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Older Women Are Far More Generous Than Older Men

October 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information

Women who are in their 50s or older are far more charitable than their male counterparts, according to a new study.

Women are more likely to give a bigger share of their income to charity, and in the highest income bracket the total sums they donate are more than two times as high as men in similar circumstances: For a $100 average gift given by an older affluent man, women of similar age, income level, and other characteristics donate $256 on average, the study found.

Researchers at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy based their findings on data provided by more than 1,100 single men and women. They compared people with similar incomes, number of children, education level, and other characteristics and grouped them by share of income donated to charity.

At every giving level, women were more likely to make donations and to give more money than men. The biggest difference was found among those who gave the most. About 19 percent of the women gave 3 percent or more of their incomes to charity, while just 11 percent of men gave that much.

Researchers say they hope the findings will change how fundraisers treat women.

“Women are still not asked to give as often as men are,” says Debra Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

The findings of the study, she adds, “challenge the assumption of who is philanthropic. It’s not just Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.”

Holly Hall

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This Just In: Subject Line Length Means Absolutely Nothing

October 17th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Email

There’s a lot of sage wisdom floating around on what constitutes a good subject line. On the helpful side, there are articles like this one in our Knowledge Base that emphasize clear communication, personalization, and word choice. The purpose of a subject line is, after all, to tell the reader what’s in the email.

But for every article that champions communication, there are another 10 that champion gimmickry to get your readers to open. Stuff like using unicode characters (HEARTS, STARS, HORSESHOES, CLOVERS, AND BALLOONS!!!!!!) or thisarticle wherein the report from an ESP claims that the longer the subject line, the better your campaign is going to do. Is your audience some monolithic blob that mindlessly clicks long sentences? In the absence of good data, myths will abound, but we have lots of data in MailChimp’s Email Genome Project, so let’s take a look at subject line length and its effect on engagement.


High-Level Results

We pulled information on 12 billion email sends from earlier this year and analyzed subject line length versus open and click rate. The results are straightforward:

Chart showing that as your subject line gets longer, nothing happens.

As your subject line gets longer, nothing happens. Cheers.

A Tale of Three Users

OK, so we’ve established that there’s not a one-size-fits-all rule for subject length. More is not better. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a sweet spot for you. Let me show three quick examples from actual users.

Here’s a user whose campaigns with longer subjects were correlated with lower open rates:

And one with high open rates:

And one where it means not one single damn thing:

Most users examined in the study (and there were tens of thousands of them examined), fell into this third category: no statistical link. But you can easily check which user you are by just exporting the data from MailChimp. Might I suggest running an A/B split on a few campaigns where you vary subject line length and see what works for you?

The Mathematical Rant Part of the Blog Post

Granted, I’m just a mathematician and not an email-marketing expert, but I’ve got some theories as to what the data are showing us in the graphs above.

I’m sure you’ve read the phrase “correlation does not imply causation” before. Hell, there’s a Wikipedia article about it. Well, this whole subject-line discussion falls into that trap. Even if there existed a pretty graph showing a relationship between subject-line length and campaign performance, that doesn’t mean that by padding your subject with purple prose you’d suddenly be swimming in a sea of opens and clicks.

No, that relationship (like what is shown above for users X and Y) is likely caused by a third variable. For instance, what if I sent out a weekly campaign with the subject line “Christmas sale on processed meat logs full of fat and salt” and didn’t get any opens, so I changed it to “Sale on summer sausage.” Well, “summer sausage” sounds a lot more appetizing than “meat log.” I bet I’d get better performance. Would that be due to the lower character count? Only indirectly. Rather, it’s due to my astute change in diction. Hemingway would be proud.

But this rant aside, the truth is that we found, on the whole, not only no causation, but even no correlation. Over six billion of the emails we studied showed little or no correlation between performance and subject length (coefficient of determination less than 0.12).

