Worth Considering: Does your Need take a vacation?

Worth Considering

It’s summer. The breeze is warm, the pools are crowded and your client’s bellies are full, right?

You mean their bellies aren’t full? Wait, you mean to say that your need doesn’t go away in the summer?

Whether you’re feeding the hungry, fighting global warming, or fine-tuning a fitness program, chances are that your costs don’t go down (much) in the summer. You still have bills to pay and clients to serve.

Like it or not, your Need never takes a vacation.

So why does your fundraising?

Maybe because YOU need a vacation. A lot of fiscal years end on June 30. You’ve made the big push to meet goal. While that was happening, you didn’t make time to plan for solicitations. Besides, July 1 starts the new year, and your goals are 11 months away and you need a break.

I really get it… but your client’s won’t. They’re still hungry – if not for food, then for services… plus there’s everyone who want their paychecks, even in the long days of summer.

What to do? Keep on asking. My guess is that your competitors aren’t, which is all the better for you. Yes, you’ll get a vacation in there, too. That’s essential. But while you’re away, make sure that your copywriter is busy (I’m happy to help!) and your mail house is fully engaged. Because while you may need a vacation, your Need never does.

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: Are your donors on vacation… or is fundraising?

Hugg's Monthly TipIn our business – the business of soliciting funds – there seems to be an unwritten “truth” that soliciting in the summer produces poor results. We might be able to do a survey of 1000 nonprofits and find that yes, this is the case. But why?

It’s obvious, right? People go on vacations, their thoughts are on “summer” things and they only do the essentials, right? As a result, you make less solicitations in the summer.
Hmmmm… I’m not so sure. Are you getting less because they’re doing more, or is it simply that you’re asking less?

As Americans, we probably take the least amount of vacation than any other industrialized society… less than two weeks a year. I found when I did a lot of travel, that in the Northeast US where grade school traditionally starts after Labor Day, a lot of that summer vacation was in the last week or two of August. With those two weeks out, that leaves 12 of the 14 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day when most folks are leading a relatively “normal” life.

I say mail! Don’t let your fundraising take a summer vacation. You could be surprised. But even if you’re not, you’re there when everyone else isn’t… and being top of mind is the most valuable place to be, for gifts today, and when they do give, tomorrow.

Worth Considering: Multi-channel marketing

Worth ConsideringRegardless of what you think of her, it’s clear to see that Martha Stewart has an aptitude for marketing. There’s the videos, the magazine, the web site, the books, the affiliations with retailers and more. Each leverages visibility for the other, increasing value – and advertising revenue – for all. Martha, beyond her status as the diva of decor, is the maven of “multi-channel marketing.”

What is multi-channel marketing? It’s using a variety of media to deliver one message – like e-mail, web site, paper, personal visits – just like Martha knows; each supports the other and enhances the value to all. The sum really is worth more than the whole.

This is particularly pertinent for two reasons. First, today more than any other time in history, the variety of media methods to deliver a message is exploding. One hundred years ago getting a letter was exciting, but “direct mail” as we know it really didn’t kick off until after World War II. Radio broadcasting was established by then, but I couldn’t tell you if any nonprofits used it. By the 1970′s telephone solicitation was unique and by the late 1980′s people dabbled in “fax campaigns,” but the next real leap didn’t happen until e-mail. Now social networking sites and podcasting are emerging as the next great communications tools for nonprofits.

Second, the problem with the explosion of communications media is that you don’t know which one – or two or three – is the best way to communicate with your constituents. Added to that is the fact that people learn and perceive information in different ways. When you just had mail, how we liked to get information wasn’t really important. Now with multiple media approaches, your audience can gravitate to the method s/he best picks up the information.

For better or worse, layered on top of all of this is the expense that comes with running different approaches. This is where Martha has a distinct advantage. My guess is that her budget’s a bit bigger than yours.

I’m not going to tell you which method you should use, but I am going to tell you that one, or even two, isn’t going to be effective on their own. And, more important than that, is that whichever you select, the messages need to coordinate. The topic on e-mail needs to relate to the podcast and get mentioned on your web site and your Facebook page with a plug in the phonathon script. Think of it as one big happy communications family.

Of course, I’m biased. In the thick of all of this is good copywriting that coordinates between each media type. That’s where I can come in to help. But regardless of whether you enlist me to do the work or you handle it in-house, coordinating between media types makes for an effective message.

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: Is it your fiscal year end? Do your donors care?

Hugg's Monthly TipIs it your fiscal year end? Do your donors care? No.

‘Nough said, right? ‘Fraid not…. At least by all of the direct mail I get.

If it’s your fiscal year end and you’re pleading for money to make your budget, what’s your donor thinking?

A: “I need to come to their rescue!”?

B: “Why can’t they manage their money better?”

Think “B.”

Regardless of the time of the year, your donors want mission! They want to know that they’re helping the people you serve. If you can tie that to the time of the year that your budget is due, great, because your budget is your problem, not theirs.

Worth Considering… Ghosts in the shadows: Using ghost writers

Worth ConsideringAre you a “ghost writer”? A ghost writer authors an article, a letter, even a book or blog under someone else’s name. If you’ve written a letter for your boss to sign or a speech for a volunteer to give, you’re a ghost writer.

There are a lot of good reasons to use ghost writers – top among them, time.  Writing just takes time – and some people don’t have, or shouldn’t be spending their time writing when they could be doing what they’re paid (or volunteering) to do.

How about the president or executive director of your organization? Staff or volunteers “on the ground” who serve your clients? Maybe your development staff? For your organization’s survival, it’s essential that they “do their thing,” whether that’s finding money, working with children in need, or making strategic decisions about the organization. Penning a letter or a report can take them off task – which means less money or accomplishments for your organization.

As important as time, is message. Your boss or board chair may not have all of the details of your particular message right at their fingertips. You might know how many children were fed in your nutrition program, but your board chair doesn’t deal in that level of detail every day.

Maybe the least discussed reason, but the most valid and persuasive, is skill. Some people simply do not write well. Besides, if you’re not good at something, it takes even more time to get the task done! (When you stop avoiding it!) There’s no shame in not writing well.  Most writers I know don’t do well in front of donors, but we don’t berate them for it. Yet not being a competent writer has a stigma in our society. But ask yourself, are we paying this person for their writing expertise, or their ability to save children, lead the organization or raise millions of dollars?

Of course, I’m biased. Much of my work is ghost writing for people. My clients have good reason to engage my services. There’s no use tying up their time researching and writing when they could be doing what they’re skilled at, and paid to do best. I’ll lurk in the shadows, and be their “ghost.”