Audience Development

Writing Fundraising Appeals Without Data From Your Prior Year

Writing Fundraising Appeals Without Data From Your Prior Year

This week John Haydon wrote a piece that discussed how using certain types statistics in your fundraising appeal can be detrimental to your development efforts. Haydon’s article is an excellent read.

For many small nonprofits creating compelling statistics can be a problem. It’s critical for your fundraising potential donors to understand how their donation is tied to the work that is being done. Statistics can help make your ask more compelling, yet many nonprofits struggle with developing appropriate statistics.

How do you go about using data to create a sense of urgency if you don’t have the time or internal resources to explain the impact of your donation? Many nonprofits – especially those with limited staff – struggled to create accurate estimates of what $100 helps to support.

Below are three tips for organizations that may not have data from their previous year to associate with dollar-values:


Help your donors understand your impact by sharing the stories of the constituents you serve. Sharing the stories of the individuals you support is important because it fosters greater understanding and broadens perspectives. It also highlights the tangible ways that your organization helps individuals. Instead of saying we help feed families, you’re able to share exactly how you helped the Miller family.

Use Future Goals

If you’ve mapped out upcoming goals you can begin to associate giving with future needs. “Donate $100 to help us facilitate trainings for educators” is less compelling than “Donate $100 to help us provide an additional 50 trainings for educators in 2015”. As you discuss your 2015 goals think about how you can build them into your year-end asks.

Share Highlights Segmented by Audience

Sharing highlights from your previous year is helpful, but it’s even more compelling if you segment your message by audience interest. If you know that individuals in your audience group adopted cats from your animal rescue organization – segment your message to share prior year highlights that are specific to cats. Audience segmentation can also be a challenge for time-strapped nonprofits, but the practice can have a very positive effect on giving rates.

We hope these tips help if you’re struggling with developing the proper data for your year-end communication. Below are a few links for the week that you may enjoy.

  1. Are you using video on Facebook? If not, you need to develop your strategy – Annie Pilon of Small Business Trends explains why.
  2. Marlene Oliveira provides tips on how to use your audience to crowdsource your blog.
  3. The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy did research that found giving is extremely high from young single women who are not religiously affiliated.
  4. Victor Luckerson of Time details Twitter’s plans for growth and changes in 2015.
  5. Let the 2015 trends and planning articles begin! Elizabeth Chung of Classy shares the five bad marketing habits to break in 2015, while Avi Dan of Forbes prognosticates on the 11 marketing trends to expect in 2015.
  6. Karen Strauss of Ketchum penned a thoughtful blog piece about ageism in marketing and the negative perceptions that a boomer faces in her industry.
Why People Visit Your Website

Why People Visit Your Website

At this point, every nonprofit organization has a website. A donate button. A link to contact information. But honestly – why do people visit your website? It sounds like a simple question, but within it involves the need to analyze your audience, to assess your organizational strategy, and to consider how your visitors need relate to your intended outcomes. But assessing why people visit your site is equally important for creating more opportunities to accomplish your goals – how can visitor behavior be better utilized to fit the needs of your organization?

From our experience, here are the three main reasons that people might visit a nonprofit website, as well as ways to incorporate these use cases into opportunities for your nonprofit.


Where the Money Goes


Financial transparency is of great importance to more and more donors and volunteers. While there are flaws in some of the methodology behind charity rankings, it is still important to show how your organization uses the money donated through fundraising or grants. By showing how your money is managed, you create a greater sense of trust for those unfamiliar with your organization.

Additionally, by better establishing where money goes, it makes for an easier fundraising ask. By explaining how you use outside contributions to accomplish your goals, you have the opportunity to highlight how important these donations are – and how your visitor can help your nonprofit reach its goals through an investment.


Contact Information


It sounds simple enough, but too many nonprofit website bury their contact information. Similar to transparency, having information on how to directly contact your staff, or thorough descriptions of the work that they individually do, makes for a better user experience.

Your staff, whether it’s two people or two hundred, are the literal face of your organization. Give your visitors the opportunity to get to know you and contact you easily.

In doing so, be sure to track incoming requests not only in an effort to provide competent customer service, but also to provide additional numbers to donors and grant providers about how people connect with your organization. Learning where your incoming requests are coming from is vital for understanding your impact in your community.


Access Your Resources


For many of the nonprofits we work with, much of their work is in providing educational resources to the public about their cause. When people are accessing your site, are they looking for handouts, trainings, or links to other sites? How accessible is this information? How up to date is it?

