Link Bonanza

I’m doing the web equivalent of a compilation tape for the post today, mostly because a whole bunch of really important stuff has just been released and there’s no point in drip feeding any of it.

So without further delay:

Announcing: Blueprints for Change

You know what sucks? Talented people and organisations who are unable to access the resources they need to achieve progressive change.

Blueprints for Change is a collaborative project that compiles knowledge and field-experience from a global network of campaign innovators.

It then makes this knowledge accessible to as many progressive organizers and campaigners as possible to help everyone “up their game” more quickly.

The Blueprint guides are completely free and open for anyone to download and use.

You can also read how lessons from Blueprints for Change on distributed organising are being applied in real life here on the Mobilisation Lab blog by Tania Mejia of Jolt in Austin, TX.

Full disclaimer: I’m fully involved in this project, and proud to be.

M+R’s benchmarks report has just been released

This is always choc-full of super useful and interesting info. If you’re serious about digital and doing it right, you need to read this and see how you compare.

There are a million top takeaways, but the big one for me: Mobile saw a 50% increase in its share of online transactions.

Digital = mobile. Mobile = digital.

(Just as a side note, the site is slick af too)

The next generation of American givers?

Blackbaud just released its report into the next generation of American givers, and check this out:

Two big big takeaways from this for me:

  • Boomers account for more than twice the amount of revenue as the civic generation. Boomers are also HUGE online donors (the majority of your online donors are almost certainly Boomers).
  • Gen X accounts for more revenue than the civic generation. They’re even more technically savvy than Boomers and have different demands from nonprofits than civics.

Essentially: a huge shift to digital isn’t going to happen — it’s happened. There’s a whole generation of new organisations out there eating the lunch of the big, more established charities, because they can see the shift in demographics of donors – and their demands, and are nimble enough (or have the right culture) to react.

Check out the report here.

One other side note: did you know the oldest Millennials are now 38 years old?!

Top campaigning trends also just released

And last but definitely not least, the great people at Mobilisation Lab also released their campaigning trends for 2018 report.

Like all of the above, it’s a doozy.

And one of the emerging trends: the rise of mobile, especially in terms of messaging apps.

Why care what’s happening in campaigning when you’re in fundraising? Well, this article demonstrates that some of the best innovation happening in our sector right now is from small and nimble campaigning groups.

That’s it for now!

 

P.S. just a reminder — I’m doing a full day digital workshop at the Western Canada Fundraising Conference in Vancouver in just a few weeks. It’s top value for money (and you get to go to Vancouver!) – all those details are here.

Opt in to opt in testing

The new opt in requirements under GDPR (which will start being enforced on May 25) have a lot of us freaking out.

Enter the team at Forward Action – they’ve got you covered through this excellent opt-in checkbox and language test:

We tested two different versions of opt in copy on a petition page for All Out. Our aim was to see if using the copy to emphasise different incentives to sign up for emails could increase opt in rates.

So far so good.

We tested this approach on two petitions (adapting the copy appropriately for each petition).

The results were striking. On the first petition, the “campaign win” framing produced a relative increase of 48% (statistically significant). Opt in rate rose from 52% on the “theory of change” control to 77%, the highest opt in rate we’ve seen on a petition to date in our testing.

They saw an increase of nearly 50% more people subscribing to the All Out email list purely through focusing the opt-in language on the person signing the petition.

Of course. OF COURSE!

And for All Out, this testing is definitely worth the effort. From Forward Action again:

Legal compliance is, of course, one half of the role opt in language has to fulfil — but it also has to actually get supporters to subscribe, and charities and campaigns groups cannot afford to ignore this second role. Email list growth is essential to the success of digital programmes: it is the foundation upon which your digital fundraising and ability to mobilise to win campaigns is built.

Bingo.

All Out’s ability to fulfil its mission is greatly increased because they took to the time to invest in testing. As a result, their ability to fundraise and win campaigns will be considerably stronger.

This is exactly why I put testing at the top of my list of Best Practices for Online Fundraising.

Full and explicit opt-in (to physical mailing lists too!) is only one part of GDPR, but it’s great to see one org absolutely smashing it.

Great work Forward Action and All Out!

(If you haven’t already, go read the full write-up here)

The Trust Equation will make or break your fundraising

The Trust Equation was introduced to me last year by my friend Hanna and it’s really stuck with me since.

First, a quick intro to the Trust Equation.

The equation is made up of four variables:

Credibility has to do with the words we speak. In a sentence we might say, “I can trust what she says about intellectual property; she’s very credible on the subject.”

Reliability has to do with actions. We might say, “If he says he’ll deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him, because he’s dependable.”

