Delight Your Donors With Better Communication (and Spend Less Time Doing It) with Dennis Fischman

Dennis Fischman

When donors give to your nonprofit organization, they expect to hear from you. The good news is, there are more ways for you to reach them than ever before: direct mail and email, your website, your blog, social media and traditional media. But who has time to create new content for all these platforms? Wouldn’t it be great if you could take just one good idea and turn it into ten ways of informing and delighting your donors? Well, you can!

Attend this webinar to learn how to build stronger relationships with your donors by communicating more often and spending less time doing it. CFRE Approved for 1.25 pointsYou will learn:

  • What your donors really want to hear
  • How to create a message your donors will be glad to read
  • How to use one great idea on your blog, on social media, in print, and on video
  • Why your donors will thank you

Additional Materials for Delight Your Donors With Better Communication (and Spend Less Time Doing It)

Download the audio: Delight Your Donors with Better Communications (MP3)

Download the slides: Delighting Your Donors with Communication (PDF)

The transcript for Delight Your Donors With Better Communication (and Spend Less Time Doing It)

Marc: Well, good afternoon everyone, or morning, depending on where you are. This is the next edition of The Nonprofit Academy Presents. I'm really, really thrilled today to have Dennis Fischman here. Dennis, could you just toggle that slide once so we can make sure the recording goes well and the . . . thank you.

Just as a reminder for everyone, you should have a control panel either on your left or your right, depending on where GoToWebinar puts it. That has a place for you to either use questions, to ask questions throughout, or there's a chat feature that some people see, so you can use that, as well. I'll be monitoring that throughout, because we want to make sure that this has all the content that you need with your communications.

You can also email me. I won't check my email now, but in the future, you can email me before the webinar. We had somebody do that already, which was great, with a question that she had.

And finally, if you want to tweet or Facebook post, you can do that with the hashtag #NPAPresents, and I'll be monitoring that as we go through this session, too.

Our presenter today is Dennis Fischman. He is from the Boston area, which is ironic now that I live in South Carolina. We were both New England for a while, and we've interacted quite a bit on some forums that we have for consultants that are helping nonprofits. He used to be the director of planning for an anti-poverty organization, but in 2013 started Communicate Consulting, and he's been helping people with, nonprofits in particular, with different aspects of their communications.

I am so excited, because you can see it right from the title slide here, he's going to help us do better communications, which all of our donors probably wish we did, and he's going to help us do it in less time. So why wouldn't we want to hear that?

So in honoring the less time part of the slide, I'm going to stop here, just say go to . . . when you're done with this, go to Make sure you have a C in the "Fisch." You can read his blog, get a free guide that's there.

But right now, Dennis, the time is yours. Thank you so much for being here today.

Dennis: Well, thank you, Marc, and thank you to the 59 people who signed up for the webinar today. I'm very honored.

So what we're going to be talking about, and leaving plenty of time for questions at the end. I do expect to do that. What we'll be talking about today, what it takes to renew your donors. And I say "renew" rather than "retain." Your donors make a decision each time whether or not to renew.

So what it takes to renew your donors, that's really connected to what your donors want to hear from you after they give, and before the next time. So we're going to talk about why donors will and won't renew, and how you can move them in the right direction.

Now, I've worked at a nonprofit, as Marc says, and I know the big question on everybody's mind, "But where do I find the time?" And the middle portion of this presentation will all be about how you can do your better communication and take less time doing it.

And one of the most important ways that you can do that is to make maximum use of the great ideas that you come up. So we'll discuss how to use one great idea 10 different ways. You will not believe how much time that's going to save you, or how many different platforms you can use without having to have different ideas each time.

And finally, if you do this right, there are very good reasons why your donors will be happy to hear from you, and will thank you for your communications. And wouldn't that be great?

All right, so let's dive right in here. We have a problem in the nonprofit sector. Actually, we have two problems. The first problem is that we keep trying to fill a leaky bucket. If the bucket is full of donors, and we keep trying to acquire new donors because, as you can see on the screen, the chances that somebody gave to you in last year, will renew this year, if you do nothing else, are very low. Across this country, 70% of donors who gave for the first time in 2014 won't renew in 2015.

And that's why so many of us are forced to keep chasing after new donors, trying to figure out where to find them. If we were for-profit businesses and this was our model, we would all go broke, right? Repeat customers are just as important to us as they are for businesses. We have to do something about this leaky bucket.

So you probably experienced that you looked at least at your list and you said, "You gave us money last year. Why didn't they renew this year?"

Well, there are legitimate reasons. Some people's finances change from one year to the next. We even saw this particularly during the recession. Sometimes people have a new child, and their expenses go up, they've retired and their income is in a different place than it used to be.

But there is a bunch of donors who could afford to give to you again, but don't. Why aren't they doing it?

Our colleague Jay Love, who's the CEO over at Bloomerang, did a study on this, and as you can see, there are some very specific reasons why donors who could afford to give again don't. And if you read through this, thought the charity did not need them, no info on how their money was used by their organization. This one really kills me, no memory of ever supporting your organization. Never thanked for donating.

