[Podcast] 4 strategies and 1 fundamental truth for standing out among other nonprofits

Differentiation is the one the best ways to set your organization apart from the rest. But how do we go about doing that in our donor communications when there are so many worthy causes?

Last week, we interviewed fundraising expert Jeff Brooks about four great strategies for differentiation and he also shared one important fundamental truth.

Listen here for his answer: Jeff Brooks on Differentiation

Brooks’ fundamental truth: “Donors don’t give because you’re great. They give because they are great.”

It’s tempting to talk about your organization’s accomplishments and what you’ve done with donations to prove yourself worthy but that’s not what donors want to hear. Instead, they’d like to know what they’ve accomplished by giving a donation to you.

Here are Brooks’ four strategies that back up this fundamental truth:

Donors are the heroes of their own stories.

The donor is a part of the action when helping a beneficiary. You communicate with your reader, instead of trying to impress him/her, and use the word “you.” Skip your creative writing techniques and write simply and casually. 

Donors get prompt, detailed, and frequent information on the impact of their giving.

Otherwise, there is a disconnect. To report back to your donors, you can either communicate through receipts or newsletters. Receipts are quick and provide information about what the gift accomplished, express gratitude, include a note from someone the donor knows, depict pictures if possible, and welcome the new donor if this is the first gift.

Newsletters should focus on donors and the impacts of their giving. To strengthen your newsletter, tell wonderful stories, write amazing headlines, write and design for skimmability and readability, ask for donations, and value all levels of donations.

Your writing should be informal, dramatic and readable, focusing on well-told feature stories with emotion. Other reports can include special progress reports about ongoing projects, invitations to phone conferences or webinars about the work, and phone calls to thank donors. 

Donors have control over how you communicate with them.

Let them choose the channels they want to use and opt out of the ones they don’t want. Ask them what topics they want to hear about and how often they want to hear from you. Let them leave your list if they want to. Send them questionnaires via mail and/or email to find answers to your questions. 

Donors receive extremely focused images.

Don’t get caught up in the “creative” vs. “old-fashioned” argument. This argument rarely considers effectiveness, and designs can use both. Avoid fonts that are creative but hard to read (use serif fonts for text, sans-serif for online text), reverse type, type over tints and colored type. Focus, instead, on readability, simplicity (not flashiness), cultural appropriateness and flexibility to vary your communications.

Finally, watch the following indicators, instead of just listening to advice, to see if you’re connecting with donors and they’re staying with you longer: campaign results (strong response, average gift and net revenue), donor retention, and donor migration (upgrading, donors increase their giving amounts and downgrading, donors decrease their giving amounts.)

Hear more from Jeff Brooks’ in our podcast about how nonprofit brands can work against you.

Learn more about books on this topic and our summaries.

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When board members are lousy: Simone Joyaux has answers

FiringBookCoverAuthor Simone Joyaux asks these questions: “How many times have you sat in a boardroom and wished you were someplace else? How many times did your wish relate to others in the room? Maybe some particular person?”

Joyaux acknowledges we’ve all been there. Perhaps the feeling occurs only in passing but what do we do when our feeling about a board member arises more frequently in response to a pattern of legitimately bad behavior?

Unfortunately, the author explains that too often we do nothing about it for a variety of reasons:

1) We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

2) We’re afraid of conflict or confrontation.

3) Volunteer work is supposed to be fun.

4) We’re all just volunteers so let’s avoid the challenging issues.

No matter the reason, Joyaux asserts we cannot compromise the organization’s quality due to a little discomfort or the loss of a bad board member’s donation. In short, it’s unacceptable.

Why? Because of the great costs to your cause in the areas of organizational integrity, delivery on mission impact and ability to retain good board members, to name only a few.

There are no quick fixes or silver bullets for turning around bad board member performance. The good news is there are answers.

Board versus board members

One of the strategies that I particularly liked in Joyaux’s Firing Lousy Board Members and Helping Others Succeed was her focus on the distinction between the individual and the group.

Joyaux emphasizes the critical importance of every board distinguishing between a collective board and its individual members. Each has a distinct role. The collective board makes the decisions, not necessarily unanimously, and presents a united front in supporting those decisions. It treats all board members equally, including the board chair, as no one board member is more important than another.

Joyaux provides a list of board responsibilities. A sampling of the list follows:

·      Establish charitable contributions goals.

·      Define board member performance expectations regarding fund development.

·      Define values, mission, vision and strategic direction.

·      Ensure financial sustainability by adopting a budget and fund development plan and monitoring performance.

·      Hire, appraise and fire the chief executive.

In contrast, the individual board members have different responsibilities. Some of their main responsibilities include:

·      Attend board meetings.

·      Engage in board conversation. (Silence is consent and is not acceptable.)

·      Give a financial contribution.

·      Help nurture relationships with donors and people interested in the cause.

·      Help carry out fundraising activities.

·      Ask strategic questions.

Keep evaluation of the board and individual separateadaptivepath-com

By separating the individual trustee from the collective effort, it’s not only easier to establish accountability and volunteer job descriptions, the chair and executive director can fall back on each line that describes the discretionary effort of each person rather than dillute someone’s lack of effort in the overall board’s outcomes.

In Firing Lousy Board Members, Joyaux explains how it’s imperative that you move quickly with underperforming board members because your cause deserves better. While she acknowledges this task is not always easy, this guide will provide what Joyaux calls helpful “recipes.” What’s more, Joyaux has done everything she’s suggested in this book—not only as a staff member but also as a board member and chair.

See a book summary of this title and other relevant titles:

Firing Lousy Board Members…and Helping Others Succeed

Super Boards

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership

Image credits: Charity Channel Press

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Find answers to nonprofit measurement questions in new e-book by Katie Delahaye Paine

Measurement 101 for Nonprofits eBook Released by Paine Publishing

Practical handbook by the co-author of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

Katie Paine, co-author with Beth Kanter of the award-winning book, Measuring the Networked NonprofitUsing Data to Change the World, has released an eBook  designed to serve as the practical handbook for any nonprofit wanting to become a data-informed organization.

Paine wrote the book in response to feedback she has received since Measuring the Networked Nonprofit was first published. “Since our book came out, I’ve been getting questions from nonprofits about how to make measurement a reality, and how to implement good metrics.  I’ve been accumulating those questions and my answers for the past few years and the result is this eBook,” said Paine. “Things are moving so fast in the measurement world, we chose to put out an electronic handbook so we can update it as new tools and techniques are released.”

Buyers of the eBook may also join Paine’s subscriber-exclusive monthly Measurement Hour in which she answers any measurement questions her readers have.

Measurement 101 for Nonprofits provides practical, detailed guidance on how nonprofits can become data-informed organizations. It covers everything from a simple checklist to begin the measurement process to detailed guidance on how to analyze results. Other topics include:

·        Seven tips to help you understand your data

·        How to budget for measurement (including 6 ways to measure if you have no budget)

·        Understanding and measuring the different levels of engagement

·        Criteria for selecting the right vendors, tools, and metrics

Measurement 101 for Nonprofits is available for $101 and can be purchased by visiting: http://painepublishing.com/measurement-mall/

Paine Publishing, LLC is a New Hampshire-based consulting firm founded by Katie Delahaye Paine in 2013. Its mission is to train and advise individuals and organizations on how to measure their public relations, social media, marketing, and communications efforts. Her company also publishes The Measurement Advisor, the world’s only newsletter dedicated to expert advice, how-to articles, and industry news for communications professionals.

See also:

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

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