Intimacy refers to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something. We might say, “I can trust her with that information; she’s never violated my confidentiality before, and she would never embarrass me.”

Self-Orientation refers to the person’s focus. In particular, whether the person’s focus is primarily on him or herself, or on the other person. We might say, “I can’t trust him on this deal — I don’t think he cares enough about me, he’s focused on what he gets out of it.” Or more commonly, “I don’t trust him — I think he’s too concerned about how he’s appearing, so he’s not really paying attention.”

Add Credibility, Reliability and Intimacy together and then divide by Self-Orientation. It ends up looking like this:

the trust equation

If you remember fractions at school, you want those ones across the top to be as high as possible, and the one of the bottom to be as low as possible.

The equation is mostly geared towards individual behaviour. But it’s totally relevant to organisational behaviour too.

I think you’ve got an opportunity here to run your own organisation through the Trust Equation.

Totally honestly, I don’t even think you need to assign values to each variable – it’s just helpful to know that the top line should be high, and the bottom should be low.

The Trust Equation for nonprofits:

Credibility for your organisation is what you’re saying to people about the work you do and how you’re positioning yourself. This encompasses pretty much all of your outgoing comms (including fundraising).

Reliability is whether or not you actually deliver on what you say you do. This is one of the easiest areas you can improve as an organisation: report back on how you’re spending donations. Show the impact you’re having in the world.

Intimacy is about people. High levels of intimacy are why peer-to-peer fundraising does so well. It’s why so many nonprofits invest in major donor officers. But even if you don’t have those resources, you can create intimacy with people by telling stories about people. Be transparent about finances. Make people feel like they know you at more than just a surface level.

Put a human face on your organisation and don’t keep secrets.

Self-orientation is how much you’re looking out for your own interests vs. the interests of the people your non-profit is set up to serve. How much do you talk about how you can make your donor’s vision of the world become reality? Because that’s literally why people give – they’re giving through your organisation to make their dreams come true.

All of this sound kinda familiar? It’s essentially the basis of donor-centricity. It’s about just doing the right thing as an organisation that literally exists to help other people.

How to find out where you stand

Ask people. Survey your donors. Call them to say thanks and then have a chat. Set up a focus group. Make time to learn more about how people perceive you – because their perceptions of you are their reality.

Revisit your baselines each year.

Next steps

Trust doesn’t improve overnight – it takes months or years of repeated actions to build up trust.

Be critical with yourself as an organisation. Look at the equation variable-by-variable. You may discover there are some areas where you can quickly make changes to improve.

Do some testing. You’ve set your baselines, so focus on a variable in the equation and see how certain things improve trust – and results. Take self-orientation as an example. Try talking about yourself vs. talking about your donors and the people they can help. Reducing self-orientation is a no-brainer to me and the results from that experiment should be super clear.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on or read more about the Trust Equation here.

(p.s. Wanna learn more about how you can use the Trust Equation to make your fundraising better? Come to my full day workshop at #WCFC2018)

Best practices for online fundraising (part 1)

Best practices for digital fundraising are a funny thing to define.

Digital is relatively new and changing all the time – even just defining ‘digital’ is changing*. Because of that, best practices for online fundraising aren’t prescriptive**.

So here you go – my no-bullshit, non-definitive list of best practices for digital fundraising that (shouldn’t) rapidly go out of date:

1. Test. All the time.

I yammer on about testing for a reason: it’s the single best way to figure out how to engage with your audience and send them stuff you’re doing that they’re interested in too (and want to support!)

I wrote a testing guide, and there are lots of ideas for testing all over this blog.

There are a few things personal to you to make testing work best:

  • Be open to learning new stuff
  • Test your assumptions
  • Be OK with it being wrong, just learn it quickly
  • Actually change how you do things

2. Go to where your audience is

Find out who your key supporters are*** and then do some research on where they are online and how they use the internet.

Go for the low hanging fruit – focus your resources accordingly. Find out where you’re getting the best return, then test and optimise.

It’s almost 100% guaranteed they have an email address if they’re under 65 – and they’re checking it regularly. So building an email list probably makes sense.

If you’re in the UK, 82% of 45-54 year olds use their mobile phone to access the internet (65% of 55-64 year olds do too) – that’s significant, because odds are your online donors are aged between 45 and 65.

And top three things they’re doing online: checking email, searching for information on goods and services (how’s your website?), and looking at social media. That key age cohort is just as likely to use the internet for social media as they are to do their banking.

So it’s up to you to figure out what social media they use. If they’re on Facebook, go there. If they’re on Instagram, go there. You get the picture.

Remember this most of all: Use smart data to figure out where you should be putting your efforts. And then test!