Additionally consider what of your resources are the most popular – are there opportunities to create additional learning opportunities on that page? How can you keep users on your website longer and, to be direct, to get them to read and do what you want? By creating campaigns around the areas where your visitors are most likely to go, you stand a better chance at connecting with those individuals you would like to reach.

Why do people visit our website? Besides learning more about us, the data shows that our audience appreciates our links of the week:


  1. Joann Collins at Event 360 reviews how support of participants has changed from website and eCommunciations.
  2. Seven nonprofits are helping Twitter test their new Buy button. The NonProfit Times shares the details.
  3. Apple dominated the tech news cycle this week and their mobile payment platform could be important for nonprofits. Robert Hof at Forbes provides details about the program.
  4. Blackbaud created a slideshare guide to raise more money from appeals.
  5. Twitter vs. Facebook is a constant debate for communicators. Juan Jose Mendez at Social Media Today discusses the impact on branding.
  6. Amanda Clark at B2C highlights three challenges from many online marketing campaigns.
  7. Website benchmarks can be a tricky subject. Brett Meyer at Thinkshout dives into some data.
Developing a Code of Conduct for your Nonprofit Event

Developing a Code of Conduct for your Nonprofit Event

Many nonprofit leaders attended the NTEN’s Leading Change Summit this week. You can view highlights by following #14LCS.

This tweet from NTEN, was a reminder of the importance of developing a published Code of Conduct for events like this. Conferences often work to facilitate critical thinking and brainstorming about issues that affect their industry. Creating a Code of Conduct is important to ensure that all participants feel that they’re able to communicate in a safe and supported environment. Here are five key steps.

Develop your Code of Conduct

Pull together your key stakeholders – staff, leadership volunteers, and presenters – and get their feedback on what an ideal Code of Conduct looks like. You want to ensure that attendees are comfortable to share opinions that may differ from their peers in a supported space. Presenters may want to weigh in on the conduct that will make their presentations effective and productive.

Publish it

Publish and promote your Code of Conduct in all platforms that are appropriate including email, written program, and printed copies in conference rooms. A Code of Conduct is only helpful if people know the conduct.

Remind Attendees

NTEN’s tweet is a great example of an organization reminding participants that a Code of Conduct exists and should be utilized throughout the event. You can remind individuals during your opening program and ask presenters to quickly mention it at the beginning of their presentations.

Have a Plan

What happens when two attendees begin arguing about a sensitive topic in an unsuitable fashion? How will you address someone who is commonly disrupting important dialogue? Having a strategy to dealing with challenging participants is important when developing your risk assessment. While the hope is that you won’t need this, it is important to have a plan in place.

Get Feedback

Listen to your volunteers, attendees, and presenters after the event. Was the Code of Conduct useful? How can it be improved? What were the types of disruptions that impeded positive dialogue about key issues? Take the time to reflect and get feedback on your Code of Conduct after the event to help strengthen it for future years.

These steps will help to establish a successful and safe event in future years. Below are a few of our favorite links from the week. Check out our Tumblr for other helpful news.

  1. Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation writes a personal and introspective post about his first year on the job.
  2. NPQ shares their thoughts on an interesting public-private arts partnership in Wisconsin.
  3. Charity Navigator is shifting their rating to a 100 point system. Patrick Sullivan of the Nonprofit Times provides the details.
  4. Peter Drury, Director of Strategy at Splash, wrote a thoughtful piece on nonprofit transparency and value-creation.
  5. Bobbi Silten, President of Gap Foundation interviews Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen about next generation philanthropy.
  6. And Blackbaud’s empire grows. This week the company announced that they acquired Microedge.
Call-to-actions in Nonprofit Communication

Call-to-actions in Nonprofit Communication

Who is your intended audience? You should ask yourself this question each time you write social media content or a bulk emailfor your nonprofit organization. Who are you writing to? What do you want their action to be?

The tone and call-to-action in the email will vary based on the intended audience. Are they previous donors or supporters of your work? Are they individuals who are familiar with your work/issue but are not active supporters? Or is this message simply going to everyone in your database? It is important to remember that the different platforms and audiences heavily influence what your call-to-action should be. Do you want to drive people to a website, simply remind them of your work, or get their feedback on a key issue?

Knowing and judging the anticipated level of engagement can be challenging. Relationships are built through conversations, not messages. Email and social media can be an avenue to have these conversations but only when your audience feels comfortable having them. Building a call-to-action for people to provide their thoughts in comments can be a powerful community-building tool, but can also deflate your communication if no one replies.

Ensuring your call-to-action matches your platform and audience will help you achieve more thoughtful communication.

We try to be thoughtful on the Social Change Consulting Tumblr and encourage you to check to visit.

