and move to action.
We know from our personal lives how important follow-up is. What you do after the gift or event is what sets the direction of the relationship.
It’s quite likely it’s the same in fundraising.
Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog gives us some ways of thanking that will most likely improve the donor relationship, at The 10 vital rules of thanking, pleasing and keeping donors:
- Know your donor
- Always thank your donors
- Thank them early
- Thank them often
- Thank them accurately
- Express gratitude
- Focus on emotion
- Give the donor credit
- Be specific about impact
- Make it personal
The smartest thing would be to test these (and other) thanking techniques. Since a simple response test, like we do when we test our asking, can’t measure success, you have to track what donor do in the 12 months after you test something. A successful thanking technique would result in better retention, higher cumulative giving, or other desirable behaviors. An unsuccessful one would have no impact, or possibly a negative impact.
At Non-Profit Humour, a strangely familiar tale of a nonprofit organization that was lulled into a state of stupidity by an ad agency: Advertising campaign reaches Mrs. Betty Turner, 93, and 17,678 people who don’t care.
In this satire — and despite the realism, it is satire — an organization runs a meaningless awareness campaign that costs a lot and has absolutely no impact:
The campaign, which lasted an entire week, was seen by an estimated 17,679 people and many hundreds of cats and dogs. Since the Foundation’s website doesn’t have web metrics Snidely says they couldn’t actually tell whether the ad campaign had any impact, but she’s optimistic that the ads made a big impression on the public.
It’s all too common. A nonprofit is persuaded that “awareness” is a powerful thing. So they develop a multimedia campaign built on abstract concepts (sometimes including opaque wordplay and/or weirdly photoshopped images). After paying the agency for developing the ads, there’s little budget left, so the impacts are spread thin.
The agency then counts “impacts” — which means how many people might have seen or heard the campaign: If the publication running an ad has a circulation of 15,000, that’s 15,000 impacts. Never mind that the huge majority didn’t see the ad at all, they merely had access to it. And if that ad is abstract and lacks a clear challenge or call to action, even most who see it will be unaffected by it; it’s just more noise in their noisy days.
Counting impacts yields pretty big numbers, so they report the large number as if it has any kind of meaning, creating visions of 15,000 people who are now fanatical supporters, when in reality, there are zero new supporters, and awareness was raised in about three people — like the woman in the story who was hit by a falling billboard.
If you’re serious about recruiting people to join you in your cause, you will not waste time or money on vague awareness campaigns. You’ll do measurable, donor-oriented marketing that actually brings supporters in the door.
Seems every time you turn around you see a nonprofit organization that’s “changing the brand.” I’ve been a close observer of the process a lot of times. Too many times.
I say too many times because rebranding almost always has a negative impact on revenue. Response rates to fundraising campaigns drop. Acquisition suffers. Donor retention falls.
I can’t claim to know why it goes this way, but I have a theory. I think the problem is two-fold:
- There are basic flaws in the very structure of branding that hurt fundraising. It’s a misapplied discipline from the commercial marketing world that simply doesn’t work in our context.
- Most of the time, the changes brought about by branding are bad changes that impede readability, emotional connection with donors, and clarity of offer. This is not intrinsic to branding. It just does most of the time.
So here, in my experience with re-branding, are revenue impacts you can likely expect if you rebrand. These are based on my first-hand observations, which have been frighteningly consistent over the years. Obviously any of these things could go very differently; your mileage may vary.
Change the logo
No impact. Each time I’ve seen a logo change, as long is it wasn’t also a name and/or identification change, there was no change to revenue afterward. I think this is because very few nonprofit logos are that well-known or established in people’s minds to begin with. I imagine if The Salvation Army changed its venerable logo, things might not go so well.
Change graphic standards
Small negative impact. I think the reason the impact is small is because graphic standards aren’t that big a deal in the scheme of things. And the reason they’re usually negative is because usually the changes are for the worse, I’m sorry to say. They tend to bring in hard-to-read fonts, chilly colors, and other weird things that just degrade the communication abilities of the organization. I think if there was a change in graphic standards toward readability, clarity, and emotion, you’d see a small positive impact.
Change organization’s name
25% to 50% loss of revenue. Yes, you read that right. Changing your name can really wallop your fundraising. I’ve seen it happen every single time. Even when the old name was weird and the new name made sense. A workaround that may save your bacon: Use both names together for period.
Change cause identification
20% to 30% loss of revenue. Rebranding very often consists of making what the organization does less focussed. An organization that used to proclaim it fed the hungry now provides “hope.” (Hope is a very popular concept among branding people.) An organization that used to focus on a single disease or problem now peddles “health.” This change will hurt nearly as much as a name change.
Now you may have noticed that the best outcome here is revenue-neutral, and it goes downhill from there. Given that the whole point of rebranding is to improve revenue (at least it should be), I have to conclude one thing: The branding discipline doesn’t work for nonprofits. At least the way it is commonly practiced.
Do you have experience that contradicts mine? I’d love to hear about it!