Of those users who managed an r-squared above 0.5 for subject length versus open rate, 40% had some kind of improvement as their subject lines got longer, and 60% showed the exact opposite. That kind of split says to me exactly what I’ve been arguing: additional forces are at play in each user’s account that’s causing these relationships.

So, Where Do I Go From Here?

Your audience is chock-full of individuals with different reading habits, interests, and demographics. Maybe my audience is full of Apple fanboys and every one of them reads my newsletter on their iPhone. Well, then the subject line they see might need to be shorter for their small screen. Or maybe my newsletter is geared toward businessfolk who mostly run Outlook. In that case, maybe a longer subject is more acceptable. Within MailChimp, you can easily gather this user-agent data and many other juicy tidbits that flesh out what your audience looks like.

You could use Wavelength (just launched!) to tell what other things your audience reads. You can geolocate your readers. Find out if they’re night owls. Get social data and find influential readers. Point is, don’t just settle for what some ESP recommends (not even us). Do the math and find out what works for you.


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Stomach Trouble: How Much Should You Trust Your Gut?

October 17th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

“The days of launching a major fundraising program based on gut instinct are over.”

After reading that comment recently, I immediately felt a bit sick to my stomach. After all, my “gut” has served me well over the last few decades. No, I haven’t always gotten it right, but I’ve had a couple big wins and a lot of midsized victories.

But, let’s face it. The failures (and I’ve had some) are costly. That’s money forever lost to programs for our nonprofits. And, our failures often make it harder to get budget to try again. (Fundraising flops live forever. Fundraising victories are too soon forgotten.)

So, if you don’t have the budget for the kind of wonderful research that is available now to raise the odds that a fundraising campaign launch will succeed, and you have to resort to depending heavily on your gut, what can you do to mitigate your risk?

Step 1: Appetizer — Read and listen to what others have learned through research
We are all suffering from information overload in this day and age of the Internet, webinars, electronic publications and conferences. But there are some great “must-reads” if you are hoping to learn from the examples of other nonprofits.

This newsletter is a great place to begin; Today in Fundraising often highlights the latest reports from reliable sources. And that’s a key word: reliable. Always look at the source of the information.

Check the date on any research you find, as well. Things have dramatically changed in the nonprofit community in the last five years or so. Learnings from the mid-2000s are likely to be less useful than post-recession epiphanies.

Bottom line: There is no shortcut or simple GoogleOpens in a new window search. But dig deep, and see what you can uncover and learn from.

Step 2: Main Course — Study your own numbers over and over again
What worked in the last 12 to 18 months? What failed? Now, ask yourself honestly what factors may have influenced those results. After all, a mailing that was fabulous in December did have the benefit of year end that a February mailing lacks. Your e-mail campaign that aligned with a current news story gets a great lift that can be hard to replicate.

Take a few minutes to pat yourself on the back, and then tear into everything. Did you have a great story, a simple yet profound offer (i.e., feed a child for $5 a week) or another “hook” that positively skewed your results? Was a lousy response the result of poorly written copy or a vague offer? This isn’t the stuff you write about on your annual self-evaluation; instead, it’s an honest review that you do to help your gut function more successfully in the near future.

Step 3: Dessert — Be careful who you listen to
OK, this one is hard — and the wrong choice can stick with you longer than that hot fudge sundae. But the fact is, your board chair, senior management team and CEO may or may not have a real clue about what your donors want and will respond to. Sometimes you have to play nice, but don’t sacrifice your entire budget for a month or an activity on what your CEO thinks (unless he or she has a basis for that belief). Too often, we think donors are just like us, but we forget that they know much less and (sadly) think about our nonprofit less often than we do. We mustn’t make assumptions and start at a level that is beyond their ken.

You may be able to test an idea that was handed down from on high, but be careful about risking it all on an idea that is based only on the gut of someone who hasn’t immersed him- or herself in the current research (step 1) and results (step 2). You may not only miss the mark on your fundraising, but it could cost you professionally, as well.

