Come back NOW!

In an effort to avoid those sanity-draining trips to the mall, I've been doing a lot more shopping online. Sometimes I miss the experience of just browsing in a shop, and will check out the website of a retailer to see what they have to offer without necessarily intending to buy anything. But a recent trip to the website of a major home goods chain (I won't call them out here, but their name incorporates both crockery and farm architecture) made me wonder if "just browsing" is even a thing that can exist online anymore--and what the implications are for nonprofit list-building.

When I got to the landing page of the store's website, I was confronted with a popup that offered $10 off my order in exchange for my email address. OK, so I wasn't looking to buy anything that day, but not wanting to pass up a good deal, I entered my email address. I poked around the curtains section for a little while and then left without making a purchase or putting anything in my cart. When I checked my email later that day, I had gotten a welcome message, which I quickly flagged into, my preferred means of managing mass emails. 

The next day, I got a weird email. "Too good to pass up..." it read, and the body had a picture of one of the drapes I had apparently clicked on next to a message exhorting me to buy now. The day after, I got another. "Come back NOW!" was the subject line, with a similar message and picture of the drapes.

"That subject line has to dock them a few spam points," said my husband, who works in online communications at a nonprofit.

Still another arrived the day after that: "Come back and see our great products! Let us know if we can help!" the email pled. I was so creeped out by the amount of tracking I received from a five minute visit in which I bought nothing that I immediately navigated the passive-aggressive unsubscribe process ("Please unsubscribe me. I no longer wish to receive exclusive emails specific to my interests").

If a for-profit business with lots of funds to devote to marketing research can get it so wrong, it's no wonder that nonprofits struggle with the right balance between welcoming constituents online and driving them away with too much attention. There's undoubtedly a slow erosion of our privacy that's been going on for years online, and we're becoming grimly accustomed to the fact that our every click can be tracked. But even though I'm aware that nonprofits can and do profile me, if one sent me emails that clearly indicated that they keep track of where I go on their website, I wouldn't be happy, and I might even be driven away as a supporter.

I'm not the communications expert here at Idealware, but I'm interested to hear how nonprofits are balancing the increased tracking power that communications and marketing software can provide with their constituents' desire for privacy. How are you navigating these issues?


Best of the Web: December 2013

The Idealware “Best of the Web” is a monthly roundup of the top nonprofit resources from the Idealware blog, our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed to help you make the right technology decisions.

If you appreciate the resources we share each month, please consider donating to our annual campaign, which we kicked off last week. Any size gift will grow our capacity to provide free resources to thousands of nonprofits, including yours. You can donate here before December 31. 
When we talk about driving donors to donate, we often talk about clicks and redirects. However, there is always more to consider. What happens when the donor gets to that page? If you're not keeping that donor reminded of why that gift is so important, they could back out at the last minute. These tips will help make sure your donors feel connected and confident at every step. 
*Facebook has moved beyond photos of pets and updates on breakfast to be a source of news for many people. According to the survey by the Pew Research Center, half of adult Facebook users "ever" get their news there. This could mean big things for how news organizations think about social media and how all organizations should be thinking about curating newsworthy content online.
*Measuring your fundraising performance is an important factor in setting accurate goals for future fundraising, and making the most of what you have. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to get started. You've got a lot of data that lives in a lot of different places, and it isn't always clear how you should best analyze and interpret it. This article looks at a few simple fundraising metrics to add a little mathematical magic to your next campaign. 
Clearly, confusing your prospective subscribers and donors is never good, but little decisions in form design can make a big difference. For example, should you have an opt-in or an opt-out form for newsletter signup? There are arguments for both sides, but the right choice for you comes down to your goals, audience, and having good content either way. 
Live-Tweeting: Just because it's there (and popular) doesn't mean you should always use it. It takes the right event, the right attendees, and the right followers to reach that very special Twitter sweet spot. Before you start #hashtaggingeverything, check out this article for a few tips. 
Data is a big word. When it comes to understanding organizational success, it often requires more than a cursory examination to get any accuracy. Sometimes, unique sources of data can be more telling than anything else. That could include everything from Twitter feeds to news stories to demographic information. 
While nonprofit organizations are overwhelmingly represented on social media, the same cannot be said for foundations. Despite this, the foundations that are using social media find it useful. If you are part of a foundation, creating a fully developed social media strategy could be an interesting way to stand out from the crowd. 
We say it a lot, but thanking your donors can create a stronger relationship with them. A timely, personal thank you has the potential to both make a donor return, and increase their gift. Our own Andrea Berry breaks down why this small action is so important, speaking from her experience on both sides of the fundraising process. 
Nonprofits are finding that Google Drive can be an extremely helpful tool when budgets don't allow for more sophisticated software suites. If your organization is starting to hit the edges of Drive's capabilities, check out this article in order to get a little more bang for your buck. 
14 Questions to Ask When Developing Your Nonprofit’s Social Media Policy (HubSpot)
A social media policy is an important document to create if you're looking to bring your online presence to the next level. Where to start is a frequent question. Before you dive in to the really tough questions, taking some time to go through these overviews will help make things easier down the road. 
Infographics: They look cool, they're educational, and were it not for the difficulty involved in making them, we'd see a lot more. These tools make it easy to create simple infographics, and get your feet wet experimenting with them for your own organization's communications strategy. 


