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What’s Your Organization’s Corporate Giving Strategy?

What’s Your Organization’s Corporate Giving Strategy?

“In this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business. These CEOs have taken the risk to speak truth to power.” 
– Darren Walker, the President of the Ford Foundation and a Board Member at Pepsi Co.

After the firestorm kicked off by President Trump’s dithering about condemning white supremacists and New- Nazis, it seems that business leaders have stepped in to fill the political vacuum by explicitly promoting racial justice and other progressive values. CEOs always take a risk when they become involved in fraught social debates; that they have chosen to do so illustrates the pressure being placed on them by their customers.

This corporate activism is a natural consequence of the increasing politicization of American life. Consumers don’t just want to consume; they want to advocate, and they want their brands to advocate with them. All these underscores the growing popularity and influence of grassroots organizations. As the President’s actions make clear, the traditional party structure that has driven generations of voters to voice their beliefs can no longer be counted on to speak up on behalf o minorities or marginalized groups. Those who push for racial equality, human rights, and other critical causes must unite on their own outside of the two-party apparatus.

And now, large corporations have indicated that they too wish to join the movement. For Advocacy orgs, this means their engagement strategy must include a corporate-giving component if CEOs and board members are eager to get inspired to support orgs like yours. It doesn’t need to be a Fortune 500 company, consider local small businesses and their customers as part of your target audience. And like the rest of your donors, you should send personalized communications to pique their interest as well as appeal to issues they hold dear. As Howard Shults, the Chairman of Starbucks notes, “ The reason people are speaking up is that we are fighting for what we love and believe in, and that is the idealism and the aspiration of America, the promise of America, the America that we all know and hold so true.”

Prominent business leaders in our community are primed and ready to hear from your org. And lucky for them, social and political advocacy happens to be your business.

And helping orgs like yours is our business.
Let us help you expand your target audience and base of support.

Pushing Through Fake News

Are we entering the Fake News Era? Judging by headlines generated from across the U.S. political spectrum, it would be easy to conclude so.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that about half of the respondents—”technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and others” selected unscientifically by Pew—believe that the problem is here to stay. [http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/10/19/the-future-of-truth-and-misinformation-online/]

While that may sound depressing from a big-picture standpoint, it’s also an opportunity for content producers. And if you’re in the business of generating donor-driven revenue or adding members, you should be in this category.

Fake News

Simply put, your audience looks to you for guidance on the issues that are important to you. Sharing relevant facts—from simple statistics to detailed pieces of research—is one way you can help engage your members, donors, or target audience. More importantly, you can be a trusted source that helps shield them from the “fake news” syndrome.

How does this work in practice? Say you’re a charity that supports providing subsidized pet spaying and neutering. You can blog about how many homeless pets are handled by your community’s shelters, and how not all of them end up in new homes. Instead of simply relying on basic statements—”spaying your pet is good for everyone,” or worse, having false statements (“fake news”) shape the narrative, point out the ramifications of not supporting your position: some unwanted pets do not find homes, and are euthanized as a result.

Sharing real-world stories and verifiable data that underscore your position is an ideal way to gain trust. Gaining trust is a key step in ensuring that prospects become donors and/or members—and keeping them in the fold.

Fundraising: The Year-end Push

The last few months of the year are filled with much joy and reflection—from warm gatherings to celebrate holidays to looking back over the last 12 or so months to see what’s been accomplished.

For fundraisers, the time is often hectic, however, as year-end donor pushes are often what make or break a year.

If you are planning a donor push as 2017 comes to an end (or 2018 kicks off)—don’t panic. Even if you’re in the midst of developing your toolbox (how’s that analysis of your data coming along?, you can still put together a solid campaign that delivers results.

The key: have a plan, and execute it.

The incredibly useful Supporting Fundraising blog has the perfect post  to help you sort out the basics for a well-constructed fundraising plan. It breaks the process down into four steps, which we’ve outlined below, adding some of our own insight.