And really, it all boils down to poor service or communication. These are the reasons that donors who could afford to give to you choose not to and don't renew. So when you ask yourself, when all of us in the nonprofit sector ask ourselves, why do so many donors disappear after the first gift? We're not looking at it from the donors' perspective. From the donors' perspective, they didn't disappear. You did.

How can that be? You're thinking about them, right? But did you thank them? I hope most of us at this stage of the game are prompt with sending out thank you notices to our donors. But I am a donor myself, and I know there are a lot of organizations that get around to it late or, in some cases, never.

Marc: Well, this is one of those things that feels like it's not as urgent as getting the money in, but we need to really change that about our systems. That's good.

Dennis: That's right. Because . . . well, and you probably, Marc, you probably heard that business saying that if you attend to the things that are important when they're not urgent, that's where you're going to get the most value out of your time. Attend to them before they become urgent.

Marc: Well, and I'm a Franklin Covey coach, so Stephen Covey calls that Quadrant 2 of planning, where you talk to things that are important, but not urgent. Yeah, so I definitely . . . I at least thing about it daily, if I don't always live there.

Dennis: So thanking your donors is important, but it's not enough. Because so many times, donors say, "Well, I gave money, they thanked me, and then I didn't hear anything at all from them until they asked me for money again." Or, "I got a newsletter, I got an email, but the communications they sent me were not what I wanted to hear," the donors tell me.

And I know. Believe me, I used to work at nonprofits. It's so easy to just pick up the thing that's handy when it's time to send something to your donors, and send that, without thinking, "Well, if I were on the receiving end of this and I didn't work at this organization, would I want to read it?" So you got a grant. Great. Everybody in the organization is happy. Why does the donor care? Your executive director got an award. Fine, but the donor doesn't really care about that.

You have some interesting statistics. Use with caution. Numbers can make people go away if they're . . . and never come back if they're not that kind of math nerd.

So what is it that they do want to hear? We're going to talk about that in great detail later on. But for now, I hope you understand the most important reason why you need to communicate with your donors, and communicate well, is loyalty. Right? If we all have at least one person in our organization who's like this guy right here, and he'll follow you around and love you wherever you go whatever and what you do. But what we really are in the business of doing is building loyalty among all our supporters.

And this is not only a sweet and good thing to do. It's an efficient thing to do, and it helps you raise more money. The fact is that it costs about seven times as much to acquire a new donor as it does to renew one of your old ones. So think about that. If you can renew one donor, it's as good as finding seven new ones.

So it really is important for us to plug the holes in that leaky bucket, to keep our donors from washing away, by giving them the kinds of communications that they want.

All right, so here we run into the time question. Where do I find the time to communicate with people as they would like to hear from me?

And we have both a blessing and a curse these days. The blessing is that there are so many platforms, so many channels, through which we can stay with our donors. And the curse is the same thing. There are so many platforms, there are so many channels. People scratch their heads, pull out their hair if they have any left, trying to figure out, "Where do I find the time to do this communication?"

Nonprofits, we sometimes make things more difficult than they have to be, you know? We say, "Oh, I wrote this great piece in the newsletter, but now what do I do in the email?" Right?

And you can save yourself an enormous amount of time and make your great ideas that you come up with go farther by repurposing, and I'm going to talk about 10 ways that when you come up with one great idea, and as Marc points out, it's often a story. But one great idea for a way of staying in touch with your donor, a content piece that you can spread out over 10 different things.

Okay, first thing is, let's suppose you have a really great blog entry. And I hope, by the way, that you do have a blog. If you do have a blog, makes coming up with the content for all your other channels so much easier. Plus it adds a great deal of credibility to your organization. So before I even began to think about social media, I would think about a blog.

So let's say that you've posted a really great blog post, and you want to get more out of it. It might be that your blog post was a list. You know, 10 ways to use one great idea, or the top 6 reasons why now is the time to help the homeless, or whatever your blog post is.

All right, so you wrote that post. You can take each of those things, go into more detail about them. Each one could be a separate blog post. Each one and they could be a series, one after the other, or you could have them interspersed with other topics, but you could definitely spread that out and give people . . . whet people's curiosity, and then give them more. Okay?

People are also sometimes interested in, okay, you're doing good work, but I want to be part of that good work. How can I do that besides giving money? Right? If you blog about opportunities for people to act on something that they care about, that's another way of going into more detail. Instead of just talking about the cause, talk about their connection to it.

Marc: Well, just to go into more detail, Dennis, one of the things that surprises me is, I don't know if you know Chris Davenport, but when he's had us do projects together, he's always driving home, we need to get really granular in the detail that we go into. And I think a lot of us in our nonprofits don't realize that we're really just skimming the tops of the surface, because, like you said before, we already know what the implication of getting this grant is, so we think everybody else does, as though their universe revolves around us.

They don't. And so even though it may seem almost insulting to intelligence to go into the detail if it were one of our colleagues, it's not. It's serving and honoring donors. The donors that are interested will read. The donors that aren't will just skip it, like they skip other things. But there are people that will love that kind of detail. So that's great.

Dennis: Completely agreed, Marc. Now, another way that you can use a great idea that you come up with, focus on the same idea. You're not the first person who's ever thought of that idea, I guarantee it. There are no unique ideas in this world.

If you go to other sites and you find information that is going to help new donors to understand the cause, what they can do about it, the problem that your clients are facing and the dimensions of it. Of course give credit, and of course show that you are grateful for the information. But people will think better of you because you are sharing information that you found elsewhere. And we'll talk a little bit more about where to find it later.

So many of us are on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever. I think people are mostly on Facebook more than anything else, so this is a little bit more Facebook-centric, but you can easily apply it to Twitter and the rest.

Marc: Well, did you hear the news from last week? One in seven people on the planet were on Facebook.

Dennis: How many?

Marc: One in seven. They hit a billion users on the same day.

Dennis: Okay. And you're not trying to reach a billion users. You're trying to reach . . .

Marc: No, I didn't mean that to overwhelm people, right. It's just, it's good to go where the party is.

Dennis: Exactly.

Marc: And if there's a party with your donors there, why not show up there? Yeah.

Dennis: Exactly. So one of the ways that you can use that idea that you had once you've written it as a blog post or as an op-ed for a newspaper, or whatever it might be, is you can post the original article. You want to give it a brief introduction, to make people who are on Facebook not scroll past it, but actually want to read it.

And another thing that really helps with that is a photo, either if there's a photo in the original piece, make sure it's visible on the right size, and if there isn't a photo, find one and add it on, because that will increase the number of people who read what you have to say.

And remember that, because of the Facebook algorithm, every time you post something, only a tiny percentage of the people who follow you are actually going to see that, right? So you can not only post the original article, you can pull a telling quote, a quote that really packs the punch of the whole piece from the article, post that. You can post it just as a quote. You can use some graphic program like Canva to turn it into a graphic and post it that way. But that will get some of the people to see it who never saw the original article when you posted it.

You can also just find and put up a picture that makes the same point that you're trying to make in the article. We know a picture is worth a thousand words, and we all recognize, I think, that social media are getting more and more visually oriented as we go on. So for the people who are not on Facebook so much to read as to skim and view, if you can get a picture that says what you want to say, put it up there with just the tiniest bit of text, and that's another way of reaching your audience with that same idea.

Two more things related. Ask a question of your audience, or do a poll. Instead of talking to your donors, turn it around. Get them to speak for themselves. Ask them a question. Make it a yes or no question, or an open-ended question where they get a chance to say more. I mean, even on the yes/no questions, if they're interested, they will say more.

Do a poll. And there are tools that you can use for actually adding up the results of the poll, but even if you just stick it out there, that's more likely to create a conversation than just the original article, or even the quote or the picture.

Marc: So one of the things that I've seen with nonprofit blog, pages in particular, because the algorithm is so much not in favor of, on Facebook, of people actually seeing our posts. When you ask, what would you recommend about people . . . recommending asking a question and doing it consistently are things I've heard.

But what if it becomes your group, or your page, or your feed just becomes unanswered questions? Would you suggest deleting them? Have you seen nonprofits do that well?

Dennis: You know, I don't think you need to worry about that for a couple of reasons. One is that nobody actually goes to your Facebook page anymore. They just view what you posted . . .

Marc: That's a good point.

Dennis: . . . in their news feed. So if they didn't answer your question, they're not going to go back and check on you and say, "Aha, nobody else answered that question, either."

Marc: True.

Dennis: That's one thing. And another thing is that . . . oh, I lost it. But I think that's good enough. That's a good enough reason not to worry about it right there.

Marc: Okay, that's great. And if the other one pops in, feel free to . . . that's good.

Dennis: No, if it comes back, I certainly will.

So up to this point, we talked about how you can get great ideas for your blog, for social media, for up to 7 out of 10. But we've just been saying how social media and the web in general are getting visual. And in particular, right now video is doing really well.

So talk to your phone. The photographer's maxim is the best camera is the one that you have at the time. Talk to your phone. This way, as you can see here, you turn the phone sideways, because video will look better on the screen that way, and you can either talk over something that's happening around you, or flip it around so that you're talking into the phone, and it's like you're interviewing yourself, almost, or speaking directly to your audience.

But this will reach a different audience. I'm the kind of person who really likes to read the words, but there are people that just, when they go onto social media, all they're looking for is the videos. And you will reach them differently with a video.

Marc: Well, that's a perfect point, that it's just like there's a blog post on your site,, although you know your site, that just, the one that I saw that grabbed my attention was "Your Board Isn't Your Perfect Audience." So just because you don't . . . I, like you, I don't like video. I want to be able to read at my own pace, and video forces me to go at their pace.

But 70% of adults have been polled, and that prefer to learn by video. So you're absolutely right. It's not necessarily going by our own personal preferences, but by the preferences of people that we want to get the message to.

Dennis: Right. As nonprofits, we're really familiar with the idea that our work is not so much about us. It's about the people we're trying to serve. And the same thing is true with our communications. It's not what I like. It's what my audience likes. And the audience really likes video.

And PS, you can post that video on YouTube and reach a whole different group of people.

Marc: Good point. That's the second largest search engine in the world. YouTube.

Dennis: Now, we're talking all this contemporary trends and current statistics. Don't give up on print. There's a lot of people out there for whom print newsletters, local newspapers, other print materials are still their favorite way of doing it.

So if you have a great idea, and you've already blogged about it, posted it on social media, whatever, pitch it to your local newspaper, if you're lucky enough to have one. But if you have a community newspaper, the reporters who work for that newspaper are incredibly busy. Papers are understaffed. They're trying to do what they used to do with far fewer people. So they will often run your blog post verbatim, especially if you provide them with a good photo to go with it.


Marc: So would you try making that . . . would you try, when you give it to them, would you just give it to them as a blog post, or would you try giving it to them in the format of the article? Do you have to do extra work and massage it a little bit, or can you just submit the blog post?

Dennis: I think I would probably not just send them a link to the blog post online. I would probably send it to them in a text format so that they can manipulate it as they want. But I would send them, again, don't send it PDF, because then they can't do anything with it.

Marc: Oh, that's good.

Dennis: Send it in a word processor format, and send the video and, excuse me, the photo in one of the commonly used formats, like JPEG.

And you can do it either way. You can call them up and say, "Here's this thing I have online. Take a look. Would you like to have that for your paper?" And then send it. Or you can send it and then give them a little while to look at it and follow up. But either way, that's another place that you can get great coverage without coming up with another great idea.

And finally, out of my 10 ways here, if you may do your own print materials, if you do print newsletters, taking a blog post or a photo that you've used before and repurposing it in your newsletter is a great idea. You may have fact sheets or frequently asked questions about particular topics, and you may be able to pull from your other written materials for that.

You may even, especially if you're good about focusing on stories, you may even be able to take something that was a blog post and, as Marc said, massage it a little bit, and use it in either your fundraising and field letter or in your thank you letter. Stories in thank you letters are a very underused idea, and I would recommend them.

Marc: One of the questions that's coming up, so I'm glad to see a question, Marc. This is it. Okay, you're hitting it right on. It's like you're reading my mind. And this is great.

Dennis: So the question, Marc, is, "Won't people get tired of seeing the same idea over and over every day?"

Marc: I wish I'd just taken a breath and let you put the slide up, instead of starting to ask that question, because that was basically word for word the question that was coming in. Yeah.

Dennis: Well, and let me just say, I hope that everything we've been talking about so far is encouraging people to believe that, A, donors do want to hear from you, and B, they will give more money if they do hear good stuff from you. And C, that you can save time by reducing, reusing, and recycling.

So the answer, will they get tired, the answer is no, as long as you're giving them what they really want to hear. Remember, there's a value in repetition. We've often heard . . . Marc, I think you had this in a blog post of yours, that there's a statistic that people really need to hear something seven times before it really sinks in. Am I quoting that right?

Marc: Yeah, I've heard that from David Ogilvy back in the day, yeah.

Dennis: The marketing guru, right.

Marc: Yes.

Dennis: So repetition is important, because people won't remember, they won't recall that they saw it in the first place. Jay Love from Bloomerang pointed out that "didn't remember giving to you" was one of the reasons that donors don't . . . so if they don't remember sending you a check or pulling out their credit card, you think they're going to remember every single thing that you post? Think about your own reading. You don't read that closely most of the time.

But let me flip it around. You're going to be saying the same idea in different ways. Right? It's going to be a long form post. It's going to be a question. It's going to be a photo. It may not even appear to them that it is exactly the same idea, because you're going to be saying it in different ways. And the more they hear it, the more it will sink in. "Okay. Oh, yes, right." So the more you say it, the wiser they're going to think you are.

Marc: That's really good.

Dennis: So the key thing here, as we mentioned, let me just flip back for one second, is giving the donors what they want. Not what you have on hand, not what your board wants, but what they're interested in.

And how do you find that out? I hope that in your donor database, you have some indications about things that your donors care about. And I don't mean exactly which program your organization runs, although that could be a clue. But we're really talking about what excites them, what agitates them, what makes them angry, what makes them want to get up and do something. Right?

If you don't already know that about your donors, you should probably do a little investigation. You can do that by talking to other people in your organization who do know those donors, and that might be your board, or that might be other donors.

I'm going to skip one point down here. You can also do a certain amount of searching online. And this is something that even a smart and attentive intern could do for you. Give them a list of a sample of your donors' names and just enough information so that you have John Thomas is giving to your organization, they can figure out which John Thomas it is.

And have them search online, and see what other organizations they give to, see what topics they comment on. You can't do that probably with your whole database, but even doing it with 25 or 50 could give you some really good insights into what kinds of things will interest them if they see you writing about it. Right?

And then ask your program staff, ask your receptionist, "What are the questions that people ask all the . . . " When they show up at the front desk, or when they come in for help, or when they email your organization, what are the things they want to know? You have a built-in audience for those questions. Answer those questions, and people will pay attention.

So if you do this, if you communicate regularly, if you focus on the things that your donors are interested in, you will begin to delight your donors. And that, of course, begins with thanking your donor as soon as possible, as personally as possible, as often as possible. And I don't mean send out a gajillion thank you letters in the mail. You could have yourself or the executive director, or whatever, pull out their camera, say thank you, and email it to people.

Or post it online, or both. Right? The ice bucket challenge, which is now in its second iteration, man, did this very, very well. You know, they used the video and the personal contact to keep it going.

But find your ways of thanking your donor. And when you're communicating with them in all these other different forms, here's what they really want to hear. "Here's how I, the donor, am making a difference." Not how the organization is doing it. The dirty secret is that they don't really care that much about your organization. They care about the cause. They care about the work that you're doing, and the people, or the environment, or the schools, or whatever you're working on, they care about how it's affecting them, right?

And so you should use the word "you," meaning the donor. You should use the word "you" a lot in your communications. You shouldn't sound like you're speaking French and saying "we, we, we." You should be saying "you" a lot.

And when you're telling stories about your organization's work, do everything that you can to make the donor the hero of the story. Possibly along with the client, right? The client is doing a lot of work by him or herself. But it's the donor who's making that possible. And that story is what the donor wants to hear.

When people read your things, they want to be informed. They don't mind being entertained. Sometimes, especially on Facebook or social media, sometimes it's okay to just put something up that's fun. It may have just the slightest connection to your organization, but if you know it's something that the audience you're trying to reach is interested in, and it's going to make them feel a little bit happier about their day. It's going to make them feel a little bit happier about your organization, too.

In fact, there's this thing that the communications people talk about, the 80/20 rule. Marc, have you heard of this?

Marc: I've heard of versions of this, yeah, with time management. If you look in your closet, 80% of the clothes you only wear 20% of the time, but there's about 20% of your clothes that you wear 80% of the time.

Dennis: Right. Right. And there's variations on this in other aspects. When it comes to communications, what we're saying, 80% of the time, you should be informing and entertaining your donor without asking anything.

Eighty percent of the time, you should be saying thank you, you should be sharing useful information, you should be adding a little spice to their day, you should be helping them feel better about their contribution to your organization. Eighty percent of the time. That's a lot.

And out of that 20% of the time, 20% of the time you can ask them to do something. But not always to give money. In fact, out of that 20% of the time, you're better off if 15% of the time, you're asking them to do something besides giving money. Sign a petition. Forward an email. Share something on Facebook. Retweet it on Twitter. Show up for an organizational event, or show up for an event that you didn't sponsor, but that is part of the mission of your organization.

And then at 5%, one out of every 20 times you communicate with them, you can ask for money. And I guarantee you that if you do this, if you communicate often, you communicate in a way that people want to hear, and you only ask for money 5% out of that 20% of the time, that you will actually raise more money.

So we're coming to the end of my prepared presentation today, and I hope we'll have plenty of time for question and answer. But before we go to that, first off, I want to thank all of you that made the time this afternoon to come and join us, and I hope it's been extremely worthwhile for you. I'd like to show my appreciation for your time.

If you've enjoyed the webinar and you'd like to go a little bit deeper on one aspect of it, I have a short, useful, no-nonsense booklet called "The Quick Guide to Social Media." And this is aimed at nonprofit organizations specifically, because we have a little bit different relationship with our audience than businesses and brands do. There are things we can each learn from the other, but this booklet is focused specifically on the no nonsense nonprofit. The group like you that says, "I don't have time to do everything that it would be great to do. What really matters?"

So if you want a copy of . . . and I'm not offering this to everybody in an email or broadcasting this today. I'm just offering this to you who attended the webinar. Email me. My address is Dennis, with two Ns, at TwoFisch, T-W-O-F-I-S-C-H, dot com. And I'll be happy to send you "The Quick Guide to Social Media." And I hope we'll be able to stay in touch.

Marc: That's great.

Dennis: So Marc, let me throw it back to you.

Marc: Definitely. Oh, we've definitely got questions. So one of them that's coming in is . . . they're all over the place, so I'm sorry, I tried to organize them. But the one that's coming in is about Facebook and the donate button. Are you familiar with that?

Dennis: Right. It's relatively new. So the question about it is?

Marc: Well, just, no, it's a comment saying that they're adding the donate button now. I know when I heard it, I thought, you know, so what? Because people don't tend to go to our Facebook pages, or nonprofits' pages. They tend to see our nonprofits' posts in the news feed.

I think where it may be helpful . . . I've been setting Facebook ads for the last year, and I know that we have some of the same teachers, and it seems like if the donate is one of the options in the ads, that may be more effective.

But do you have any initial thoughts on what this might mean for nonprofits?

Dennis: Well, I think it cannot hurt. It's a little bit of extra . . .

Marc: That's a good . . . that's true. It cannot hurt. Okay.

Dennis: I don't have . . . and add it to your page, just in case there is somebody who's on Facebook looking at cat videos and photos of their grandchildren and things like that.

Marc: Then, all of a sudden, that realizes, "Oh, I need to give to my favorite charity, because this cat video motivated me."

Dennis: Right. Yeah. So I mean, it could happen. But, yeah, I would not put too much stock in it. And like you said, Marc, it's much more important to have that link if you're doing Facebook advertising. And most nonprofits are not doing that at this point. But the ones that have the largest fundraising and communications budgets are, because they're finding that they can target the ads to people who are specifically interested in not only their cause, but in that specific piece of it that they're advertising about.

And so there's been a fair number of larger groups that have experimented with this, and had decent results with the donate button in the ad. But I think as far as the . . . putting it on the Facebook page, thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for remembering that we're here.

Marc: Absolutely. Right. And I think one of the things with what I found from working with Facebook ads back years ago, in nonprofits, even, was that . . . well I had made a commitment, I spent a lot of money, hundreds of dollars, trying to get people to do free things with Facebook ads. And that wasn't working, because I hadn't figured out how to use my email list to create donors out of it. So I was asking them, I was spending money to have them sign up to a free email list to notify them of things that I hadn't figured out how to monetize yet.

So I made a commitment to only doing ads that would drive donations or registrations to events. I've learned, through people like Andrea Ball, that those are hard sells. People don't go to Facebook looking to spend money. It's not like they're walking into the Gap looking to buy clothes. They're just kind of window shopping and looking. Checking in with friends, seeing what's going on.

So I have found that testing ads that lead to a sign-up to an email list, that then creates a long-term nurture, that seems to be more effective now, 10 years after I initially started working Facebook with nonprofits. Is that something that you're finding, too? Because it seems like a huge risk.

Dennis: I would say there's kind of a hierarchy of your communications with people, and I think your website, including your blog, is right up at the top, and very closely related to that. Also, your email list, and preferably using an email service . . . I use MailChimp. Other people have had good results with Constant Contact and Emma and other groups.

But the advantage of that is that you can schedule your emails and keep track of who has actually responded to them. And that's another way of finding out more about what your specific audience wants to hear from you. Your website, blog, email are all, like, top of the pyramid, and social media comes more towards the bottom.

Marc: One of the nice things about what it looks like from what I've seen on Facebook's donate button is that it does drive you to the website, which is huge. Because so many other social media giving pages don't drive you to the website, and so you don't get their names necessarily and the chance to do that.

So you mentioned blog, though, being a top priority. And one of the things that . . . a question that's come in is, why a blog, and how do I convince the powers that be that a blog would be good, because our organization doesn't have one?

Dennis: I recently . . . I'm a communications consultant working with nonprofits based in Somerville, Massachusetts, but I have clients in a few different places. And recently I was talking with a client about just exactly this question.

Well, let me be consistent and start with what it does for your audience.

Marc: Consistency is great. I'm glad you're going to start there. That's good.

Dennis: I'm going to start with what it does . . . audience and your donors, and then talk about what it does for you.

Your audience, when they see a blog, if it's well done, and if it's consistent, and they come to expect it, it's like getting a high-level briefing about things that matter a lot to them from the people who know the most about it.

It feels personal. It feels intelligent. It feels like it makes them smarter, like when people ask them about these questions. They're able to discuss them more broadly at a cocktail party or whatever. And as far as for your organization, a blog adds to the credibility of your organization in ways that tweets, for example, might not. A blog is also . . . I think of it as kind of the spinal column of your communications.

Marc: Absolutely.

Dennis: Because you could see that from the 10 ways to use one idea approach, right, Marc?

Marc: Yes.

Dennis: Because I was saying if you . . . and it won't always work this way. You might start with a Facebook post, or you might start with a newsletter article, and then say, "This would be good to explore on the blog, as well."

But often if I have an idea, then I'll work it out as a blog post, and from there, I can get the content that I'm going to use for the other media.

Now, as I mentioned, just taking a blog post and throwing it out there on the media all by itself is not a good idea. You can put the link out there with a good introduction, or you can pull a point, you can pull a photo.

But the blog post really . . . when I post to a blog, it kind of sets my agenda in some ways. I know I'm going to be hitting that theme in different ways for some time to come. And so if you're the development or communications person, and often it's development and communications person, at your nonprofit, and you need to talk to your executive director about this, I think you can . . . it's sort of the title of this webinar.

This will allow us to communicate better with our donors. We'll be able to do it in less time than if we tried to come up with something fresh and independent for all our different platforms. It will allow people to know our organization better, like what we do, and trust us more. And that's the path that leads towards donation, and especially towards donation renewal.

Marc: For me, too, what I share with some people is that Google likes . . . having the fresh content is something that Google likes, because it sees you're not a stale, aging website, but it's something that's consistently fresh.

The other thing that I have liked as a communicator is the discipline. If I know that I'm going to put up a new blog post every week, every other week, whatever my rhythm is, it starts training my perception and alertness to pick up on the stuff I can write on, so when you're going through, walking around your nonprofit or talking to people, you'll have a much more attuned ear to, hey, that could be postable.

And it also gives you an excuse to be on social media, because you're sharing helpful content. It's not just being creepy, because you're an organization following people. But you're actually adding, contributing to the conversation. So those are all good answers.

One question that did come in, also, was in the line of kind of convincing the CEO or the head of the organization, is for Nonprofit Academy members, they have access to great training, they learn how to do the fundraising right, and it's sort of like bad . . . great teaching can always be trumped by bad parenting. Great fundraising training can always be trumped by bad boards or CEOs. And they're not bad people. They're just badly informed.

So are there any tips on how to help a growing fundraising professional who understands how to do the communication in a way that a donor wants, and how to save it from either the death by committee of a board wordsmithing every single phrase, or a CEO that just wants to kind of add fluff to it? Or start with the, "It's fall, and the leaves are changing, and the kids are going back to school," and lulling you to sleep before you even get to the point of the letter.

Dennis: Well, and let me answer that last piece first. I hope people realize how short the attention span has gotten to be, especially online. Even with print materials, though. It's something like two to three seconds between the time that somebody picks up your letter, or opens your website, or looks at your Facebook post or your email, you have two to three seconds for them to decide, "Am I going to spend any more time on this or not?"

And it is so easy for that mailer to go in the recycling bin, or to hit delete in the email, or scroll past it in the news feed, right? So you can't afford to say, "Oh, aren't you glad it's September?" and do that for your first paragraph, because people can find that anywhere. You need to give them a reason to stay with you.

Marc: They probably have a calendar on their wall saying, "Yep, I know it's September. I didn't need your mailing to tell me." That's great.

Dennis: Right. Right. You know, or, "I can't believe our organization's 20th anniversary is coming up." That's even worse, because you don't know that they care whether it's your 20th anniversary. So you have to think from the donor's point of view, and make sure the title or the subject line and the first sentence, and the first paragraph, and the photo, and the caption under the photo, all give them signals, "Yes, yes, yes. Stay with this one. This is a live one for you, the donor."

So that's the first piece that I would say to answer that question. You've got to, again, you're competing with cat videos. People are not segmenting their time and saying, "I'm going to spend this much time watching stuff that entertains me, and I'm going to spend this much time reading stuff from my nonprofits." It's all time, and they only have a limited amount of it.

And so you have to be able to compete with a cute cat, or your message is toast.

Marc: Totally toast. Yeah.

Dennis: But enough on that point. So how do you convince people, the board, the executive director, not to micromanage it and so forth?

I think, again, part of it is just ask them about their donations. Ask them, "What's an organization that you give to?" And then say, "When they mail you, when they email you, what do they do?" And then say, "What about the organizations that want your donations and aren't getting them?"

And I think if you can lead them along that path, they'll realize, we don't want to ask our donors to behave in a way that's totally different from what we do when nonprofits approach us. That wouldn't make sense. We want to do what is going to get their attention, make them feel personally addressed, interest them, solve problems for them, provide information for them, entertain them. Whatever gives them a reason to go along that path from "Did I give money to you?" to "You're one of those organizations that I support, and I'll tell everybody about it."

Marc: That's so funny, somebody has privately chatted . . . or I don't know if it was, if everybody on the webinar can see it, but they said, she said, "I'd rather watch cat videos than read some of the donor communication that comes across my desk."

Dennis: Wouldn't we all?

Marc: So that's an interesting thing, though, because it's one of those . . . it's that fine line of, we're not our best audience, but would we respond to this if we were in the donor's shoes? So it's sort of, you're using yourself as a litmus test, but doing it in a, I guess, emotionally intelligent way, to . . .

Dennis: Yeah. You either have to think about, if this was from another organization, how would I respond? And if you don't trust yourself to be able to do that honestly, ask your mom. Ask your friend. Ask the person that you go to church and synagogue with to take just a moment and look at it, and give you their unvarnished response.

Marc: That is good. That is really good. And that's a helpful tool that we can never do enough, I don't think.

All right, one of the things you mention in here, a question that came up was with pictures. You'd mentioned Canva. I know I like Edgar, too, if you go to, E-D-G-A-R, you can easily, quickly create a quote graphic, as well, that's sharable across social media.

But how do you get safe pictures? A while back, personally, for my fundraising coach blog, I was getting . . . Getty Images was threatening me for hundreds of dollars, because I had used an image that I'd used in good faith. I create content, so I try pretty religiously to not violate copyright law. But apparently it was not . . . the person who purported to be the owner of the image wasn't. It was actually a Getty image. I have since removed it, and I've stopped getting the nasty, threatening letters.

But are there safe places that you've found that you just like to get pictures that don't threaten you to going into court?

Dennis: I mean, Marc, you're a savvy and experienced professional, and you found yourself in that situation. I think that shows that it can happen to the best of us, and with the best of intentions. Most of the time, most originators of photos have better things to do than chase you down, but sometimes you will run into that.

Marc: It turns out they've created an algorithm that somehow spiders across websites looking for whatever their algorithm . . . it's all automated now, for Getty. Because they own a lot of photo sharing sites, too, so they have a vested interest in it.

Dennis: Sure. For them, it's going to be worth it.

There is a site, and I'm blanking on the name right now, but you may recognize it, Marc, where basically they offer different . . . they allow people to share photos and other materials with different levels of rights and restrictions, including totally open for reuse, reuse only for non-commercial purposes, and so forth. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Marc: Well, there's a thing called Creative Commons licensing, which . . .

Dennis: That's what I'm thinking of.

Marc: Yeah.

Dennis: Exactly. Yeah.

Marc: So I know Flickr makes . . . so what I like to do lately is go to Flickr, and you can do an advanced search on Flickr and choose only Creative Commons, and you can even choose commercially . . . I get the sense that if someone's creating a picture, they're going to think of you using it for trying to raise donations or awareness for your nonprofit as a commercial use, even though it's nonprofit, so why not just cover yourself?

And yeah, they'll tell you, usually it's with attribution, so you have to write . . . so I'm increasingly, on my webinar slides, even, I'll have a little "photo used by permission of so-and-so on Flickr." And then I'll have the, the short link to their image so people can use it, too.

Dennis: Let me add if I could, Marc, it's a good idea, since we know that the world is moving in a visual direction, it's a good idea for us to incorporate that into our organizational culture. And when we're having an event, or when we're out and something is happening, think about taking pictures, think about taking videos. Look at the people on your board or on your staff who, aside from their other skills, are good with visuals, and that may be a big contribution that they can make to the organization.

Marc: Well, it's so funny. I'm laughing because I wrote in big letters on my moleskin here that I was taking notes on is, "Take your own." I'm in a group of speakers on Facebook, and one of the things that we talk about often is our slides, our presentation materials, what are we using? And there's an increasing move with professional speakers to just use their own images.

So we have phones in our pockets, like you said. The best camera for the job is the one that you have right there. And it's amazing the quality you can get, and it's amazing if you have your . . . you start just learning to look at things for pictures, how many points you can have illustrated. I mean, the number of construction sites that we walk past that could be great at putting together different aspects of our organization's mission. There's all sorts of things out there that can be even funny for social media, or illustrative for a blog post or our presentation to the board.

So you're right, taking your own is good, and then getting permission from the people. And I usually just do a verbal . . . I don't know if you have a good way of doing this, but I usually just say, "Is it okay if I just share this all over in social media?" And some NPA members have heard me say that when I've taken their pictures.

Do you have a release that you use, or do you just have your clients just found that they can just take pictures?

Dennis: Well, it does depend on the nature of the organization. Like, the anti-poverty organization where I used to work ran a Head Start program, and taking photos of children is always a question. So they spoke to the parents at the beginning of the year and just asked all of them to sign a blanket release form.

Marc: Yeah, that makes sense. We did that for events, too. We'd have a blanket release form. Part of registering for the event means pictures will be taken, and your image may be used in next year's brochure to promote it. That's good. I don't think we limited it to next year's. I think we just said to promote the event.

Great. Well, you know what we've done? We've come to the end of another Nonprofit Presents webinar. Dennis, thank you so very much. If you could . . . oh, what's the link? Yeah, I want everybody to remember to email Dennis -- Dennis with two Ns, at TwoFisch, with a C in the Fisch, dot com, to get the free social media guide. Check out his blog. He's got a great post. Those of you listening live, the post right now is "Your Board Members are Not Your Audience."

That could also, for those of you who are struggling with people that are trying to be logical about fundraising writing and communications, it could also be your CEO is not your audience. I'm sure it would work a lot of ways.

And you can go to Facebook, and you can see his contact information there, and he's @DennisFischman on Twitter.

We are thrilled to be able to unpack this for the rest of the month. If you have questions, or you're listening to this at some other point and you have questions, feel free to just pop into the Facebook forum. And if you could kick it to the last slide, there, Dennis.

Yeah, there we go. You can always listen to this. The show should be up by the afternoon in the vault at And you can check the NPA Presents to see some of the tweets that caught my attention as I was furiously scribbling notes, as well, during this session. So Dennis, thank you so much.

Dennis: Great pleasure. And I, again, thank everybody who took the time to try to learn to communicate better, and do it in less time this afternoon. You're doing good work, and more people should hear about it.

Marc: Absolutely. And with that, we'll end. Thanks, everyone. See you in the forums.


Delight Your Donors With Better Communication (and Spend Less Time Doing It) with Dennis Fischman — 1 Comment

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