Once you’ve read, listened to experts (or at least experienced colleagues), studied your findings and weighed options, go with your gut. At least by that point, you’ve got more driving your intestinal decision-making tool than a stale doughnut.

Pamela Barden You can follow Pamela on Twitter @pjbarden

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Strategy Worthless Without Implementation

October 16th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in How Not For Profits

There’s no point in chasing the newest flavour-of-the-month strategy if you don’t implement well. That’s the plain-spoken advice of fundraising strategy specialist Curt Swindoll.

In his work with nonprofits all over North America, he’s discovered eight keys that are essential to successful execution: urgency, vision, priorities, plans, actions, measures, accountability and recognition. All of them can be addressed, he says, provided you have the right people in the right roles.


The key to creating a sense of urgency, Swindoll explains, is setting priorities and then helping people to understand the negative consequences of not meeting them.

Urgency is not the same thing as crisis. Urgency calls for proactive, not reactive steps. Attention is focused on the top priority in time to create the maximum number of options, and goals are reached on time.

In a crisis, we react to something that’s already gone wrong. Our attention is jerked from one blow-up to another and away from organizational priorities. By the time you hear yourself saying, “We have no choice but to do such-and-such,” you have shifted from an urgent situation (where you still had a choice of options) to a crisis.


We talk about vision, we laud it, yet we can’t quite describe it when we’re forced to do a vision statement. But when we get it right, he says, it challenges people to tackle tough initiatives. It helps them understand why their job requires them to do what they do. It connects a team to the organization’s primary focus.

(For a great clarification of the difference between vision and mission, readGetting vision and mission straight, by Fraser Green.) 


Most nonprofits face an uneven balance, with more great opportunities than resources. Choosing to do some good things and not other good things is hard. But it’s essential.

“So what are you willing to release so that other, more important work can be realized?” Swindoll asks. For both an organization and an individual, it means asking what you can do that no-one else can do, what you can do that others can expand, and how you balance short-term needs with long-term opportunities. Identify the strategic initiatives and operational infrastructure that will help you realize your vision. Let everything else go, no matter how great or enticing it is. 


Swindoll offers one suggestion for charting an action plan. Take one strategic initiative. List its primary objectives, the resources required, the owner of each objective (“where the buck stops”), milestones and due dates, and the tangible outcomes. You can use any planning scheme you like, he says, as long as it addresses the top reason action plans fail: management inability to identify specific steps that are needed to accomplish strategic initiatives.

His long view is encouraging. “In my experience,” he notes, “once an action plan has been developed with realistic due dates and owners, objectives become much more tangible and have a much stronger chance of being completed.” 


No matter how much time you spend on planning, taking action will be even more time-consuming. And lack of time, Swindoll observes, is the greatest challenge to acting.

To act on a strategic plan, everyone needs permission and discipline to eliminate unimportant tasks, meetings and standing commitments from their schedules. Start saying no to some requests and encouraging your team to do the same. Find ways to make your meetings more efficient and less frequent. Turn your calendar into a reflection of your priorities.

If crises derail your carefully planned schedule, note where they come from. Generally, crises reflect a habit already discussed – a previous failure to identify an urgent situation. 


Choose key performance indicators that will reflect your progress and alert you early if something goes off track. Make sure they are fairly easy to track; there’s no point asking for information that’s too hard to assemble. For every indicator, ask yourself how quickly it will tell you if the initiative is not producing what you expected it would. 


“Perhaps the greatest failure of nonprofit organizations is the failure to hold people accountable for their performance,” Swindoll believes. Measures give you feedback. When the measures flag a lack of progress or a missed deadline, you need to act. Address the failure with the person who owns the objective. Clearer expectations, or better action planning, or more support from leadership may be required. Sometimes, though, the failure lies in the inability of that individual to perform at the level required.

As painful as it will be, that’s better to address sooner than later. Nonperforming staff, he reminds us, cost the organization money. 