3. Send good content when you have good content

I want to emphasise good content. Because you’re testing all the time, you’ll figure out what that is based on what’s resonating with your supporters (track actions to actually figure out what people like).

Here are some good ideas to help start you off:

  • Rapidly respond to things that are affecting you, especially stuff in the news (your equivalent of disaster funding!)
  • Let supporters know how you’ve spent/are currently spending their money
  • Give people a sneak peek behind-the-scenes – and it doesn’t need to be super-pro (probably better if it’s not)

Test what’s resonating with people.

Edit: Here’s another way to approach it from Jeff Brooks that I like

4. Make it as personal as you can

People love the human touch, and they love that you’re not just a robot.

There are lots of opportunities to add the personal touch – especially through email or social media when it’s SO easy to reply in real time. The Women’s March showed the potential of Messenger bots in being able to provide a personal experience to people online without necessarily needing a person involved.

And just because I’m talking digital, it doesn’t mean you have to keep your communication in the online space (even if their donation came in online).

Try calling, or hand-written cards, or anything else that’s been working for you in fundraising so far. And test out ways to do that same kind of personal touch in digital ways too (e.g. texts, IMs, video… so many choices).

**********

Finally, a reminder: the single best thing you can do is test.

 

*Until fairly frequently, mobile was being chucked in its own category (hint: it’s digital)

**Beware anyone who tells you otherwise, especially consultants

***Don’t know? Ask them!

And check out the Office of National Statistics (UK) website for up-to-date internet stats. Tons of gold here.

People are weird and will lie to you

People are outwardly mostly normal. But if you scratch the surface, pretty much everyone out there is kinda weird. And with that weirdness comes a degree of unexpected behaviour.

This isn’t anything new. Anyone that’s been doing fundraising for a while knows just how strange donor behaviour can get.

So we try and mitigate the weirdness the best we can by asking donors what they like, in the form of surveys and focus groups and stuff like that.

But people are damn dirty liars and won’t tell you the truth.

They don’t *mean* to lie to you. People legitimately just don’t know what they want or like.

A few years ago I was at a conference where a really big UK charity was talking about how they surveyed their mid-level donors about the kind of images they were using in their fundraising. A couple of donors had made comments (not even sure if they were complaints?) and so they wanted to understand if it was a bigger problem or not.

And then I listened in horror when they said they’d just swapped the images out based on what the donors had said in the survey. No testing.

The donors had picked images they *thought* were good – and would make them look like good rational people too. All crap: pictures of scientists doing research, some lab photos, that kind of hyper-rational stuff that makes sense on the surface. All because a couple of comments (come on people, sometimes complaints are good!)

Everyone will give with their emotions and will rationalise it later on.

It’s why the SPCA’s Sarah McLachlin ad and ones like it are so good.

Don’t get me wrong here. Surveys, focus groups, interviews – all of that stuff has its place. Especially as a way of engaging people deeper. You should always be listening.

But when it comes to behaviour, you’ve gotta take what people say they want and test to see if it’s true.

Luckily testing is pretty easy, especially if you’ve got a guide.

(The classic example of testing behaviour was a study done by Good Luck margarine in the 1940s. They figured out why margarine had a bad rep through behavioural studies, changed a few things, and margarine overtook butter as the spread of choice in US households for the next fifty years).

The rules don’t apply anymore

Holy shit, I love Wikipedia. I use it a ridiculous amount of the time (and so does everyone else – it’s the 5th most visited site in the world).

I also love Wikipedia because they kick ass at fundraising.

They have a huge advantage (all of that web traffic!) that they use to test and hone their ask. I had the pleasure of hanging out with the Wikimedia Foundation online fundraising team a few months ago, and in addition to being super lovely people, they gave me a look under the hood. And sweet jeebuz, they sure do like to test.

In fact, they test more than anyone else I know – by a long shot.

One thing their intense testing schedule exposed: some of the old fundraising rules just don’t apply to them.

Check out their current (winning) banner:

wikipedia's ask that breaks the rules

So much in here is totally contrary to current wisdom:

The banner is so intrusive

It’s massive. It’s obnoxious. It’s the definition of an interruption.

The negative social proof

It’s EVERYWHERE. ‘Only a tiny portion of our readers give’, ‘Most people ignore my messages’. What the shit!

I remember reading a post from fundraising legend Jeff Brooks back in 2013 explicitly calling out negative social proof in fundraising, even backed up by some science. Wikipedia clearly didn’t see it.

A ‘Maybe later’ button in the form

Everything I’ve read on optimising donate forms has recommended minimising distraction – anything that will take you away from the purpose of the form (read: hitting ‘Donate Now’).

(Clicking the ‘Maybe later’ button lets you enter your email address, and then you get sent an email reminder later on – it’s a very nice flow).

