Positioning your nonprofit for 2013

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” – Yogi Berra

Whew, 2012 is over! Before you get bogged down in your everyday business, take a few moments to explore trends that will impact your success.

Over the last month I’ve been consumed reading and analyzing articles and blogs about trends that will impact the nonprofit sector this year. I’m still digesting the excellent information. However it is time to ‘put pen to paper’ and share with you what I see as the most important trends so I can help ensure a good start to 2013.

Leveraging Technology

Leveraging Technology is number one on my list. However, you will need to distinguish the trendy from the useful. You also need to make a commitment to really know your supporters, so you can effectively take advantage of new technologies to ensure your nonprofit’s impact.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review posted Ten Technology Trends to Watch, an excellent article by Mark Tobias president of Pantheon, which provides online technology solutions for nonprofits, associations, and government.

Mark suggests you should consider these trends as you develop your technology strategy for 2013. Read more details and explore links in the post by clicking SSIR.

  1. Measurement and transparency. What gets measured gets improved.
  2. Consumer-oriented online engagement. People who interact with your organization online don’t want to have to work to make sense of it.
  3. Deploying data to answer burning questions. Think beyond your web analytics dashboard. Instead, what are the core questions your organization wants to answer? Research shows nonprofits are collecting tons of data but aren’t using it.
  4. Knowledge hub rising. To survive and thrive, nonprofits and associations must add value beyond membership and advocacy.
  5. Mobile plus. More and more organizations are creating mobile-friendly websites, but the future of mobile is finding ways for people to accomplish even more when they’re away from their desktops.
  6. The unfettered conference. Recognizing that the world and its travel budgets are changing, nonprofits and associations would be wise to rethink and retool conferences.
  7. New types of products. Nonprofits and associations are using a series of technology-propelled products to make a big difference for both their members and markets (such as health or education).
  8. Whole Foods-ification. It’s organic! Nonprofits are slowly learning not to treat their website and technology as they do their annual reports—projects that are perfected and completed.
  9. Digital learning is soft. The explosive growth in online courses proves how much America likes to learn. So, it’s important to keep in mind that the way people engage, learn, and behave online is changing.
  10. Proof and standards for digital learning are hard. As learning transcends time and place, colleges and employers are challenged to develop meaningful proof that a degree or certificate reflects the knowledge and skills necessary for job success.

 Anticipated Changes in the Nonprofit Sector

Change is pretty much assured for nonprofits in 2013. Nell Edgington, president Social Velocity provides 5 Trends to Watch in 2013. These are hot off the press! You can learn more detail and explore Nell’s links by clicking her post on HuffingtonPost.

  1. More demand for outcomes – nonprofits will need to articulate what results they hope their work with achieve and track whether those results are actually happening.
  2. Decreasing emphasis on nonprofit overhead – More and more people are coming to realize that you can’t just invest in programs without the staff, infrastructure and fundraising to make those programs happen.
  3. More advocacy for the sector as a whole – we will start to see the sector organize, mobilize and build the confidence necessary to claim its rightful place.
  4. Savvier donors – Because nonprofits are getting more savvy, donors are as well. In addition to an increasing demand for proof of outcomes, donors are slowly starting to that there is a difference between revenue and capital in the sector.
  5. Increased efforts to rate and compare nonprofits – As nonprofit outcomes are increasingly in demand, donors become savvier, and the “nonprofit overhead” distinction diminishes, we will increasingly evaluate nonprofits based on the results they achieve, not on how they spend their money. But that requires that a whole infrastructure for evaluating and rating nonprofits emerges, just as it has for the financial markets.

Please share this posting with your community. Create robust discussions. Explore how these trends will impact your nonprofit. Use these issues to help position your organization to take advantage of opportunities in 2013.

Do you have any more trends that you see impacting nonprofits this year? I’d love to hear from you!

PS my next post focuses on some user-friendly fundraising tips and strategies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not too late to improve year-end giving!

 

 

Okay, I know it’s late. But, there’s still time to ensure that your organization is primed to reap the benefit of end-of-year donations.

So, as you get ready for your end-of-the year push, I want to share my personal pet peeves that make me think twice before supporting a nonprofit. These were originally posted last year – Putting together the puzzle pieces for your end of the year fundraising:

  • No way to send an email and/or make a phone call to a specific staff member
  • Sending me a letter and/or an email addressed to ‘Dear Friend” – There’s just no excuse. You need to send personalized email and letters.
  • No one to answer the phone and/or respond to email the end of December – It boggles my mind when nonprofits completely close down during this most important fundraising period. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard from ‘almost’ donors who moved on to support organizations where they could reach a human being.
  • Making me hunt for a way to make a donation – A donate now link is not enough. Visitors to your website need to see a donate button regardless of where they land when they enter your site. Complement each page with a donate pitch with an easy to find donate button
  • Donate now buttons that don’t link directly to the donation page – For each extra click you are losing potential donors.
  • Donation pages without contact information and an address for regular mail – Personally I like to charge my donations. But, there are still people who like to send a check. Be sure to invite visitors to do so.
  • No way to make a tribute donation – I’ve developed deep relationships with nonprofits who provide a phone number and/or email address for tribute donation details. On the flip side I’ve crossed off nonprofits that don’t have some mechanism for making these gifts.
  • No personal thank you notes for online donations – Most online systems have an automated response system. Be sure and follow up with a personalized thank you.
  • A registration that promises an online newsletter that never comes

Recently I read an interesting article by Curtis Chang, founder and CEO of Consulting Within Reach, posted in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. I found myself nodding my head as I read the article.

Here’s a summary of End-of-Year Appeals: Five Bad Habits to Kick. (I strongly suggest you read the article. It contains a number of great links).

1. Sending everyone the same message

Do you really want to send the same message to people who have already donated this year and to people who have never given? Not acknowledging a previous supporter’s donation is like greeting a good friend at a party by extending your hand and saying, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.” With all of the database technology at hand, every organization should be customizing their appeals.

2. Over-reliance on emotional stories

Stories are important to appeal to prospective donors. But end of the year letters also need to contain data that demonstrates the overall impact of donations. Don’t forget to compile your stats, and display them in a compelling way to help persuade people to support your organization.

3. Killing with words, words, words

In our communication era, people have a decreasing capacity to consume long stretches of text. During the holiday season, as more and more physical and electronic letters arrive than usual, that capacity plummets even further. Nonprofits would be well advised to look for other media to embed in their annual appeals.

4. Neglecting the little things

Almost ¼ of all email opens occur within the first hour of being sent. This means that a little thing like when you’ve scheduled delivery of your electronic appeal can make a real difference. Your placement—and testing—of your hyperlinks to a giving opportunity can also have out-sized impact. For physical mailings, the biggest little thing you can do is to include a handwritten message: Some studies show that this increases the chances of a donation by 300 percent.

5. Botching the thank you

One very obvious bad habit is to forget to send a timely thank you to donors. Thank you cards matter—but beware: According to other studies, thank you gifts can backfire by ruining the donor’s sense of altruism.

Don’t let these stumbling blocks keep you from reaping the end of the year fundraising benefits.

Do you have any further suggestions? Would love to hear from you.