What Can You Do Today To Become A Better Fundraiser? Watch One Hour Of QVC!
Musings from one of our uncommon minds.
Yes, I said QVC — the “Quality Value Convenience” 24-hour shopping channel. Recently, I stumbled on this amazing televised phenomenon. In one hour, I watched QVC sell 2,000 computers. I was shocked to learn that over the course of that day, they sold a total of 22,000 computers for $750 each — that’s $16,500,000 in one day, from one product!
I was riveted. And as I began to break down what they were doing, I realized that by doing things the QVC way, we fundraisers could raise a lot more money. Most of these techniques are not revolutionary, but taken together, they are truly powerful — and could mean more money for your organization.
1) Tell A Story
In the QVC segments, they don’t just present an item, they tell a story: “I could see wearing this at a summer picnic” or “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see your grandchildren with the camera on this computer?” In direct marketing copy, every letter should have an illustrative story that shows how a contribution helps the organization and those it serves.
2) Integrate Marketing Channels
Whenever an item is advertised on QVC, it also appears on the home page of the website — along with feedback from consumers who bought it. And, QVC pushes viewers to the web, to social media sites, and even to their iPhones! The case for support that appears in a fundraising piece should be mirrored on the organization’s website — and donors and web visitors should have a chance to comment on it! As fundraisers, we need to be active in social media, iPhone and other personal technology applications.
3) Use Testimonials
You can tell when a product is not moving well on QVC. When something isn’t selling, the host “goes to the phone” where a buyer gushes about the product and, almost miraculously, the number sold skyrockets as soon as they hang up. Communications with donors should have heartfelt testimonials from people who have benefited from the organization. And, in newsletters, donors can share their reasons for giving and how they’ve seen their contributions used.
4) Use Deadlines To Increase Urgency
Each day, QVC offers “Today’s Special Value” — a product that is only available at that price for one day, and one day only. We, too, need to let donors know that time is limited — contributions must arrive by a certain timeline in order to accomplish a certain task. Matching gifts, campaign deadlines, upcoming programs all provide ways to increase urgency.
5) Treat Your Donors Well
Confession time: I had never actually purchased anything from QVC until I sat down to write this. But, in the interest of honest reporting, I bought something. The customer service was a dream — helpful people on the phone, receipt provided via email, product arrived in good condition. It is critical that nonprofits treat their donors well, thank them promptly and answer their calls.
6) Make It Easy To Give
QVC has an “easy-pay” option which breaks the purchase price into 4 or more credit card payments. The hosts always push “easy-pay” saying “Hey, just $5 a month — that’s nothing!” As the fundraising market gets more price sensitive, we must make it easy for donors to say “yes.” Monthly giving options, smaller, more frequent gifts and pledge payment options are ways we can accomplish that.
7) Remember Your Audience
QVC offers clothing and shoes in every size — and the models who wear them reflect that variety as well. Every viewer can visualize him or herself on screen. We know that our donors are 60 years or older, generally well educated and receive lots of mail. Our solicitations should recognize our donors by being easy to read, clear and respectful.
8) Make Giving Feel Good
Every host on QVC makes their show enjoyable — they are smiling, laughing and having a great time with the audience. With QVC, shopping feels good.
For our donors, giving should feel good, too. We can make that happen by showing donors the great work they are doing, thanking them personally and in a timely fashion and by honoring their preferences as donors and friends.
Now that you’ve learned the importance of QVC communication for successful fundraising — we encourage you to take it out for a test spin! We’re certain you won’t be disappointed!
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Making Internal Prospecting Work
Imagine what your direct mail fundraising program would be like if you had all the prospective donors you needed — right in your database. You’d never pay for another outside list. You could forget about rentals and exchanges. Your life would be a breeze — right?
Not so fast. Having a large group of prospective donors definitely has its advantages. But it comes with its own challenges — and costs as well.
As with any list, the first thing to assess is the cleanliness and accuracy of names and addresses. In all likelihood, this list was compiled over many years by people who did not consider how it would be used. Never assume that such a list will have complete names, addresses and zip codes or that it has been put through NCOA (National Change of Address) and deceased processing on a regular basis — if ever!
Take the time to skim through the list, making sure that the names are actually names and that there are addresses in most, if not all, of the records. Invest the money in NCOA, or PCOA (Proprietary Change of Address), processing as well as deceased processing.
Determine what you know about these prospective donors based on the information in the database. Normally we select outside lists for acquisition based on the mission of the organization, the list usage history and how that list has worked for other similar groups. When mailing donors, we often decide who to mail to based on their giving history.