1) Know your donors and your prospects

Understanding who will give and who may give is the foundation of any fundraising campaign. This starts with identifying who has given, and who has expressed interest in giving. Knowing this ensures you are sending the appropriate message to each segment, and will improve your conversion rates.

2) Use multiple channels

This is a message we communicate often, but it can’t be said enough: if you rely on just one type of outreach, such as an appeal letter, phone calls, or online donations, you are not maximizing your potential returns. Simply put, people respond better when exposed multiple times to the same (or very similar) messages. Plan a letter and back it with social media or an ad. Include mentions of your campaign in routine communications, such as renewal notices for members or subscribers. Whatever the tactics you chose, choose more than one.

3) Leverage matching-gift opportunities

This can be an easy but effective way to boost donations. As Supporting Fundraising notes, you won’t know which of your donors are affiliated with organizations that match, so make sure you communicate the matching-gift opportunity in all of your outreach. This can be especially effective for new donors, who like to make as big an impact as possible right out of the gate.

4) Tap peer-to-peer power

In the fundraising world, few tactics are as effective as direct outreach to people in your circle. Start with the people you know, and ask them to extend the courtesy. While such outreach may not cover the same number of prospects as a direct-mail piece or an ad, the impact of tapping people you know directly can greatly boost the likelihood of a conversion.

As you approach your next campaign, remember to take a step back and come up with a simple yet well-thought-out plan that covers the basics: knowing your audience, connecting with them, boosting donation opportunities, and reaching out to those you can influence most.

Looking for help with a campaign or specific elements? We would love to hear from you! Contact us today for a short consultation.

 

Grassroot Jumpstart: Leveraging Your Data

Great copy, brilliant graphics, and a compelling offer can influence the effectiveness of your outreach campaign. But if you’re looking to get the most out of your marketing efforts, start with your data.

Having a deep, flexible dataset on your customers and prospects is the most important outreach asset you can have.

How robust is your dataset, and how effectively are you using it? If you’re not sure, let us show you—and help you get more data, as well as more out of the data you have.

FREE Consultation GRC

We will analyze your dataset and make recommendations on how it can improve. FREE.

Then, we’ll help you broaden and refine your targeting. We’ve partnered with industry leaders for analyzing donor data and appending relevant information to identify the most likely donors, and how to find more of them.

With 25% of U.S. households providing 80% of nonprofit donations, accurately targeting prospects has never been more important.

Several of our clients are among the 3% of nonprofits using data-driven tools—and they are seeing positive results.

Contact our Vice President of Marketing, Sherene Rapoport, to learn more about our  Grassroot Jumpstart: Data Enrichment program.

Email Sherene directly at sherene@grcdirect.com or 540.428.7000 to get started on your data-enrichment journey.

Social Media, News Consumption & Your Outreach Strategy

One of the keys to reaching a target audience—whether you are after members, donors, or customers—is understanding how they consume media. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that news consumption—one of the main reason consumers use media—over social media channels is increasing.

The survey, done in August 2017, found that 67% of Americans get at least some of their news on social media. This is up slightly from August 2016, suggesting a steady upward trend.

Even more interesting are some of the demographic breakdowns.

For instance, the 2017 survey showed that more than half of respondents ages 50 and over get at least some news from social platforms. This is up 10% year-over-year, and also is the first time that more than half of the over-50 demographic report relying on social platforms for at least some news. Among those 50 and younger, the figure has stayed steady at about 78%.

Another interesting trend: use of social media among non-whites for news sources is up to 74% from 64% in 2016.

Not surprisingly, Facebook is the dominant social media platform for news consumption. Its massive user base—214 million and counting in the U.S.—explains this. But Pew found that a higher percentage of Facebook’s U.S. adult users—45%—get news on the site compared to other platforms. Another interesting wrinkle: 62% of Facebook’s news consumers are female.