Look at all those options in the gift array

EIGHT choices.

Anchoring the ask lower than the average donation

At just £2!

(I’ve also had great success anchoring even lower – just £1/$1/€1. Always performed best in tests).

No actual question

There’s no ‘could you please donate now?’-type typical ask. There are a couple of statements (‘We ask you to protect Wikipedia’s independence’ and ‘Please help keep Wikipedia online and growing’) that feel conventional, but they’re not underlined or made more prominent in any way.

In fact, the only thing that stands out is this sentence, that’s like the parent-who’s-hoping-you’ll-read-between-the-lines (your room would look much better if it were clean you know): ‘If everyone reading this gave £2, we could keep Wikipedia thriving for years to come.’

lol – brilliant.

It’s a huge blob of text

And it’s not super easy to skim (except for the underlined bit!)

They’re also doing a bunch of stuff that’s totally best practice (the ask is a personal message from Jimmy, their text is huge and easy to read, and they know *exactly* what’s resonating with their audience).

All of this has come about through hundreds of rounds of refinement, down to the exact language, button placement, donation choices – the lot. Everything that you see there has been tested and is totally optimised to maximise their income.

And to me, it’s just a huge reminder to test everything – especially the conventional wisdom – because the rules might not apply to you. We’ve all got different audiences, and for you, the unconventional might just work out.

Just in case you couldn’t love them any more, they’re also super transparent about their fundraising – how they bring in money, what they’re testing, and when they’re rolling it out, how they spend their donations. It’s all available on the Wikimedia Foundation’s fundraising wiki page.

Love it, love it, love it.

So get testing.

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A solid gold time saving tip

I’ll let you in on a solid gold tip. This could save you tons of time and make tons of cash: test last year’s fundraising winner again this year.  

This is true for all channels.

If it’s an email, test sending the message to the test audience again as a reminder. You could try with or without a little topper. Or with a reply-style subject line (re:) vs. a new one. So many options. If that works, try sending a third time.

You just might have a winner on your hands again this year, for very little work.

This article covers some of the main arguments in favour of repetition pretty well, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Most people didn’t even notice you sent anything (think of how many marketing messages you’re getting at this time of year)
  • People aren’t paying attention to you UNLESS you repeat yourself. Repetition is one of the key drivers of success in for-profit marketing comms!
  • If a handful of people are complaining, develop a plan just for them (and remember, complaints can be a good thing)

One last tip: remember to focus your efforts right now on what will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Got an email list that responds well? Active Facebook community? Focus there first.

ACLU: smashing it

Quick thing first: If you signed up for my email list in the past week, it may not have worked. Please try signing up again! Sorry about that.

The ACLU is one of my favourites right now and their year-end video made me feel. I felt angry, I felt hopeful, and I felt part of something bigger.

Their whole year-end donation message starts with ‘Thank you’. Shit that’s great. They get their audience, and I’m sure this is going to cap off a fantastic year of work for them that their donors enabled.

Check it all out here.

 

(Thanks to Anne who tipped me off, this is so cool and great way to cap off the week!)

Great email from Movember

I just got a pretty decent email from the Movember Foundation asking me to sign up again this year (to be fair to them, they sent it over a week ago – it was more that I only just read it).

It looks like a personal email – check out the format, the subject line, and the initial tone. It’s got his email signature with a phone number in it. In fact, I thought it was a personal email until I saw the ‘view online’ and ‘unsubscribe’ links at the bottom.

Personal is great, especially if you’re making a high-bar ask.

There are a couple of things I would’ve done differently:

  • Had a reply-to address that looked like his actual email address (even if it wasn’t)
  • Made the tone more casual – this still felt like a promo email once I got past the initial introduction line
  • Put the ask in a lot earlier
  • Re-sent (kicked) the email a few days later

I’ve tested an almost identical personal approach before and it performs really well, but it needs to be on something where you’re asking for something a little *more* than normal.

Try adding this to your next testing cycle.

By the way, I did Movember back in 2011 when I was living in Canada. Here’s the horrendous result:

Yeah, I know.

Actual lol

Look at this ridiculous shit – “my BS future” – christ on a bike (click to make bigger):

Unintentionally honest design aside – here’s the thing: we do this kinda stuff all the time. We’re so immersed in our organisations and our issues and our campaigns. No wonder though, it’s what we do all day.

So you get jargony and use dumb acronyms, and then that creeps into the stuff you communicate with people outside the org.

And because everyone else in the approval process knows what you’re talking about, you get shit like the giant professionally printed wall above.

From time to time, get someone who is unfamiliar with you to look at your stuff – and then listen to them if they say it doesn’t make sense to them.

Otherwise you’ll go on a BS journey to a BS future.