Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in – including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at the start-up and innovative DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought-leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and white papers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.
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Remember a few weeks ago when I referenced a spirited discussion I had with a long-time fundraising consultant. It all came down to a debate about whether nonprofit fundraisers are innovative. To prove him wrong, I came to you all — my readers — and asked you to tell me what your innovative ideas were. As promised, here they are.
Glance at the list. Some may seem new, and some may seem like ideas we know are right but are skills that perhaps have simply fallen out of practice. I've divided them by categories and arranged them alphabetically. Look for Part 2 next week.
Analytics and segmentation
1. We developed a "Generosity Index," which scores donor value as a whole and by life cycle. This allows marketers to identify common attributes to define what segmentation should be defined as versus anecdotally defining segments, e.g., middle donor, major donor or general donor. The tool also allows identification of most or least valuable donors by life cycle (new, lapsed, multiyear) so marketers can take action quickly to appreciate valuable new donors today versus waiting too late to treat them appropriately, or to identify valuable donors that may have just lapsed for immediate reactivation action.
2. We designed and developed an interactive conversion analysis tool that helps marketers design cadence strategies that maximize donor retention opportunities by donor origin channel, month and second gift giving timing trends.
3. Separating our graduate alumni from our undergrads to segment them differently. In turn, use different messaging for our graduate degree programs.
4. Sending out a "welcome to life as an alum" packet to recent grads to help cultivate and engage them. It would include giveaways and pertinent information.
5. Sending handwritten notes to random people just to say hello. I know we're understaffed, but this could brighten people's days.
6. Having coffee with someone, just for the sake of talking and drinking coffee. Not a specific prospect or anything — just networking. You never know what will come out of it.
7. Several years ago, I worked for a nonprofit early childhood program. We did several very innovative fundraisers, generally events and generally child-focused. The school was known for its arts emphasis, following the Reggio Emilia approach, so it made sense that fundraisers were also arts-oriented. The first really innovative approach was to secure pieces of high-quality children's furniture (think tables, chairs, bookshelves, etc.). A community partner who makes wonderful maple pieces donated some, others were purchased at IKEA and some were recycled. We then asked local artists to decorate the pieces in some way. They were amazing — everything from a stool decorated to look like a spider to a chair with a hole cut out in the center to hold a planter. As Fred Rogers was on the founding board, we were able to get his company to decorate several pieces. All the furniture was then auctioned off (one of the parents is a professional auctioneer) at a cocktail party. Huge success! However, this idea was only effective for about three years, so we had to look for another idea to replace it.
8. Non-event fundraiser: Save the expenses of throwing a party and ask folks to donate to the non-event fundraising event.
9. Bringing back the block party — neighbors gathering, having a block party, and including a platform for sharing a message to have fun but also together make a difference. I think this is an opportunity to have ready-made materials, messages, neighborly competition, similar to political house parties, but make these block parties.
10. 24-hour marathon.
11. At the same early childhood program, a new addition was built to house an atelier (art studio) for the children and an atelierista (art teacher). There was a fundraiser where local artists were asked to decorate two ceramic tiles — one was auctioned off and the other became part of a wall outside the atelier. Families could also purchase tiles, and a family painting night was held. A local clay studio fired the tiles for us so the paint was permanent. Families were welcome to paint as many tiles as they wanted, with one becoming a permanent part of the wall.
12. At events, online auctions, silent auctions: Inviting your donors in to meet the faces of the organization, meet the volunteers of the organization, meet the residents that their donations support — in this case, rescued animals. In a day and age where people are very skeptical of nonprofit organizations and where funds actually go, donors seem more responsive when they can get a peek or at least an invitation to "come in, on the inside" to see how the organization runs and meet the people that they are entrusting with their money to support to organization.
13. Volunteers must raise funds before starting their position. They get a "free" T-shirt in return, as well. It is a modest amount of $30, but 1) it puts the new volunteers in the position to be advocating for the organization, and 2) it puts the power in their hands. It is rewarding and empowering and ensures they have a small investment in the organization, which we hope will decrease the attrition rate. We have had some people just pay the $30 themselves, and recently a volunteer raised $150+ and we haven't even met her/started to work with her yet!
14. Student philanthropy competition, with the winning class taking all the collected funds and putting it toward the project of the students' choice.
15. Tabling at grocery stores or community events: The grocery store works better than the pet store — something about having just spent money on their own pets makes people less likely to give to others' — but at the grocery store the funds seem more "unrelated." Community events should be considered more of a networking event than fundraising, but both should be utilized and attended. Getting "out there" in your community is key. For us, having a kitten or puppy at the table draws people to us; we don't have to elicit donations. Also we have found making a statement, rather than asking for donations, is key too. We say, "Hi, we're Motley Zoo, and we help homeless pets in need." People who were ready to say no suddenly have to stop and rethink their response — and usually they feel guilty for immediately considering blowing us off, so they give. People want a choice, and by offering this subtly, they don't feel pressured to give. They make the decision themselves, which is always more rewarding.
16. We encourage donors to think big with their philanthropy, where they direct their gifts to programs they're passionate about, rather boxing them in to supporting programs we need funded. It's a donor-centered approach that's worked very well for major gifts. So for example, we're working with a donor to establish a temporarily restricted fund for emerging programs so when our board develops new educational initiatives we have access to funding right away to support the program(s).
17. It is always about people, so I always look for new ways to be in front of people. So yesterday I called an existing donor and asked if I could visit and show the donor a new fundraising idea for a Downton Abbey Society. She said yes. I went and showed it to her. She gave feedback. We are going to create it, and she is going to be a founding member.
18. Bus trip: Paying passengers board at one end of the state, travel to a lunch/program site, reboard the bus, travel to a stretch break/program site, reboard the bus, travel to hotel, freshen up for dinner, board the bus and travel to the theater on campus. Then they have a pre-show talk with the director and see the show. Back to the hotel for respite. Breakfast in the morning and travel to program site, then lunch, then program site, then dinner, then home.
19. We have a program called the Power of 7 Seminar that invites donors who make a $7,000 gift to our annual fund to a think-tank weekend of learning, networking and mentoring in a resort location. They also sponsor an undergraduate member of our organization to attend and mentor him for the weekend and pay their own expenses, translating into a $10,000 gift for the donor. It's an incredible experience and definitely an out-of-the-box event!