The Pew report offers several useful takeaways for marketers, public relations pros and outreach directors. Among them: internet users are increasingly turning to social media for news, suggesting an increasing level of trust. If you are a content producer—and if you’re an association or have a cause you are raising awareness for, you should be—this means ensuring you are posting regular updates and sharing them via your social channels.

Pew Report

You should also be cognizant of how your platforms aggregate news. Are hashtags popular, for instance? Can you promote posts to boost exposure? Knowing your platforms and tailoring your strategy will help ensure your outreach is as fruitful as possible.

It also pays to know your target audiences, and how they use social platforms. The Pew study, which can be downloaded here, offers valuable insight that should help bolster, or at least refine, your outreach strategy.

Don’t forget to amuse!

“You don’t necessarily engage with a tweet the same why you’d engage with a real person.  Twitter is often thought of as a shallow, superficial thing.  In reality, there’s a lot of honest pathos and humanity in it” – Jonny Son, online comedian and twitter personality.

Your org’s twitter feed shouldn’t just be about shameless self-promotion.  There needs to be an entertainment factor as well.  In order to break through the noise, your online content must delight your audience.  So take a risk with something unconventional and entertaining.

5 Key Elements to a Successful Member Acquisition Program – Mapping your Member’s Journey – Part 2

Marketing Has Changed (sigh…)

Years ago, the practice of marketing was product-centric and focused on broad based societal values with little emphases on the individuality of the consumer. This worked as advertising/communications technology was only broad-based channels like TV, magazine circulation and radio.   We saw the beginning of “ad campaigns” to entice, impress and flatter the public using consumer motivational research to target specific markets. These campaigns became legendary to include “The Marlboro Man,” (Leo Burnett Co.)  “Maidenform Woman” (Norman, Craig & Kummel) and “Hathaway Shirt Man” (Ogilvy & Mather).Years ago, the practice of marketing was product-centric and focused on broad based societal values with little emphases on the individuality of the consumer. This worked as advertising/communications technology was only broad-based channels like TV, magazine circulation and radio.   We saw the beginning of “ad campaigns” to entice, impress and flatter the public using consumer motivational research to target specific markets. These campaigns became legendary to include “The Marlboro Man,” (Leo Burnett Co.)  “Maidenform Woman” (Norman, Craig & Kummel) and “Hathaway Shirt Man” (Ogilvy & Mather).

Today, in what is commonly referred to as “The Relationship Era,” prospects expect to be addressed individually. Mass advertising, and those techniques, are no longer financially practical.

Therefore, here are 5 key elements to consider in developing a successful member acquisition program:

1. Know Your Member 

To properly market membership, you must first clearly understand who your ideal member is, where they congregate and what their challenges are. All successful membership marketing initiatives begin from these three points.  To assist you in this you may want to create a Member Avatar or Persona.  You may have several personas with each including information on the target market that you will use to develop your strategic and tactical plans. It will influence your offer, where you promote, when you promote and every other aspect of your marketing. Your persona should contain the following information*:a. Goals and Valuesb. Sources of Informationc. Challenges & Pain Pointsd. Obstructions to Purchasee. Demographic Information*Source: Digital MarketerThe data necessary to complete your persona may well be taken from your personal experience, contained within your accounting and engagement data or collected using qualitative and quantitative research.

2. Personalize

First and foremost, personalize all of your communications.

3. Promoting the Offer

Use your persona to help determine your offer and key message points. In promoting your offer, your message should outline the benefits of membership and lead the prospect to the natural conclusion that membership is a viable solution to their personal and/or career challenges. A good format to follow is one commonly used by writers to develop a story:

ACT 1: Hook

ACT 2: Journey/Setback/New Challenge/Climax

ACT 3: Resolution/Take-away

Here’s a practical example of a membership promotion:

ACT 1: We recently reviewed our membership list against a list of leading <industry organization> and were surprised to find that you are not currently a member of the XXXX Association. Either our records are in error, or you have not yet activated your membership. Whatever the reason, I want to make sure that you have the opportunity to activate your membership with XXXXX Products Association today.

