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Paula Martin's avatar


The ever important End of the Year is near – the time when non-profits can garner up to 50% of their donations for the year.  How ready are you?

To help you overcome your fears about year’s end, Advocace has compiled a quick check list of information to make 2013 end profitably.  Capture those December dollars to ease the chilling thoughts of a new year!

#1 – Check your data files: nothing irks a donor more than receiving a mailing with the dreaded misspelled name. Make sure you are using the preferred name (is it Rick or Richard) and check for typos. Making sure you have the donor information right shows you care about them. A few hours scanning the donor records for typos and missing salutations gives you an advantage over other groups that don’t.

#2 – Figure out letter segmentation: letters need to fit the recipient. Loyal donors should receive a letter that reflects their enthusiasm for your mission, whereas, prospective donors should receive a version that explains and convinces them you are worthy of their support. You wouldn’t use a silver bullet to ward off a vampire, nor a wooden stake on a werewolf!

#3 – Talk about the results: according to the 2013 CYGNUS study of over 100,000 donors, their major moan is that charities don’t report enough on what donations actually accomplished. Give a brief bulleted list of significant accomplishments related to the donor’s giving.

#4 – Use your best stories: giving is an emotional heart-beating decision. You must connect with them emotionally - sharing the work God is doing through your ministry. Successful end of year letters share great stories that stir readers’ hearts - and ultimately their pocketbooks.

#5 – Choose your packaging wisely: your donors mailbox will be filled with solicitations. What can you do to stand apart? You may want to deviate from your normal “look” by using color, hand addressing envelopes or adding a hand-written note. If you only have a skeletal staff, use hand writing only for your major donors. Also consider adding small gifts like bookmarks and magnets.

#6 – Allow enough time: not only are mail houses swamped in October and November, the postal service is also busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Contact your printer to reserve a slot in their production schedule. Know your deadline! Add an extra 3-5 days for the postal service to deliver your non-profit mail – or spend the extra money on a first-class stamp. Using stamps speeds delivery and makes your mailing stand out!

#7 – Think in terms of a Campaign – not just a year end mailing: Your End of the Year letter is only the beginning, not the end! Plan out a series of emails, web articles, social media posts and even phone calls to complete your year-end campaign. You might set a specific monetary goal to be reached by December 31st, 2013 to help you end the year successfully and start 2014 strong. Motivate your donors by sharing how reaching your goal impacts your mission in real human terms (zombie terms are not real motivating).

Donors are just like you and me – they get busier as the year winds down, and, they enjoy being charitable! If your end of year communications are persuasively written, emotionally engaging and highly personalized - they will cut through the holiday fog and mysteriously motivate your donors to rally around your cause with increased giving.

Special thanks to Advocace Consultant Jerry Grimes for the information contained in this check list. Contact Advocace if you are shaking in your boots regarding any area of donor development for your organization.

Paula Martin's avatar

Mom Always Liked You Best

It’s hard being second fiddle, the third wheel, the last picked for the team, especially if you’re a charitable organization. Non-profits can, and should, endeavor to be the top choice of their donors. Most donors give to more than one non-profit organization, but there usually is one special organization that is rewarded with the lion’s share of the donations. Why? Because they may have more “emotional” pull than the other organizations. What are you to do if you can't tug at donor’s heartstrings? The NonProfit Times has some great ideas to help you become your donor’s numero uno. Some ideas may run quite contrary to what you “think” is the right way to work with your donors…such as asking donors to do more instead of less. Try implementing these ideas from Robin Fisk of Advanced Solutions International http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/management-tips/how-to-become-a-favorite-charity/

Paula Martin's avatar

I’ll Give if You Leave Me Alone!

Millennials (Generation Y) continue to be a bit of a quagmire when it comes to communication, especially for non-profits.  This group of folks born from the early 80’s to the early 90’s believe in giving both time and money, and they can also be impulsive.  A recent article from “The NonProfit Times” cites information from the “2012 Millennial Impact Report” that gives glimpses into the mindset of the average Millennial.   Focus groups found that Millennials do not want to be contacted via calls or texts from nonprofits.  Why?  Because these are personal forms of communication for the Millennial.  See more about how Millennials operate at http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/management-tips/millennials-dont-wants-calls-or-texts/

Paula Martin's avatar

Christians Clinging to their Radios

It’s time for some good news and I’m happy to share it.  Listeners love their Christian music formatted radio stations, and they like to share the love.  Jacobs Media shared data from their recent Techsurvey9 with great takeaways about Christian Music Format listeners, which included:

  • Christian Music Format listeners embrace smartphones and tablets
  • Christian Music Format listeners are more “social” than any other format group and more apt to “like” their station on Facebook
  • Christian Music Format listeners are involved with Twitter and/or Pinterest
  • Christian Music Format listeners spend more time with their Christian music station, and they are less likely to listen to Pandora or Sirius XM
  • Christian Music Format listeners listen to “get in a better mood” and are motivated to listen for their “favorite songs”
  • Christian Music Format listeners are likely to stream their radio at least once per week

Jacobs surveyed over 9,400 Christian Music Format listeners to do their research.  If you need to read some good news, check out this Friday Morning Quarterback article http://www.fmqb.com/article.asp?id=2654056

Paula Martin's avatar

Americans are Up in Alms

“People in America are so generous.” my friend said as we barreled down the highway towards summer camp.   I had to listen hard to make sure I understood what she was saying through her thick Japanese accent.  “Especially here in the south” she added.  I always knew that Americans were charitable, but I had never heard us compared to other countries before, let alone other areas of the U.S.  My friend was born in Japan and spent part of her married life in Canada and also in Chicago. 

