Fundraising in the Digital Era Part 3: The Nuts and Bolts of a Successful Campaign

Regulatory compliance plays an extremely important role in fundraising. There are a myriad of laws and regulations put in place by government entities that protect both donors and organizations.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series, we discussed the importance of developing relationships with donors as well as ways Nonprofits can leverage integrated marketing strategies to engage donors and turn them into long lasting contributors.

In this third and final installment of the series, we will discuss the nuts and bolts of a successful campaign; mainly the compliance and regulatory issues which Nonprofits need to keep in mind when developing and implementing strategies.

The Nuts and Bolts of a Successful Campaign: Compliance and Regulatory Adherence

The federal government and each individual state have very specific regulations for every kind of direct marketing campaign, including traditional mail, phone calls, email, text messaging, etc.

It’s extremely important, therefore, that your fundraising campaign is in compliance with these rules and regulations, as your organization could be negatively impacted if something were to go wrong.

It’s in your best interest to identify a marketing partner with the knowledge, experience and technology to help you prevent compliance failures.

For example, InfoCision  has invested in advanced technology aimed to ensure compliance with a dedicated team of practitioners whose only job is to stay updated on regulatory issues.

This series was designed to introduce you to the basic tools necessary in launching a successful digital fundraising campaign. Building long-term connections with donors begins with establishing trust in the relationship.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

 

Fundraising in the Digital Era Part 1: Building Relationships

Getting the necessary funding for an organization to be able to further its mission is not an easy task. You may need to contact dozens of potential donors before finding someone willing to donate to a particular cause.

In the not so distant past, the majority of fundraising was done door-to-door, through the postal mail, and over-the-phone. Today, however, many donors are spending a significant amount of time online. Therefore, Nonprofits must create a digital presence for their organizations to increase awareness, generate interest and acquire more donors.

In this three-part series, we will discuss how Nonprofits can build long term relationships with donors while leveraging integrated marketing to increase funding for their mission.

The Fundamentals: Building Relationships with Donors

While times have certainly changed, the fundamentals of engagement have not. Successful fundraising comes down to one thing: building lasting relationships with donors.

Rather than make the all-too-common mistake of simply asking for funds, Nonprofits should take the time and do the work to build a real connection with donors.

After all, a donor who becomes engaged with the organization will likely give again and again because they not only believe in the organization, but become personally involved in its mission.

Building a personal connection means involving donors in a multifaceted communication and engagement cycle. For example, you could follow up with a thank you call and provide a welcome kit that explains how contributions will make an impact.

While this takes dedication, engaging donors in this way will keep them active. Remember, it’s more cost effective to maintain a current donor than it is to find a new one.

Be sure to tune into Part 2 of this series in which we will discuss ways Nonprofits can leverage integrated marketing strategies to engage donors and turn them into long lasting contributors.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Communicating With Potential Donors Is Nerve-Wracking: Three Ways to Ease the Stress

Let’s face it; communicating with potential donors can be an intimidating thing for even the most seasoned Communicators. After all, in fundraising, the objective is to obtain as many long-lasting donors as possible to continuously contribute to the nonprofit your represent. As such, experiencing rejection can be especially painful.

Acquiring donors, however, doesn’t have to be so intimidating, as there are ways in which one can ease the stress and actually be quite successful. At InfoCision, for example, many Communicators have cultivated long-lasting and trust-based relationships with donors.

Achieving successful and on-going communication starts with the first interaction. In other words, it’s all about how you approach someone. All too often, fundraisers will reach out to a donor and simply read off of his or her script.

In doing so, however, the Communicator tends to come off as cold, impersonal, and rushed. And let’s face it, no donor wants to give money to an organization that doesn’t take the time to get know them.

Rather than take the all-too-common impersonal approach, use the data you have in your system to create a more personalized first interaction. For example, data you already have will give you insight into how donors like to be contacted and when, how they engaged previously, and what is likely going to trigger their interest.

When agents are armed with donor information, they will immediately feel at ease because they are more prepared. What’s more, creating a more personalized experience for donors will not only put them at ease as well, but it will also cause them be more open to what you have to say.