ACT 2: The XXXX Association is your most important resource for objective information about the XXXXX industry. When you activate your XXXX Association membership, you gain access to valuable tools, industry information and a network of business opportunities that give you immediate value.

The XXXX Association is THE Voice of the Industry!
•  Example 1
•  Example 2

XXXX MarketPlace Helps You Grow Your Business!
•  Example 1
•  Example 2XXXX Association is Your Source for Knowledge and EducationJoin the XXXX Association and you’ll receive instant access to important industry resources including: • XXXX Association Now – The association’s award-winning monthly newsletter…
• The ….—Our bi-monthly publication keeps you informed on industry news and the latest regulatory, legislative…
• Member Updates—Membership in the association keeps you up to date on fast-breaking up-to-the-minute news…

ACT 3: XXXX Association is your most important resource to success and business growth. Join the XXXXXX Association today and stay informed, connected, and gain a competitive advantage.

4. Multiple Channels

It is well-accepted that repetition plays an important role in moving a buyer from prospect to member.  Therefore, use multiple channels to reinforce your campaign as much as possible. We’ve found that response rates lifted to a direct mail campaign when multiple email efforts were added. In addition, social media is fast becoming a viable and targetable tool to support your acquisition campaigns.

5. Develop a Testing Strategy & Track Your Results Marketing is about testing.

Nobody knows what will work. If we did, we’d all be billionaires. Unfortunately, magic crystal balls don’t exist. That’s why we need split testing.  Limit the number of variables in your campaign so you can identify what works and doesn’t work.

Finally, set appropriate expectations for your campaign. While this is truly dependent upon your personal experience, anticipate results for a direct response campaign that range from 0.25% to 1.50% depending upon the familiarity of the prospects to your association.

Journey-based marketing

According to consultancy McKinsey, the decision-making process is now a circular journey with four phases: initial consideration; active evaluation, or the process of researching potential purchases; closure, when consumers buy brands; and postpurchase, when consumers experience them.

1. Your opinion doesn’t matter. If there’s anything I’ve learned in this business, it’s that opinions don’t make money. My friend and mentor Craig Sullivan likes to say that “opinions are like @$%*%^# – everybody’s got one.” You are not your customer, and you have lots of different kinds of customers.  Implement this rule in your company: whenever somebody voices an opinion, they have to preface it by saying: “In my insignificant, unsupported, baseless opinion.” That will set the right tone for the importance of whatever is to follow.

2. You don’t know what will work. Every now and then you meet someone—typically someone (self-)important—who will proclaim to know what works, what should be changed on the site for improved results.
Simply put, they don’t. The only way to truly determine what works in marketing is to test, analyze and verify. That’s why split-testing is so critical.

How The MARINE CORPS Stormed The New Engagement Landscape

The Marine Corps has proven itself to be an organization that can adapt to modern times.  I’m not talking about adopting to guerilla-style combat or the Mideast desert climate. I’m talking about its outreach strategy and rebranding efforts. An excerpt from a New York Times Magazine piece by Janet Reitman called ‘The Making- And Breaking- of Marines’ best summarizes the Corp’s transition:

According to the recent Pew research study, millennials are the most educated generation in American history.  They’re also on track to carry the most debt.  The Marine Corps understands this.  Pitching the Marines as the smart alternative to college debt is one facet of the corps’ annual 80 million marketing budget.  Another casts the Marines as simply the smart path to college itself. “Every Marine is a student,” reads one pamphlet, citing the many educational benefits available to those who serve.  Though other branches of the military use similar enticements in recruiting, for the Marines, this approach is relatively new: For decades, the corps focused more on the prestige of being accepted into its “elite” ranks.  But the post-Sept.11 generation doesn’t see military service as particularly prestigious, the corps’ longtime advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, concluded after conducting a study in 2012 on how to sell the Marines to millennials. Continuing to sell the corps as gungo warriors wouldn’t entice recruits beyond the Marines’ traditional base of white, evangelical, Southern conservatives, they found. Presenting the Marines instead as global do-gooders attracted kids across the political, racial and socioeconomic spectrum. Thompson described its new marketing strategy as the merging of “Rambo and Bono.”