  1. #Fundchat’s weekly Twitter chat asked questions about the impact that millennials can have in philanthropy. For those using Tumblr, #Fundchat also just launched their Tumblr account.
  2. GetResponse uncovers strategies to create the perfect call-to-action for your website.
  3. Are you or your board members fearful of the ask? Simone Joyaux shares tips and techniques on making the ask in this NPQ blog post.
  4. The PhilanTopic blog looks at how taxonomy and philanthropy interact.
  5. When was the last time you checked your we? Mary Cahalane discusses the different between “we” and “you” in nonprofit communication.
  6. Fidelity Charitable reports that gifts from donor advised funds happened more frequently and were larger in 2013.
  7. The Silicon Valley Social Media for Nonprofits and Nonprofit Boot Camp are next week. It’s not too late to buy tickets!
Nonprofit Summer Reading

Nonprofit Summer Reading

As summer approaches NTEN began a discussion on their message board that discusses the best nonprofit summer reading. While some folks escape work with their summer reading selections, we tend to relax with the non-fiction variety. We’ve provided a few books for your perusal as you build your summer reading list.


Made to Stick – Chip & Dan Heath – We’ve captured the main points of this book in a previous blog post about simplifying your complex narrative, but we wanted to include it here again. This book simply and directly captures that elements that make some stories more memorable and effective than others.

Start with Why – Simon Sinek – Broken down simply, Simon Sinek details that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. In studying the leaders who have had the greatest influence in the world, the book captures that they all think, act, and communicate in similar fashions. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why. I frequently return to this book and its passages when stuck on a problem; his direct way of reminding you that the why is of the utmost importance has gotten me to see the bigger picture of problems, and be able to be more effective because of it.


Moneyball – Michael Lewis – Most of you have likely read this book or watched the movie. While it can be a divisive subject for sports fan, it was published a few years after I started my nonprofit career and greatly influenced my work. For small and mid-sized nonprofits to survive they need to look for market inefficiencies, take calculated risks, and properly evaluate staff and volunteer talent. I re-read this book every 4-5 years and this summer is a great time for you to revisit it.

The Powers to Lead – Joseph S. Nye Jr. – The book focuses on evaluating leadership attributes. It leans heavily on history, research, and case studies which I find more compelling than anecdotal stories.

The Nerdist Way – Chris Hardwick – This is definitely an out-of-the-box selection. Hardwick’s book is a mix of self-help and biography. This book covers a lot of different areas but the sections on time management and seizing your inner monologue have been very helpful for me.


If you’re looking for some interesting reading in electronic form, check out our Tumblr. For further reading, here are a few highlights from last week. This will be our only blog post this week. We’ll be returning the week of May 26.

  1. Karen Anderson from LYDIA Urban Academy shares five ways to fundraise more effectively in the education sector.
  2. Social Media Today discusses where social media should fit in your organization.
  3. Twitter announced a mute button is coming! Digital Trends has the details.
  4. The Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted an online chat that discussed opportunities to increase fundraising based on donor data.
  5. The Atlantic published an article this week that led to a bit of debate. If you haven’t read it yet, it focuses on the reasons that criticism is vital for philanthropy.
  6. Finally, in a bit of crossover from our personal and professional lives – Network for Good highlights four things that nonprofits can learn from the NBA playoffs.
Incremental Improvements to Your Digital Communications Strategy

Incremental Improvements to Your Digital Communications Strategy

Nonprofit time and resources, especially when it comes to digital communications (social media, email marketing, website design, analytics review) can be exceptionally sparse. When considering making improvements in these areas, it can seem as if there is an endless list of tasks and modifications to make. Where should you start? How do you prioritize?

You can’t change everything at once – no matter your good intentions. Which is why incremental improvements are one of the safest bets in improving your digital communications. Here is how we typically break this down:


With an ever changing digital and online landscape, just keeping up with all that is new can be overwhelming. By focusing on what is needed to maintain your current reach, you will allow yourself to better understand the commitments and outcomes possible. Simple sustaining steps can be a dedication to posting to Facebook three times a week; sending out four fundraising emails a year; or reviewing your website once a quarter to examine if information and resources are up to date. These simple steps might not expand your reach, but will keep you fresh and engaged with your audience.


With a firm base of practices and strategies, you can start to experiment with ideas that go beyond the simple best practices that you have used up to this point. In “Breaking Through”, you are looking for ideas and practices that will help set your nonprofit apart.

From segmenting messages to your audience, to syncing social media accounts with event platforms, to making data informed decisions thanks to utilizing analytics, you have the ability to take an extra step towards improving your brand and impact.