The flip side of accountability, recognition comes into play when progress is made and deadlines are met. Public recognition celebrates performance, good project management, accountability and follow-through. It signals the kind of behaviour you want and the value you place on everyone’s contribution. It helps to build an organizational culture of achievement. So practice what Swindoll calls “serial recognition.”

Janet Gadeski

If ‘Big Data’ Simply Meant Lots of Data, We Would Call It ‘Lots of Data’

October 16th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information

So what’s this Big Data thing really about?

It’s official, Big Data is the flavor of the month. Everyone’s talking about it and everyone claims they can do it. Whatever “it” is. Is it just hype? Or does it really represent a “big” opportunity?  The first step in answering these questions is to settle on a definition of ‘Big Data’ and understand what’s really changed.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, “Big Data refers to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage and analyze.”[1]  IT guru, Buck Woody, says, “Big data is the data that you aren’t able to process and use quickly enough with the technology you have now.”[2] But Big Data is more than “lots of data.” It goes beyond quantity and speaks to the challenges of velocity and diversity. In today’s age of digital media and channels, vast amounts and types of data are coming at us so fast and from every online and offline direction. Big Data refers to the ability (or inability) to effectively deal with all these aspects of consumer information.

Big Data isn’t really a new concept, but a new label. About 10 years ago, Gartner talked about the knowledge gap, which is the simple idea that the amount of data we are creating is outpacing our ability to analyze and consume that data. So again, what’s really different?

Technology Changes

Substantial changes in technology have given us the opportunity to process the mounds of data we are generating and actually do something with it.  Consider the evolution of data management, as it pertains to marketing. Twenty-five years ago, most data systems processed flat files in mainframe environments.  Marketers soon got more sophisticated and realized that effective database marketing might actually require a “database.” The relational database represented a fundamental shift from the mainframe, storing data more effectively and efficiently by “remembering,” while a mainframe “processes and forgets.” Now, these relational databases have gotten even more sophisticated. As the internet created new industries (like search and ecommerce), companies have begun dealing with data that’s not only real-time but also unstructured in nature. Consider Google, whose “data” is effectively the internet – they basically download and index the internet as a business. This data change forced new technology advancements and caused a paradigm shift in data management. Enter things like NoSQL (not only SQL) environments to the mix, and suddenly, we’re in the era of Big Data.

But through the evolution of mainframe to database to NoSQL, have we really created competitive advantage for companies?

What’s about analytic advancements?  

How have advancements in technology impacted our ability to process and analyze data? The digitization of – well, everything – is creating “data” at an unprecedented rate. And data is only valuable when it can be converted to information and understood and rationalized. With Big Data, the vast majority of the data is ‘information poor,’ (i.e., worthless).  As the data grows and changes, how has analytics evolved to find meaning in a growing sea of data noise?

Twenty years ago, we used predictive modeling to forecast direct mail responsiveness. Back then, we had to significantly “sample down” the data so our mainframes and desktop computers could process statistical regression models in a timely manner. But with today’s advancements in technology, our ability to process all the data has changed dramatically.

I believe the first main difference with Big Data is that we no longer have to rely on sampling to determine the likely outcome of a population. Today’s technology is vast enough to process all the data we couldn’t study before.  There are things we can now do with analytics, to learn more from data than we ever could before. This is because we can get to the most granular, most far-reaching corners of the dataset. A couple of examples:

Mass personalization – Instead of summarizing a population into finite segments to drive differentiated treatments and relevance, we can go down to a much finer level of granularity, ultimately the individual level, because we can actually use and process all the data about an individual. One application of this is the idea of recommender systems, like Amazon, with notifications about “people who bought this product also bought that product.” This requires ensemble-based collaborative filtering algorithms that process massive amounts of information to produce a personalized recommendation to each individual.

Rare events – If something occurs one out of ten million times, sampling will miss it. To identify that rare event, we must process all observations. In this application, Big Data is about finding the needle in the haystack. The benefit of identifying, processing and acting on these rare events at scale can provide significant lift. An example of this is the idea of finding brand evangelists and social promoters. Today, one customer with the right social network can influence thousands of friends, whose subsequent networks could represent millions of consumers.

The second big change in Big Data analytics is the real-time nature of the data and how it gets generated and applied. Historically, when we scored a dataset with a predictive model, it would happen in batch. Today, we can score what we need, when we need and deliver that score in real time. Furthermore, the actual analytics are often generated in real time, based on the data available. So not just the scoring, but the prediction itself is happening instantaneously.

A third difference in Big Data analytics is the ability to deal with unstructured data. It requires a lot of transformation to use in any statistical procedure, and we now have the technology to do it. The most prominent example is text analytics. The entire science of text analytics is a by-product of the digitization of traditionally analog information (e.g., a letter is now an email, which is nothing more than 0’s and 1’s and can be processed by a machine).


Ultimately, Big Data is not a revolution but an evolution whose catalyst is the digitization of everything. Unfathomable amounts of resulting data must be stored and processed. And we are still using analytics to synthesize that data into information with meaning and value, just like we always have.

In my opinion, what really makes Big Data different is the ability to use information to inform decisions at an enterprise level. Marketers have been using data to inform targeting decisions for decades. But as data becomes more prominent, our ability to use the disciplines of advanced analytics to create better outcomes is more pervasive throughout the enterprise. Harness the power of your data assets and you’ll undoubtedly create sustainable competitive advantage. The race is on and this is not a spectator sport…

David Williams, CEO of Merkle

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Six Things Nonprofits Should Know About Facebook Ads

October 15th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Social Media

If you build it, they will come… but what if they don’t?  What if you’ve done everything to build a strong Facebook community, consistently post quality content and do your very best to engage with users, but you (or, in some cases, your CEO) still want more?

With limited to no budget, you have the opportunity to grow your community organically and develop meaningful relationships with your fans, bringing them closer to your organization’s mission with each Facebook post.  But with recent changes to Facebook Pages and the newsfeed algorithmthat now prevents parts of your audience from seeing everything you share, nonprofits big and small are turning to Facebook ads for as little as $1 per day to ensure eyeballs and engagement.  With so many options at our fingertips, I recently took the time to really understand how it all works.  If you’re interested in considering the options too, I hope my research helps guide you to make the best decision for your organization:

1.            Choose a “mélange” of ads that work best for your organization. There are pros and cons to all three of these, but Facebook offers one of the most targeted advertising opportunities out there today.  It simply comes down to who you want to target, and how much you are willing to pay to place a bid:

Facebook Ads allow you to combine a photo or logo and 90 text characters to promote a Page, app, event or external website to people who may or may not yet be connected to your cause – your choice.  Ads appear on the right hand side of the Facebook newsfeed.

Sponsored Posts display posts in the newsfeeds of existing fans who might not have otherwise seen them.  They are ideal for increasing visibility of event invitations, questions, photos or important news in a targeted fashion.

Sponsored Likes invite users to like causes that their friends are already connected to, using the power of social context to consistently outperform regular Facebook ads with a 46% higher click through rate, a 20% lower cost per click, and an 18% lower cost per fan according to Inside Facebook.  And it makes sense: According to Facebook Marketing , 92% of people trust the word of mouth of family and friends, as opposed to only 47% who trust television, radio and newspaper.

2.            Make every penny count. If your goal is audience growth, maximize your dollars by paying only for ads that people click on (CPC) as opposed to paying per one thousand people who will potentially see your ad (CPM).  More specifically, maximize your investment by getting people to click through directly to where you want them to be.  If you have a stronger daily presence and richer content on Facebook than on your website, you might want to ask users to like your page instead of directing them to an external link.

3.            Determine your ideal audience. As opposed to Google Ad Words, Facebook gives you the power to identify users that fit your demographic to a tee.  Are you a resource center for parents of children with Autism in Los Angeles, and looking to engage with college educated, stay-at-home parents?  You can create an ad that targets those exact users – and even narrow it down further by alma mater!

4.            Test, track, modify. You are in full control of what you put into ads and what you can expectedly get out of them.  Elana Leoni, Social Media Marketing Manager at Edutopia, recently told me, “When I first started playing around with promoted posts, I invested $15 per post and I was seeing an average of 2,500 paid impressions, 650 social impressions, 5.65% click-through rate (CTR), $.25 cost per click (CPC), and $.01 cost per impression (CPI).  I was satisfied with this data and I decided to continue investing more per post. With my investments of $75 or more per post I was seeing an average of 42,000 paid impressions, 38,000 social impressions, 2.5% CTR, $.08 CPC, and $.002 CPI. Even though my click-throughs were decreasing with this higher level of investment, my impressions were skyrocketing!”  Keeping a close eye on your campaigns and making changes when necessary will help you reach your goal.

5.            Knowledge is power. Facebook has substantial insight into its’ over 955 million users, so to get the best results possible, determine not only the demographic you want to market to, but what you want to get out of your actions.  “With back-to-school season in full swing (our busiest season), we’re trying to be a part of the conversation on Facebook about education even more, so we’re promoting at least five posts per week to our audience,” says Elana Leoni.  This is a great example of meeting people where they are, and providing value to your audience at a time when it makes sense for them.

6.            Above all else, authenticity always wins. As nonprofits, we have an incredible storytelling advantage — to share meaningful, mission-minded content that inspires people to react, engage and share authentically.  Try reaching your Facebook engagement goals by using the power of photos, testimonials and stories to communicate your message before you dive into investing dollars and resources that might not make perfect sense (or cents!) for your organization.

Taryn Degnan is the Manager of Social Media and Online Community at Common Sense Media.  Contact Taryn or follow her on Twitter.

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Special Report: Where Does the Charitable IRA Rollover Stand?

October 15th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information

As we head toward the end of the calendar year, I’ve been increasingly asked about the status of the Charitable IRA Rollover. This is the tax law provision that allowed taxpayers who were 70½ or older to transfer as much as $100,000 a year directly from their IRAs to qualified charities without tax penalties. The mechanism, which expired December 2011, gave older Americans, with an over-funded retirement, an additional pool of funds from which to contribute.

Many nonprofit organizations found the IRA Rollover unlocked new and increased giving. Development professionals also found that talking about the IRA Rollover was an easy way to engage prospects in a discussion about planned giving.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress allowed the IRA Rollover provision to lapse. And, it looks like the provision, if it is reinstated, won’t be reinstated until after the November election. Fortunately, there is support for the provision on Capitol Hill. The Senate Finance Committee did vote to include the IRA Rollover, through 2013, in the so-called Tax Extenders legislation.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a brief update regarding the status of the provision: “Will Rule on IRA Donations Return?”

While professional organizations such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals have been at the forefront of the fight for the IRA Rollover, members of Congress need to hear from a diverse group of individuals and organizations.

If you support the IRA Rollover provision, contact your Representative and Senators to let them know they should support it, too.

Michael J. Rosen, CFRE is President of ML Innovations, Inc.

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Keep It Simple

October 11th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in How Not For Profits

Do you feel like routine decision-making isn’t as…routine anymore?

  • + Consider that the number of television channels the average U.S. home receives reached a record of 118.6 channels in 2008. Meanwhile, there aremore than 644 million websites to peruse today, compared to just a paltry 100,000 sites in 1996.
  • + If you have an iPhone, you have more than a half million apps to choose from. An iPad? Nearly a quarter of a million apps and counting.
  • + The average American supermarket currently offers 48,750 items, according to the Food Marketing Institute—five times the amount in 1975. UK retailer Tesco has been criticized for carrying as many as 38 varieties of milk.
  • + The 2013 Dodge Dart now comes in 100,000 possible combinations of colors and optional features. Customers can also select the accessories, body kits, brush guard, corner lights, fog lights, grills, head lights, tail lights, spoilers, wheels, tires and performance parts on a Ford F150.


Feeling overwhelmed yet? Some behavioral scientists think so. In one landmark social science study, researchers set up a table with samples of jams at an upscale California grocery store. In the first test, 24 jams were offered. On another day, six jams were offered at the same table.

The result: While many more people sampled from the table offering 24 options, a mere 3 percent bought jam.

The table with six offerings? More than 30 percent purchased a jar of jam—10 times more!


The Pursuit of Simplicity
The simplicity movement is a response to a world flooded with choice. Take a look at the opportunists:

    • + Recent Whirlpool appliances ads brag: “To simplify life, we design around it.”
    • + Paint brand Glidden consolidated its color offerings from 1,000 to 282 in 2009.
    • + L’Astrance, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Paris, offers no choice at all on its menu. Rather, diners feast on what was selected from the market that day.
    • + And the late Steve Jobs, famous for his obsessive pursuit of simplifying complexities, once told Apple designers to remove all the buttons on the iPod. (Eventually, of course, a compromise was met.) His wardrobe became an iconic reminder of Jobs’ bare-essentials philosophy: a black mock turtleneck, jeans and gray New Balances.

How Does the Simplicity Trend Affect the Planned Giving Industry?
Too much choice and complexity can be paralyzing, leaving people fatigued and inevitably less interested in the decision that needs to be made. The point being: Your donors could use help. But how?

Maybe you can apply a practice used by some retailers and restaurants that are giving consumers an opportunity to identify with a feeling to supplement their choices.

  • + “I want something spicy” is pinned next to the dinner items that pack punch.
  • + “I want to look sporty, but casual” helps categorize a line of shoes on retailer websites.


This is a powerful use of marketing because it cuts to the heart of the consumers’ desires—even suggests it—and then introduces the product.

This could be an opportunity for you to do the same in your marketing materials, seminars, etc.:

    • + “I want to change lives without touching my income” (gift options: bequests, retirement plan assets and life insurance).
    • + “I want to make sure my donation lasts” (gift option: endowments).


When designing gift options, can you draw upon a small sample of bequests that have benefited your organization in the past—and link them with pictures of those whom they’ve helped?

This trend isn’t about taking away donors’ choices, it is an opportunity to empower them.

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”

—Henry David Thoreau


Michael Mitchell

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Measuring the Results of Your Direct Mail Campaign

October 10th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in How Not For Profits, Marketing

Apparently, no one read the memo about tracking the results of their direct mail campaign.

A free e-book entitled Pitney Bowes Small Business Survey compares the different marketing strategies ran by small businesses. According to the survey:

  • Direct mail is the 3rd most preferred medium of business communication with 11%, behind e-mail (46%) and phone (22%).
  • A glaring statistic about direct mail is that 80% of the participants do not track down the results produced by their respective campaign.
  • There is still a sizable number of businesses that primarily employ direct mail for marketing purposes (22%), a segment that values customer response as a metric to determine the success of their direct mail campaign.

What does this mean?

For businesses using direct mail as a way to market their business, 80% of them have been wasting their time.Without data to supply them with the number of conversions from their campaign, there is no way for them to figure out which aspect in their direct mail campaign that needs tweaking.

How can you fix this?

Easy – measure the results of your campaign!

First, you will have to familiarize yourself with the following steps below.

How to track direct mail

The number of respondents to your call to action featured on your direct mail campaign is what matters. The acion can range from visiting your shop to making a purchase there. Therefore, the response depends on the kind of call of action you have (transactional or non-transactional).

Below are the kinds of tracking tools for your direct mail campaign:

  • URL shorteners – For e-commerce sites, send out a direct mail that leads them to a page on your site using a URL shortener. Sites like and offer analytics tool to view exact details on how and when your reciepients accessed the page.
  • Couponing – If you are holding a sale, print out flyers or postcards to be sent out through mail. Each must be printed with a unique coupon code.
  • Toll-free numbers – Similar to couponing. But instead of codes, you print out 1-800 numbers on your direct mail campaign.

Using these allows you to crunch the numbers of those who responded to your mailing campaign. The greater the number of respondents, the more successful the campaign is.

Different equations relevant to measuring

  • Cost of goods – Sum of product and service costs used in sending out your mail
  • Revenue – Sum of the total earnings of your campaign
  • Income – Difference of revenue and cost of goods
  • Gains – Product of conversion rate and total income
  • Rate of Investment (ROI) – Difference of gains and cost of goods divided by the gains

Computing for these things should give a better idea on how your campaign fared. It would help if you set a target number of respondents to your call to action so you can benchmark your performance much better.

Combining all these things

Creating a strategy that taps into all these factors would help you conduct a much more efficient direct mail campaign. Once you have all the data computed, you will determine what needs to be changed on your next mail campaign.

Christopher Jan Benitez

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Sevens, Eights, Nines, and Tens

October 10th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in How Not For Profits
What’s your number?  I once heard a wise person say “Sevens hire fives and sixes, and Eights higher nines and tens.”  Admittedly, this is a somewhat crude way to express the point that high achievers are willing to work with subordinates and colleagues who may be smarter, harder working, more knowledgeable and gifted than they are.  And low achievers are often threatened when their subordinates’ skills, drive, and talent exceeds their own.
The smart manager knows that they cannot be the expert in all the areas that report to them – and is comfortable with that reality. They need to manage their subordinates to tactical, subject specific objectives, even without strong experience in the area.  The wise manager knows that daily victories empower the team and its members, and that a rising tide lifts all ships.  And because there is no such thing as a manager who is expert in all things, the only way to find success is to hire the best people in the needed area of expertise.
Let me give you a personal example of what I mean by all of this. A few years ago I posted a help wanted advertisement for a position here in my firm; I was looking for someone from the nonprofit world with strong operations, business development, and support skills.  I spoke with several candidates, all which brought some combination of the above to the table.  I then spoke to another somewhat unconventional applicant, who lacked career nonprofit experience, but had innovative ideas about using social media and blogging to meet many of my business needs.  At the time, I was also thinking about how to integrate new media channels into the firm’s DNA… but was hesitant to do so, and didn’t really understand the tools and how they worked together to create a credible online presence.  After much consideration and reference checks, I took the leap of faith and hired the unconventional candidate.  Fast forward almost two years – the candidate, now one of my employees – has helped bring Copley Raff into the “e” world, taught me enough about social media to be dangerous, and helped several of our clients launch into the world of electronic fundraising.
Because of today’s challenging and competitive fundraising climate, the level of complexity and number of details to manage far exceeds any one person’s ability to be an expert in all areas of an integrated shop.  For senior managers, it is imperative to have experts who “own” their respective areas, and for these experts to also have interest in the function and integration of other aspects of the advancement office.  To be a well integrated operation, and one that focuses on continuous improvement and learning, experts need to be students of other experts.  A genuine desire to learn, along with a dose of humility, makes for a strong leadership team as well as solid results.
Successful managers lead strong team members toward a purpose larger than themselves.  Team members are respected for their expertise and are called upon to stretch beyond their experience base to enhance integration and for the greater good.  To accomplish this… Eights need to hire nines and tens, and Sevens need to reconsider their career path and priorities.
Your takes:
  1. Determine if you are threatened or stimulated by someone with greater skills and knowledge than you – and what that might mean for your personal and professional growth.
  2. Know your work objectives and hire the strongest people you can to assist you in accomplishing those objectives.
  3. Know that your success rides on the successes of your team.
Copley Raff
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