With internal prospects, we don’t have this information — but you may have other data that is just as valuable. For example, if the internal prospects are program participants, knowing what actions they have taken, and when, can be significant. Take the time to understand every variable included in the data and, most importantly, which of these variables can be used for selection.
Now comes the hard part: figuring out whom to mail. Organizations that can rely on internal prospects as the basis for their acquisition programs often have thousands and thousands of names. Some of the organizations we have worked with have prospective donors numbering in the hundreds of thousands! It’s almost never cost effective to mail everyone. The challenge is to determine who the best prospects are among them.
There are a number of modeling products available. In some cases, these have been excellent tools in helping to identify the prospective donors with the greatest likelihood of giving because they identify people giving to other groups through the mail.
For some, the best prospective donors are people who have participated in the group’s activities. Those who belonged to very active chapters, had attended a conference or held some sort of leadership role were found to be better prospective donors. And those who were “multi-participants” performed the best of all.
Determining whom to solicit may also lead you to reconsider how to ask your prospective donors to give. Unlike an acquisition list that you rent or exchange, it’s impossible to know from the outset whether these prospects are even direct mail responsive.
For one group we work with, acquiring donors through the mail alone wasn’t working, regardless of how internal prospects were selected. A successful test of direct mail in conjunction with telemarketing was performed. And now, to lower costs even further, a test of telemarketing in conjunction with on-line prospecting is in the works. Because of the age of the constituency, this may be the best solution yet!
The most important rule when it comes to internal prospecting is not to assume anything. Use every bit of information you can find about your prospects, decide on a selection criteria — and test!
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Keeping Track Of The Issues That Matter
Many outside agencies have a tremendous impact on direct response fundraising: State governments who require nonprofits to register to solicit funds, the US Postal Service, the IRS, the list goes on.
We try to keep you informed about the most pressing issues in each of these areas, but there are a variety of resources you can explore if you need more detailed information. For example:
To get an overall legislative update: The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Legislative Action Center will give you a good overall picture of pending Federal legislation that impacts direct mail. You can subscribe to their e-newsletter “Direct from Washington” at that site.
To learn about USPS changes: One source for federal registration notices can be found at the United States Postal Service. You can also register for free access to updates at the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers site which has updates on postal changes as well as other legislation impacting nonprofits.
To find out about nonprofits at risk of losing tax exempt status by the IRS: The best source is the searchable database offered by the Urban Institute and created jointly by the National Center for Charitable Statistics, The Nonprofit Quarterly and the National Council of Nonprofits.
To learn about pending State legislation that impacts registration or disclosure requirements: The DMA Nonprofit Federation requires membership to receive their updates, but if you ever see anything on their home page that you want to know more about, ask us — we get their updates regularly. You can also get overviews by reading the “In Brief” updates from the Association of Direct Response Fundraising Counsel (ADRFCO). The National Association of State Charity Officials is also a great resource.
To find out about state disclosure requirements: Each year, a list is issued by the Giving Institute.
Other helpful sites: The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), The NonProfit Times, Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute, The Foundation Center and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.
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Client Profile: Hebrew Home Of Greater Washington
Lautman Maska Neill & Company congratulates the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington as they mark their 100th anniversary of caring for the elderly of the metropolitan D.C. community.
Since 1910, the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington has been providing state-of-the-art nursing and rehabilitative care in a warm, caring and uniquely Jewish environment. In that time, the Home has expanded from a volunteer organization boarding a small group of seniors in private homes, to a 37-acre campus offering the full spectrum of care to hundreds of seniors each year.
Today, the Hebrew Home anchors the Charles E. Smith Life Communities whose services range from independent and assisted living, to short-term rehabilitation and long-term care. What has remained unchanged is their promise and commitment to provide the very best care for the elderly of Greater Washington.
Lautman Maska Neill & Company has proudly partnered with the Hebrew Home since 1999, helping them develop a core group of loyal donors who generously support this important community organization time and time again.
Congratulations and best wishes for another 100 years of service!
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Lautman Maska Neill & Company Holds Raffle for Local Charity
Lautman Maska Neill & Company recently sponsored a raffle for an organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through literacy. The Reading Connection, based in Arlington, Virginia, helps children living in homeless shelters develop a love of books through volunteers who hold weekly read-aloud sessions. An Apple iPod Touch was raffled off with all proceeds benefiting the local charity. Over $825 was raised for this inspirational group and our own Lesley Hostetter (a volunteer with The Reading Connection) was able to personally deliver the donation. She said, “Everyone was so pleased with our gift. In a small way, this donation will help vulnerable kids break out of the cycle of poverty.”
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