This image turnaround serves as a paragon of how psychographic data intersects with an org’s core message.  The psychographic information here encompasses Millennials’ goals, virtues, and values.  As the Marine Corp’s marketing team learned, old valves (like prestige) and old branding (like equating a soldier to a “Rambo”-like action hero) may not appear to the next generation.  But global steward ship does.  And that’s why- after doing its homework on Millennials- the corps revamped its image to reflect its new message.

Have you done your homework on Millennials?

See article: ‘The Making-And Breaking- of Marines’ by Janet Reeitman; The New York Times Magazine- July 9, 2017

Looking to rebrand your org to appeal to Millennials?
GRC  is up to the task.

Renewal or Nurture – Mapping your Member’s Journey

GRC and The Schonher Group are partnering to enhance the quality of our membership solutions. To introduce our new venture, we spoke with Erik Schonher, president and founder of The Schonher Group, about membership development.

What Makes A Great Renewal Program?

Renewals are the lifeblood of any organization. They provide an ongoing revenue stream that is relatively inexpensive to maintain compared to the cost of acquiring new members. In fact, experience tells us that the cost to acquire a new member is usually 150% to 200% of annual dues while the cost to renew a member is usually less than 12%.
It is often said that members “vote with their wallets,” so if they like something they pay for it and if they don’t like something…they won’t pay for it. Therefore, since a member usually “renews” at the end of their membership period, a renewal rate can be an indicator of how satisfied the member has been with your organization (note that a renewal rate may best be considered a “lagging indicator” as it most likely reflects the past relationship, and not the member’s anticipated relationship, with the organization). It is based, at least in part, upon the culmination of all interactions the member has had with your organization.

One strategy towards attaining your maximum renewal rate is to foster as many positive interactions between the member and the organization as quickly as possible. A new member has very little, if any, knowledge of all features and services the association provides. Even long-time members can have trouble keeping up with what the organization offers as it evolves. This is why associations should regularly remind members what is available to them and how to effectively access it.

A New Perspective: Member Renewal or Member Nurture

Membership Renewal

To this point, perhaps a member renewal program should really be called a “member nurturing program.” In this context the association is responsible for socialization of the member into the organization, which requires a well thought out communication strategy with the intent of helping the member to be cognizant of their environment, understand their options, and use this awareness to become more self-sufficient in benefiting from the association’s features and benefits. In so doing both the industry and the organization become stronger.
As such, you want to be sure that your renewal/nurture program is well thought out and delivered properly. Therefore, here are five tips to consider when setting up your member renewal program.

New member onboarding is important.
Make your member feel welcome and help them quickly access the benefits of membership. This could include sending them a welcome letter and/or a new member kit that contains FAQ’s and contact numbers, to a phone call and a series of notes from other members in the area.

Every contact between the organization and the member is important.
In truth, the organization will most likely contact the member more times than the member will contact them. Therefore, be sure that every contact the member has with your organization meets, if not exceeds, the member’s expectations. A good renewal effort is implemented organization-wide and includes every contact point between the organization and the membership. You can do this by making sure that: your website is easy to navigate by looking at abandon rates, click-thru rates and time spent per page; member services are responsive to phone and email inquiries; every letter or email you send possesses content that the member will consider valuable.

Engage your members.
Research indicates that when a member initiates contact with the organization the probability that they will renew increases by as much as 80%. When you reach out to your members give them a “call to action.” This could include asking them to participate in a survey, clicking on an article, make a call or attend a meeting or webinar.

Remind your members how you are fulfilling the organization’s mission.
Don’t be shy. Your members joined because they believe in your mission and want to support it. They want to know when the organization has been successful. This rewards the member for making a good decision and reaffirms their belief in you. Therefore, as is appropriate, include with each communication a brief, two- or three-sentence success story.