Trends for 2014: Changes in Media Consumption

Vine and the Six-Second Attention Span

In the past year, we’ve seen the appearance of new services like Vine, from Twitter, and Instagram video, from Facebook by way of Instagram, that let people create and share really, really short videos—seven seconds and 15 seconds, respectively. While most of the earliest Vines were just six seconds of someone’s desk, the format seems to be growing in both audience and capability. Vine recently added the ability to edit footage, while Instagram provides the ability to add filters and effects to your brief videos.
Both of these services are also much more smartphone-oriented than prior methods for sharing video online. The idea behind these services seems to be that not only are users making their Vines on their phones, but viewing other peoples’ as well, which seems to benefit from the fleetingly short time limit on video length.
How will this affect how our audiences consume videos we put out? Will their attention spans shrink to the point where anything longer than a few seconds will seem too long? How can we, as nonprofits, get our messages across concisely to people who are accustomed to watching Vines?
In general, these questions aren’t really new—each generation is said to have shorter attention spans than the previous one, or at least that’s what my grandfather always complained about. While it’s not expected for every nonprofit to take to Vine to make six second fundraising appeals, it’s still important, when creating a video, to cut to the chase as soon as possible. You want to drop your audience into the “action,” so to speak, quickly; if they know what you’re asking early on, they’ll stay to watch the rest (or not) because they now have an investment or stake in your message.
Another good way to combat short attention spans is to give them something to care about—tell a compelling or personal story that will let them connect to your cause. If they care about what you’re saying because it’s heartwarming/heartbreaking/exciting/etc., they’ll keep watching to hear more.

Wearable Technology

If you believe the hype from the tech bloggers and trend-setters, wearable gadgets like Google Glass or smart watches are The Future, and companies like Google,
Sony, and Apple are betting on it—but we’ve been hearing this for decades. We may love to have a heads-up display to turn our daily routines into a video game, or a communicator on our lapel like Captain Picard, but are they going to gain widespread adoption?
Already, businesses like restaurants and nightclubs are preemptively banning patrons form using Google Glass in their establishments, and police officers are ticketing people for driving under the influence of Glass. The idea of people walking around with computers and cameras strapped to their heads in public raises privacy concerns—how do we know if someone is secretly recording us? And, honestly, it looks kind of weird. 
Even if wearable technology does gain mainstream acceptance and adoption, it’s hard to picture nonprofits going out and getting a pair of Glass, or equipping staff members with smart watches. However, it’s important to think about how we can reach an audience who has replaced their smartphones and tablets with Google Glass. Will they still read our fundraising emails—will it even be feasible for them to read emails at all? A smart watch may show a notification that you’ve received an email, and maybe the subject, but that might be it. As before, it’s likely that brevity will be increasingly essential to reach this sort of audience, getting your message across quickly and concisely.
Of course, we’ll have to wait and see if this is even worth worrying about.

