This month’s issue of Grassroots Fundraising Journal has a great article about “horizontal philanthropy,” the ways that members of a community support each other in many ways.
The Center for Participatory Change did a study of this phenomena, and one of the things I found striking is that participants would mention their neighbors, their church, and grassroots groups as proving support, but they rarely mentioned nonprofits in general.
There are two lessons here for community organizers:
- Recognize that the communities you work with are already organizing themselves. There may not be an office or letterhead, but there are relationships and structures that support the community.
- Your job as an organizer is to work with and support these existing structures, NOT to replace them.
Can post-its increase your fundraising letter response?
Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive gave me an idea for improving fund appeal response rates.
Here’s the setup: researchers sent 3 versions of a survey to potential respondents. The surveys either had:
- a hand-written post-it asking the person to complete the survey;
- a hand-written message on the cover sheet; or
- the survey and cover sheet with no hand-written note.
The surveys with the sticky notes had the highest response rates by far.
The unpersonalized letters had the lowest response rate, just 34%. A hand-written note increased the response up to 43%. And the letters with the sticky-note had the highest response at 69%.
Many nonprofits invite board members and volunteers to write personal messages on year-end appeals. The research indicates that this kind of personalization can increase response rates.
But it also indicates you can take the response up to the next level by adding a post-it note. Somehow that added touch makes it feel more real and more human.
I plan to give it a try this year. If you try it, let me know how it works for you.
In tennis, the initial contact with the ball isn't enough for a good serve, you need to follow through. Same thing in organizing, it's not the initial contact, you need to follow through.
I am a big proponent of following up with people. I believe it is the little bit of extra effort that often separates success from failure.
That’s why I was delighted to read Marnie Webb’s post on the Case Foundation’s blog on the art of the follow through.
Why follow up? As Marnie writes, “we also want to make sure that the people who do sign up have ways to increase their engagement. And that’s about the art of the follow through.”
She offers five easy ways to follow through:
- Write them a note. For no reason at all.
- Show up at their party.
- Give your supporters something special.
- Give them something else to do.
- Ask for feedback and change because of it.
These are just the highlights. Read Marnie’s post for some great tips and comments on them.
Jeff Brooks from the Donor Power Blog recently covered how “Emotional messaging works; rational messaging hurts” in fundraising (from a post on the Neuromarketing blog titled Emotional Ads Work Best).
Here’s the thing. People think rational should work. The healthcare debate should be decided on a rational weighing of the plans. A fundraising appeal should be based on a rational evaluation of which nonprofit best achieves the donors’ ends.
But it doesn’t work that way.
Emotional arguments move people–even highly-educated, ivory-tower, college professors and hard-nosed, data-driven corporate leaders.
Use emotion in your community organizing. Use what works.
As we discuss the importance of focusing on transformation, we need to remember that it happens one step at a time.
I was reminded of this listening to the Fundraising is Beautiful podcast. Jeff Brook and Steven Screen remind listeners to do one thing at a time.
They point out that many fundraising efforts fail when they try to accomplish too much at once. They try to educate, inspire grassroots lobbying, show impact, fundraise, raise awareness and more all in one communication. Jeff and Steven point out that when you try to do all that at once, you usually fail at everything.
Instead, they recommend doing one thing at a time. If it’s a fundraising letter, focus the letter on raising funds. Then you can follow up with showing impact or educating in the newsletter.
A key part of their argument is that you have a relationship with your members, so over time you can work on your laundry list of goals, but it has to happen one action at a time.
So while I’m championing the importance of transformation, likewise transformation happens one step at a time.
You can’t transform someone from a passive bystander to an uber-activist in one step; and you’ll probably scare them away if you try.
So plan each action with an eye toward transformation and recognize you’ll get there one step at a time.
I blogged earlier about how ICPJ needs to look closely at the challenges and trade offs involved in recruiting the next generation of activists.
Allison Fine adds a bit more to question in her book Momentum: Ignititing Social Change in the Connected Age.
It is likely that Net-Gen donors will be episodic in their giving. . . . Net-Genners are unlikely to fill out membership applications–they do not think of themselves as members in the traditional sense.
This observation squares with my experience, though I do see a continued sense of membership is smaller, face-to-face groups even if it wanes in connection to larger, impersonal institutions.
What does this mean for ICPJ?
- We can’t expect business as usual to provide us with a new stream of members.
- We need to constantly work to stay relevant for our supporters.
- We need to make it easy for people to share our work when they are pumped up about our work.
- We need to invite people to make ongoing pledges of support as a way to help build an ongoing relationship.