Use multiple channels when you ask for the renewal.
A strong renewal series includes a minimum of seven efforts (2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report) and includes the use of multiple communication channels. A strong series may look something like the following:

In addition to this schedule, you may want to include:
a) Sending a brief survey to the member in their sixth month of membership asking them to “rate” their membership experience to date and to make a recommendation as to how membership could be made better. This will help you identify if there are any issues and give you time to address them with the member. It will also help you anticipate your renewal rates. Note: if you do this be sure that you send an email or letter thanking them for their participation (if possible, also give them a way to find out how their opinion actually had impact on the association by displaying aggregate responses to the survey on the website and/or even sending a note to them if their suggestion actually changes member benefits, e.g. a new product, new service, new webinar etc.)
b) Send an email as follow-up to each letter. This will add impact to the letter and will make sure that the message does get to the member.
c) Find your tipping point. Research indicates that length of time of membership can impact the amount of effort (and cost) it takes to renew a member. Basically, it usually costs less, and requires less effort, to renew someone who has been a member for a longer period of time. Therefore, analyze your renewals by length of membership to see if you might be able to cut costs accordingly.
d) Finally, test. Testing offers, timing, channels and segments. What I’ve laid out is where many membership organizations start. You may find that you need to add efforts or channels. You may find that specific segments renew more easily – or harder – than other segments.
While this list is not all-encompassing, I do hope that you found it useful as a place to start.
Good luck!

Data-Driven Personalized Communications “Essential For a Diverse Base”

Surveys are an indispensable tool for both non-profits and associations as they provide a window into the minds of their supporters.

For associations, better understanding the intentions and provocations of their members, especially if they happen to differ substantially from others in the group, can help leaders communicate more sensitively and more effectively to each segment.

A critical part of member engagement strategy is recognizing the fault lines that exist within your organization and making sure not to aggravate them when communicating the org’s agenda to your members.

GRC Data Driven Personalization

For example, police and law enforcement associations would certainly want to know that 60 percent of white and Hispanic police officers feel that police relations with blacks were either excellent or good while only 32 percent of black officers agreed. Additionally, a significant majority of black officers believe that the public protests following the several officer- involved killings of black citizens were at least partly motivated by a desire to hold law enforcement accountable. Yet only 27 percent of their fellow white officers agreed. And the kicker, 92 percent of white officers believe that the U.S. has already assured equal rights for African-Americans, whereas only 29 percent of their black colleagues agree.

This sort of chasm would obviously influence how a law enforcement associations, communication director would approach a hypothetical campaign in which the association lobbies legislators to give officers more procedural rights when an on-duty civilian shooting death occurs. Given the political minefield that is today’s race relations the association would want to relay its priorities and actions to its members in a way that doesn’t rankle them- especially if the issue of race is tied into any of those initiatives. Pluralism demands finesse.

On the other hand the very same survey of almost 8000 police officers conducted by the Pew Research Centre found that 86 percent of all respondents felt that police work had become more difficult due to the attention surrounding the high profile killings. 93 percent of officers, regardless of race, thought their colleagues now worry more about personal safety.

This information, too is advantageous to possess, because now that same hypothetical proposal to give officers more procedural rights if they become involved in a shooting that leads to a civilian death can now be reframed to members not as a race-relations issue, but as a police safety issue.

The police association can tell its members that it is lobbying for a new initiative – not so white officers can kill innocent black citizens with impunity – but rather so that all officers can have better peace of mind when doing their jobs even in the unfortunate event of an accidental shooting. Same agenda, different presentation.

Though survey data is just one piece of the puzzle, it’s an invaluable piece. All communication directors need to understand their members and what makes them tick so they can effectively illustrate to each member, how their goals align with those of the association. Different people respond to different messages so segmentation and personalization is vital.

A one-size-fits-all. Cookie-cutter communication is no longer viable—there are simply too many organizations on America’s advocacy landscape vying for attention.

Only the dextrous survive.

See New York Times article