Top Six Do’s and Don’ts for Thanking Your Supporters

As we gear up for year-end fundraising, it’s important to remember to thank your donors for every fundraising campaign. I know it seems like we say it a lot, but it bears repeating—thank your donors. While this should be a common sense point to make, many organizations may stall on the thank you process because they aren’t sure of what their donors would want to hear, or what donors should be thanked.

Here are six tips for thanking your donors effectively, without it feeling like an afterthought.
1.       Thank everyone! I know it is easier to thank only people who donate $250 or more, but you lose so much when you don’t offer at least a simple thank you to everyone. I’ve seen $10 a year donors turn around and leave an organization a huge bequest! To manage the workload, consider creating a strategy that thanks supporters by tiers—like “Gave $250 or more,” “$100 to $250,” “less than $100,” etc.
2.       Get creative. Mailed thank you letters are always nice—especially with an actual signature—but when your thank you stands out it makes for a much stronger impression. My recent donation to a preschool was thanked by a student, and we keep the card on our fridge.
3.       Make it at least a little personal. The extra time it takes to put pen to paper and sign a mail-merged thank you letter does go a long way. You don’t want your donors to feel like one of many—you want to make them feel special. A simple signature can help, a personal note is better, and a phone call is best.
4.       The extra effort is worth it. When donors feel appreciated, they come back. Last year I donated to a local organization where I know both the Board President and Board Secretary personally. When we received our thank you letter it was signed by a person we didn’t know, without even a personal note from either acquaintance. It has caused us to reduce our gift this year because we feel they are not taking the time to strategically fundraise, and so we feel our gift would be better invested elsewhere.
5.       Be timely. I know that it is a huge crunch at the end of the year to process donations and create your thank you letters. But don’t let the time get away from you. Thanking donors is important; thanking them in a timely manner gives a positive impression. Perhaps consider an online thank you in the short term, and sending the offline thank you’s on a more manageable timeframe.
6.       Report on your progress. Showing donors the impact of their gift is the best way to say thank you. Try and report on your progress in a variety of ways— more than just the annual report of your standard stuff. Use technology, newsletters, phone calls, thank you letters, and TV ads (among other things) to show all of the amazing work you were able to accomplish because of your donors.
Repeat donors is the name of the game in fundraising. And that is where thank you letters come in. Not making it clear to your donors that you appreciate them and their financial contribution is the best way to lose a donor. No matter the size of the gift, someone has made a choice to donate to your organization instead of doing something elsedonating to a different organization, buying a cup of coffee or a brand new carand it is your job to help them feel like they made the right choice.  Saying thank you is the minimum you should be doing to show your appreciation.


Best of the Web: November 2013

The Idealware “Best of the Web” is a monthly roundup of the top nonprofit resources from the Idealware blog, our Facebook page, and our Twitter feed to help you make the right technology decisions. 
Sophisticated multimedia software makes creating beautiful images a lot easier for designers. However, most nonprofits don't have room in their budgets for pricey software suites, especially when they simply want to make a nice looking poster or edit some photos from an event. These alternative software choices can make your organization look professional, without paying a professional price.
Creating a fundraising or advocacy ask can be a scary proposition. You want to convey the importance of your mission and the real need behind your ask without being overbearing to your audience. This infographic will remind you to take a little extra care when creating this kind of appeal, and remind you of the major turnoffs to avoid.
Just because some websites are rampant with cheesy animations, typos, and illegible blocks of yellow Comic Sans doesn't mean your website needs to be. We're not pointing any fingers, but this blog post will remind you of a few big no-no's that should not make it to the final design of your website.
When Windows 8 came on the scene just over a year ago, it met with mixed reviews. What are these tiles, where is my start button, and why has my laptop morphed into a pseudo-tablet? Windows 8 has since undergone a major update which addresses many concerns of early users. If you have a computer with Windows 8 installed, you may have wondered whether or not you should update to 8.1. Your answer is in this review.
More and more, software vendors are creating systems with Constituent Relationship Management functionality. When exactly do you need this, and why is it useful for nonprofits? This guest post on the Idealware blog was written by the Community Manager at Heller Consulting to help nonprofits find the right system.
Could it really be so easy? According to MediaCause, taking a little extra time to plan out your posts will more than double your current engagement. While there aren't many easy tactics that will work for everyone, coming up with a plan for your content and looking at your metrics is a great place to start.
Peek into any busy coffee shop and you'll see people staring into their smartphones and typing away on their laptops. It may seem like just about everyone is online now, but 15 percent of Americans continue to remain unplugged. Is living offline bliss, or are people falling prey to the digital divide in our culture? PEW Internet looked for the answers.
Your organization is busy, and you want to let your followers know what you've been working on at all times. But the question remains: Are you alienating your email list by filling up their inboxes? Does anybody care enough to recieve multiple updates each week? This infographic looks at a few metrics, and tries to find the "sweet spot" in email.
If you're still mourning the loss of Google Reader, you might find some comfort in checking out these other tools. Uncovering interesting content on these sites is not only fun, but can be a great way to add a bit of wisdom to your social media presence.
For as long as hashtags are popular, there will be people curious about the best way to use them. The answer is not always clear. It requires a bit of creativity and the right group to make a hashtag work. When done well, a hashtag can grow your online audience, and bring a wide community a bit closer. Whether you want to decode the # sign on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr, this article will be a good place to start your journey.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising in the Real World

To coincide with the launch of our latest resource, Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Workbook, we solicited this guest post from Nicole Lagace. Nicole is Interim Executive Director at HousingWorks RI, an organization working to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have quality, affordable homes, and a former board member of Girls Rock! Rhode Island.  
Last year Girls Rock! Rhode Island—an amazing volunteer-run nonprofit that uses music creation and critical thinking to foster empowerment, collaborative relationships, and the development of healthy identities in girls and women—decided to use Razoo, a peer-to-peer fundraising tool, for its annual campaign. Razoo lets 501c3s create a branded portal for online giving. Even better, anyone can start a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign for any nonprofit on Girls Rock! encouraged board members like me and several camp alumni to create campaigns for the organization so near and dear to their hearts.
I started my campaign on November 9, 2012, with a goal of raising $500 before the end of the year and started receiving donations almost immediately. Keep in mind that these were donors who had never before given to Girls Rock!, but as my peers, they knew how important the organization was to me.
Throughout the fundraiser, I reminded them how important the organization was in my campaign story by talking about the life-changing work the organization was doing with young girls and my experience volunteering. I shared a photo of myself actively engaged with campers and shared our vision of a world in which gender and identity are assets, not limitations, and where girls and women actively claim their own strengths and expertise to pursue goals of their own design.
To create a buzz, I made sure to publicly acknowledge each donation on Facebook.  This simultaneously allowed me to link to the campaign daily and encourage more friends to click to my campaign and consider giving. I also made personal appeals via email to my peers not on Facebook who I thought would value the work of Girls Rock! Finally, I offered my own premium—after the campaign, in January, all donors would received a personalized thank you song (MP3) written by me, a fitting thank you for giving the gift of rock.
How successful was it? Within the first week, I had 13 donors and raised $480. By the end of the year I raised $750 using Razoo and engaged 22 new donors for the organization. In total, the organization raised over $3,400 via seven personal campaigns and engaged 102 new donors—not too shabby for an experiment and first-time annual campaign.
Around the same time Girls Rock! was planning its campaign, I attended a fundraising workshop about annual end-of-year appeals. Donors need to feel a connection to the organizations they are giving to; they need to understand that their dollars are being put to good use; they want to hear personal stories—the workshop leader brought in various examples of direct mail pieces and urged workshop participants to find the story that would resonate most, but balked when asked about online campaigns. The implication was that “online” is for younger folks, and young folks don’t generally give. She eventually conceded that young folks do give—and they give online—but not very much, making an end-of-year annual direct mail piece the best way to raise a lot of money for a nonprofit.
The direct mail piece may still work for larger nonprofits with a budget for massive mailings, but what if you are raising money for a fledgling nonprofit with a connection to potential donors that exists mostly online? Peer-to-peer fundraising tools offer the opportunity to access supporters online, immediately test different messages, tweak campaigns, and ultimately use the power of social networks to engage even more donors.
This type of fundraising is the best thing since sliced bread for small nonprofits, but it does take some effort. If you’re involved in a campaign, be sure to actively recruit campaigners—ask your board members or people with a special connection or story to share. Offer them encouragement and guidance on campaign messaging, but allow room for their own voices to come through. Give tips on how to engage more people and promote their campaigns via your own social media channels. You can also encourage healthy competition by offering a small prize for most money raised or most donors engaged.
I learned firsthand that fundraisers need to play an active role, but my enthusiasm for the organization made that easy. This year I’ve started a new campaign via Razoo for the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, another organization I believe strongly in. The campaign is associated with #GivingTuesday, so any pledges made aren’t visible until December 3. The suspense is killing me, but I’m confident the effort will be worth the wait.
Nicole Lagace is Interim Executive Director at HousingWorks RI. In her spare time she serves as the Communications Chair on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and continues to volunteer with Girls Rock! Rhode Island as an instrument instructor. She’s also the bass player for the band Gertrude Atherton.


Nonprofit Film School Appendix: Trailers, Music Videos, and You.

This post assumes that you’re already familiar with the basics of video production. If you’re not, you can get a quick introduction here.

You’re all ready to make a video for your nonprofit. Armed with your camera, editing software, and knowledge, it’s time to dive in. But what type of video are you making? In this blog post, we’ll be talking about trailers, music videos, and other videos that depend on music cues.

When I’m talking about trailers, I’m talking about videos in the style of a movie trailer - you’re providing a short “teaser” of an upcoming event. There’s a few different specific times a nonprofit would want to make a trailer, including big volunteer or fundraising events (walk-a-thons, galas, etc.) and announcing a new program (like we just did at Idealware with our Tactical Tech Training.

Why would you want to make a trailer? What are the benefits? In a trailer, you’re combining music and voiceovers with footage from an actual event. For a movie trailer, that would usually mean actual footage from the movie itself, but for a nonprofit, that probably means you’re using photos and video from past events to give your audience an idea of what to expect this year. These types of videos also benefit from familiarity. Most people are already familiar with movie trailers, and will recognize just from the format what you’re telling them (“We have something coming up that you should be excited about!”). Because of this, you’re completely allowed to borrow elements from actual movie trailers - “In a world gone mad, one organization will rise to the challenge.” You have two goals with your video: 1) get a lot of people to watch it, and 2) get them pumped up.

In a similar vein, there are also music videos. While these aren’t as valuable to nonprofits as a trailer might be, the two share a lot of similar goals and features. Both exist to get an audience excited for something (in this case, instead of a movie or event, it’s a product, the album the music comes from). Both rely heavily on music to convey that message. And both are fun to watch and (hopefully) fun to make.

Trailers and music videos also share one important production tip. Whichever of these types of videos you make, you have to cue the images with the music. Major actions, transitions, all the exciting moments--these must happen on the beat. That means that you have to listen to the music over and over, find the beat, and line up all your footage. There doesn’t have to be a new image on every beat, but the more frequent the changes, the more exciting the video. Play with the speed of the transitions to get your audience more engaged. In general, longer takes will go at the beginning, when the music is probably slower or quieter, and faster takes will go towards the end, when you’re building up to the exciting climax.

But the most important tip for these types of videos is to have fun making them. They’re a chance to let your hair down, listen to music, and be a little silly.

Building Your Email List Q&A

If you're paying for 50,000 subscribers on your broadcast email tool, why not use them all? Building your list of email subscribers is easier said than done, and with the ever looming temptation of buying a list hanging overhead, it can be difficult to do it on your own. Even if you are pushing out great content, some people just can't be pleased, and will unsubscribe faster than you can say "spam." In our latest session in The Email Fundraiser's Toolkit, we talked about the touchy subject of email list-building and how you can make it work for your organization. 

We have a list of people who have participated in our program either as a program volunteer or participant. We haven't emailed them in the past, can we send them emails?

The short answer is yes, it is OK to add past program participants and volunteers to your email list. But make sure you are smart about it!
If you have had their emails for a while, make sure to add them in a strategic way. Consider sending a special email to the list explaining where you got their email from and that you’d like to add them to your email list. Remember to make the case for why they should be on your list--explain the value. Importantly, make sure to offer either an opt-in or opt-out option so that they have some control over their involvement. This email will act both as an explanation as to why they are suddenly getting email from your organization and offer a choice for inclusion. 
Do you have any data on response for opt-in vs. opt-out (e.g. are the addresses gathered through an opt-out only process less likely to give)?
We talked about this in depth in class, but I wanted to see fi we could locate specific data. Here are two interesting articles on the topic:
A great contact for us is special education teachers within the school districts.  I can find their email addresses online, but from what you've said today, I would be spamming them if I contacted them via email. What is your suggestion for contacting them?  Or can I contact them initially via email and then ask them to opt in/opt out?
You are right, if you pull names of individuals from the web and email them on mass without any relationship, no matter how much you think they should care about what you have to say, you are spamming them. Emailing them individually, however, is in bounds. You could send a personal email to each person with an introduction and an invitation to join your list.  
For this particular group, consider if there is an association who might be able to help. Potentially you could connect with a professional network of special educators ( or What about the school union or state education department? Using a partner introduction might be an interesting approach to list building for this area. 
What are some good examples of eNewsletters?
I love these two newsletters from Philadelphia arts organizations: The Eastern State Penitentiary ( and the Headlong Dance Theater ( ESP provides a well thought out, meaty eNews in a more traditional format. Headlong offers a completely different, out-of-the-box feel that directly reflects the values of the organization.  Also look at the examples in these articles:
  • "Three Nonprofit e-Newsletters to Subscribe To and Learn From” on Nonprofit Tech for Good:
  • “The Dissection of a Bloody Good Email Newsletter” on The Vertical Response Blog:


Writing Effective Emails Q&A

Creating stirring content for fundraising emails is challenging enough without taking on the added difficulty of making it eye catching and engaging. From intriguing subject lines to fundraising progress thermometers to a personal sign off, there is a lot you can do to make that extra connection with a donor through email. In the second class in our Email Fundraiser's Toolkit, we took on the individual pieces of an email, what makes them stand out, and how you can design your own. However, making it all work together in a campaign is rarely without some trepidation, so we answered a number of questions here that we hope you find useful.
Can a “too relaxed” voice hurt a campaign?
It is important to be careful to have your voice match your message and the medium. While emails are definitely a “more relaxed” medium than direct mail, you don’t want to take it too far. A voice that feels too extreme will not be effective in motivating your readers to donate. Use your best judgment—if something feels off, odds are it is. 
Is there a tool or website we can use to make a thermometer?
If your online tool doesn’t provide a thermometer or progress bar, you can try obtaining a separate one. Here are a few places to get you started:
And if you feel like thermometers just aren’t your thing, consider reading this interesting whitepaper from Kivi Leroux Miller on alternative images for demonstrating campaign progress:
Where would you list the tangible results?
Presenting the tangible result of a donation is key to motivating your constituents to act. How and where you present this information will vary based on your overall story and approach. Weaving it through the narrative will feel seamless if done right and can be very powerful. If you are looking to list a series of results based on varying gift amounts (ex. $50 will feed a family for a week; $200 will feed a family for a month) you should think about placing that information on your donation landing page. This will help motivate your donors when they are choosing how much to give to the campaign. We have also seen successful lists included in the email itself, mostly either on the side bar or a super short list in the ps. 
Is there value to having our executive director as the sender of an email even if they did not compose it? Should I still include a photo next to my signature, or photo of the person/people featured in our email(s)?
The person who actually crafts the letter does not need to be the one who publically signs it. We see this all the time in direct mail where the development staff will compose the letter and have the ED sign it. It is best practice to have the email from line be consistent with the signer of the letter. So if it is your ED signing the letter their name should be in the from line as well. Including a picture or scanned signature (or both) in the signature line helps to personalize the communication, just make sure there is consistency from top to bottom. And as with the Literacy Volunteers example from the class, if your ED is signing, but the story is about another person you can include their image as well, but be mindful to make it clear who is who both in location of the images as well as with the title of the photo. 
How do you know you're not exceeding the reasonableness (and tolerance) of what the recipients are willing and interested in receiving from you?
If you send too many emails to your list you will know. You’ll see a spike in unsubscribes and SPAM flags if you cross a clear line. While it will be somewhat gradual, when you start to see people fleeing from your list in larger than expected numbers you should pull back. Keep in mind, more people than normal will unsubscribe from your list in response to any given fundraising appeal, so an initial jump in response to your campaign should be expected, but any increase should be investigated. You should also pay attention to feedback form your constituents, if you are concerned about the volume, call a few constituents—volunteers, board members, staff, random donors—and check to see their reaction.  
Should thank you emails go to the whole list or rather on a 1:1 basis that's personalized and specific to their gift?
You should be thinking about thanking your donors in a few different ways. First, and perhaps most straightforward, when they make a donation online your donation tool should send them an individual tax receipt. The more you can customize that receipt, the better. Second, you should plan to send a thank you to your entire list reporting on the campaign as a whole. Letting everyone, donors and non-donors, know about your successes can only improve your next campaign, and who knows, maybe some of your non-donors will donate in response. Additionally, you should consider a personal thank you to every donor initiated by your organization. Hand written thank you letters in response to online donations are a nice touch, thank you calls from your Board can be very compelling, and of course, a personal email thank you will work as well. Depending on the number of donations you receive you could consider setting a threshold for the additional thank you, say only sending personal notes to donors of $50 or more. But I tend to lean towards including as many personalized connections as possible. You never know, that $25 annual donor might lead to your next big bequeath.  
Do you know any statistics on the effectiveness of organizations switching into email fundraising annual campaigns from snail mail campaigns?  
Please don’t abandon your direct mail campaigns for an email-only approach! All signs point to the success of integrated campaigns above all else. Direct mail will often trigger an online donation and frequently emails will remind a donor of that direct mail envelope on their coffee table. Email fundraising is a new way you can connect with your donors, but you shouldn’t see it as a replacement for your direct mail campaign, but instead consider it in compliment. Joanne Fritz presents a nice case for the staying power of direct mail and the value of adding in email to the mix.  She also links to some helpful statistics, check out her argument here:

Kicking Off a Technology Project Right

Taproot Foundation president Aaron Hurst has written a fair amount, including a whole book, on managing pro-bono projects. Last year he posted a pretty interesting idea about “Pre-Mortems” 
His basic premise is that it can be useful to have a full team meeting prior to the start of the meeting, to discuss:
"Assume that, six months down the road, everything that could go wrong on this project has gone wrong. What went wrong? And why?
Focus on the three to five most likely reasons that the project could fail or go off the rails. Then map back how you could have prevented these meltdowns. Finally, incorporate those changes into your project plan before you actually get to work."
I love this idea. It’s a kind of fun way to brainstorm possible risks and risk mitigation (and it’s a pretty unusual day when you get to put “risk migitation” and “fun” in the same sentence). 
 I’d add to it a really powerful tactic that I was trained in back in my consulting firm days. We would include a roundup of project goals in our kickoff meetings --all goals, everyone’s goals. So not only the overall goal to create a great website for a client, but also the firm’s goal of using this project to get more arts clients and the hope that we’re able to create a show-stopping portfolio piece.  And then each of the team member’s goals. So the assistant assigned to the project may want to get more experience working directly with clients, while the graphic design wants to work on finding the right balance between work and getting home at 5:30 for her daughter. The web designer may really want to build a website using a particular technology.
It’s unusual that all those goals can actually come to fruition on one project, but it’s really useful to have them out on the table, especially from a project management perspective. You can keep an eye on them, to try to help fulfill those that make sense based on the project, and if you can’t make a goal happen, at least you have in mind that you’re violating someone’s hope for the project --- which can help you understand why they seem to be lobbying in an odd direction, or to make it up to them later, on a different project.
What project kickoff techniques have you used that have worked well for you? 


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