But breaking through does not mean you have to come up with these ideas on your own. One of the best things that you can do as an organization with limited means is to assess what other organizations are doing that you admire. By emulating their techniques, you can also help your own organization better communication with your constituents.

Game Change

Despite its corny title, game changing ideas and strategies are the final step in improving your digital communication plans. These ideas can tend to seem riskier at the outset, whether due to being a brand new technology or platform, the time and resources necessary to implement, or because of the potential struggle in approval from those less familiar with these ideas or technologies. But it can be difficult to grow or expand your audience by only playing it safe and maintaining the status quo. How are you planning on reaching more people?

The best way to think about your game changing strategies is this – in a perfect world, what would you want to be doing in the online space? Who do you want to reach? How do you want to communicate with them? It sounds like an idealistic and daunting task, but in doing so, you will have the opportunity to best reach those with whom you are trying to connect.

Another game changing idea? Following our Tumblr for up to date links throughout the week. Here were a few of our favorites:

  1. Social Media Today shares ten ways that you can use AB testing to increase email open rates
  2. A recent poll of 650 women who work at nonprofits revealed interesting data on gender-based hiring and donation solicitation. The Chronicle of Philanthropy provides the details and an infographic.
  3. NPQ conveys four lessons from digital marketing that can be applied to crowdfunding.
  4. SumAll compiled research on the best and worst times of day to share content on social media platforms.
  5. Razoo Foundation highlights four nonprofits that are maximizing their impact.
Google’s Bay Area Impact Challenge – An Amazing Opportunity

Google’s Bay Area Impact Challenge – An Amazing Opportunity

This week, Google announced the Bay Area Impact Challenge – a contest for Bay Area nonprofits that will grant $5 million total to the winning entries, including $500,000 grants to four innovative nonprofits. The contest criteria are broken down here:

  1. Community impact. How will the proposed project improve the lives of local residents? How many people will be affected if successful and to what extent?

  2. Innovation. Does the project tackle the issue it seeks to address in a new and creative way?

  3. Scalability. If successful, how easily can this project scale? Can this proposal serve as a model for other communities?

  4. Feasibility. Does the team have a well-developed, realistic plan to execute on the proposal? Have they identified the right partners for implementation?

It goes without saying, but this is an amazing opportunity for nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area to really broaden their impact and improve the lives in our local community. If you have questions on the application process, or are interested in assistance in completing the application, we’d love to help.

Below are some of the best links we found this week. Don’t forget to follow our Tumblr for more links and resources.

  1. NPQ provides a great tool for nonprofits and those venturing into the world of grant and prospect research.
  2. A cap on charitable deductions is being discussed again. The Nonprofit Times details the recent conversations and potential impact.
  3. Who doesn’t enjoy Twitter Tips & Tricks? #Fundchat followers share their knowledge.
  4. Guidestar hosted their first earnings call to discuss their 2013 financial results. Guidestar’s commitment to transparency is a great example for other nonprofits. The Washington Post discusses the details of the call and its relevance.
  5. In an effort to learn more about the social impact that learning coding can have on children Ben Mangan transcribes an interview with Krishna Vedati, Founder and CEO of Tynker.
  6. Don’t forget to cast your vote for the doGooder Nonprofit Video Awards, hosted by our friends at See3 Communications.
Developing a Strategy for Social Sharing

Developing a Strategy for Social Sharing

For many years, the best way for nonprofits to build new audience members was to cast a wide net – reach out to as many people as possible and encourage them to participate in an event or donate to a specific program. This was often referred to as the fundraising funnel, as the wide audience would eventually filter down to your core supporters. This is a time tested, classic fundraising technique that nonprofits have used for decades to procure long term, engaged donors and volunteers.

In recent years, some nonprofits have begun using the phrase, “flipping the funnel” to describe the potential impact that social sharing can have on a nonprofit organization’s mission and outreach. Social sharing is the act of a volunteer or supporter sharing their philanthropic action on their social media networks. This is a way in which digital technology tools have relieved some burden for nonprofits. Ideally, they don’t have to spend as much time and resources on reaching out to cold contacts and can focus energy on retention. Current supporters will mobilize their own networks. As the funnel is now flipped – a core group of volunteers or supporters will share the organization’s message with their network and organically grow support.

This model of growth brings a number of questions. How are you encouraging people to share? How easy is it for your supporter to do so? Which audience members are actually sharing content? These questions and answers must fit into your ongoing communication strategy. Based on your existing audience of volunteers, if you think social sharing can be an opportunity for organizational growth, you need to dedicate time to considering these issues.