That’s why a recent study by Barna struck a chord with me.  It proves what my friend explained to me on that hot July day in Texas.  Americans are charitable.  Amazingly, only 13% of Americans have not donated to charity in the past twelve months. 

Barna’s research found that religious identification has a lot to do with our generous gene.  Evangelicals are the most generous, with 79% donating money to charities (mainly their churches) in 2012.   Evangelicals also donate items and volunteer time for charities.  Only 1% of evangelicals say that they have not given in any way to a charity this past year. 

Juxtaposed to the Christian evangelicals are those of other faiths, where 27% say they had not donated to a charity in 2012.  This is slightly more than double the amount of the average American who did not give to charity (13%). 

Barna’s article goes on to tell about the psychology behind American’s generosity, the dollar amounts that we are giving, and what’s happened to the tithe.   I’m so glad that we are “up in alms” in America!  http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/611-new-barna-study-explores-trends-among-american-donors

Paula Martin's avatar

Mark Twain and the Death of Direct Mail

The oft quoted remark by Mark Twain (“The news of my death is exaggerated”) makes me think of others who have been pre-maturely pushed into the grave.  Obits for God and AM/FM Radio come to mind.   As the pundits are quick to put another nail in another coffin, research may resurrect the old standby - direct mail.

Direct mail has the highest ROI (return on investment) for B2B and for non-profits according to this Forbes article http://www.forbes.com/sites/marketshare/2012/03/11/direct-mail-alive-and-kicking/2/.   The NonProfit Times also highlights recent information released in the “DMA 2013 Statistical Fact Book” that direct mail will continue to be a driving force in business and non-profit marketing http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/rumors-of-direct-mails-death-greatly-exaggerated/.  Direct mail has not gasped its last breath and the fat lady will just have to find somewhere else to sing.

Paula Martin's avatar

The Bible in America

The Bible still holds a prominent place in America.  The American Bible Society partnered with the Barna Group to find out just how Americans think/feel about the Bible.  Nearly 90% of Americans own at least one Bible, and 80% of those questioned, say the Bible is sacred.  When asked about the Bible and its importance in society, 77% of  surveyers believe that American values and morals are in decline, and 32% believe that a lack of Bible reading is directly associated to this decline. 

Mosaics (ages 18-28) have a keen interest in The Bible in the following areas:  illness, death, dating an drelationsihps and parenting.  Mosaics have a higher interest that the normal percentages of the general population.

Barna Group reports on their findings about Americans and the Bible in this report http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/609-what-do-americans-really-think-about-the-bible

Paula Martin's avatar

Predicting the Giving of 2013

A new forecasting service for non-profits advises that fund-raising will rise minimally in 2013…perhaps only a 1.6% increase from 2012.  Reasons cited for the less than impressive forecast?  The unemployment rate will remain unchanged, a rise in the cost of health insurance, and the 2% increase in payroll tax will keep giving down.  Atlas of Giving, a forecaster of fund-raising, uses algorithms to estimate giving including data such as joblessness, election results and consumer confidence.  Giving for 2012 was up 6.7%, largely due to large gifts from the very rich, and a strong stock market.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on the gloomy forecast for 2013 http://philanthropy.com/blogs/prospecting/giving-will-barely-rise-in-2013-forecast-predicts/37801?cid=pw&utm_source=pw&utm_medium=en

Paula Martin's avatar

My Station is Like Me!

Most radio listeners prefer to listen to a radio station that they can relate to. However, Christian listeners also like to have an on-air personality that they can look up to.

Mark Kassof & Co. recently researched how listeners perceive their favorite station and on-air personalities. Kassof research proves listeners of Christian stations truly “love” their station.

Make sure you scroll down through the article to see the words that Christian station listeners attribute to their station (things like caring, cheerful, friendly, positive…) http://bit.ly/URJVui

Paula Martin's avatar

The Give and Take of Giving

Simply, the richer a donor, the more likely they will make a restricted gift to charity.

A majority of donors with assets of $1 million to $5 million prefer unrestricted gifts, while those with assets exceeding $50 million prefer restricted giving.

The strongest motivation for charitable giving among the wealthy is personal values. Religious faith, family legacy and helping society were high priorities in giving.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on a study by Forbes and Credit Suisse. Does your organization meet the high standards for philanthropic giving? http://bit.ly/YWH1bQ

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