Your Communicators shouldn’t be intimidated by communicating with potential donors.  Ease their reservations by giving them access to customer data that will enable them to have more personalized and successful interactions.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

 

Our Top Advice for Achieving Fundraising Success

At InfoCision, we continually remind ourselves of our goal to become the best, not the biggest, name in the customer care industry by providing highly valuable services. Our diligent team of Communicators works tirelessly to ensure that we’re providing the utmost quality of customer care to each and every individual we serve, which is why it is so rewarding to have our hard work recognized. We’re incredibly honored, in fact, to have been recognized as a customer care MVP in “Customer Magazine” for the 22nd consecutive year.

As such, I’d like to shine a spotlight on—and dedicate this honor to—our exceptionally talented Communicators. It is their inherent traits, like empathy and quick wit, experience and commitment that enable InfoCision to achieve such high-quality results and keep our customers satisfied.

Most specifically, I’d like to lend some insight to our readers about the achievements our Communicators make in the nonprofit space. Communicating with potential contributors and recruiting donors can prove quite difficult for many contact center agents, as relaying the importance of a charity in an impactful fashion requires a sophisticated skill set that not all people possess.

Here are few pieces of advice derived from our outbound call strategy that may help you better understand the elements that drive our fundraising success:

  • Become part of the team: At InfoCision, we don’t think of ourselves as a third-party service for our nonprofit clients, but rather an extension of their team. By pledging to work as though we are a part of the cause, our Communicators become more dedicated and driven to produce the best possible results. This is an important mindset to maintain during fundraising campaigns as our Communicators strive to effectively articulate the charity’s worthiness and the value of each donation. By making the cause our own, our staff essentially becomes part of the nonprofit’s staff, with the same ability to understand and communicate the charity’s merit.
  • Create a lasting relationship: Another differentiator that sets our Communicators apart from the competition is their dedication to their line of work. Many of our employees are InfoCision veterans, having worked here for years, even decades in some cases. Because of our high employee retention rate, our Communicators are able to create long-lasting relationships with the nonprofit institutions with which we fundraise. The entire staff becomes elated at specific times of the year that signify that it’s time for an annual fundraising campaign. This excitement stems from years of experience in recruiting donors for nonprofits that they’ve become deeply entrenched with over time. Knowledge about and genuine care for these charities gives our Communicators more ammunition to deliver powerful and emotion-evoking messages each time they speak with potential donors.
  • Acknowledge success: Besides the relationships we build with our nonprofit partners, another element that contributes to our Communicators success is a positive team environment. Our managing staff understands that the Communicators have a difficult job and that they deserve acknowledgement from us that their work is valued. Accordingly, we take the time to congratulate their continuous excellence in donor care. In addition, we ensure that our employees’ voices are heard and encourage an open-forum atmosphere in our offices that stimulates team building. It’s important to focus on maintaining a positive work atmosphere, especially in a high-stress occupation, so that employees sidestep burnout or frustration.

You can’t create a dedicated team of Communicators overnight or achieve fundraising success without the right practices. But, you can heed our advice and start down the road to stellar donor care.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Donors need to move beyond The Overhead Myth

Three leading nonprofit sources launch campaign to correct misconception

OMI wanted to share with you an important letter directed to the donors of America from the country’s leading sources of information on nonprofits.  The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar and Charity Navigator have joined forces to denounce the myth that judging a nonprofit by their overhead ratio, usually an organization’s administrative and fundraising costs, is a valid indicator of their performance.  This letter is signed by all three of the companies’ CEOs and it kicks off The Overhead Myth Campaign which aims to correct this common misconception.

So many times donors are erroneously guided to give to organizations that have low ‘overhead’, as that is what the media tells us is the mark of a good charity.  As a fundraising partner to the Who’s Who of national nonprofits we hear this often at InfoCision.  However, in the nonprofit world overhead can encompass many crucial investments, such as administration and fundraising, that not only help an organization sustain itself and run efficiently, but also be successful in growing and carrying out their mission.

When we focus predominantly on overhead, we can create what the Stanford Social Innovation Review calls “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.” By underfunding ‘overhead’, charities starve themselves of the freedom they need to best serve the people and communities they are trying to help. 

The letter concludes with urging donors to consider the whole picture when deciding which charities to donate to citing those served by the organizations need high performance more than just low overhead.  We couldn’t agree more.

Partnering with the nation’s leading nonprofits

Here at InfoCision we work with the nation’s top nonprofit organizations, which consciously choose to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to them. We are proud of the work we do in helping charities carry out their important missions. We not only help them raise money to help sustain their programs, but we also help to increase the number of donors involved; a key to sustaining themselves in serving millions of people around the world. We are honored our clients entrust us with such an essential function and hope this letter and campaign will educate and empower donors everywhere to support charity based on the results an organization produces , and not just their ‘overhead’.

This subject seems to be gaining attention from the media.  Our Friend Dan Pallotta has been very vocal on the issue.  And, with the release of this letter from highly regarded organizations like the BBB; could there be a movement under foot?  We can only hope.

I encourage everyone to help spread the word to end The Overhead Myth!  www.overheadmyth.com

If you have found this information helpful, please leave a comment or question if you want to discuss further.

State reports on fundraising are easily misinterpreted

fundraisingRecent reports have called into question the relationship between professional fundraisers such as InfoCision and the nonprofit organizations they represent; asserting that, based on information from state mandated fundraising disclosures provided to state Attorneys General, professional fundraisers are keeping a  percentage of the funds raised. In InfoCision’s case, nothing could be further from the truth. Please see our website for our full statement on this issue.

A similar report recently made headlines in Vermont, and I want to draw to your attention to this story in the Burlington Free Press because it is a great example of how Attorney General (AG) reports can be misinterpreted; and paint good organizations in a negative light. According to the AG report, “Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont (PFFV) raised $1.4 million through FireCo., LLC of Franklin, Tenn., of which $314,256, or 22 percent, went to the charity, and 78 percent, or about $1.1 million, went to FireCo.”  Rightly so, both the PFFV and FireCo. have called the report misleading. “We’re in dispute with the attorney general,” said Matt Vinci, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont. “The way he’s put percentages out, they do not depict our operation.”  But when later asked to expand on the report, Vermont AG William Sorrell stated, “They’ve got employee and overhead costs, we’re not trying to suggest the paid fundraiser pockets 68 cents or 84 cents of every dollar,” Sorrell said.

An issue with the state mandated disclosures is that they fail to take into account the type of campaign that was run, overhead and other factors, and that makes them nearly impossible to accurately interpret. Many, many nonprofit organizations utilize professional fundraisers to raise funds on their behalf because it is the most cost effective way to raise funds on a larger scale. As Vinci says in the article, “We couldn’t have a bunch of firefighters doing this level of work (as volunteers).”

So please, when you see these reports, make sure you know the whole story before drawing your own conclusions. As I’ve said before, the true measure of whether any charitable organization is a good steward of the funds with which it is entrusted is the Nonprofit’s Form 990 filed each year with the IRS. Form 990 provides a comprehensive summary of what percentage of money a charitable organization spends towards its goals and mission, typically 75%, and the percentage used for administrative costs, which includes fundraising, and is typically the remaining 25%.

I encourage you to read a recent article in CUSTOMER magazine that details the role professional fundraising plays in helping charitable organizations accomplish their goals and mission.

Please feel free to leave a comment or question you may have on professional fundraising. One way for the truth to come out is to have an educated dialogue and I welcome your thoughts.

More information helps donors make more educated decisions

I highly suggest everyone read the article by Dan Pallotta, Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume? published in The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2012. It provides a compelling look at nonprofit organizations and why there is a need to change how the public thinks about charity. Here’s a short except from the article: “In short, we are asking nonprofit groups to deal with social problems whose scale is beyond easy comprehension, while denying those groups the tools they need to build any meaningful scale themselves”…The conventional wisdom is that low costs serve the higher good. But this view is killing the ability of nonprofits to make progress against our most pressing problems. Long-term solutions require investment in things that don’t show results in the short term.”

Dan’s thoughts in many ways echo InfoCision’s sentiments and we thank him for the wonderful job he is doing in helping to educate consumers. The important fact is that all nonprofit organizations need to raise money, which is essential to their success and their ability to accomplish their mission. InfoCision is proud to partner with the nation’s most trusted and reputable charities. We provide a much needed service by helping them reach out to people on a much larger scale than they’d be able to do on their own. Without telephone acquisition bringing on new donors and volunteers, their mission could not be accomplished. Nonprofit organizations are managed by professionals and if the calls we make for them were unsuccessful and, if they were unhappy, we would not be able to continue representing them, nor would they want us to.

If you’d like to learn more, Dan is also the author of “Charity Case, How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World” and he has also been published in many other media outlets including this opinion piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The media must provide both sides on issues so consumers can make informed decisions. Please feel free to comment…

Here’s the story that wasn’t told

The important fact is that all Nonprofit organizations need to raise money which is essential to their success and all the good works they accomplish.  InfoCision supports their missions by carrying the majority of the costs of fundraising for them.  We do NOT keep the money raised.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Each charity has an annual budget goal to raise a certain amount, let’s say X million dollars.  On average an organization will budget 25% of the total raised for administrative, fundraising and other marketing costs.  The remaining 75% is always used by the organization for the critical programs and services they provide so well.  InfoCision is paid out of the budget for fundraising, plain and simple.  We bill the client for our costs, then pay all our wonderful 4400 employees, for facilities, phone bill, technology, mailings, etc. and as a business strive for a 10% margin…although in the economic climate of the past few years, we have struggled to reach this target.

For 30 years, InfoCision has partnered with the largest and most reputable Nonprofit organizations in the world.  If the calls we make for charities were unsuccessful for them and, if they were unhappy, we would not be able to continue representing them, nor would they want us to.

The campaigns mentioned in the report were all designed as donor acquisition appeals to breakeven upfront.  Without proactively attempting to acquire new members, any charity will ultimately lose its membership through normal attrition and in time may no longer exist.  Once a new member has been acquired, all their subsequent contributions will provide significant net return to the client over time and more than pay for the initial cost to bring them on.   All our neighbor to neighbor campaigns recruiting volunteers provide a much needed educational and outreach mission where for example, diabetes tests, cancer prevention or the signs of a stroke information kits are distributed out to millions of families to help them be aware of risk factors and improve their overall health.  There is no initial net return anticipated from these types of campaigns because it’s all about engaging new donors and getting educational information into the hands of people who need it.

Think about all the research and all the good being done by the world’s leading health organizations to fight disease…Leukemia, Heart, Diabetes, Cancer…we help all these causes.  Without telephone prospecting bringing on new donors and volunteers, the mission could not be accomplished.  For-profit businesses roll out new customer acquisition types of campaigns all the time, such as free giveaways of sample products.  Consumers don’t question this strategy even though it drives up marketing costs.  Stores use what’s called loss-leaders to get people through their doors.  They’ll take a loss on say a gallon of milk in hopes the consumer will purchase other marked-up items in the same trip and, become a regular customer because of their shopping experience.

Charities do many different types of fundraising campaigns each year.  Isolating just one individual campaign’s report filed with a state attorney-general gives a distorted and confusing view.  To find out how much a nonprofit organization commits to its core mission, review the Nonprofit’s Form 990 filed each year with the IRS, which provides a comprehensive summary of the way an organization’s uses all the funds entrusted to them.

InfoCision’s message is honest and clear. Any deception comes from the reporter’s story.  This type of irresponsible journalism seeks to hurt those valuable national charitable organizations who do so much good…they are our clients and we are proud to be their partner.

If you would like a more detailed explanation of how the fundraising process works, check out the fundraising series, where I go into greater depth and shed some light on the subject of professional fundraising.

 

Fundraising Part 3: Compliance and Nonprofit Fundraising

So far in the first two posts in our fundraising series, I’ve covered some different ways professional fundraisers help nonprofits to raise funds, through acquisition campaigns and by enhancing long-term donor value.  These approaches require a great deal of strategy and creativity in getting the right message to the right donor at the right time through the right channel.

However, there is another service professional fundraisers provide for nonprofits, without which all those things I listed above would not matter; I’m talking about regulatory compliance.

Regulatory compliance in the direct marketing industry is complex, but highly important

A successful long-term direct marketing strategy is built on the foundation of adherence to the myriad of laws and regulations put in place by the applicable government entities.  All of us are familiar with Do Not Call laws and the emergency of teleservices guidelines over the last ten years, but it’s much more than that.  The federal government and each individual state has very specific regulations for every kind of direct marketing campaign, including traditional mail, phone calls, email, text messaging, etc.

Nonprofit organizations focus on raising funds with the best intentions to make a tremendously positive difference for our world.  However, the fundraising campaign must be implemented in tune with federal and state regulations.  There is no room for error and regulators are not sympathetic to misunderstandings of statutory requirements.  Given the tremendous scope of regulatory issues that must be managed, staying compliant can be a daunting task for any organization.

As a marketing partner to Nonprofit organizations, InfoCision has invested millions of dollars in technology aimed at preventing compliance failures, and dedicated practitioners whose only job is to stay updated with regulatory issues and keeping our clients protected.

This can be a huge burden off the shoulders of nonprofits, and it’s yet another part of the reason that so many choose to partner with dedicated professionals to contact their donors.

Another aspect of compliance that a professional marketing partner like InfoCision should handle is the filing of information with the government agencies – and this information becomes part of reports that are public record.  In my final post in this series, I will discuss how consumers can read this information to make good decisions with their fundraising dollars and avoid confusion over what the numbers mean.

 

Click here for Fundraising Part 1: How Nonprofits and Professional Fundraisers Partner to make a Difference

Click here for Fundraising Part 2: The Professional Fundraiser and Nonprofit Relationship

Click here for Fundraising Part 4: Using Information to Make an Informed Choice as a Donor

Fundraising Part 2: The Professional Fundraiser and Nonprofit Relationship

Last week I shared how certain teleservices campaigns are designed as new donor acquisition campaigns where the primary purpose is to identify and engage as many new donors as possible; and raising funds is a secondary goal.  This is why some campaigns may appear to be less successful in terms of the funds generated, but are actually very successful and vital to nonprofits, allowing them to build and supplement their donor base.  This week, I’d like to talk more about why it’s important to build relationships with donors, and how professional fundraisers help to cultivate those relationships.

Professional fundraisers help build and create long-term donor value; the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations

Donors are the lifeblood for Nonprofit organizations.  They provide the necessary funding for the organization to be able to further its mission.  But the goal when reaching out to donors should not be just to ask for funds, but also to create a real connection between the donor and the organization.  A donor who becomes engaged with the organization will likely give again and again because they not only believe in the organization, but become personally involved in its mission.

Once a new donor is brought on, the real work to build that relationship begins.  In fundraising it has been proven that donors who give a second gift within 90 days of their initial gift are more likely to become sustainers to the organization.  Involving them initially in a multifaceted communication and engagement cycle is key.  Typically, new donor conversion strategies include a thank you call, welcome kit, or email to convey the organization’s appreciation for their generosity and to show how their dollars will be put to work.  Even after the receipt of a second gift donation, the Nonprofit should continue fostering the relationship through retention campaigns which keep donors informed and active by providing opportunities for involvement, such as volunteering.

What is truly most important to successful retention campaigns is the value of the customer experience.  High quality call centers are uniquely positioned to provide a wide array of services to help better manage donor relationships.  Business Intelligence, real-time analytics and reporting, variable script-on-screen, targeted call routing, online fundraising services all work together to increase the level of personalization and thus provide an exceptional donor experience.  When a donor walks away, after making a donation, feeling good about their gift and recognizing they are a critical component of the organization’s mission, they are more likely to give again the next time the organization calls, sends a letter or email request.

As with a business customer, it’s more cost effective to maintain a current donor than it is to find a new one.  However donor attrition requires constant vigilance toward replenishing your active donor base as an ongoing part of raising funds.  But you can positively impact your attrition rate by building solid relationships with donors by making every interaction with the organization a positive experience.  This is why it is so vitally important to work with a fundraising partner that is a true extension of your organization and has fundraising experts on the phones who work hard to make each and every phone call count.

The one thing I didn’t mention is how the professional fundraiser also manages the myriad of state and federal fundraising regulations.  I’ll discuss this in my next post as well as shed some light on the government reports professional fundraisers are required to submit, and how consumers can make good decisions on spending their fundraising dollars.  Be sure check back next week to read more.

Click here for Fundraising Part 1: How Nonprofits and Professional Fundraisers Partner to make a Difference

Click here for Fundraising Part 3: Compliance and Nonprofit Fundraising

Click here for Fundraising Part 4: Using Information to Make an Informed Choice as a Donor