If a supporter shares information on their social media platforms about your organization – what do you want that content to be? Do you want to focus on mission-related information or increasing donations? The sample content or call-to-action that you provide your supporters must connect with your ongoing strategy and objectives. The content needs to also match their interests. Many supporters will want to share content because your mission is important to them and they want their friends and family to be educated. Some supporters may want to inspire their peers with their philanthropic actions. It’s important to provide options that appeal to multiple audience types.

The final question to consider when developing your social sharing strategy is – how are you going to track sharing and the impact it has on your organization’s objectives? Creating the ability and incentive for constituents to share your content is the first step, but it’s equally important to ensure that you can evaluate the impact it has on your day-to-day work.

If you organization would like to “flip the funnel”, spending time discussing these questions will help ensure that you’re doing so effectively and thoughtfully.


We’ve provided a few interesting links from the previous week. As always, check out our Tumblr for additional internet fun.

  1. Social Media Today describes the importance of responding to feedback on social media platforms.
  2. NPQ reports on an interesting plan that UC Berkeley is initiating to fund their campus library system.
  3. Twitter has been testing a redesign of their profile. Mashable provides the details.
  4. Marketing Profs explains how millennials interact with brands on social media.
  5. Wyatt Jenkins from Shutterstock shares an informative description of how he does A/B testing and the benefit of it.
  6. Speaking of A/B testing, Blue State Digital provides a couple of great Valentines.

We wish you a happy weekend, Valentines Day, and Presidents’ Day.


The New

A new year, a new website.

With a renewed outlook and some experience under our belts, we thought there was no better time to update our website. In this refresh, we focused on creating a site that best reflected our work, our personality, and our ideas. With that, we bring to you the brand new Here are some of the highlights:

What We Do

We have broken down our expertise into four main areas: Fundraising & Messaging Platforms; Data Management; Social Media; & Audience Development. We’ll soon be updating these pages with stories of our work from some of our previous and current clients.


Updated and refreshed – our Resources page is now focused on the main areas that our clients seem to need most. Best practices for social media sites, outlines on how to better define your narrative, and ideas on how to better structure your data needs. We’ll be updating this page throughout the year, so if you’re interested in learning more about our work, please check back often.

Highlighting Our Blog

You can find our most recent blog posts and updates throughout our site, including in the footer, where we captured our main categories so you can peruse our content based on your various areas of interest. Like what you see? Think that we don’t know what we’re talking about? Feel free to leave us a comment with your feedback so we can better get to know our audience.

21st Century (almost)

Bigger colors. Graphics. Icons. Animation. You name it, we have it. But if for some reason something on our site seems off, please let us know.

Thank you so much for your continued support. It already looks like it is going to be an exciting 2014 for Social Change Consulting – we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Weekly Roundup – Giving Tuesday Messaging Strategy

The second Giving Tuesday has come and gone. Reports vary on the increased level of fundraising – but it is likely somewhere between 50 and 90%. As Giving Tuesday continues to grow, it’s important to start thinking about the impact that it will have on your organization.

How does Giving Tuesday fit into your messaging strategy? Anchored between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, messages must find a place between your recent message of gratitude and your planned messages for year-end gifts. This year, did your message encourage your supporters to give their funds or time for a particular reason or simply because it was Giving Tuesday?

Next year, as nonprofits continue to join the Giving Tuesday campaign, it will be important that your message is consistent and focused to breakthrough the increasing noise. Messages focused on ’Give because today is the day to give’ will not resonate with most audiences. Planning for that strategy can begin now. How did your open and opt-out rates compare to other messages? Did you Giving Comfort donors make year-end contributions last year? Do you have the capacity and time to track how it will affect their year-end giving this year? By evaluating this in the first quarter of 2014, you’ll be able to better structure your communication for the remainder of the year.

Below are links that you might enjoy. Don’t forget to follow our Tumblr for more enjoyment.

  • On this subject of Giving Tuesday, we encourage your to join this Tuesday’s #Fundchat – #GivingTuesday Post-Mortem: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
  • Facebook is adjusting their news feed algorithm again. Mashable provides the details.
  • As you look ahead to 2014, Spin Sucks outlines how they anticipate social media evolving in the new year.
  • In this long-form article, NPQ details all aspects of proposed restrictions on the use of tax-exempt entities for political purposes.
  • While this Marketing Land article is focused on thanking customers, many of these opportunities can be utilized for showing gratitude to supporters and donors.
  • Today is the deadline to enter your grant management spreadsheet in PhilanTech’s “Ugliest” Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest!