Thursday, October 21, 2010

Maybe the Taggies are no Biggy

Nancy Schwartz, one of the best known bloggers, speakers and consultants in the not for profit world has just released the results of the 2011 Nonprofit Tagline Awards – or Taggies as she and her marketing material refer to them. This year she’s even created a slick video to announce the winners.

Remarkably, over 1700 organizations submitted a total of 2700 taglines for consideration and over 6000 votes were cast to choose the winners. That’s pretty incredible considering that the prize for winning is nothing more than being recognized.

Nancy deserves a lot of credit for coming up with the idea three years ago and developing it into something that 1700 organizations know about and want to participate in. And, through the contest, Nancy is making nonprofits devote at least some attention to their marketing efforts – which is a very good thing.

I think the contest raises some troubling questions.

The video proclaims the tagline to be a “vital marketing tool” and that a “smart tagline is a powerful tool for connecting with your base.” Not only am I not buying it, I think it sends the wrong message to nonprofits. The vital marketing tool is the strategic plan from which a tagline emanates. A well-crafted and implemented plan with a lousy tagline will have better results than the converse any day. Amongst the tools that a nonprofit can use to connect with its base, a tagline is probably one of the least effective.

The awards are distributed without knowing anything about how well they represent the mission, goals or stakeholders of an organization. The winner in the Fundraising category – Oregon Zoo’s “Bring Back the Roar” is smart but is it anything more than that? How did it fit into a broader plan? How did it relate to the target market? How did it contribute to results? On top of that a visit to the Zoo’s website shows no vestige of the tagline. So, while it may have been an award winner it clearly wasn’t a keeper (no pun intended).

The video also declares that a tagline will allow you to “build your brand in 8 words or less.” Brands are not built on 8 word taglines. They are built on thoughtfully considering and developing the relationship that your stakeholders have with your organization. There are many successful brands that – believe it or not – have no tagline. In the for profit world, companies like Apple and Starbucks come to mind. Here in Toronto, York University has just completed a $200M campaign marking the 50th anniversary of the institution. While the “York to the Power of 50” campaign name (is that a tagline?) is creative, I suspect the campaign would have been equally successful with a different – and less creative – name.

Too many organizations already want to skip the strategic steps that will lead to effective marketing. They just want the good-looking logo, the pithy headline and maybe now the award-winning tagline. Ultimately, I worry that the Taggies celebrate the end while ignoring the means.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Data That's Relevant to the Majority

There’s a ton of fundraising-effectiveness research available these days but is it relevant to the realities of the majority of organizations?

There’s been lots of buzz in the past week about a new study on email fundraising released by M+R Strategic and NTEN. What’s attracting attention is the study’s conclusion that organizations with smaller email lists are getting better results than those with larger lists. In fact in some data categories, the small list results are almost double those of the large lists. These are interesting findings but here’s what I was thinking.

The definition of a small list according to the study is under 100,000. But 100,000 is an astronomical number of email addresses. For most organizations, having 5,000 - 10,000 email addresses would be a stretch. So, let’s resist the inclination to be intimidated and see how the numbers play out if you are only sending let’s say 5,000 emails.

Based on the study’s findings for small list campaigns, you can on average expect:
  • Open rate - 19.8% which means that 990 people will open your email
  • Click through rate - 4.1%. OK, now 205 people will use any link in your email to visit your site
  • Response Rate - .25%. That means that 12 people will make a gift
  • Given the average gift amount of $100.65, your campaign will gross $1207.80
  • And if you can do this – as small list organizations are – 2.3 times per month, or let’s say even 25 times per year, that’s $30,195
Admittedly there are lots of assumptions in these numbers including that 5000 is even a large enough sample to generate average results. But it does raise questions. What are the costs associated with an ongoing email campaign including the acquisition and maintenance of lists, the development of regular email content and monitoring results? If that takes an additional staff person, your email campaign just became a losing proposition. Or, does the value of first-time or monthly donors mitigate the cost? What’s the longer-term value of having almost 1,000 people visit your site? If you can double the number of emails and reach over $60,000 in gross revenue, does the campaign become worthwhile?

I don’t have all the answers. Every organization will have to come to its own conclusion but it seems to me that for most, it’s not a slam-dunk. An informed decision can only be made on a careful consideration of the numbers. The good news is that the digital world can provide all the data necessary.

Make it work:

  • When considering an email campaign, do your diligence and use available research to project results.
  • Don’t forget that there is a qualitative aspect to email campaigns. Effective writing and compelling design will always be more successful.
  • Remember that the effectiveness of the donation landing page is also a key component. Make sure that once they get there, prospective donors are encouraged to give.
  • Think long term and consider how you can increase the size of your email list and the cumulative effect of increased site traffic.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Social Media – Two views from the other world

Two recent blog posts from outside the not for profit world provide some great perspective on social media.

If you're looking for reasons to jump (or maybe just dip your toe) into the world of social media, John Jantsch in his Duct Tape Marketing blog offers five very practical ways that small businesses can make use of social media. They can all be perfectly applied to the fundraising arena. Some of them are obvious like following up with prospects or staying top of mind with customers (read donors). Others may require a bit more creativity in applying to the fundraising enterprise but are no less valid. His last point on staying in touch with potential partners will (or should) be increasingly important to fundraisers as financial pressures and the proliferation of causes create the need for finding synergies with other organizations.

To manage the expectations of some within your organization regarding social media and for some strategic thought, read Seth Godin's blog on "the endless search for wow." Although it was written more as social commentary, its practical implications are hard to miss. With online fundraising success stories abounding and endless reports of videos gone viral, there is increasing pressure to appeal to and attract the widest possible audience to your social media efforts. But Seth makes the point that the quest for the "wow factor" may be unrealistic and impractical. Your social media (or web) efforts are better focused on your current donors and stakeholders and what you know to be your target market.

Other than the specific benefit that comes from each of these posts, I see two overriding principles:

  • Strategy is the key to marketing success. You have to first determine desired objectives before launching a social media effort. What specifically do you want to accomplish and how is that integrated with other marketing efforts? Perhaps most importantly, how will you measure the success of your social media campaign?
  • Learn from outside your world. You can't afford to not pay attention to the best thought and practice emerging from the business world. Expand the list of articles, blogs, magazines that you read. If nothing else they will open your horizon of thought and likely lead to inspiration.